Today at Boing Boing Gadgets

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Recently at Boing Boing Gadgets, we found a dismal PS3 Ad, Peek is offering lifetime subscriptions again, and Dell has a gorgeous wirelessly-charged laptop out. • We visited Mercedes-Benz's R&D labs: the 2010 E-Class is full of high-tech safety equipment (and odd textures) -- in a few years it'll practically be driving itself. • Gizmodo offers thoughts on the iTab: is it really a Kindle killer? • Palm's appstore isn't easy to get into if you don't like PayPal. • Charlie Brooker rants beautifully on the greatest dilemma of our age: Microsoft's awfulness or Apple's creepiness.. • Not all Windows 7 launch parties are stiff and artificially enthusiastic. Let's get swinging. • Behold! A horrid, pulsating tumor that plugs into your motherboard. • A $40 netbook? Not quite. Neat fact: about a third of Boing Boing readers use Macs, and of those, 21.28 percent have already upgraded to Snow Leopard.

The Occult and Hip Hop

Boing Boing guestblogger Mitch Horowitz is author of Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation and editor-in-chief of Tarcher/Penguin publishers.

Occulthippp Since the late 1960s a very original and unclassifiable inner-city mystery religion called the Five Percenters has served as an inspiration behind some of the language and imagery of New York's hip hop scene. I recently spoke with All Things Considered host Guy Raz about the strange (and persistent) appearance of occult and esoteric themes in the work of Jay-Z.
"Jay-Z: A Master Of Occult Wisdom?"

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Dr. Leo Spaceman says: "Science is... whatever we want it to be." I love Dr. Leo Spaceman. Link

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Women Are Heroes by JR

Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog that celebrated the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.



To be honest, I was indifferent to JR's work in the slums until I saw this video. Thank you, Wooster Collective.

The Pakistan Blogistan

Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog that celebrated the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.



Pakistan's longest motorcycle, courtesy of All Things Pakistan

I was in high school when 9/11 happened and the next day I was crowned Ambassador Muslim.  From World History to Geometry class I was defending Islam and 1.5 billion of its followers. Thinking that most of the problems with Muslim were cultural, I divorced myself from all dealings with South Asian culture. At the time, it was an easy cop out to say "Oh its the culture, not the religion." It was only in college did I realize that my Muslim and Pakistani Identity weren't mutually exclusive and they both made the other stronger and more vibrant. When I came to this realization, I knew I had a lot of years of cultural education to make up. And what better place to learn about my peeps than the Pakistani blogosphere? I am highlighting two of my favorite Pakistani blogs.

All Things Pakistan - I am culturally illiterate when it comes to Pakistan. All Things Pakistan seems to be on a mission to educate folks like me and share a part of their Pakistani experience. Most of the people that check this site are expats of Pakistan. Here's a link to where they talk about the Pakistani Eid experience - Eid Adventures in Pakistan

CHUP! Changing Up Pakistan is a great blog ran by Kalsoom Lakhani. While All Things Pakistan deals more with the Pakistani experience, CHUP! gives more of an analysis on hard news. Here is a great article on the sideline discussions officials of Pakistan and India had on during the UN General Assembly Meetings. Her coverage on the Swat crisis is phenomenal, or as we say in Pakistan - A 1!

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Russian B-Boys the Top Nine Crew put on a master class in international breaking. Link

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Vampire Lesbians of Hammer Link

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Boing Boing Video: Coachella Time-Lapse (dir. Ray Klein, music by Hawke)

WATCH: Download MP4 / Watch on YouTube / more at boingboingvideo.com.

Ever wondered what a giant, sprawling, three-day music festival in the desert would look like if it were nano-crammed into just a few minutes? Here you go. Boing Boing Video presents this ambitious timelapse video of the 2009 Coachella Music and Arts Festival directed by filmmaker Ray Klein. Ray says:

This was my third year taking time lapse at Coachella, and it was one of the best.  I always find it interesting to see the ebb and flow of people throughout the day, and the hardcore fans who show up when gates open and lie out in the field in their bathing suits!  Coachella is always great about supporting the arts and this is another example of their commitment.  Enjoy!
The music you hear is "Everything is Happening At The Same Time," by Hawke, courtesy of Eighth Dimension Records. His new record, "+++," comes out next week.

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Britain seeks ban on glass pint-glasses to prevent bar-brawl injuries

The British Home Office is looking for proposals to make it harder to attack people with pint-glasses, including a mandate that all pint sleeves be made from plastic, or coated with shatter-resistant plastic. Because, you know, most bar-brawlers are fundamentally upset at the pint, not the people around them, and if they can't smash a pint sleeve, they will contain their anger and not use a chair, bottle, or imposing scarred forehead.
Not surprisingly, the British Beer and Pub Association is not in favor of the plan and does not want the new glasses to be mandatory. "For the drinker," said a BBPA representative, "the pint glass feels better, it has a nice weight and the drink coats the glass nicely. . . . Is it necessary to replace the much-loved pint glass for safety reasons in the vast majority of pubs where there is no problem?" Yes, said the Home Office Minister. "Innovative design has played an important role in driving down overall crime," he claimed, though it wasn't clear what innovative design he was referring to, maybe the knives. "This project will see those same skills applied to the dangerous and costly issue of alcohol-related crime and I am confident that it will lead to similar successes."
British Government Considers Mandating Plastic Pint Glasses

Trotsky: the graphic biography


Rick Geary's Trotsky: A Graphic Biography summarizes and illustrates some of the great biographies of Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky (notably the Isaac Deutscher bios, which my father, a lifelong Trotskyist, speaks highly of).

Trotsky was an amazing figure: brilliant and fiery, an impassioned rhetorician and propagandist, who fought fiercely with Lenin on ideological grounds -- but eventually reconciled -- and was purged (and then assassinated) by Stalin after Lenin's death. The unlikely story of how Trotsky -- the son of a wealthy landowner -- became a revolutionary fighter and general is improbable, exciting, and thought-provoking, and Geary's comic-book retelling does it great justice.

From his theory of "permanent revolution" (the idea that the Soviet Union could only sustain its revolution by bringing on revolutions in every other country) to his doomed affair with Frida Kahlo, Trotsky's genius, hubris, frailty and strength are well covered in this volume.

(Actually, my dad takes some issue with this, "Geary's facile description (which, by the way, echoes the Stalinist perception of Trotsky's theory) really misses the point: Yes, the theory did have something to do with the extension of the revolution abroad, but that was merely an aspect of it. Trotsky's theory, influenced by Parvus, was that the historically distinct stages of social evolution (barbarism, feudalism, mercantile capitalism, capitalism) was not so distinct any more. In the age of capitalist expansion (primitive accumulation), capitalism was penetrating social systems of previous historical stages and combining with them. Russia, characterized as a form of feudalism, had by the time of the rolling in of the 20th century been penetrated by some very large scale capitalist enterprises by foreign investors. So, here was a society in which serfdom had only been recently abolished, still with an absolute monarch, overwhelmingly peasant and illiterate, but also experiencing the growth of a nascent industrial proletariat as a result of foreign capital. Trotsky's view was that the historical tasks normally assigned to the bourgeois forces emerging within the bosom of feudalism could not be accomplished by the Russian bourgeoisie. They were too weak, already bypassed by foreign capitalists, and therefore unwilling to carry out the democratic reforms appropriate to the normal development of capitalism. So, Trotsky said, the new revolutionary forces would have to do double duty, carry out a bourgeois revolution and a socialist one.")

(That said, Dad adds, "I did enjoy reading his graphic bio")

The only thing really missing from this is Trotsky's own words. He was an incredible and inspiring writer, and his autobiography, My Life (written while exiled in Turkey) is an excellent companion to this introductory text.

Trotsky: A Graphic Biography

BBC wants to encrypt "free" TV -- talking points debunked

My new Guardian column, "The BBC is encrypting its HD signal by the back door," describes a petition from the BBC to Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, seeking permission to encrypt its broadcast signals, something it is prohibited from doing. The BBC proposal goes like this: Hollywood studios are blackmailing us and demanding this. But the encryption won't be bad, since it'll only affect a few programmes and only in small ways.

It's simply not true. The BBC is being deliberately misleading and extremely naive here. Naive because it's just not credible that the Hollywood studios and other rightsholders will boycott broadcast TV without encryption. They made exactly the same threat in the US, saying that without the Broadcast Flag, they'd stop licensing sport and movies to broadcast TV. There's no Broadcast Flag in the US. The broadcasts of sports and new release movies go on.

Misleading because the BBC's proposal turns over control of the design of TV receivers and recorders in the UK to an offshore consortium called DTLA, effectively turning it, not Ofcom, into the British regulator. DTLA and its guidelines will determine what you can do with your TV signals, not Parliament and copyright law. DTLA prohibits the use of open source drivers, which means that this will render obsolete all cards and other devices with that can be used with free/open software. It also prohibits unencrypted digital outputs, which means that you won't be able to buy a converter box that sends a HD digital signal to your SD Freeview box, so you'll have to throw out the old box.

Be sure to check out the comments where I'm debunking the BBC's talking points directly.

Some background: licence-fee-paid television must be free to receive in the UK. Unlike cable and commercial satellite signals, free-to-air television is carried on public airwaves, which broadcasters are allowed to use for free. In return, broadcasters are expected to provide programming on those airwaves, for free. And not just free as in "free beer", but also free as in "free speech." The terms and conditions for free-to-air telly are "Do anything you want with this, provided it doesn't violate copyright law."

But big rightsholder groups - US movie studios, mostly - object to this. They'd prefer a "copyright-plus" regime, in which they get to invent a bunch of new copyrights for themselves, without the inconvenience of public debate or parliamentary lawmaking. The way they do this is by slapping restrictive licence agreements on their media, or rather licence "agreements," in inverted commas. You don't get to negotiate these "agreements," they're imposed on you, and are sometimes even invisible to you.

The BBC is encrypting its HD signal by the back door

UK Border Agency's pseudoscientific "race-detection" DNA/isotope tests has scientific experts "horrified"

The UK Border Agency has scientists "horrified" at a weird, eugenics-flavoured proposal to test asylum seekers' DNA to determine if they are truly and purely of the "race" they claim to be from. Even the scientists who pioneered DNA fingerprinting and related techniques call the idea "horrifying," "naive" and "flawed."
Science has obtained Border Agency documents showing that isotope analyses of hair and nail samples will also be conducted "to help identify a person's true country of origin." The project "is regrettable," says Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice headquartered in London. Although asylum-seekers are asked to provide tissue samples voluntarily, turning down a government request for tissue could be misinterpreted, she says, "so we believe [the program] should not be introduced at all."

The Border Agency's DNA-testing plans would use mouth swabs for mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome testing, as well as analyses of subtle genetic variations called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). One goal of the project is to determine whether asylum-seekers claiming to be from Somalia and fleeing persecution are actually from another African country such as Kenya. If successful, the Border Agency suggests its pilot project could be extended to confirming other nationalities. Yet scientists say the Border Agency's goals confuse ancestry or ethnicity with nationality. David Balding, a population geneticist at Imperial College London, notes that "genes don't respect national borders, as many legitimate citizens are migrants or direct descendants of migrants, and many national borders split ethnic groups."

Scientists Decry "Flawed" and "Horrifying" Nationality Tests

But wait, there's more!

Christopher Phillips, University of Santiago de Compostela: I had been asked earlier this year by colleagues in the UKFSS about the prospects of differentiating Somali ancestries from other populations in E[ast] Africa, however, I am sceptical about the precision possible beyond a simple five global group differentiation from limited typing of Y-chromosome/mtDNA/small-scale multiplexes of autosomal SNPs. Clearly there is a serious risk of falling into the trap of over-interpretation of population variation data that has limited scope. My suggestion this spring was to perform whole genome scans to isolate informative markers and begin to build these into sets of SNPs that could then be assessed with comprehensive reference populations. However, this does not amount to consultation on the correct way to develop and test a custom ancestry analysis system. I also doubt that my suggested approach to validating the system will be pursued, since a large number of samples would be required both within the relatively large region of Somalia and from surrounding populations such as those of Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea. Therefore a good deal of time, money and patience would be needed to find the best markers for the purpose and then test their efficacy....

Jane Evans, NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory: I can't imagine how you use [isotope evidence] to define nationality....It worries me as a scientist that actual peoples' lives are being influenced based on these methods.

U.K. Border Agency Docs and Expanded Reactions

Amanda Palmer on why she's not ashamed to ask her listeners for money

A reader writes, "Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls, etc., passionately rants about artists' fear of asking fans to support them directly, and the evolution of new artist-fan relationships as corporate middle-men go as the dodo."

I was at a dinner with Amanda a few weeks ago and we talked about this at length. She's not only incredibly interesting on the subject, but also insightful -- and successful at it.

i can't help it: i come from a street performance background. i stood almost motionless on a box in harvard square, painted white, relinquishing my fate and income to the goodwill and honor of the passers-by.

i spent years gradually building up a tolerance to the inbuilt shame that society puts on laying your hat/tipjar on the ground and asking the public to support your art...

i did this for 5 years, and i made a living that way. dollar by dollar. hour by hour. it was hard fucking work.

and for the last 10 years, i have been working my ass off in a different way: tirelessly making music, traveling the world, connecting with people, trying to keep my balance, almost never taking a break and, frankly, not making a fortune doing it. i still struggle to pay my rent sometimes. i'm still more or less in debt from my last record. i'll lay it all out for you in another blog. it's just math.

if you think i'm going to pass up a chance to put my hat back down in front of the collected audience on my virtual sidewalk and ask them to give their hard-earned money directly to me instead of to roadrunner records, warner music group, ticketmaster, and everyone else out there who's been shamelessly raping both fan and artist for years, you're crazy.

why i am not afraid to take your money, by amanda fucking palmer

Concept watch uses rolling tapes to tell time


This concept watch Alexandros Stasinopoulos uses three interleaved tapes to tell time. I have no idea if it'd be possible to build this, but man, I want one.

'ora' concept watch by alexandros stasinopoulos (Thanks, Paul!)

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this surfer, speaking exemplary SoCal dialect, is unconcerned with tsunami warnings. Link (ht: misteryes)

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