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San Francisco Chronicle comics section goes indy

The San Francisco Chronicle has revamped the comics section in 96 Hours, its weekend supplement (published on Thursdays!?). The new comics page features all indy comics, instead of the usual dreary syndicate stuff. A maze is threaded through the comic. The new section features Jon Adams, Keith Knight, Sacha Eckes and Michael Capozzola.

Welcome to Friendship Town (Thanks, Jon!)

Cthulhoid snack-food


I've stopped eating (delicious, rubbery) octopuses -- they're just too durned clever to cram down my gaping maw. But that said, octopus tempura on a stick takes the cake (cone?) for most cthuloid convenience food.

Octopus Tempura on a stick (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) (Image: Octopus Tempura on a stick, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mdid's photostream)

Eat white bread, win the war


This stern, solemn woman is determined to keep on eating bread, no matter what happens Over There.

BREAD -- 1942

Pyongyang: North Korea's chain of restaurants

The North Korean government operates a chain of hard-currency restaurants throughout Asia, as a means of bringing cash into the country. The Pyongyang restaurants feature abundant food (unlike Pyongyang itself), as well as a floor-show.
Aside from small North Korean flags pinned to the waitresses' blouses, the restaurant is surprisingly free from overt propagandizing. Instead of paeans to the Great Leader and his revolutionary juche ideology, the walls are adorned with a series of monumental landscape paintings. One crashing seascape, rendered in an apocalyptic palette of blues, greens, and reds, recalls the painting used as a backdrop to the official photo of Kim Jong-il and Bill Clinton that was taken during Clinton's visit to Pyongyang in August. The cold flood-lighting and no-camera policy (often violated on the sly by curious Western expats) also lend an Orwellian tinge to an evening at Pyongyang, though the authoritarian mood is often broken by the sound of drunken South Korean businessmen warbling their way through the restaurant's thick karaoke catalog...

In 2006 and 2007, Daily NK reported several incidents in which waitresses from North Korean restaurants in China's Shandong and Jilin provinces tried to defect, forcing the closure of the operations. Kim Myung Ho added that two or three DPRK security agents live onsite at each restaurant to "regulate" the workers and that any attempts at flight result in the immediate repatriation of the entire staff.

Kingdom Kim's Culinary Outposts (via Kottke)

(Image: Slate)

What will the net do to institutions in the next 10 years?

The latest Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project report is out: "The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future" surveys 895 tech experts on the way that technology will change institutions (government, business, nonprofits, schools) in the next ten years. The responses -- presented as a series of free-form survey answers -- range from the incandescent to the outraged, but every one is thought-provoking. Unsurprising, given that respondents included Clay Shirky, Esther Dyson, Doc Searls, Nicholas Carr, Susan Crawford, David Clark, Jamais Cascio, Peter Norvig, Craig Newmark, Hal Varian, Howard Rheingold, Andreas Kluth, Jeff Jarvis, Andy Oram, Kevin Werbach, David Sifry, Dan Gillmor, Marc Rotenberg, Stowe Boyd, John Pike, Andrew Nachison, Anthony Townsend, Ethan Zuckerman, Tom Wolzien, Stephen Downes, Rebecca MacKinnon, Jim Warren, Sandra Brahman, Barry Wellman, Seth Finkelstein, Jerry Berman, Tiffany Shlain, and Stewart Baker.
"Having been a senior executive at some of America's largest corporations I am convinced that model is ultimately doomed. An entity that lasts forever and grows forever is just not possible and is silly anyway. It is a waste of resources. Society deserves a better model for the organization and deployment of resources to provide products and services. Scale is still important. Companies like Cisco have shown how to continue to innovate by acquisition, but the big question is how do corporations gracefully end? How can we break the cycle of Wall Street, a strong financial services industry is simply not good for society. Wall Street does not improve productivity, the model is parasitic, transferring huge resources out of the system. I am looking forward to the next phase of the industrial revolution." - Glen Edens, former senior vice president and director at Sun Microsystems Laboratories, chief scientist Hewlett Packard
The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future | Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

Review: Apple's iPad is a touch of genius

It strikes you when you first touch an iPad. The form just feels good, not too lightweight or heavy, nor too thin or thick.

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Pictish art may have actually been written language

How do you tell the difference between art and written language?

Oh, yeah. It's math.

[Rob Lee] and colleagues Philip Jonathan and Pauline Ziman analyzed the engravings, found on the few hundred known Pictish Stones. The researchers used a mathematical process known as Shannon entropy to study the order, direction, randomness and other characteristics of each engraving.

The resulting data was compared with that for numerous written languages, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese texts and written Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Ancient Irish, Old Irish and Old Welsh. While the Pictish Stone engravings did not match any of these, they displayed characteristics of writing based on a spoken language.

There is, sadly, not a lot of detail about what specific characteristics make language stand out from decoration. I'm guessing it has something to do finding patterns in the choice of symbols, or the way symbols are oriented, or how the patterns repeat. Wish there was more though. For the record, even if this is language, nobody is even close to deciphering what it means.

On a side note: Shannon entropy is a measure of the amount of information that we get from knowing one English letter. It's kind of the Entropy of Wheel of Fortune—how many guesses does it take to figure out all the letters of a sentence using only the information provided by the letters previously guessed. Besides identifying ancient scripts, it makes for a fun, time-wasting applet game.

1916 electric utility propaganda

jackbuilt1916.jpg

In 1916, a time when electricity was still something of a luxury toy, the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company put out a pamphlet of House That Jack Built-themed doggerel illustrating all the wonderful ways you can use electricity around your home (and for such a low cost!).

There's a couple of things I find fascinating about this sales pitch.

First, you're looking at a world that still had a fairly limited number of uses for home electricity. Things were certainly on the upswing from a couple decades previous, when an electric hook-up was as much of a single-use tech toy as anything you can buy in Sky Mall. But this is an 18-page booklet, put out by a very biased source, which repeats several "benefits of electricity" as though it's running out of ideas. Hey, did we mention that you can use it to... um ...turn on a light?!

Second, the booklet really gives you a sense of the honest, fuck-all amazement and wonder people felt at being able to control their environment. In the new world of electricity, the toast never burns (at least, not like it used to when we were trying to grill it over an open fire), you need no longer schedule your week around laundry and everyone is healthier and happier. It's advertising hyperbole, sure. But only kinda. When you read old letters, you find that this was advertising capturing the way people really thought, rather than just pushing happiness that wasn't there. Think Dawn of the iPod, not Late-Night Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Commercial.

Finally, I love the last couple pages that allude to the real conflict between man and nature. Forget about simplifying housework. Centralized electricity changed energy production from a difficult, in-home process that kept the messy by-products of progress literally in your face, into something magical that happened when you threw a switch. The choking smoke was still there, but not at your house. There was still heavy labor involved, but it wasn't done by you or your children. For the first time, people were able to pretend that their standard of living was provided, free of downsides, by little elves that lived in the wall. All benefit, no detriment. Action without consequences. In other words, this is the point where everybody went a little bit bonkers.

NSA's domestic spying was illegal, federal judge rules

A federal judge today ruled that the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program was illegal. In doing so, the judge rejects the Obama administration's attempts to maintain the secrecy around the widely criticized program introduced by Bush after the 9/11 attacks:
In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers who were representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been "subjected to unlawful surveillance," the judge said that the government was liable to pay them damages. The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration's claims that its warrantless surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans' e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.
Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretapping Program Illegal (NYT)

Random moment from history

Actual sentence just read, by me, in a history tome documenting the early days of Outagamie County, Wis. — "A fair sized audience attended the lecture on 'The Rise and Fall of the Moustache'." This is listed as one of the highlights of 1880, people. And don't front like you wouldn't have totally gone to that lecture. We all know better. UPDATE: Intrepid reader ncbeets was able to supply some missing context on the moustache lecture. Turns out, it's the work of a sort of proto-David Sedaris, who traveled the country reading his comic stories to packed houses for 30 years. And you can listen to the whole thing online!

Last Gasp 40th Anniversary Art Show, Thursday in San Francisco

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 Blog Wp-Content Uploads 2010 03 40Years Smaller-1 For 40 years, our friends at Last Gasp have kept the counterculture busy with books, publishing wild, weird, wonderful, and subversive works by R. Crumb, Robert Wilson, Diane di Prima, Mark Ryden, Timothy Leary, and a slew of other greats. This Thursday, April 1 in San Francisco, Last Gasp will celebrate with the opening of a major art show and party at the 111 Minna Gallery. The line-up is mindblowing with works by: Tim Biskup, Glenn Barr, R. Crumb, Frank Kozik, Camille Rose Garcia, Mark Ryden, Winston Smith, Stanislav Szukalski, Basil Wolverton, Ed Hardy, Charles Gatewood, Liz McGrath, Laurenn McCubbin, Jay Kinney, and dozens of others. Our pals at Gama-Go even created a special t-shirt for the anniversary. The 21+ over event is free, public, and starts at 6pm. di Prima is reading at 6:30pm. Congratulations, Last Gasp! Thanks for keeping the dream alive, and the underground literate.
Last Gasp 40th Anniversary Art Show

The Last Gasp story

Teabonics

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Teabonics is a Flickr set of "signs seen primarily at Tea Party Protests (that) feature 'creative' spelling or grammar." (Thanks, Jody Radzik!)

8 Wonders of the Solar System, art by Ron Miller

Marsvallllll
When it comes to science fiction, fantasty, and space art, Ron Miller is an artist's artist. Before becoming a freelance illustrator (and Hugo-nominated book author), Miller was art director for the National Air & Space Museum's Albert Einstein Planetarium. Along with doing book and magazine illustrations, he's also created production art for films like Dune and Total Recall, and designed stamps for the US Postal Service. Recently, Scientific American commissioned art from Miller to illustrate their new online feature, "8 Wonders of the Solar System, Made Interactive." The multimedia feature explores the likes of Jupiter's Red Spot, the Geysers of Enceladus, the sunrise on Mercury, and, of course, Saturn's rings. Here's the caption for the image above, depicting Valles Marineris on Mars:
People have been known to fall to their knees and weep at the sight of Arizona's Grand Canyon. One wonders what the first traveler to the Mariner Valley will do when gazing into this canyon. At almost four miles deep and so wide that in some places you would have to strain to see the other side, this gigantic tectonic crack would span the U.S. from New York to California--a quarter of the way around the planet--so that sunrise at one end happens six or so hours before sunrise at the other. Water once ran through large segments of this expanse. In this image the traveler views an icy mist filling the valley as the suns sets over the north rim.
"8 Wonders of the Solar System, Made Interactive"

Pedobear on a child's birthday cake?

HiSmH.jpg This is so inappropriate I don't even know what to say. I doubt, however, that this really is a child's birthday cake, or even a real cake at all.

The Beat of the Future: John Cusack, guestblogger

[Video: UP WITH PEOPLE "The Beat of the Future" halftime show, Super Bowl 1986]

Super Bowl XX. 1986.

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