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Celebrate Explicit Legal Pants Day (except in Mississippi schools)

YA author Scott Westerfeld has a great post about Ceara Sturgis, the top student at a Mississippi high school who saw every mention of her purged from her senior yearbook because she is a lesbian. Scott puts the fight to dress how you choose and express your gender identity in your own way into historical context, noting that this year marks the centenary of "Explicit Legalization of Pants in Kansas! (Otherwise known as ELPK Day.)"

Of course, it's easy to laugh at this, and reassuring to think that we no longer live in a world where women have to get legal advice for something so simple as wearing men's clothes, right?

Well, um, wrong.

Because just a few days ago, on almost exactly the 100th anniversary of ELPK Day, a student named Ceara Sturgis has found herself erased from her school yearbook. Why? For wearing a tuxedo in her senior photograph. And when I say erased, it's not just that the school administration wouldn't print the photograph. No, they actually deleted every mentioned of Ceara from the yearbook, even though she's an honor student, the goalie of the soccer team, and plays trumpet in the band.

By the way, she's also a lesbian. So wearing this tuxedo wasn't about flouting some imaginary dress code, but about who she is. That's what clothing means in all these conflicts.

After all, it's the trousers that our nameless widow wore while gardening that said, "Hey, I'm the head of this family. My labor is what keeps us fed. Deal with it." And the uniform that Deryn wears that says, "I'm as good an airman as any boy, so you can all get stuffed." And it's the tuxedo you wear in your yearbook photo that says, "I am who I am, and four years in your school hasn't changed me. So I win."

So, yes, these Explicitly Legal Pants are very important. Because even now, a hundred years after ELPK Day, we still have small-minded people around to tell us what we have to wear, and trying to tell us who we can and cannot be.

I hope she sues the pants off them.

Why Pants Are Legal in Kansas

Half-and-half Chinese/European traditional porcelain designs

Ctrlzak design studio's "Ceramix" collection fuses Chinese and European porcelain traditions, creating motley half-and-half plates, bowls, vases and the like.

Ceramix (via Geisha Asobi)

1939 World's Fair: the future's cradle, in pictures

Wired has a dandy appreciation of the "World of Tomorrow" exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair, the birthplace of the dark ride (the "Futurama," which motored you past enormous dioramae depicting the domed-city tomorrow).
It was a futuristic city inspired by the pages -- and covers -- of pulp science fiction: huge geometric shapes, sweeping curves, plenty of glass and chromium, and gleaming white walls. The fair was the last great blossoming of the Streamlined Moderne style of Art Deco. It was also heavily influenced by the still-rising International Style of such architects as Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Read More
1939's 'World of Tomorrow' Shaped Our Today

New book about Funnyman, a Jewish superhero from the Golden Age of Comic Books

Funnyman Cover Adam

Feral House has a great new book coming out about Funnyman, an unusual and short-lived comic book series created by Superman's Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Funnyman was a clown-like superhero who used gags, pranks and Yiddishisms to defeat his humor-deficient enemies. He was a dead ringer for Danny Kaye, one of my favorite comedians. The comic book was a total flop. It ran for six issues and went out of business. Siegel and Shuster tried to keep it going as a newspaper strip, but gave up after a year. The team never worked together again. (Joe Shuster went on to illustrate seedy little bondage booklets, barely scratching out a living. You can read all about it in Craig Yoe's book, Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster.)

The video above consists of interviews with Mel Gordon and Thomas Andrae, the co-authors of Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero from the Creators of Superman. It also describes how the invention of Superman might have been inspired by a Jewish vaudeville strongman from the 1920s named Siegmund Breitbart, who was billed as a "Superman of Strength."

Pre-order Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman

Tokyo fishermen update seafood e-commerce site from their boats


Fisherman in Tokyo are taking photos of the fish they catch and posting them to a retail website before they even return to port.

Fishermen’s benefit: no fish broker nor auction market process is required. Buyers’ benefit: fish and seafood you’ve ordered on the website before 9am will be delivered to your home within the same day. (It is expected to be delivered within 12 hours from being caught by fishermen to a consumer’s kitchen.)   C.O.D. available.
Tokyo fishermen update seafood e-commerce site from their boats (Thanks, Francesco!)

CyberWalk: a giant omni-directional walking platform for virtual reality

Erico says: "Put on your VR goggles and walk on this thing without fear of hitting a wall. Built by Italian and German researchers, it's the largest VR platform in the world."

CyberWalker: A Giant Omni-Directional Treadmill for Virtual Reality

Chinese video of bleeped South Park episode #201 provides clues on Cartman's final speech

Boy, censorship issues sure get confusing when American fans of the English-language version of South Park have to look to a Chinese broadcast of the episode to figure out what Cartman was saying in the closing speech of episode 201. That's the controversial "Mohammed" episode Comedy Central/Viacom bleeped out, against Matt and Trey's wishes, over threats from a small wacko wingnut group identified as "Muslim extremists" (but founded by a Jewish dude). Complicated!

(, thanks, Richard Adler)

Dead man propped on his beloved motorcycle for funeral

This fellow was shot to death in Puerto Rico, but his loved ones gave him one last ride by propping his body onto his motorcycle for the wake.

Dead dude rides again

The telephone was an aberration in human development

Rick Webb: "The telephone was an aberration in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else's life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone's living room and start shouting."

Hitler finds out how to challenge a wrongful YouTube DMCA takedown with Fair Use

hdm.jpg The folks at Rocketboom and Know Your Meme have put together a handy PSA video to teach YouTube the basics of challenging a wrongful DMCA takedown claim with a "fair use" defense.

The subject gained much interest recently after the film company behind the movie Downfall / Der Untergang DMCA'd a bunch of those "Hitler Finds Out..." funnyvideos.

Links: YouTube PSA, Rocketboom "Know Your Meme" blog post with details (with links to EFF, CfSM, FUP).

Related: Mark Dery, a recurring guest contributor to Boing Boing, has a recent essay over at True/Slant on the ünterganging of Üntergang vids: Endtime for Hitler: On the Downfall of the Downfall Parodies

Rudy Coby at the Magic Castle in LA - an amazing show!

Mvsposter-1 Last night I went to the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, California to see Rudy Coby's Magic vs. Science performance (I wrote about the show's opening here). Donning his trademark white lab jacket and sporting his flamboyant pompadour for the first time in 15 years, Rudy had me and the rest of the audience in stitches with his hilarious routines that combine slapstick theatrics with smoothly executed magic tricks. It reminded me a little of Blue Man Group, because the show is an absurd delight.

I'm planning to visit Rudy's workshop soon, where he designs and makes his unique props.

If you live in the LA area, I recommend you get over to the Magic Castle to see him. He'll be performing every night through May 2. I made a copy of the brochure about the show, which lists performance times along with the names of the other magicians (all selected by Rudy) who are performing in the other rooms in the Magic Castle during the Magic vs Science week.

UPDATE: The Magic Castle is a members' only club, but there are ways for non-members to attend. For information call:
Ben Roman
323.851.3313 Ext. 434

Rudy Copy at the Magic Castle in LA - an amazing show!

Listen: Noby Noby Boy soundtrack hits iTunes

nobysoundtrack.jpg Though it lacks the lyrical high weirdness and therefore probably the punch of the original Katamari Damacy soundtracks, the new 34-track collection of Noby Noby Boy's instrumental background music -- just released to iTunes -- is still basically an essential download. Wistful, innocent and occasionally childishly rambunctious, it's perfect background music for stretching homemade pasta or clay sculptures, and comes with a bonus booklet of acoustic guitar sheet music for a song lifted from Katamari. NOBY NOBY BOY 0---0 (Original Sound Track) [iTunes, via Jeriaska & GSW]

Microsoft Courier cancelled

Gizmodo reports that Microsoft has canceled Courier, the book-like device that was expected to go toe-to-toe with the iPad and Android tablets. I can't help but wonder if HP was its hardware partner. Now the owner of Palm, HP isn't likely to maintain any interest in making mobile devices that aren't built around WebOS—even if it still makes the Windows 7-based Slate, which is a more traditional full-bore tablet PC.

Good Show Sir: "only the worst Sci-Fi/Fantasy book covers"

camelot1.jpgWhat is it about the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre that seems to make perfectly sensible publishers lose their minds and stamp "APPROVED" on cover proofs that would give a sane person nightmares? I'm not talking about every cover in the genre, of course. You know the ones I mean. The ones that look like something you might see in a long night of fever dreams after a Tuborg bender. The ones that look like this one on the right. Gosh, but there's a lot going on in it, isn't there? It isn't just that it violates any precept of sensible design; it's also that it obliterates any rational notion of narrative discipline. What I'm saying is, sure you could infer a story from the cover, and that story might even be Art, but that Art would be, in Shelby Lynne's words, the killin' kind. What you want to do with art like this is gather it up and wall it off where it can't hurt anybody. Which is, in a way, what a British site called Good Show Sir has done. Its motto is brisk and direct -- Only the worst Sci-Fi/Fantasy book covers -- and the criteria for inclusion are blessedly clear:
Some of the things to look for in a cover:

1. So much going on it burns your eyes. We want covers with elves, dragons, space ships and large busty women, all on the same glorious cover!

2. Terrible art. Awful... just awful. Crazed monsters that are congenital disorders with no skeletal support, brush strokes that display a hilariously misinformed understanding of anatomical proportions, unreadable and/or multiple horrible fonts, magical light orbs that lack even the most basic digital imaging techniques. That sort of thing.

3. Epic things happening. Look for people doing crazy things, such as holding a staff to a dragons eye, firing a laser pistol with one hand whilst doing stunts on a a hover bike with the other, or summoning interdimensional beasts whilst surrounded by improbably-clad warrior priestesses who are fighting off invisible fairies on top of a mountain made of crystal and sand.
This is a valuable public service. Visit the site if you dare. Just don't blame me if you end up sobbing in a corner.

Searching and replacing Job's Flash statement

Over at Hoopyrides, Mister Jalopy took Steve Jobs' anti-Flash statement and replaced "Adobe" with "Apple" and "Flash" with "closed." The results are funny.
201004291323 Before:
Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Apple’s closed products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Apple, and Apple has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Apple’s closed products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Apple and available only from Apple. By almost any definition, closed is a closed system.

Searching and replacing Job's Flash statement

How to make nice electronic enclosures

Collin Cunninghan of Make: Online is partial to "sweet retro sci-fi styling" for his electronics project enclosure, which is why I like this video so much.

Circuit Skills: Electronics Enclosures

Is the Uzbek government sterilizing women to control the population?

To control population growth, the Uzbek government has reportedly been sterilizing women without their consent. Not cool. From the Times Online:
Uzbek sources say the measure was ordered by Islam Karimov, the president, who has ruled with an iron fist for 20 years. The policy is aimed at keeping down the country's poor population -- with 28m people, it is Central Asia's most densely populated state.

Activists say mass sterilisation began in 2003, but was eased after two years following an outcry. It is said to have restarted in February this year, when the health ministry ordered doctors to recommend sterilisation as an "effective contraceptive". Critics claim every doctor was told to persuade "at least two women" a month to have the procedure. Doctors who failed faced reprisals and fines...

The Uzbek embassy in Moscow insisted that all sterilisations were carried out at the patient's request and after the woman's husband had been told of the consequences.

[via Mother Jones]

Anne Frank's complete diary on display for the first time

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam now has on display the full three-volume diary of Anne Frank; previously, only a part of it was housed there; the rest was at another museum.

Caught in a lab romance

Fox-tossing, oil spill, incurable gonorrhea ... I've been on a real downer streak today. As penance, please enjoy this parody music video, featuring scientists dancing and voguing around laboratory equipment.

Lyrics can be found at the blog of Christina Agapakis, one of the Harvard Medical School grad students involved in this little endeavor.

I'll cure your ugly
I'll cure your disease

I'll publish papers

As long as they're free

I'll wear a glove


I'll wear a glove

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria (now on your junk)

Speaking of Superbugs, it looks like we're on our way to incurable, antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. This article also brings up a point I didn't mention in the book review yesterday: Part of the problem is that nobody is developing new antibiotics. Once an old drug becomes ineffective, there's nothing to replace it with. New drugs could be made, but the work (as with any brand new drug development) is expensive, and pharmaceutical companies aren't inclined to invest in products with a limited effective life, that patients only use for short periods of time.

What's wrong with this picture?


Not a damn thing. (Especially when compared to offshore oil.) And the Obama administration agrees. Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced approval for Cape Wind, hopefully soon-to-be America's first offshore wind farm, to build in federally owned waters off Massachusetts. Wind blows harder offshore, and you can install bigger turbines that produce more electricity. Capturing that power, where we can, is crucial to a sustainable energy future. Of course, some would argue that the turbines mar the view from Hyannis Port.

Bottom line: It looks like Cape Wind has passed its final hurdle. We're (probably) getting offshore wind, everybody.

Image courtesy Flickr user phault, via CC

Lyrics for Beatles song expected to sell for $700K


A piece of paper with John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for the Beatles song A Day in the Life will be sold at an auction in NY in June; the BBC is reporting that it is expected to sell at around $700,000. I think the estimate is based on the fact that the lyrics for All You Need is Love sold for $1 million in 2005 at the same venue.

Beware icebergs in black hats

Toshiba tests unbreakable encrypted broadband link. Insert your Titanic jokes here.

Tom the Dancing Bug: How to Draw God-Man

Enjoy our second installment of Ruben Bolling's Tom the Dancing Bug here at BB; the full strip is after the jump.Read the rest

Gulf oil spill—kill it with fire?


How do you stop an ongoing 1000 barrels 5000-barrels-a-day oil spill from reaching sensitive coastal habitats?

Maybe you burn it.

With options dwindling, the Coast Guard started test burns last night, and is likely to do some larger patches today.

It sounds a little crazy. Yes. But, we're past good solutions here and on to the world of slightly-less-shitty. Frankly, that oil was going to get burned (and the CO2 emissions produced) anyway, had it not spilled out of the broken well all over the freaking Gulf of Mexico. And the particulate pollution is less of a threat than the oil itself would be to animal lives and human health/livelihoods if this stuff makes landfall.

Based solely on foggy, childhood memories of the Exxon Valdez spill, one might be tempted to think that an oil spill on land can be cleaned up effectively. But Treehugger points out that job isn't as easy, or successful, as you might think. The stress of cleanup can kill as easily as oil. Plus, there's the massive expense involved. And the oil is only about 20 miles away from Louisiana.

For the record, cleanup crews have already been suctioning up the oil and using chemical treatments to break it down and disperse it. Burning is a last-ditch effort, and probably will only be used in spots where the oil is thickest and difficult to get rid of fast enough any other way. It's also worth noting that this isn't just tossing a match out onto the waves. There's a protocol here, which involves corralling oil inside a fireproof enclosure. The burns are controlled. Each lasts about an hour and gets rid of more than 90 percent of the oil. What's leftover can be easily skimmed off.

Historical photo of burning oil tanker courtesy Flickr user paddling, via CC

Your underwear may soon be measuring your biochemistry

Researchers in Taiwan and at UC San Diego have figured out how to print electrochemical sensors onto fabric, so that your undergarments can double as a way to measure your vitals.

1950s PSA for fire safety

This 20-second public service ad from the 1950s features Poncho and Francisco in sombreros teaching a little girl not to play with matches or lighters, inside or outside.

3G iPads hit mailboxes

3ginthewild.jpg Photo: Mike Ryan. iPad 3Gs are arriving in mailiboxes! BB readers are sending in pics of the new model. Here's Mike Ryan's sim slot, sullying one plane; the back is further sullied by a plastic section where the 3G radio is. The hook? The iPad's data plan has no contract, yet offers unlimited data at half the price of a cellphone, 3G modem or MiFi. Having thought about it, I think I'm going to skip it. I have a year left on a Verizon 3G plan I'm stuck with, so the better bet for me is to get a MiFi from them to replace the netbook it's currently attached to. (What's a MiFi, you ask? It's a battery-powered 3G modem with a router built-in, so your pocket becomes a personal WiFi hotspot) That'll be no good if you want GPS, the 3G iPad's other 'come hither' feature.

Fox-Tossing: Lessons in horrific/ridiculous history


Is there a German word for "the feeling you get when something is so ridiculous that you want to laugh, yet is simultaneously jaw-droppingly horrible"? Can we make one up?

I ask, because I recently discovered Fox-Tossing, a 17th/18th century European pastime that is exactly what it sounds like. People would go out in a field and set up a little fenced-in court. Then high-society types would stand, in pairs, holding slack ropes. Then a bunch of foxes would be released into the court. When the foxes ran over the ropes, the players pulled the ropes tight, launching the foxes up into the air. Repeat until all foxes are dead.

Aren't you glad we can rot our brains with TV now, instead?

According to the Ptak Science Books blog:

Fleming's Deutsche Jaeger (published in 1719) produced this (above) image, and commented on it: "Skilled male tossers could toss a fox 24 ft. high...At a famous fox-tossing in Dresden there were tossed some 687 foxes, 533 hares, 34 badgers, 21 wild cats, and at the end 34 young wild boar and 3 wolves...."

And a partridge in a pear tree. 10:00 am isn't too early to start drinking, right?

UPDATE: Resident German commenter Tillwe has offered a couple of possibilities: First, "fürchterliche Witzigkeit" (lit. frighteningly funnyness). He/she says that captures the mood best, but, to pack it all into one word, we could use "Grausamkeitsspäße" (lit. "funny cruelties").

Help Xeni's brother get to Malaysia to research and archive psychedelic '60s pop

(IMAGE: From Carl's '60s Malaysian vinyl collection, the cover for "Tonic Chop Gajah," an album of rockin' promotional songs about the benefits of Standard Sasparilla Tonic, a local Malaysian beverage)

My crate-digging brother Carl, aka DJ Carlito, has been collecting Malaysian psychedelic pop vinyl from the 1960s for more than a decade.

Read the rest