Boing Boing 

Data mining the intellectual history of the human race with Google Book Search

Harvard's Jean-Baptiste Michel, Erez Lieberman Aiden and colleagues have been analyzing the huge corpus of literature that Google digitized in its Book Search program, and they're uncovering absolutely fascinating information about our cultural lives, the evolution of language, the secret history of the world, censorship and even public health. It's all written up in a (regwalled) paper in Science, "Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books":

When the team looked at the frequency of individual years, they found a consistent pattern. In their own words: "'1951' was rarely discussed until the years immediately preceding 1951. Its frequency soared in 1951, remained high for three years, and then underwent a rapid decay, dropping by half over the next fifteen years." But the shape of these graphs is changing. The peak gets higher with every year and we are forgetting our past with greater speed. The half-life of '1880' was 32 years, but that of '1973' was a mere 10 years.

The future, however, is becoming ever more easily ingrained. The team found that new technology permeates through our culture with growing speed. By scanning the corpus for 154 inventions created between 1800-1960, from microwave ovens to electroencephalographs, they found that more recent ones took far less time to become widely discussed.

The cultural genome: Google Books reveals traces of fame, censorship and changing languages (via Beyond the Beyond)

British oral histories document rural life in late 19th/early 20th cen

The British Library has posted a collection of 250 sound recordings made by oral historian George Ewart Evans, "between 1956 and 1977, many in Suffolk, with a smaller number in Wales, Ireland and Scotland. The recordings document rural life and agricultural work in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, folk beliefs about animals, medicine and witchcraft, folk and popular songs."

I'm pretty taken by interview with unidentified borstal inmate used in preparing the book 'Horse power and magic' (London, 1979).

George Ewart Evans collection (via Warren Ellis)

Star Wars text crawl dress

Chenoa, a hairdresser at The Beehive in Vancouver, BC, made this amazing Star Wars text-crawl dress with matching headband.

My friend dressed up as the scroll from Star Wars (via Neatorama)

Weird D&D advice-column questions

Here's a roundup of some of the weirdest questions posed to Dungeon Magazine's "Sage Advice" column for dungeon masters and players of TSR's Dungeons and Dragons.

Help, My Half-Elf Is Pregnant! The 11 Strangest Questions From The D&D 'Sage Advice' Column (via Neatorama)

Art Nouveau insurance ad

This early 1900s Art Nouveau Equitable Insurance ad originally ran in Harper's Monthly -- more than a century later, I still find it compelling.

Decorated Insurance Ad

John K's new online store

If you're a fan of John Kricfalusi -- and who isn't -- you will love the T-shirts he is selling in his online store called Cartoon Thrills. You are sure to enjoy the jaunty music that begins playing as soon as the site loads as well. Who needs coffee when you have peppy sites like this available to provide you with the get up and go you need to make it through the day?

John K. Store

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's Kickstarter project to make a Transmetropolitan art book

As the tenth anniversary of Transmetropolitan's final issue draws near, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has embarked on a Kickstarter project to create a limited edition hardcover featuring new illustrations from a superstar list of comics artists. The book will be used as a fundraising premium for CBLDF, which defends the free speech rights of comics creators, publishers and retailers. Artists who've been tapped for the project include:
Aaron Alexovich, Martin Ansin, Brandon Badeaux, Edmund Bagwell, Joe Benitez, Rick Berry, Nicholas Bradshaw, Dan Brereton, Evan Bryce, Stephanie Buscema, Jim Calafiore, Cliff Chiang, Katie Cook, Molly Crabapple, Camilla d'Errico, Michael Dialynas, Aaron Diaz, Kristian Donaldson, Ryan Dunlavey, Gary Erskine, Simon Fraser, Richard Friend, Dan Goldman, Cully Hamner, Matt Howarth, K Thor Jensen, Lukas Ketner, Sam Kieth, Clint Langley, Jeff Lemire, Corey Lewis, Milo Manara, John McCrea, Kevin Mellon, Moritat, Dean Motter, J O'Barr, Len O'Grady, Alberto Ponticelli, Rodney Ramos, Paul Renaud, Afua Richardson, Darick Robertson, Jimmie Robinson, James Romberger, Nei Ruffino, Tim Seeley, Liam Sharp, Alex Sheikman, Paul Sizer, Fiona Staples, Dave Taylor, Spike Trotman, Pete Venters, Matthew Weldon, Pete Woods, JK Woodward, Annie Wu, ...and many others.
Transmet is the comic that got me seriously interested in the form again in my late 20s. It's truly a seminal work, and the CBLDF is one of my favorite activist groups.

The TRANSMETROPOLITAN art book (via Super Punch)

Indy cartoonist elated to find torrents of his work

Dubber sez, "NZ cartoonist Dylan Horrocks stumbled across a torrent of all 10 issues of his independent comic 'Pickle' on Demonoid. Rather than issue a takedown notice or complain, he left a complimentary note on the site and linked to it on his blog. Share and enjoy." (Thanks, Dubber, via Submitterator)

Cuba launches Wikipedia clone "EcuRed," but needs a little help


As you may have heard, this week the government of Cuba launched a state-approved online encyclopedia, called EcuRed.

"Its philosophy is the accumulation and development of knowledge, with a democratizing, not profitable, objective, from a decolonizer point of view," reads a statement on the site.

There are already nearly 20,000 articles in the index—an impressive start. Perhaps next they'll mirror those 250,000 WikiLeaks cables (minus the ones about Cuba, of course).

But, look. There. I fixed it for you. You're welcome.

National Security Archive director on "Wikimania," and the dangers of demonizing WikiLeaks

Thomas Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, was among those who testified today before the House Judiciary Committee on the aftermath of "Cablegate" and Wikileaks. Blanton believes efforts to tighten secrecy and crack down on leakers and press will be "fundamentally self-defeating."
"There is more heat than light," Blanton stated, citing calls for broadening the Espionage Act and assassinating Wikileaks leader, Julian Assange. Hasty punitive reactions, he predicted, "will actually produce more leaks, more crackdowns, less accountable government, and diminished security."

"History shows we end up doing more damage from the overreaction than from the original leak."

More on his statements here. (via Submitterator, thanks jennybean42)

Wikileaks: Cables show India accused of widespread, systematic torture in Kashmir


A new set of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks tonight is parsed by The Guardian, and includes revelations that:

US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees. Other cables show that as recently as 2007 American diplomats were concerned about widespread human rights abuses by Indian security forces, who they said relied on torture for confessions.

Other cables released tonight reveal that:

• The Dalai Lama has told US officials that combating climate change is more urgent than finding a political solution in Tibet, which "can wait five to 10 years".

• Rahul Gandhi, the crown prince of Indian politics, believes Hindu extremists pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants, according to the American ambassador to India.

• Five doctors were coerced by the Sri Lankan government to recant on casualty figures they gave to journalists in the last months of island's brutal civil war.

WikiLeaks cables: India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir

Report: Designer arrested over pro-Wikileaks Anonymous press release

According to this item, Alex Tapanaris, whose name appears in the document properties for a PDF press release attributed to Anonymous during last week's pro-Wikileaks DDOS-a-thon, has been arrested. His web site is now offline, too.

House Judiciary Committee hearing on WikiLeaks: Video

Video Link. C-Span's archive of the House Judiciary Committee hearing today on WikiLeaks, the Espionage Act, and the US Constitution. (via @EFF)

Security (BB Flickr Pool)

A photograph contributed by Joshua Koonce to the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.

Pro-Tibet protests in New Delhi (photo)

A Tibetan exile shouts while being detained in a police vehicle during a protest outside the hotel where Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is staying, in New Delhi on December 15, 2010. Wen, accompanied by more than 400 business leaders, seeks to boost trade with India and soothe tensions between the world's fastest-growing major economies when he visits on Wednesday. (REUTERS/Adnan Abidi)

The Peacemaker, Ice-T produced TV series on gang mediation, debuts tonight

[video link]


A new A&E documentary TV series produced by rapper Ice-T debuts tonight: The Peacemaker, starring ex-gang member turned mediator (and now, television host) Malik Spellman.

The five-episode series starts tonight at 10pm.

And, I'm proud to say, Boing Boing Video's own editor-producer-shooter Eric Mittleman worked on the show—he had some pretty intense behind-the-scene tales to share of what it's like to work on a project about mediating gang violence, with current and former gang members, in gang-controlled neighborhoods around Los Angeles.

Snip from the show description:

For the last 20 years Spellman has dedicated his life to ending gang violence, putting it all on the line to mediate truces between rival gangs in Los Angeles - adversaries sometimes separated by less than one city block. Whether he's in his classroom teaching life skills to middle school students, or riding through South Central on his bicycle, Spellman stays true to his purpose: keeping kids safe, out of trouble, and free from violence. Each episode of THE PEACEMAKER executive produced by rapper and actor Ice-T, provides an unprecedented look at gang life, following Spellman as he coordinates and oversees tense moments of mediation between enemies with long histories of hate and violence.
Cyclists, didja catch that? Spellman's a two-wheeler.

The Boston Globe has a review here, NY Daily News here, there's a Facebook page for the show here, and the official website's here, with video. I'll be watching. Oh, and Ice-T is on Twitter now: @finallevel.

(Thanks, Eric Mittleman, congrats!)

Of Spam, Ham, and lost email

(Image: "SPAM (Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam)", contributed to the Boing Boing Flickr pool by BB reader Gustavo Pugliesi Sachs of Montreal, Canada)

Glenn Fleishman has a thought-provoking essay in the Economist about overeager spam filters, and collateral damage in the war on unwanted junk email:

We should still be slightly behind the spammers, reading the small percentage of their most creative efforts that actually get through. And yet, from my own experience and stories I hear from fellow hoary internet veterans, something has broken. Many dozens of emails I've sent in the last year have never reached even a recipient's filtered folder. A few weeks ago, a note about compensation failed to reach the editor of this blog. (Yes, I believe him. Why do you ask?) Likewise, many messages never arrive into my inbox or spam folder. No rejection message arrives, to be decoded; no ham waits to be discovered among the spam. Mails are simply disappearing.

Your theories are welcome, but I believe that the complexity of getting through a spam-filter maze with ever more dead ends is a key cause.

The emerging ambiguity of e-mail (

Gone Dead Gone, a new CD by SLT

SLT600.jpg Someone is dragging a shovel and pick/Someone is playing an old blues riff/An old melody from a dead man's grave/I can feel it baby, feel everything rip

--From "Say Goodbye" off of Gone Dead Done by SLT.

Gone Dead Gone , the new CD released by SLT on Earring Records is the best old school Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds meets Iggy Pop and they get even quirkier-about-dealing-in-bloody-pop-mayhem collection of music by a Rochester N.Y. band since... well, since The Tumors released that secret tribute album to Aileen Wournos back in 1964.

Really though, in a better world and in a time when you actually had top forty singles and CDs worth speaking of -- Gone Dead Gone would be the Nirvana-like bust out album for a new subculture of the aging burned and still enraged -- Generation F.U. -- a small but growing demographic slice of late boomer aliens.

But why should you listen to me? After all, I've contributed 3 song lyrics to my old friends from Rochester's effort.

Yep. For those of you who haven't stopped reading, the story is... I email an mp3 of "I Should've Been A Guru" to Mark Frauenfelder... and what does he do? He emails me back and says, "I like Guru a lot. Why don't you review the album yourself on Boing Boing?" So now I've got to be the fuckin' Houdini of words and wriggle out of this contretemps -- this situation tailor-made for the ever-popular summary dismissal that my words are just hype.

The thing is... these guys actually deserve your attention. So never mind my three quirky topical contributions and let me call your attention to the rest of the work, as described on CD Baby as, "Love, sex, death and the decline of civilization. With a good beat."

Oh hell. You're not going to believe a word I say now. So let me try this. To the first five people to email me at and who can tell me honestly that they actually like Nick Cave, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits... and miss The Sopranos -- in other words, that you don't only listen to techno and aren't easily harmed by music -- I'll send you a selection of 5 songs off of this CD... and you can post your own reviews in comments right here...

Gone Dead Gone on Earring Records (Free download of "I Should've Been A Guru")

Gone Dead Gone on CD Baby | Amazon

Gone Dead Gone is also available on iTunes

Due Date

(Image via Wikipedia: Views of a Foetus in the Womb, c. 1510 - 1512, a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.)

I will admit to occasional single-minded ranting. You might think that, as an astronomer who studies the outer part of the solar system, my rants are restricted to issues like classification of planets, bad weather at telescopes, and the possible effects of secular perturbation on the perihelion evolution of detached Kuiper belt objects. But my other main job, being a parent to a now-5-year-old daughter, provides me a plethora of new things to rant about, also.

My daughter provided me the very first opportunity before she was even born. Back then, she was code-named Petunia, and all I really wanted was some way to understand what Petunia's July 11th due date actually meant. The ranting really didn't begin until sometime in the third trimester. Here is an excerpt from How I Killed Pluto and How It Had It Coming from the moment when simmering frustration turns into full-scale rant.

Read the rest

The incredible art of R.S. Connett

I recently came across the striking work of an artist named R.S. Connett, whose work brought to mind Ernst Haeckel and H.R. Giger. I contacted him and asked if we could run some of his work on Boing Boing along with his comments. Here's what he had to say:

ZOOIDS, 12" x 12", acrylic on canvas.

I'm inspired by my imagination. (And the imaginations of others) I have hundreds of ideas which I want to make materialize. The best way for me, is to draw them. The process of drawing stimulates my imagination. I draw almost every day. These drawings are affected by my moods. These are very basic drawings put out in a sort of "shorthand."

Of the hundreds of my shorthand ideas there will be a few that grab my attention, and inspire me. These will get a secondary treatment. If the second drawing pleases me, I will do another, and perhaps another and another. Every time I draw this picture, it changes and evolves. In fact, the third or forth generation drawing may look nothing at all like the original.

Read the rest

The Boing Boing Formula


I got a cool package in the mail from Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord. I knew they'd found something important and special on the road, but had no idea how important and special until I opened it. Inside, THE BOING BOING FORMULA, and fittingly, it's "WOMAN." Contains Horny Goat Weed, Broomrape, and other herbs that purportedly enhance sexytime. From the label:

A daily booster designed to help you revive the X factor of feeling good, feeling attractive and confident, being desirable, and creating a mood for intimacy and adventure. Users report new vitality, friskiness, clarity of mind, and rediscover that wonderful naughty spark, which threatens to become a flame at any moment, restoring the confidence our stressful lifestyles rob us of.

Was there ever a more perfect description of

Maybe we should market a Boing Boing brand of herbal supplements. Or, just little pill-shaped candies. THE BOING BOING FORMULA. Your thoughts welcomed in the comments. Thanks, Yo-Landi and Ninja, you guys are the best.

SF Street Artist Sandwich Mashes Up Halo/Wikileaks


Via UpTown Almanac, word of a new artist hitting the streets—well, the walls of SF: Sandwich, who's making bold statements with this Halo + Collateral Murder mashup. This is the second WikiLeaks-inspired piece he's taken credit for recently. Interesting stuff for sure. [Thanks Dylan]

Map collages by Matthew Cusick: portraits, seascapes & more

matthew-cusick-thumb-800x450-36735.jpg Matthew Cusick's Map Works series repurposes printed maps into new works of art. Check out the seascapes and highways, too. He also has an interesting series called Passages which combine Bible passages with other works in a similar manner.

Matthew Cusick (via Green Chair Press [h/t])

Eulogy for Mark Pescovitz, by Maxa Pescovitz

by Maxa Pescovitz
December 16, 2010

The loss that our family feels is immeasurable. Mark was not only the foundation of his immediate family, but of all of us that were proud to call him brother, uncle, nephew cousin, friend, co-worker or patient. He touched the families of those he saved, as well as those whom he could not. He put everyone first before himself. He loved the obtuse, as well as the mundane. His sense of humor puzzled those who did not get it right away, and caused belly laughs galore for those who did.

One of his greatest enjoyments in the summer was the Indy State Fair. I had the honor of being with him and Ora this past summer as we commented on the photo exhibits, took our own picture of the world largest boor (with Mark's ensuing humor about it -of course). We laughed at the bizarre food options. Nothing was omitted- from the huge to farm equipment to the tractor pull. We laughed as we all crossed this last event off our "bucket list"--not even knowing it was on it!

Although I was older, I always wanted to be like him- minus the mustache of course.

When our youngest brother was two Mark and I took him to a house in Cincinnati that had a huge display of trains. Walking to the house holding David's hands an older couple commented on what a nice young family we were. We laughed about this mistake for years.

Once, our parents had taken the older kids to Israel. While on Masada, Mark was wearing an Arab headdress -- partly because it was so sunny, and partly as a souvenir -- he was only 15 at the time. He had stepped away from my parents and we noticed others tourists taking his pictures- thinking he was an Arab tourist. Just when Mark had their attention, he called MOM! Dad! in English--throwing of the tourists and we were of course rolling on the ground laughing--here was Mark honing his sharp wit and quick response!

Mark was an enigma -- like a Rubik's Cube. Some knew one block, some a row, and still others a whole side. As my brothers and I have read the comments of so many people, only now are we able to see the entire cube. He was so much like our parents. The compassionate physician and excellent clinician like our dad, the amazing artist like our mom, and the ultimate philanthropist and volunteer like them both.

His commitment to his community- whether it be Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Michigan or places he visited, or to his medical community was unending. There was way more he intended to do in this life. We have all lost a great man.

As Mark Twain once said, "Endeavor to live your life so that when you die even the undertaker will be sad."

This is how my brother lived his life. Our hearts are broken- our wonderful memories of him must live on! Go with peace and love my brother! Say hi to Mom and Dad.

Mark Pescovitz (1955-2010)

Rocket to Russia: official hymn of the conquerors

Joe feels the (slightly scary & very vocal) love (Moscow Arena)

Our second and final show in Russia happens in Moscow, at a large black box called The Moscow Arena. Inside of the building walls, floors, ducting, integral support beams and even lighting and plumbing have an unfinished feel, as if the the venue is meant to be temporary. Pieces of tile are glued haphazardly onto cinderblock walls assembled without enough mortar. Light shines through the separation between the concrete and air moves through, too, mostly reeking of cigarette smoke.

Forty minutes before showtime the rapidly growing crowd in front of the stage is clearly audible from the dressing room, loud enough that it becomes challenging to hear myself speak or hear the notes on my unplugged bass as I warm up my fingers.

When we arrive on the stage the crowd howls with one demonic voice as Jeff counts us in to the opener: Ice 9. The audience claps, jumps, waves their arms, sits on each other's shoulders, even cries. I am drenched in sweat in four minutes and stay that way for the entire two and a half hour set, the drops moving continually from my head to my shoes. Elegant and surely expensive flower bouquets are passed hand to hand from the back of the hall to the people on the wall eight feet in front of us who then attempt to throw them on to the stage. They invariably miss, which is sad.

Read the rest

Elf Cam app for iPhone

My seven-year-old daughter Jane has been having fun with the Elf Cam iPhone Christmas app. It's got several nifty features, including a compass that, when pointed at the North Pole, will play the sounds of the elves busy at work in the toyshop, and a series of videos called "Ask an Elf?" where a snarky and rather large elf gossips about goings-on at the North Pole.

It also has a feature that allows you to set up your camera on Christmas Eve to record Santa coming out of your fireplace (or walking into room if you don't have a fireplace), so you can show it to your child in order to prove that Santa Claus is real.

The graphics and music are cute, and $1.99, the price is right. Elf Cam for iPhone

Lori Nix's stunning, tiny dioramas depict an abandoned world

Cliff Kuang, the editor of Co.Design, Fast Company's design blog, pointed me to the work of Lori Nix, who designs detailed miniature dioramas of a post-apocalyptic world.
The twist is that Nix's photos aren't Photoshop manipulations -- they're real images of tiny, painstakingly detailed dioramas that Nix has designed just for this project. Nix built the 3-D scenes in her living room on nights and weekends with the help of an assistant, with each one taking anywhere from two to fifteen months to complete. Nix shot the dioramas on normal 8x10 film, making her minuscule creations -- about 20 x 24 x 72 inches small -- appear nearly indistinguishable from full-size scenes.
There is a slideshow Lori Nix's work at the link.

Lori Nix's Stunning, Tiny Dioramas Depict an Abandoned World

Roy Doty's 2010 Christmas card

Xmas-card-2010.gif I am very thankful to have gotten to know Roy Doty, who has been illustrating for Make magazine for the last six years. I first became familiar with Roy's work in the late 1960s, when I saw his pleasing and deceptively simple illustrations in Popular Science magazine.

For many years Roy drew a comic strip called "Wordless Workshop," which featured a pipe smoking suburban dad who wandered around his house and neighborhood observing the minor irritations that his family and neighbors experienced, and then coming up with an elegant solution to those problems that involved making a nifty contraption out of easily obtained materials. Roy is not only a very gifted cartoonist, he's a wonderfully resourceful inventor!

Roy is 88 years old, and he still works full time for a wide variety of publications. He can turn around a drawing in a matter of hours, and I admit I have occasionally taken advantage of his ability to do this.

Every year Roy sends out a Christmas card, and they are always very inventive and delightful. This one, titled "A Holiday Alphabet," features a number of Santa's elves contorting themselves into positions that resemble the letters of the alphabet.

76 Synthesizer: Stupidly cool iPad app interface


Swedish designer Jonas Eriksson designed this incredibly amazing interface for an iPad app called "76 Synthesizer" which may or may not even exist (the internet isn't giving me a straight answer, stupid internet). I can't find it in the app store anyway, which is a shame because I'd buy it just to show off the great design more than I'd actually use it.

Note to other iPad and iPhone designers: THIS!

The past year's 12 editions of Vogue covers, overlaid


This is the shroud of Vogue, made from the last 12 editions of the magazine, overlaid.


(Via Book of Joe)