Boing Boing 

Impaled by pruning shears through eye, doing ok

Leroy Leutscher, 86, of Arizona, slipped and fell on a pair of pruning shears that went right through his eye and down his neck. Amazingly, he's doing pretty well given the circumstances. From The Telegraph:
 Multimedia Archive 01983 Leroy220 1983488F Luetscher was rushed to the hospital, where surgeons removed the shears and rebuilt his orbital floor with metal mesh, saving his eye. Doctors say Mr Luetscher still has slight swelling in his eyelids and minor double vision but has otherwise recovered.
"US man impaled through eye with pruning shears" (via Fortean Times)

"Cinematic journalism" for mobile devices, from Chris Colin and others

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The Atavist is a platform for publishing and selling short nonfiction, what they call "cinematic journalism," for mobile devices. The full pieces are $2.99/each for iOS devices (with Android coming soon) and stripped-down versions for the Kindle are $1.99. It'll be interesting to see how this model plays out as a way to support longform feature writing on subjects that the writers are passionate about. Right now, there are around ten original stories available on The Atavist. The most recent is Chris Colin's "Blindsight." I just read an excerpt over at The Atlantic and I am hooked. Here's how Chris describes it:

The story takes place in Hollywood, and it starts out simple and movie-like: A producer is driving to dinner with his wife, one evening in 1994. She mentions something about her boss, and these turn out to be her last words. Without giving anything away, the story involves horrific tragedy, a Rip Van Winkle-like hibernation, impossible turns of fate, a killer at large. Miraculous medical oddness. Otherworldly powers. Time itself rearranged.
"Blindsight" by Chris Colin

How do you think this stairway was built?

This gorgeous spiral staircase is from the lighthouse at Sand Island, Wisconsin, leading from the basement fuel room to the lighthouse room at the top of the house, with stops at the two floors of living space along the way. Our tour guide told us that nobody knows how it was built. Some people, he said, think each section of the metal stair fit together with a male/female sort of locking mechanism. Others think that a pole was first installed and each section of the metal stair was slid down that. Either way, the staircase is mostly held in place by tension—there's nothing connecting it to the wall at all, except at the two landings in front of the doors to the living quarters.

The trouble with being married to an engineer: I just assume that all "mystery stairs" are only really mysteries because the right experts haven't ever been called into evaluate them. (I'm lookin' at you, Chapel of Loretto.) The fun thing about being married to an engineer: Once you get past "it's just a mystery, I guess!", then you're left with a cool problem-solving puzzle to hypothesize about.

So what do you think? I'm guessing this is almost more of a history question than an engineering question, because part of what we're trying to figure out is how sections of a spiral staircase like this would have been joined together back in the day. But the other part is pretty engineer-y: Do you think the brackets (they're about iPhone sized and there's two under each of the two landings, which are both on the South side of the stairwell) are the only thing supporting this staircase other than tension? Or do you suspect that it's held in place some other way?

I'm going to be traveling until the 9th. But, when I get home, I'll check around and see how close you all got to a correct assessment.

Read the rest

Hotel elevator has staff and guest buttons

I snapped this photo in an elevator at the Holiday Inn Express in Mérida, Mexico. There are two sets of buttons in the elevator, one "for exclusive use of guests" and another "for exclusive use of staff." I made sure to use the staff buttons when I rode the elevator, just because some rules are meant to be broken. I also saw a staff member use the guest buttons, but I didn't snitch. Click to see the photo larger.

Chris Reccardi paintings in Australia

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Psi-fi painter Chris Reccardi has a show of new work up at Melbourne, Australia's Outre Gallery. Chris's roots are in the animation industry, having contributed to modern classics like The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Powerpuff Girls, and Samurai Jack as a designer, writer, director, and even musician. Above, "I shall Go on" (acrylic on canvas, 20" x 20"). Chris Reccardi's Go exhibition

A man’s flesh is his own; the water belongs to the tribe

From Neil Bowdler at the BBC:

A Glasgow-based company has installed its first commercial "alkaline hydrolysis" unit at a Florida funeral home. The unit by Resomation Ltd is billed as a green alternative to cremation and works by dissolving the body in heated alkaline water. ... The makers claim the process produces a third less greenhouse gas than cremation, uses a seventh of the energy, and allows for the complete separation of dental amalgam for safe disposal.

New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home [BBC]

Car decaying in the forest—Sand Island, Wisconsin

I went back to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore last weekend for a short vacation. One of my goals was to get out to Sand Island. This particular one of the 22 Apostles (Official story behind the name: Jesuit missionaries miscounted) is pretty far-flung, especially at the 3 or 4 miles per hour a sailboat moves. But it was worth the trip.

Last month, I interviewed Bob Mackreth, a writer, historian, and retired park ranger, for a story about the conflict between natural history and human history in national parks. During the interview, he told me that Sand Island was the place to go to see that conflict in action. The Island was once home to a relatively large and long-lived village. Where there is now forest, there was once a school, a cooperative grocery store, and roads. It lasted until the 1950s, when the sea lamprey put a major kink in the commercial fishing industry on Lake Superior.

Today, the park trail follows the former path of Sand Island's main road. Along it, Mackreth told me, you'll find a couple of old cars, abandoned to the forest. I did find them. And I thought you'd like to see them, too.

Read the rest

The landscapes of Philip Govedare

The only thing that could make Philip Govedare's curious landscape paintings better is if we had found them buried on Mars in an airtight cylinder, with a copy of the March 12, 1888 edition of the London Times, a locket of hair and a blank diary. [via Design Milk]

Partially completed octopus sand sculpture on Venice Beach promenade

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It was very hot in Studio City on Sunday, so I went to Venice Beach with my wife and kids to cool off. It wasn't much cooler, but we had fun.

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The highlight of my day was this cartoony octopus sand sculpture. The artist was sleeping under an umbrella, otherwise I would have interviewed him. I am envious of his talent.

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Federal Court: recording cops an unambiguous first amendment right

When Simon Glik recorded Boston Suffolk County police doing something they shouldn't, he was threatened and ultimately arrested by a crackpot cop who boasted, "I've been doing this for thirty years and there's nothing you can hold over my head." The result of his legal troubles? A federal court ruling that videotaping police is an unambiguous and constitutionally protected right. [Citmedialaw via Gizmodo]

Gweek 014: Hokum Scorchers!

Rob and I are happy to have as our returning guest Ruben Bolling, creator of Tom the Dancing Bug, the terrific comic strip we run every week on Boing Boing.

Read the rest

Montana morning

Good morning from a sustainable cattle ranch in Montana's Centennial Valley. Here is a snapshot I just took on my phone of one of the residents. I am here with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien, and PBS NewsHour producer Jenny Marder. We're working on a story for the program.

Feynman: comic biography of an iconoclastic physicist

Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick's Feynman is an affectionate and inspiring comic biography of the legendary iconoclastic physicist Richard Feynman. I've reviewed Ottaviani before (I really liked T-Minus, a history of the Apollo program, as well as his Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists) and I expected great things from Feynman.Read the rest

After Hurricane Katrina, years of post-traumatic stress: a first-person account

Photo: Reuters

My friend Susannah Breslin, a periodic guest contributor to Boing Boing, has written a piece for the Atlantic about her experience as a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

When I did return to New Orleans, the city was ravaged, its great oak trees broken, its buildings crumbling, a refrigerator stranded on a dark sidewalk like a ghost. My neighborhood was deserted. A sign on the front of the house where I had lived indicated the roof shingles, which had come off during the storm, contained asbestos. I was in the 20 percent of the city that hadn't flooded, but portions of the roof had come off during the storm.

Inside, the rain had spawned black, green, and yellow mold that crawled the walls. I could see the sky from the living room through the exposed wooden slats of the structure's bones. The ceiling was in the bed. In the backyard, a towering pecan tree that had stood for probably 100 years had been uprooted from the ground and tossed aside like a toothpick by a bored giant.

I took the boxes and my papers from the mostly undisturbed kitchen. From the rest of the house, I picked and chose from the things that didn't appear to have mold or asbestos on them. The following day, I drove out of the city. There was a boat in the middle of the street. The houses gaped, slack-jawed and empty-faced. I drove across the eastbound span of the Twin Span Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, and parts of the westbound span of the bridge were simply gone. I drove an hour through a destroyed forest, and when I looked up in the sky, I tried to imagine a thing so big that it could destroy so much.

After Hurricane Katrina, Years of Post-Traumatic Stress

808 Car Keys Micro video camera

Forget the GoPro and its expensive ilk: the real fun is clearly to be had with cheap, nasty, hackable spycams such as the 808 Car Keys Micro. Made to resemble a remote entry fob, the gadget records audio, shoots serviceable (YouTube) video, and costs about as much as a pizza. Aficionados pay close attention to serial numbers and other indicators of origin, as they offer clues as to the hackability and durability of otherwise indistinguishable tat. Chuck Lohr broke one apart for science, and offers hints on how to get the best ones. From way back in 2003, Dan Rutter explains the appeal of the no-nonsense bottom end: "It's cheap, it's cute, it's a camera."

Take your chances at ebay or pay a few bob more at Amazon, where one reviewer assures us that it's "an absolute piece of crap". Sold.

Chinese tycoon offers to buy 0.3% of Iceland for $100,000,000


Huang Nubo is China's 16th richest person. The self described "poet and adventurer" has offered $100 million to buy 300 square kilometres of Icelandic wilderness to develop a golf course and tourist destination resort.

Opponents have questioned why such a large amount of land – equal to about 0.3 per cent of Iceland’s total area – is needed to build a hotel. They warned that the project could provide cover for China’s geopolitical interests in the Atlantic island nation and Nato member.

While home to just 320,000 people, Iceland occupies a strategically important location between Europe and North America and has been touted as a potential hub for Asian cargo should climate change open Arctic waters to shipping.

(To get an idea of how much 0.3 percent represents, take a look at the above photo of Bjork. Her tattoo covers roughly 0.3% of her body's surface area.)

Chinese tycoon seeks to buy tract of Iceland

(Image: Bjork-1, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 8073591@N04's photostream)

Two AI chatBots attempt to have a conversation with each other

[Video Link] Scott Beale says: "Cornell Creative Machines Lab wanted to see what would happend if two Cleverbot AI ChatBots had a conversation with each other."

I think I've just seen the beginning of the end.

Two AI ChatBots Attempt To Have A Conversation With Each Other

Minecraft in real life

Ben Purdy made this "real life" Minecraft block. Very cool!

Now that I’m working on projection mapping it was only a matter of time before this happened. Thanks to my brother for the inspiration, he mentioned that one of the other projection mapping examples looked a bit like a minecraft block. Once the idea popped into my head I had to give it a try.

There’s a piezo element taped to the box and hooked up to an arduino. The arduino senses the physical impact with the piezo element and sends serial data to my PC. Processing picks up the serial signal and takes care of the projection and interaction (particles, etc).

Minecraft in real life

Ryan Homes catalog shows shrubs planted in front of garage door


Three cheers for Ryan Homes in Plain Township, OH. They sell houses with shrubbery planted in front of the garage doors to discourage car ownership. Plus, every house comes with a goat and a cart to transport occupants to the local WalMart!

Amazing Mystery Button vs Super Mystery Button


I can't make up my mind!

New Products from Science of the Future

Benjamin Franklin's famous "Join, or Die" political cartoon offered at auction


An original copy of the May 9, 1754 edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette, featuring noted zine publisher Benjamin Franklin's famous "Join, or Die" political cartoon, is up for auction. Estimate: $100,000 - $200,000

One of only a handful of known existing original copies of Benjamin Franklin’s celebrated “Join, or Die” editorial cartoon, from the May 9, 1754 edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette – the single most famous and important American editorial cartoon in existence, and one of the most famous ever printed – will be offered for the first time at auction and is expected to bring well in excess of $100,000+ when it crosses the block  as part of Heritage Auctions’ Sept. 13 Signature Historical Manuscripts Auction.

“There’s no way to overstate just what this cartoon means to American history, Pop Culture history and comics history,” said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President of Heritage Auctions. “It’s important on so many levels, to collectors of all kinds, across many genres, that there’s no telling where the bidding for this could go.”

Benjamin Franklin's woodcut illustration of a snake severed into eight sections, each one representing one of the colonies, is the stuff of legend, burned into the collective American consciousness from the time most citizens were in grade school. The appearance of this copy at auction – the only other known copy is in the Library of Congress –constitutes a major event in the annals of American auction history.

“Franklin used the illustration, along with his accompanying editorial, to vividly explain the importance of colonial unity in 1754 shortly before the French and Indian War,” said Jaster. “Its prescient call for American unity may not have worked the way Franklin planned it in 1754, but it plainly sowed the seeds of the need for unity in the face of the looming American Revolution, some 22 years in the future.”

First publication of the "Join, or Die" editorial cartoon

PDF download of Suw Charman's Argleton

AKMA sez, "Founder of Ada Lovelace Day, Web and social media pioneer Suw Charman-Anderson crowdsourced her handmade novel-puzzle-adventure-treat, produced handmade editions for her sponsors, and now is sharing the adventure with readers everywhere. She's opening up free access to the PDF of Argleton, with more ebook formats to come. It's a shame we all didn't avail ourselves of the chance to order the hand-bound edition -- but now we all can read and imagine what we missed."

Video tour of Walter Potter's anthropomorphic taxidermy

[video link] Morbid Anatomy's Joanna posted this excellent c.1965 film documenting a visit to the museum of English taxidermist Walter Potter (1835-1918). Sadly, the Potter collection was cannibalized for auction in 2003.

Moogfest 2011

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On October 28-30, Brian Eno, Flaming Lips, Flying Lotus, Crystal Castles, Moon Duo, Tangerine Dream, Suicide, and dozens of other artists will switch on Asheville, North Carolina for Moogfest 2011.
Moogfest celebrates Bob Moog’s legacy as a sonic pioneer, which will be the thread that unites the festival’s rich array of musical offerings. While the wide range of Moog instruments – the Minimoog Voyager, the Little Phatty, the Etherwave Theremin, Moogerfoogers, and the Moog Guitar – will play prominent roles throughout the festival’s events, the artists performing will certainly not be limited to those who create their work on Moog instruments. Instead, artists will be chosen for their role in creating unique and groundbreaking musical experiences that embody the essence of Bob Moog’s visionary and creative spirit.

In addition to fantastic concerts by renowned performers of all kinds, Moogfest offers opportunities to engage with the artists in panel discussions, question and answer sessions, and workshops. There will also be interactive experiences for the audience to explore their own musical creativity with a variety of Moog instruments. The festival also offers visual art exhibitions, installations, and film screenings throughout the weekend.

Moogfest 2011 (Thanks, Vann Hall!)

Hunter Thompson's Rum Diary trailer, starring Johnny Depp

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Johnny Depp reprises his role as Hunter S. Thompson for The Rum Diary, the good Doctor's 1959 novel that didn't see publication until 1998. (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)

Vampire-killing kit

Dsc05972-1 A BB reader spotted this antique vampire-killing kit at an antiques show this weekend. You may purchase it from Best of France Antiques in Buckingham, Pennsylvanie. Included are a pistol, a stake, garlic, holy water, mirror, bible, silver bullets, and crucifixes. It's $9,000, which is quite a bargain if you are in need of such a kit.

Feds raid Gibson Guitar

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Federal agents raided Gibson Guitar last week and confiscated what the Fish and Wildlife Service claim may be illegally harvested Madagascar ebony and other woods from protected forests. This follows a 2009 raid resulting in an ongoing court case, "United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms." From the Wall Street Journal:
The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn't be a negligible offense. Peter Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the "equivalent of Africa's blood diamonds." But with the new raid, the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met every regulatory jot and tittle.
Gibson Guitar Corp CEO Henry Juszkiewicz responded in a public statement issued by the company:
The raids forced Gibson to cease manufacturing operations and send workers home for the day while armed agents executed the search warrants. “Agents seized wood that was Forest Stewardship Council controlled,” Juszkiewicz said. “Gibson has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC-certified supplies. The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards.”

Juszkiewicz believes that the Justice Department is bullying Gibson without filing charges.

“The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India. (If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.) This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India.”

"Guitar Frets: Environmental Enforcement Leaves Musicians in Fear" (Thanks, Greg Long!)

"Gibson Guitar Corp. Responds to Federal Raid"

UPDATE: Fretboard Journal's Michael Simmons, points us to "an article we did a while ago about CITES and the Lacey Act, the two laws that triggered the Gibson raid, and it gives some good background on what the issues are." A Guitar Lover’s Guide to the CITES Conservation Treaty

Michele Bachmann: "Who likes white people?" (or are they merely wet?)

Bachmann: Who likes white people?

Crowd: (Cheers)

Bachmann: Yeah! That's right! I'm Michelle Bachmann and I'm a member of congress and I'm running for the presidency of the United States and I'm here to talk tonight here to tell you about the creator of the universe, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

From Towleroad: A poster at Political Hotwire writes: "Apparently, the warm-up band for Bachmann was called the 'White People Soul Band'"

But another version of the video tells an entirely different story -- "Who likes wet people?" -- with telling context that's clearly been edited out in the fast-spreading one above.

Singing bird pistols

This exquisite pair of "singing bird pistols", c. 1820, sold for $5.8 million at a Christie's International auction several months ago. Their beauty is matched only by the hyperbole of the video narration and description on the Christie's site:
Aurel Bacs, International Head of the Watch Department, shares his passion and knowledge of the only known matching pair of gold and enamel singing bird pistols, to be offered at Christie’s Hong Kong Important Watches sale on 30 May 2011. Among the most valuable and important works of art remaining in private hands, the value and ingenuity of these pistols are beyond description and must be seen and heard to be truly appreciated.
The Only Pair of Matching Singing Bird Pistols, Attributed to Frères Rochat (Thanks, Jennifer Lum!)

Ai Weiwei, artist and dissident, rips into Chinese gov in post-prison op-ed

Newsweek magazine has published a "scathing attack" on the Chinese government from artist and dissident Ai Weiwei, who was detained in extraordinary and dehumanizing conditions as an apparent political prisoner. In the op-ed, he describes Beijing as "a city of violence."

Beijing is two cities. One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation. I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope. They can’t even imagine that they’ll be able to buy a house. They come from very poor villages where they’ve never seen electricity or toilet paper.

Every year millions come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses. Each year they build a Beijing equal to the size of the city in 1949. They are Beijing’s slaves. They squat in illegal structures, which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts—and the restaurants and karaoke parlors and saunas are very rich as a result.

Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.

(via Reuters)