“Belief in the traditional sense, or certitude, or dogma, amounts to the grandiose delusion, 'My current model' -- or grid, or map, or reality-tunnel -- 'contains the whole universe and will never need to be revised.' In terms of the history of science and knowledge in general, this appears absurd and arrogant to me, and I am perpetually astonished that so many people still manage to live with such a medieval attitude.”
― Robert Anton Wilson, Cosmic Trigger
No British citizen has ever been extradited to the United States for a copyright offense. But Richard O'Dwyer, the 23-year-old college student who ran TV Shack, may become the first.
As I understand it, the charges aren't that his (very popular) site actually hosted the copyrighted content, but that it served as a directory of links to other servers online where those downloads could be found.
Torrentfreak has more on the legal battle. The lawyer for accused hacker Gary McKinnon, whom the US would also like to extradite for prosecution, is representing O'Dwyer. They lost their first round in the extradition case today, and have 14 days to appeal.
RAN activists took to the streets of San Francisco last night and turned every Bank of America ATM in the city into an Automated Truth Machine. The activists used special non-adhesive stickers designed to look exactly like BoA’s ATM interface. But instead of checking and savings accounts, these new menus offered a list of everything BoA customers’ money is being used for, including investment in coal-fired power plants, foreclosure on Americans’ homes, bankrolling of climate change, and paying for fat executive bonuses.
(Via Mother Jones)
[Video Link] The hard-working star of Der Untergang learns of a recently-launched set of tweaks to Google search results that push Google+ content to the top, integrating social information into search. Steven Levy has a smart piece up today on the launch of Google's "Search Plus Your World" (SPYW) at Wired.com. Internet critics will likely not be the only ones filing complaints about SPYW: The FTC may well have issues with this, too. (via @elinormills)
An anti-government protester films with her iPad during an al-Wefaq rally in Sanabis, west of Manama, Bahrain, January 12, 2012. Thousands of anti-government protesters participated in the rally shouting anti-government slogans demanding the downfall of the ruling family. (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed)
In recent years, utilities, credit card issuers and banks have made a real effort to redesign their statements so they’re easier for their customers to understand. In many cases they’ve succeeded, and I’m grateful.Read the rest at credit.com
But for some reason, my health insurer (Anthem Blue Cross) has continued to to send me the same kind of inscrutable “Explanation of Benefits” letter that it has sent for years. It’s filled with information that is of no value to me, including machine-readable bar codes and glyphs (who are these for?—the letters don’t say). And the kind of information I would like to know is incomplete. For example, the letters include the “member’s medical deductible applied to date” but doesn’t say what the deductible actually is, or how much is remaining.
To make matters worse, these laughably named “explanation of benefit” notices don’t include a bill to let me pay the outstanding balance on a medical visit. Instead, I receive bills directly from the care provider, which are often sent before the insurance benefits kick in. Other times the bills arrive many months after the service was performed, containing urgent language about how late the bill is, even though it’s the first I ever heard about it.
How to Be a Retronaut's latest gallery is a world-beater: "U.S. Air Force personalised bomber jackets, WWII." Stylin'.
Lawsuit: store owner tried to ruin my life over a bad Yelp review, posted fake blog claiming I was thieving, crack-addicted prostitute
A lawsuit filed by Chicago's Cecelia Groark claims that Krunch Kretschmar, owner of a store called Bottled Grapes, created a fake blog about her nonexistent drug problems, thieving, and prostitution to retailiate for a negative review on Yelp. She says she bought a Groupon for a wine pairing class but got the runaround when she tried to book it, and a rude email when she complained. She posted on Yelp, and that, she says, is when Kretschmar sent an email telling her he was going to ruin her: "Now every time a company for a job or someone searches YOU on google they will read my side of the story."
The suit claims the blog Kretschmar created and published stated the following: “Cecelia troubles began when she started Embezzling from her last employer to support her drug addiction. While her treatment in the Cook County jail did little to help her, she is continuing to fight her demons everyday. Now turning to the Oldest profession to gain the funds need to support her habits, she is now trying to turn a new leaf. We wish her well.”
Groark has never met Kretschmar, who the suit claims, posted the blog to convince Groark to remove her Yelp review and to embarrass, harass, and ridicule her.
In 1978, over 900 people at Jim Jones' Peoples Temple in Guyana committed suicide by drinking Flavor Aid with cyanide added to it. This parody ad from a 1961 issue of Mad magazine is an uncanny harbinger of the tragedy. Note that the letter is addressed to "Jim."
Last week, a mystery bidder snatched the domain of copyright troll Righthaven at auction for just $3,300. Just now, the domain name system updated to reveal his identity: one Stefan Thalberg of Zug, Switzerland, just south of Zurich.
And at the domain itself, a mysterious "No Jellyfish" logo with the title "Take Back The Right(Haven)" and the text "Coming Soon."
In the page source, a tantalizing clue:
<!--Oh... you want a hint do you? Very well: "Does your current provider possess a spine?"-->
Thalberg's email address suggests an association with OrtCloud, a Swiss internet service provider that says it focuses on "bespoke" solutions for financial and scientific companies. Intriguingly, its homepage advertises the "privacy-friendly, regulatory-havens of Iceland and the Swiss cantons of Zürich and Zug" beneath a photograph of the Swiss National Bank.
A cursory search of associated IP addresses reveals firms in the business services and finance sector. I've asked for comment. (Update: I've received a short reply saying that there will be "updates soon")
Righthaven launched an ill-fated copyright enforcement business three years ago, but was repeatedly punished by courts unimpressed with its claim to have "licensed" the right to sue from copyright holders—and which were often unimpressed with the credibility of the underlying claims. After running out of money, Righthaven lost its domain name to creditors, which promptly auctioned it off.
One of Righthaven's most notorious shakedown strategies was to demand victims hand over their own domain names in order to head off or settle lawsuits. Its legal team is now facing an investigation by the Nevada State Bar, after one judge found evidence that the company made "intentional misrepresentations" in court.
John Flesk, founder of the terrific art book house Flesk Publications, just released four new titles (The Art of Craig Elliott, Warren Chang: Narrative Paintings, Flesk Prime, and Naughty and Nice: The Good Girl Art of Bruce Timm). He sent them to me and they are all terrific. Here's more information about Naughty and Nice, followed by a gallery of Timm's art from it, a bio of Bruce Timm, and the story of Flesk Publications.
In a radical departure from his previous work on animated films and comics, which primarily featured superheroes, the award-winning artist Bruce Timm presents an extensive survey of the many forms that his shapely muse has assumed in his mind’s eye. Naughty and Nice: The Good Girl Art of Bruce Timm showcases over 300 full-color, line and pencil images of partially clothed and nude women of almost every conceivable description and temperament.
This substantial collection provides shapely forms and earthly delights throughout its pages. Be it a sophisticated city gal or a savage jungle queen, a hard-boiled dame or an elegant lady from the land of fantasy, a quietly smoldering sorceress or a wild-hearted adventuress, Timm's ladies are sure to please the eye.
Over 125 new images have been prepared especially for this handsome book. Timm explores the female form with absolute creative freedom, and pure personal expression is the result. The artist has granted Flesk Publications unprecedented access to his archives to provide the best representation of his private works. These rarely seen images span the last 15 years and are showcased in a single collection for the first time.
“The focus of our Bruce Timm book is on Bruce Timm,” explains Flesk. “From the start I wanted to highlight him as an artist. This is the first time his personal visions have been available to the public.”
“I approached Bruce Timm about this book based on my long standing admiration for his art and his contributions to the DC Animated Universe,” reflects Flesk. “I’m a strong believer in shooting for the top and approaching the best in the industry. I was delighted to hear Bruce was interested. As the process evolved Bruce took more of an active role in producing the book. Much of its design and “feel” comes from his integral role in shaping every aspect. He takes pride in his work: It’s his name on the cover, and his body of work represents him. He was a pleasure to work with.”
After the jump, a gallery of work by Bruce Timm, along with additional information about Timm and Naughty and Nice
Read the rest
Read the rest
Some time in 1976, I went into this very hip bookstore in downtown Binghamton, New York where I lived and came across two books whose covers screamed for my attention with their flaming psychedelic designs. I picked one of them up and read the blurb on the back cover. It spoke of psychedelic supermen, conspiracies and a yellow submarine. Reading bits of random pages I knew right then and there that I'd stumbled upon my Rosetta Stone -- an alternative world similar to my own that not only acknowledged the sorts of thoughts and fantasies and cultural and political references that I shared with my "out there" friends, but that did so with language that seemed like it had been plugged into the same sort of excessively electrified everything-at-once brain-sockets that our brains were sometimes plugged into. I fished the rumpled scraps of welfare-provided legal tender out of my pocket and bought both immediately.
Illuminatus! was unusual in its time because, in some ways, there seemed to be a sort of unspoken embargo against any novelist who wanted to be considered intellectually credible writing something this directly tied in to hardcore psychedelic freak culture.
If you were a countercultural person, you probably had read Kesey's Cuckoo's Nest; you read some Vonnegut; you read Heller's Catch 22; maybe some Marge Piercy. If you were into SF, you read some of Philip K. Dick's funny, gloomy, strange loopy multiple reality stories. In 1974, everybody read Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein and Diary of a Drug Fiend by Aleister Crowley. You might have been catching up on Burroughs' cut up trilogy, which sat in my bathroom and seemed conducive to picking up at random, particularly while stoned and crapping. Some of the characters in some of these books were hipsters or alternative in their ways, but you weren't going to get direct references to SDS and Yippies and tantric sex and groovy hashish meditations on the nature of reality in the language of the "kids" of the time. Besides being a dense, brilliant, philosophic, multileveled yarn, Wilson and Shea tapped on my brain and said "Hello, fellow tripper."
After finishing Part One, I headed back to the store and requested Part Two. The owner ordered it, but I wasn't going to sit around waiting and lose the buzz. I dived right into Part Three. One morning, with a good 100 pages or so left to read, I snorted a nice sharp line of speed (I was no speed freak, but on the occasions when I did take some, I loved to read and read and read... and read some more. I read most of Gravity's Rainbow that way) and I spent the day sitting in a local park devouring the rest of the book in its entirety.
It was just getting dark when I finished and started my brief walk home. But as I passed by the first house on the corner upon exiting the park this actual speed freak -- bearded, hair spilling in all directions, rough looking and wild eyed rushed out of his door shaking bodily and glared at me."You've been watching us but we've been watching you. Who are you with?" Now, I was in the Illuminatus! Trilogy. "Kenny Goffman. I know who you are. Who are you with?" I noticed other characters peering out of the house from behind the blinds -- speed freaks having a major paranoid episode, all because I'd sat out in the park right near their house all fucking day no doubt pretending to read a book. A quick sputtering of words including "rip off" and "bust" expressed the strung out man's concern that I was advance man either for some druggies bent on robbery or some narcs that were coming to get them that very day.
Read the rest
Read the rest
Themac sez, "Fantastic response to a cease and desist. I was particularly impressed at whom they cc'ed." This may be the nicest "go screw yourself" letter ever sent.
Best letter ever written to a Lawyer
The backdrop: The San Antonio, Texas based Freetail Brewing Co. received a cease and desist letter from the Steelhead Brewing Co. (based out of Eugene, Oregon) demanding that they stop using “Hopasaurus Rex” as a name for one of their beers.
A month ago, one of these islands didn't exist.
On December 13, fishermen in the Red Sea reported volcanic eruptions shooting lava into the air. Just ten days later, the new island was visible. Volcanic island formation is one of those natural phenomena that most of us have known about since grade school. And yet, it never becomes not awesome. Smithsonian has a Q&A with volcanologists (still one of the most awesome jobs), that explains some of what's going on. Even if you already know the general basics, the specifics of this particular island are pretty neat.
The “new” volcano, of which you can see the very top, has probably been erupting episodically underwater for thousands of years. While its above-surface dimensions are roughly 1,739 feet east-to-west and 2,329 feet north-to-south we know the larger submerged shield it sits on is about 12.5 miles across—an edifice whose age is unknown, but the Red Sea may have begun spreading apart about 34 million years ago and the shield volcano could thus be tens of millions of years in the making.
... Keep in mind that this whole region has had many volcanic eruptions in the last five years. In 2007, for example, a sudden eruption on the nearby Island Jebel at Tair killed a number of soldiers stationed there. The process of plate tectonics seems to be going on a little faster, at a quickened rate in this area. Why? We don’t know. The general public needs to be reminded that volcanologists are often in the dark about these processes.
"Everything is color." A wonderful bit of vintage footage also seen in the excellent 1986 BBC documentary, LSD: The Beyond Within.
Carrie M/ Becker made a 1/6th scale hoarder's house.
I have a love of all things miniature. As a young adult, I collected small Japanese toys from a company called Rement. During the summer after completing graduate school I had some down time and decided to use my commercial photography skills to shoot my miniature collection as though it were "real". Also during that time, I also frequently watched shows like "Hoarders" and "How Clean Is Your House?" With that in mind, this past summer I began creating the images that are presented here, though I reflect their inspiration as a mirror and not a judgement. For me, this series is about creating a small, but perfect world where the viewer cannot distinguish between what is reality and what is fiction. All images taken with a Nikon D40. Re-purposed 1/6th scale doll accessories with other handmade items.Barbie Trashes Her Dreamhouse (Via realnutt)
Welcome to New York City. Population: 01If you like what you see, fund it at Kickstarter. The Silent City
When an unexplained event decimates the human race, the survivors fight for their lives in the ruins of civilization.
A new take on the post-apocalyptic road movie, The Silent City explores a world where one wrong turn can mean the extinction of the species.
Sarah sez, "The Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers is a ten-day workshop held annually in Pittsburgh, PA for writers ages 14-19 who are passionate about writing science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror. Guest authors at the 2012 workshop will include Tamora Pierce and Kij Johnson. To raise money for the workshop's scholarship fund, which assists students who need financial aid in order to attend Alpha, we have organized an auction. Items to be auctioned include signed books by George R. R. Martin, Tamora Pierce, Cory Doctorow, John Joseph Adams, Elizabeth Bear, Ellen Kushner, Theodora Goss, and more, as well as critiques from authors such as Karen Healey and Bruce Holland Rogers, and other great items. In addition, an anthology of flash fiction written and illustrated by Alpha alumni is available in return for donations of any amount. The auction begins January 13 at noon, and other donations are welcome anytime."