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Future World Orchestra: Desire (1982)


A modern electronica duo can only dream of being as good as Future World Orchestra. [via Robert Popper]

Robert Hegyes, aka "Juan Epstein," RIP

 Blog Wp-Content Uploads 2008 06 Juanepstein "Hey, Mr. Kotter, I got a note!" Robert Hegyes who played Juan Luis Pedro Philippo DeHuevos Epstein on "Welcome Back Kotter" has died.
"Robert Hegyes dies at 60" (Variety)

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": The Bishop's Rectum

Earlier this week, I challenged readers to send me photos of their favorite museum exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. Over the next few days, I'll be posting some of these submissions, under the heading, "My Favorite Museum Exhibit". Want to see them all? Check the "Previously" links at the bottom of this post.

It's "My Favorite Museum Exhibit"—celebrity edition. Marc Abrahams is the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, the journal that awards the annual Ig-Nobel Prizes. He sent me this: An actual rectum cut from the corpse of the Bishop of Durham. It resides in London's Hunterian Museum.

Here's the museum's description of Object RCSHC/P 192, as quoted by Abrahams in a 2010 Guardian column:

A rectum showing the effects of both haemorrhoids and bowel cancer. The patient in this case was Thomas Thurlow (1737-1791), the Bishop of Durham. Thurlow had suffered from some time from a bowel complaint, which he initially thought was the result of piles. He consulted John Hunter after a number of other physicians and surgeons had failed to provide him with a satisfactory diagnosis. Hunter successfully identified the tumour through rectal examination, but recognised that it was incurable. Thurlow died 10 months later.

Previously in this series:


My Favorite Museum Exhibit: Arab Courier Attacked by Lions

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": Arab Courier Attacked by Lions

Earlier this week, I challenged readers to send me photos of their favorite museum exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. Over the next few days, I'll be posting some of these submissions, under the heading, "My Favorite Museum Exhibit". Want to see them all? Check the "Previously" links at the bottom of this post.

Who says a diorama has to be boring? Sam Donovan's favorite museum exhibit is "Arab Courier Attacked by Lions", on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Built by Jules Verreaux for the Paris Exposition in 1867, it was purchased first by the American Museum of Natural History—which quickly thought better of it*—and was then sold to Andrew Carnegie in 1898 for $50. Today, it can be purchased in snow-globe form** for $40. Inflation is a bitch.

The lions preserved here are Barbary lions, a subspecies that went extinct in the wild in the early 20th century.

The "Arab courier", thankfully, is a mannequin. However, that might not have always been the case. Jules Verreaux had previously stuffed and mounted the corpses of non-Europeans before he made this diorama. Meanwhile, the man who was preparator-in-chief at the Carnegie Museum at the time they purchased "Arab Courier" once wrote that the courier "might have been real prior to 1899 when it was refurbished." So, yeah. Historical racism. How about that?

There are often problems associated with how natural history museums traditionally collected and displayed artifacts. The history here actually ends up being a great example of how culture and social norms and influence how we think about science. The facts may not change, but our interpretation of them does. For instance, the Dyche Museum at the University of Kansas, my childhood natural history museum, owns the taxidermied body of a U.S. cavalry horse that was the only member of the 7th Cavalry to survive the Battle of the Little Big Horn. For decades, this horse was billed as "the only survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn." Which, for obvious reasons, is both wildly inaccurate and pretty racist.

*The AMNH, while acknowledging the skill it took to produce a diorama like this, wasn't quite sure it lived up to their standards as a display of scientific educational value.

**Yes, there is something a little weird about snow falling on this scene.

Image: Flickr user happy via, via CC license.

Three extra hours a day

Brian Lam on finding happiness after absorbing too much Internet as a too-busy website editor.

With my three extra hours a day, I will often go to the beach. Cook a healthy meal. Do a bunch of exercise. Have a drink with friends. Read a book. Write a poem. Mow the lawn. Go skiing while checking my email from the chair lift. Visit a museum. Get into my van at 10pm at night and drive to Joshua Tree by morning without worrying about having an editor to report to. My van has a bed, a stove, a closet, a fridge and and auxiliary battery, 4g modem and my laptop. I can work from the desert, the beach, the mountains, reception withstanding. My life has never been fuller and I've never been more meaningfully connected. I'm not making as much money as I was before with my hyper intense news job, and I might run out of money and need to work at McDonalds one of these days, but for now I'm using Airbnb to pay my mortgage and it's working out just fine. It's a little scary at times, but I'm going to keep going with it.

Vintage photos transformed into superhero portraits

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Rachel Hobson of CRAFT correctly figures (in my case, anyway), " you'll enjoy this series of vintage photographs that have been transformed into portraits of superheroes by artist Alex Gross."

Tibet: China's bloody crackdown on Tibetan protesters escalates, as self-immolations continue

Ethnic Tibetans throughout Tibet this week held some of the largest demonstrations against Chinese rule in four years. Chinese forces responded by shooting protesters. Up to 5 are said to have been killed and more than 30 wounded, according to Tibetan advocacy groups.

On January 9, a 42-year-old monk became the latest in a continuing string of desperate protesters who burned themselves alive to protest Chinese military rule and cultural repression.

A New York Times report gathered accounts from a number of human rights groups. NPR's Morning Edition today aired an extensive report on the worsening human rights crisis in Tibet (MP3 link).

Details are hard to confirm, as foreign press access to the areas involved is all but impossible. Free Tibet has more, and Radio Free Asia has compiled various reports.

Dr. Lobsang Sangay of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, issued a statement on the conflict, published in video on YouTube (and embedded above).

Read the rest

Twitter caves to global censorship, will block content on country-specific basis as required

A new Twitter policy which goes into effect today allows the social network "to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country," so that Twitter can further expand globally and "enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression."

The Twitter blog post announcing this news was titled "Tweets still must flow." And yes they must, but apparently in some countries, only if they're censored? Snip:

We haven’t yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, we’ve expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

Hmmm. Maybe I'm missing something, but it's hard to see this as anything but a huge setback and disappointment, given Twitter's laudable history on human rights, privacy, and freedom of expression—and the critical role the service played in global popular uprisings over the last year.

As journalist Shannon Young notes, "It would've been too ironic for twitter to have made this country-based censorship policy announcement yesterday, on the #Jan25 anniversary." And, as Shannon points out, the announcement comes just days after Google announced new terms of user data collection.

Related (or not): remember about a month ago, when that Saudi prince dropped $300 million on a Twitter investment?

Update: Alex Macgillivray, the general counsel of Twitter, responds:

Three quick things:

#1: I can confirm that this has nothing to do with any investor (primary or secondary).

#2: This is not a change in philosophy. #jan25

#3: you'll see notices about withheld content at: http://www.chillingeffects.org... so you'll get to figure out whether we've "caved" or not with data. This change gives us the ability to keep content up even if we have to withhold it somewhere.

I asked Jillian York, Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for her take on the news. She replies:

From my view, this isn't different from how Twitter's already been handling court-ordered requests, except that it won't affect users outside of a given country. Given their moves to open an office in the UK (with all of its crazy defamation laws), I can see why they've taken this route. It's unfortunate that they may have to censor any content at all, but I applaud their move to be as transparent as possible about it.

Bank robber shoots himself in foot


[Video Link] A bank robber in Brazil shot himself in the foot. In the video he is seen limping away with his cohorts. He was later arrested while receiving treatment at a nearby hospital. (Via Arbroath)

Report: North Carolina aviation company handled extraordinary rendition flights for CIA

From Physicians for Human Rights: "A report (PDF) prepared by professors and students at the University of North Carolina School of Law states that the CIA has been relying on Aero Contractors, Ltd., a North Carolina operated civil aviation company to transport detainees to international destinations for detention, interrogation and torture." Xeni

Toronto teens send Lego Minifig up 78,000 feet

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Goli of MAKE says:

Two young makers from Toronto, Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, both age 17, successfully sent a Lego minifig and four cameras to roughly 78,000 feet elevation on a homemade weather balloon. After a 97-minute flight, the balloon returned to Earth with great footage of the journey. Inspired by a similar project done by MIT students, they were determined to make everything from scratch, down to sewing the 5-foot-diameter parachute. After about five months worth of weekends devoted to the build, they did it, and have some great photos to show for their hard work. Check out the video posted on the Toronto Star to hear them talk about their project and to see their balloon pics.

The MegaUpload Shutdown Effect

"With enough global data, you can actually see the traffic drop when the shutdown occurs." Internet traffic analysists at Arbor Networks examined recent worldwide data flow and determined that Megaupload was taken offline just after 19:00 GMT on January 19. Internet traffic all over the world dropped in the two hours that followed. Top users of Megaupload were the US, France, Germany, Brazil, Great Britain, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. Xeni

How a dead paper mill in Finland became a model for future Google data centers

"In February of 2009, Google paid about $52 million for an abandoned paper mill in Hamina, Finland, after deciding that the 56-year-old building was the ideal place to build one of the massive computing facilities that serve up its myriad online services." Wired on the future of Google data centers, with a focus on this odd story of creative re-use. Xeni

Guatemala: at long last, ex-dictator Rios Montt in court over possible genocide charges

Cloths embroidered with signs are seen in front of the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City January 26, 2012. Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled the country from 1980-1982 during a bloody civil war, went to the Supreme Court of Justice to declare for the genocide accusations committed during the armed conflict. Rios Montt is one of those accused by Spain of genocide during the 36-year conflict in which some 250,000 people died and 45,000 disappeared from 1960-1996. The sign reads, "In memory of the victims of armed conflict."

Below: Ríos Montt speaks on the phone at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City, while indigenous Maya protesters outside carry banners with the faces of "desaparecidos," relatives who disappeared during his military era.

Read the rest

Deranged IHOP commercial slowed down


Originally posted by Cory, this is from 1969 and involves helium balloons. The vocal effect, however, was accomplished not with vocal cord-tightening gas, but Chipmunk-style—with threats and coercion, perhaps.

Accordingly, I slowed it down to reveal the original, nightmarish, vocal recording.

JUST. FOR. THE. FUN. (Monster approaches) [Thanks, Heather!]