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RAW Week: "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people," by Tom Jackson

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I never met Robert Anton Wilson, but after reading him closely for years, I like to think I know him pretty well. When I went to college in the 1970s, I encountered Illuminatus!, and it had a greater effect upon me than anything I learned in class. It's impossible to minimize the impact the book had on inspiring a new generation of libertarians, although Wilson was hardly an orthodox libertarian. (He wasn't an orthodox anything). Once, summing up why he didn't vote for the 1980 Libertarian Party candidate, he explained, "I am not that kind of Libertarian, really; I don't hate poor people." The attitude of wonder and skepticism toward what we can know about the world in llluminatus! is at least as important as the politics.

Partly because of regret that I never got around to interviewing him or even meeting him when he was alive, I started my a couple of years ago. Decades of heavy reading in all forms of fiction and nonfiction have convinced me that Wilson is a major American writer who has not received the attention he deserves. This crops up on all sorts of ways. Years before Dan Brown wrote his best seller, The Da Vinci Code, Wilson covered much the same ground in a much better book, The Widow's Son. With help from other Wilson fans, I have used to make available articles by Wilson and interviews with him that were not reprinted in his books.

I did get to meet Illuminatus! co-author Robert Shea once, and I would point out that his "solo novels" also deserve attention; they are available in cheap Kindle editions and in free versions at the official Robert Shea site, maintained by his son, Mike Shea. All Things Are Lights, a fast-moving historical novel set in the time of Saint Louis, is a thematic prequel to Illuminatus! which I believe almost any reader would enjoy.


FBI tells net cafe owners that TOR users might be terrorists

Icecube sez, "Are you concerned about your online privacy? Do you shield your laptop from view of others? Do you use various means of hiding your IP address? Do you use any encryption at all like PGP? That means you are probably a terrorist according to the FBI. These are just some of the activities that are suggested indicators of terrorism according to a flyer being distributed entitled 'Communities Against Terrorism' You can find a PDF version here entitled 'Internet Cafes'"

Never change the oil in Michael Bay's car

[via Qt3]

Census record for "letter from an ex-slave" author?

@daveg appears to have found the census record for Jordan Anderson, author of the very arch and admirably sarcastic letter from a former slave to his former master I reposted the other day.

Cora Holben, Chicago's "lady detective," run to ground

Paul Reda was taken with the above 1908 ad for Miss Cora Strayer's Private Detective Agency, which was posted to the most excellent Vintage Ads LiveJournal group. A Chicago history buff, he decided to delve into the life and times of Cora Strayer, and has fleshed out a fascinating, and often tragic, timeline of her extraordinary adventures.

1898 - Miss Cora Strayer is living at 3819 Wabash in Chicago. She lists her job as "Clerk."

1902 - The first ad for her detective agency appears! It's at 5453 W Lake - a 4-room apartment with $18 a month rent. The apartment is above a tavern that was consistently being raided by the cops for its illegal poker room and bookmaking operations.

Aug 1903 - Cora is profiled in the Chicago Tribune under the matter-of-fact headline "Woman Directs A Detective Bureau". In it she claims that she originally studied law and practiced as an attorney for several years.

1905 - The first big ad in the Chicago city directory, complete with photo! Cora has moved to 3104 Cottage Grove, and a George S. Holben is named as the "Supt. of the Criminal Dept." In 1903 Holben was involved in a robbery where his landlady accused him of drugging her and stealing $750 worth of diamonds. Several weeks later, the diamonds were still missing, but Holben was not prosecuted. I don't know if Holben was working for Cora yet when this all went down.

Apr 12, 1906 - Mahala Strayer dies at age 60. Her address is on Cottage Grove not far from Cora, so I assume her and Frank moved to Chicago at some point.

1907 - Cora is hired by a Mrs. Campbell who believes that a Mrs. Harris is writing fake letters in order to make it look like she is having an affair with Dr. Harris and so she may blackmail her. Cora takes Mrs. Harris on a trip to Milwaukee, gets her drunk on $150 of fine wines, and steals the letters when she is passed out. Turns out Mrs. Campbell and Dr. Harris actually were having an affair and he performed an abortion on her. Mr. Campbell eventually killed Dr. Harris.

Miss Cora Strayer's Private Detective Agency (Thanks, Dean Keyton!)

RAW Week Bonus: RAWing in the Rain, by Maja D'aoust

SnakebiteIt was raining hard and I came into work soaking wet.

My Dr. Martens had that darker sheen around the toes where the water had sunk into the petrol-resistant exterior. The smell of damp and of dusty books filled my nose as I prepared for another day of work at the library. It was 1995 in Seattle. The WTO had just formed, The Oklahoma bombing went down, and Grunge was slowly decaying in an acrid smoke after Kurt Cobain's suicide. It was then, on that day, Robert Anton Wilson entered my life.

I had just got in the building, which looked like a huge Viking ship, designed that way on account of all the Norwegians who took up residence in that particular part of town. I shook the rain off of my formidable, flaming red hair when, suddenly, I was vehemently tugged behind the stacks by my coworker.

He was thirty-ish, pagan, had a long blonde ponytail and a nose ring. We would often chat together about Egypt, witchy-poo stuff, and things like that.

"You should really check this book out, I think you would really like it," he said quietly as he handed me a corpulent tome. I looked down at it and saw a checkerboard cover with dolphins jumping over a pyramid with an eye on it. Oh boy, I thought to myself. Like I'm really going to read this obviously new age tedious thing that probably is filled with cheerful advice of how to align my chakras. I humored him politely, as all I wanted to do was take off my wet jacket (which was covered in Metallica patches), took the book and said "thanks, I totally will!" as I snuck past to put my coat in my cubby. Now, it's not that I was opposed to "new age" per se, but I was heavily into OCCULT material and was very snobby about it at the time. If it wasn't older than the 1800's I didn't give a snit about it.

I had just purchased the Hermetic works of Paracelsus, and all the froofy rainbow dolphin material made me cringe as I blasted my Soundgarden tapes on my Sony walkman while walking in the rain. So, I waited until my co-worker went in the back and stealthily snuck the girthy volume onto my cart of books to re-shelve whilst turning up the volume on my headphones. Upon approaching the shelf to replace the seemingly uncouth bundle back exactly in its proper Dewey decimal order, a book directly next to it caught my eye. The cover of this book looked not unlike the covers of some of my Heavy Metal comics, which I was very dedicated to at that point in my life. Prometheus Rising was written in airbrushed chrome lettering with a hermeticy looking fellow emerging from a robot. Now I was interested. I was also a huuuuuuge Frankenstein (the novel) fan, so anything with the word Prometheus in it instantly ignited me in affinity.

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White House petition: fix copyright for 21st century libraries

Neal sez, "This is a White House petition to reform U.S. copyright law in regard to libraries. Due to DRM and other publisher restrictions, libraries have lost their first sale right for ebooks and other digital media. The current ability of libraries to purchase digital content to loan to patrons is largely at the whim and discretion of the various publishers. Some only allow libraries to purchase restricted copies that 'expire' after so many checkouts, others refuse to sell digital content to libraries at all. Libraries have long been equalizers. The rich and poor could both have access to the same information. The current digital landscape threatens this vital component of our education system and by extension our democracy. Read more in my column for American libraries."

Man arrested for impersonating a traffic camera

[Video Link] His name is Rémi Gaillard and he's a well-known French prankster. (Via biotv)

BREAKING: Criminal wallpaper vandalism discovered in Los Angeles restaurant

A depraved individual gouged out the eyes of all the animals on the wallpaper in the men's room of the Bollywood Cafe in Studio City, CA. And who colored in the gouges with ball point pen: the criminal (in an act of contrition), or the restaurant's owners, in an effort to repair the vandalism?

Ian Bogost: the sarcastic game dev and academic who gave us Cow Clicker

In Wired, Jason Tanz tells the bizarre, incredible tale of how Ian Bogost's satirical Facebook game "Cow Clicker" became an actual, successful game, despite being designed to show how incredibly stupid and pointless the FarmVille-style Facebook games of the day were. Cow Clicker stripped the FarmVille model to its barest bones: it presented you with a picture of a cow that you could click at fixed intervals. Your friends could also click the cow. You could buy fake money ("moola") and spend it to get extra clicks. Every click generated a Facebook update: "I'm clicking a cow." Those with the most-clicked cows appeared on a leaderboard.

Cow Clicker became a top-rated Facebook game, with tens of thousands of players.

The Cow Clicker description appears in a longer article about Bogost's provocative and curious career as a games academic and designer, which has seen him design games intended to simulate the boredom of staffing TSA checkpoints; sticking to a diet; working a hateful counter-service job at Kinko's, and growing produce faster than e. coli can contaminate it.

Bogost considers A Slow Year to be one of his most important works. And yet, in the months leading up to its publication, he found himself drawn to its evil twin, Cow Clicker. Initially, Bogost planned to launch Cow Clicker and let the game run its course. But now that people were actually playing it, he felt an obligation to sustain the experience. When his server melted under the unexpected demand, he was besieged by complaints until he signed up for a cloud-computing service to handle the load. Social-game developers, many of whom saw the game as good-natured ribbing, suggested ways to improve it: Let players earn mooney by clicking one another’s newsfeed updates, for instance, which would further encourage them to spam their friends. Bogost added the feature, which he called “click on your clicks.” He also added transparently stupid prizes—bronze, silver, and golden udders and cowbells—that people could win only by amassing an outlandish number of points. (A golden cowbell, for instance, requires 100,000 clicks.)

On one level, this was all part of the act. Bogost was inhabiting the persona of a manipulative game designer, and therefore it made sense to pull every dirty trick he could to make the game as sticky and addictive as possible. But as he grew into the role, he got a genuine thrill from his creation’s popularity. Instead of addressing a few hundred participants at a conference, he was sharing his perspective with tens of thousands of players, many of whom checked in several times a day. Furthermore, every time he made the game better, he received some positive bit of feedback—more players, a nice review, a funny comment on his Facebook page. Tweaking the game was almost like a game itself: Finish a task, receive a reward.

The Curse of Cow Clicker: How a Cheeky Satire Became a Videogame Hit (via JWZ)

"Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind" performed by Vashti Bunyan

[Video Link] Thanks Bedazzled for uploading this video of Vashti Bunyan singing "Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind," and thanks Amy Crehore for posting it!

"Survival" sewing kit

Design student Victoria Caswell created this "Boy Scout Survival Sewing Kit" that puts all the sewing essentials into a rugged, macho knife-roll-style package.

Student Work – Victoria Caswell (via Super Punch)

3-Minute Tour of the 2012 Art Shanty Projects

[Video Link] Like a 20-below Burning Man on ice. Fun! It's taking place until February 5 atop Medicine Lake, Plymouth, Minnesota. Learn all about it here.

Soviet pistol door handle

The "Bang Bang Handle" is a door-handle made from a 9 mm Makarov semi-automatic pistol ("the personal weapon of the Soviet and post-Soviet armed forces and law enforcement"). It was designed by Nikita Kovalev, who included a lot of detail about the Marakov in his documentation. Available in many colorful metallic platings.

bang-bang handle (via Geekologie)

UNC-Charlotte gets its own SWAT team


Why does the University of North Carolina-Charlotte need a SWAT team? "Virginia Tech and Columbine," explains Lieutenant Josh Huffman of Campus Police.

Radley Balko, a journalist who covers the militarization of police, says:

Yes. Virginia Tech and Columbine. Now, let’s look at the numbers: Any given middle school, high school, or college in America can expect to have exactly one homicide on its campus every 12,000 years. So how long before the UNC-Charlotte SWAT team feels the need to justify its existence by expanding its mission? I predict they’re serving drug warrants and raiding frat houses within a year.
Congratulations, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, you now have your very own SWAT team.

Peter Watts webcast lecture: "Why Science Fiction is Too Important To Be Left to the Scientists"

Tony Smith sez, "Why Science Fiction is Too Important To Be Left to the Scientists will be a talk given by scientist and science fiction writer Peter Watts for a online writers workshop held in March by StarShipSofa. Other guests include Ann VanderMeer and Nancy Kress. Pete says about the workshop talk - I'll make the argument that scientific expertise actually makes for really shitty sf storytelling. As an SF writer with a PhD in science, I figure I can get away with it."

iModela, Roland's $1000 hobbyist CNC milling machine

We've covered the iModela, Roland's $1000 hobbyist CNC milling machine over at MAKE, but here's a new photo showing some of the things you can make with it. A milling machine is sort of the opposite of a 3D printer, because it carves away material from a piece of stock, while a 3D printer adds material.

I think home-based 3D printing is not yet ready for prime time, because the spatial resolution of the things you can make with 3D printers is not that great. It will get better in the coming years. But the output from this milling machine looks great (as far as I can tell from the photos).

[Video Link]


Jim Woodring T-shirt: a Boing Boing Shop exclusive!

We are excited as humanly possible to unveil the latest in Boing Boing's Artists Series of T-shirts: Jim Woodring's "It Followed Me Home." Offered in scarlet ink on a jet black T-shirt (for a "tigers' breath in a cave" effect, as Jim describes it), this is an original illustration designed exclusively for Boing Boing. It's $14.95 for men's sizes and $16.95 for women's sizes.

Don't forget about our other splendid Artists Series T-shirts (and Baby Snapsuit for pint-sized mutants):


Jim Woodring Artist Series T-Shirt: It Followed Me Home

Patrick Watson - “Into Giants” (MP3 download)










 Sound it Out # 16: Patrick Watson “Into Giants”

Patrick Watson’s new song “Into Giants” is a gorgeous journey into a land of angelic singing, trumpet solos and string arrangements. The song has a delightful, wide-eyed exuberance.

I'm hoping for more of this lush instrumentation matched with Watson's intimate, confiding voice when the record comes out in April; it's called Adventures in Your Own Backyard, and he wrote most of it in his Montreal apartment.

This is a free download for one week only

Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say

[Video Link]

Sweet 24-hour comic about a dangerously moody roommate

Zack sez, "24-hour comics -- comic books written, drawn and finished in 24 hours -- have been around for more than 20 years, but rarely have the results been as polished or charming as 'Darkness,' the 24-hour comic by the French cartoonist Boulet. The tale of a very, very moody roommate, the result is better than many comics the creators had a full month to finish."

This really is funny stuff -- a bit predictable, but fully sweet and extremely well-told.

The Bouletcorp » Darkness:Bouletcor (Thanks, Zack!)

Beatnik poem from High School Confidential

[Video Link] "Tomorry is a drag man, tomorroy is a king-size bust." Phillipa Fallon delivers a poem in High School Confidential (1958)

Sponsor Shout-Out: Watchismo

Our thanks go to Watchismo for sponsoring Boing Boing Blast, our once-daily delivery of headlines by email.

Who makes your heart tick? Timing is everything and Watchismo has progressive savings in store with their Valen-Time Sale.

They're offering BB readers three Valentines Day discounts for 10%, 15% or 20% off watches. Use code VDAY10 for 10% off any order over $100. Use code VDAY15 for 15% off any order over $500. Use code VDAY20 for 20% off any order over $1000. Start your shopping for your Valen-Time gifts at Watchismo.

Anal fireworks lead to lawsuit

A student is suing his fraternity after a drunken acquaintance inserted a bottle rocket into himself and ignited it. The fireworks failed to launch, instead exploding inside his anus, thereby sending the startled plaintiff sprawling off a deck. He is also suing the acquaintance, whose injuries remain unclear. [Courthouse News]

Tipster: MPAA astroturf group is buying signatures to beef up its numbers

CreativeAmerica is an astroturf group financed by the MPAA that pretends to represent everyday folks who want to see further-reaching, stricter copyrights, and it just happens to be run by a bunch of ex-MPAA staffers. An anonymous tipster claims that the organization has now resorted to paying people to get signups for its membership rolls:

the organization I am doing work for is Creative America, which is a grassroots organization that is working to stop foreign rogue websites from illegally distributing American content such as books, music, films, etc.... These specific websites costs the U.S. and the 2.2 million middle class industry workers $5.5 billion in wages and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Your job would be just collecting signatures from whoever is interested in signing up for updates. A newsletter may come once a month and anyone can unsubscribe if they don’t want it. We don’t care if they do; all I care about is getting initial signups.

The hours are flexible and we will pay you $1/signature, so if you collect 100 signatures a week, we would pay you $100/week. We will also pay for you to go to local film festivals in the area (SXSW, Austin Film Festival, etc.). We are also taking as many people as possible, so if you have some friends who are interested in doing it we can take them as well. Let me know your thoughts....

CreativeAmerica Literally Resorts To Buying Signatures

John Whitney's 1960s computer animation

But Does It Float has screenshots and links to videos (Catalog, Permutations, Matrix) of pioneer computer animation artist John Whitney. Whitney collaborated with designer Saul Bass to create the title sequence for Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958).

About the video above, titled Catalog (1961).

201202021032John Whitney was an American Animator during the mid-1900s. He created many animations and visual effects throughout his life. His animations were created using a mechanism from a World War II M-5 Antiaircraft Gun Director. His piece, Catalogue was a collection of all of the visual effects that he had created up to that point. -- Archer Studios

"My computer program is like a piano. I could continue to use it creatively all my life."

John Whitney's 1960s computer animation

HOWTO make aerogel is devoted to making open versions of aerogel, the super-strong, super-light new material. They provide recipes for several sorts of aerogel, testing protocols, and projects you can undertake with your homebrew miracle substances.


Propylene oxide is a known carcinogen (exposure can cause cancer), and epichlorohydrin is probably too. If you plan on doing this procedure, take the proper precautions to prevent your exposure to the vapors of these substances by using a fume hood in lab, if possible, or at the very least a fitted respirator (gas mask) with the right organics cartridges and a well-ventilated space, on top of the usual splash goggles, gloves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes.

Look under Explore > Information About Chemicals to see where you can find health and safety information about these and other chemicals.

If you can’t use these substances safely, don’t use them until you can! » Make (via Make)

(Image: A silica aerogel puck Rayleigh scatters light from a laser pointer like smoke.)

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": Awesome DIY transportation

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit" is a series of posts aimed at giving BoingBoing readers a chance to show off their favorite exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. I'll be featuring posts in this series all week. Want to see them all? Check out the archive post. I'll update the full list there every morning.

I don't have much information on this piece. I don't know who made it, or when. But I do know that it is a hand-made wooden bicycle, produced by a clearly incredible everyday artisan somewhere on the continent of Africa. It's also Mike Lynd's favorite exhibit at the Birmingham, England, Thinktank Science Museum, where the bicycle is part of a larger section dedicated to transportation innovations.

A quick Google search tells me that a tradition of hand-made bikes with wooden parts exists in lots of African countries. I found a video of a man in Malawi riding a bike he built from recycled metal tires attached to a 2-by-4 frame; cart-like wooden bikes built in Rwanda and in the Congo to carry goods and belongings over long distances; and some stories on Jules Bassong, a wood sculptor who toured his native Cameroon on a wooden bicycle he made in 2008.

Understanding Google's new privacy policy: your YouTube activity will now be linked to your searches

When Google changed its privacy policy last week, they made a strong effort to ensure that everyone knew that a change had occurred, but if you tried to figure out what had actually changed, you had to wade through a lot of buzzwords and legalese. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Rainey Reitman explains it in simple language:

Here’s what you need to know about the substantive changes in the new policy:

1. Up until March 1, 2012, the data Google collected on you when you used YouTube was carefully cabined away from your other Google products. So, in effect, Google could use data they collected on YouTube to improve and customize the users’ YouTube experience, but couldn’t use the data to customize and improve user experience on, say, Google+.

2. The same siloing took place for your search history. Previously, Google search data was kept separate from other products. Even when users were logged in, Google promised not to share the information they gathered about you from your Google search history when customizing their other products. Considering how uniquely sensitive user search history can be (indicating vital facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and much more), this was an important privacy protection.

The new privacy policy removes the separation between YouTube, Google search, and other Google products. By describing the change as "treat[ing] you as a single user," Google intends to remove the privacy-protective separations from YouTube and Google search.

I used to have Firefox plugin that turned off my Google cookie unless I was visiting a service where I wanted to be logged in -- that is, I could automatically log in to Gmail and Google Docs, but I wasn't logged in for searches, YouTube, and BlogSpot. It disappeared a few versions back. Does anyone know of a contemporary equivalent? Post it in the comments.

What Actually Changed in Google’s Privacy Policy

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": Controversial history

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit" is a series of posts aimed at giving BoingBoing readers a chance to show off their favorite exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. I'll be featuring posts in this series all week. Want to see them all? Check out the archive post. I'll update the full list there every morning.

Daniel Schneider wrote in to tell me about a series of exhibits at the Ohio Historical Society that force people to confront the uncomfortable bits of history.

The Ohio Historical Society had an exhibit titled "Controversy" last year. They included items form Ohio's past that were objects of controversy of one time or another. The exhibit included KKK robes and Ohio's electric chair & control panel. 2 of the stranger items were an 1860's condom (found in an accountants notebook?!!?) and a adult crib bed\prison from an asylum in Cincinnati. The are having a new Controversy exhibit this year.

It feels weird/wrong to say that exhibits like this are fascinating, but there's definitely a lot of value in bringing modern museum goers face-to-face with things we might prefer to collectively forget.

The condom, obviously, is pictured above. It's worth noting that, at this point in history, condoms were meant to be reusable. Daniel also sent me a photo of the "crib-bed", which is really more of a cage, but it is disturbing in a way the condom shot is not and I'm choosing to put it under a cut here.

Read the rest