How Rome Sweet Rome went from Reddit to Hollywood

Wired's Jason Fagone talks to James Erwin, whose brilliant flash fiction about a modern military unit trapped in ancient Rome -- posted as comments on Reddit -- led to a movie deal. Previously.

Just look at this mutant triple banana.


Just look at it.

I see your double banana, and raise you another banana... I introduce MUTANT TRIPLE BANANA! (i.imgur.com)

HOWTO Make your own Lucky Charms marshmallows


If you can make homemade corn syrup, you can make homemade marshmallows. If you can make homemade marshmallows, you can make homemade Lucky Charms marshmallows. If you can do that, you are become death, destroyer of worlds.

That said, making homemade Lucky Charms is not for everyone.

You can read that sentence as a warning or as a challenge to be one of the few who are up to the task. I will never make them again. That's not because they turned out poorly. No, quite the opposite - they were amazing! However, homemade Lucky Charms were so labor-intensive that both Jonathan and I are still recovering - we have blisters on our thumbs from continuous pressing on cookie cutters (Jonathan had to take over after my fingers hurt so much that I couldn't cut anymore).

Homemade Lucky Charms - Are You Up for the Challenge? ~ Cupcake Project (via Geekologie)

Aziz Ansari and others follow Louis CK's lead with $5, DRM-free comedy concert downloads

Aziz Ansari, an extremely funny standup comedian, has just released "Dangerously Delicious," a comedy special that follows Louis CK's Live at the Beacon Theater DIY, DRM-free concert video, which netted CK over a million dollars. Ansari, who was an outspoken critic of SOPA and PIPA, is also asking for $5 for his DRM-free download, and has a very good ecommerce setup for buying and downloading the video, and is also using it to promote an upcoming tour.

Ansari isn't the only comedian who's trying this. As Mike Masnick notes on Techdirt, Jim Gaffigan is also following suit. Masnick laments that both Ansari and Gaffigan are slavishly copying CK's exact methodology, and wishes that each would experiment some with pricing, delivery and so on, in order to learn if there are ways of improving on CK's experiment.

The one thing that concerns me a little about this is the fact that the deal terms are identical. I can understand why they're doing this. It's basically "don't mess with what worked for Louis." But I worry that the message people are getting is "$5 direct offering off a website is the secret." I don't think that's it. Lots of people have offered up a product for download off their website for a variety of prices. The key to making it work is not just the pricing. It's the way the offering is presented. I think it would be even cooler if some of these comedians experimented a bit more with branching out creatively around this business model. It wouldn't be hard, for example, to build on what various musicians have done, and offer up different tiers of support. Or something else. The real opportunity here is in how it's presented -- in a way that treats fans as fans, rather than assuming they're criminals or that there needs to be a big impersonal gatekeeper in-between the fans and the artist. But, unfortunately, some are going to look at these experiments and say "the lesson" is "$5 off your website is the secret." And when that doesn't work for some content creators, they're not going to understand why.

Gross and tantalizing menu from the Explorer's Club dinner

Last week's 108th annual Explorer's Club dinner at NYC's Waldorf-Astoria featured the customary assortment of weird, gross and tantalizing food, starting with cow eyeball martinis (see Paul Adams's photo, below, of the eyeballs). Popular Science has the whole menu. Here's what the canapes were like:

Pineapple towers with scorpion, pea pods, strawberry slices, melon balls and green grapes

Sweet cherry peppers, cucumber flowerets and cherry tomatoes filled with assorted creamed fillings: durian paste, herbed and spiced cream cheeses, and garnished with crickets, mealworms and scorpions

Two varieties of seaweed with mild spices and olive oil

Sautéed and deep-fried earthworms

Orchids (edible) with a honey-sweetened creamed dipping sauce

Chon and Kopi Luwak coffees, made from coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of small mammals

A Taste of Exotic Meats at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner (via JWZ)

Hilarious memoirs from the HR department: chapter 15 of "Let's Pretend This Never Happened"

Jenny Lawson, creator of the Bloggess blog, has posted a long and extremely funny excerpt from her forthcoming book Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir). The excerpt, from chapter 15, details Lawson's bizarre experiences working in a corporate HR department, coping with the terrible behavior of the employees, the awfulness of the corporate bureaucracy, and the absurdly bad job applications she received.

When I was in HR, if someone came to me about a really fucked-up problem, I’d excuse myself and bring in a coworker to take notes, and the employee would relax a bit, thinking, “Finally, people are taking me seriously around here,” but usually we do that only so that when you leave we can have a second opinion about how insane that whole conversation was. “Was that shit as crazy as I thought it was?” I would ask afterward. It always was. Sadly, HR has very little power in an organization, unless the real executives are on vacation, and then watch out, because a lot of ass-holes are going to get fired.

There are three types of people who choose a career in HR: sadistic assholes who were probably all tattletales in school, empathetic (and soon to-be-disillusioned) idealists who think they can make a difference in the lives of others, and those of us who stick around because it gives you the best view of all the most entertaining train wrecks happening in the rest of the company.

People who aren’t in HR always assume that people who are in HR are the biggest prudes and assholes, since HR is ostensibly there to make sure everyone follows the rules, but people fail to realize that HR is the only department actively paid to look at porn. Sure, it’s under the guise of “reviewing all Internet history to make sure other people aren’t looking at porn,” but people are always looking at porn, and so we have to look at it too so that we can print it out for the investigation. This is also the reason why HR always has color printers, and why no one else is allowed to use them. Because we can’t remember to pick up all the porn we just copied. This is just one of many secrets the HR department doesn’t want you to know, and after sharing these secrets I will probably be blackballed from the Human Resources Alliance, which is much like the Magicians’ Alliance (in that I don’t belong to either, since I never get invited to join clubs, and that I’m not actually sure that either of them exist). Regardless, almost immediately after starting work in HR, I started keeping a journal about all the fantastically fucked-up stuff that people who aren’t in HR would never believe. These are a few of those stories:

Last month we decided to start keeping file of the most horrific job applications handed in so that we’d have something to laugh at when the work got to us. We now officially have twice as many applications in the “Never-hire-these-people-unless-we-find-out-that-we’re-all-getting-fired-next-week” file than we have in the “These-people-are-qualified-for-a-job” file. What’s the word for when something that started out being funny ends up depressing the hell out of you? Insert that word here.

UPDATED: Excerpt of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) [Amazon]

(via JWZ)

Samsung's new TV will watch the people watching it

"Smith!" screamed the shrewish voice from the Samsung 8000ES-series LED TV. "6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! That's better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me."

Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin under way in NYC

A large crowd of protesters, between 2,000 and 5,000 by various estimates, are marching through the streets of New York right now to draw attention to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The Florida teen was shot to death last month, in a case that has generated widespread outrage online.

Tim Pool has been running a live video stream of the march.

Here's a quick link to the relevant Twitter hashtag (#millionhoodiemarch), to follow tweets from people who are there. Seems like a lot of youth are present at this one, perhaps more so than at recent Occupy marches in New York. People are wearing hoodies, carrying bottles of iced tea and throwing Skittles in the air: Trayvon was wearing one, and holding that candy and beverage when he was shot. So far, police presence is high, but interactions are peaceful, and the crowd is doing its thing without much NYPD aggression. That could change before the night is through.

The parents of the slain teen are present, and addressed the crowd earlier.

Read the rest

Ron Wyden (D-OR) wants Obama to submit ACTA to Congress

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has demanded that the Obama administration receive Congressional assent before signing the USA up to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a wide-reaching international copyright treaty that was negotiated in secret (even Congress and the European Parliament weren't allowed to read the treaty drafts as they were negotiated). Wyden argues that the Obama administration's position -- which holds that the president can unilaterally bind the US to enact and maintain legislation -- is at odds with the constitution. In Wired, David Kravets speaks to Sean Flynn, a legal expert, about the dispute, who sides with Wyden, and quotes the US Trade Rep Ron Kirk maintaining that Congress has no role in this trade negotiation.

Wyden's demand is embodied in a legislative proposal to amend H. R. 3606 (the JOBS act), whose purpose is given as "To prohibit the President from accepting or providing for the entry into force of certain legally binding trade agreements without the formal and express approval of Congress."

“It’s a huge deal whether Congress signs it or not,” said Sean Flynn, an American University, Washington College of Law intellectual-property scholar. "The reason it is a big deal, because this is what this agreement does, it tells domestic legislatures what its law must be or not be. These type of agreements are the most important to go through legislative approval and go through a public process and commenting on what the norms are of that agreement. The reason, it locally restricts what the democratic process can do."

Copyright Treaty Requires Congressional Support, Senator Says

Royce Reed, star of campy-bizarro viral videos: RIP

At Dangerous Minds, our friend and former (frequent) guestblogger Richard Metzger writes about the death of Royce Reed, co-star of the “Royce and Marilyn” viral videos. She passed away last night.

"In 2009, when I was guest-blogger at Boing Boing," he writes, "I helped get the ball rolling on the Royce and Marilyn craze." Indeed he did. His post today on the sad news includes many more videos and links.

Back in 1999, the LA Weekly ran the definitive profile on Royce and her comic partner Marilyn Hoggatt. A great loss to Weird Culture. These women were basically real-life versions of Absolutely Fabulous meets Norma Desmond, shaken up with a little Englebert Humperdinck samba. More great videos here.

Doc blasts mandatory transvaginal ultrasound laws

An anonymous MD has a guest-post on John Scalzi's blog describing her/his medical outrage at being asked to perform medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds on women seeking abortion, in accordance with laws proposed and passed by several Republican-dominated state legislatures. As the doctor writes, "If I insert ANY object into ANY orifice without informed consent, it is rape. And coercion of any kind negates consent, informed or otherwise." The article is a strong tonic and much-welcome -- the ethics of medical professionals should not (and must not) become subservient to cheap political stunting, and especially not when political stunt requires doctors' complicity in state-ordered sexual assaults.

1) Just don’t comply. No matter how much our autonomy as physicians has been eroded, we still have control of what our hands do and do not do with a transvaginal ultrasound wand. If this legislation is completely ignored by the people who are supposed to implement it, it will soon be worth less than the paper it is written on.

2) Reinforce patient autonomy. It does not matter what a politician says. A woman is in charge of determining what does and what does not go into her body. If she WANTS a transvaginal ultrasound, fine. If it’s medically indicated, fine… have that discussion with her. We have informed consent for a reason. If she has to be forced to get a transvaginal ultrasound through coercion or overly impassioned argument or implied threats of withdrawal of care, that is NOT FINE.

Our position is to recommend medically-indicated tests and treatments that have a favorable benefit-to-harm ratio… and it is up to the patient to decide what she will and will not allow. Period. Politicians do not have any role in this process. NO ONE has a role in this process but the patient and her physician. If anyone tries to get in the way of that, it is our duty to run interference.

Guest Post: A Doctor on Transvaginal Ultrasounds

Creepiest "fine art" portrait of President Obama you will see all day

McNaughton Fine Art is selling "One Nation Under Socialism" by Jon Naughton starting at just $345 for framed, signed, numbered Giclée prints. I was going to link to this artist's statement generator, but realized his *actual* artist statement is even better: "When I paint a patriotic painting...its like throwing a stick of dynamite in the pond!" [sic]. I don't know how serious this guy is about the patriot business, though: the word "Giclée" sounds pretty unamerican to me. (via @texasinafrica)

Teju Cole on "The White Savior Industrial Complex"

In The Atlantic today, a must-read piece by Teju Cole on some of the cultural issues raised by Kony 2012, and reactions to it in the media-blog-Twitter-opinion-sphere.

I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

Read "The White Savior Industrial Complex" at the Atlantic.

London thinktank has already lofted a fleet of swarming file-sharing drones

Earlier this week, I blogged the Pirate Bay's announcement of a plan to set up mirrors of its servers in high-altitude aerial drones with wireless Internet links. TorrentFreak has a discussion of Electronic Countermeasures, a project from Tomorrow's Thoughts Today, a London thinktank. Electronic Countermeasures does much of what TPB proposes, creating an "aerial napster" that uses autonomic swarm formation to create, disperse, and reform high-throughput temporary networks in the sky.b

Liam Young, co-founder of Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, was amazed to read the announcement, not so much because of the technology, because his group has already built a swarm of file-sharing drones.

“I thought hold on, we are already doing that,” Young told TorrentFreak.

Their starting point for project “Electronic Countermeasures” was to create something akin to an ‘aerial Napster’ or ‘airborne Pirate Bay’, but it became much more than that.

“Part nomadic infrastructure and part robotic swarm, we have rebuilt and programmed the drones to broadcast their own local Wi-Fi network as a form of aerial Napster. They swarm into formation, broadcasting their pirate network, and then disperse, escaping detection, only to reform elsewhere,” says the group describing their creation.

World’s First Flying File-Sharing Drones in Action

(Image: Claus Langer)

Deep design analysis of Walt Disney World's lighting fixtures

FoxxFur, the brilliant, pseudonymous design critic and scholar of Disney themeparks, is back again, with the first post in a series of long analyses of the use of lighting fixtures in the design of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park. FoxxFur matches the attention-to-detail of the original Imagineers, unearthing a design sensibility that is incredibly subtle, and making a strong case that this subtlety isn't wasted -- rather, it all contributes to an overall sense of consistency and immersion that is the secret of the Disney park success.

One of the best light poles in the entire park, these tall lamps manage to represent Main Street, Adventureland and the Hub all at once. They span the bridge leading from the Crystal Palace to the gateway to Adventureland.

The Hub features much more utilitarian lamps overall, very similar to those seen outside the train station amidst the turnstiles. I think these were selected to create a garden-like atmosphere throughout the Hub, which benefits in Florida greatly from her meandering waterways, sloping lawns, and expansive flowerbeds, recalling the European gardens which inspired Disneyland. Their frosted globes link the entry area, Main Street, and the Hub in a single unified organically flowing movement.

Our tall lamps, above, are unique and occur only at the Crystal Palace bridge. While their tall shape mimics the castle and their frosted globes remind us of Main Street, notice the details of leaves, fronds, and lion heads - hinting at what will be seen nearby in Adventureland.

All the Lights of the Kingdom: Part One