Stalin notebooks are hot sellers in Moscow

The hot new bestselling product in Moscow's stationers is a notebook emblazoned with a completely non-ironic portrait of Josef Stalin, looming large in his uniform and bristling medals.

In his generalissimo uniform with a chest full of medals, Stalin now proudly stares from notebook covers on a shelf of the Pedagogical Book House store in downtown Moscow less than a mile from the Kremlin. Customers, mostly adults, are snatching up so many copies that the store runs out of stock each day.

"This edition of notebooks comes in the series of great personalities in the history of Russia like Peter the Great, [composer Sergei] Rachmaninoff, space designer [Sergei] Korolyov and many others," said Olga Utesheva, deputy commercial director of the Moscow Book House, a chain of popular bookstores that runs the pedagogical books retailer too. "Stalin is one of the most popular figures among the people who left a trace in the history of our country and there is no propaganda here."

In Russia, Stalin enjoying a revival on school notebooks

(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail from a photo by Sergei L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times / April 6, 2012) Read the rest

Gweek 046: How to See the 4th Dimension

Gweek is Boing Boing's podcast about comic books, science fiction and fantasy, video games, board games, tools, gadgets, apps, and other neat stuff. My co-hosts for episode 46 are Dean Putney, Boing Boing’s software wrangler and the Johnny Appleseed of weird awesomeness, and Glenn Fleishman, a long-time tech reporter, a hacky perl programmer, and one of the writers of the’s Babbage blog on technology and culture.

In this episode:

Dean was accidentally the first male guest on the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout podcast!

Glenn initiates a discussion about Kickstarter, and his plans to kickstart a book about Kickstarter. "Having brought in $84 million in cash for 12,000 projects in 2011 and just having had its first three million-dollar-plus projects in rapid succession, how is Kickstarter changing funding for artists, filmmakers, and industrial designers?"

Glenn has been reading Suicide Squad’s New 52 reboot. "I’m not a fan of the whole DC thing, and haven’t been a solid comic reader in years. But I love Suicide Squad and I’m afraid that says something terrible about my psyche."

Dean liked Craig Thompson's massive, award-winning graphic novel, Blankets. Mark told Dean to read Thompson's most recent graphic novel, Habibi

Mark recommends Ryan Rigney's book, Buttonless: Incredible iPhone and iPad Games and the Stories Behind Them

Glenn says: "I’ve been watching (via UK feeds) BBC’s Dirk Gently, the three episode adaptation of Douglas Adam’s character. Remarkably good." How does Glenn get around the region-blocking technology that the BBC uses to lock out non UK viewers? Read the rest

Understanding TPP, ACTA's nastier, more secret little brother

On TechDirt, Glyn Moody covers the highlights of a new report by Carrie Ellen Sager of that compares the provisions in ACTA, the secretly negotiated copyright treaty currently up for adoption in Europe, the USA and other countries; and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a more extreme, more secretive version of ACTA being negotiated by various Pacific Rim countries.

On "Technological Protection Measures" TPP has two nasty turns of the infringement screw:

TPP goes beyond ACTA by applying provisions on technological protection where circumvention is carried out unknowingly or without reasonable grounds to know.


TPP goes beyond ACTA by explicitly limiting the possible limitations and exclusions to the TPM circumvention rules, while ACTA gives a country free reign to create exceptions and limitations it finds reasonable.

The second of those is particularly troublesome, since it reduces the scope for signatories to introduce more balanced copyright laws even if they wanted to.

Where TPP Goes Beyond ACTA -- And How It Shows Us The Future Of IP Enforcement Read the rest

WIPO caught secretly funneling cash to North Korea to buy patent database computers

A trusted insider source writes, "A real blockbuster of bizarre at WIPO [ed: The World Intellectual Trade Organization, the UN body responsible for copyright and patent treaties]. It seems that [WIPO director general] Francis Gurry has personally approved payment for new computer equipment to go to North Korea to modernise their patent office, and that WIPO have tried to do it by going around the UN office in South Korea designed to ensure that UN sanctions are not broken. The only thing that stopped this transaction taking place was that the Bank of America was prevented from transferring WIPO's money to China. The bizarre bit is that WIPO is trying to argue that what they were doing is inherently legal because it is development assistance. Development assistance, in this case, designed to help a rogue state violate patent protection, is what it looks like. The US and a few other countries are objecting to this, for obvious reasons, but it seems to me this is an example of WIPO doing the opposite of what is in the interest of patent holders and really everyone else as well."

In that letter, also obtained by Fox News, Kateb declared that so far as WIPO staffers could tell, WIPO’s member states “had not been consulted and have no knowledge of this project. Thus, they were not given an opportunity to review or object to it.” The project, Kateb said, “was allegedly approved directly by the director general.”

Gurry denied at the meeting with diplomats that WIPO’s technology transfer violated any international sanctions efforts.

Read the rest

What's wrong with corn ethanol?

We grow a lot of corn in the United States, much of which never sees the inside of a human stomach. In fact, in 2010, something like a quarter of all the corn grown in this country went to ethanol production. That's a massive amount of corn grown for gas tanks. And it's a problem.

The process of growing corn is tremendously energy intensive, and it has some far-reaching drawbacks that threaten the future of vital farmlands in the Midwest. Corn crops provide steady, reliable income for farmers. But the risks likely outweigh those benefits, at least at the quantities in which we now grow corn.

In the spring of 2009, I experienced some of those risks first hand. At, you can read a excerpt from Before the Lights Go Out, my book about the future of energy. The excerpt is about Madelia, Minnesota, a small town where local farming advocates are trying to promote a more sustainable cropping system, and a better way to grow biofuels—one that provides incentives for farmers to grow less corn, not more. Read the rest

HOWTO make zombie chocolate bunnies and undead eggs for Easter

At the Criminal Crafts blog, a fun tutorial on "pairing zombies with a fuzzy pastel holiday," through delicious zombie bunny rabbits and haunted eggs. There's a photo gallery here.

(via Boing Boing Flickr Pool) Read the rest

Having lots of well-paid staff around is good for retail profits

Why "Good Jobs" Are Good for Retailers, a Harvard Business Review study by MIT's Zeynep Ton, argues that the success of retailers like Uniqlo and Trader Joe's can be attributed, in part, to maintaining high levels of well-paid staff. This runs contrary to contemporary retail wisdom, which has relentlessly focused on cutting staff levels to the bare minimum. Ton's research shows that having lots of well-paid staff around increases how much customers spend, bringing in enough money to cover wages and turn a profit besides. I think this is likely especially true in the Internet age: no retailer will be able to match the self-serve convenience of Amazon, so to compete with Amazon, they need to provide something Amazon can't match: personal service.

James Surowiecki comments in The New Yorker:

The big challenge for any retailer is to make sure that the people coming into the store actually buy stuff, and research suggests that not scrimping on payroll is crucial. In a study published at the Wharton School, Marshall Fisher, Jayanth Krishnan, and Serguei Netessine looked at detailed sales data from a retailer with more than five hundred stores, and found that every dollar in additional payroll led to somewhere between four and twenty-eight dollars in new sales. Stores that were understaffed to begin with benefitted more, stores that were close to fully staffed benefitted less, but, in all cases, spending more on workers led to higher sales. A study last year of a big apparel chain found that increasing the number of people working in stores led to a significant increase in sales at those stores.

Read the rest

Excellent William Gibson video interview

Kaely says:

Alex Pasternack has a terrific interview with the legendary William Gibson in Motherboard. This isn't another re-hash of what's in his latest book, Distrust that Particular Flavor. Bearing in mind that Gibson doesn't have to predict the future anymore (because it's already here, as he says, "it's just not very evenly distributed") Alex talks to Gibson about how that odd future -- with its corporate brands, Occupy protests and drugs -- turned out. He also talks about his dalliances with psychedelics and why they are probably not such a great idea.
Motherboard TV: William Gibson in Real Life Read the rest

Randy Regier's roadtrip photos

Artist Randy Regier and Bill North took a road trip from Kansas to Oregon, snapping photos along the way. They have a good eye for funny things.

Are we there yet? One van, two friends, and the road. Read the rest

“The Warrior Class”: Blackwater videos in Harper's Magazine show brutality on display

[video link]

This month's Harper’s Magazine includes a feature by Charles Glass about the growth of private security firms since 9/11, “The Warrior Class: A golden age for the freelance soldier.”

The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq.

Above, one of the five Blackwater clips published online by Harper's. This one is dated April 1, 2006, and was shot from the front seat of the fourth car in an armored convoy. Glass describes its contents:

Driving along a wide boulevard in Baghdad, the lead vehicle swerved close to the curb of a traffic island. A woman in a black full-length burka began to cross the street. The vehicle struck the woman and knocked her unconscious body into the gutter. The cars slowed for a moment, but did not stop, nor did they even determine whether the victim was dead or alive. A voice in the car taking the video said, “Oh, my God!” Yet no one was heard on the radio requesting help for her. Most sickeningly, the sequence had been set to an AC/DC song, whose pounding, metallic chorus declared: “You’ve been… thunderstruck!”

As Glass notes, the tape ends with a still frame which reads: "IN SUPPORT OF SECURITY, PEACE, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY EVERYWHERE."

(via Jeremy Scahill) Read the rest

Blogger scoops news of Malawi President's death, is detained and harassed by police

Marilyn Terrell of National Geographic tells Boing Boing,

My pal Andrew Evans who blogs for National Geographic Traveler just happened to be in the capital of Malawi yesterday when the president was rushed to the hospital. The local media insisted he was in stable condition but people were saying he had died, so Andrew stopped by the hospital to see what he could find out. The hospital was oddly quiet, although it had been buzzing with police earlier. Andrew figured something was fishy and starting taking photos of the unprotected hospital until some plainclothes police noticed. They made him delete his photos and demanded that he hand over his iPhone but he refused and kept tweeting, and tweeted the first report of Bingu wa Mutharika's death, which wasn't officially admitted until 24 hours later.

Read Andrew's account, and view his photos, here.

(PHOTO: Andrew Evans. "At Lilongwe airport, Malawians listen to news of their president's death.") Read the rest

Old cartoons depicting women as cuts of meat

Mitch O'Connell digs into his old-timey ephemera cornucopia to assemble a gallery of women depicted as slabs of beef ready to be butchered.

The Most Sexist Images EVER! Read the rest

$130 check that bought rights to Superman on auction (current high bid: $45k)

In 1938 Detective Comics purchased the rights to Superman from his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster for $130. (See large check image). This check is now on the auction block and the current high bid is $45,500.

(Via Illustration Art) Read the rest

For Passover fun in Israel, a safari of animals crafted from Coca-Cola trash

A monkey sculpture is pictured on a pick-up truck before it is placed in an exhibition at Hiriya recycling park, built on the site of a former garbage dump near Tel Aviv. The Coca-Cola Recycled Safari featuring animals made of recycled Coca Cola packages will be open to the public during the Passover holiday.

More images of other critter creations from the recycling project, below. (REUTERS/Nir Elia)

Read the rest

London's Overthrow: China Miéville's love poem and lament for London

London's Overthrow is an expanded, illustrated version of ‘Oh, London, You Drama Queen’, China Miéville's editorial in the New York Times. Part warning, part love-poem, a must-read.

30 November. Above the invisible bridge at Blackfriars, red Victorian pilings jutting from the Thames, helicopters dangle like ugly Christmas baubles. They surveil thronging streets. Two million public-sector workers strike today, and tens of thousands of them and their supporters are whooping through central London.

Mary Ezekiel, lifelong Londoner, Highgate by way of Hackney, staff nurse at University College London Hospital, itemizes the effects pension cuts, the action’s cause, will have. She flattens down her red t-shirt. Much British tat is emblazoned with the cloying World War II propaganda slogan ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. ‘Get Angry’, Ezekiel’s shirt demands instead, ‘and Fight Back’. ‘All the speakers have been amazing’, she says. ‘That’s what I feel positive about. I just hope it reaches Mr Cameron’ — she says the Prime Minister’s name disdainfully — ‘in his mansion.’

Cameron first denounced, then dismissed the day’s action. For the Right, strikes are both devilish and pathetic, have both terrible and absolutely no effects.

‘The perils of marching!’ a young woman laughs, pushing banners out of her face. ‘Lashed by flags!’ A thousands-strong sprawl of bobbing cloth and cardboard. The logo of the Society of Radiographers wobbles near placards of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran. Holding up a huge pink triangle, a young Ugandan man Abbey says, ‘We are helping gay asylum seekers from over the world, especially Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal.’ He’s there to support the workers.

Read the rest

Baraklava Obama

Boing Boing pal Joe Sabia, a storyteller and video director who collaborates with us to produce Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America, sends this snapshot from Istanbul. He's in Turkey for an international storyteller's convention.

"While visiting a hip Baklava spot in Istanbul," says Joe, "This chef proudly walked out exhibiting his political creation: Barack Obama made completely from baklava."

As an aside: looks like the chef used the same Associated Press photo as reference material that got Shepard Fairey in so much trouble. Can you barter for photo licensing with tasty sweets? Read the rest

This church scandal in Russia involves Photoshop, and a disappearing $30K watch

You can tell by the pixels: The Russian Orthodox Church is accused of Photoshopping a photo on their website of Patriarch Kirill I to "disappear" a $30,000 watch. The church leader has previously said that the watch does not exist.

Read the rest

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