Boing Boing 

Chris Dodd's imaginary topsy-turvy history of Hollywood

Former senator Chis Dodd is now the CEO of the MPAA, and was the primary moving force behind SOPA.

He's a bit weird.

His latest act of performance art, or fabulism, or whatever, is to make up a completely bullshit story about the history of Hollywood, in which the Hollywood film industry sprang into being because of strong "IP protection." He's sorta right. The founders of studios like Universal and Fox and Famous Players came to Hollywood so that they could violate Thomas Edison's film patents in peace, far from New Jersey and Edison's patent enforcers.

But that's not what Dodd means. In his imaginary world, it was the (nonextistent) heavy law enforcement in the wild west that gave birth to the industry that gives him millions of dollars today.

Perhaps some quotes from A Fish Called Wanda are in order:

Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.

To which we can add, "Hollywood was not founded on the principle of vigorous IP enforcement. That is a mistake, Chris. I looked it up."

Chris Dodd Rewrites Hollywood's History To Pretend That It Came About Because Of IP Laws

What dropping DRM across the industry would do for publishing

My latest Guardian column, "Why the death of DRM would be good news for readers, writers and publishers," looks at the wider consequences of Tor Books' dropping DRM on its ebooks, and what it would mean for writers and publishers if DRM was dropped across the industry:

oat. Back when ebook sales began to kick off, most major publishers were still DRM believers — or at least, not overly skeptical of the claims of DRM vendors. They viewed the use of DRM as "better than nothing".

When queried on the competitive implications of giving control over their business relationships to DRM vendors, they were sanguine (if not utterly dismissive). They perceived "converting ebooks" as a technical challenge beyond the average book buyer. For the absence of DRM to make any kind of difference in the marketplace, they believed that book buyers would have to download and install a special program to let them convert Kindle books to display on a Nook (or vice-versa), and they perceived this to be very unlikely.

But it's only the widespread presence of DRM that makes "converting ebooks" into a technical challenge. Your browser "converts" all sorts of graphic formats — GIF, JPEG, PNG, etc — without ever calling your attention to it. You need to take some rather extraordinary steps to find out which format of the graphics on your screen right now are using. Unless you're a web developer, you probably don't even know what the different formats are, nor what their technical differences are. And you don't need to.

Why the death of DRM would be good news for readers, writers and publishers

Texas politician's internet ad features gentleman electrocuted while peeing (video)

Roland Sledge is a 66-year-old Houston energy lawyer running for a seat on the Texas state commission that regulates the oil and gas industries. In the YouTube ad above, the Republican candidate stares into the camera while standing in a pasture, and riffs on a Will Rogers quote: “Isn’t it about time we elected political leaders that have sense enough not to pee on electric fences?” You'll want to read the New York Times story here. (via Michael Roston)

Update on killing of elderly black Marine veteran by police: no charges will be filed

No criminal charges will be filed in the fatal police shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., a 68-year-old Marine vet. He was shot to death in his White Plains, NY apartment after his medical alert device accidentally went off and signalled police to his apartment. According to reports, audio recordings captured by that device showed that a responding officer used racial slurs in addressing the man.

Coverage around the web: CNN, Associated Press, CBS NYC, NY Daily News, The Journal News, NY Mag.

Anthony Carelli, the White Plains police officer who killed Chamberlain, has been accused in a separate racially-charged incident of police brutality.

YA legal thriller about civics and the US judicial system

Joel sez, "'Wainwright for the People' is a young adult book for ages 10 and up that teaches basic civics, with a focus on our judicial system, in the form of a legal thriller, accompanied by Student and Teacher Guides, made available as a free download under a Creative Commons license. Co-written by a former Assistant District Attorney and a former high school English Teacher, Wainwright for the People builds on the tradition of using literature to educate. Ten years after No Child Left Behind left civics instruction behind, 'Wainwright for the People' will offer schools a way to use an exciting story to teach students about our fundamental rights and system of justice."

Gideon Wainwright is suspended from school when he takes the fall for pulling a fire alarm while breaking up a bully attack. Forced to intern for his Assistant District Attorney mother while under suspension, Gideon is thrust into the middle of an investigation that seems just a little too close to his troubles at school. Gideon’s adventure propels him through the justice system as he, and readers, learn the fundamental concepts behind the Bill of Rights and our legal system.

Co-written by a former Assistant District Attorney (Joel) and a former high school English Teacher (Stacey), Wainwright for the People builds on the tradition of using literature to educate, in the same way To Kill a Mockingbird forced us to confront racism. Joel regular speaks to middle schools on Law Day and Constitution Day about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and our system of justice. In need of a story to engage kids and provide a context in which learning can flourish, Joel sketched out the ideas for Wainwright based on his real life experiences as an A.D.A. in the Bronx...

American Bar Association Publishing has agreed to publish the story of Wainwright for the People upon completion. The manuscript is due in October of 2012. By the end of this year the curriculum will be developed. Publication is expected in March of 2013.

Consistent with ABA Publishing’s practices, no advance has been offered. In addition, because Wainwright for the People is way outside the ABA’s normal catalog of law books, marketing will largely be our responsibility. ABA has encouraged our Kickstarter campaign and generously donated the ePub edition of Wainwright for a reward, but it will be through our own efforts that Wainwright will get into the hot little hands of student readers.

Wainwright for the People (Thanks, Joel!)

Dude reading entire Bible in 100 days, tumblogging neat stuff he finds

A Tumblog of greatness: Craig Kanalley decided that reading the entire Bible, cover to cover, would be an interesting challenge. He has committed to doing that within 100 days, and he's documenting interesting stuff he finds here. Update: David Plotz of Slate also did something like this in 2006. (via @producermatthew, thanks Gastronaut!)

Black-light acrobats Fighting Gravity send trademark threat over unrelated fantasy novel called "Fighting Gravity"

That Neil Guy sez, "Writer Leah Petersen received a Cease and Desist notice. Seems the title of her debut novel, Fighting Gravity, is also the name of a live performance group that appeared on America's Got Talent. As Leah writes on her blog, the claim is that 'the title of my science fiction novel about a couple of teenage guys in a romantic relationship is an infringement on the trademark for their black-light, gravity-defying illusion performance group.' Now she gets to pay for a lawyer. Lucky her."

Update: And it's off: "Fighting Gravity To Leah Peterson and her fans: Disregard the cease and desist letter that was issued by our lawyers. Although imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some people have taken that too far and we have had to deal with it. By no means is Leah Peterson one of those people, our lawyers were just doing their jobs and trying to protect our name and trademark. We wish the best for Leah and hope her book becomes a great success! "

Obama vs. Marijuana: What is the deal?

Michael Scherer writes about President Obama's medical-marijuana policy and the increasing federal intervention on medical marijuana on For the online piece and a related magazine feature, Scherer spoke with "nearly a dozen people" in the medical marijuana industry, three U.S. Attorneys, White House officials and local officials who oppose the federal crackdown.


Despite Obama’s promises during the 2008 campaign, federal prosecutors have lost faith in the ability of state and local officials to control a booming commercial industry for a drug that is still illegal to grow, possess or sell under federal law. As a result, a once broad exemption from prosecution for medical marijuana providers in state where it’s legal has been narrowed to a tiny one.

Read the rest

Shep Smith makes a political funny

Say what you will about Shep Smith's politics and personality, he pretty much nailed the cognitive dissonance of Mitt Romney's reaction to Gingrich dropping out of the GOP race.

Shep Smith reacts to Mitt Romney reacting to Newt Gingrich quitting (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

US requests for secret spying warrants rose to nearly 2K in 2011, and not a single one was rejected

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) reports today that the US Justice Department made 1,745 requests last year to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) for permission to wiretap electronic communications or search for physical evidence in counter-terrorism cases.

That's up from 1,579 requests in 2010. Every single one of the requests submitted in 2011 were accepted, though 30 were modified by the court.

All of this is noted in a new annual report to Congress. More context from the FAS blog post today by Steven Aftergood:

The new report says that the government filed 205 applications for business records (including “tangible things”) for foreign intelligence purposes last year, compared to 96 in the previous year.

But the number of “national security letters” (a type of administrative subpoena) declined last year. In 2011, the FBI requested 16,511 national security letters pertaining to 7,201 U.S. persons, the new report said, compared to the 2010 total of 24,287 letter requests concerning 14,212 U.S. persons.

(via Associated Press)

Photo: Vladi/Shutterstock

Portland, OR considers ubiquitous CCTV surveillance

Devon sez, "Portland, OR is the next city to consider a plan to implement police surveillance cameras throughout the downtown area. The proposal is to have surveillance cameras that can be accessed and controlled by police officers through their mobile devices. Although the Portland Police Bureau has assured the city council that the mobile devices will be secure, they are proposing to have the system operated through a wi-fi network. This proposal is coming at a time of significant municipal budget woes, when Portland Police are facing the potential layoff of 56 officers. Mayor Adams maintains that this system will have a deterrent effect upon crime in downtown Portland."

Maxine Bernstein reports in The Oregonian:

Amid unaddressed concerns, the Portland City Council on Wednesday sent Police Chief Mike Reese back to his bureau to draft stricter policies before allowing police to place surveillance cameras on private property in Old Town and Chinatown.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman echoed concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon when he asked for assurances that police wouldn't use the cameras to peep into private residences.

Reese, who wants to put up the video surveillance cameras to help officers monitor drug deals, said "These cameras are not focused on anything but public right-of-ways."

The chief, though, did acknowledge in response to a question that the cameras the bureau has are able to "pan, tilt and zoom."

While Reese said any footage obtained from a private residence wouldn't be allowed in a criminal prosecution, Saltzman wasn't satisfied.

He said he wouldn't support the ordinance unless a clear policy was in place prohibiting the misuse of the camera technology.

Portland Council wants more assurances before allowing police to put surveillance cameras on private property (Thanks, Devon!)

(Image: CCTV camera, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from flem007_uk's photostream)

UK woman refuses to accept speeding ticket

[Video Link] The way this woman tried to talk her way out of a speeding ticket (police video starts at 4:42), reminds me of people who say they don't have a legal obligation to pay taxes. I'm not saying her defense is wrong or right because I don't understand it. I'm posting it because it's interesting to see how patient and polite the UK police officers are. If she would have tried this fancy talk in the US, she would have been maced, tasered, and zip tied in short order.

The diversity of particle accelerators

Today, I got to tour several particle accelerator research labs at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, including an inside look at a working accelerator, something I'd never seen up close before. Suffice to say, it was awesome, and I will be posting more on that here after I'm able to do a few more interviews.

I wanted to show you something real quick, though, from early in the tour. Postoc Daniel Bowring showed me a display, seemingly set up in the corner of a random hallway, where LBNL keeps a collection of segments from different types of particle accelerators.

If you're anything like me, when you picture a particle accelerator what you think of is something like the image above—a metal donut, or rather, a tube. What I learned today: Accelerators don't have to look like that. In fact, they come in a delightful variety of shapes.

Read the rest

Why water supply affects your computer

Between now and 2020, the greatest increases in population growth in the United States are projected to happen in the places that have the biggest problems with fresh water availability. This isn't just a drinking water problem, or even an agriculture problem. It's an energy issue, too. Most of our electricity is made by finding various ways to boil water, producing steam that turns a turbine in an electric generator. In 2000, we used as much fresh water to produce electricity as we used for irrigation—each sector represented 39% of our total water use. (From a poster at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.)

How To: Assemble a large hadron collider

One of my favorite parts about going on tours of laboratories are the signs and jokes that scientists post on office doors and lab walls. This gem comes from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The obvious question: How do you transport an infinite number of protons home from IKEA? Does that fit on the little cardboard roof rack?

Japanese "Lolita fashion" anime subculture in Mexico

REUTERS/Daniel Becerrill

Above, Alin Nava (C) stands in a checkout line at a supermarket in Monterrey April 5, 2012. Nava, 25, is dressed in the so-called "Lolita" fashion style (ロリータ・ファッション Rorīta fasshon), a fashion subculture from Japan influenced by clothing from the Victorian or Rococo eras. The basic style consists of a blouse, petticoat, bloomers, bell-shaped skirt and knee-high socks. Nava is the co-founder of the "Lolitas Paradise" club in Monterrey and for members of the club, the Lolita style is not only a fashion statement but also a way to express their loyalty, friendship, tolerance and unity.

Read the rest

FAA puts man who recorded in-flight bird collision on double secret probation

Grant Cardone used his tablet to record a mid-flight bird-strike on a Delta flight from LFK to LAX. He disobeyed a crewmember who ordered him to stop recording. The FAA is very disappointed in Cardone, so they've put him on a special, nebulous list:

Your failure to comply with flight attendant instructions during a critical phase of flight and an aircraft emergency could have affected the safe outcome of the flight... We have given consideration to all of the facts. In lieu of legal enforcement action (a civil penalty), we are issuing this letter which will be made a matter of record for a period of two years, after which, the record will be expunged.

Anyone know what happens to fliers who are on FAA Double Secret Probation? Do they get an extra dose of radiation from the pornoscanner?

FAA Scolds Passenger For Using iPad To Shoot Video Of Bird Strike

(Image ganked from Classical Values)

He's Watching You: WWII poster meets Darth Vader in Star Wars mash-up

Boing Boing reader Brock Davis (FB, Twitter, Tumblr) shares this wonderful illustration in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool: "He's Watching You," a mash-up of Star Wars and World War II propaganda art.

"I've been wanting to draw this for a while," says Brock. "I love Glen Grothe's original 'He's Watching You' poster from 1942. The helmet of the soldier in that design is so visually prominent, it always made me think of Vader."

Student abandoned in cell for 5 days by DEA gets apology but wants $20 million

Mark blogged yesterday about Daniel Chong, a 23-year-old college student in San Diego who was detained by the Drug Enforcement Administration on "420 day" without charges, then abandoned in a holding cell for 5 days with no food or water. He drank his own urine in an effort to stave off fatal dehydration.

Today, he received an apology from the DEA. The Associated Press reports that "San Diego Acting Special Agent-In-Charge William R. Sherman said in a statement that he was troubled by the treatment of Daniel Chong and extended his 'deepest apologies' to him."

Chong's attorney says that's not enough. They intend to sue for $20 million. From the Los Angeles Times:

Read the rest

Lego wigs

I love the Lego wigs used in this Elroy Klee campaign for Mindplay. They've got the perfect mix of impracticality and strikingness to qualify as gen-you-wine coo-choore.

Mindplay: bricks on me (via Geekologie)

(Photo: Niki Kits-Polman & Ebo Fraterman)

One subscriber per day is chosen at random to write an essay for a mailing list with 13 thousand subscribers

[Video Link] Here's how The Listserve works: you subscribe to the mailing list (13,667 people are subscribers so far). Once a day, a subscriber is chosen at random to share a self-written essay with the other subscribers. I've been a member for a couple of weeks and every essay has been worth reading. I've received recipes, advice for being happier, information about keeping bees, business-starting tips, and more.

Here's a recent essay:

When I turned twenty I had reached a point where my earthly possessions could be summarized as the clothes I was wearing, an old bag containing some more clothes, a few science-fiction books, and my guitar. No money, no place to live, just a bunch of friends who helped me out of the streets and put me back on my feet.

Ending up in such a pit you first feel anger, then sorrow, then you make fun of it because that is the only way to make it bearable, and then you can go forward. It took me three more years to be able to shop for food without having to count change in my pockets.

Twenty years later I gave the books away but I still keep the old bag as a memory and my guitar is now standing in the living-room where I occasionally use it to sing for my kids.

Life has been a tough ride so far, but at least I know how to live without being bothered by simple objects. I know the only things you can count on are:

- What is inside you: your skills, your knowledge

- Good friends, and other people you love

Be generous and help somebody today get out of poverty. We all deserve a future.


The Listserve

Photos of people living off-the-grid in the United States

Eric Valli spent 3 years taking photos of people in the United States who have "decided to live light on the earth." The photographs are terrific. It looks like Valli spent time with two clans: a frontier/settler type group, and another group that look almost like cave people. I wish he had included more information about them!

UPDATE 10-17-2013: Quite a few TV production people have contacted me over the months wanting to know how to get in touch with the people in Mr. Valli's photos. If you are a TV production person, please read the paragraph above. Don't email me about this. I don't know anything about the people in the photo!

Eric Valli: Off the Grid (Via The Fox is Black)

Documentary trailer about the 86-year-old man who lives alone on an island

[Video Link] Judging from the trailer here, A Grain of Sand looks like a good documentary. You can watch it here for $3.

On a whim in 1962, British newspaper editor Brendon Grimshaw bought the tiny deserted Moyenne Island in the Seychelles for £8,000. In 1972 he moved to the island and has remained its caretaker ever since. Now 86 years old (and yet remarkably spry and fit), Grimshaw has planted 16,000 trees and reintroduced giant tortoises to the island (see this BBC clip on Grimshaw). Developers have reportedly offered him $50 million dollars or more for the island, but he has always refused to sell. The island is now a national park.

(Via Laughing Squid) Previously: 86-year-old lives alone on island he bought in 1962

Stuff that isn't obviously torture if you're a US gov't official

Courtesy of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a list of "things that government officials could do to an American citizen and still claim later that they didn't know they were "torturing" that citizen."

Prolonged isolation; Deprivation of light; Exposure to prolonged periods of light and/or darkness; Extreme variations in temperature; Sleep adjustment; Threats of severe physical abuse; Death threats; Administration of psychotropic drugs; Shackling and manacling for hours at a time; Use of "stress" positions; Noxious fumes that caused pain to eyes and nose; Withholding of any mattress, pillow, sheet or blanket; Forced grooming; Suspension of showers; Removal of religious items; Constant surveillance; Incommunicado detention, including denial of all contact with family and legal counsel for a 21-month period; Interference with religious observance; and Denial of medical care for serious and potentially life-threatening ailments, including chest pain and difficulty breathing, as well as for treatment of the chronic, extreme pain caused by being forced to endure stress positions, resulting in severe and continuing mental and physical harm, pain, and profound disruption of the senses and personality.

Lowering the Bar explains:

The legal issue was whether John Yoo should be entitled to "qualified immunity" in a case brought by Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen detained as an "enemy combatant." "Qualified immunity" is a doctrine that bars claims against government officials if, at the time they acted, it was not "sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he or she was doing violated the plaintiff's rights." The idea is to try to preserve some freedom of action for officials who have to act in areas where the law may not always be clear. If it applies, no lawsuit.

So, next question: do you think a "reasonable official" in 2001-03, when John Yoo was in the government, should have understood that doing those things to an American citizen -- one who, by the way, had not been convicted of or even charged with a crime -- violated that citizen's rights?

Would the Last Civil Right in America Please Remember to Close the Door on Its Way Out?

Ambitiously automated dorm-room

When Derek L My was a freshman at UC Berkeley, he kitted out his dorm-room with a variety of automation systems controlling the lights, drapes, and music (include a plastic-encased "Emergency Party Button" that triggered a disco ball and awesome strobing light-show). In this short video, he demonstrates the many preprogrammed modes he designed into the system. It's a nice testament to the ways that elaborate effects can be attained with simple mechanisms, and all the ways that a small space can be enhanced with superfluous gadgetry.

Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm (BRAD) (via Geekologie)

Bugs Galore, a new book illustrated by Bob Staake

201205031054Bugs Galore is a kids' book written by Peter Stein and illustrated by Bob Staake, one of my favorite illustrators (see my review of Look! A Book!, a video of Bob's unusual drawing process, The making of one of his New Yorker covers, a review of The Donut Chef, his version of Struwwelpeter, and a review of The Orb of Chatham).

201205031105One neat thing about Bugs Galore, besides its funny/gross poetry and delightful artwork, is that Bob's six year old niece, Amelia Leonard, drew some of the bugs that appear in the book (right). Jane and I had a great time seeking them out in the colorful, busy pages. Below, a couple of sample pages, so you can hunt for Amelia's bugs, too.



Buy Bugs Galore on Amazon

Powerful laser built into Zippo lighter

[Video Link] Here's how to put a laser -- powerful enough to burn skin, light cigars, pop balloons, and cause blindness -- into a Zippo-style lighter.

Flip-top laser lighter (Via Mike Outmesguine)

Space Mountain with the lights on

The Disney Blog's John Frost captures one of my favorite sights: the interior of the Walt Disney World Space Mountain with the lights on, as seen from the silently retrofuturistic maglev safety of the Wedway Peoplecrusher.

Space Mountain – Lights On Via the Peoplemover

Book designer Chip Kidd's entertaining TED Talk

Chip Kidd is one of my favorite book designers and, as I learned when I saw his talk at TED, he is also a funny and entertaining performer. (I have no idea what is going on with the broken eyeglasses; he was still wearing them that way when I met him later in the evening!)

Chip Kidd: Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.

Fun video about suitcase-based Rube Goldberg machine

[Video Link]

Early 2012, HEYHEYHEY had some time to spare and they felt the need to challenge themselves once again, so they set out to build another one of their chain reaction machines called Melvin.

Conveniently built in two old suitcases, Melvin the Mini Machine is a Rube Goldberg machine specifically designed to travel the world. Each time Melvin fully completes a run, he ‘signs’ a postcard and sticks a stamp to it - making it ready to be sent. Like its bigger brother, Melvin the Mini Machine also has an online non-physical side which he uses to connect to the people he meets. To keep things truly mobile Melvin uses a smartphone for his online identity.

Find out more about Melvin the Mini Machine (Via Nerdstink)