Notes from DEFCON and DEFCON Kids

I've been posting lightly around here for the past week, as I've been at DEFCON, where I gave a speech. I brought my whole family -- wife, daughter, and parents -- and the kid got to do some lockpicking workshops at DEFCON Kids, the astoundingly bad-ass kids' computer literacy program run alongside the main event. I was run off my feet (in a very good way) at the event and haven't yet gotten enough of a handle on it to write something coherent, but my wife Alice has a good writeup of our experience there, with special emphasis on the DEFCON Kids axis-of-awesome (my wife was Education Commissioner for Channel 4 for some years before quitting to do a startup and has seen every educational tech approach under the sun, DEFCON Kids blew her away) and, separately, Katy Levinson's stupendous, semi-drunken, vodka-fueled, obscenity filled virtuoso engineering talk on the practical difficulties of building and operating robots.

Update: Katy Levinson adds in the comments, "Also, if you have a moment, please help us save Hacker Dojo, a wonderful hackerspace and the first home of Pinterest. Hacker Dojo is currently in danger of being shut down by the city." Read the rest

William Shatner and Wil Wheaton welcome NASA's Curiosity rover to Mars (video)

Check out these cool videos William Shatner and Wil Wheaton hosted for NASA, explaining how the Curiosity rover will, science willing, land on the surface of Mars on 1:31 a.m. EDT, Aug. 6.

Read the rest

Young Tom Waits's shtick presages Heath Ledger's Joker

This 1979 clip of a young Tom Waits being interviewed on Australian TV by Don Lane demonstrates just how similar Waits's shtick (especially back in those days) resembled Heath Ledger's Joker character. Scroll to about 1:40 for the fun.

Tom Waits interview by Don Lane, Australia 1979 with Paradise Alley clip! (via Kottke) Read the rest

Teacup lined with teeth

Artist and Shapeways user Lily X Su designed this 3D printed ceramic teacup whose lip is lined with human teeth.

Of her work, Su writes,

The ultimate challenge in my opinion is to create something that makes sense but can't be explained. I believe that the subconscious outsmarts logic. I create objects that may not necessarily make sense in the waking world but may very well exist in the subconscious.

I also seek to create uneasiness. We are in an era flooded with objects, objects of use, comfort, sophistication, flamboyancy... There are many objects that serve immediate comfort, yet few are made to be a companion to our recurring feelings of uneasiness.

Ceramic 3D printing remains very expensive, making this cup $111.00, but it is nevertheless an exceptionally weird and beautiful object.

The Disconcerting 3D Printed Teeth Tea Cup Read the rest

Carved wooden tennies

Artist Brent Owens produces wonderful carved sculptures, including this carved pair of wooden tennis shoes from 2009.

Carved Works - Brent Owens (via Craft) Read the rest

Enthralling Books: Johnny Got His Gun

This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark

Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo

I hadn't read my first complete book of fiction until I was twenty-one: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I read it all in one night, identifying so strongly with the adolescent alienation of Holden Caulfield that I wrote a letter to Salinger, asking permission to use his character in a novel I planned to write. He gave the most appropriate response he possibly could -- he completely ignored my request. His Zen silence was so eloquent that for years I would continue to cringe with embarrassment at how incredibly naïve I had been.

In 1953, publisher friend and mentor Lyle Stuart lent me the second novel I read, Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, who had been an unfriendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee. “I shall answer in my own words,” he testified. Read the rest

Medal Count

Attention sports-hating patriots! Here you can have just the stats. [] Read the rest

Defining the Reality Hackers

In the cyberdelic lineage of RU Sirius's publishing efforts, the 1980s 'zine High Frontiers morphed into Reality Hackers which eventually evolved into the massively-influential Mondo 2000. The transition from a "psychedelic magazine with a tech gloss" to a "tech magazine with a psychedelic gloss" was spurred primarily by its editors' growing interest in cyberpunk, virtual reality, smart drugs, and weird science. But as RU writes in a new essay from the Mondo 2000 History Project, he also hoped to turn the 'zine into a commercially-sustainable venture supported in part by tech company ads. After all, "acid dealers didn't advertise." During the 1988 birth of Reality Hackers, RU came up with a description of the emerging subculture:

What Are The Reality Hackers Doing

1: Using high technology for a life beyond limits

2: Expanding the effectiveness and enjoyment of the human brain, mind, nervous system and senses

3: Blurring the distinction between science fiction and reality

4: Making big bureaucracy impossible

5: Entertaining any notion — using what works

6: Infusing new energy into postmodern culture

7: Using hardcore anthropology to understand human evolution

8: Using media to send out mutational memes (thought viruses)

9: Blurring the distinctions between high technology and magic

10: Replacing nerd mythology with sexy, healthy, aesthetic, & artful techno-magicians of both genders.

"From Psychedelic Magazine With A Tech Gloss To Tech Magazine With A Psychedelic Gloss (Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #23)" Read the rest

Gentlemen's garter ad, 1924

In 1924, an ad in the Boston Globe reminded the lads to pull up their socks.

How did your garters look this morning? (Oct, 1924) Read the rest

Chris Marker, director of La jetée, RIP

Chris Marker, the French artist, writer, and film director, has died at age 91. Marker is best known for his incredible 1962 science fiction featurette La jetée which was the direct inspiration for Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys (1995). La jetée is a film poem consisting almost entirely of still photographs that tells the story of a time traveler in post-apocalyptic Paris. "Chris Marker obituary" (The Guardian) Read the rest

Update: There will be a third Hobbit movie released in 2014

Remember that time I said there might be a third Hobbit movie, but not to get excited? Well, feel free to get excited: Peter Jackson has confirmed that the summer of 2014 will see the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Trilogy. (That title, by the way, is not confirmed.) Says Jackson: "[W]ithout further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of The Hobbit films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three." (via Film Junk) Read the rest

How to get expelled from the Olympics

Je les tous Defonce Coréens, allez vous tous Bruler, bande de trisos

"I'll smash the Koreans, you'll burn, you band of mongoloids." — Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella, on Twitter, earlier today.

Morgenella is on his way home.

Swiss Olympic Team Expels Player for Racist Tweet [AP] Read the rest

Ubisoft's DRM leaves your computer wide open to browser-based system hijacking

Yesterday, noted security researcher (and Google employee) Tavis Ormandy published his discovery that Ubisoft's UPlay DRM installs a browser plugin that leaves your computer terribly vulnerable to drive-by attacks over the Internet. The plugin is meant to allow Ubisoft to start games on your computer over the Internet, but it lacks an effective authentication mechanism. This means that an attacker could check your browser to see if you have Ubisoft's DRM installed, and if it finds it, cause the plugin to run malicious software that hijacks your computer.

An early report on Hacker News characterized this as a "rootkit," which triggered a long (and tedious) debate about the formal definition of rootkits and whether Ubisoft's system qualified. To me, this seems rather beside the point, which is that Ubisoft's overall installation process involves a high degree of secrecy and obfuscation, because none of Ubisoft's users want DRM (some may not mind it, but it's a rare gamer who says, "Please install software on my computer that watches what I do and orders my computer to prevent me from doing things that displease a distant corporation"). As a result, security vulnerabilities that arise from sloppiness (or malice) are more difficult to discover and to put right.

PC Gamer got a rare and terse quote from Ubisoft on the issue, in which the company says it is "looking into" the issue, later updated with the statement that a "forced patch" has been issued to fix the issue (though this claim hasn't been independently verified by any source I can find). Read the rest

Atlanta cops can't explain to CNN anchor why they pulled him over

Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker: "T. J. Holmes was one mile from his Atlanta home when he was suddenly pulled over by two police cars. The normally affable CNN anchor proceeded to live-tweet the stop, getting progressively angerier with every status update." Read the rest

David Byrne and St Vincent's monumentally funky "Weekend in the Dust"

David Byrne and St Vincent (AKA "Annie") have collaborated on a new album called "Love This Giant," which will come out in Sept. If you pre-order now ($9 for electronic delivery, $11 for electronic + CD), you get a bonus preview track called "Weekend in the Dust," which I am listening to at this moment, and I can barely type for the monumental awesome funkiness thereof. Byrne writes:

On “Weekend in the Dust”, I came up with some brass riffs and swells that sounded pretty funky to me. I then sent those to Annie and she wrote a cool vocal melody over it (later she wrote words too). We both arranged her vocal and other elements of the track a bit further—still working with horn samples temporarily. Finally, we passed this one to baritone sax monster Lenny Pickett, ex Tower Of Power and current Borneo Horns and SNL bandleader, for arranging. I'd previously worked with Lenny on a Talking Heads track (“Blind”) so I know he is really good at convoluted and funky—and that describes this track pretty well. We recorded the whole band playing it in the studio in Hoboken, which I arrived at one morning in March via bicycle and ferry. Nice!

I'm interviewing Byrne on stage at Toronto's International Festival of Authors at the Harbourfront centre in September, as part of the tour for his forthcoming book How Music Works and my forthcoming books Rapture of the Nerds (with @cstross) and Pirate Cinema. I got an advance copy of it last week and I've been stealing all the moments I can find to read it. Read the rest

Meet Robin Shelby, Slimer actress in Ghostbusters 2, current web series star

A while back, I came across some old footage from the set of Ghostbusters 2, a movie that is one of my favorite movies of all time. (And a movie that I will defend to the death.) The scene they were working on didn't feature any of the famous actors, it was all about Slimer, the focused, non-terminal repeating phantasm who also served as an unofficial tribute to the late John Belushi. Inside of Slimer was a young woman named Robin Shelby, who brought the Class 5 full roaming vapor to life. That footage has since been taken down, but I got to have a chat with Shelby about her work on Ghostbusters 2 as well as what she's up to now. Read the rest

Bruce Conner's "Mea Culpa" film for Eno and Byrne

At Saturday's "This Must Be The Place" post-punk film festival in San Francisco, I was bowled over by Beat filmmaker/photographer/assemblage artist Bruce Conner's 1981 short film for the song "Mea Culpa" from Brian Eno and David Byrne's "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts." Among dozens of other films through his career, Conner's also created "America is Waiting" for the Eno/Byrne song from that same album and "Mongoloid" for Devo in 1978. Read the rest

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