Boing Boing 

Beck's new album is sheet-music only


A collaboration with McSweeney's, "Song Reader," is the new Beck album. It comes as an illustrated folio of sheet-music:

In the wake of Modern Guilt and The Information, Beck’s latest album comes in an almost-forgotten form—twenty songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded. Complete with full-color, heyday-of-home-play-inspired art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and, when necessary, ukelele notation), Song Reader is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012—an alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track, and that’s as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together. The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author, but if you want to hear “Do We? We Do,” or “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard,” bringing them to life depends on you.

Song Reader: A new album from Beck Hansen (via Waxy)

Sexy video game from the Apple //e era


I'm a little unclear on how "Interlude," the early-1980s pornographic video game advertised here, did its thing. Was it just dirty stories? Were there computer-generated pornographic animations? Jaggedy low-rez scans?

Vintage ad after dark

Enthralling Books: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

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

NewImage I’ve been a pretty serious Dick-head ever since a roommate gave me a copy of A Scanner Darkly 20 years ago. The drugs and dystopian SF hooked me. But it wasn’t until a few years later, in college at the University of Hawaii, that I discovered Philip K. Dick’s literary merit, a discovery that forever altered the course of my life.

I was buying books for an American Lit class: Frederick Douglass, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, nothing I was particularly excited about reading, but then, in the next shelf over, with the books for another section of the very same class, I see Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- as assigned reading. You know, the book Blade Runner is based on?

Like the movie, the novel features Rick Deckard (ever notice how his name sounds like the philosopher Rene Descartes?) who’s been recruited to ‘retire’ six androids in a single day. Spurred on by a nagging wife and a ‘mood organ’ that keeps him in his business-like manner, Deckard hits the mean, post-apocalyptic streets of San Francisco in search of some of the most dangerous machines ever conceived of by man.

I dropped the boring section of the class the next day. Little did I know, my new professor, Robert Onopa, would connect Dick’s novel to some of the most influential American literature of the 20th century including T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and, in the process, save me from an existential crisis that threatened to swallow me whole.

Read the rest

Narratively: digital magazine about New York's stories


I am rooting for the folks behind Narratively, a digital publication about "New York's untold stories."

Narratively slows down the news cycle. Each week, we’ll explore a different theme about New York and publish a series of connected stories -- just one a day -- told in the most appropriate medium for each piece. We might feature a longform article with portrait photos on a Monday, followed by an animated documentary on Tuesday, then a photo essay, an audio piece or a short documentary film. Every story gets the space and time it needs to have an impact. We’ll bring you weeks devoted to New York’s waterways, hustlers, sexual subcultures, obscure pastimes and countless other themes. We’ll even get you involved in theme and story selection.

They need $50k on Kickstarter to launch

Help fund Lizz Winstead's PSA for reproductive rights

Lizz Winstead is raising money to make a PSA about reproductive rights.  She's a writer, comedian, asskicker and one of the creators of The Daily show. I believe her that she will get this thing made and then get it seen.

Lizz says:

By helping me create this campaign we will be reminding America just how much erosion we are seeing in the area of reproductiove rights and we all know that humor poking at the underbelly of dipshittery makes a HUGE impact.

Sounds about right to me. Give what you can here - Lizz has less than 7 hours to meet her goal.

Jot Touch Bluetooth pressure sensitive stylus for iPad

My friend I-Wei Huang (who designed the characters for the Skylanders game) reviews the new Jot Touch Bluetooth pressure sensitive stylus for iPad. He also shows how he modified the tip.

Jot Touch Review and Mod

Carved nickel looks like alien grey

NewImage"Hobo nickels" are made from US Buffalo nickels. They are made by carving a new face from the Native American face. During the depression, artists would carve these nickels and sell them for a profit (hence the name "hobo nickel.") Neatorama offered up this example of a more recent hobo nickel, which resembles a science fiction interplanetary humanoid. See more alien head nickels here.

More hobo nickel posts from Boing Boing.

Wi-Fi controlled power outlet makes home automation easy

Steven Sande of The Unoffical Apple Weblog reviewed the Belkin WeMo Home Automation Switch and says it works well with If This Then That (IFTTT.com).

NewImageIf you've never used IFTTT before, give it a try. There are currently 50 "channels" on IFTTT, with everything from Twitter and Facebook to ESPN and weather. You create "recipes" that perform a certain action if a specific trigger is met. For example, I use a recipe that tweets the URL of every post that I write on TUAW from my Twitter account.

What does this have to do with WeMo? Well, there are IFTTT channels for the WeMo motion detector and switch. This opens up all sorts of possibilities. Say you want to receive a text message whenever your cat uses the litter pan. You set up a motion detector next to the litter pan, and every time el gato feels the need to go, you get tweeted.

There are even wilder things you can set up. Plug a fan into a WeMo switch, then set up an IFTTT recipe to turn the fan on if the local outside temperature goes above 85° F (I tried this -- it works). Have IFTTT call you whenever someone enters the house (it works). And if you want to shut that fan off, you can either write another recipe or just use the WeMo app to shut it off remotely.

Read Sande's complete review: Belkin's WeMo: iPhone-based home automation with a taste of IFTTT

Cake or snake?

NewImage
Gareth Branwyn of MAKE says: "Francesca Pitcher from North Star Cakes in the UK created this amazingly realistic Burmese python cake for her daughter’s birthday. She posted it on her Facebook page and it’s gone viral from there. Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes even tweeted about it."

Snake Cake! Run for Your Lives!

Black Moth Super Rainbow - "Windshield Smasher” (MP3)

Sound it Out # 32: Black Moth Super Rainbow - "Windshield Smasher”

There’s a guy in Pittsburgh who calls himself Tobacco. He's been making music as Black Moth Super Rainbow since 2003. His sound has transitioned from disjointed psychedelia to more guitar-heavy dance music, though all of it has a trippy element to it. It shouldn’t surprise you that people enjoy doing drugs and going to see Black Moth Super Rainbow play.

Black Moth Super Rainbow just finished a very successful (and entertaining to read) Kickstarter campaign, raising over $125,000 to release the new album Cobra Juicy. Premiums included a haunted house tour, a roller skating party and hand-painted, glow-in-the-dark masks with a USB stick jammed into the mouth like a tooth. Eric Wareheim starred in one pitch video for the campaign.

“Windshield Smasher” is the new song from Cobra Juicy. It's sort of like a malevolent stadium anthem that gets progressively weirder. Listen and download below.

 

BONUS: Here’s the video for “Windshield Smasher”.  I tend to hate music videos, but this one kept me watching all the way through.

Survivalists are the prosumer reviewers of pouches and bags

Core77's hipstomp looks at the arcane world of survivalist bag reviewers. These brave souls (who both fear the end of the world and prepare for it) are experts at cramming a metric asston of stuff into webbed ripstop nylon enclosures, and represent a kind of connoisseur Ur-audience for anything meant to hold a lot of things. Some of these individuals are quite skilled at solving the literal knapsack problem, coming up with unexpected and ingenious configurations of odd-shaped gear that minimize wasted space. The video above shows one such gent, reviewing the Maxpedition FR-1 pouch:

Here's why: They are completely obsessed with both gear and the idea of self-sufficiency. They prize durability and functionality in a product because their fervency makes them believe their lives will depend on it. They build backups and redundancy into their carry systems to compensate for product failure or unforeseen problems.

More importantly, unlike a soldier who is assigned a standardized piece of kit, survivalists scour the product landscape for the best, and can freely hack the gear to suit their needs. Soldiers must rely on the design talents harnessed at Natick (click here for our entry on a recent first-aid kit re-design), but the survivalist and his or her discretionary income have companies actively courting them.

One such company is "hard use gear" manufacturer Maxpedition, whom we last looked in on in 2010. Through customer feedback, they realized that their FR-1 pouch, which they had designed as a medical kit, was being subverted by users into a "survival pouch." The company must consider it a godsend of free advertising, because here you have survivalists making their own videos to explain to other survivalists what they like about the bag and how they pack it.

Why Survivalists Make Great Bag Reviewers

Why do Olympic records keep getting broken?

Over at Discovery News, Emily Sohn asks the question I've been wondering for the last two weeks. Why are Olympians today better at their sports than Olympians of the past? Why do speed records keep getting broken? Why can gymnasts do more elaborate routines?

I mean, I have plenty of reasonable, speculative answers for those questions. But I hadn't seen them addressed in a factual way. This is great. And fascinating.

The answer, experts say, involves a combination of incremental technological improvements, as well as a growing population of people attempting a larger variety of sports that they start earlier and stick with longer. The mind plays a big role, too, especially when it comes to toppling seemingly insurmountable barriers, like the four-minute mile of the past or the two-hour marathon of the future.

"There is almost certainly a species limit in terms of physical capabilities, and I suspect we might be in the range of that," said Carl Foster, an exercise physiologist at the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse. "But every time scientists say humans are not going to go any faster, they've been shown to be wrong. You can take that one to the bank."

Through calculations of maximum power output, oxygen use, heart function and other factors, some researchers have attempted to predict what the absolute limits of human ability will be. Much-debated estimates include 1:58 for the marathon (a five-minute improvement over the current men's record of 2:03.38), and 9.48 for the men's 100m.

Read the rest at Discovery News

How does the brain think?

I was on Minnesota Public Radio's morning show The Daily Circuit today—along with Ivan Semeniuk, chief of correspondents for the journal Nature—talking about the Curiosity rover, human evolution, and dealing with the big unknowns in science. You can listen to that segment online.

But right at the end of my bit, as I was packing up my stuff to leave the studio, I heard the next segment on the show, and it was AWESOME. Ask a Neuroscientist is, precisely, reader questions answered by a neuroscientist. But you have to read the transcript for today's first question, where a 5-year-old exchanged ideas with Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist David Eagleman.

Madeline, 5 years old: How does a brain think?

David Eagleman: We don't know. Part of modern neuroscience's quest is to answer that. One theory goes that, in the same way brains control muscle movement, your brain controls your arms and legs and mouth and so on. Thought might be, essentially, covert muscle movement. In other words, it's going through the same routine that says 'bend this, flex that, extend that' - except that it's not controling a muscle. Instead, it's controling something conceptual.

Holy, awesomesauce.

Read the rest at The Daily Circuit website

Real history from a pretend pirate

Meet Richard Nolan: quartermaster of the Whydah, captain of the Anne, former coworker of Blackbeard—in general, pirate. He is also—at least through Labor Day—my friend Butch Roy.

Read the rest

Reggie Watts making fun of "big idea" presentations

I got a kick out of Reggie Watts at PopTech 2011 taking the piss out of the cliches so frequently heard at conferences dedicated to big ideas, innovation, deep thinking, the future(s), the long view, sea changes, transformations, disruptions, etc. (Thanks, Jake Dunagan!)

NSFPOTS: the pornophone of yesteryear

This undated ad for the Erotica, a pornographic land-line telephone, was supposed to make its owner feel like Hef every time he (or she) clamped a badly rendered, unwieldy sculpture of a naked woman to his (or her) head. I think it probably underperformed relative to the promises made in the ad, and yet it represents a fascinating glimpse into a theory of action as embodied by an optimistic manufacturer in days of yore.

Vintage Ads After Dark....

Diaper-box AT-AT


Here's Off-Beat Mama's photos show how you can build your own AT-AT out of empty diaper boxes. What a fantastically shitty idea!

I have a dozen nappies boxes sitting around, and recently decided (whether out of a fit of stay-at-home-mum induced anxiety or just total creativity) to make an AT-AT out of them. My son naturally destroyed it three days later, but once he did I was able to snap a few shots of how I set up the structure in the first place.

You could recycle those leftover diaper boxes… or you could make your own AT-AT out of them (via Neatorama)

(Photo: Kelly)

France's batshit HADOPI copyright law on life-support; three strikes is dying

Hadopi was the jewel in the Sarkozy regime's crown of shitty copyright policy: a rule that said if you lived in the same house as someone who'd been accused of copyright infringement, you would lose your Internet access. Heavily lobbied for by the entertainment industry and hailed as a success thanks to dodgy, misleading studies, Hadopi is now on the outs. The agency that administers it has had its budget zeroed out. Next up: outright cancellation? EFF hopes so:

Citing extraordinary costs and scant results, a high-level French official has announced intentions to defund Hadopi1, the government agency charged with shutting off Internet access of individuals accused of repeat copyright infringement. Under the French three strikes law, Internet subscribers whose connection is repeatedly used to share copyrighted material may be disconnected from the Internet and may even have to continue paying for the service (the so-called "double pain"). The three strikes law in France runs contrary to principles of due process, innovation, and free expression—yet has unfortunately served as a template for similar legislation in countries like New Zealand, the UK, and South Korea under pressure from the entertainment industry. Defunding Hadopi may mean that France won't be focusing on enforcing its three strikes law anymore, but that's not enough. France needs to repeal the three strikes law altogether.

When copyright holders (working through professional organizations) file complaints about alleged infringement, Hadopi is authorized to contact Internet access providers and issue warnings to subscribers. After the third warning of copyright infringement is issued to a subscriber, Hadopi can recommend to a public prosecutor that the individual have her Internet connection terminated. Hadopi also maintains a blacklist of subscribers to block users from simply switching ISPs after being disconnected. Though hundreds of alleged infringers have been referred to court—Hadopi has sent 1 million warning emails, 99,000 "strike two" letters, and identified 314 people for referral to the courts for possible disconnection—no one has yet been disconnected since the law was enacted in 2009.2

In speaking about the decision to significantly reduce funding for Hadopi, French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti, stated: "€12 million per year and 60 officials; that's an expensive way to send 1 million emails." Filippetti also stated that "[T]he suspension of Internet access seems to be a disproportionate penalty given the intended goal."

Repealing French Three Strikes Law is the Next Step to Safeguarding Free Expression

Hodgman's COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE, the box set


Benjamin writes, "Five hours ago, John Hodgman released a picture to Instagram showing his three works (The Areas of My Expertise, More Information Than You Require, That Is All) in a collected boxset edition titled COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE."

Robotic worm

In another example of biomimicry applied to robotics, researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Seoul National University created this Meshworm.

The robot, made almost entirely of soft materials, is remarkably resilient: Even when stepped upon or bludgeoned with a hammer, the robot is able to inch away, unscathed…

The robot is named “Meshworm” for the flexible, mesh like tube that makes up its body. Researchers created “artificial muscle” from wire made of nickel and titanium — a shape-memory alloy that stretches and contracts with heat. They wound the wire around the tube, creating segments along its length, much like the segments of an earthworm. They then applied a small current to the segments of wire, squeezing the mesh tube and propelling the robot forward.

"Soft autonomous robot inches along like an earthworm"

Adam Yauch's will: No ads with my art

Don't expect to ever hear the Beastie Boys in any Budweiser commercial, or any other ad for that matter. From Adam Yauch's will, the relevant sentence, some of which he hand-wrote in: "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes." (via Rolling Stone)

Clear-bottomed swimming pool atop skyscraper

Swimmmmmm This cantilevered clear-bottomed swimming pool is on the 24th floor of the Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao. (via CNN)

High velocity trading rendered visceral

The latest installment of Tim Harford's BBC/Open University podcast (RSS) More of Less has a fantastic and chilling look at the world of high-frequency automated stock trading, where warring algorithms execute millions of trades in an eyeblink. The story's jumping-off point is Knight Capital, whose faulty algorithm hemorrhaged $10,000,000 per minute, ultimately costing the company nearly half a billion dollars. But from there, Harford and co do a great series of examples trying to convey the sheer velocity of these markets. I've been following this stuff reasonably closely and had an abstract sense of it all, but this brought it home for me so firmly that it raised goosebumps.

Last week Knight Capital lost a lot of money very quickly. It was the latest chapter in the story of something called ‘high frequency trading’. Investors have always valued being the first with the news. But high frequency trading is different: algorithms execute automatic trades, conducted by computers, at astonishing speeds. We ask: is the rapid growth of high frequency trading progress, or – as some think – a threat to the stability of the entire financial system?

BBC - Podcasts - More or Less: Behind the Stats

MP3 link

Interview with developer of 2MP cameras taking those amazing Mars photos on the Curiosity rover

As regular readers of this blog will recall, I asked a question of the Mars Curiosity team about imaging technologies during the post-landing press conference at NASA JPL a few days ago.

Related: Digital Photography Review now has an interview with the Mars rover camera project manager. Above, the 34mm (115mm equiv.) Mastcam from the Curiosity rover. This was developed by Mike Ravine and his team at Malin Space Science Systems, a contractor for NASA. Ravine explains how they developed the 2MP main imaging cameras used to transmit those breathtaking images back from Mars.

The slow data rates available for broadcasting images back to Earth and the team's familiarity with that family of sensors played a part, says [Ravine], but the biggest factor was the specifications being fixed as far back as 2004. Multi-shot panoramas will see the cameras deliver high-res images, he explains, but not the 3D movies Hollywood director James Cameron had wanted.

'There's a popular belief that projects like this are going to be very advanced but there are things that mitigate against that. These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don't get to propose one specification and then go off and develop something else. 2MP with 8GB of flash [memory] didn't sound too bad in 2004. But it doesn't compare well to what you get in an iPhone today.'

(thanks, Michael Kammes)

Dery on Vidal vs. Buckley

When Gore Vidal died last month, Xeni posted the classic TV highlight (lowlight?) of the writers' infamous heated exchange on ABD during the 1968 Democratic convention. Over at Las Vegas CityLife, BB contributor Mark Dery dives into that fiery media moment and what it revealed about both men. From Las Vegas CityLife:

The Vidal-Buckley dust-up, dissected ever after by the two combatants and their partisans, is wonderfully instructive. Buckley is at his best, by which I mean his worst — mesmerizing for all the wrong reasons, as he is in his 1969 Firing Line debate with Noam Chomsky on American involvement in Vietnam. In that episode, Buckley is a one-man freakshow of WASP eccentricities, Ivy-League affectations and subliminal seductions, obscenely flicking that reptilian tongue, languorously attenuating the last word in a sentence, flashing a sly wink at Chomsky in mid-debate, flaring his eyes suggestively at the mention of Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures. (Who knew that a double entendre lurked in the title of that classic book on the admittedly steamy subject of generative grammar?) To the self-assurance of the manor-born and the entitlement of the prep-schooled, Buckley adds an invigorating jigger of weirdness, a snaggletoothed leer that hints at a redeeming depravity behind all that high-church, God and Man at Yale conservatism.

Suddenly, as in the near-knockdown with Vidal, we glimpse a less charming depravity. Prehensile tongue in cheek, Buckley commends Chomsky for his “self-control” in debating the Vietnam question, to which Chomsky jokingly replies, “sometimes I lose my temper; maybe not tonight.” Says Buckley, “Maybe not tonight, because if you would I’d smash you in the goddamn face.” A flash of that awful dentition assures us it’s all in good fun, a wry allusion to the Vidal Affair. But the manic glitter in the eyes, and the thuggishness of the only half-mocking threat, say otherwise.

"A sock in the face: A look back at Gore Vidal’s famous feud"

To do this weekend: watch the Perseid meteor shower

The brightest planets of the solar system are lining up right in the middle of this year's Perseid meteor shower display. The action peaks on the night of August 12. Meteor rates of up to 100 per hour are expected. More details on how to watch them here.

* Note: NBC plans to delay them by 4 hours.

The Counting Song, by Adam Buxton, dir. Cyriak (video)

[video link]. Illustrations by Sarah Brown. Do stay with it. Things escalate. (HT: Tim Shey)

Cotton Exchange blues vinyl subscription service



The Cotton Exchange is a terrific vinyl record subscription service that delivers 8 LPs/year of rare, historic, or unreleased blues music right to your door. Recent releases have included Bukka White, Otha Turner, and Skip James! Exquisitely-curated by my dear pal and DIY musicologist David Katznelson with partner Barbara Bersche, who also collaborated on the Grammy-nominated "Alan Lomax In Haiti" box in 2010, every album includes detailed liner notes along with the 180-gram platter. For people like me who dig vinyl, the blues, or music history generally, The Cotton Exchange is a an immersive, educational, and inspirational experience disguised as a record club. It's $100 including shipping for 8 records, a totally fair price in my opinion. The latest release comes straight from the Mississippi Hill Country: "Feelin' Good" by Jessie Mae Hemphill (1923-2006).

Here's what David had to say about "Feelin' Good":

We were fortunate enough to meet Jessie Mae on several occasions, at the yearly Turner Family picnic and at her house in the deep Hill Country. At that point, her stroke prevented her from playing anything but an accompanying tambourine, but she still had the smile that she was known for (just look at the cover of the record in front of you) and was never seen without her dog. She still commanded a presence and showed up at nearly every Hill Country event of note.

Jessie Mae came from regal blues stock (her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, had been recorded by Alan and John Lomax decades earlier) and featured a band of blues family royalty. The six-fingered drummer Abe Young, son to Drum and Fife legend Ed Young (of Ed and Lonnie Young), lays down an amazing beat with fellow percussionist and Otha Turner Rising Star Fife And Drum band member R L Boyce. The trio seem a perfect machine and create a good feel in’ groove to match the great songs on this record. And as for the tracks where she one-man-bands it: here the She Wolf marches to her own groove, exemplifying a style that she ruled until her stroke took her off of the stage.

The Cotton Exchange

Friends With You: "Cloudy" (animated video short)

[video link]. From Friends With You, the short film "Cloudy", described as an art piece "with the purpose to transcend its viewers to a relaxed and joyous state."

This short is an exploration into the Clouds. The idea of clouds singing and performing their duties in a joyful manner show us that everything in our world has a role and a purpose. A sweet visual soundscape that takes the viewer through a personal journey into the sky. Sing, dance and relax as you follow a sweet cast of clouds and raindrops through an entrancing adventure you'll wish to take over and over again.

(Thanks, Tim Shey)

Man demonstrating milk carton design has difficulty opening it (video)


[Video Link] Arbroath says: "This quite famous clip shows a high-ranking official of the Austrian equivalent of The Milk Marketing Board demonstrating how to use their newly-introduced wax/cardboard milk carton." It's probably from the 1980s.