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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) David

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.