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Homeland interviews

A pair of nice interviews about my new novel Homeland hit the Web today: this fun chat with Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda on the Washington Post, and this one with David Klein at Las Vegas City Life:

It’s about conveying your enthusiasm. My readers like that enthusiastic voice. The dirty secret about geeking out is that it becomes a meditation. What starts as a frivolous “whatever” and people go, “whatever, look at that guy with too much time on his hands” becomes a meditation. Thinking about anything and doing it well becomes meditative.

Science fiction and women's history month

Nina sez, "This video features celebrated science fiction authors speaking about the role of women in their writing. The video was created as part of a celebration for Women's History Month this March."

Women Writers on Science Fiction and Fantasy

White House weighs in on right to unlock your phone

Eric sez, "The Library of Congress recently withdrew the cell phone unlocking exception to the DMCA. In response, a 'We the People' petition was created to ask the White House to weigh in and push to overturn the LoC's decision. Less than two weeks after the petition period closed, White House advisor R. David Edelman has now issued an official response pledging support for the freedom to unlock not only mobile phones, but also tablets. White House advisor R. David Edelman has now issued an official response pledging support for the freedom to unlock not only mobile phones, but also tablets." Cory

Copyright trolls facing legal sanctions for in-court fraud file defamation suits against identity theft victim and online critics

Prenda Law is the notorious, scandal-haunted copyright trolling lawfirm that represents various pornography producers, sending extortionate letters to people allegedly detected illegally downloading videos, demanding money to go away -- the alternative being to have your name linked with embarrassing pornography titles in a public record forever.

Prenda made headlines lately for claiming that it was working for a man called Alan Cooper, allegedly the CEO of offshore companies that had hired Prenda to send legal threats on their behalf. Only one problem: Cooper says he has nothing to do with the companies or Prenda. When they were caught in this bit of alleged in-court identity theft, Prenda's lawyers complained that their judge was being mean to them and tried to get him taken off their case. When this gambit failed, they tried several others -- everything, in fact, except for admitting what seems obvious on its face: they'd misrepresented the facts to the court and stolen Cooper's identity.

In my opinion, Prenda is a shitshow from stem to stern. From absurd claims like the existence of an adolescent male in a household is proof that illegal porn downloading must be taking place to weird legal theories about BitTorrent users being in conspiracy with one another despite never having met, communicated, and not being aware of one another, every one of Prenda's actions smacks of utter desperation.

But Prenda's desperation has reached new depths with its latest gambit: filing three defamation lawsuits each against people who called them out for their bad behavior, including Alan Cooper (the man whose identity was allegedly stolen in Prenda's court filings) and his lawyer; and, apparently online news sites like Fight Copyright Trolls (who've tirelessly chronicled Prenda's misdeeds), and message-board commenters who expressed shock at the bad behavior on exhibit in Prenda's deeds.

This desperate move comes mere days before a California hearing on sanctions for Prenda's counsel. Hilariously, in para 104, the lawyers for Prenda (who have given numerous grandstanding interviews to the national and global press) claim that they are not public figures. They also characterize countless instances of obvious opinion and hyperbole as libelous. And they are clearly fuzzy on the liability for libel on message boards, and the limitations thereof, as set out in the Communications Decency Act.

This feels to me like a last attempt to punish Prenda's victims for daring to refuse to be victimized, a final shot before the inevitable court sanctions, bankruptcy, and potential jail time. It's the kind of wickedness that makes it hard to believe in humanity's essential morality. My goodness, it will be delightful to roast marshmallows over Prenda's funeral pyre when that glorious day comes.

Copyright trolls Prenda Law, Paul Duffy, and John Steele commence three lawsuits v. Paul Godfread, Alan Cooper and our community (Thanks, That Anonymous Coward!)

Dinotopia artist James Gurney on exhibit at New Hampshire Institute of Art


James Gurney's paintings, drawings, and incredible hand-made models from his Dinotopia books series are on exhibit this month at the New Hampshire Institute of Art.

From the soothing, restorative environment of Waterfall City to the hidden wonders of Chandara, acclaimed author and illustrator James Gurney’s magical Dinotopian world comes to life in this enchanting exhibition that features 22 original paintings from the best-selling illustrated books Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time (1992), Dinotopia: The World Beneath (1995), and Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara (2007), and presents fascinating examples of the illustrator’s creative process, including reference materials, and a handmade scale-model.

Inspired by archaeology, lost civilizations, and the art of illustration, Gurney’s Dinotopia, an extraordinary place where humans and dinosaurs live in harmony, fuses fantasy with realism and scientific accuracy. “The thing I love about dinosaurs is that they are on that balance point between fantasy and reality,” says Gurney. “It might be hard to believe that mermaids and dragons really existed, but we know that dinosaurs did―we can see their footprints and skeletons but we can’t photograph them or see them, except in our imagination.”

Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney

Kickstarter for a cocktail-dispensing robot

Robert Kaye sez, "Among the many standout cocktail-pouring robots on display this weekend at BarBot in San Francisco was Bartendro, the latest creation by Robert Kaye and Pierre Michael of Party Robotics. (They're also the creators of the Water to Wine watercooler gag featured recently on Make.) If you've ever wanted an open source robot to help you refine your recipe for the perfect margarita, or needed an extra hand serving drinks at a party, they've now launched a Kickstarter for the first production run of Bartendro. The duo also released the source code and hardware designs to their creation on Github for hackers to improve upon the design or create something new. As a Kickstarter backer, you can get a finished bot in a variety of sizes, or just the parts to try your hand at a different enclosure, or make your own custom dispenser for reef tank chemicals, epoxy, pancake batter, or almost any liquid."

Bartendro - A Cocktail Dispensing Robot (Thanks, Robert!)

YouTube's Harlem Shake easter egg

Harlem Shake is a bit February 2013 and all, but here's one more snippet: a great YouTube easter-egg. Wait for it. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Cory

Armory Arts Week Edition Featured Artist: Amy Crehore

Our friend Amy Crehore is ArtSlant's Armory Arts Week Edition Featured Artist! She says:
Armory Week is important to me because it is the 100th Anniversary of the 1913 Armory Show in NYC. That particular show opened American eyes to a "Modern Art" movement that was happening in Europe at the time. Organized by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, it also travelled to Chicago and Boston. ArtSlant did a special feature on me to help me celebrate and I could not be more thrilled. Check it out!

ArtSlant: Amy Crehore

Pixel Monster Generator

Pixelated Cowboy says: "I’ve put together a simple random monster generator! Two actually. A single colour version here and a three colour mix version here. I thought it could be fun for people to try draw what they ended up with! If you do you should tag it with pixelatedcowboy so I can see :O"

(Via Brian Upton at G+BB)

Makerspace at SXSW

Aaron sez, "SXSW Create is a free and open to the public event during SXSW Interactive that will showcase local and national hackers, makers, and creators. It is a hands-on, interactive, and exciting event intended to showcase creativity and innovation that will inspire and encourage others to create themselves. It is located at 101 Red River, directly behind the Austin Convention Center."

CopyrightX: a massively open online course on copyright from Harvard's Terry Fisher


Update: Kendra from Harvard sez, The online course called CopyrightX is a version of the HLS Copyright course taught on edX by Prof. Fisher. It's facilitated by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the efforts of a number of HLS students. The materials are free and accessible at Prof. Fisher's website: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/tfisher/CopyrightX_Homepage_2013.htm The site linked in the current post is a student created website - not an official part of the course.

Kevin sez, "Lots of folks know about Stack Exchange, progenitor of StackOverflow.com, right? Well, two weeks after Aaron Swartz died, Harvard Law School published on the web all resources for their copyright course. Named CopyrightX, the course is taught by Professor Terry Fisher of The Berkman Center for Internet and Society. This move is sure to have global consequences, for it gives a scholarly confirmation of Kirby Ferguson's thesis in 'Everything is a Remix' that the common good as a meme was overwhelmed by intellectual property. Harvard's CopyrightX repeatedly shows that the original goal of copyright was indeed to improve the lives of everyone by encouraging creativity and 'producing a shared pool of knowledge, open to all.' Now Stack Exchange hosts a community proposal to help amplify the ripples of CopyrightX in the global pond for as long a duration as possible. Come follow the community, post 5 Example Questions, and up-vote your favorites. Surely there can be no broader interest group for a SE community than those of us affected by copyright."

CopyrightX (Thanks, Kevin!)

Same couple pose as 9 different fashion-followers

Nacho Rojo is is photographer in Madrid, Spain. In this series, Rojo photographed the same two models posing as nine different fashion-following couples.

(Via 22 words)

Comic books' real-life supervillain: psychiatrist Fredric Wertham

In the New York Times article about my research on psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, novelist Michael Chabon referred to the doctor as Ahab, obsessed with the white whale of comics. Well, if Wertham was Ahab, call me Ishmael.


(Images: Seduction of the Innocent website)

For anyone studying comics, Wertham is a difficult figure to avoid. A New York City-based forensic psychiatrist and pioneering mental health advocate, Wertham also was a prolific cultural critic, who decried the potential effects on readers and viewers of violent images and racial stereotypes in the mass media. Between 1948 and 1955, this German-born doctor was also among the most vocal opponents of the nascent comics industry. He was certainly not alone: teachers, librarians, parents, police officers, religious leaders, and other adults lent their voices to the anti-comics movement. But Wertham was different from many of the others in that he had a scientific / medical background and could enrich his arguments with examples from case studies of children.

In his book Seduction of the Innocent published to coincide with the 1954 Senate hearings on comics and juvenile delinquency, Wertham's thesis - stripped of all its rhetorical flourishes - was simple: crime comics corrupt children. Although he was against outright censorship, Wertham advocated that the government restrict the ability of younger readers to purchase crime comics. His definition of crime comics extended beyond the lurid and racy titles such as Crimes by Women and Crime SuspenStories to include more pedestrian fare like Superman and Classics Illustrated. If, in its pages, cartoon animals bopped each other on their heads or a woman shoplifted a necklace or a cowboy bled from a fight then that comic was a crime comic. Almost none of the more than 600 comic books regularly published in the US then could be excluded from Wertham's condemnation.

Read the rest

Top Gear for gadgets

In two weeks, Gizmodo and Boing Boing Gadgets alumnus Joel Johnson is going to be on the telly with a new gadget show.

But there's one area of media that gadgets haven't yet conquered from the inside out: mainstream television. And that's why I'm tickled to finally be able to share with you the culmination of over two years of work between the team at Gizmodo and BBC America: the debut of our first hour-long television special, "Gizmodo: The Gadget Testers," on Monday, March 18th, 2013 at 10:20PM ET.

He'll be joined by Veronica Belmont, Greg Foot and O.J. Borg, with Joe Brown and Nerdist's Chris Hardwick reviewing the toys: "I certainly wouldn't have thought we'd get this chance when I was a fat, smart-ass little blogger sitting in my apartment a decade ago stuffing my face with cheap Chinese food."

TED2013: Amanda Palmer on "The art of asking"


Amanda Palmer's talk about "the art of asking" was one of Carla's favorites at TED2013. The video is now up and has been watched 750,000 times since it was posted a couple of days ago.

Amanda Palmer commands attention. The singer-songwriter-blogger-provocateur, known for pushing boundaries in both her art and her lifestyle, made international headlines this year when she raised nearly $1.2 million via Kickstarter (she’d asked for $100k) from nearly 25,000 fans who pre-ordered her new album, Theatre Is Evil.

But the former street performer, then Dresden Dolls frontwoman, now solo artist hit a bump the week her world tour kicked off. She revealed plans to crowdsource additional local backup musicians in each tour stop, offering to pay them in hugs, merchandise and beer per her custom. Bitter and angry criticism ensued (she eventually promised to pay her local collaborators in cash). And it's interesting to consider why. As Laurie Coots suggests: "The idea was heckled because we didn't understand the value exchange -- the whole idea of asking the crowd for what you need when you need it and not asking for more or less." Summing up her business model, in which she views her recorded music as the digital equivalent of street performing, she says: “I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.”

TED2013 -- Amanda Palmer: The art of asking

See all TED2013 coverage