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Guatemala genocide trial status in limbo as legal power struggle continues

VIDEO: Relatives of people killed during Guatemala's armed conflict hold up a banner with the names of the dead, during a protest on April 22, 2013 outside the Constitutional Court in Guatemala City. (Xeni Jardin for Boing Boing)

Kate Doyle of the National Security Archive and the Open Society Justice Initiative's has the most accurate summary I've found of today's confusing and widely mis-reported legal developments in the Guatemala genocide trial of General Rios Montt and former head of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez:

Today the Constitutional Court sowed chaos and confusion in a trial that last Friday (April 19) was probably two or three days away from its conclusion. The only steps remaining were hearing the testimony of whatever remaining witnesses the defense could muster, and hearing the closing arguments of prosecution and defense lawyers.

It is impossible to summarize accurately what happened without having access to the Constitutional Court (CC) decision. (It should be available tonight.) The first press conference held by the CC today was so incoherent that the press complained and they had to convene a second one. Two important things will happen tomorrow that will help clarify matters: CALDH will hold a press conference at 10am to explain how they plan to respond to the latest developments, and the Attorney General’s office will make some kind of statement to the same effect.

Meanwhile what I understand from reading the press, Twitter posts, messages from the new OSJI monitor Lisa Laplante, and emails from some of the stakeholders is the following:

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Surowiecki: The right way to crowdsource a manhunt

James Surowiecki in the New Yorker:
After Reddit’s attempt to find the Boston Marathon bombers turned into a major failure (for which Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin publicly apologized Monday), the over-all conclusion seems to be that the whole experiment was misguided from the start, and that the Redditors’ inability to identify the Tsarnaev brothers demonstrates the futility of using an online crowd of amateur sleuths to help with a criminal investigation. Or, as the Times’s Nick Bilton put it, “It looks as if the theory of the ‘wisdom of crowds’ doesn’t apply to terrorist manhunts.” That proposition may be true. But Reddit’s failure isn’t evidence for it.

Read the rest: "Reddit and the Marathon Bombers: The Wise Way to Crowdsource a Manhunt" []

Richest Americans grow richer (and, spoiler alert: poor grow poorer)

A Pew Research Center study out today shows that the modest economic growth following the so-called "Great Recession" has increased wealth inequality in America. The top 7% of American households enjoyed a 28% increase in net worth; the wealth of the other 93 percent declined. [Washington Post]

Caddis fly larvae coaxed into building cocoons out of precious metals and gems

Update: Be sure to check out our first post about this from 2007!

This 2007 profile of Hubert Duprat's work with caddis fly larvae is a tiny, entomological miracle. The larvae build their cocoons with whatever material is at hand; Duprat forces them to build with gold and precious gems, making spectacular bio-organic jewelry.

Duprat, who was born in 1957, began working with caddis fly larvae in the early 1980s. An avid naturalist since childhood, he was aware of the caddis fly in its role as a favored bait for trout fishermen, but his idea for the project depicted here began, he has said, after observing prospectors panning for gold in the Ariège river in southwestern France. After collecting the larvae from their normal environments, he relocates them to his studio where he gently removes their own natural cases and then places them in aquaria that he fills with alternative materials from which they can begin to recreate their protective sheaths. He began with only gold spangles but has since also added the kinds of semi-precious and precious stones (including turquoise, opals, lapis lazuli and coral, as well as pearls, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds) seen here. The insects do not always incorporate all the available materials into their case designs, and certain larvae, Duprat notes, seem to have better facility with some materials than with others. Additionally, cases built by one insect and then discarded when it evolves into its fly state are sometimes recovered by other larvae, who may repurpose it by adding to or altering its size and form.

Artist Project / Trichopterae (via Neil Gaiman)

(Photos: Jean-Luc Fournier)

Documentary on the Cydwoq shoe factory

As mentioned before, I'm a big fan of the beautiful handmade shoes from Cydwoq, who manufacture their wares to order in Los Angeles. Here's a short and beautiful documentary on their factory and manufacturing techniques.

Wyndhamesque missives from Scarfolk, an English horror-town trapped in a 1969-79 loop

I'm loving the Scarfolk site, where "Dr R Littler" chronicles the mysteries of an English town stuck in a Wyndham-esque loop betwen 1969 and 1979. It's full of the most lovely horrors. It's all so perfectly wrought and so grisly and freaked out and perfectly aged. If only we could all retire to Scarfolk and never grow old!

Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum. Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science; hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. "Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay." For more information please reread.

Scarfolk Council (via Die Puny Humans)

Wonderful reading of awful sorority letter sent by horrible sorority sister

If you haven't heard about the insane letter sent around to a sorority by its concerned and thoroughly awful social chairwoman, you're probably doing something right. Nevertheless, there is a gem of good in every wickedness, as Funny or Die demonstrates with this dramatic reading of the letter in question [NSFW]

Haunted Mansion/Batman mashup

Oh hell YES. DeviantArtist ArtistAbe has crossed Batman with the stretching portraits at the Disneyland Haunted Mansion. His substitutions are extremely well-thought-through and well-wrought. The fact that these are DC comics mixed into the Disney/Marvelverse gives it all a rogerrabbitesque mind-bend, too:

Harley Quinn and Killer Croc-
This was the last one I did because I was still unsure what I wanted to do with Harley Quinn's outfit. Sure I could have made it easier on myself just to put her in her standard costume, but I'd miss the opportunity to put her in a dress. I'm not that great at fashion, but this was one of the ideas I had for her outfit that I finally settled on. Pretty happy with how it turned out. :) I thought about giving her the umbrella for a split second, but then it's Harley! So I gave her a croquet mallet. Croc was the obvious choice to replace the crocodile.

Joker and Scarface-
The original portrait had his pants down, so who better to pull that off than the Joker! He's doing the drinking water while still having the puppet talk trick, just fyi. I didn't intend to have at least two Batman characters in each portrait, but it kind of happened that way. I've always liked the Scarface character so I jumped at the chance to draw him in this piece...

Haunted Arkham Asylum (via IO9)

The science mystery behind a psychedelic HIV/AIDS drug

Some patients taking antiretroviral medications for HIV/AIDS receive the efavirenz, marketed under the commercial names Sustiva and Stocrin. According to a report in the LA Times by Melissa Healy, it has an "LSD-like interaction" with brain receptors governing serotonin activity.
That may explain why roughly half of patients taking efavirenz at the prescribed dose have reported neuropsychiatric side effects that include suicidal depression, night terrors, hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis and delusions. And it may also explain why efavirenz tablets are reportedly being ground up and smoked by drug abusers looking for a hallucinogenic high.


The Art of Harvey Kurtzman - a short film

Damen Corrado from Imperium Pictures let me know about this nice video tribute to MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman. He says "it features a lot of his work from the current exhibition at the Society of Illustrators in NYC, and interviews with Al Jaffee and Bob Grossman, with a jazz soundtrack by Nik Turner of Hawkwind."

Cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993) founded the satirical MAD magazine in 1952 and forever altered the way young readers experienced the media and consumer culture around them. As the late film critic Roger Ebert explained, “I learned to be a movie critic by reading MAD magazine. I learned a lot of other things from the magazine too, including a whole new slant on society. MAD’s parodies made me aware of the machine inside the skin–of the way a movie might look original on the outside, while inside it was just recycling the same dumb old formulas. I did not read the magazine, I plundered it for clues to the universe.”

After MAD, Kurtzman worked with a team of artists including Al Jaffee, Jack Davis and Will Elder on a series of short-lived but influential publications, including Trump, Humbug and Help! At Help!, a fortuitous nexus of nascent sketch comedy and underground “comix,” Kurtzman worked with then unknowns Woody Allen, Gloria Steinem and R. Crumb, among many others. Terry Gilliam, who met John Cleese while working there, considered Kurtzman “one of the godparents of Monty Python.”

The Society of Illustrators in NYC is hosting a retrospective exhibition on Harvey Kurtzman through May 11, 2013

Previously: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics

Classic album art cakepops

These album art cakepops were made by Miss Insomnia Tulip for an unnamed client. Nice work, and infringealicious!

Album Cover Cake Pops – a must see!

Winners of the Marijuanamerica giveaway

Last week I announced that Abrams books was giving a copy of the new book, Marijuanamerica (reviewed here) to five Boing Boing readers. The winners would be chosen from the comments. They're all worth reading, but I had to pick five, and you can read them here. Congrats to all the winners - if your username is listed below please email me ( so I can arrange to have your book sent to you.

Pink Frankenstein: One time when in junior high school, I was walking through town during the 4th of July. One of the surfer kids was sitting on the steps of a catholic school smoking a joint. This was about 1978 or so. He was my age so that's about 14. While I was walking by, a cop was coming the other direction and simply told the kid from afar to put that thing out. I remember the kid looking all mad and hassled by the man. Crazy times.

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Chainmail tights

Mitmunk's chainmail tights don't actually appear to be on sale any longer, but the design is a treat.

(via Geeks Are Sexy)

Update: Hurrah, they're back on sale (thanks, Dean!)

"Bela Lugosi's Dead" stretched to nine hours


Goth anthem "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus time-stretched into nine hours. Oh Belllllaaaaaa! (via Dangerous Minds, thanks, Patrick Kelly!)

Report: Ricin-to-president suspect may have been framed

"The Mississippi man charged with sending ricin-laced letters to President Obama reportedly has been released on bond, amid an apparent probe into whether he might have been framed." [Fox]

8-bit tubemap

Chris Evans sez, "I made this 8bit London Underground map a while ago, entirely in Tile Studio with a bit of Gimp to add text."

Finished Super Mario Bros 3 Zone 1 tube map. Now without stupid watermark and decent resolution.

How pizza and Pente led to one Oklahoman's high-flying kite obsession

Ben Marks, Senior Editor of says, "We just published an article about kites, from their history and construction to the Stillwater, Oklahoma, pizza-joint owner (Richard Dermer) who's made kites his life-long obsession."
"When we go to somebody’s wedding, the reception always has those little napkins with the bride and groom’s names and wedding bells printed on them,” Dermer says. “You can separate the layers of tissue and get one thin tissue with the name of the bride and the groom. We always bring a little bit of bamboo, monofilament fishing line, sewing thread, and glue. In about 20 minutes, bingo, we’ve made a couple of wedding kites for the happy couple we can present on the spot. We’ve got a lot of those out there.”

(Reminds me of the song that I love and hate with equal passion: "Kites are Fun," by The Free Design.)

Love at First Kite: How Pizza and Pente Led to One Oklahoman's High-Flying Obsession

Sexy Star Wars costumes

From the people who brought you the hairless Chewbacca costume, a line of "sexy Star Wars" costumes that showcase the broadmindedness and dubious taste of Disney/Lucas licensing department.

Sexy Star Wars (via IO9)

Tell Me Something I Don't Know 006: Robin Bougie, publisher of Cinema Sewer and Sleazy Slice

Robin Bougie is a film journalist, cartoonist, and publisher in Vancouver. He publishes the underground film magazine, Cinema Sewer focusing on exploitation, genre, and cult films. He also publishes (and contributes to) Sleazy Slice, an annual anthology of adult comics. His writing and art have been collected in three Cinema Sewer books by FAB Press (volume four will be out later this year). In July, FAB Press will release Bougie’s Graphic Thrills: American XXX Movie Posters, 1970 to 1985. Get your hands dirty on his website and order some of his work at Cinema Sewer.

Tell Me Something I Don't Know is produced and hosted by three talented cartoonists and illustrators:

Jim Rugg, a Pittsburgh-based comic book artist, graphic designer, zinemaker, and writer best known for Afrodisiac, The Plain Janes, and Street Angel.

Jasen Lex is a designer and illustrator from Pittsburgh. He is currently working on a graphic novel called Washington Unbound. All of his art and comics can be found at

Ed Piskor is the cartoonist who drew the comic, Wizzywig, and draws the Brain Rot/ Hip Hop Family Tree comic strip at this very site, soon to be collected by Fantagraphics Books.

Follow TMSIDK on Twitter

Subscribe to the Tell Me Something I Don't Know podcast | iTunes

Thanks to Soundcloud for hosting TMSIDK!

Volcano Dust - made from ghost chili peppers

Volcano Dust is a brand of powdered bhut jolokia chili peppers. Also known as ghost chills, bhut jolokias are mind-bendingly hot. For example, an average jalapeño pepper measures about 5,000 on the Scoville heat scale; a bhut jolokia measures 1,000,000 Scovilles.

The manufacturer of Volcano Dust sent me a box of samples, and I carefully tried them out. They are certainly the hottest powdered chili peppers I've ever tasted, but I like them. A slight dusting of the Hot Italian Blend on my easy-over eggs or chicken soup turns them into an exciting culinary experience. Here's to blown-out capsaicin receptors!

(I gave Cory a jar of the pure powdered bhut jolokia when he came to visit a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully he'll share his thoughts on it.)

Volcano Dust

Burning nostrils, olives in noses, and Dear Abby

NewImageI posted Sunday's curious Dear Abby column about a woman so disturbed by her husband's ice chewing that she eats breakfast in another room while wearing noise-canceling headphones. This reminded my friend Vann Hall of a strange letter that Abigail Van Buren cited as one of her favorites. Unfortunately I can't find Abby's answer online so please feel free to share your advice in the comments.
My husband burns the hair out of his nose with a lighted match -- and he thinks I'm crazy because I voted for Goldwater!"
And here's another nose-related annoyance from Abby's archives:
My husband has a problem. When we go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, he always orders a martini with 10 or 12 olives in it. Then he sticks the olives in his nose and sucks out the juice. He claims it clears up his sinuses. Abby, this is so embarrassing. What can I do?
"Dear Abby: Are All Those Weird Letters for Real?" (Palm Beach Daily News, 11/16/74)

Hexapod robot vehicle

Matt Denton of Hampshire, UK, built a huge hexapod walking machine that he operates by joysticks inside the cockpit. It took him four years and cost "hundreds of thousands of pounds" to make. Its top speed is one mph and, as you might expect, isn't particularly efficient. "It's not about miles to the gallon, it's about gallons to the mile," Denton told the BBC News.

Computer-vision boob-tracker

There's precious little info available about Mizirk "Boob Tracker," a computer vision project (based on a Kinekt?) that automatically detects boob-like objects and masks them with user-selectable bitmaps, following them as they move around the field of view. Mizirk's total delight in the performance of this little confection is what makes it.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Debunking pirate myths

Pirates never made people walk the plank -- that came from Peter Pan. Pirates didn't have treasure maps -- that came from Treasure Island. Pirates didn't talk like pirates, either -- that came from Treasure Island actor Robert Newton. Want more of the sad truth about real pirates? Watch Museum Secrets on the History Channel. The good news? Pirates really did fly Jolly Roger flags!

Chipping ants to understand colonies


University of Lausanne biologists chipped hundreds of ants and digitally tracked them to see how they form social groups and work collectively to get stuff done. Based on the data, they created heat maps and visualized the ants' trajectories. From Nature:

The biologists… have found that the workers fall into three social groups that perform different roles: nursing the queen and young; cleaning the colony; and foraging for food. The different groups move around different parts of the nest, and the insects tend to graduate from one group to another as they age, the researchers write in a paper published today in Science.

“The paper is a game-changer, in the size and detail of the data set that was collected,” says Anna Dornhaus, an entomologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"Tracking whole colonies shows ants make career moves" (Thanks, Nic Weidinger!)

Below is a video, accelerated five times.

Read the rest

Guatemala genocide trial: legal challenges, debates, and attacks on "hairy hippies, foreigners, communists"

Photo: Jaime Reyes, Guatemala. A bus carrying demonstrators from the Ixil area to a pro-Rios Montt march in Guatemala City. The sign reads, “Hairy Hippies and Foreigners, stop making money off the lie of genocide in Nebaj.”

Update, 447pm Guatemala local time: The Constitutional Court has resolved to effectively annul the trial, but it is not yet clear how far back the process has been turned. Prosecution team and victims' rights groups vow to move forward. CALDH: "This is a setback for justice, for the victims, but this is not a defeat."

I've been traveling in Guatemala for the past few weeks, reporting on the genocide trial of former Guatemalan General and dictator Rios Montt, and his then-head of intelligence Jose Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez. Ríos Montt's 1982-1983 regime was supported by the United States; during this era many thousands of non-combatant civilians were killed.

On Friday, a legal power struggle between two judges, initiated by the defense, effectively put the trial on hold. Today, the nation's highest court, the Corte Constitutional, continues to deliberate behind closed doors about whether or not the tribunal may continue. And as the judges review numerous legal appeals, supporters of the Ixil Maya victims (and of the trial itself) and supporters of Rios Montt and the Army (who want the trial to be thrown out) face off in increasingly charged public protests.

As I publish this post, a large assembly of former civil patrollers ("patrulleros," mostly indigenous people who were conscripted by the Army to fight in the counterinsurgency), Army veterans and their families and allies, and Ixil persons transported in from Nebaj, have descended upon Guatemala City in a caravan of buses with provocative banners.

Ricardo Mendez-Ruiz of Guatemalan Foundation Against Terrorism (Fundación Contra El Terrorismo), with Ixil people transported to Guatemala City from Nebaj for a demonstration supporting Rios Montt, and condemning the genocide trial. Photo:

One sign on one of the pro-Ríos Montt buses carrying in protesters from the Ixil area reads, “Hairy Hippies and Foreigners, stop making money off the lie of genocide in Nebaj” (the Ixil area at the center of this tribunal is generally defined as a zone around three villages: Nebaj, Chajul, and Cotzal). Another banner reads, “Don’t shame the Ixiles with this genocide stuff, because it’s a lie.”

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Gay filmmakers help teach Scouts about making movies

Todd Bieber made a great short video on his experience as an Eagle Scout and a volunteer with the Scouts who is upset about the decision of the BSA to exclude gay and lesbian people: "I'm a filmmaker and an Eagle Scout. Recently, while serving as merit badge counselor of Cinematography Merit Badge, I invited several gay filmmakers to help teach some Boy Scouts about making movies."

Gay Filmmakers and Boy Scouts (Thanks, Eric!)

Game of Thrones S3E4: This is Madness

A friend of mine has a very bleak assessment of Game of Thrones: If you love a character, they'll die unfulfilled. If you hate a character, you'll come to learn how they became so hateful and start to love them, and then they try to redeem themselves and die unfulfilled.

It's not quite like that, or else I'd be worried about spoiling by sharing the sentiment. But how the show will deal with the books' long march of constant thwarting and elusive pleasure, while adding additional characters all the time, and still keep interest, was one of the things I worried about last season. How will the show give viewers the emotional boost they need to stay invested while being true to the gruesome, occasionally-grueling canon?

Well, stuff like That Daenerys Scene, I guess. It's time to recap and discuss! I'll bring the words, you bring the animated GIFs.

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Rothko toast

SFMOMA's cafe is now serving "Rothko Toast," spread in a manner reminiscent of Rothko's "No. 14, 1960."

Behold: Rothko toast, the latest artsy menu item SFMOMA's café on Third Street. Like the work that inspired it ("No. 14, 1960") the toast features two tones of color (apricot butter and wild blueberry jam, in this case). Unlike Rothko's priceless piece, this toast will probably only run you a couple bucks and comes mounted on Acme pain de mie, rather than canvas.

SFMOMA Café Unveils Rothko Toast, Patrons Are All Like: 'My Kid Could Make This' (Thanks, Fipi Lile!)