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Scientists begin investigating possible health impacts of e-cigarettes

A study released in January found that e-cigarette vapor can promote the development of cancer in certain types of human cells — at least, when those cells are in a petri dish. These are early findings, and they don't yet undermine the idea that e-cigs are healthier to smoke than regular cigarettes. But they do prompt some questions about second-hand smoke and the health of people you smoke e-cigarettes around. Maggie 55

List of people who have mysteriously disappeared

My new Wikipedia list obsession: List of people who have mysteriously disappeared. Some of the "mysteries" are not as mysterious as you might hope (some Romans and ancient Gauls who disappeared in the midst of war, for instance) but the list goes back to 71 BC and there's enough interesting entries to warrant some high-quality time suck. Maggie 17

Paul Pope's Escapo reissue event to benefit Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Cartoonist Paul Pope's 1999 graphic novel Escapo, is being re-issued as a special edition loaded with extras. To kick it off, the publisher is holding a live concert in New York on Saturdau April 19th with The Jim Jones Revue, with some proceeds going to The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Originally released in B&W in 1999 and long out of print, Escapo was Pope's first serious massive body of work making a statement about the embrace of life: the tragedy, the love, the youth, and the energy. This new edition of Escapo is brought to new life with the talent of colorist Shay Plummer and award-winning designer Jim Pascoe, who fully redesigned the book in the French BD format. The book contains 50+ pages of bonus material, including a rare two-page alternate ending seen only in the French edition, sketchbook content by Pope, and a series of pin-ups by contributing artists such as: John Cassaday, Sam Hiti, Yuko Shimizu, Kostas Seremetis and Dean Haspiel. Escapo showcases Pope’s grand fluid style and masterful storytelling. The book follows the adventures of a circus escape artist who struggles to evade Death itself – and the equally powerful grip of unrequited love. Like a feverish mash-up of Fellini films, Heavy Metal magazine, and classic Jack Kirby comics, Escapo is an unforgettable tale from a boldly original voice in alternative comics.

Escapo Launch Event Concert with The Jim Jones Revue

Related: Erika Pope-Gusev (Paul's sister) is the director of the fort construction activity kit, Fort Magic (see my video about Fort Magic here). She just let me know that Fort Magic won the Dr. Toy Best Classic 2014 toy award for being exceptional in Creativity, Construction, Educational Skills and Activity Play for children, and that Fort Magic will be featured on Shark Tank this coming Friday April 18th, at 9pm. Looks like it's going to be a busy weekend for the Popes!

Daniel Pinkwater's brilliant, hilarious, life-changing books as $3 ebooks


Children's author, essayist and hero of literature Daniel Pinkwater has revived his classic backlist as a line of DRM-free ebooks! Each one is only $3, and there are some astoundingly good titles in there.

Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars was my first Pinkwater, and it literally changed my life. It's your basic nerd-discovers-he-has-special-powers book, except it's not: it's got saucer cults, green death chili, mystic bikers, and a sweet and inclusive message about following your weird without looking down on others. It literally changed my life.

The Education of Robert Nifkin is another take on an Alan Mendelsohn-like story, but this time, it's all about taking charge of your own education and an alternative school where the inmates run the asylum. It's probably no coincidence that I ended up at a school much like Nifkin's after reading Mendelsohn (here's my full review).

Young Adults is a hilarious, bawdy romp through the conventions of young adult literature. When got my first paperback copy, I walked around for days, annoying my roommates by reading long passages from this at them until they forgave me because they were convulsed with laughter. Dadaism was never so funny.

Wingman is such a beautiful, compassionate book about race, comics, and a love affair with literature. I read my copy until it fell apart.

What can you say about the Snarkout Boys? They sneak out at night and go to an all-night B-movie palace where they have comic, X-Files-style adventures with the paranormal and diner food. The Snarkout Boys & The Avocado of Death and The Snarkout Boys & The Baconburg Horror comprise the canon.

Fat Men from Space is the greatest paen ever penned to sloppy cooking. If you can't get enough of Shopsin's in NYC, or find yourself throwing everything in a frying pan at 2AM, you need this book.

Then there's Chicago Days and Hoboken Nights, a memoir as a series of comic essays that tell the story of Pinkwater's boyhood, his training as an artist, his late-night hot-dogs, and the forces that made him into the towering force of literature that he is today.

There's so much more!

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TOM THE DANCING BUG: No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Comic Strip

Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH the Smythes of Chagrin Falls make sure that no animals were harmed just for the sake of their entertainment.

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Zombie Dice: eat brains, avoid shotguns

Zombies aren't known for their critical thinking skills, but in Zombie Dice, a fast-paced, risk-vs-reward dice-rolling game designed by Steve Jackson, you play a zombie who must balance its desire for human brains with its fear of getting blasted to necrotic bits by a shotgun.

The game comes with 13 specially marked dice. The dice have three kinds of markings: brains, shotgun blasts, and footprints. (Green dice have more brains, red dice have more shotgun blasts, yellow dice are in-between).

The rules are simple: two or more people can play. Everyone is a zombie. The dice represent humans. When it's your turn, pull three dice from the cardboard cup (without looking) and roll them. Set any brains to one side. Set any shotgun blasts to the other side. Footprints mean the human got away - keep those in front of you. Do you want to roll again? No problem. Just re-roll the footprints dice along with enough fresh dice from the cup so that you roll three dice. You can roll as many times as you like in an effort to eats lots of brains in your turn (my record is 11 juicy brains in one turn), but if you end up accumulating three shotgun blasts, you lose all your brain points for that turn and the next player-zombie gets its turn. When one player gets 13 points, play continues until the round is finished and whoever has the most points wins.

Here's a sample turn:

Resentment at techies might not be fair, but it's the future

Jack Halprin is a Google employee who bought a multi-unit dwelling in San Franscico and evicted the occupants. He's getting a roasting, as you can imagine. Here's Benjamin Wachs, writing as "Faux Jack Halprin" defending his decision.

What I'm trying to say is that, in a free society, some people make better choices than others, and we reward those people with the homes of their vanquished enemies. Some people, for example, choose to be teachers, and spend their lives teaching other people's kids things that they can Google for free. Naturally, we pay them very little money -- so little that they're practically homeless already. Frankly, I'm surprised that anyone even notices when I evict someone making under $150,000 a year. Honestly, how can you tell?

Then there are other people, like me, who make good decisions, becoming important parts of the companies that sponsor TED talks. Naturally, we pay these people what they're worth. Why am I so highly compensated? Well, if I weren't at the office every day, doing the work I do, the government wouldn't be nearly as good at spying on you.

The humor is brutal and crude in its villain-painting, but it's that last line that really stands out. The perception was the tech industry is a victim of domestic surveillance, but this perception has changed. Zuckerberg's affected outrage doesn't cut the mustard, whereas the "get with the program" nonchalance of hiring Condoleezza Rice just cuts.

To be seen as selfish, exacerbating a city's housing problems while abusing its public services, is one thing. But to be seen as the intelligence community's self-justifying handmaidens? If you're betting on public complacency and disinterest, it's worth remembering that this is a bet you won't be able to change mid-race.

Japan copies, improves Western culture

Japan makes the best bourbon, denim and burgers, writes Tom Downey.
It’s easy to dismiss Japanese re-creations of foreign cultures as faddish and derivative—just other versions of the way that, for example, the new American hipster ideal of Brooklyn is clumsily copied everywhere from Paris to Bangkok. But the best examples of Japanese Americana don’t just replicate our culture. They strike out, on their own, into levels of appreciation and refinement rarely found in America. They give us an opportunity to consider our culture as refracted through a foreign and clarifying prism.
Jason Kottke points out that the same is true of coffee.

And it's not just stuff; consider Kazuo Ishiguro, who moved to England as a child and gained a startlingly clear view a particular kind of Englishness. These are all things that never truly existed until something new was inspired by the idea of them—a process as conservative as it is creative.

HOWTO equip your drug-dealing operation

Buy one part of the set--say, an AWS-100 digital scale--and Amazon's "what other customers bought" feature will tell you the rest you need. Alexis Madrigal:

Amazon clearly did not set out to create such a field-tested kit for starting an illicit business. But looking at the list of items, it sure seems like they've created a group of products by looking at the purchasing habits of people who may not be recording all of their incomes on W-2s and 1099s.

Buyer beware, seller aware.

Monkeys may sometimes grieve for dead mates through necrophilia


A still from the video of a marmoset exhibiting behavior that resembles human grieving.

A sad story of two marmosets documented by animal behavior researcher Bruna Bezerra, who was observing the primates in their northeast Brazil home:
The pair had been the dominant male and female since observations began. When the female fell out of the tree, her partner engaged in a number of behaviors, including embracing her, sniffing at her, chasing other monkeys away, sitting by her, and trying to copulate with her. He also emitted alarm calls normally used when a predator is near. And several months after her death, the male disappeared from the marmoset group, never to be seen again.

More: Do Monkeys Grieve for Fallen Mates? | Science/AAAS. Here's the study, in the journal Primates. There's video, too. [via Ed Yong]

Donald Rumsfeld, unconvicted war criminal, is upset with the IRS

Noted horrible shitbag Donald Rumsfeld has one thing in common with you and I, dear reader: he is not happy with the IRS, and wishes he hadn't spent so much money preparing and filing his taxes. Here is his annual open letter to the Internal Revenue Service, no doubt to promote his stupid narcissistic book. Here are my thoughts on the matter. Read Rummy's letter below.

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Finland to offer Tom of Finland gay bondage art stamps

Worth a trip to Finland after September 2014 just to buy a few and send postcards to conservative US lawmakers or, say, the Pope.

Slate: This fall, the country will begin selling stamps that feature the “confident and proud homoeroticism” of Tom of Finland, an artist renowned as “beyond question the most influential creator of gay pornographic illustration.”

Tom of Finland, aka Touko Laaksonen, once famously said "If I don't have an erection when I'm doing a drawing, I know it's no good."

Motorcycle safety: high visibility, low cost vest

I wanted a high visibility vest to wear over my motorcycle jacket. Cycle gear shops carried great looking vests at high prices. I didn't think the job required $80 of artisanal reflectiveness.

The Neiko High Visibility Neon Yellow Zipper Front Safety Vest with Reflective Strips is $7.25!

I bought a size Large to wear over an armored size 42 US leather jacket. It fits perfectly. Some folks in the reviews complain the zipper opens due to wind pressure, they suggest adding a binder clip to secure it. I have had no problems.

I should wear this vest whenever I ride.

Blade Runner engagement photos


Rob Cruickshank found Paul Hillier's set of Bladerunner-themed engagement photos. He adds, "I do think the bride and groom should have taken Voight-Kampffs though, just to be sure."

Blade Runner inspired engagement shoot

Canada's Digital 150 Strategy: Cynical, lazy and so 1867

John sez, "We Canadians are looking forward to our 150th birthday coming up in 2017. As part of the celebrations, the Harper Conservative government has released its Digital Canada 150 strategy paper with the idea of propelling Canada forward to take full advantage of the opportunities of the digital age and be a global leader by 2017. While the document has some good points and is definitely not as actively terrible as some of their recent actions (like attacking Elections Canada or stifling science), the strategy is still extremely disappointing."

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