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How the Russian surveillance state works

In case you (like Edward Snowden) want to know about the full scope of Russia's program of mass domestic and international surveillance, World Policy's overview of the Russian surveillance state is brilliant and terrifying. As Snowden said, "I blew the whistle on the NSA's surveillance practices not because I believed that the United States was uniquely at fault, but because I believe that mass surveillance of innocents – the construction of enormous, state-run surveillance time machines that can turn back the clock on the most intimate details of our lives – is a threat to all people, everywhere, no matter who runs them."

The World Policy report has impeccable credentials, having been jointly researched by Agentura.Ru, CitizenLab, and Privacy International.

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This Day in Blogging History: Tombstone euphemisms for "death"; Biden promises Hollywood a blank check; Silmarillion in 1,000 words

One year ago today
Early American tombstone euphemisms for death: Caitlin GD Hopkins collected 101 euphemisms for "died" from early American epitaphs. The epitaphs came from tombstones pre-1825, to qualify, the euphemism had to appear in the main text of the tombstone.

Five years ago today
Joe Biden promises a blank check to the entertainment cartel: VP Joe Biden stood up in front of a bunch of Hollywood execs and promised to appoint a copyright czar, and furthermore, that this would be the "right" person to protect their interests. [Ed: Biden gave them Victoria Espinel, who produced a series of dreadful, industry-friendly policies and then walked out into a lucrative job at the Business Software Alliance]

Ten years ago today
Silmarillion in 1,000 words: The Silmarillion is a dense book chronicling the minutest minutae of Tolkien's Middle Earth. Reading it is something of an accomplishment in itself -- but now you can fake it.

Eternal vigilance app for social networks: treating privacy vulnerabilities like other security risks

Social networking sites are Skinner boxes designed to train you to undervalue your privacy. Since all the compromising facts of your life add less than a dollar to the market-cap of the average social network, they all push to add more "sharing" by default, with the result that unless you devote your life to it, you're going to find your personal info shared ever-more-widely by G+, Facebook, Linkedin, and other "social" services.

Arvind Narayanan has proposed a solution to this problem: a two-part system through which privacy researchers publish a steady stream of updates about new privacy vulnerabilities introduced by the social networking companies (part one), and your computer sifts through these and presents you with a small subset of the alerts that pertain to you and your own network use.

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US intel chief's insane new secrecy directive forbids intel employees from "unauthorized" contact with reporters


U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The US Director of National Intelligence has issued a Directive [PDF] that forbids most intelligence community employees from talking to journalists about “intelligence-related information” unless they have explicit authorization to do so.

Intelligence community employees “must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on any intel-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” according to the Directive signed by James Clapper.

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Gweek podcast 143: The World's Greatest Neurozine!

In most episodes of Gweek, Dean Putney and I invite a guest to join us in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time we didn't have a guest. Dean and I talked mainly about the origins of Boing Boing and Make.

This episode is brought to you by:

NatureBox, makers of delicious, wholesome snacks delivered to your door. Go to NatureBox.com/gweek to get 50% OFF your your first box.

iFixit, the world’s free online repair manual for everything.. Use coupon code GWEEK at checkout and get $10 off your order of $50 or more.

Dean's picks:

Wizard People Dear Reader

Mark's picks:

Blinkist book summaries. 15 minute versions of popular non-fictions books - $3/month for all you can read

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Bruno the bear's tragic demise commemorated in sleeping bag form


In 2006, Bruno the bear appeared in Bavaria, the first wild bear spotted in the region for 170. So they hunted him down and killed him.

Artist Eiko Ishizawa has commemorated Bruno's life and death with a sculptural sleeping bag shaped like Bruno's hide and head, which you climb into and zip shut. She's making a limited run, based on commissions. They're $2350 for adult bears and $2050 for kid-sized bears. If you buy one, Ishizawa would like you to photograph yourself in it around the world for a gallery of the wanderings of Bruno's avatars.

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Project Thirty-Three: a website devoted to beautiful, minimal vintage album cover design

Project Thirty-Three is a lovely website honoring beautiful minimalist graphic design on vintage album covers. The site was created and is maintained by Jive Time Records, a Seattle-based store specializing in used vinyl. Above and below, some of the amazing examples they've collected.

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Rockabillly space-skeleton DJ backpack


This is a pretty perfect dads-and-grads season item: a backpack featuring: a) a skeleton with; b) sideburns and a quiff, wearing; c) a spacesuit, standing on d) the moon, while e) working a set of turntables. That's the whole package, all right.

Mojo Blast Off Backpack (via Crazy Abalone)

Spotters' guide to UFOs, 1967


Found in Bruce Sterling's tumblr: UFO typologies, 1967

Magical ring juggling

Hypnotic and astonishing contact juggling of rings by Lindzee Poi.

John and Yoko in love and on love

"It's all true folks. All you need is love." (Blank on Blank)

Kinetic sculptures made from popsicle sticks


Joyce Lin, a design student at RISD, has produced a wonderful set of kinetic sculptures made from popsicle sticks and other media, produced in spare time during the semester. They're incredibly fun to watch and I'm sure they're a delight to play with in person. The rest of her portfolio is equally exciting.

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'Animal Architecture,' an awesome new photo book about the structures critters create

'Animal Architecture," by Ingo Arndt and Jürgen Tautz, with a foreword by Jim Brandenburg, is a beautiful new science/photography book exploring the mystery of nature through the "complex and elegant structures that animals create both for shelter and for capturing prey."

Arndt is a world-renowned nature photographer based in Germany, whose work you may have seen in National Geographic, GEO and BBC Wildlife.

Above, a grey bowerbird's bower in Australia's Northern Territory. "The grey bowerbird goes to extreme lengths to build a love nest from interwoven sticks and then covers the floor with decorative objects. The more artful the arbor, the greater the chance a male has of attracting a mate."

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Dig this awesome Peter Pan pop-up book

Recently, I spent a weekend out of town with some friends. We rented a geodesic dome vacation house in the woods. One exciting part of renting someone else's house is exploring some of the things they leave out for their renters--like their book collections. This house was throughly outfitted for children to visit, set up with loads of toys, tree houses, playgrounds, and children's books. Peter Pan: A Pop-up Adaptation by Robert Sabuda was far and away the best book there.

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Pre-code movies worth watching

At The Toast, Mallory Ortberg has a list of films from the 1920s and 30s — prior to the widespread adoption of the Hollywood Production Code and its morality guidelines — that are actually worth tracking down through Amazon, Netflix, and other sources.

Most of the movies made during this era have been lost, and not all of those that survived are timeless classics. Studios were still figuring out what worked in a talking picture and what didn’t, so there’s lots of problems with pacing — some movies waste several minutes on dead air in scenes that would have been cut entirely just a few years later. Serious technical issues dog the crop from 1928-1930, too; there’s one film where every time you see a character holding a piece of paper, it’s soaking wet because at the time there was no other way to keep from picking up every crackle and rustle of a dry sheet of paper with the microphones. So there are more than a few pre-Code films that have been deservedly forgotten.

That said, Ortberg offers up a nice accounting of the ones you should check out, arranged in categories such as "Worth Watching For Any Reason", "If You Want To Get Into Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Racial Dynamics", "Worth It For the Titles Alone", and "If You Want To Take A Deeply Uncomfortable Journey To Another Time" (which hits all the fun horrible things of the past not covered by the racial dynamics category).