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Armageddon 2419 A.D., first appearance of "Buck Rogers"

As a kid I loved Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. What an incredible TV series! TWIKI, Buck, Wilma, Doctor Theopolis and some incredible dance moves (that NBC appears to have taken down from YouTube) grabbed my attention and promised an amazing future for a resilient human race.

In my 20s I discovered Philip Francis Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D.

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Trash anthropology in NYC

Harpers june 22 1895For years, Robin Nagle was anthropologist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. She's just published a book about trash and how we deal with it, or don't. It's titled Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, and Collector's Weekly interviewed her about it.
Ows 13639680373191 (The department) was created as the Department of Street Cleaning in 1881, and renamed the Department of Sanitation in 1929. But it was actually made effective for the first time in 1895, in that the people who worked for the department actually collected garbage and swept the streets.

In its early days, the department didn’t really function at all. There are some photographs taken for Harper’s Weekly (above), before and after photos of street corners in New York in 1893 and then in 1895. And the before pictures are pretty astonishing, people were literally shin-high or knee-high in this muck that was a combination of street gunk, horse urine and manure, dead animals, food waste, and furniture crap.

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City (Amazon)

"A Filthy History: When New Yorkers Lived Knee-Deep in Trash" (Collector's Weekly)

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," animated and accelerated

Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (the movie) on speed. Er, even more speed. From 1A4 Studio who have done this with a number of movies, including Star Wars, Back to the Future, and The Matrix.

Oral history of heavy metal

Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal is the shocking, insane, brutal, and fascinating story of heavy metal music told by those who lived it, from Black Sabbath (above), Anthrax, and Slayer, to Megadeth, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. Here's a taste:

NewImageROGER MIRET (Agnostic Front): In the mid-'80s, there wasn't much difference between metal and hardcore scenes. Everyone dressed in black, everyone was walking out of step with society, because whether you were a punk rocker, a skinhead, a hardcore kid, or a metal dude, you didn't fit in. You were a weirdo, and nobody's mother wanted their kids hanging out with you.

PETER STEELE: (Type O Negative, Carnivore): [Carnivore's second album, 1987's] Retaliation was extremely influenced by my discovery of hardcore music at CBGB in '85 and '86. What I strived to do was create an album that was half Black Sabbath and half Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Sheer Terror, Black Flag, stuff like that. I loved the heaviness, the slowness, the dirge of Sabbath. But at the same time, going to CBGB on Sundays for the matinee, there was so much unbelievable energy in there. It didn't even matter if bands were not in tune.

MIRET: All these bands like Anthrax and Metallica would come and see us at CBGB. It was like the welcoming home of all these bands, and I think meeting each other and seeing each other's bands really cemented the crossover scene...

SCOTT IAN (Anthrax, S.O.D.): I used to go to the CBGB hardcore matinees and that got me totally into Agnostic Front, C.O.C., and D.R.I. You'd have all these hardcore and metal kids coming together to see these bands and there were definitely fights, but at the same time you felt this sense of community.

HARLEY FLANAGAN (Cro-Mags): If it were not for Venom and Motörhead, the Cro-Mags would not have sounded the way we did. I was hanging out with violent skinheads with crazy pentagrams and swastikas tattooed all over them, listening to Venom and Discharge, huffing glue, trying to invoke demons.

Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal (Amazon)

The Oral History of NYC's Metal/Hardcore Crossover (book excerpt in the Village Voice)

Believe it or not, a new biography of Robert Ripley


The old Ripley's Believe it or Not newspaper comic had a huge and lasting impact on me as a youngster. Neal Thompson has just published his new biography of Ripley, titled "A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Judging by Megan Abbot's lengthy review in the Los Angeles Review of Books, it sounds like terrific read!

NewImageAn intrepid, curious traveler, Ripley roamed not just to see renowned wonders and not just to drink and tomcat (though he would do both, vigorously, through his entire life), but to unearth the unusual, the hidden, the specific. His travel dispatches, laden with stereotypes of the day, reflect Ripley’s private obsessions — in particular, “the inexplicable things people did for their gods,” particularly if they appeared, to American eyes, grotesque, such as the man Ripley dubs the “Hanging Hindu,” an adherent dangling from a tree via a hook stuck in his back.

Ripley’s complicated relation to “the Other” is one Thompson explores in depth. He locates in Ripley a genuine desire to burrow into the cultures he explores and share the glories and mysteries of other places. But, in large part, the comic’s success hinged on Ripley’s expert skill not at penetration but at sensationalization.

"A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!(Amazon)

"Megan Abbott on A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Ripley" (Los Angeles Review of Books)

Camille Rose Garcia's Snow White

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NewImageAt last night's opening for Camille Rose Garcia's breathtaking "Down The Rabbit Hole" painting exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, I bought a copy of Camille's illustrated edition of Snow White. This is not Disney's delightful Snow White story though, but rather the darker, creepier tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. Camille's goth-inspired, phantasmagoric fine art bring the classic story to life once again. Snow White by the Brothers Grimm and Camille Rose Garcia (Amazon)

A train hopper's photos

NewImageNewImageWhen Mike Brodie was 17, he hopped his first train and instantly fell in love with the freedom of riding the rails, sans ticket. Shortly thereafter, in 2004, he came upon an old instant camera and quickly earned his nickname of The Polaroid Kidd. Eventually, he "upgraded" to a 1980s camera and 35 millimeter film but continued to ride the rails and document what he saw. The result is a raw, gritty, beautiful, and often inspiring collection of snapshots now compiled into a book, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity.

You can also see a selection of these photographs at Mike Brodie Photography. (via So Bad So Good, thanks Dave Gill!)

Mark Ryden: preview of new "Gay 90's" art book


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Pop surrealism master Mark Ryden has just released a new book, compiling the exquisite paintings from his Gay 90's Olde Tyme Art Show that took place in 2010. The book was published by Rizzoli and designed by the talented Brad Keech of Pressure Printing/Porterhouse Fine Art Editions. More spreads from The Gay 90's below.

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Inside Dan Brown's Inferno


Dan Brown's Inferno will be released on May 14, 2013. Teasers point to Florence, Italy and Dante Alighieri but until this great work of American literature is upon us, it is all speculation. Fueled by the possibility of what secrets lie inside those pages, The Daily Grail's Greg Taylor published an ebook where he explores the strange subjects Brown likely raises in the new novel. Over at TDG, Greg posted some bits from his book, Inside Dan Brown's Inferno:

The Lost Leonardo A number of art scholars believe that the Palazzo Vecchio (mentioned above) has hidden somewhere within it a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, The Battle of Anghiari. Da Vinci is, of course, intimately connected to Dan Brown's works, and so given the likely use of Palazzo Vecchio as a location, this is certainly a topic that could easily be used in Inferno.

There is further support for this possibility in the fact that, on the cover of the Italian cover for Inferno, instead of the coded letters CATROACCR, we find the letters CATROVACER. This seems to be a direct anagram of 'Cerca trova' ('Seek and you will find').* This phrase is directly related to the search for the 'lost Leonardo': an Italian expert in the analysis of art through technological analysis, Maurizio Seracini, has claimed that a mural by Giorgio Vasari within the Palazzo Vecchio, the Battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana hides a clue to Leonardo da Vinci's lost work. In the upper part of Vasari's fresco, a Florentine soldier waves a green flag with the words "Cerca trova" scrawled upon it. So far, however, no-one has managed to find the lost painting.

"Secrets of the Inferno" (TDG)

"Inferno" by Dan Brown (Amazon)

"Inside Dan Brown's Inferno" by Greg Taylor (Amazon)

Bio-hackers, crime journalism, and socialstructing the future


Boing Boing friend Marina Gorbis is executive director of Institute for the Future, a non-profit thinktank where I'm a researcher. Marina has just published a compelling, provocative, and grounded book about how technology is enabling individuals to connect with one another to follow their passions and get stuff done, outside of large corporations, governments, and the other institutions that typically rule our lives. Marina calls it "socialstructing." I call it making the future better than the present. The following is an excerpt from Marina's book, "The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World." - David Pescovitz

Putting the Social Back Into Our Economy
by Marina Gorbis

My mother never heard the term social capital, but she knew its value well. In the Soviet Union, where she lived and where I grew up, no one could survive without it, and she leveraged her social capital on a daily basis. It enabled her to provide a decent life for her family, even though she was a widow without much money, excluded from the privileged class of the Communist Party. We never worried about having enough food. My sister and I always wore fashionable clothes (at least by Soviet standards). We took music and dance lessons. We went to the symphony, attended good schools, and spent summers by the Black Sea. In short, we enjoyed a lifestyle that seemed well beyond our means.

How was my mother able to provide all these things on the meager salary of a physician in a government-run clinic in Odessa, Ukraine? Social connections were a powerful currency that flowed through her network of friends and acquaintances, giving her access to many goods and services and enabling our comfortable, if not luxurious, lifestyle.

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Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock, the Boing Boing interview

A real-time, always-on existence without past or a future, origins or goals.

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James Herbert, esteemed British horror/SF author, RIP

Herbbbb Famed British horror/dystopian fiction author James Herbert has died at age 69. Herbert was the author of more than twenty scary, science fiction, and/or apocalyptic tales like the 1970s man-eating rodent classics The Rats and Lair, and also The Fog, about an insanity-inducing chemical weapon.

"James Herbert: Master of British horror fiction" (The Guardian)

James Herbert (Amazon)

Douglas Rushkoff's "Present Shock" in the NYT

Old-school bOING bOING pal Douglas Rushkoff has a new book out this week, Present Shock, and it received a rave review in the New York Times! Congrats, Doug! From Janet Maslin's NYT review:
NewImageThe ancient Greeks learned about the hero’s journey from Homer’s narratives. We’ve gotten decades of Homer Simpson, who “remains in a suspended, infinite present,” while his audience moves from one satirical pop-culture reference to the next. Citing “Forrest Gump” as a film that failed to combat late-20th-century feelings of discontinuity and “Pulp Fiction” as one wild enough to usher in a new era, Mr. Rushkoff moves on to what came next: the video game open-ended structure that keeps TV drama in the eternal present. About “Game of Thrones” he says, “This is no longer considered bad writing.” Changes to news presentation are even more dramatic. This book describes the present shock of politicians who — thanks to the 24/7 coverage ushered in by “the CNN effect” that began in the 1980s — “cannot get on top of issues, much less get ahead of them.” He notes that both the political left (MSNBC, with its slogan “Lean Forward”) and right (conservatism devoted to reviving traditional values) share this goal: They’re trying to escape the present.
Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff (Amazon)

"Out of Time: The Sins of Immediacy" (NYT)

Book about big data, predictive behavior, and decision making

Kenneth Cukier was on NPR this morning talking about the new book he wrote with Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, "Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think." It sounds fascinating and relevant to research I'm doing at Institute for the Future on newfound applications of systems thinking in what we're calling the "coming age of networked matter." Here are some choice bits from the interview:
NewImageOn how Target identifies pregnant customers

"The example comes from Charles Duhigg, who's a reporter at The New York Times, and he's the one who uncovered the story. What Target was doing was they were trying to find out what customers were likely to be pregnant or not. So what they were able to do was to look at all the different things that couples were buying prior to the pregnancy — such as vitamins at one point, unscented lotion at another point, lots of hand towels at another point — and with that, make a prediction, score the likelihood that this person was pregnant, so that they could then send coupons to the people involved... there might be a coupon for a stroller or for diapers ...

On how Google tracks the flu

"Google stores all of its searches. What they were able to do was go through the database of previous searches to identify what was the likely predictor that there was going to be a flu outbreak in certain regions of America. Now, keep in mind, we pay for the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to look at the United States and find out where flu outbreaks are taking place for the seasonal flu. But the difference is that it takes the CDC about two weeks to report the data. Google does it in real time simply on search queries."

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think" (Amazon)

The 'Big Data' Revolution: How Number Crunchers Can Predict Our Lives (NPR)

Abbott & Costello's classic "who's on first?" routine wonderfully retold in a children's book

TIME Magazine called Abbott and Costello's "Who's on first?" routine "the best comedy sketch of the twentieth century," and I find that hard to argue with. I loved listening to it as a kid, and when I hear it today it still brings a smile.

A couple of weeks ago I received a review copy of Who's on First? in the form of a children's book illustrated by John Martz. I left it on the kitchen table planning to read it later in the afternoon. My nine-year-old daughter Jane saw it when she got home from school and started reading it. She ran into my room and said, "This is great. Have you read it?" I explained that it was based on a comedy sketch performed by a couple of old-timey comedians, which didn't interest her. She loved the book, though, and read it to me that night before bed. Martz' version of the story, which stars a rabbit and a bear, has all the goofy humor of the original sketch. I'd love to see it done as an animated cartoon, using the voices of Lou and Bud.

Who's on First?