Mystery of creepy painting solved

Mrs and Mrs Webb, a couple in England, were mailed this curiously sinister portrait. No return address, cover letter or other information accompanied the plain but very strange painting, whose subject was described by Mrs Webb as "a horrible old crone." Turns out that it's probably a rendering of Mr. Webb's great, great grandmother. [BBC]

P.S. Speaking of plain but menacing paintings, it appears that we've never covered The Hands Resist Him here at Boing Boing!

It's not a horror movie; it's physics

This creepy-looking image of U.S. swimmer Tyler Clary has its origin in the movement of water molecules. The Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics tumblr explains what's going on — and how physics can make a swimmer look like a shiny, face-melted ghoul.

Creepers gotta creep — for science

In 1938, researchers at Bryn Mawr College published a paper on Egocentricity in Adult Conversations. In order to accurately record the pattern and content of conversations as they happened in real life, the researchers used several methods that would be considered ... sketchy ... today. Among them: Hiding underneath female college students' dorm beds.

City business people

NewImage My friend Jason Tester pointed me to this oddly mesmerizing and creeptastic stock video titled "City business people." Entranced, our own Rob Beschizza looped it and also generated the requisite animated GIF, and another one after the jump that focuses on the gentleman's knowing chuckle.

Read the rest

Your drugs are tested on Russians

It's so difficult to get access to modern health care in Russia that the country is becoming a haven for medical testing — there are more people there willing to be guinea pigs for more stuff simply because they have no other way to see a doctor. This is one of those fun dilemmas where medical testing is necessary, but hard to talk wealthy, healthy people into if they already have access to health care. The result: Drugs and treatments get tried out, voluntarily, on whoever is most desperate.

An "extremely rare anti-masturbation device"

Antimasturbationdevice


I'm sure this didn't cause any psychological issues in the Catholic boys forced to wear this.

The rare 19th century item is made of copper and was designed to be worn by boys so they could not commit the 'sin'. Attached to a belt it would have encased the genitalia. The bizarre antique dates back to around 1880 and was used in Catholic France. It is being offered for sale on auction website eBay with a starting price of £750.

Seller David Burns, of Curious Science, says that during a quarter of a century dealing in medical curiosities he has never had one for sale... "This is the first example we have offered for sale in 24 years. The condition is excellent. Three and half inches top to base."

An "extremely rare anti-masturbation device"

Previously: Antique anti-masturbation device

Accused Maryland cannibal-murderer who ate pal's heart and brain had podcast, was into QR codes, self-publishing

Profile pic Alex Kinyua, aka COREeye67, used for his "WARRIOR SYNDICATE RADIO (WSR-366)" podcast.


Maryland resident Alexander Kinyua reportedly confessed to police that he killed his a man who lived with his family for months by cutting him up with a knife, then eating his heart and parts of his brain.

The Baltimore Sun reports about the online life of Kinyua, an electrical engineering major at Morgan State University and long-time member of its ROTC program. He was "always in his own little world, preaching everywhere he went and talking about how he was writing a book," said one acquaintance.

Kinyua's online life included a self-published podcast, motivational videos on YouTube, lots of Facebook posts, a manic stream of internet comments directed at media figures and celebrities, and plans to self-publish an e-book.

Read the rest

CIA threat-tracking technology is fascinating, creepy

Palantir is security software that helps CIA analysts take innocuous events (man comes to U.S. on temporary visa, man takes flight training classes, man buys one-way ticket from Boston to California) and put them into a context where potential threats can become more apparent (the one man is actually several, and they're all on the same flight).

The technology is based on a system developed by PayPal, and it's interesting because it's one of the few examples of counter-terrorism work that is actually proactive. Instead of adding increasingly elaborate airport security rules that are merely responses to the most recently exposed plot, a program like Palantir has the potential to spot plots in the making with less hassle to the general public. That could make it a good thing. On the other hand, Palantir comes with plenty of its own privacy and civil rights concerns. This Bloomberg BusinessWeek story is pretty "rah rah rah" in tone, ironically cheering on all the things that make Palantir seem rather creepy to me. But it is a great example of why countering terrorism is really just one long string of incredibly difficult choices. What matters more, who makes that call, and how do we balance a reasonable desire for safety with a reasonable desire to not be creeped the hell out by our own government?

In October, a foreign national named Mike Fikri purchased a one-way plane ticket from Cairo to Miami, where he rented a condo. Over the previous few weeks, he’d made a number of large withdrawals from a Russian bank account and placed repeated calls to a few people in Syria. More recently, he rented a truck, drove to Orlando, and visited Walt Disney World by himself. As numerous security videos indicate, he did not frolic at the happiest place on earth. He spent his day taking pictures of crowded plazas and gate areas.

None of Fikri’s individual actions would raise suspicions. Lots of people rent trucks or have relations in Syria, and no doubt there are harmless eccentrics out there fascinated by amusement park infrastructure. Taken together, though, they suggested that Fikri was up to something. And yet, until about four years ago, his pre-attack prep work would have gone unnoticed. A CIA analyst might have flagged the plane ticket purchase; an FBI agent might have seen the bank transfers. But there was nothing to connect the two. Lucky for counterterror agents, not to mention tourists in Orlando, the government now has software made by Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley company that’s become the darling of the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

The day Fikri drives to Orlando, he gets a speeding ticket, which triggers an alert in the CIA’s Palantir system. An analyst types Fikri’s name into a search box and up pops a wealth of information pulled from every database at the government’s disposal. There’s fingerprint and DNA evidence for Fikri gathered by a CIA operative in Cairo; video of him going to an ATM in Miami; shots of his rental truck’s license plate at a tollbooth; phone records; and a map pinpointing his movements across the globe. All this information is then displayed on a clearly designed graphical interface that looks like something Tom Cruise would use in a Mission: Impossible movie.

As the CIA analyst starts poking around on Fikri’s file inside of Palantir, a story emerges. A mouse click shows that Fikri has wired money to the people he had been calling in Syria. Another click brings up CIA field reports on the Syrians and reveals they have been under investigation for suspicious behavior and meeting together every day over the past two weeks. Click: The Syrians bought plane tickets to Miami one day after receiving the money from Fikri. To aid even the dullest analyst, the software brings up a map that has a pulsing red light tracing the flow of money from Cairo and Syria to Fikri’s Miami condo. That provides local cops with the last piece of information they need to move in on their prey before he strikes.

Fikri isn’t real—he’s the John Doe example Palantir uses in product demonstrations that lay out such hypothetical examples. The demos let the company show off its technology without revealing the sensitive work of its clients.

Yet another weird Herman Cain campaign ad: "He Carried Yellow Flowers"

[Video Link, via Tim Heidecker] This one's classic, meaning it came out back in August when no-one was paying attention.

Live-size sleeping woman candle


This wax sculpture of a sleeping woman was made with several wicks, turning her into a giant candle (not to be mistaken for the soap woman of the Mutter Museum). It was sculptded for the Arnhem Mode Biennale 2011 by A.F. Vandevorst.

production A.F. VANDEVORST installation for Arnhem Mode Biennale 2011 (via Neatorama)