Author: 4chan bootlegging led to big sales increase

Legend has it that piracy harms legitimate sales, but the truth is often otherwise. Underground, Steve Lieber's brilliant graphic novel, was recently bootlegged in full at 4chan. Lieber, instead of backtracing the culprits, jumped into the thread and started chatting with his new fans. Later, he posted about the effect the piracy had on his sales. Want to know how big a deal 4chan is? According to Leiber's numbers, the only articles to create clear sales increases of the book were Boing Boing's own review, which wiped out Amazon's inventory, and the 4chan thread. See if you can guess which generated more. [Underground. Submitted by PaulR]

The middle class in Africa

middleclassafrica.jpg

Earlier this week, my mother-in-law came back from a vacation in Africa—one of those organized group safari tours where they ferry you from camp hotel to camp hotel. In the car, while I drove her and my father-in-law back from the airport, she talked a bit about the tour guides, native Africans she assumed had to be better-off than most, but not rich. And that made her realize that she'd never heard much about an African middle class before, or seen photos of what their lives were like. All you ever saw on TV or in magazines were the obscenely wealthy, and the obscenely poor.

A photo research project organized by photographer Joan Bardeletti aims to change that by documenting middle-class life in the Ivory Coast, Kenya and Mozambique. The photo above is from the city of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, where being middle class seems to involve finding a base job, and then devoting free time to entrepreneurship.

Do the middle classes really exist in Abidjan? With between 1 and 7€ per person [about $1.30 to $9.75] per day, their income could seem pathetic to the occidental standards. However, they live far better than the poor (1€ or less a day) and can not be compared to the rich minority. Often coming from numerous and rural families, their education brought them in town and allowed them to emerge. For most of them, they have a steady job allowing them to build up their future, live in a flat with electricity, TV, fridge .... and invest in their children's education, sending them to private school if they feel it is necessary. Upon this definition, they represent 30% of the country's population and hold 40% of its wealth.

[Pictured] Charles Kapié with his partner in the street close to their office. At 30 years old he has created and runs a consulting firm in agronomy and a cyber café. He used to be a civil servant and he invested his "rappel" (first year of salary paid at once) in his activity and resigned after one year. He was paid $400/month. He situate himself in the middle of the Middle Classes.

This is a French site. The English translations, as you can see, are a little funky and most of the photo captions are only in French, but Google Translate has been doing a good job making sense of them for me. And this is definitely worth looking through, regardless.

The Middle Classes in Africa

(Via Michael Clemens)

Photo: Joan Bardeletti

T-shirt turns into a zombie


This zombie shirt has an upside-down zombie face screened on the inside -- pull the back of the shirt over your head and voila, instant topless zombie!

Turn Into A Zombie (via Neatorama)

Tentacle pot pie!


Want to give your pot pies a bit of a Hallowe'eny touch? Just add tentacles! "First position the tentacles. Pick them up by the wide end and drape them by lowering the narrow end down to the the plate first, then up the edge of the bowl and over the lip of the bowl. If the wide end of the tentacle extends further than an inch in towards the center of the bowl simply trim it with kitchen scissors before letting it go."

Tentacle Pot Pie (via JWZ)

President Obama's "It Gets Better" video

Video Link. Well—"Not for him it hasn't," quips Choire.

Yes, It gets better: but not so much better that you can, say, join the U.S. military without having to pretend you're not who you are, and forego the legal protections straight enlistees enjoy. "I support your differences! Up to a point." That's the message, loud and clear.

Bob Guccione, RIP

Bob Guccione, founder of much-loved and much-missed science fiction magazine Omni, died yesterday of cancer in a Plano, TX hospital.

Guccione also won fame as the producer of the classic seventies epic Caligula.

A Rolling Stone profile from 2004 is worth a revisit on this day: The Twilight of Bob Guccione.

(Thanks, Rob Beschizza)

Derren Brown's Confessions of a Conjuror: funny memoir is also a meditation on attention, theatrics and psychology

Mentalist/magician Derren Brown’s new memoir, Confessions of a Conjuror, is a very odd sort of book. Technically, it’s a kind of autobiography, but what it really is is a kind of meandering shaggy dog story that presents narrative in the same way that a great conjuror presents a trick.

Read the rest

"It Gets Better" video from Google employees

This is pretty great. A video contribution to the "It Gets Better" project from employees of Google. Video Link.

R2D2, the bathing-suit edition


The Artoo bathing suit from Australian designer James Lillis will make help you blend in on the sandy beaches of Tatooine.

Artoo (via JWZ)

iPhone captures drama at the bird feeder

Dusty Trice Submitterated this video and says, "I wedged my iPhone inside a bird feeder and recorded an hour of video. I captured this awesome HD extreme close-up of a woodpecker eating seeds and battling a red-winged blackbird."

The Mostly Forgotten Legend of Coal Oil Johnny

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Sort of a proto-J.R. Ewing crossed with Johnny Appleseed, Coal Oil Johnny was a folk hero/cautionary tale from America's first big oil boom (and, subsequently, first big oil bust). At the Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal writes about how the real-life John W. Steele made a fortune when oil was found under his Pennsylvania land in the 1860s—and how Steele then hemorrhaged so much of that cash, so fast, that his wastefulness and eventual return to poverty became the stuff of legend.

He even had a steed to match Bunyan's blue ox. She was a small horse named Bess, and she had fine tastes, too. Legend has it that one night in Braddock, Pennsylvania, Johnny rode her right into a bar on his way to a good time.

"He didn't know a soul but that didn't matter," the Perrysburg Journal of Ohio wrote more than 20 years later. "'I'm Johnny Steele. Close the doors and every one make a night of it with me. Give Bess a bottle of champagne to start with."

..."It was wealth from nowhere," said Brian Black, a historian at Pennsylvania State, who wrote the book Petrolia, about those early oil years. "Somebody like that was coming in without any opportunity or wealth and suddenly has a transforming moment. That's the magic and it transfers right through to the Beverly Hillbillies and the rest of the mythology."

And then the oil ran out, just a couple of decades after the first black gold came bubbling out of the underworld. The first oil region, like Coal Oil Johnny, ended up just as poor as it had been before the strike, even if the oil fat cats made a pretty penny.

"Coal Oil Johnny personifies what the whole country learned from the Pennsylvania oil boom," Black said.

The Atlantic: The Legend of Coal Oil Johnny, America's Great Forgotten Parable

Photos from Japanese pop-singer's abandoned house


Urban explorers in Japan infiltrated the ruins of faded pop-singer Shouji Masakatsu's old home, and photographed the haunting abandoned gear and environs.

An old enka singer's house haikyo (Thanks, Mike!)

New York Times belatedly discovers ayahuasca tourism

Whatever, man. I liked ayahuasca before it sold out and went all mainstream.

Buddhist tee: This Body Will Be a Corpse

Steve Silberman sez, "'This body will be a corpse' - a dramatic reminder of impermanence from Ethan Nichtern's Interdependence Project:" "Wearing this tee is a reminder to stay in touch with the reality of impermanence as well as a way to support the efforts of the Interdependence Project."

"This Body Will Be A Corpse" Organic Cotton Tee (Thanks, Steve, via Submitterator)

Koja's UNDER THE POPPY: dark, epic and erotic novel of war and intrigue

Kathe Koja's Under the Poppy is a novel unlike any other -- even unlike any other of Kathe Koja's books, which are a marvellous genre unto themselves. In some ways, Poppy marks a return to the early-period Koja, the purveyor of dark, erotic poesie, horror novels that dripped blood and fluids and explored the way that art and love and eros twine around themselves, in bottomless tragedy from which joy and beauty shine like pennies in the sewer.

Poppy has all the emotional sophistication of the late Koja, author of spare and lean young adult novels like Buddha Boy, but it also has an epic sweep that is entirely new here, a kind of vastness that breaks free of the claustrophobia through which her people fight and love.

Poppy opens in a middle-European town on the eve of war, sometime in the late 19th century: a disreputable and dirty town full of brothels and cutpurses and spies and intrigue. One such brothel, Under the Poppy, stands apart from the others: it is more than seller of sex: it is a stage where every night, whores act out fantastic playlets, spurred on by the virtuoso piano-playing of a tongueless player who expresses himself in mime and music.

To the Poppy comes Istvan, a puppeteer whose mecs -- elaborate clockwork automata -- are perfectly suited to the Poppy's stage, being endowed with enormous clockwork organs and Istvan's bawdy and funny-cruel ventriloquism. But Istvan isn't just a travelling jongleur; he is the long-lost brother of Decca, the madame of the house, and the long-lost lover of Rupert, the front-of-the-house man. All three were orphans together in the long-ago, until love and anger drove them apart. Now, reunited, they might have all they ever wanted.

Except for the war. The war, threatening from the distance, is coming to town. With it come conspirators and commanders: Jurgen Vidor, a sexually sadistic mercantile empire-builder; Mr Arrowsmith, the special aide to to the coming forces, and the General, commander of the armies and participant in the vast conspiracy that seeks to take all of Europe for a small cabal of rich and secretive men.

War descends, dreams are smashed, old friendships split at the seams, blood is spilled, the brave are braver, the cowards cover themselves in shame, and coarse soldiers take up residence in the Poppy. When the players and the whores flee for Brussels, the dream is at an end.

This is just the first act, and it's merely the setup for a second act that's long enough to be a book in its own right, in which the stories of minor and major characters retwine: love and betrayal, blackmail and beatings, sex and death, all in that gummy blackness of stained cobbles and old blood.

This book made me drunk. Koja's language is at its poetic best, and the epic drama had me digging my nails into my palms. It's like a Tom Waits hurdy-gurdy loser's lament come to life, as sinister as a dark circus.

Under the Poppy