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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

Coal Oil Illustration.jpg

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

Wonderful scans from a 1962 book of tech predictions for1975

Here's Meat Puppets drummer Derrick Bostrom's scans from Arnold B. Barach's 1962 book, 1975 and the Changes to Come. In addition to the usual hopes for space colonies and some prescient looks at things like pacemakers, there's also a healthy dose of wonderfully goofy, super-modernist TV designs and the ever-popular Kitchen of the Future (shown here).

1975 And The Changes To Come (via Paleofuture)

Verminous Dickens cake banned from Melbourne cake show

"Great Expectations, the Miss Havisham Cake," a remarkable, vermin-infested entry from the Hotham Street Ladies art collective was excluded from the Melbourne Cake Show on grounds of "bad taste." Boo!

Contraband Cake (Thanks, Ansible, via Submitterator)

Luke's mini-Catfish experience on PostSecret

My pal Luke Pebler was an unwitting PostSecret card, and he hopes the sender will get in touch with him.
201010151308On Saturday night, I received a frantic text from my wife instructing me to check "seriously right now." Although I was peripherally aware of the site, full of anonymous secrets collaged onto postcards, I had never visited.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the page loaded and the first postcard was me. Specifically, an old picture of me standing in my living room, wearing a Denver Broncos jersey and giving the camera a thumbs-up. The following handwritten secret had been overlaid:

To impress a girl
I rooted for the Denver Broncos
I hate myself for it

Over the next couple days I received many messages from friends and family, all ZOMGing over my appearance. The reactions broke cleanly into two camps -- about half thought it was hilarious and assumed that I or someone close to me had submitted it as a goof; the other half were convinced that a stranger had used the photo, and found that bizarre and slightly creepy. My wife, a media scholar, immediately pointed out that I was a "creator" whose work has been "poached and reinterpreted."

I wasn't sure what to feel, at first. Tickled? Flattered? Sketched out?

The more I think about it, the more I believe the author must be a stranger with an earnest secret, and not a friend playing a prank. As unlikely as it would be for a random someone to find and use the old pic (public on Flickr since 2006), it makes more sense than someone trying to tease me, through a site that I never read, by suggesting that I faked Broncos fandom (Preposterous!) in order to impress my (NFL-agnostic) wife.

I'm fascinated by the idea of someone using an amateur photograph of a stranger in such a fashion, when most PostSecrets make use of professional imagery from print ads or magazines. This person went to the trouble to find my picture online, print it out, add their secret, and snail mail it to PostSecret -- where it was rescanned and put back online, thus completing the social-media-compost Circle of Life.

I've gotten over my initial case of the willies. I'm dying to meet this person.

Which is, of course, antithetical to everything PostSecret stands for -- but I don't care. If you're out there, sir or madam -- I admire your sense of humor and taste in stock imagery. Please consider getting in touch.

The world according to San Francisco

As Homer Simpson once said, "It's funny cause it's true!" The World According to San Francisco (Thanks, Ted Weinstein!)

My Princess Boy

Five-year-old Dyson Kilodavis is a little boy who loves sparkly things: princess gowns, hot pink socks, glittery jewelry. Deal with it.

Richard Metzger over at Dangerous Minds points to a lovely children's book by Dyson's mom, titled My Princess Boy, and shares a surprisingly non-exploitative television interview with the boy's mom, dad, and older brother.

Richard says:

This child, I think it's clear, is going to be who and what he'll be. But unlike many kids like him, he's not going to grow up thinking there is anything wrong with who he is. This kid is FABULOUS and nothing less! With all of the gay bullying, suicides and the general anti-gay bigotry going on in rightwing circles, Cheryl, Dean and their older song Dkobe, deserve admiration and gratitude from the rest of us, for being such an amazing, wise examples for other people in their situation, with their loving parenting of their "Princess Boy."

You have to watch the video. Have some kleenex handy. I sure cried. It's right here: My Princess Boy: Meet the most awesome family in America
(Dangerous Minds, thanks Tara McGinley)

Amazon Link for the book.