Hugo Awards 2010: some of the best results in recent memory

Last night, the Hugo Awards, one of science fiction's most prestigious prizes, were presented in Melbourne at Aussiecon 4. The Hugo ceremony is one of my favorite parts of any WorldCon, and last night's event, emceed by Garth Nix, was a particularly outstanding edition. The ballot was extremely strong, with works that I really enjoyed competing in several categories. The voter and nominator turnout were both much higher than usual, and the program moved at a very, very good clip. This year's award, designed by Nick Stathopolous, was gorgeous, incorporating aboriginal motifs and an organic, Belle Époque look inspired by the Paris Metro signs. Kudos to the administrators on a smooth, well-run ceremony!

The fiction prizes were especially sweet this year. Best novel was an almost-unheard-of tie between China Mieville for his brilliant, mind-bending The City and the City and Paolo Bacigalupe for his stellar debut novel The Windup Girl. Best novella went to my collaborator Charlie Stross for Palimpsest, from his wonderful, mind-bending solo short story collection Wireless. Best novelette went to Peter Watts for The Island, from The New Space Opera 2. Boing Boing readers will remember Peter as the SF writer who was beaten and gassed near the US/Canada border when he got out of his car to ask why US customs officers were searching his car; he spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting the charge and the potential two-year sentence; was found guilty but received a suspended sentence. SF fans raised money to bring Peter to Australia, and his acceptance speech in which he called this the "best and worst year of his life," was brilliant. Read the rest

Historic artifact for a holiday weekend

This is the world's first frozen margarita machine, invented and built by Mariano Martinez in 1971 from parts of a soft-serve ice cream maker. His inspiration: A 7-11 Slurpee.

Today, it resides in the collection of the National Museum of American History, where a museum director once called it a, "classic example of the American entrepreneurial spirit."

Smithsonian: Top 10 Inventions from the Collections of the National Museum of American History Read the rest

A glut of acorns, or a bad case of The Plague?

What would you make of medieval historical records that prominently note the occurrence of large crops of acorns? It's a bit of a weird departure from the kinds of things these records normally care about, i.e. battles and the deaths of famous people. In fact, the people keeping these records didn't even eat acorns, and other, more useful, crops aren't mentioned at all.

But, sometimes, an acorn might be more than just an acorn, according to a 2003 paper by classicist David Woods. That's because the Latin word for "little nut" and the word sometimes used to describe the swollen lymph nodes caused by the Capital-P Plague are one and the same.

The Latin term glandularius is the root of our word for gland; etymologically, glandula means 'little nuts' because this is what they felt like when palpated. There is at least one other example of a plague record using glandulara as a descriptor. In c. 660 the Burgundian 'Chronicle of Fredegar' describes the 599 plague of Marseilles as a cladis glanduaria.

So "a spark of leprosy and an unheard of abundance of nuts", becomes the far more logical, "we've had some issues with leprosy and The Plague this year".

Contagions: Plague among the nuts

Image via Wikipedia user Twid, under CC

Read the rest

Just look at this awesome banana skateboard.

Just look at it.

Hack Job/Brian Tellock (via Neatorama) Previously: Just look at this awesome banana Viking helmet. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome slow-moving performance artist whose face has been covered with exploding bananas. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome EU banana curvature regulation. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome anti-banana-ripening bag. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome Korean banana-ripening facility. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana peeler. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana peeling simulator. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana slicer. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana saver clip. Boing Boing Just look at this awesome banana bunker. Boing Boing HOWTO disassemble a banana - Boing Boing Robber uses banana as "gun" - Boing Boing Hemant "The Friendly Atheist" Mehta Interviews Ray "The Banana Man ... Peeling bananas from the other end is easier - Boing Boing Forlorn bananas of London - Boing Boing 11 students suspended for banana prank - Boing Boing Read the rest

Teach your children to smoke ad

Parenting advice from another era: give your squalling children a pipe to smoke! Right up there with "Speak roughly to your little boy and beat him when he sneezes."

Smoke Duke of Durham Read the rest

Abusive parenting brought on by bad coffee: vintage Sanka ad

Sanka: because your old man beats you when he's got the jitters.

Has his old man been hitting the coffee again? Read the rest

Cannabis Catering

Cannabis Catering offers gourmet meals laced with pot. The delivery service isn't cheap, around $100/person, but damn those pot-atoes look tasty. And yes, you need a medical marijuana card to order. From Fast Company:
The idea for Cannabis Catering came to (Chef Frederick) Nesbitt when he learned that his friend's diabetic mother had been diagnosed with cancer. "I would bring back edibles [from the dispensary], but they're so high in high-fructose corn syrup that she was high off sugar rather than being medicated," he says. So Nesbitt began experimenting with his own pot food--starting with mashed potatoes.
"Meet the Personal Chef of Pot" (Thanks, Mathias Crawford!) Read the rest

Boneless, clubfooted French Connection model invades Melbourne

As seen tonight in the casino across from the Melbourne Convention Centre: a boneless, clubfooted French Connection model.

Club-footed rubber-band woman visits us from the French Connection dimension, Melbourne, Australia The criticism that Ralph Lauren doesn't want you to see! Photoshop retouching of model Searching for the skinny on Ralph Lauren ad (UPDATE: "We are ... Ralph Lauren opens new outlet store in the Uncanny Valley - Boing ... Odd Victoria's Secret image analyzed with Photoshop forensics ... Xeni on Rachel Maddow Show: Ralph Lauren's Photoshop of Horrors ... Read the rest

Homeroom Security: book about the insanity of zero-tolerance classroom policies

Salon's got a blood-boiling interview with Aaron Kupchik, author of Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear, a close look at four very different US schools. Each school has a different demographic and different location, but the thing they all share is a set of zero-tolerance policies that turn them into Kafka-esque nightmares:
They started in the '90s, and they were spurred by the federal government's Safe and Drug Free Schools Act, which required schools to implement zero tolerance for certain things like weapons. What schools have done across the country in the last 15 years is to expand greatly what falls under zero-tolerance policies. So they extend to not just deadly weapons and drugs but sometimes fighting and prescription drugs and other types of substances. What they mean is that if you're caught violating this broad rule, there's no discussion and no elaboration of why you did this. No investigation. We just punish you with the one-size-fits-all punishment.

We're teaching kids what it means to be a citizen in our country. And what I fear we're doing is teaching them that what it means to be an American is that you accept authority without question and that you have absolutely no rights to question punishment. It's very Big Brother-ish in a way. Kids are being taught that you should expect to be drug tested if you want to participate in an organization, that walking past a police officer every day and being constantly under the gaze of a security camera is normal.

Read the rest

Kids' Rube Goldberg machine

Here's video of the triumphant success of an elaborate kids' Rube Goldberg machine, created at an "informal Rube Goldberg summer camp for kids ages 3-8." I know nothing about this summer-camp, but it seems like one of the great Good Things of our era -- especially judging from the awesome elation of the kids after the successful run!

How to Get a Beach Ball Into a Galvanized Bucket (the Hard Way) OK Go's Rube Goldberg music video Rube Goldberg rat-run sends a neutral balloon through dozens of ... RFID Rube Goldberg device Rube Goldberg Machine animation from Sesame Street Rube Goldberg Cream Egg killer Ideal toy commercials from 1963 Read the rest

Applying "ownership" to links, public domain material does more harm than good

My latest Locus Magazine column, "Proprietary Interest," talks about the way that our instinctive ownership claims over the stuff we find and post to the Internet do more harm than good. When we claim that public domain images, interesting links, or other net-fodder are "ours," we invite a muddle in which others make even more compelling ownership claims. For example, if the old public-domain Lysol ad you scan is "yours," then why shouldn't it be Lysol's?. This is a world in which we spend all our time arguing about whose interest is most legitimate, instead of sharing, discussing, criticizing and enjoying the world around us.
Any ethical claim to ownership over a scan of a public domain work should be treated with utmost suspicion, not least because of all the people with stronger claims than the scanner! To be consistent with the ethical principle that one should never use another's work without permission (regardless of the law or the public domain), every scanner would have a duty to ask, at the very least, the corporations whose products are advertised in these old chestnuts (the very best of them are for brands that persist to today, since these vividly illustrate the way that our world has changed - for example, see the very frank Lysol douche ad). For if scanning a work confers an ownership interest, then surely paying for the ad's production offers an even more compelling claim!

And the publishers of the magazines and the newspapers - to scan is one thing, but what about the firm that paid to physically print the edition that we make the scan from?

Read the rest

TipEx's clever, raunchy YouTube ad

TipEx (a Commonwealth analogue for Wite-Out and other correction-tape products) has an ingenious and engaging YouTube marketing campaign: a video called "NSFW: A hunter shoots a bear," branches off into a kind of video-text-adventure, where you are invited to type verbs into a box and see what the bear and the hunter do with one another (you can get funny results out of "fuck," of course, and also "gets high with" and "dances" -- I'm sure there's more). It's a kind of next-generation Subservient Chicken, and the (no doubt blisteringly expensive) creative reworking of YouTube's familiar user-interface makes it even more click-trancey than its forebears.

This is how to use YouTube to sell a product. (Thanks, Copyranter!) Subservient Chicken's X-Rated Bits Exposed by Code Food Porn -- Burger King Subservient Chicken HPOA (HOPA?) girl "Jenny Whiteboard" is obvious troll LULZ - Boing ... Lego boulder threatens civilization. Update: ugh, "stealth" viral ... Motorola, could you please tell your viral marketer to get out of ... Cellphone popcorn hoax revealed as viral marketing scam - Boing ... Read the rest

Warning: LSD turns hot dogs into screaming trolls with 7 children

Case Study: LSD, a PSA produced by Lockheed Aircraft (!) in 1969. Read the rest

Creative Commons licensed banjo gospel

Copyfighting banjo-picker Patrick Costello has a new book of free/open banjo tunes: Songs for Sunday: "In this book you will find a selection of hymns, country gospel and even some blues songs arranged for frailing banjo. The arrangements presented here blend melody and rhythm so that you can sing along with the banjo and still be able to knock out a solo once in a while. The accompanying DVD contains video workshops where I walk you through each song." (Thanks, Patrick, via Submitterator!) Read the rest

Merry Cemetery celebrates the dead with gaily painted grave-markers

Michael sez, "The Merry Cemetery is a cemetery in north-east Romania (the Moldovan region). I visited it with my wife and parents-in-law this summer. nstead of a sombre and sad approach to death the Merry Cemetery celebrates life with colourful painted oak 'headstones' engraved with a picture and story of the life of the deceased."

The Merry Cemetery (Thanks, Michael!) Great Caesar's Ghost: Dery on Rome's Cemetery of the Capuchins ... German cemetery nixes sexualized tombstone for sex-worker ... Cemetery 2.0: networked tombstones Highgate Cemetery photos Pet cemetery dug up to clear way for Hampton Inn Writer who photographed HP Lovecraft's headstone ordered to delete ... Walt Disney's grave Read the rest

News stories about stupid young people make old people feel good

Dr. Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick (Ohio State) and Matthias Hastall, (Zeppelin University, Germany) have published an article in the Journal of Communication with their research showing that old people love to read stories about young people doing stupid things because it makes them feel better about being old. The study was conducted using 178 German adults aged 18 to 30 and 98 between 55 and 60. I have no idea if this is a valid statistical sample, but since it confirms my own feelings about old people, I will trust its results.
All the adults in the study were shown what they were led to believe was a test version of a new online news magazine. They were also given a limited time to look over either a negative and positive version of 10 pre-selected articles.

Each story was also paired with a photograph depicting someone of either the younger or the older age group.

The researchers found that older people were more likely to choose to read negative articles about those younger than themselves. They also tended to show less interest in articles about older people, whether negative or positive.

But younger people preferred to read positive articles about other young people.

Older people enjoy reading negative stories about young (via /.) Read the rest

Reading list for new science fiction readers

IO9's Annalee Newitz has posted a great syllabus and book list for novice students of science fiction literature, filled with good suggestions for getting started in the field. Read the rest

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