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"The Wire" as a Dickens serial

dickensomar.jpgIt's one of those ideas that sounds less nuts the more you think about it: "The Wire" imagined as a 19th-century serialized novel. After all, David Simon's great multi-season drama had all the muckraking moral outrage of Charles Dickens (Google the reviews and try to count the number of times you see the word "Dickensian"), and its shifting viewpoint over five seasons gave it a similar historical sweep and reportorial authority. The real kick of "When It's Not Your Turn," though, is its obsessive attention to detail. You have to admire the dedication of creators Joy Delyria and Sean Michael Robinson, who seemingly cram every arcane bit of the show's rich mythology into a fake lit-crit essay. The illustrations, ostensibly by Baxter "Bubz" Black, just add to the goofy verisimilitude of the thing. It's a fabulous fraud.

Time lapse video of woman with HIV/AIDS

Just noticed this powerful advertisement from the Topsy Foundation. It was one of the winners at TED's "Ad's Worth Spreading" contest, which is generally worth checking out. This particular video does a great job (with a lovely twist at the end) at showing the effectiveness of HIV antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). There's also a followup video you can view that checks in on the woman (Selinah) as well as chatting with the folks behind the video. Although I realize that the ARVs have been made possible by the work done in the pharmaceutical industry, and that there is a chance that Topsy's programs are facilitated by kind donations from the same industry, it's still a pity that there isn't a more sustainable system for the provision of such drugs to developing countries. Pity that these sorts of medicines are usually priced way too high for individuals like Selinah, which is why so many go untreated and so many die. Pity also that laws like Bill C-393 (which aim to explore different ways to create that sustainable market and lower that price) are being deliberately stalled in government so as to guarantee not being passed. That kind of unfortunate reality deserves a megafacepalm.

Pole dancing for Jesus

It's hard to to top the phrase "pole dancing for Jesus" -- I dare you to even try -- because it satisfies so many absolutely awful contemporary needs in just four words. It's the perfect bogus local-news trend story. (I first saw it on Wonkette, but it was picked up from the Fox affiliate in Houston.) It's an SEO bonanza. And it's an awesome name for the next band you never heard of that's suddenly appearing on "Saturday Night Live" for some reason. The fact that it's an actual thing -- there's a class in it at a dance studio in Spring, TX, a northern suburb of Houston, and the newsbabe somberly assures the anchordude that "you have to bring your church program with you in order to get into the class' -- only makes it better. Or worse. Or something. "Tune in," newsbabe tells anchordude, promising him in this teaser segment that she herself will take a few twirls for Jesus in the nine o'clock hour. "We will," anchordude replies, a glittery mix of prurience and ratings-lust in his eyes. Or is that just good old-fashioned religious fervor? it's getting so hard to tell.

Killing Bill C-393 equals killing period. A visual aid for Canadian politicians.

donotkillbillc393.jpg For the interest of discussion, I've made the above visual aid for members of Canada's Senate, since this is the week that they have a chance to pass a Bill that "aims to make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries." I wrote about this Bill C-393 earlier, stating how the right choice (passing the bill and not killing the bill) is obvious. But then it occurred to me that if the decision was so obvious, then why is there so much "push back" from the pharmaceutical industry (as well as the Harper government). It turns out the reason appears to be about Bill C-393 representing a trend that "could potentially" lead to a loss of control over the status quo. This being the status quo that provides the pharmaceutical industry with an inordinate amount of lobbying power to set prices; a business model that values huge profits above innovation; and something that they are so focused on protecting that even the smallest of losses must be avoided no matter the consequences. Which is simply reprehensible - because with this Bill, the consequences are not just about patent control: it's about the livelihood of millions of people, where the decision to "kill" or "not kill" the Bill could literally be a matter of life or death. Please send an email to the Harper government by using this Avaaz link.

Pakistani Actress Veena Malik schools a mullah about Islam

[Video Link] Veena Malik is a Pakistani actress who appeared on the very popular Indian TV show Bigg Boss (the Indian version of Big Brother). In the clip above, a mullah tells her she brought shame on Pakistan with her behavior on the show, and that 100% of Pakistanis agree with him. The mullah also admits he didn't watch the show himself, but knows all of this to be true.

Veena responds by pretty much mopping up the floor with him. She points out out how her religion backs up her actions, where he's in violation of the same rules he's taking her to task for. She also says if he wishes to defend Islam, there are countless targets more deserving of close inspection, but here he is instead wasting his time complaining about an actress.

It's fantastic. The world needs to see more of this. Go Veena!

(via soupsoup)

Tsunami vs Japanese Harbor

[video link] This eyewitness video of the March 11 tsunami striking Japan shows how, in under 10 minutes, a harbor in Oirase Town, Aomori Prefecture goes from business as usual to, well, gone. While other videos have shown massive destruction or endless floods, this one shows a huge dry area that completely fills with water, making it easy to see just how much water was being pushed around. It's so hard to believe this actually happened. The guy filming it must have been scared to death.

AnonyMiss, the yin to the Anonymous yang

Anonymous - the global, low-orbiting, hackalicious Internet phenomenon - has been DDoSing perceived enemies of Wikileaks and more recently taking on a supportive role in the Arabist uprising. Anonymous seems to be everywhere. But percolating below the surface is an inchoate group of women working under the Anonymous banner: They're called AnonyMiss.

Although anyone can join Anonymous there was a public perception that the group was a little too testosteronic. A call was made for women to get involved, and AnonyMiss came into being. The entry point is the AnonyMiss IRC channel. From there, newer participants can be exposed to various Anonymous ops, get technical advice, and make their choices about how to get involved. Some chose to hang around the AnonyMiss channel and develop their own flavor of change.

Emma_A is involved with Anonymous and is helping to develop AnonyMiss. She spoke with about the recently formed group, and our conversation follows below.

(A disclosure: the more I learned about AnonyMiss, the more I felt inspired to personally support their work; it would be fair to say that I am now more of a supporter than a neutral observer.)

Read the rest

Does the pharmaceutical industry exaggerate their R&D costs?

One of the principle claims for allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue their hold on current patent practices, is that research and development (or R&D) is very expensive. It just keeps coming up, and seems to be all the rage when arguing against things like the passing of Bill C-393 (which you can learn more about in this recent Boingboing post). Although the fact that there are high costs is obviously true, a recent paper published in Biosocieties would suggest that the oft cited statistics, the ones always used to support this assertion for lobbying or public relations purposes, may in fact be over inflated.

Here, the authors, Donald W. Light and Rebecca Warburton look closely at where these numbers come from:

"The most widely cited figures (by government officials and the industry's trade association for its global news network) for the cost to discover and bring a new drug (defined as a 'new chemical entity' or 'new molecular entity'; not a reformulation or recombination of existing drugs) to market are US$802 million in 2000. This has been updated by 64 per cent to $1.32 billion in 2006."

From this paper, we basically learn that the primary source of these figures come from one particular study published in 2003 and done by Joseph DiMasi, Ronald Hansen, and Henry Grabowski at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development in Boston, Massachusetts. In general, there are issues of bias in how such figures were calculated, and the Light and Warburton paper systematically looks at a number of variables that would suggest that the $802 million number, as well as subsequent numbers which extrapolate from this figure, are a gross over-estimate.

The paper is definitely worth a read, having a number of points that would suggest strong mistrust for these industry figures. Examples include:

Read the rest

Will the Harper government receive a #MEGAFACEPALM for C-393?

(FOR BILL C-393 STALLING UPDATES SEE BOTTOM OF POST: LAST UPDATE ON FRI, MARCH 25th) A few weeks ago, I was lecturing during a global issues course (ASIC200), when it became immediately clear that on some occasions, a solitary single facepalm is simply not enough. In fact, there seemed to be many things and events in this world that would merit many many simultaneous facepalms, or as we've been calling it in class, a MEGAFACEPALM! Anyway, when I looked it up on the internet, there didn't seem to be any pictures of large groups of people doing the facepalm, and so I thought, why not make our own? And so after a few clicks on my camera, and a handy "Make your own motivational poster" website, here is how it turned out: megafacepalm.jpg Of course, then the big question was for what occasion should we bestow this honour - this first unaltered photographic MEGAFACEPALM image? Well, I had a chat with the class the other day, and it seemed that the issue of Bill C-393 seemed like a worthy cause. Now, if you're late to the game and need a primer on this Bill C-393, then read this boingboing post and then come back here for the MEGAFACEPALM lowdown.

Read the rest

Strangely hypnotic mashups of ambient and live police radio

Mount_Royal_Montreal_Lookout-sm.jpg BB Submitterator idontlikewords mentioned the youarelistening.to websites last week, a soothing mix of police radio chatter and ambient music. Choose from Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, or my personal recommendation, Montréal. French police chat really blends into the music nicely. You may need to adjust the balance of each stream a bit to find the right mix.

youarelistening.to

Image: Mount Royal Montreal Lookout by Diliff via Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

XKCD's radiation dose chart

radiation.jpg

[click chart to embiggen] There has been much talk of radiation exposure levels in the news, and here on Boing Boing, this past week. But it can be hard to wrap your head around what those measurements mean, and how they compare to things you may have already experienced in life. Well, it was, until XKCD created this exceptionally helpful chart showing exactly how much radiation exposure you might encounter by doing something like flying from LA to NYC, getting a chest x-ray, hanging out at Chernobyl, living near the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, or sleeping next to another human being. This rules.

RDTN.org: crowdsourcing and mapping radiation levels

rdtn.jpg

One issue that has emerged during the nuclear crisis in Japan is that there isn't always a reliable source for radiation levels from specific areas. RDTN.org has just launched, an experiment to help address that need. The site allows people to submit their own reads, and maps them out next to data from official sources and measurement dates. This way, anyone can quickly get an idea of what is happening on the ground, first-hand. The site is brand new but should be very useful going forward.

Also worth noting and specific to what is going on in Japan right now, JapanStatus.org is "a dashboard of accurate, sourced information on the situation in Japan following the March 2011 disaster."

If Meat Loaf had a son who did Rebecca Black covers...

...It would be a lot like the Matt Mulholland version of the execrable "Friday." Whenever that song goes back in my head, Matt's version pulls me back from the brink of insanity. Thank you Matt, for proving turd-polishing is not a lost art. Video link. (PS: Sorry for breaking the BB press blackout on she who must not be named.)

Ten Sexy Ladies

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You might know Joshua Allen from the Twitter, where he posts hilariously (and not often enough) under the handle Fireland. Allen is one of the three or four people who make it seem possible that Twitter can spawn something like art. (Others? Tim Siedell, Adam Lisagor and Christian A. Dumais, the guy behind Drunk Hulk. That's my list. I'm sure you have yours.) Now, just to rub it in, he has a new project: Ten Sexy Ladies, in which he rates "everything ever, on a scale from one to ten sexy ladies." And when Allen says "everything ever," you better believe that's exactly what he means. Here he is on "This Thing of ChapStick":

Come closer, mon petit chou. I have generously applied deodorant that smells like a lumberjack fresh out of a clear mountain stream. I have swished mouthwash until it burned my gums like a sexual fire. I didn't floss because come on, really? But I did shave. Everywhere. And I got in there real good with a Q-tip. I am ready to receive your makeouts. (Rating: Two sexy ladies.)
Allen, who in real life is a writer living in Denver, is so prolifically funny that he makes me feel a little ashamed. The only comfort I can take is that sometimes his ratings are, like, way off. I mean, a mere "One sexy ladies" for pennies, which are so fantastically useful as to stagger the mind, as Allen himself admits?

Got chewed out by the boss? On your way out throw some pennies in the recycling bin. He'll be impressed with your lackadaisical approach to finance. This kid knows something I don't, he'll think later that night as he pays a woman to take a straight razor to his neck hair, slowly, so slowly, the only time he ever really feels anything.
Yeah. That's a Six Sexy Ladies right there. Four, minimum. Certainly no fewer than three.

The Silver Lake Badminton And Adventurers Club

[Video Link] - I've just stumbled across the pilot episode of The Silver Lake Badminton And Adventurers Club. I found it very amusing, and not just because I live in Silver Lake (a neighborhood in Los Angeles). From their brief history:

Founded in San Francisco in 1947 by Remi Boncœur, Sal Paradise, and Dean Moriarty, the organization that would become the Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club was originally intended to foster team building and leadership skills amongst intrepid young adventurers through the ancient sport of Badminton.

Headquartered in the Mission, the club boasted amongst its members, Brick Bradford, known for his long toss, shorthand, and jetpack. From the Deep South came the tag team of brute strength and graceful agility, Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski. Finally, there was legendary Tom Joad, who it was reputed, could handle a shuttlecock with more finesse than any player in the greater United States. Badminton appealed to the sporting mentalities of these founding members, but the exclusivity of shuttlecocks did not quench their thirst for the true bones of America. The answer came in the form of a murder, a murder that the adventurers followed down the coast.

The club is on twitter as well, where hopefully they'll announce more episodes soon! [Thanks Tara]