Just like Boing Boing, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. To celebrate, I wrote an essay titled "World Wide Weird." It's part of the "The Webby 25 for 25," a series of pieces presented by The Webby Awards, The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the World Wide Web Foundation. From my essay:
I’m a collector of unpopular culture.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve been attracted to the fringes of art, literature, music, science, and technology. I grew up hanging around alternative record stores, dialing into underground Bulletin Board Systems, trading photocopied ‘zines, scouring used book stores, watching third-generation dupes of psychotronic films, and researching anomalous phenomena at the local library. I am most at home on the fringes of thought, reason, and expression. I delight in the serendipity and synchronicities that reveal themselves during my expeditions into the outré.
The Web amplified my appetite and became a compass on my journeys into high weirdness. Indeed, I saw it as the ultimate card catalog of curiosities.
"The World Wide Weird"
Jeff Highsmith made a fantastic "Mission Control Desk" for his young son who has just started school. It's hidden under a regular desktop.
K'Nex master Austron is constrcting the world's largest K'Nex ball machine. It's located at Bloomington, Minnesota's The Works museum. Austron says:
The machine stands 23.5 feet tall and 40 feet long, and contains over 100,000 pieces. It has 2 lifts, 3 motors, and 8 paths, including a 20 foot free-fall, an 8 foot tall big-ball-factory spiral, and a 60 foot long path which hangs from the ceiling. It takes 3 and a half minutes for a ball to climb to the top of the tallest tower.
"World's Largest K'nex Ball Machine - Teaser
" (via Smithsonian)
The Doggie Diner heads, icons of San Francisco's underground culture, are in desperate need of restoration. For twenty years, John Law -- pictured above with the Boing Boing crew and Adam Savage -- has cared for these lovely puppies that are now pushing 50. He and his co-conspirators have tirelessly driven them around the region to the overwhelming delight of young and old. For free. John is now seeking donations to restore them to their former glory. Please support the Doggie Diner Makeover at Kickstarter if you can! Here's what John has to say:
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Mike Vraney, founder of Something Weird Video, has died of lung cancer. He was 56. For decades, Something Weird has been the preeminent source of cult psychotronic and exploitation films that would have vanished into the dustbin of underground culture were it not for Vraney's tireless efforts. Our thoughts go out to Mike's wife, artist Lisa Petrucci, their family, co-workers, and friends. Below, watch a 2007 television profile of Vraney and Something Weird. Here's the obituary at Daily Grindhouse, copied from the Something Weird page on Facebook:
"In Memory of 'Something Weird' Founder Mike Vraney (1957-2014)" (Thanks, Kirsten Anderson)
When I was eleven, my three primary interests were science, art, and magic. That hasn't changed. In 1981, I visited San Francisco for the first time and my big brother took me to the Exploratorium, a pioneering museum that exists at the intersection of science, art, and magic. It blew my mind wide open. And more than three decades later, it's become a very special place for my children, aged 7 and 4. Part of the Exploratorium's stated mission is to ignite curiosity about human perception. But the Exploratorium doesn't just teach people about human perception. Like the best science, art, and magic, the museum experience actually changes your perception of reality.
Earlier this year, the Exploratorium moved from its vast warehouse space near the Golden Gate Bridge into new digs on a pier overlooking the Bay. The massive new space retains the raw, inviting "rustic" warmth of the original location but with better amenities and, most importantly, far more room to showcase classic and new exhibits and also inject even more of the DIY spirit that fuels the museum's creators. This motivation is made tangible in the exposed workshops (just like the old facility) where staff prototypes new exhibits, and in the new Tinkering Studio, a bustling workshop where every guest is encouraged to "learn by doing." And if you need inspiration, just look around at the permanent and temporary exhibits like Scott Weaver's "Rolling Through The Bay," made from 100,000 toothpicks and seen in action above.
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After eight years of development and a successful Kickstarter, BB pal Mitch Altman's Neurodreamer sleep mask is ready for shipping! You might recall that Mitch is the inspiring maker behind the TV-B-Gone, Trip Glasses, and a bunch of other delightful gadgets. The Neurodreamer is an open source light/sound machine integrated into a memory foam mask. Mitch says:
The NeuroDreamer sleep mask is an advancement over prior entrainment* devices which attempt to entrain the brain with only a single brainwave frequency at a time. The NeuroDreamer sleep mask uses up to four brainwave frequencies simultaneously (mixed at different amplitudes), to more closely replicate the full spectrum of frequencies present in a person who is falling asleep.
* "Entrainment" is the the process of externally presenting brainwave frequencies to the brain, allowing it to synchronize to those frequencies.
It's available for $69.95 in three different versions designed for Sleep, Lucid Dreaming, or Meditation. Mitch is having a sale right now: Entering the coupon code THANKS gets you 10% off everything in Mitch's Cornfield Electronics shop, including the Neurodreamer. I want one!
Cartoonist Rube Goldberg’s absurdly complex mechanisms for achieving easy results are so ingrained in popular culture that the artist/engineer’s name appears in the dictionary as an adjective. A new book highlights his happy mutant approach to engineering.
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Royce Hutain made a wonderful "stick person" costume for his toddler from LED lights and a body suit.
Kazuhiko Kakuta made a terrific flying ornithopter model of a Flaptter from Hayao Miyazaki's "Laputa: The Castle in the Sky" (1986). Details here. And below, video of Kakuta's radio-controlled Totoro. (via The Kid Should See This)
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Harry Harwood Garrison of Cincinnati, Ohio died last week at age 77. Sounds like an amazing guy; wish I'd know him! From his obituary:
Sole proprietor of the Player Piano Shop, enthusiast & restorer of all variety of automated musical instruments, life-time entertainer performing magic acts & smoke-ring blowing, including an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson…
Harry Harwood Garrison obituary (Cincinnati.com, thanks Gil Kaufman!)
Raconteur, gourmand, fine-arts supporter & lover of music, particularly traditional & Dixieland jazz, boogie-woogie piano, blues, bluegrass, & opera. Historian of Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Westwood, & Colerain Township; craftsman, traveler, latter-day renaissance man, noted by many friends & colleagues for having a remarkable memory & his ability to recall detail.
Above, one of the exquisite hand-made acoustic/electronic instruments played by the late, great Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson of Coil and Throbbing Gristle. Many more at Pacmasaurus's Flickr set of "UnkleSleazy's Instruments
." (via @chris_carter_)
Sarina Frauenfelder, an heiress apparent to the Boing Boing fortune, created this custom Barbie complete with pink coffin. I like that Barbie's flesh has totally decomposed except for her plastinated face.
In memory of computing pioneer Douglas Engelbart, who died last night, please watch this 1968 video of his "Mother of All Demos." Thank you Doug for helping augment human intellect.
"The key thing about all the world's big problems is that they have to be dealt with collectively. If we don't get collectively smarter, we're doomed." - Douglas Engelbart (1925- 2013)
In this terrific video, Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey talks about how his interests in the arcane, magic, and showmanship were inspired by the mentalists at old time carnival midways. He also recalls his experiences as a professional calliope player in the 1940s-1960s and plays a few delightful tunes. (Thanks, Jenny Hart!)
UPDATE: BB pal COOP says, "This footage is from a documentary by Nick Bougas. These keyboards were set up in the kitchen of the Black House. I spent many nights in that kitchen listening to Dr. LaVey play. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music, and could play almost any song that came up in discussion."
Marc Freilich made an R2-D2 birthday cake for his son's sixth birthday. He integrated a pico projector into R2's dome to project the Leia "hologram" and a special birthday message. He's posted the baking and build notes online. "Just another R2D2 Birthday Cake Build"
MIT is rightfully proud of alumna Limor Fried, the superhero hardware hacker behind AdaFruit Industries, creators of fantastic DIY, open source electronics components and kits. We're proud of Limor too! From MIT News:
Apart from selling kits, original devices and providing hundreds of guides online, Adafruit works around the world with schools, teachers, libraries and hackerspaces — community technology labs — to promote STEM education, designing curricula in circuitry and electronics, among other initiatives.
The company has released an online children’s show called “A is for Ampere.” On a weekly Saturday night program, “Ask an Engineer,” anyone can ask Fried questions online or show off their original devices.
One of Fried’s favorite stories, from a young viewer of “Ask an Engineer,” illuminates what she sees as the growing diversity of engineering. “A parent emailed us after watching the show with his daughter,” she says. “I had another engineer on the show with me — my friend Amanda — and this parent’s daughter asked, ‘Dad, are there boy engineers too?’”
"Meet the maker
In 1952, LIFE published an article about Louie Matter, a gearhead who tricked out his 1947 Cadillac with a shower (seen at right), drinking fountain, tape recorder, washing machine, stove, "and a bar with spigots for whisky, water and soda." Oh yeah, and a dashboard hookah too. This, my friends, is the definition of "bow-tie classy." "Shower? Check. Washing Machine? Check. Hookah? Check. Let’s Ride"
Today at Institute for the Future's Ten Year Forecast conference, my friend Kal Spelletich's "Huggerer" pneumatic robot is delivering free hugs. Here is a video of Kal demonstrating the machine. It's very satisfying.
On Thursday (3/28) at 3pm ET, Boing Boing pal and White House innovation advisor Tom Kalil is hosting a Google Hangout to talk about the maker movement! Tom has been instrumental in helping President Obama and the administration understand the value of maker culture in sci/tech education. Joining Tom in the Hangout will be folks like MAKE founder Dale Dougherty, Super Awesome Maker Show's Super Awesome Sylvia, and Ford future tech lead Venkatesh Prasad. "White House Hangout: The Maker Movement"
(Above, President Obama checks out a soccer-playing robot built by Blue Bell, PA high school students. Photo by Pete Souza.)
Ticktock Showroom's handmade "Timing Chain" clocks are a really appealing way of telling time. They run $100, and you'll need 26" of clearance below them for the chain-hang.
Innovative chain driven clocks suitable for home or office. These clocks feature laser-cut acrylic numerals and motor mounts. They keep accurate time by using industrial synchronous A/C motors, featuring a visible gearset. Designed to be wall-mounted, each clock is about 44 inches tall, and the number chain hangs 26 inches below the drive sprocket. The clocks are pre-assembled, as the assembly of the chain requires tools that are not commonly found in most homes. The numerals and motor mounts may be ordered in any color available on the ponoko material list.