Kevin Underhill, the very funny lawyer behind Lowering the Bar, a very funny law-blog, has published a book of weird laws through the ages, called The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance and Other Real Laws That Human Beings Have Actually Dreamed Up, Enacted, and Sometimes Even Enforced. It's a genuinely funny and extremely weird tour through the world's dumbest rules, starting with the Babylonians (who had a trial-by-ordeal through which you could prove you weren't guilty by jumping into the river and not drowning) up through the Hittites (who had a whole set of rules about whether it was OK to steal your neighbor's door); the ancient Greeks and Romans (who were allowed to go into their friends' houses to search for their stolen property, provided they did so in nothing but a loincloth, to ensure they didn't plant any goods while searching) and modern times, including the notorious "Pi=3.2" state law.
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UC Berkeley has just appointed its first Wikipedian in Residence: Kevin Gorman, who has been a Wikipedia editor since he was a Berkeley undergraduate. Though some 50 cultural institutions -- libraries, museums and archives -- have Wikipedians in Residence, Gorman is the first to serve at an academic institution. His own work focuses on improving gender diversity and cultural diversity in Wikipedia editing, and he's assisting professors in crafting assignments that have students using and improving Wikipedia as part of their class-work.
When I was teaching at USC, I assigned my students to help improve Wikipedia articles by sourcing and footnoting facts in articles related to our lectures, and reviewed their contributions and the ensuing discussion in the articles' Talk pages as part of our weekly classes. It was a very satisfying exercise, especially as it ensured that the work of my students served some wider scholarly and social purpose, as opposed to term papers and exercises that no one -- not me, not the students -- would ever want to read after they were graded.
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Timeholes, a two-minute, CC-licensed science fiction movie by Ben Mallaby, explores the future of obnoxious behavior and drunkenness in a world where time-travel is a given.
The Deadpool pencil cup
is a delightfully silly and gross bit of office-candy, in which the wisecracking, unkillable merc from the pages of Marvel comics is presented for your gleeful brain-skewering pleasure. It comes with shuriken-shaped erasers and an arrow-cap for your favorite writing implement.
If you're new to Deadpool, try Deadpool Dead Presidents, the reboot of the comic from Walking Dead co-creator Tony Moore.
Gentle Giant Studios Deadpool: Pencil Cup Accessory
In 1979, William S Burroughs delivered a series of lectures on creative writing (though he insisted that he was teaching creative reading -- that is, analyzing the writing process by reading, because everyone can be taught to read, but only some will be able to write) at Naropa University. Three of these lectures, running to over four hours, are up on Youtube, covering writing exercises, Brion Gysin, Aleister Crowley, science fiction, General Semantics, and cut-ups. These are excellent listening, and are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivs-NonCommerical (as is the rest of the Naropa collection.)
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In this video, a young musician called Li-Jin Lee performs the Super Mario theme (complete with eerily accurate SFX on a Sheng, an ancient Chinese reed instrument) at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, as part of a lecture on the Sheng.
Taiwan Philharmonic (NSO) - "The Power of Sheng" w. Super Mario 超級瑪莉
Marko Rakar writes, "Croatian journalist and editor Oleg Mastruko visited more than 47 countries in the past 10 years and made a number of postapocalyptic pictures in deserted places. Pictures include abandoned airforce bases, Cairo's City of the Dead, old military factories, a Nevada ghost town, were markedly void of people, 'a vision of failed civilization,' as Mastruko describes it. Oleg is currently running a campaign at Indiegogo in order to fund a picture book called 'Without people.'
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Sasha writes, "The MIT Civic Media Codesign Studio is organizing, hosting, participating in, and supporting several Countersurveillance DiscoTechs this weekend. A DiscoTech (Discovering Technology event) is a workshop/faire style event for people of all skill levels to learn about, explore, and play with a set of technologies. Countersurveillance DiscoTech Locations:"
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In Now, the latest XKCD cartoon, Randall Munroe provides a handy, continuously updated way to visualize the current time all over the world. I happen to know that Munroe is an inveterate long-distance driver who likes to pass the hours on the road by calling friends; I imagine that a wheel like this would be handy for helping him figure out which continent he should be searching for in his address-book in order to find conversational partners at any hour of day.
Meg Favreau writes, "I thought you guys might be interested in this column I've been writing for the last year-ish -- I scour old cookbooks for once-popular recipes that have fallen out of favor, explore the (often weird) history of the food, and provide a recipe. Favorites include Welsh rarebit (the OG bachelor food, cooked in proto-microwave chafing dishes, and known for causing dreams so batshit that Little Nemo creator Winsor McCay did a long-running strip just about rarebit nightmares), beef tea (the chicken soup of its day, which tastes like hamburger water in the best way), and a Halloween about a booklet that juxtaposes candy recipes with testimonials about feminine ills (That ended up being posted on Table Matters' non-food sister site).
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David Weinberger's 2012 book Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room was one of the smartest, most thought-provoking reads I had the pleasure of being buffeted by in 2012. I'm delighted to learn that it's out in paperback this month. Here's my original review from 2012:
David Weinberger is one of the Internet's clearest and cleverest thinkers, an understated and deceptively calm philosopher who builds his arguments like a bricklayer builds a wall, one fact at a time. In books like Everything is Miscellaneous and Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, he erects solid edifices with no gaps between the bricks, inviting conclusions that are often difficult to reconcile with your pre-existing prejudices, but which are even harder to deny.
Too Big to Know, Weinberger's latest book-length argument, is another of these surprising brick walls. Weinberger presents us with a long, fascinating account of how knowledge itself changes in the age of the Internet -- what it means to know something when there are millions and billions of "things" at your fingertips, when everyone who might disagree with you can find and rebut your assertions, and when the ability to be heard isn't tightly bound to your credentials or public reputation for expertise.
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Stephanie writes, "PM Press has launched a Kickstarter fundraiser to publish a glorious, hardcover, full-color, 320-page anthology of the 35-year-running political comics magazine World War 3 Illustrated. Founded in 1979, WW3 was one of the first American magazines (along with Raw and American Splendor) to treat comics as a medium for serious social commentary and journalism. Contributors include Sue Coe, Eric Drooker, Fly, Sabrina Jones, Peter Kuper, Kevin Pyle, Spain Rodriguez, Nicole Schulman, Chuck Sperry, Art Spiegelman, Seth Tobocman, Tom Tomorrow, Susan Willmarth, Peter Bagge, and dozens more."
WW3 has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager, and PM is a great press with a solid track record of producing beautiful, well-made books (they did one of mine). A $40 pledge gets you a copy of the WW3 anthology.
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Tim sez, "Our technological lives produce vast numbers of artifacts. Many of which become obsolete in a very short time. All of these relics, once vital to our daily lives, end up in drawers and landfills -- forgotten as soon as their usefulness is eclipsed. Electric Ecology, by Ruth Whiting is a series of oil paintings that investigates a mythical afterlife for the forgotten connective tissue of technology where plugs and cables live on in an imagined realm."
Ruth Whiting — Electric Ecology
Here's a late 1970s Vincent Price performance of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," featuring the dean of horror at his scenery-chewing best. Compare with Lord Buckley's 50s jazz hipster version.
Vincent Price's The Raven
(via Seanan McGuire)
Jason writes with an update to the amazing, kickstarted Librarybox project: "The LibraryBox Project, as a part of its ongoing efforts to bring information to areas without communication infrastructures, announced the release of the v2.0 public beta today. Boing Boing was kind enough to post about the very successful Kickstarter from July and this is the next stage of the project arising from that funding.
"LibraryBox is an open source digital distribution device, designed to route around both censorship and poor infrastructure by creating a hyperlocal digital file distribution point for use by libraries, educators, or anyone who wants to share files quickly and easily. The v2.0 release makes building your own LibraryBox easier than ever, while increasing the customizability and flexibility of the interface."