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Boing Boing Video: The Throbbing Gristle Interview

(Download this video: MP4)

So, what is it like to see industrial music legends Throbbing Gristle perform live?

"Next closest thing to an internal organ massage standing next to [SRL's] V1 pulsejet engine," said BB pal Karen Marcelo, after one of the dates on the band's 2009 reunion tour. "It was like my diaphragm resonated until my lungs became a subwoofer while words once from a man's mouth sprung from the same woman's mouth," twittered TG trufan T.Bias.

Before we shot the Boing Boing Video interview which is today's episode, above, Richard Metzger and I spoke to Throbbing Gristle's sound technician backstage, and asked what we should expect in the way of sub-bass frequencies -- rumored to be so powerful during performances that cameras can't hold a steady shot, and bowels sometimes can't hold their contents. Charlie Poulet, TG's sound tech, cracked up and flashed an evil grin.

"Oh, we got some frequencies," he laughed, "Yeah, we definitely got some frequencies ready for you people tonight."

Those "frequencies" are part of what make TG's music so transcendental and disturbing, and in the BB interview with Chris Carter, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, we explore their technical and creative underpinnings.

We learn about the hacked-together synth and sound modification machines built back in the early 1970s, like "Thee Gristleizer," shown below.

We hear TG members talk about the sort of mind-meld trance they all fall in to while performing, and we learn about the early days of recording work like "Hamburger Lady" to cassette tapes, then walking down to have a hamburger together at a corner sandwich shop down the street from their old studio in what was then a really shitty part of London.

Gen talks about her first time with Twitter, and we hear what it's like for the band once called "wreckers of civilization" to be celebrated, more than 30 years later, as living legends.

Information on TG's remaining 2009 tour dates here. Industrial Records just released a special limited edition framed vinyl LP to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release of Throbbing Gristle's debut album, "The Second Annual Report" -- more info here. More recordings (digital and otherwise), t-shirts, and other merch are here.

RSS feed for new episodes here, YouTube channel here, subscribe on iTunes here. Get Twitter updates every time there's a new ep by following @boingboingvideo, and here are blog post archives for Boing Boing Video. (Special thanks to Boing Boing's video hosting partner Episodic, and to Target Video, who shot some of the archival clips shown in this episode).

Previously on Boing Boing: Throbbing Gristle: What A Day. (Boing Boing Video shoot notes)

Mormon Crickets Dislike Led Zeppelin

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

Note: No Mormons are mocked in the making of this posting.

In a Linda Richman-esque turn of events, Mormon crickets are neither Mormon, nor crickets. In reality, they're katydids whose religious proclivities (if any) remain unknown. The bugs' association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints comes from stories told by early Mormon settlers in Utah about how thousands of the creatures swarmed in to devastate crops before being miraculously stopped by the arrival of a pack of ravenous seagulls. God worked in mysterious ways.

And continues to do so, apparently. Mormon crickets are still a periodic threat to farmers out west. Every so often (possibly prompted by weather patterns, but nobody's exactly sure), millions of Mormon crickets will band together into a pack--dense as 100 bugs per square meter--and march forward, devouring every scrap of plant life in their path. The flood of bugs can be nigh-on impossible to staunch. Besides eating up crops and lawns, they've been known to stop traffic, and come stomping right through people's homes. Discover magazine's Discoblog quotes a resident of Tuscarora, Nevada:

You'll wake up and there'll be one sitting on your forehead, looking at you

And you thought the scutigera coleoptrata was bad.

But the townsfolk of Tuscarora have found a Mormon cricket defense system almost as miraculous as the bugicidal seagull brigade. They blast the pests with rock. Yes, much like Manuel Noriega, the Tuscarorans claim Mormon crickets can be beaten into submission via thrashing guitar solos. According to Discoblog, entomologists aren't sure why this works, or even if it actually does. Although, if bugs really don't like Led Zeppelin, that would explain why my house was suddenly pest free that summer the neighbor kid spent learning "Smoke on the Water".

Interestingly, Mormon crickets have also invaded Washington D.C. political discourse. According to the Washington Post, a $1 million earmark, meant to help farmers protect their livelihoods from the all-devouring Mormon cricket masses, has been publicly mocked as unnecessary pork by none other than John McCain's Twitter account, which asked:

Is that the species of cricket or a game played by the brits?

Image is provided by Katie Madonia, and was taken in Nevada in 2006.

Throbbing Gristle: What A Day. (Boing Boing Video shoot notes)

(Snapshots from the BBV Throbbing Gristle shoot by Chris Cooper).

Earlier this week, Boing Boing Video and Richard Metzger shot an interview with art-damage/industrial music godfathers Throbbing Gristle in Los Angeles. They're on a limited tour of the USA, with a show tonight in San Francisco, and dates scheduled in Chicago and Brooklyn (info on dates, venues, and tickets here).

The resulting BB Video is yet to come, but I wanted to share some notes, photos, and ephemera from the experience.

Metzger is a super-mega-otaku fan of TG, and covered their legacy extensively through Disinfo publications and video releases. My knowledge is nowhere near as comprehensive as his (he's even stumped TG members with knowledge of early songs they've forgotten!). But I have been fascinated with them since I was a teenager, when a friend in a punk squat loaned me a beer-stained copy of V. Vale's 1983 RE/Search book about industrial culture.

When I phoned TG's manager Paul Smith on Monday to ask for permission to shoot for Boing Boing Video, I explained that I believed TG were the cultural ancestors for much of the "mutant" culture we explore here on Boing Boing. Sappy but sincere. Without their early experiments in nihilistic machine song we would not have "industrial music." The projects that split off when TG first disbanded -- Chris And Cosey, Coil, Psychic TV -- only expanded their cultural footprint. Countless acts owe them a huge genetic debt -- everyone from Einsturzende Neubauten to Skinny Puppy to NIN to Aphex Twin to Radiohead to every other act you're likely to type in the comments.

COUM Transmissions, the experimental performance art collective which preceded Throbbing Gristle, was responsible for legendary shock-events so extreme, they'd make Tubgirl, Goatse, and the Two Girls with One Cup blush.

The TG show we witnessed (and shot for BBV) this week reflects less of that shock, anger, and taboo-bombing, and was almost entirely instrumental. More moody, doom-y, Faustian. But the physically overwhelming sounds "took the meat off the bones," as Metzger put it. And it was fucking amazing.

Tuesday night's performance was a reprise of a live, improvised soundtrack TG composed for the 1980 Derek Jarman film In the Shadow of the Sun (you can watch a snip of the original version here).

"These people are the wreckers of civilisation", said conservative Member of Parliment Nicholas Fairbairn back in 1976. He was talking about Throbbing Gristle. During the BBV interview, we talked about what it's like to go from being "wreckers" of culture to being celebrated as cultural heroes. We talked about Twitter and Flickr. Gen asked what the difference is between blogs and websites, and announced s/he'd recently acquired her first Blackberry.

Ruth has some snapshots of the shoot and the soundcheck here. TG member Chris Carter is on Twitter here, and his photos are on Flickr here -- don't miss this incredible photoset of historic "lost and found" TG photos. TG member Cosey Fanni Tutti is on Twitter here. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is here. And Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson is here.

Some archival interviews I've been reading and re-reading, as we edit the interview: This one with Cosey, about her art and her explorations of the sex trade (for her, one and the same). And this amazing interview purportedly from 1978, by an Australian reporter for NME, which was apparently never published in NME. This article in Artlurker by Federico Nessi. And this review of a box set in Artforum.

Thee Boing Boing Video episode(s) are "coum-ing" soon.

(Special thanks to Richard Metzger, to Boing Boing Video's production crew, and friends who helped along the way: Ehrich Blackhound, Ruth Waytz, Chris Cooper, Jason Louv, Suzan Jones, and Greg Chong, to name a few. Very special thanks to Paul Smith, and to the members of Throbbing Gristle).

Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle: Illustration of Twitter/Flickr/BoingBoing recursive meta-bombing

Jokes from the Cultural Revolution

Here are some of the jokes that flourished (underground) in China during the Cultural Revolution, a period of incredible hardship and human rights abuses. They're collected by Guo Qitao, a professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine.
Wang Hongwen went to see Marshal Zhu De, requesting him to hand over power. "You may take over, but only if you can make this egg stand upright," Zhu said, while handling him an egg.

After trying for several days, Wang was still unable to make it stand, so he went to see Deng Xiaoping for help.

"This is easy," said Deng, and he forcefully smashed the egg down into the table.

"Ai ya, it broke!" Wang exclaimed.

"Chairman Mao has said, 'nothing can stand without destruction,'" said Deng, "look, isn't the egg standing upright now?"

Translator's notes: The phrase "nothing can stand without destruction" was a revolutionary slogan that encouraged destruction of old, feudal things.

Jokes from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) (Part One)

BB Video: The Flaming Bacon Lance of Death, from Theo Gray's book "Mad Science"

FLAMING BACON LANCE - THEODORE GRAY MP4 Download here. Or, watch this video on YouTube here.

YouTube channel here, subscribe on iTunes here. Twitter updates @boingboingvideo, and here are blog post archives for Boing Boing Video.

Yesterday, I blogged about the release of Popular Science columnist Theo Gray's new book, MAD SCIENCE.

In today's episode of Boing Boing Video, a collaboration with PopSci, we debut the world-premiere of the first video documenting the sort of experiments you'll find in this book -- in which Theo cuts steel with bacon. It's a FLAMING BACON LANCE OF DEATH.

Yes, that's right, using nothing but bacon -- okay, prosciutto -- and an air hose, Mr. Gray constructs a high performance thermic lance that seriously cuts sheet metal.

In this video, you'll also see a purely VEGAN THERMIC LANCE built from one cucumber and several dozen thin vegetable-oil coated breadsticks. (Tip: the performance is all about the oil). This hotrod burns fast and furious, but does not last long enough to initiate a cut in steel sheet. The flame front travels towards the back of the cucumber and endangers the operator when it reaches the rubber connector.


Theo also built a CUCUMBER-BEEFSTICK LANCE. A high-performance thermic lance constructed from seven beefsticks and a cucumber. Later versions used Pup-Peroni brand dog treats, which are exactly like beef sticks only cheaper.

In some ways this device out-performed the Bacon Lance, and it's much easier to build.

But it's not made of bacon.

Theo tells Boing Boing,

"Cucumber is an *excellent* base for these things because it's air-tight, moist (to resist fire), easy to core, and has a rubbery skin that makes an air tight seal. About the only thing wrong with cucumbers is that they are not made of bacon. (I have a thing called a "fruit coring tool" which is like a very small round cookie cutter on a stick. You drill it down the middle of the cucumber until it comes out the other end, then stuff the cucumber with the chosen fuel.)"
Here are Theo's columns at And more on the flaming bacon of death at

These devices were created by Theodore Gray. Videography in this BB Video episode by Nick Mann (shot on the 5D Mk II). Stills are by Mike Walker.

Previously: Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do at Home, But Probably Shouldn't (Book)

Special thanks to Boing Boing Video's hosting partner Episodic.




Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do at Home, But Probably Shouldn't (Book)

Book cover for MAD SCIENCE

The short version: This is an awesome book.

I've been a fan of Theodore Gray's work in odd science for some time now -- his amazing Periodic Table of Elements posters and puzzles are the subject of previous Boing Boing blog posts, and he contributes a monthly column about "chemistry, elements, and blowing things up" for Popular Science . I just received a copy of his beautiful new book, Mad Science, and the richness and eccentricity of its contents are just what I'd expect from him.

This thing is like an anarchist cookbook for happy mutants -- page after page of recipes, hazard warnings, beautiful photographs, and quirky personal observations. Want to know how to turn ore into homemade titanium in a flowerpot? Copper-plate your iPod? Craft a "hillbilly hot tub"? Brew ethanol in your bathtub? All here.

The attention to detail will delight "makers" and nerd readers of all ages. I love the little skull and crossbones death-icons on pages where experiments could lead to loss of life.

Gray has a degree in chemistry, but I believe he is an "amateur scientist" in the true and honored meaning of the term. His work fosters the culture of tinkering and experimentation, which, as he says in the introduction, is the true source of all great scientific achievements.

Science is not something practiced only in labs and universities. It's a way of looking at the world and seeing truth and beauty everywhere. It's something you can do whether you are employed as a professional scientist or not. While I have a degree in chemistry from a fine university, I've never worked as a professional chemist. I do these demonstrations in my shop on a rural farmstead a half a mile from the nearest neighbor.
Theo Gray's Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do At Home - But Probably Shouldn't (Amazon).

More about the projects here.

Personal Account of Safe-Cracking "Penetration Party."


Master hacker and lockpicker Barry Wels (who shot the photo above) has posted an account of a "penetration party," at which safes are made available for guys skilled in the fine art of lock-cracking to demonstrate and hone their skillz. I love all the photos he illustrated this account with -- these guys are as scary-smart as they are cool. Snip:

[S]afe opening is all about experience. The best safecrackers are the ones that have the most experience, or with the best connections to people who can tell you what the internals of the target safe most likely will look like. In previous events the strategy to open safes was to drill a hole on a strategical place in the safe. This sounds easier as it is, and I always admire the craftsmanship that is needed to pull it off. Just think about it: you need to picture what is inside the safe and then try to drill away the element that keeps the safe locked, or in case of a combination lock drill until you are inside the heart of the lock and set the code by looking into it with a scope. Being off by a millimeter can cause you big trouble, not to mention the glass plates that can set off ‘relockers’ if hit (shattered) by a drill. If this happens, the safe will lock up, and even the original key and combination will not open it anymore (a mechanism to win time, safes that have the relockers fired can take a looong time to open).

[A]t this event we tried to shift from drilling to picking and decoding safes. Just as with opening standard locks, there is nothing like opening a high security safe without a scratch. To do so requires the right tools, and Jord Knaap is becoming really good at making safe opening tools. His hand made Hobb’s picks are just as good, and sometimes better, as the stuff that is available commercially on the market. And Paul Crouwel was the first one to pick open a safe at the weekend. In about fifteen minutes the door of this monster safe swung open without a scratch. Later Paul tried his luck (skill) on another safe, but when it did not open in fifteen minutes decided to go for a smoke. When he came back, master lockpicker Julian Hardt was kind enough to have picked it open for him. Later that day Julian would repeat the job and pick open the lock on a heavy rosengrens safe.

About the safe opening weekend (next one in 1 month!) (, via Wayne's Friends list)

Man dances in public, videotapes self for 366 days straight "to do something new"

Richard Metzger is the current Boing Boing guest blogger. Meet Mike Long, a Canadian performance artist from Hamilton, Ontario. Mike freaky danced and taped himself doing so for 366 days straight, mainly in his hometown, but he includes NYC, SF and various European locales in his work. He has great taste in music and some of these videos are hysterically funny, reminding me a lot of Spike Jonze's classic Fatboy Slim video. Here is his interpretation of the lover's rock classic "Uptown Top Ranking" by Althea & Donna:
Althea & Donna - "Uptown Top Ranking" from Mike Long on Vimeo. Mike says "I made a dance video, almost always in public places, every single day for an entire year. I am only here to make you smile and hopefully change the way you think about 'genres,' and show you what honest reactions to music look like.' He added "And to do something new." Mike told me that he next plans on releasing twelve books in one year. Three are already complete. When asked what he's writing about, Mike says, "Everything and nothing. Being and living. Wit and lowbrow culture. I will write about every topic I can think of." He seems to have a lot of energy! I believe he'll do it. Thanks Tara McGinley! Black Sheep "E.F.F.E.C.T." (NSFW, but hilarious) Captain Beefheart "Zig Zag Wanderer" Toots & the Maytals "Pressure Drop" Brainiac "Nothing Ever Changes" Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put a Spell on You" UPDATE: Some evil troll at YouTube narc'd on Mike and he got his account yanked. I changed the videos here to ones hosted on Vimeo, let's hope they're cooler than YouTube. I mean, what this guy did is truly hilarious. He meant NO DISRESPECT to any of these artists. Clearly he LOVES the music he danced to... but someone had to go and be a jerk. Here's a link to Mike's Etsy page An article about Mike Long's project

Design for nine-square-feet house

Michael Jantzen designed a house (using Google SketchUp) with nine-square feet of floor space. It has room for a lavatory, sink, heater, bed, chair, fold-down table, and storage. Where does the bed go? In the loft, which is part of the overhanging porch.

"I came up with the size by asking myself how what the absolute minimum amount of space would be needed for someone to live. I did a quick calculation in my head of the amount of space I took up while laying down and came up with nine square feet."
Nine Tiny Feet 3D model

BB Video: Return of Superbarrio ("La Vuelta de Superbarrio"), an animated short by Bob Jaroc and Andy Ward

Flash video embed above, click "full" icon inside the player to view it large. You can download the MP4 here. Our YouTube channel is here, you can subscribe to our daily video podcast on iTunes here. Get Twitter updates every time there's a new ep by following @boingboingvideo, and here are the archives for Boing Boing Video.

Boing Boing Video presents an animated short by Bob Jaroc and Andy Ward "The Return of Superbarrio" (La Vuelta de Superbarrio), in Spanish with English subtitles.

Superbarrio Gómez is a "living superhero" in Mexico who seeks to fight injustice and corruption on both sides of the US/Mexico border through protests, civil disobedience, and political action. We're told that a man named Marco Rascón Córdova developed the character and organized the events at which he became famous throughout Mexico, but that the actual guy in the Superbarrio suit is someone else -- someone whose name is kept a closely guarded secret.

Here's something that makes this animated short particularly special, and an odd kind of documentary/fantasy: Jaroc says the characters are voiced by Marco Rascón Córdova and the anonymous guy who plays the role of Superbarrio in real life. So, we're hearing the voices of Superbarrio's creator, and Superbarrio himself.

This animated short was produced by Plaid and Bob Jaroc as part of the audiovisual, mixed media album Greedy Baby.

Given the string of really bad news out of Mexico this week, it seems the nation could use more of the likes of this guy right about now.

Below: images of the lucha-masked crusader courtesy Bob Jaroc. More in this Flickr set.

Superbarrio portrait (courtesy Bob Jaroc)

Superbarrio portrait (courtesy Bob Jaroc)

Update: A number of Boing Boing reader/viewers who speak Spanish have tweeted or written in very politely to point out that "La Vuelta de Super Barrio" may not be the best translation -- "El Regreso de Super Barrio" would probably be more correct. I'll leave that choice to the director, though, and Spanish is not my native language. Also, BB community member Vladimir Bazan Estrada says,

Thanks for running this animation today, it makes me feel that there's still hope and proud of my heritage. Now, time to write to the creator of the animation so i could thank him/her. If you wonder why i dont have that much hope, this animation shows the general mood of the city. Good animation... just a non happy ending. Also, i dont know if you know the comic called "El Santos VS la Tetona Mendoza", (The santos vs Big tits mendoza), that's one of the best examples of underground comic in mexico, the strip was published for the last 8 years in one of the most radical newspapers in Mexico, La Jornada.

David Pogue's TED2009 roundup

New York Times columnist David Pogue has a nice roundup of some of the talks from TED2009, which was held in Long Beach, Calif. last week.
Kamal Meattle reported the results of his efforts to fill an office building with plants, in an effort to reduce headache, asthma, and other productivity-sapping aliments in thickly polluted India. After researching NASA documents, he concluded that a set of three particular common, waist-high houseplants—areca palm, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, and Money Plant—could be combined to scrub the air of carbon dioxide, formaldehyde and other pollutants.

At about four plants per occupant (1200 plants in all), the building’s air freshened considerably, and the health and productivity results were staggering. Eye irritation dropped by 52 percent, lower respiratory symptoms by 34 percent, headaches by 24 percent and asthma by 9 percent. There were fewer sick days, employee productivity increased, and energy costs dropped by 15 percent.

Next stop: a larger-scale experiment in a 1.75-million-square-foot office tower, featuring over 60,000 plants.

TED’s Greatest Hits

The Future of NASA

(Update: I accidentally posted this with comments turned off, slip o'the'blogger, not intentional. I've republished with comments turned on. Blame it on the leftover 'nog!)

The latest -- and final -- chunk of that epic New York Times space series by John Schwartz is out today. It's the last big feature the paper's longtime space/science reporter will write about NASA before he becomes the Times' national legal correspondent. Congrats, John, but I suspect the rocket booster set is weeping tears of Tang at the news of your departure. Anyway, snip:

NASA has named the rocket Ares I, as in the god of war – and its life has been a battle from the start.

Ares I is part of a new system of spacecraft being designed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to replace the nation’s aging space shuttles. The Ares I and its Orion capsule, along with a companion heavy-lift rocket known as the Ares V, are meant for travel to the Moon and beyond.

Technical troubles have dogged the design process for the Ares I, the first of the rockets scheduled to be built, with attendant delays and growing costs. And in an age of always-on communication, instant messages and blogs, internal debate that once might have been part of a cloistered process has spilled into public view.

Some critics say there are profound problems with the design that render the Ares I dead on arrival, while other observers argue that technical complications crop up in any spacecraft development program of this scope. The issues have become a focus of the members of the presidential transition team dealing with NASA, and the space program could undergo a transformation after Barack Obama takes office.

The Fight Over NASA’s Future (NYT), and here's a related Times slideshow from which the image above was ganked. Description:
In this artist's concept illustration, the first and second stages of the Ares V heavy-lift vehicle separate after launching. The image evokes earlier photographs and film from the days of the Apollo program. Photo: John Frassanito and Associates/NASA
Another must-read piece from Schwartz, which explores the case of SpaceX founder and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk: With U.S. Help, Private Space Companies Press Their Case: Why Not Us?

Pools at Foreclosed Homes Transformed into Illegal Sk8 Ramps

Well, this is one effect of the housing meltdown I didn't see coming -- a resurgence of hardcore sk8 culture. Skaters in Southern California are repurposing dried-out pools in the backyards of abandoned, foreclosed homes, cleaning them out and transforming them into illicit skate parks. Let a thousand reverse ollies bloom. Snip from New York Times article by Jesse McKinley and Malia Wollan:

In these boom times for skaters, [a 27-year old Fresno skateboarder whose alias is Josh] Peacock travels with a gas-powered pump, five-gallon buckets, shovels and a push broom, risking trespassing charges in the pursuit of emptying forlorn pools and turning them into de facto skate parks.

“We can just hit them back to back,” said Mr. Peacock, who preferred to give his skateboarding name because of the illegality of his activities.

Skaters are coming to places like Fresno from as far as Germany and Australia. Mr. Peacock said his floor and couch were covered by sleeping bags of visiting skateboarders each weekend.

Some skateboarders use realty tracking sites like and to find foreclosed houses with pools, while others trawl through satellite images from Google Earth. On the Web site, where skaters trade tips about how to find and drain abandoned pools, one poster wrote about the current economic malaise. “God bless Greenspan,” the post read, “patron saint of pool skatin’.”

Skaters Jump In as Foreclosures Drain the Pool (NYT, Photo: Jim Wilson)

Captain Nemo of the cocaine trade

Darkside maker Enrique Portocarrero of Colombia is alleged to have designed and built up to 20 fiberglass submarines for transporting cocaine.
"He had a marvelous criminal vision," Colombian navy Capt. Luis German Borrero said. "He introduced innovations such as a bow that produced very little wake, a conning tower that rises only a foot above the water and a valve system that enables the crew to scuttle the sub in 10 minutes. He is very ingenious."


Portocarrero was living well. Police, who reported finding $200,000 hidden in the spare tire of his car, say he had invested his reputed $1-million-per-vessel fees in the purchase of five shrimp boats.

Administrative Security officials allege that Portocarrero helped invent "semi-submersibles," as the narco-vessels are called, because they don't dive and resurface like true submarines, but cruise just below the surface.

Portocarrero's craft are difficult for counter-narcotics officials to detect on the open seas because their tiny wake creates a negligible radar "footprint." Also, authorities say, the exhaust is released through tubing below the surface, frustrating patrol aircraft's heat-sensing equipment.

In Colombia, they call him Captain Nemo

Downwind faster than the wind - Part 4

The discussion about whether or not an unpowered vehicle can be made to go directly downwind faster than the wind (DWFTTW) is ongoing. I was reading the comments this morning, and came across a link to this intriguing video, titled "Under the ruler faster than the ruler." It's starting to make me think that a DWFTTW cart is feasible.

In the video, I was surprised to see which direction the big wheel turned when the ruler was run across the top. I'm also quite impressed that this fellow and others are making models to conduct experiment, instead of simply speculating. Hooray for amateur science!

As I've requested in previous posts on this subject, if you have something to contribute to the discussion boards, please refrain from insults and name-calling.

John Lennon Died 28 Years Ago Today; a Word to Boing Boing from Yoko.

Yoko Ono has kindly emailed Boing Boing this beautiful photograph of her husband, former Beatle John Lennon, who was murdered on this day in 1980. Photographer Allan Tannenbaum took the image on November 26, 1980, just a couple of weeks before Lennon passed away.

"Please share your memories of John here at this website," Ms. Ono says to Boing Boing readers, and, "WAR IS OVER! IF YOU WANT IT. You can download the poster here. Print it out, and display it in your window, school, workplace, car & elsewhere over the holiday season."

Mythical Female Snipers Stalking Russia?

Noah Shachtman at WIRED's Danger Room blog says,

Russia's top investigator is claiming that their wartime foes, the Georgians, deployed a cadre of female snipers from Ukraine and Latvia. The shooters sound an awful lot like the mythical "white tights" -- the exotic, stone-cold, blue eyed, Olympic bialthete killers of Chechen war lore who were said to pick off hapless Russian conscripts.
Read the post at Danger Room, by Nathan Hodge: The Return of 'White Tights': Mythical Female Snipers Stalk Russians

Survival Research Labs (SRL) turns 30 today

Survival Research Laboratories, the legendary machine performance project that started it all, turns 30 today. Founder Mark Pauline has a blog post up about this milestone, with a copy of SRL's first-ever ad, above. Mark says,

Id like to thank all those who have helped me make SRL what it is, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Im still having a blast. Even moving all 160 tons of my stuff to the new shop in Petaluma has been kind of fun. In a few more weeks, Ill be totally out of here and SRL will lurch into the next 30 year chapter. 2038 here we come!
A huge congrats and deepest respect to Mark, the SRL team, and their respective family members -- the meat-based kind, but also the magical metal machines who are the real stars of SRL. On behalf of all Boingdom, we wish all of you another 30 years of happy mutancy.

For BoingBoing readers not familiar with SRL, here's how they describe what they do:

Survival Research Laboratories was conceived of and founded by Mark Pauline in November 1978. Since its inception SRL has operated as an organization of creative technicians dedicated to re-directing the techniques, tools, and tenets of industry, science, and the military away from their typical manifestations in practicality, product or warfare. Since 1979, SRL has staged over 45 mechanized presentations in the United States and Europe. Each performance consists of a unique set of ritualized interactions between machines, robots, and special effects devices, employed in developing themes of socio-political satire. Humans are present only as audience or operators.

Below, an early photograph featuring Mark Pauline with one of his first creations. Performance artist Karen Finley and V. Vale of RE/Search Publications are among the bemused onlookers. (thanks, K0re!)

Glass molecule reproductions from

Above is a picture of the hand-blown recreation of the LSD molecule that I received for making a donation to the Erowid Center, the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization behind Erowid has been a measured, sane repository for chemical and counterculture information online for twelve years and relies on donations to continue its operation. Nearly anyone who has looked up drug and entheogenic plant information online has stumbled across — and subsequently been edified by — Erowid. For a subject as politically and personally charged as ingesting chemicals, Erowid remains one of the few rational sources of real-world experience reports, safety warnings, and advocacy of safe but individually accountable drug use available online or elsewhere. If you're like me, your recreational and experimental drug use has tailed off over the years, but even so, I still use the site as a reference and source of entertainment. (I probably shouldn't laugh, but some of the negative experience reports can be hilarious. Hang on, lil' cowboy!) Moreover, "check out Erowid" is the first advice I offer to a young head. Kids are going to experiment — better they get unbiased information about the risks and rewards of their drug use than rely exclusively on well-meaning but often ignorant peers. I am proud to give Erowid my money. Throw 'em a buck! Art Glass Molecules incentives []

Mini-documentary of London's guerrilla gardener and author Richard Reynolds

Homegrown Evolution says:

To those frustrated with national or even local politics, I say just get out there and do something. In the words of London's guerrilla gardener and author Richard Reynolds, "The point at which I became a guerrilla gardener is when I realized that I would get a lot more accomplished by just getting out there and doing it than phoning up the council and complaining about the landscape all around me." So skip those endless returns and watch a mini-doc of one of Reynold's actions.
Mini-documentary of London's guerrilla gardener and author Richard Reynolds

Royal Quiet Deluxe, chicken band: now the story is told on video

Jeff Simmermon says:

I've just posted a video of myself telling the story behind my band Royal Quiet Deluxe -- the chicken/human combo you posted on Boing Boing a few months ago.

This link also takes you to a newly released track, featuring me on the typewriter, my friend Tim on guitar, the chickens on toy pianos/vocals, and the sounds of a Virginia summertime mixed with a PSA about Exotic Newcastle Disease in Southern California. Direct link to that track here.

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band: Now the Story is Told on Video

Todd Lappin covers the 2008 Illegal Soapbox Derby


Todd Lappin took some great photos of the 2008 Illegal Soapbox Derby

Well, turns out there's a reason why it's called the *Illegal* Soapbox Derby.

When we arrived at Bernal Speedway in San Francisco to take in the 2008 running of the Illegal Soapbox Derby, some unpleasantness ensued between the racers and several representatives of the San Francisco Police Department. It seems the Parks Department had received a pre-race complaint from someone in the Bernal Heights Temperance and Abstinence League, and the cops were under orders to put the kibosh on the event. (According to the police, San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano had attempted to intervene on behalf of the Soapbox Derby, but to no avail -- Ammiano was overruled by the bureaucrats at the Parks Department. Thanks for trying, Tom!)

Major buzzkill.

After some futile and frustrating attempts at negotiation, the crowd dispersed peacefully and relocated (no less peacefully) to an another gravity-rich location elsewhere in the city.

Photos of the Really Really Illegal 2008 Illegal Soapbox Derby

BBtv: Roots Reggae Legends Toots and the Maytals (music)

Today on Boing Boing tv: Toots and the Maytals are true reggae legends (more: Wikipedia, MySpace). Founder Toots Hibbert is credited with coining the word "reggae" in the band's 1968 single, "Do the Raggay." They've had more number one hit songs in Jamaica than any recording artist ever, and received a Grammy for Best Reggae Album of the Year in 2005.

He was a contemporary of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, and was featured in Director-producer Perry Henzel's all-Jamaican-made 1973 movie classic The Harder They Come (Amazon link).

I joined BBtv's London-based music correspondent Russell Porter for a visit on the venerable Mister Toots' tour bus after an amazing set at Outside Lands, and we sat down with him for a conversation about the history of reggae, and what Toots thinks about contemporary hip-hop and dancehall -- and where his legacy leads. The generous vanity intro he did for BBtv is a thing of beauty, we can all die happy now.

Link to Boing Boing tv blog post with downloadable video and daily podcast subscription instructions.

Sponsor Note: This episode, and other BBtv music features this month, are sponsored by the Crowdfire live music social media project. You can find images, video, and audio about the band featured in today's show at Crowdfire -- here's the search link for fan-uploads related to Toots and the Maytals.

Related Boing Boing tv episodes from Outside Lands:
* Broken Social Scene: interview and live performance (music)
* Galactic's "Modern New Orleans Funk" with Xeni and Russell (music)
* Interview with Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willett (music)
* Andy Gould, rock band manager, dances on the labels' graves.
* Primus: Xeni interviews Les and Ler (music)
* Kaki King, guitar hero: performance, interview with Xeni (music)
* BB Gadgets' Joel at Outside Lands: Crowdfire deconstructed
* Carney at Outside Lands - a "Boing Boing tv Bus Session." (music)
* Steel Pulse founder David Hinds at Outside Lands (music)
* Boing Boing tv backstage at Outside Lands: (Xeni + Russell Porter)

(Special thanks to Wayneco for the magic bus, to Michael Cacia, and to Virgin America for air travel.)

Boing Boing tv: Floating in Zero Gravity is Fun, Earthlings!

In today's episode of Boing Boing tv, we float around in zero gravity. With me on this Zero-G weightless flight are Intel Chairman Craig Barrett; my friend Sean Bonner from metblogs; and a bunch of science teachers from grade schools and high schools throughout the United States who were on board to conduct microgravity experiments for the kids back home. As you watch, keep an eye out for the floating lego robot, a flying pig, and the barfing guy who is totally barfing for reals -- the rest of us did not, btw, I don't get sick in space.

What you see in this episode is what it feels like, guys, and it feels awesome.

Link to Boing Boing tv blog post with downloadable version of this video, and instructions on how to subscribe to the daily BBtv video podcast.

(Special thanks to Peter Diamandis, and George and Loretta Whitesides)

Star Simpson, one year after Boston airport terror-scare: unedited BBtv interview transcript

September 21, 2008 marks exactly one year since the day on which 19-year-old MIT engineering student Star Simpson walked into Boston's Logan International Airport wearing a home-made light-up sweatshirt, and asked an airport worker for information about a friend's arriving flight.

Boston is the city from which two terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks departed in 2001. They boarded planes at Logan and flew them into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York, destroying the buildings and killing nearly 3,000 people.

In January 2007, a false terrorism scare happened in Boston when a guerrilla marketing team working to promote Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force show placed LED signs around the city. Authorities mistook the colorfully lit boards for bombs.

Just eight months later, in a persisting environment of anxiety over terrorism, a Boston Logan Airport worker mistook Star Simpson's LED-adorned wearable tech garment for a suicide bomb. That airport worker phoned Boston police. A small misunderstanding over a hoodie quickly became a surreal debacle during which police said they came close to killing Ms. Simpson.

Last Friday, we aired an interview with Star Simpson -- her first public comments on the incident since that day -- in a ten-minute video feature on Boing Boing tv (here's the direct MP4 link).

Some viewers asked if we could publish a transcript of our entire 45-minute Skype video chat, and here it is. One year, countless court dates, and much media uproar later, Star's wry advice to other would-be wearable electronics makers? "Hide the batteries." Snip from the transcript:

XENI JARDIN: So what exactly happened? What was the moment that changed from you going to pick up your friend with this shirt and another device which you'll show us in a moment... when did everything switch.

STAR SIMPSON: The woman who made the call surprised me. I was asking an information woman for, 'has the flight come in, can you tell me which baggage claim to be at...' and she looked at my jacket and glazed over completely in fear. And I was very surprised by that, I didn't know what to say. That was how everything started. I tried my best to explain everything to her, and I turned the lights off the jacket. Nothing calmed her down. No words could convey anything calming to her. I thought maybe I could at least get out of her sphere of terror, whatever was causing her such anxiety, by maybe going somewhere else and trying to find my friend on my own. Then, I didn't expect that things would go so badly from there. After that I was trying to leave the airport, I was catching the shuttle bus to go home because I realized that I'd missed my friend and the next best thing I could to was find a phone. I was waiting on the traffic island for the next shuttle bus to get on the subway when all of a sudden my hands were grabbed from behind me.

XENI: Who was grabbing your hands?

STAR: It turned out to be the state police. They have this magic trick where 40 of them can appear all at once out of nowhere. I didn't see them coming ever. Just, all of a sudden my hands were wrenched up over my head and my stuff was thrown on the ground, and they're everywhere, and some of them were holding really big devices that I realized were machine guns, later. I was -- I couldn't identify them at the time, I thought maybe they were camera tripods. I had no idea what was going on.

Full text of the interview follows after the jump.

Read the rest

Raymond Scott: The First 100 Years


Irwin Chusid, journalist, music historian, radio personality and self-described "landmark preservationist," (wiki) wrote the following essay to mark the centennial of composer Raymond Scott for Boing Boing. Portrait of Raymond Scott above by Drew Friedman. (Click image for full size.)

His merry melodies have propelled the antics of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Animaniacs, and Bart Simpson. His recordings underscore the body-fluid fetishism of Ren & Stimpy. Yet Raymond Scott, who was born in Brooklyn 100 years ago today, never wrote a note for a cartoon in his life.

Scott's popular 1930s faux-jazz novelties were festooned with titles like "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals," "Celebration on the Planet Mars," and "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House." When Warner Bros. purchased Scott's publishing in 1943, their music director Carl Stalling began seasoning his cartoon scores with Scott's sonic spice. In hundreds of these anarchic shorts, Stalling sampled over a dozen Scott titles, with "Powerhouse" echoing behind countless cat-chase-mouse sequences and ominous assembly lines. Since forever, Scott's quirky musical motifs have become genetically encoded in every earthling.

Not that it mattered to Scott. He didn't care about cartoons. He cared about machines -- whether they had a pulse or not. His demanding perfectionism was legendary. He rehearsed his sidemen to the point of exhaustion and resentment -- and insulted them if they failed to meet the maestro's standards. Drummer Johnny Williams (father of composer John Williams) told an interviewer: "We were machines, only we had names."

Since Scott couldn't hire the perfect musicians, he built them. From the 1940s thru the 1970s, Scott, whose recording studios doubled as science labs, worked increasingly with home-built techno sound generators. He's one of the great overlooked pioneers of electronica, with US patents to prove it. His 1963 Soothing Sounds for Baby series of repetitive, high-tech nap-inducers set the template for ambient music. In 1970, Motown founder Berry Gordy was so impressed with Scott's Electronium, an analog console that composed by artificial intelligence, that he commissioned a unit. Two years later, Gordy hired Scott at Motown-L.A., where the mad scientist toiled until 1977.

Scott called the Electronium an "instantaneous composition-performance machine." You twisted dials and twirled knobs to set preferences, got a tape rolling, hit "GO," then walked away while the device "composed." It's ironic that the Patron Saint of Control Freaks, who demanded total submission from his talented human recruits, eventually hardwired the perfect sideman -- and got himself a collaborator with a mind of its own.

Decades earlier, Scott demolished a discriminatory barrier by hiring the first interracial band in network radio history. In a segregated industry, he was offered the job of Music Director by CBS in 1942. Scott demanded the right to hire the best players regardless of color. The network balked. Scott refused to stand down, and eventually prevailed, bringing on board Ben Webster, Charlie Shavers, Cozy Cole and other black jazz heavyweights.

In the 1950s, he worked with a young Columbia grad named Robert Moog, later inventor of an eponymous synthesizer. They got along well. "Scott was definitely in the forefront of developing electronic music technology," Moog attested, "and in the forefront of using it commercially as a musician." Scott's son, Stan Warnow, is directing a documentary about his father. In a poignant second-generation encounter, Warnow recently filmed an interview with John Williams during which they discussed their dads. "I grew up hearing Scott's music," Williams told Warnow. "My father played drums with his band, so the music was very much in my head and in the musical atmosphere of our home. I remember those magical musicians performing their alchemy. Raymond Scott has an important place in American music."

Scott suffered a debilitating stroke in 1987, which left him unable to work or speak. He died in 1994, just as his music was undergoing a revival. His compositions have since been covered or sampled by Gorillaz, Kronos Quartet, Devo, J Dilla, They Might Be Giants, Madlib, El-P, Don Byron, Soul Coughing, and others. Lately it seems that 20% of student animation projects on YouTube contain unauthorized soundtracks by Scott (whose heirs encourage Creative Commons use).

To mark the centennial, the Scott Archives commissioned a portrait by caricaturist (and Scott fan) Drew Friedman. Limited edition prints signed by the artist, Drew Friedman, are available at -- Irwin Chusid.

Drew Friedman portrait of Raymond Scott | Raymond Scott site | Raymond Scott blog | Stan Warnow's documentary-in-progress of Raymond Scott

Best of BBtv - David Byrne "Playing the Building."

Our retrospective of favorite Boing Boing tv editions concludes today in a visit with music legend David Byrne, at the launch of his musical installation Playing the Building. This episode was a blast for cast and crew alike, and we're revisiting it today to remind you that Byrne is about to start a Fall US tour to support his recently-released collaboration with Brian Eno, Everything that Happens will Happen Today. Snip from that project's website:

Byrne and Eno began their artistic relationship in the late seventies with 3 Talking Heads albums, followed by their groundbreaking album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.
The album is their first together in 30 years, and is available in deliciously DRM-free digital download. It's beautiful.

Photos from the BBtv "Playing the Building" shoot, below -- and in the episode -- by Clayton Cubitt. (Special thanks to Danielle Spencer, and Jason Wishnow).

Previously on Boing Boing: David Byrne and Brian Eno's kick ass new album in a million downloadable and physical formats

Plushie Kali goddess

BB reader Sanjay Patel says,

"You kindly mentioned my dorky book (Little India) on Boing Boing a while ago. Thank you! I thought you might be interested in what me and my old art school friend Leeanna cooked up. Hopefully it makes you Ghee Happy."

Kali, Goddess of Death (Leanna's Thread)

Video: soundsystems mounted to BMX bikes

 Crblog Wp-Content Uploads 2008 08 Basszilla 02
In New York's Queens borough, there's a group of Trinidiadian teens who trick out their BMX bikes with insane sound systems. Directors Nicolas Randall and Joe Stevens shot a short documentary about the scene. Creative Review has more still photos and a video clip from the film, titled Made In Queens. Amazing stuff. BMX soundsystems (Creative Review)

Jetpack reviewed. Verdict: undeniably awesome.

NYT writer and BB pal John Schwartz test-flew a jetpack with its inventor Glenn Martin, at a Wisconsin air show today. It looks really fun.

To rise off the ground wearing a jetpack is to feel the force of dreams. Very, very noisy dreams.

On Tuesday, an inventor from New Zealand unveiled what he calls “the world’s first practical jetpack” at the EAA AirVenture, the gigantic annual air show here. The inventor, Glenn Martin, 48, who has spent 27 years developing the devices, said he hoped to begin selling them next year for $100,000 apiece.

“There is nothing that even comes close to the dream that the jetpack allows you to achieve,” said Robert J. Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. He called it “about the coolest desire left to mankind.”

The Jetpack: From Comics to a Liftoff in the Yard (NYT; image: Andy Manis)

Previously on Boing Boing:

  • Sneak preview of the Martin Jetpack