Radio Free Africa

"Freedom of expression and of thought was not invented by the West. It has existed in traditional societies -- even primitive ones -- for centuries. Human progress would not have been possible without it. I'm saying this as a black African from Ghana because today around the world, we have 'educated' barbarians who want to suppress this freedom by arresting and jailing dissidents, writers, journalists and those they disagree with." -- George Ayittey on the BBC, September 20, 2009.

Ayittey, whose famed "cheetahs vs. hippos" TED speech I've blogged before, is co-founder of an inspired new project called Radio Free Africa. (thanks, Emeka Okafor) Read the rest

The Lessons of Lindsay

A powerful and beautiful photo-essay by Matt Mendelson about a powerful and beautiful young woman from my home town named Lindsay Ess, a fashion major at Virginia Commonwealth University. Same school, even the same building where I spent a lot of time as a kid, growing up -- so the story *really* felt familiar and personal to me, even though I do not know her, and cannot imagine what it feels like to endure what she's prevailed through.

The story begins at a student runway showing, where Linsday is looking on:

Lindsay, it should be noted, has no hands to clap and no feet on which to get up. She had them back in the summer of 2007, when she was tall and thin and had just graduated from VCU with a fashion merchandising degree. Then, to use her words, a blur. When she entered Henrico Doctors' Hospital that summer, the procedure to remove a small piece of inflamed intestine, a nagging complication of her Crohn's disease, was supposed to go routinely. But supposed to go routinely rarely turns out well, and there hasn't been a routine day in Lindsay's life ever since. Not since the leak, not since the sepsis, not since the organ failures, the brain seizures, and not since the coma. Definitely not the coma. Not since one day in August turned to October and then drifted on towards Christmas. Certainly not since the quadruple amputations, the cruel coda to having been so close to death all those months and then surviving.
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Jim Carroll interview from 1987

Here's a scanned copy of an interview with the recently-departed punk poet icon Jim Carroll, by Joseph Menn in the Boston Globe. The article is not available anywhere online, and it's a fascinating read, so I'm glad Joe scanned it and published to Flickr.

Joe says, "[The interview took place] in person, at a Boston hotel in 1987. He was an amazing mix of imaginative power at work and straight-up stoner dude. He talked about how when he was in heroin withdrawal, the images he wanted would pile up uselessly like parked cars, then move too fast for him to catch, as in Koyanisqaatsi. But first he saw the chocolate on his pillow and said, 'Man, I could dig THAT later!'"

Flickr set of scanned images. Click "all sizes" on each scanned page to view a size large enough to read comfortably on-screen, they're scanned in high-rez. You can follow Joe on Twitter here.

Previously on BB: The great punk poet Jim Carroll has died. Read the rest

NYC skateboarding legend Andy Kessler has died.

Glen E. Friedman, a photographer who chronicled the birth of skate culture, shares sad news:

If skateboarding was a town, this guy was its mayor. Andy Kessler, one of the good ones, died yesterday apparently of an allergic reaction from a wasp sting that led to a heart attack. This was a great dude, NO ONE could say anything wrong about this dude.

He was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, skater in New York City, holding it down, real since the 70's. Andy will be seriously missed by many including myself. Obituaries and discussion threads: ESPN, bulldogskates, newyorksurf, bulldogskates 2.

Above, a portrait of Kessler around 1976 or 1977 which Glen says was among the skater's favorite. If you know the name of the photog, please share in the comments and I'll amend the post. Photo credit, via a commenter in this thread: "KESS cuttin' it off the lip at the 9' marker, the Deathbowl in Riverdale, 1978. (Photo by Marc André Edmonds)"

Another striking portrait, skating the streets of Manhattan, here.

After the jump: a 2007 video interview. Kessler immediately strikes you as a gentle, thoughtful person -- who could shred like nobody. Read the rest

Hedy Lamarr: '30s film diva, mobile phone tech pioneer, anti-Nazi gadget inventor.

Snip from an essay by artist Michaela Melián on Hedy Lemarr, the Austrian-born American scientist and actress who was once described as the most beautiful woman in the world by MGM's Louis B. Mayer. Art Fag City Editor Paddy Johnson says, "Not only was she the first actress to simulate an orgasm onscreen in 1933, but her frequency-switching device (now known as frequency hopping) developed with partner George Antheil, is the technology upon with cell phones are built."

Melián assembled this online essay for Art Fag City's annual IMG MGMT which, in which artists are invited to curate image essays on the blog. She also wrote a score to accompany the old school style slide show, which is embedded in the post.

Image above: Michaela Melián, Frequency Hopping, 2008, C-print, watercolor, thread, 35 x 28 cm.


In her ex-husband's Salzburg villa, the immigrant had seen plans for remote controlled torpedoes, which were never built because the radio controls proved to be too unreliable. After the outbreak of the Second World War, she worked on practical ideas to effectively fight the Hitler regime. At a party in Hollywood, Lamarr met George Antheil, an avant-garde composer who also wrote film scores. While playing the piano with the composer, the actress suddenly has an important idea for her torpedo control system. Antheil sets up the system on 88 frequencies, as this number corresponds to the number of keys on a piano. To construct it, he employs something similar to the player piano sheet music that he used in his Ballet Mécanique.
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Keeping the Googling Good Life Going in a Post-Box Store era: Doug Fine

We covered Doug Fine's radical off-the-grid lifestyle experiment last year on Boing Boing TV -- embed above. He is the author of Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living, and he's still going strong out there on the Funky Butte Ranch. When he's not out in the fields turning the compost heap or feeding chickens, he's working on his next book, which I'm looking forward to reading. Doug has a thought-provoking piece out in this Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section, here's a preview:

I have a fiancee and a son to provide for, so I decided to take a hard look at our prospects for survival if our consumer safety nets went away. For now, my green lifestyle choices at my remote 41-acre outpost in the American Southwest are optional. You know, growing lettuce instead of buying Chilean. Using organic cotton diapers instead of buying Pampers. But what if one morning in, say, 2049, I wake up to milk my goats and find out that supplies are no longer streaming in from China and California? What would I do if both box stores and crunchy food co-ops suddenly were no more? In other words, I'm examining my place in a hypothetical post-oil, post-consumer society 40 years in the future.

Now, I'm not rooting for such a thing. Slave labor, forest depletion, climate change and global resource wars aside, globalization has a lot going for it. I love that I can email a musician in Mauritania and ask to download his latest album.

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Tibetan documentary filmmaker faces trial in eastern Tibet for "inciting separatism."

Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, who directed and filmed the documentary "Leaving Fear Behind" (excerpt embedded above) has been charged with "inciting separatism" and is awaiting trial in Siling in eastern Tibet (Chinese: Xining, Qinghai Province). The Chinese government will not allow his lawyers to represent him, so there is not much hope for a fair trial.

Supporters are urging people to take action, by sending a letter to Wu Aiying, China's Minister of Justice and Zhang Yesui, China's Ambassador to the United Nations, demanding Dhondup Wangchen's immediate and unconditional release.

Dhondup Wangchen has been detained since March 2008 and has suffered torture and ill-treatement at the hands of the Chinese authorities. He is being targeted for simply exercising his right to freedom of expression, and the charges against him are part of the Chinese government's widespread campaign to punish and silence Tibetan voices of dissent.
(via Students for a Free Tibet)

Previously:Tibet: "Beijing 10" return to USA; new Tibet docu "Leaving Fear ... Read the rest

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Citizen Engineer: open source hardware comic and kits

Our pals at Adafruit Industries have launched a new series of kits that include a full color comic book/zine. The first volume of Citizen Engineer is all about SIM card hacking and has the parts to build your own SIM card reader/writer. Citizen Engineer (via MAKE:) Read the rest

Iran: More on the life and death of Neda Agha-Soltan

An amazing piece by Borzou Daragahi, in Tehran, from today's LA Times on the life and death of Neda Agha-Soltan (shown above in a family photo). Her death, documented on cellphone video and spread online, has become a potent spiritual emblem for the popular uprising in Iran.
The first word came from abroad. An aunt in the United States called her Saturday in a panic. "Don't go out into the streets, Golshad," she told her. "They're killing people."

The relative proceeded to describe a video, airing on exile television channels that are jammed in Iran, in which a young woman is shown bleeding to death as her companion calls out, "Neda! Neda!"

A dark premonition swept over Golshad, who asked that her real name not be published. She began calling the cellphone and home number of her friend Neda Agha-Soltan who had gone to the chaotic demonstration with a group of friends, but Neda didn't answer.

At midnight, as the city continued to smolder, Golshad drove to the Agha-Soltan residence in the eastern Tehran Pars section of the capital. As she heard the cries and wails and praising of God reverberating from the house, she crumpled, knowing that her worst fears were true. "Neda! Neda!" the 25-year-old cried out. "What will I do?"

Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, was shot dead Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators who allege rampant vote-count fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The jittery cellphone video footage of her bleeding on the street has turned "Neda" into an international symbol of the protest movement that ignited in the aftermath of the June 12 voting.

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Miles O'Brien: The Hubble Constant

Miles "Intergalactic Space Badass" O'Brien, whose work we've been featuring as a guest contributor on Boing Boing Video, has a must-read piece at True Slant about the recent end of NASA's mission to repair/upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Hubble Repair Missions. After all, I cut my teeth on the space beat covering the legendary STS-61 mission in December 1993 - the first, the most dramatic - and certainly the most important - of the five astronaut telescope calls now inscribed in the space history books.

So I must confess I am a bit wistful - even a little misty - now that it is all over. We will no longer have the good fortune to witness the live drama of human beings pushing the envelope of impossibility to improve a machine that pushes the boundaries of our understanding of the universe.

Over the years, sixteen Mr. Starwrenches finessed, improvised - and sometimes used brute force - to fix what ailed Hubble - or make it better. It was Reality TV for the Space Cadet Nation.

The Hubble Constant: High Interest (True Slant)

Image: "The Ten Billion Dollar Man - Last Shuttle-eye view of Hubble."

Previously: BB Video - Miles O'Brien Reports: An Astronaut Climbs Everest ... BB Video: This Week in Space, with Miles O'Brien BB Video - Diving into Space: Miles O'Brien in NASA's Neutral ... Boing Boing Video: Welcome, Miles O'Brien! Read the rest

BB Video - $5 Cover: Craig Brewer's New MTV Series on Local Indie Music Life

Boing Boing Video: The Throbbing Gristle Interview

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. Read the rest

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

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

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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) Read the rest

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