At SXSW, homeless people become WiFi hotspots

[Video Link]

Over the weekend, I noticed that David Gallagher of The New York Times observed in Austin, "Homeless people have been enlisted to roam the streets wearing T-shirts that say 'I am a 4G hotspot.”

A number of other folks I follow on Twitter who are attending the annual SXSW event there mentioned it, too, with concern. Here's the project's website, detailing their system to PayPal each "homeless hotspot" person directly. "We suggest $2 per 15 minutes."

The project was created by a team at global ad agency BBH.

Jon Mitchell at RWW has more. The problem, as he sees it:

The Homeless Hotspots website frames this as an attempt "to modernize the Street Newspaper model employed to support homeless populations." There's a wee little difference, though. Those newspapers are written by homeless people, and they cover issues that affect the homeless population. By contrast, Homeless Hotspots are helpless pieces of privilege-extending human infrastructure. It's like it never occurred to the people behind this campaign that people might read street newspapers. They probably just buy them to be nice and throw them in the garbage.

Tim Carmody at Wired News has more about the project's roots, and why he and others find it troubling:

This is my worry: the homeless turned not just into walking, talking hotspots, but walking, talking billboards for a program that doesn’t care anything at all about them or their future, so long as it can score a point or two about digital disruption of old media paradigms.

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Madonna's cautionary AIDS comic, handed out at a 1987 concert

From Ethan Persoff's ongoing chronicles of vintage weird ephemera: COMICS WITH PROBLEMS #7 - MADONNA ON AIDS. This public health pamphlet was handed out at one of her concerts, one night only, in 1987. Her image appears on the cover, and inside, a handwritten note urging for greater awareness of AIDS and an end to prejudice against those who contract it (or who are HIV-positive). Read the rest

The language of the 99 Percent

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Brian Stelter has a piece in the New York Times today about language and the Occupy Movement.

I was among those interviewed for the article.

Within weeks of the first encampment in Zuccotti Park in New York, politicians seized on the phrase. Democrats in Congress began to invoke the “99 percent” to press for passage of President Obama’s jobs act — but also to pursue action on mine safety, Internet access rules and voter identification laws, among others. Republicans pushed back, accusing protesters and their supporters of class warfare; Newt Gingrich this week called the “concept of the 99 and the one” both divisive and “un-American.”

Perhaps most important for the movement, there was a sevenfold increase in Google searches for the term “99 percent” between September and October and a spike in news stories about income inequality throughout the fall, heaping attention on the issues raised by activists.

“The ‘99 percent,’ and the ‘one percent,’ too, are part of our vocabulary now,” said Judith Stein, a professor of history at the City University of New York.

Read the rest. Read the rest

Blood types and pseudoscience in Japan

Ever wonder why some anime and video game character profiles tell you about the character's blood type? Check out this fascinating post at the Providentia blog about the use of blood types as horoscopes and personality tests in Japanese culture. The practice has origins in early-20th century racist pseudoscience, and it can still negatively affect people today. For instance, somebody with Type B blood might have a hard time finding a job. (Via Jack El-Hai) Read the rest

The annotated apocalypse: Anthropologists tackle 2012

It's August of 2011, do you know when your Apocalypse is?

There are 1000s of people who think that something important—if not the end or the world, then something—will happen on December 21, 2012. These speculations spring from a well-seasoned cultural melting pot, but a key ingredient is the writings and beliefs of both ancient and modern Maya people. In fact, the folks promoting the 2012 movement often frame themselves as experts in Maya traditions.

Here's the thing, though: There are actual experts in ancient Maya traditions, and actual experts who study the culture and religion of modern Maya living today. These archaeologists and anthropologists have, inadvertently, created some of the pop culture legends that spawned the 2012 movement. But, until very recently, they've largely ignored that movement. This is starting to change, however. Last January, archaeo-astronomers held a symposium on the 2012 phenomenon and those papers were recently published in The Proceedings of the International Astronomy Union. Meanwhile, a new scholarly book, collecting essays on the 2012 phenomenon by Mayanist researchers, is set to be published soon.

One of the researchers featured in that book is John Hoopes, an archaeologist and one of my former professors when I was an anthropology student at The University of Kansas.

Hoopes does field research, digging at archaeological sites in Costa Rica and other parts of Central and South America. But, as a side project, he's also developed some expertise in the way archaeology—and, particularly, pseudo-archaeology—influences pop culture in the United States and Europe. Read the rest

Software designer behind "84 chloroform searches" in Casey Anthony trial says data was wrong

Turns out there was only one, not 84, searches for "chloroform" on Casey Anthony's computer. The New York Times reports that John Bradley, the man who designed the forensic application used to determine this, figured out there was an error and disclosed this to prosecutors and police right away—but the "84 searches for 'chloroform" line remained a key element of the prosecution, anyway. These new findings were never presented to the jury, and the court record was not corrected. Before you dismiss this as a tedious detail in an over-exploited celebrity trial, remember: this is the U.S. legal system at work, and you or I could be the suspect just as easily, for any number of more mundane crimes.

The finding of 84 visits was used repeatedly during the trial to suggest that Ms. Anthony had planned to murder her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was found dead in 2008. Ms. Anthony, who could have faced the death penalty, was acquitted of the killing on July 5.

According to Mr. Bradley, chief software developer of CacheBack, used by the police to verify the computer searches, the term "chloroform" was searched once through Google. The Google search then led to a Web site,, that was visited only once, Mr. Bradley added. The Web site offered information on the use of chloroform in the 1800s.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office had used the software to validate its finding that Ms. Anthony had searched for information about chloroform 84 times, a conclusion that Mr.

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Scherer on Assange: "Penetrating a sleeping not a political act."

TIME's Michael Scherer on the hero theater around Julian Assange's sex case: "Penetrating a sleeping woman he had only recently met, if true, is not a political act, despite the efforts of his supporters to cast the resulting high cost of his house arrest as some sort of effort to stop the Arab Spring. It is the behavior of a brute, at best, and a criminal, at worst." Read the rest

Rapper claims planking is racist

Gawker's Adrian Chen covers the new 'controversy' over planking, the cartoon-mimicking "lying-down game" out of Britain and Australia: rapper Xzibit insists that it is mocking slaves who were transported from Africa to America in superficially similar fashion. Adds Chen: "If smearing planking as racist is what finally makes it stop, we're not going to complain." Read the rest

When "Hair" came to Memphis

This post at Dangerous Minds about the documentary "When Hair Came to Memphis," on the longhair musical hitting the Bible Belt, is a great piece of internet writing by Marc Campbell. But whoah man, the video is really—you gotta watch. (Thanks, Richard Metzger) Read the rest

Alex Jones: "The DMT elves want the elites to kill us all."

Do yourself a favor today, and watch this truly exceptional Alex Jones rant. Clockwork elves, hyperdimensional eyes, and the government elite conspiracy to dose and rule us all. Read the rest

New York legislature says "I do" to same-sex marriage (big photo gallery)

People on the street cheer after the New York Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage in New York June 24, 2011.

The state legislature of New York tonight made same-sex marriages legal. New York now becomes the sixth state to allow gay people to get married, and the most populous state to do so. Reuters: "State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office."

Gov. Cuomo has already signed the bill, so it will become law 30 days from now.

Human rights, dignity, equality, gift registries, tax breaks, divorces, and everlasting love for all.

They're celebrating in the streets tonight. Below, a couple follows the New York Senate sessions via twitter as they await the vote announcement. More photos follow of crowds awaiting, then celebrating the news, at the historic Stonewall Inn. The one photo that's really making the rounds tonight, however, is this one of a rainbow-lit Empire State Building.

REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

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Bin Laden wanted a marketing makeover for al Qaeda, documents show

Documents obtained by US special forces from the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed show that the terror mastermind was considering a rebranding campaign for al Qaeda, and a possible merger with other regional militant groups. Mat Apuzzo, in the Associated Press, got a briefing from US officials familiar with the documents:

The problem with the name al-Qaida, bin Laden wrote in a letter recovered from his compound in Pakistan, was that it lacked a religious element, something to convince Muslims worldwide that they are in a holy war with America.

Maybe something like Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad, meaning Monotheism and Jihad Group, would do the trick, he wrote. Or Jama'at I'Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida, meaning Restoration of the Caliphate Group.

As bin Laden saw it, the problem was that the group's full name, al-Qaida al-Jihad, for The Base of Holy War, had become short-handed as simply al-Qaida. Lopping off the word "jihad," bin Laden wrote, allowed the West to "claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam." Maybe it was time for al-Qaida to bring back its original name.

Can I make a suggestion, dead guy? Go Silicon Valley. Just take out some vowels, a la Flickr, gdgt, Tumblr, and the like. "LQD." Read the rest

Naked Bike Ride Day around the world: extra-large photo gallery

Cyclists ride during the World Naked Bike Ride in Mexico City. More photos from around the world, below. Probably "NSFW," depending on where you "W." (REUTERS/Jorge Lopez)

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Colton Harris-Moore, the "Barefoot Bandit," pleads guilty to 7 federal charges

Colton Harris-Moore, the 20-year-old, 6-foot-5 criminal whose hijinks in multiple countries led to internet fame and the "Barefoot Bandit" name, today pleaded guilty to seven criminal charges.

Appearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the lanky, 6-foot-5 Camano Island man entered guilty pleas to each of the federal charges. Under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Harris-Moore, 20, also agreed to forfeit any proceeds earned from the sale of his story.

The forfeiture issue had been a sticking point in plea negotiations between federal prosecutors and the defense, according to Harris-Moore's attorney, John Henry Brown. Browne has said that Harris-Moore did not want to profit from his crime spree and intends any proceeds to go toward paying restitution, which Browne said is in the range of $1.5 million.

"Whether the government wants it or not, there will be a movie. There will be more books. And there will be money from them," Browne said earlier this month.

Heh. And what poetry it would be if everyone who wanted to see the movie just stole it online!

More, including court documents, at the Seattle Times.

 Colton Harris-Moore, "Barefoot Bandit," arrested in the Bahamas ... Colton Harris-Moore has a posse. Barefoot Burglar, 18, suspected of stealing planes, etc. Read the rest

Bob Dylan sings about the video game "Gears of War." Bonus: "Goat Rap."

[Video Link]. Oh, alright: it's really internet video genius Liam Lynch. It's a clip from his podcast, "Lynchland:The Liam Lynch Podcast". Full episodes can be seen at or on iTunes.

Here's the video that inspired this parody. Not into Dylan? Liam's "Goat Rap," below.

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Famous People Hanging Out With Their Vinyl

A wonderful photo-essay on Dangerous Minds. The selection above, obviously: Marilyn Monroe. (thanks, Tara McGinley!) Read the rest

Europride and Gaga in Rome

(Lady Gaga performs during a gay pride concert in downtown Rome. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters)

The gay icon Lady Gaga was there wearing her green wig, together with up to one million people marching chanting singing in a carnival gay pride march.

Rome is the capital of Vatican too, the place where Pope lives and preaches from his balcony every Sunday morning about how people should live and love. Lady Gaga's motto this Sunday was the power of love. She recalled her Italian origin and name ( La Germanotta) and, in a passionate speech, demanded immediate equal rights for the gays, meaning the right to get married, have children etc. While singing her new song Born This Way, an anthem to diversity...

But only few days ago, the Pope announced his firm opposition to equalize even straight informal marriages, that is, unions not sanctioned by God in a marriage sacrament. Where the Catholic church is concerned, gay marriages are not only a taboo topic but even a place of severe demonization and homophobia.

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