Blackpool meets Bosch: stag and hen nights from hell


Sal writes, "Dougie Wallace's photo-set of stag and hen parties in Blackpool is hideously beautiful. Featuring cross-dressers, men shrink-wrapped to various objects, bare buttocks, flying chunder and the horrible aftermath of a night on the town." There's a lot of the-night-before-the-morning-after stuff here, all right -- Bosch meets Blackpool. (Thanks, Sal!)

Read the rest

UK secretary of state: "There is no surveillance state"


UK Secretary of State Theresa May -- part of a regime that presides over a spy service that claims the right to intercept all webmail, search and clicks; that spends hundreds of millions sabotaging Internet security; that dirty-tricks and psy-opses peaceful protest groups;

Read the rest

Sheffield cops threaten reporter with terrorism charges


Alex Evans, a Sheffield Star reporter, was shaken down by transport police who told him that he wasn't allowed to shoot video of a pensioners' protest against cuts to travel subsidies for elderly people. When he refused to delete his footage, they threatened him with arrest under anti-terrorism laws. Shortly after he was made to stop recording, the police roughly arrested two protestors: one 65, the other 64.

Read the rest

The stupendous hand-painted signs of Carter's travelling Steam Fair


The Better Letters tumblr has posted a massive gallery of the hand-lettered signs from Carter's Steam Fair, a touring vintage fair that stopped last weekend in Clissold Park in Stoke-Newington, London. Carter's is a family business, and it's a magnificent affair, even down to the gleaming, streamlined family trailers parked around the perimeter. Joby Carter, the fair's signpainter, is the son of the founder, John Carter, and he is part of a five-generation tradition of handpainted signs. My wife and I took our daughter and a friend to the fair yesterday and were amazed, thrilled and delighted by every single detail, from Voltini's Electrocution sideshow to the penny arcade where we gambled recklessly with enormous, Georgian pennies to the many rides and funhouses (and don't forget the steampunk QR code!). As my daughter's six-year-old friend said while we left, "This was the best day of my life!"

I took some pictures, but Better Letters had the run of the place at a pre-opening tour and is in any event a much better photographer than I'll ever be, so look at those pics, too.

Read the rest

50,000 march against austerity in London, BBC doesn't notice

Joly writes, "It seems the BBC are capable of tracking down a single Scot in Brazil who cheered a goal against England but fail to notice 50,000 demonstrating on their doorstep." The Guardian noticed. There's much bigger stuff -- likely too big for the Beeb to ignore -- coming in October.

Read the rest

UK bans teaching Creationism as science in schools


(Beginner's Bible Coloring Book!, The Searcher, used with permission)

(Beginner's Bible Coloring Book!, The Searcher, used with permission)

The UK Government has banned the practice of teaching Creationism as science in all UK schools, including the less-regulated, semi-privatised Free Schools and Academies. Previously, all state schools and most Academies and Free Schools were prohibited from teaching Creationism, but existing religious schools were exempted from the rule. Since the new year, the government has closed off these exemptions, and with the latest move, has closed all of them, meaning that no school may teach Creationism any longer. However, state-funded nurseries and lightly inspected private schools are expected to go on teaching Creationism until further changes are made.

The British Humanist Association -- which I joined as a lifetime member -- has led the campaign against the teaching of Creationism in schools, and also campaigns against the Religious Education requirement in English and Welsh curriculum. I believe that RE should be integrated into the social anthropology curriculum and not taught as a standalone subject.

Read the rest

FabLab: a free game that creates 3D printable toys

Makies, the 3D printed toy and game company, has launched FabLab, its inaugural game! FabLab is a free game for people eight and up, through which you create and customize a character and its accessories, which you can also get as real-world, one-off, custom-fabbed objects. MakieLab, the company that created FabLab, was founded by my wife Alice Taylor, and so I've had an inside view into the process by which the game and its back-end -- which includes a remarkable toolchain for turning 3D game-objects into printable items -- came into being. The Makies here in London are fantastic, and they've done brilliantly with the game, if I do say so myself. Please give the game a try -- and tell your friends!

Makies FabLab! Out Now! | Makie.me

London police's secret "domestic extremist" list includes people who sketch protests


Baroness Jenny Jones, a Green Party councillor, writes in the Guardian about the bizarre smears and tittle-tattle she found about herself in the Metropolitan London Police's secret database of "domestic extremists," such as her tweets from a protest in Trafalgar Square.

Jones is just one of many people who have found themselves placed on the "domestic extremist" watchlist by the Met on the flimsiest of excuses. For example, John Catt, an 89 year old peace and human rights campaigner, is in the database along with a notation about the fact that he sketches demonstrations. The police cast a wide net indeed -- noting, for example, that Green politician Ian Driver organised a meeting in support of marriage equality.

The Met's definition of "domestic extremism" didn't occur in a vacuum. It's part of a wider, more militarised view of dissent and protest in general, reflected around the world in the use of illegal "kettling" tactics against protesters, the deployment of "stingray" surveillance devices used to capture the identities of all attendees at peaceful protests, and other examples of officialdom's pants-wetting terror at the thought of people protesting the decisions made by plutocrats and their tame technocrats.

Read the rest

GCHQ claims right to do warrantless mass interception of all webmail, search and social media


The UK spy agency GCHQ says it doesn't need a warrant to intercept and store all UK social media traffic, search history and webmail because it is headed offshore, so it's "foreign communications". It had kept this interpretation of English and Welsh law a secret until now, and only revealed it after a protracted legal battle with the excellent people at Privacy International and six other civil liberties groups, including Amnesty International, and ACLU.

Read the rest

Interviewing Leila Johnston about Hack Circus


My latest Guardian column is an interview with Leila Johnston about her Hack Circus project, which includes a conference, a podcast and a print magazine, all with a nearly indefinable ethic of independence and art for its own sake.

Read the rest

Moonhead and the Music Machine

Fresh from the always-great Nobrow Press and comics creator Andrew Rae is Moonhead and the Music Machine, a surreal all-ages graphic novel that tells the coming-of-age story of Joey Moonhead, whose head is a moon, and whose freak-flag is just starting to fly. Cory Doctorow reviews a fine, funny and delightful tribute to album rock, outcast liberation, and high school social dominance.

Read the rest

Podcast: News from the future for Wired UK

Here's a reading (MP3) of a short story I wrote for the July, 2014 issue of Wired UK in the form of a news dispatch from the year 2024 -- specifically, a parliamentary sketch from a raucous Prime Minister's Question Time where a desperate issue of computer security rears its head:

Read the rest

George Orwell's National Union of Journalists card


From his work with the Tribune. I'm a proud member of the same union.

Read the rest

Thai shrimp industry runs on brutal slavery and murder


A blockbuster investigative report in The Guardian reveals that the Thai shrimp/prawn fishing industry is powered by a brutal system of slavery through which trafficked workers are bought and sold by captains who starve, beat and murder them in sadistic displays intended to inspire fear in the remaining workforce. The major companies who import Thai prawns, like CP Foods, and their customers, which includes most major grocery stores, admit that there is a problem, but they do not conduct audits that go "all the way to the end of the supply chain." An anonymous Thai government spokesman claims that the problem could be easily dealt with, but there is no political will to do so.

Read the rest

Backers get gruesomely murdered in crowdfunded Elite novel


BBC presenter Kate Russell's first science fiction novel is Elite: Mostly Harmless, a novelization of the classic video game Elite, whose production was successfully kickstarted last year. One of the backer rewards was to have yourself gruesomely murdered in the pages of the book, and six lucky fans are now enjoying their deaths:

Read the rest