Boing Boing 

UK cinemas ban Google Glass from screenings


UK cinema exhibitors -- which already makes a practice of recklessly confiscating mobile phones full of sensitive, unprotected data during preview screenings -- have announced that it will not allow Google Glass wearers into cinemas, lest they commit an act of piracy (Glass has a 45 minute battery life when in recording mode).

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British Airways' "Happiness Blanket" sensor detects the totally obvious


British Airways is trialling an in-flight sensor blanket called the "Happiness Blanket" to determine what makes first class passengers happy.

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Nobody cares about the future of the Internet

John Oliver told us that "If you want to do something evil, put it inside something that sounds incredibly boring," and there's no domain in which that is more true than the world of Internet governance.

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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!)

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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;

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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George Orwell's National Union of Journalists card


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

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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.

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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:

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Real-world wireframes: sculpture from Louise Wilson


Another find from the Contemporary Craft Festival: the beautiful and eerie everyday objects turned into wireframes by Louise Wilson, whose pieces were as much fun to look at and handle in person as you'd imagine from these photos. They were surprisingly robust, too.

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Improbable, beautiful ceramic teapots


Spotted at the Contemporary Craft Fair, the amazing teapots of Rylatt of Wales: improbably shaped ceramics with metallic, dark glazes. I wheedled my wife into getting me one for my upcoming birthday, and it is destined to be a favorite and a source of joy around my office.

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Solidwool: Mid-century modern chairs made from wool-based fiberglass


Solidwool is a company from Devon, England that mixes traditional Devon wool with bioresins to make a wool-based, fiberglass-like composite that can be use in furniture construction. I've just seen some of their midcentury modern Hembury Chairs at the Contemporary Craft Fair in Bovey-Tracey, and they're really beautiful, swirling with abstract fibers and pleasingly smooth and solid. They're finely built, comfortable, and extremely handsome.

Hembury Chair

London property bubble entombs a thousand digger-machines


London's property bubble has got people energetically expanding their property, digging out sub-basements -- and the insane bubblenomics of London housebuilding are such that it's cheaper to just bury the digger and abandon it than to retrieve it. London's accumulating a substrate of entombed earthmoving machinery.

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NSA facial recognition: combining national ID cards, Internet intercepts, and commercial facial databases for millions of people

A newly released set of slides from the Snowden leaks reveals that the NSA is harvesting millions of facial images from the Web for use in facial recognition algorithms through a program called "Identity Intelligence." James Risen and Laura Poitras's NYT piece shows that the NSA is linking these facial images with other biometrics, identity data, and "behavioral" data including "travel, financial, behaviors, social network."

The NSA's goal -- in which it has been moderately successful -- is to match images from disparate databases, including databases of intercepted videoconferences (in February 2014, another Snowden publication revealed that NSA partner GCHQ had intercepted millions of Yahoo video chat stills), images captured by airports of fliers, and hacked national identity card databases from other countries. According to the article, the NSA is trying to hack the national ID card databases of "Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran."

This news is likely to be rhetorically useful to campaigners against national ID cards in countries like the UK, where the issue has been hotly debated for years (my own Member of Parliament, Meg Hillier, was the architect of one such programme, and she, along with other advocates for national ID cards, dismissed fears of this sort of use as paranoid ravings).

The development of the's NSA facial recognition technology has been accompanied by a mounting imperative to hack into, or otherwise gain access to, other databases of facial images. For example, the NSA buys facial images from Google's Pittpatt division, while another program scours mass email interceptions for images that appear to be passport photos.

An interesting coda to the piece is that the NSA has developed the capability to infer location by comparing scenery in terrestrial photos to satellite images, which sounds like a pretty gnarly computer-vision problem.

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The English Method: UK taught modern torture to Brazil's dictators


Brazil's 21-year military dictatorship was a torturing, brutal regime -- among their victims was the current president, Dilma Rousseff. At first, the generals tortured by flogging and shocks, but British officials taught them to torture without leaving marks, helping the regime to rehabilitate its international human rights image. The techniques the UK taught to Brazil's torturers were developed for Malay rebels and perfected on Northern Irish Republicans, and these techniques came to be known as "The English Method."

Other governments -- Germany, France, Panama, and, of course, the USA -- also trained Brazil's torturers, but the UK methods were the best. British agents travelled to Brazil to train the torturers personally. More details of the British "foreign aid" program are coming to light as the UK government finally succumbs to the rule of law and releases files from the National Archives at Kew, a move that has been steadfastly refused for obvious reasons.

One document that's come to light is a letter from then-British Ambassador, David Hunt, called "Torture in Brazil," which praises the Brazilian regime for cleaning up its appearance of brutality by "taking a leaf out of the British book."

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Visual gags in comedies: US vs UK

Tony Zhou created this fantastic, 7-minute critique of the visual style of comedy in US films, as compared with UK films (especially the films of Edgar "Shaun of the Dead" Wright). Zhou makes a compelling case for the superiority of British sight-gags and visual comedy -- and the fundamental laziness of US directors in their use of visuals to get a laugh.

For further reading, Zhou recommends David Bordwell's Funny Framings as well as the hilarious Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal video.

(via Kottke)

South London hackspace urgently seeks home


Tom writes, "We're a fledgling makerspace in London (60 members and growing), born from the notion that 'London Hackspace is fantastic but it's a pain to get to from South of the River.' We bootstrapped ourselves in a disused shop earlier this year, have grown quickly and had a second home lined up in a University space for the summer. That deal fell through at the last minute and now we've got just 1 month to find somewhere else. We've got the cash and the income, we just can't find the space! Please help us get the word out. We plan to be London's 2nd biggest community workshop and can't face having our momentum dashed on the cliffs of London's property market."

UK Home Office's terrorist detection checklist


Snapped yesterday at the Mykonos, Greece airport: the UK Home Office's terrorist detection checklist for spotting existential threats to the human race before they can board. It's grimly fun to imagine the brutal false-positives this inane document must generate. My favourite (for sufficiently perverse definitions of "favourite") is a refugee who's just attained citizenship, but now has to rush away to attend the funeral of a brutalized relative.

Did GCHQ reveal secrets about computer insecurity when it exorcised the Snowden leaks from the Guardian's laptops?


When Prime Minister David Cameron ordered two GCHQ spooks to go the the Guardian's offices and ritually exorcise two laptops that had held copies of the Snowden leaks, we assumed it was just spook-lunacy; but Privacy International thinks that if you look at which components the spies targeted for destruction, there are hints about ways that spies can control computer hardware.

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Brandalists replace 365 outdoor ads in 10 UK cities with hand-printed works of art

Last week, in a coordinated attack by guerrilla artists across the UK, 365 outdoor ads were replaced by hand-printed works of art. It was a project of Brandalism, and they hit 10 cities, using hi-viz vests and steely nerves as camouflage while they did their work.

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Mat Ricardo playing Dorchester this Sat

Mat Ricardo writes, "After a sold-out London West End run of my one man show 'Showman,' earlier this year, I'm spending most of the rest of 2014 touring around the world; I've managed to squeeze in only one UK date, and its this coming Saturday, at the lovely Dorchester Arts Centre. It's a great intimate venue, exactly the kind of space where my stuff works best, and I'm really looking forward to it.

"I'll be heading to Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Canada and Finland - ridiculous, and obviously I'm very excited that people seem to be really getting into what I do! And if that's not enough, I've also got the hilarious Sarah Benetto as a special guest. It's going to be a hell of a night - Stories! Danger! Stupid tricks! Come!"