New biography of MAD editor Al Feldstein

Al Feldstein began working at EC comics, publishers of Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear in 1948. Soon he became editor of most of EC's titles. He typically wrote and illustrated a story in each title and drew many of the covers, a mind-bogglingly prolific output. Eventually he stopped doing the art for stories and stuck with editing, writing, and cover illustrations. According to Wikipedia, from "late 1950 through 1953, he edited and wrote stories for seven EC titles." I've always loved his signature, which features elongated horizontals on the F and the T, and an extended vertical on the N.

After MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman got in a fight with publisher William Gaines over ownership of the comic and left EC in 1956, Gaines put Feldstein in charge of the humor magazine, where he remained as editor until 1985.

This month, IDW released Feldstein: The Mad Life and Fantastic Art of Al Feldstein!, a 320-page biography written by Grant Geissman (who is a far-out jazz guitarist in addition to being a biographer of comic book luminaries). My copy is in the mail. In the meantime, enjoy these sample pages below, swiped from Bhob Stewart's Potrzebie blog. Read the rest

People give Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn tons of crap for being the actor who plays Skyler White

"My character, to judge from the popularity of Web sites and Facebook pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women. As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me." From "I have a character issue," by Anna Gunn in the New York Times. Read the rest

NSA paid tech companies millions to cover cost of PRISM compliance

Sourcing its story on files provided by whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the Guardian reported today that the NSA paid millions to cover costs associated with PRISM compliance to tech companies including Google and Yahoo. The top-secret files referenced in the Guardian's report today amount to the first publicly shared evidence of a financial relationship between the US agency and internet service providers. Read the rest

Important baby panda news

Mei Xiang, the female panda who lives at the Smithsonian National Zoo, gave birth today. Above is a screen shot from the Zoo's Panda Cam, showing the baby shortly after birth.

Why should you care about this not-quite-yet-but-soon-to-be adorable baby animal more than you care about any other adorable baby animal? Because the scientific oddities of panda reproduction make its story very interesting. Read the rest

Objects and sounds in a third grade classroom, remixed by students

Edgar Camago, aka DJ Overeasy, did an amazing Breaking Bad remix video we featured recently on Boing Boing. Edgar also teaches third grade at a school in San Francisco.

"My class recently created a song using nothing but objects and sounds found in the classroom or in school," Edgar says. And here's the resulting video. Read the rest

CIA admits Area 51 exists, but won't someone think of the space aliens?

A CIA report released last week "after eight years of prodding by a George Washington University archivist researching the history of the U-2" acknowledged the existence of a secret military testing base called Area 51. But the report "made no mention of colonies of alien life, suggesting that the secret base was dedicated to the relatively more mundane task of testing spy planes." And that has a lot of alien enthusiasts disappointed, writes Adam Nagourney in the New York Times. Read the rest

Murder and Mayhem in Miniature: The Lurid Side of Staffordshire Figurines

Ben Marks of Collector's Weekly says, "Recently, in the course of building a new family for Figurines, staff writer Hunter Oatman-Stanford learned that the ceramic pieces coming out of Staffordshire from 1780 until 1840 often featured unsettling depictions of the crimes and scandals of the day. Inspired by this weird corner of ceramics history, Hunter interviewed author Myrna Schkolne for an article called "Murder and Mayhem in Miniature: The Lurid Side of Staffordshire Figurines," which we published today." Read the rest

Why airline tickets cost so much these days

Matthew Kepnes, who runs a budget travel website called Nomadic Matt, wrote an article explaining why airline tickets cost so much these days, what leads to their price increases, and what consumers can do to find cheaper flights.

With fewer planes, less competition, and higher capacity, airlines can charge a lot more for tickets. There’s nothing to stop them and they don’t need to lower prices. United CEO Jeff Smisek said that only now are airfares priced appropriately. When you have a CEO say something like that, it means prices are not going to go down anymore, but only up.

According to Rick Seaney of, “Before 2008, things were in the favor of the passengers. After the 2009 crisis, the scale of justice tipped towards the airlines.”

Why Your Airplane Ticket is So Expensive Read the rest

Dr. Blankenstein, the Mad Scientist of Analog Synthesizers and Atari Punks

Ben Marks of Collector's Weekly says: "Drew Blanke, aka Dr. Blankenstein, is a circuit bender and music-effects guru who's devoted to analog electronics. As a kid in the 1980s, he made Heathkits; as an adult, he's built effects boxes and electronic instruments (one of his most popular devices uses the same chip that's found in stun guns...) for musicians as diverse as techno wizard Squarepusher and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio.

"To learn more about Blanke, I spoke to him about his work, and even installed one of his "mod kits" in my electric guitar, which now produces some of the most otherworldly sounds you've ever heard." Read the rest

The White House call girl who triggered the Watergate break-in

[Video Link] Here's a trailer for the upcoming book, White House Call Girl: The Real Watergate Story, by Phil Stanford. It's published by our friends at Feral House.

Heidi Rikan was a stripper, working for the mob in Washington D.C. White House Call Girl tells how a call girl operation she was running at the time led to the Watergate break-in, which brought down Tricky Dick Nixon himself.

Needless to say, this is not part of the Watergate story that has come down to us over the decades. It is also only fair to point out that this version of the story might be dismissed out of hand as being dangerous “revisionist” history. If you’re not careful, you might end up being called a “conspiracy theorist.”

You can also be called crazy – which is what happened to a young lawyer named Phillip Bailley, one of the principal witnesses to this ignored bit of American history. When he was foolish enough to blow the whistle on Heidi and her call girl ring, he was locked up at St. Elizabeth’s, the District of Columbia’s mental hospital, in the ward for the criminally insane.

For forty years we’ve only heard the Woodward and Bernstein perspective on Watergate. Now we’ve got the photos. What’s more, we’ve got Heidi’s little black book.

White House Call Girl: The Real Watergate Story Read the rest

Proven techniques to stop a toddler from crying

Video Link.

[arfmoochikncheez, HT: Joe Sabia]

Read the rest

Timeline of chemical warfare

On the heels of the horrible suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria in which more than 1,300 people were killed, National Geographic created a timeline about the history of chemical and biological weapons, dating back to AD 256 in, coincidentally, Syria: Read the rest

In Australia, what may be a 'new' indigenous language has been recorded

US-based Australian linguist Carmel O'Shannessy has documented what she believes are "the beginnings of what's been described as the world's newest known spoken language." Light Walpiri is described as a blend of one small indigenous Australian town's traditional Aboriginal language, Warlpiri, plus English and a form of Aboriginal English known as Kriol. Read more about Light Walpiri, and O'Shannessy's work, at the professor's academic website. And below, videos of an Aboriginal child reading a monster story in Walpiri, and in Light Walpiri. [] Read the rest

Music: DF Tram's "Movie Mix" journey through filmspace

My favorite DJ, DF Tram -- who draws from far-out jazz, psych, experimental ambient, soundtracks, avant-garde classical, and myriad other genres -- just posted this glorious "Movie Mix" that he describes as "a "a selection of sounds from films that have inspired me, audio from scenes that I enjoy, scenes imagined, and scenes discovered along the way." What a fantastic way to lose yourself for 90 minutes.

  Chillits 2009 ambient music mixes online Friday Freak-Out: Electric Lucifer Read the rest

How James Gurney paints dinosaurs

[Video Link] I love James Gurney's art. He is the creator of the beautiful Dinotopia series of books, and he's just made a video that shows the process he used to paint two illustrations of dinosaurs for Scientific American. This trailer shows how much careful planning Jim puts into his work -- sketches, color, studies, photography, and cool 3D models. Wow! I sure admire his devotion to his craft.

The 56-minute video is available at a name-your-price starting point of $15, which is a great deal. It'll also be available soon on DVD with bonus features. Read the rest

Don't fly while brown during Ramadan, even if you're Hindu

Aditya Mukerjee was treated like shit by TSA, police, and Jet Blue because they thought the NYC-based data scientist, Linux geek, and Hacker-in-residence at @qventures was a Muslim terrorist. Mukerjee happens to be Hindu, not Muslim, not that it's reasonable to presume that Muslims are terrorists either. His blog post about a really awful experience at JFK recently is here: "Don't Fly During Ramadan." Read the rest

1961 Alex Schomburg painting for Amazing Stories

What a beautiful painting by Alex Schomburg, a Puerto Rican illustrator who was known for images that "filled every square inch with flamboyant characters, flames, knives, guns, explosions, Nazis, Japanese, and pretty girls in need of rescue." [Wikipedia]

This painting is called "What Need of Man?" and appeared on the February 1961 cover of Amazing Stories.

Fantasy Ink has a bigger image.

1961 was around the time that chimps and other non-human animals were being sent into orbit. (Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace did a great podcast episode about space animals, which you can listen to here.) Read the rest

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