Ricky Jay really hates the book 'Fooling Houdini'

Halfway through reading Alex Stone's memoir, Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, I read Ricky Jay's blisteringly negative review of the book in the Wall Street Journal. Cleverly titled "Slight of Hand," Jay described Stone's book as "an ostensibly self-effacing memoir by an inept amateur conjurer."

I love Ricky Jay's magic, his books, his quarterly magazine, and his performances. Jay is a talented magician and a fascinating storytelling historian of magic, con artists, and sideshows. He's certainly a more talented magician and a more knowledgable historian that Stone. And Jay rightfully calls out several errors of fact that Stone made in Fooling Houdini.

But even so, I finished Stone's book because I was fascinated by his story. Read the rest

Bruce Alexander's Rat Park: a ratty paradise that challenges our assumptions about addiction

This article from Garry Tan reminded me of the tremendous work of Bruce K Alexander, a psychology professor who retired from teaching at Simon Fraser University in 2005. I read Alexander's first book, Peaceful Measures: Canada's Way Out of the 'War on Drugs' when it was published in 1990, and it had a profound effect on my outlook and critical thinking about drugs and the way that drug addiction is reported and discussed.

Alexander is well known for his Rat Park experiment, which hypothesized that heroin-addicted lab rats were being driven to drugs by the emisseration of life in a tiny cage, tethered to a heroin-dispensing injection machine. Other experimenters had caged rats with heroin-injecting apparatus and concluded that the rats' compulsive use of the drug proved that their brains had been rewired by addiction ("A rat addicted to heroin is not rebelling against society, is not a victim of socioeconomic circumstances, is not a product of a dysfunctional family, and is not a criminal. The rat's behavior is simply controlled by the action of heroin (actually morphine, to which heroin is converted in the body) on its brain.").

Alexander's Rat Park was a rat's paradise -- spacious, with plenty of intellectual stimulus and other rats to play with. He moved heroin-addicted rats into the park and found that the compulsive behavior abated to the point of disappearance -- in other words, whatever "rewiring" had taken place could be unwired by the improvement of their living conditions.

Alexander's work appears in Drugs Without the Hot Air, one of the best books on drug policy I've ever read, written by former UK drugs czar David Nutt. Read the rest

Critical Hits: a history of a the battle between gamers and game-designers for nuance in combat systems

A reader writes, "The early history of role-playing games seems like a constant battle between the creators of Dungeons & Dragons and its fans. Sometimes, like with critical hits, the fans wanted the game to be one way, but Gary Gygax and the folks at TSR just wouldn't have it. The case of critical hits shows that the fans have the real power, and that even if it takes decades, eventually D&D will implement critical hits, damn it."

The history of critical hits was written by Jon Peterson, author of the fantastic-looking Playing at the World, a history of wargames and RPGs. Looks like an excellent companion to David Ewalt's Of Dice and Men. Read the rest

Megan Prelinger: Art, Advertising, and Outer Space

Rogue librarian Megan Prelinger is co-founder of the incredible Prelinger Library and author of Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957 - 1962, the launchpad for her captivating presentation at Boing Boing: Ingenuity.

Socialize with Boing Boing on Twitter, Facebook, IRC, BBS, also here's an adorable bunny rabbit

Photo by __AK__, shared in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.

If you like what you read, hear, and watch here on Boing Boing the blog, you'll love us on your favorite social media services, too. We're not on all of 'em, but pretty close. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Flickr (we have a pool where readers share photos), and YouTube. We even do IRC. And of course, check out the discussions a-poppin' on our BBS. Background here. Read the rest

'New,' from Paul McCartney

Boing Boing pal Chris Holmes, who works with Paul McCartney, sends a couple of videos that will be of interest to fans of the artist and former Beatle. Above, an impromptu a capella/acoustic version of "New," a track from his forthcoming album of the same title which comes out October 14, 2013.

And below, a video of the album version of that same song. "Both videos were directed by Charlie Lightening," says Chris. About the video below: "It features some footage from our Outside Lands show." Chris has a little mini cameo in it, as he was deejaying a set before the show.

Read the rest

Enormous timescales made graspable by graphs

Wait But Why has a fantastic series of graphs that aim to help us wrap our heads around the enormous timescales on which forces like history, biology, geography and astronomy operate. By carefully building up graphs that show the relationship between longer and longer timescales, the series provides a moment's worth of emotional understanding of the otherwise incomprehensible. Read the rest

Prince Jefri of Brunei: how to blow billions

Prince Jefri Bolkiah is the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei, and he is believed to have blown $14.8 billion on a series of follies including grotesque mansions; enormous collections of sportscars; haremsful of exotic prostitutes kept on standby at home and abroad; fleets of jets; musesumsworth of gaudy gems; private football tutelage from NFL greats for his pampered son; private concerts by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston (the former in a purpose-built, single-use stadium); and more (and more).

Vanity Fair had Mark Seal cover a New York court battle between Jefri and two of his advisors, whom he alleged bilked him out of a paltry few millions. As Seal explains, the case had wider significance: it was key to a narrative that the prince and the sultan have created about the prince's wastefulness, blaming it on sharp foreigners who bilked him out of his money.

The story goes into eye-glazingly weird lists of the prince's excesses. Reading it, I found myself tuning out, losing the ability to focus on the lists of spectacular waste, only to be brought back to reality by an extravagance so over-the-top that it shocked me out of my stupor. It's a kind of pornography of capitalism, a Southeast Asian version of the Beverly Hillbillies, a proof that oil fortunes demand no thought, no innovation, no sense of shared national destiny: just a hole the ground, surrounded by guns, enriching an elite of oafs and wastrels. Read the rest

Watch our favorite online videos of the week, with hand-picked clips from around the web

Some of the most recent video selections you can find on our video archive page:

• Video of US spy chief's Star Trek command center replica • Jacob Appelbaum explains surveillance to the EuroParl • A bug with gears on its legs • 10 NYPD OWS arrests in less than 90 minutes • Chubby Checker and the Fat Boys • Sticking a knife in a toaster • A cappella bass singer goes deep... very deep • A young adult romance told entirely on computer screens • Swedish contemporary punk from Holograms

Boing Boing: Video archives Read the rest

Two Siberian Husky dogs having a conversation through a cat flap door

[Video Link]

Thanks, Tara McGinley! Read the rest

Strange Powers 3 - new paintings by Ryan Heshka

Ryan Heshka's astounding pulp-fiction inspired paintings are on display at the annual BLAB! group show, which opened this Saturday at the the Copro Gallery in Santa Monica on 9/14/2013. In addition to being in the group show, Ryan's work is on display in a solo show in the second room.

Click here for the complete show preview. Read the rest

The missing body of Addie Mae Collins

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, a major event in the history of civil rights in the United States. Members of the Ku Klux Klan planted a box of dynamite at the church, which was a major organizing center for the black community and civil rights protests. The resulting explosion killed four girls — Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair.

That part of the story is pretty well-known. What isn't well known is the fact that one of those girls, Addie Mae Collins, may well have been a victim of racism after her death, thanks to a longstanding tradition where white medical schools raided black cemeteries for dissection cadavers. I happened to stumble across this story last week, while reading Harriet Washington's book, Medical Apartheid. The tale, and how it connects to racism both historical and modern, haunted me all day yesterday. Read the rest

Times are getting hard, boys: Breaking Bad 'Ozymandias' recap

Watch the sixth episode of Breaking Bad's final series, titled "Ozymandias" after the Shelley sonnet. Then pop a sedative or a glass of whiskey, then take a cold shower, then hug somebody, and then and only then read Kevin McFarland's spoilers-loaded review. Read the rest

Video of top NSA spook Gen'l Alexander's Starship Enterprise clone/Information Dominance Center

Of course YouTube has video of the replica Starship Enterprise bridge where General Keith Alexander took Congressmen to "play Picard" and endorse his "collect everything" school of mass surveillance. Behold, the INFORMATION DOMINANCE CENTER!

Starlight - ABC News (Thanks, Jack!) Read the rest

Jacob Appelbaum explains surveillance to the EuroParl

Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project and Wikileaks addressed the European Parliament on the issue of surveillance and freedom. It was a remarkable speech, even by Appelbaum's high standards. An amateur transcript gives you a sense of what's going on, but the video is even better: "Is it used for coercion? Is data passed to autocratic regimes? Is it used to study groups? Is it used to disrupt? Yes, yes, and yes. Might they force or forge data? Absolutely." Read the rest

Insect with gears on its legs

Meet Issus coleoptratus, an insect whose larva have interlocking meshed gears connecting their back legs. The gears help coordinate leg movements, helping the larva to jump fast and far.

Video Link Read the rest

Naval Yard rampage shooting: at least 7 killed, 2 gunmen may be at large

A helicopter carries a victim away from the scene. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

There has been a shooting incident at the Naval Yard in Washington, DC. At least 7 people are dead, and at least 3 shooters are believed to have been involved. One gunman is said to have been killed. Authorities are looking for two possible suspects wearing military style clothing, and carrying guns: one white, one black.

Reddit is live-redditing.

Police are asking anyone with information on these two people to call 202-727-9099. Family members looking for information about their loved ones at the Naval Yard can call 202-433-6151 or 202-433-9713. Read the rest

More posts