Working replica of Snake Plissken's Lifeclock countdown timer watch from Escape From New York

The Lifeclock One: Snake Edition is a $300 licensed replica of the countdown timer watch worn by Snake Plissken in Escape From New York: it's very cool looking and faithful to the original prop, but regrettably, the designers have added in a bunch of "smart-watch" features (Bluetooth, an app, text-message and app notifications from your phone) that raise the price, create needless attack surface, and add complexity. (more…)

These mini cinder blocks let you build your own desk gear

The workday is long, and inevitably, you're going to find yourself needing to take a break from the daily grind. With Mini Materials Miniature Cinder Blocks, you can take some time for yourself and decompress by turning your desk into a miniature construction site. They're available today in the Boing Boing Store for $22.49.

Handmade out of real cement, these 1:12-scale mini cinder blocks make fun toys for DIY-ers and tinkerers alike. You can use them to decorate your desk and build pen holders, platforms, and whatever else your mind can envision. Plus, they come on a wooden pallet that doubles as a coaster for extra utility.

24-packs of Mini Materials Miniature Cinder Blocks are available in the Boing Boing Store for $22.49.

The company that made Grenfell Tower's flammable, poisonous insulation used dangerous lies to make hundreds of sales

Celotex convinced the owners of Grenfell Tower and hundreds of other buildings in the UK to insulate with their RS5000 insulation product -- a product that had never passed safety tests. The company claimed it was safe for use because a different version of RS5000 (one that used much more flame-retardant) had been through the tests. (more…)

Game platform Steam set to ban sexy toons

Steam is reportedly cracking down on "scantily clad cartoon women" in its online gane platform. Publishers of adult-themed anime visual novels say they've been told to remove offending titles or leave town.

"It's an anime titty holocaust," HuniePot, the developer of HuniePop, a match-3 puzzle game where players also chat up busty anime girls, said in a tweet. Thursday night, HuniePot tweeted that it received an email from Valve, the company that operates Steam, saying that HuniePop, "violates the rules & guidelines for pornographic content on Steam and will be removed from the store unless the game is updated to remove said content."

MangaGamer, a company that localizes and publishes several Japanese visual novels, told Motherboard in an email that it received a notice from Valve Thursday morning for its game Kindred Spirits.

Steam is, in other words, panicking and excluding a genre from its platform without explanation. It's allegedly warned at least one publisher over material they don't even publish on Steam.

These seems to be a general unwillingness to directly address two facts at hand:

1. Much of the material in question depicts childlike characters in sexual contexts.

2. Some of the people selling it are misogynists and some of the adjacent fandoms are tinderboxes of rage and entitlement.

Instead, we have vague objections to vague policies. This enables Steam to push out anything superficially similar, a pattern that could later be used to push out sexual and political minorities and anything else that might make trouble in the serene walled gardens of content.

UPDATE: Steam had backed off the short-notice ultimatum to publishers and promised to review each title individually and "provide specific feedback."

The Rammellzee universe

Rammellzee (previously) -- artist, graffiti writer, hip hop musician, masked performer, Gothic Futurist -- died in 2010, leaving a mysterious body of work. Hua Hsa explores his spectacular mythology. [via Metafilter]

...language enforced discipline, and that whoever controlled it could steer people’s thoughts and imaginations. His hope wasn’t to replace English; he wanted to annihilate it from the inside out. His generation grew up after urban flight had devastated New York’s finances and infrastructure. Ramm channelled the chaos into a spectacular personal mythology, drawn from philology, astrophysics, and medieval history. He was obsessed with a story of Gothic monks whose lettering grew so ornate that the bishops found it unreadable and banned the technique. The monks’ work wasn’t so different from the increasingly abstract styles of graffiti writing, which turned a name into something mysterious and unrecognizable

It's the year of the Ramm: a show is on at Red Bull Arts New York and here's another article by Alexxa Gotthardt.

Rammellzee wasn’t average by any definition. “He just ventured out on this planet in his own dimensions,” his late wife, Carmela Zagari, once said. The art, rap, and cosmologies he conjured not only mesmerized the 1980s art world, within which he came of age, but left a permanent mark on his peers and the artists who came after him, from Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jim Jarmusch to the Beastie Boys, graffiti artist Futura, and cult rapper Wiki. “He’s the kind of guy you could talk to for 20 minutes and your whole life could change, if you could understand him,” Jarmusch once said. Funkmaster Bootsy Collins has described Rammellzee as a “speck of magic galaxy dust from another time.”

On his tags:

...barbed with sharp, explosive lines that made them look like weapons. This was no accident. He wrote extensively about the alphabet’s ability to wage war against language, misinformation, and a repressive society. “The letter is armed to stop all the phony formations, lies, and tricknowlegies placed upon its structure,” he wrote. “You think war is always shooting and beating everybody, but no, we had the letters fight for us.”

Photo: GraffHistory (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Photoshop was first sold as Barneyscan XP

Adobe's Photoshop, the all-conquering image manipulation software that now anchors the subscription-based Creative Suite, was originally written in Pascal and distributed under the name "Barneyscan XP" for its first licensor. Not long after...

The fate of Photoshop was sealed when Adobe, encouraged by its art director Russell Brown, decided to buy a license to distribute an enhanced version of Photoshop. The deal was finalized in April 1989, and version 1.0 started shipping early in 1990.

Over the next ten years, more than 3 million copies of Photoshop were sold. That first version of Photoshop was written primarily in Pascal for the Apple Macintosh, with some machine language for the underlying Motorola 68000 microprocessor where execution efficiency was important.

Here's an ad for Barneyscan's hardware, with the software lurking in the background, as described in this Quora thread.

Here's more on the legend of Photoshop-as-Barneyscan from Stories of Apple:

Barneyscan XP, which was actually more lauded than the scanning hardware, was the first commercial incarnation (and distribution) of a program which would be rereleased eleven months later to much greater impact.

Encouraged by its art director Russell Brown, Adobe decided to buy a license to distribute an enhanced version of the software. In February 1990 it released the first version of Photoshop, the name originally chosen by Thomas Knoll.

The largest art theft in history remains unsolved

In 1990, two thieves dressed as policemen walked into Boston's Gardner museum and walked out with 13 artworks worth half a billion dollars. After 28 years the lost masterpieces have never been recovered. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the largest art theft in history and the ongoing search for its solution.

We'll also discover the benefits of mustard gas and puzzle over a surprisingly effective fighter pilot.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

Franz Harary Produces a Marching Band

You likely haven’t heard of magician Franz Harary, an American whose fame and fortune have come from performing mostly in Asia. Not only is Franz a fine performer, but he’s also one of the most respected creators of illusions.

Recently he produced an entire marching band—I kid you not—using one of his own methods. No CGI here folks, just a magician doing something really clever that will leave you bewildered.

A funk cover of "Sweet Child O' Mine"

Here's a fab funk cover of Guns N' Roses' 1988 hit single "Sweet Child O' Mine" featuring the powerful vocals of Mario Jose.

Now, here's the backstory of the band behind the cover: In 2017, Patreon's founder and CEO Jack Conte started a band (no, not that one) with his buddy-since-high-school Ryan Lerman, a funk band called Scary Pockets.

Conte shares how the band formed:

Ryan and I started brainstorming about ways we could make music together, despite our geographical separation and my focus on Patreon. Then we hit an idea: what if I flew down to LA once per month, spent a single day in the studio with Ryan and a few musician buddies, and recorded four songs. We wouldn't do any prep work -- no preconceived arrangements, no pre-production, no frills. We would just walk into the studio and not even know what key we were going to record in. Sometimes we wouldn't even have a song picked out. Let's just spend a single day together in the studio, arrange and record four songs together, have a great time playing funk with our friends, and video the whole thing. And that was it!! We decided to give it a shot, and we had our first session in February of 2017. Scary Pockets was off the ground.

The music was full of imperfections -- wrong notes, some gritty buzz and hissing from old instruments, a ton of drum bleed in the vocal mics -- but we were having a blast together, and it was a dream come true to be playing music together again. The videos were getting a couple thousand views, and we were happy campers.

Then, some magic happened: we released Creep, our Radiohead cover with India Carney singing lead, and everything changed. The video got over 10M views on Facebook within a few days, and now it has over a million views on YouTube...

That was just about a year ago. Since then, the band has released over 50 videos (see below), which they report "have been watched over 10.4 million times on YouTube." Scary Pockets' latest video is this funk cover of "Sweet Child O' Mine." Conte is the guy in the white baseball cap on the keyboards. Enjoy!

(The Awesomer)

Leggings inspired by dazzle camouflage

No one will doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion in Standard Rainbow's leggings. Their geometric patterns are inspired by the "dazzle camouflage," the experimental paint jobs used on World War I battleships to confuse enemy submarine gunners.

P.S. There are also totebags.

Previously: "Dazzle camouflage" on BB

Congrats, Evan Wagoner-Lynch!

USS Nebraska image via Wikipedia (public domain), totes image via Standard Rainbow

Tom the Dancing Bug: Our Nation's Leaders Analyze the Data on USA's Gun Violence

FOR THE KIDS IN YOUR LIFE, AND THEIR SUMMER READING: Get Ruben Bolling’s hit book series for kids, The EMU Club Adventures.

"The EMU Club inhabits exactly the world I always hoped to live in when I was 12, when the answer to questions like 'Where did I put my toy' led inevitably to alien conspiracies and secret underground tunnels. A book for the curious and adventurous!" -Cory Doctorow, author of "For the Win" and "Little Brother"

"The type of non-stop action and improbably hilarious fun that only a kid could dream up. ... The EMU Club's adventures perfectly capture the intersection of imagination and wonder - the crossroad that's so often found in cardboard boxes, pillow forts and backyards everywhere." -GeekDad

Get Book the First, "Alien Invasion in My Backyard," here.

Get Book the Second, "Ghostly Thief of Time," here.

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More Tom the Dancing Bug comics on Boing Boing!
(more…)

Delaware! Tonight, a public vote will determine the fate of one of the state's most important libraries

Walter Stabosz writes, "Delaware was the first state to ratify the US constitution, giving it the moniker 'The First State.' It is also the second smallest state, and has only three counties. Tonight in Delaware's most populous county, New Castle County, there will be a vote that may decide the fate of a library built in one of New Castle's most underserved and at-risk communities. (more…)

Watch how machine learning can enhance low-light images

At this year's Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, researcher Chen Chen presented a cool project that vastly improves the quality of images captured in low-light conditions.

Via his presentation:

Imaging in low light is challenging due to low photon count and low SNR. Short-exposure images suffer from noise, while long exposure can induce blur and is often impractical. A variety of denoising, deblurring, and enhancement techniques have been proposed, but their effectiveness is limited in extreme conditions, such as video-rate imaging at night. To support the development of learning-based pipelines for low-light image processing, we introduce a dataset of raw short-exposure low-light images, with corresponding long-exposure reference images. Using the presented dataset, we develop a pipeline for processing low-light images, based on end-to-end training of a fully-convolutional network. The network operates directly on raw sensor data and replaces much of the traditional image processing pipeline, which tends to perform poorly on such data. We report promising results on the new dataset, analyze factors that affect performance, and highlight opportunities for future work.

Here's the full project page for more information.

Let's enhance!

CVPR 2018: Learning to See in the Dark (YouTube / Chen Chen)

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