This book explains how to tell when your country's going to hell and how to stop it

You may have noticed of late that things in America are becoming less, well, American.

A cruel misogynist with dangerously racist beliefs is running the show. Nazis and bigots of all stripes no long fear giving voice to their hatred in public. The nation's journalists and the free flow of information are under attack. The government is working hard to defund the healthcare apparatus designed to protect the country's most vulnerable citizens. Piece by piece, the country's institutions, its heart and soul are being torn asunder, paving the way for something new. After reading Timothy Snyder's most recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, I gotta tell you, if you're scared of the outcome of all of this, chances are you're likely not scared enough.

Snyder is a scholar who specializes in the history of the the 20th century and, more pointedly, the holocaust. His knowledge of how a country's slow slide into fascism at the whim of a tyrant can occur is beyond reproach, given his academic street cred: he's the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale, a Committee on Conscience member at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. What I'm getting at is that he knows from bad shit, how it starts and historically, how it's gone down. With the current political and popular climate in a number of nations around the world, he's concerned that the ugliest parts of humanity are ready to rear their heads once again.

On Tyranny's only 126 pages long. Read the rest

A huge trove of vintage movie posters from the University of Texas's Ransom Center archive

The University of Texas's Ransom Center (previously) has posted a gorgeous selection of digitized movie posters from its Movie Poster Collection, from the 1920s to the 1970s. Read the rest

Making computer games from scratch in 1987

I enjoyed reading David Joiner's (aka Talin) retrospective about game development in the early days of the Commodore Amiga: like many creators of the era, he not only had to cultivate his artwork, but also needed to devise incredible technical hacks just to get his ideas working on the frustratingly limited (yet wildly malleable) hardware.

Loading the data in the background was a challenge, and I could not figure how how to get the Amiga filesystem layer (AmigaDOS) to load data without pausing the program. So instead, I cheated: instead of writing out the terrain as files on disk, I wrote them directly to the floppy tracks as raw data blocks. I could then use the low-level floppy device driver to load the data in the background while the game was running.

This meant that when you put the Faery Tale disk into the computer and listed the files on it, all you would see was a few files needed to ‘bootstrap’ the game — most of the game content was hidden from view.

His game, Faery Tale Adventure, is an essential minor classic of the 16-bit era. It's offbeat and seems superficially rough-edged compared to the arty tours de force that would define the Amiga when it had to compete with Japanese consoles, but has a dedicated fanbase to this day, because it has soul. One of the counterintuitive lessons that we can draw from Joiner's retrospective is that a lot of one-person indie game devs would benefit from not trying to do everything themselves. Read the rest

It took 83 engines to get to the moon

Amy Shira Teitel of Vintage Space shares lots of cool facts about the golden age of space exploration. Here, she enumerates the engines (and motors) it took Apollo to get to the moon. Read the rest

Analysis of North America's weeds reveal the crops, trade, and cuisine of early indigenous people

Cornell archaeobotanist Natalie Mueller harvests "weeds" from across North America, seeking the remnants of "lost crops," the plants cultivated by the people who lived here 2,000 years ago.

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Recording metal on an Edison wax cylinder phonograph

Musician Rob Scallon thought it would be cool to one-up the vinyl hipsters and record some metal on century-old Edison wax cylinder recording equipment. And he was right! Read the rest

Frankenstein 200: America's science museums celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley's Frankestein with a free, amazing transmedia experience

Joey Eschrich from ASU's Center for Science and Imagination writes, "To celebrate the official 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (previously) on January 1, 2018, we’ve launched Frankenstein200, a free, interactive, multiplatform experience for kids. Developed in partnership with the award-winning transmedia studio No Mimes Media (cofounded by the hyper-talented Maureen McHugh), with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Frankenstein200 is a digital narrative paired with hands-on activities happening in January and February at museums and science centers across the United States." Read the rest

A brief history of how the rich world brutalized and looted Haiti, a country the US owes its very existence to

When Donald Trump calls Haiti a "shithole country," he's dismissing one of the hardest-done-by countries in the history of the world -- and moreover, a land whose sacrifices made the US itself possible. Read the rest

The Alexis: a homebrew typewriter from 1890

Martin from Antique Typewriters writes, "The Alexis typewriter is the result of a small town inventor with the desire to design and manufacture his own typewriter. James A. Wallace (1845 - 1906) was born in Alexis, Illinois (pop. 900) where he is now buried. He was a dynamic man with various occupations including bicycle repair, writer, and photographer (see his portrait below). He was also an avid musician. The Alexis is a superb example of a unique typewriter from the 'Wild West' of typewriters during the 1880s & 1890s when all sorts of ingenious designs came forth. Some ideas were better than others though and there were many successes and failures." Read the rest

Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums

Maryam Omidi crowdfunded a photographic tour of Soviet-era sanatoriums, and the resulting book, Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums is like a weird 1970s sci-fi catalog. Read the rest

The story of how sf writer and editor Judith Merril founded Toronto's astounding sf reference library and changed the city

My middle-school used to take us on field trips to the Spaced Out Library, the Toronto Public Library's science fiction reference collection founded by legendary author, critic, editor and activist Judith Merril, who emigrated to Canada after witnessing the police brutality at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. Read the rest

The cabinet card fad saw 19th-century women dressing in ridiculous costumes

Back in the 1800s, a curious retailing trend began where strangely costumed women would pose for cabinet cards advertising various businesses, like Heinz pickles or J. M. Dolph & Co. Furniture & Undertaking, above. Read the rest

Spy-cam shots from 1890

Math student Carl Størmer acquired a hidden camera in 1890, and put it to use on the streets of Oslo.
The results are close to 500 secret images that show a wide range of people in a casual, relaxed state. Working like a paparazzo, Størmer would greet his subjects and then snap away as they approached. Friendly salutations and suspicious glances play out across his work, serving as some of the first examples of street photography.
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My RSS feeds from a decade ago, a snapshot of gadget blogging when that was a thing

I chanced upon an ancient backup of my RSS feed subscriptions, a cold hard stone of data from my time at Wired in the mid-2000s. The last-modified date on the file is December 2007. I wiped my feeds upon coming to Boing Boing thenabouts: a fresh start and a new perspective.

What I found, over 212 mostly-defunct sites, is a time capsule of web culture from a bygone age—albeit one tailored to the professional purpose of cranking out blog posts about consumer electronics a decade ago. It's not a picture of a wonderful time before all the horrors of Facebook and Twitter set in. This place is not a place of honor. No highly-esteemed deed is commemorated here. But perhaps some of you might like a quick tour, all the same. Read the rest

Facsimile editions of the "Negro Motorist Green Books" from 1940, 1954 and 1963 are selling briskly in 2017

In 1936, Hugo Green, a postal worker in Harlem, published his first "Negro Motorist Green Book," a guide to the places that black travelers could eat, sleep, gas up, and be physically present and alive without being discriminated against, harassed, threatened, beaten or murdered. Read the rest

Ayn Rand supercharged the anti-Communist witch-hunt in Hollywood, in which the FBI classified "It's a Wonderful Life" as secret Communist propaganda

Director Frank Capra said "It's a Wonderful Life" was designed to "strengthen the individual’s belief in himself" and "to combat a modern trend toward atheism." But the FBI's 13,533-page Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry classed the movie as a secret work of Communist propaganda, "written by Communist sympathizers...to instigate class warfare" and "demonize bankers." Read the rest

Women routinely caught fire in the mid-19th century

The mid-19th century vogue for flowing, diaphanous women's garments made from open-weave fabrics like "bobbinet, cotton muslin, gauze, and tarlatan," combined with gas lighting, candles, and open fires meant that it was extremely common for women to literally burst into flames: on stage, at parties, at home. Read the rest

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