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Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2017 04:48:31 +0000


Music Piracy: The Extraterrestrial Threat

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 04:48:31 +0000


I’m taking a week off from producing a full podcast, and am instead presenting what I hope will be a fun Thanksgiving road-trip accompaniment.

It’s an audibobook excerpt. But since it’s the very start of that audiobook – and as it’s read by the flat-out brilliant comedian/actor John Hodgman - there’s no need to hear the rest of the thing to enjoy this standalone hour-plus of playfulness. In other words, this is truly not intended as an advert for a long-ago book! But if you find the nature of the content awkward, by all means skip it. Otherwise, you can hear it by searching “After On” in your favorite podcast app, or by clicking right here: style="border: none" src="//" height="90" width="100%" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen>

The excerpt is from my novel Year Zero. Which was, of course, a literary exercise. But it was also a sort of primal scream therapy – intended to purge the demons still haunting me after years of imploring the music industry to allow me to launch the Rhapsody music service, which was the main product of a company I founded called

For those who don’t go back that far, Rhapsody was the first online music service to get full-catalog licenses from all of the major labels, as well as hundreds of indies (before even Apple). We were also the forerunner to Spotify, in that we were the world’s first unlimited on-demand streaming music service. Eventually, RealNetworks bought us out, then later sold half of the service to MTV. More recently, in a strange, ironic twist, Rhapsody was renamed … Napster.

For those interested in the birth of online music, and/or in copyright-related lunacy, I discuss those matters in a brief intro and longer outro to the excerpt. Or you can skip that, and just listen to the tale of a vast, alien civilization. One so into American pop music that they accidentally commit the biggest copyright infringement since the dawn of time - thereby bankrupting the entire universe. Yup. That is seriously the premise my first novel. And here’s a fun little trailer that we put together back when it debuted: YouTube URL:

Though it’s (obviously) a highly playful story, Year Zero is also a serious critique of things that I deem badly broken about intellectual property law. For some context, I discussed a particularly odious law, which also features in the book, in this TED talk a few years back (it’s brief and will hopefully make you laugh).

If you enjoy listening to Hodgman tackle this madness a tenth as much as I do, this episode should be an hour-and-change well spent. Enjoy!

Illustrations from the best picture books of the year

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:34:24 +0000


Every fall, New York City's Society of Illustrators puts on this hidden-in-plain-sight gem of an exhibit. The Original Art Exhibit displays original illustrations from a selection of the best picture books of the year.


Not only do you get to view the original paintings, drawings, and even sculptures that were used to illustrate these books, but the books themselves are on display so you can see how they appear in the finished product.


As an adult who loves art and kids' books, this is a blast for me. But it's just about the best art exhibit you can take a kid to. Because paintings in an art museum can seem abstract to a kid, but these pictures are used to tell amazing, exciting, and/or funny stories, in a format they're intimately familiar with.


And kids get a sense of how picture books are made. They don't sprout up on library and bookstore shelves fully formed; they are made by real people's imaginations and hands, using tools just like the ones kids use to make art.


My kids loved (and my nieces currently love) to find the books and the pages that match the original artwork on the wall. And we'll make a list of their favorites and I'll order them from the library -- in a couple of weeks we have a stack of great picture books they have a personal connection to.

This year's exhibit is great once again, and runs through December 30.

(image) Above is the contribution of the great Adam Rex, who painted the covers of my two kids' books (so far), the EMU Club Adventures series.

Four ninths of a Rubik's Cube

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:06:22 +0000


If an entire 3x3 Rubik's Cube is too much, but a 2x2 one too plainly insulting, try this 2x3 one that you can get for about a fiver at Amazon. That's four ninths of a real Rubik's Cube for nine tenths of the price!

The product page assures you in its first bullet point that this puzzle contains "no fabrics." SOLD.

Medieval city plan generator

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:28:15 +0000


The Medieval city generator does just that, with the right balance of abstraction and detail to give your imagination space to put it to good use. (previously)
This application generates a random medieval city layout of a requested size. The generation method is rather arbitrary, the goal is to produce a nice looking map, not an accurate model of a city. Maybe in the future I'll use its code as a basis for some game or maybe not. Click one of the buttons to create a new city map of a desired size. Hover the mouse pointer over a building to see the type of the ward it belongs to. Press and hold SPACE to see all ward labels. Toy Town is a 3d-visualizer for this generator. One day it may become a separate native application or a part of the generator, or both.

How to win the wishbone wish

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:15:55 +0000


Scientific American consulted biomechencial engineers on how to win the wishbone wish fair and square and also by cheating.


Watch the pitch reel for Jim Henson's cyberpunk muppets TV series

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:03:47 +0000


In 1987, Jim Henson produced and directed this pitch reel for Inner Tube (aka IN-TV), a cyberpunk, culture-jamming series that just wasn't meant to be but did inform The Jim Henson Hour's MuppeTelevision segments. From Jim Henson: The Biography:

At the heart of IN-TV was a clever concept; each week, a live guest star would get sucked into the television set and would have to work his way back out again, usually by moving from one bad television channel to another. It was a fun idea, giving Jim an opportunity to satirize the seemingly endless parade of upstart cable channels and lame public access shows that were common in the early days of cable.

(Muppet Wiki and r/ObscureMedia)


Original Artwork for Invasion of the Saucer-Men Movie Poster Sells for $107,550

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:01:51 +0000


Illustrator Albert Kallis, co-founder of International House of Pancakes, painted the movie poster art of Invasion of the Saucer Men in 1957. It sold for over $100,000 over the weekend at a Heritage Auctions event.

The original 1957 gouache poster artwork for the iconic Invasion of the Saucer Men movie poster sold for $107,550 Saturday, in Heritage Auctions’ Movie Posters Auction. Rather than depict a finished film, the artwork painted by artist Albert Kallis actually inspired the creation of the movie and further solidified a cornerstone of the public's collective consciousness of “little green men” from outer space.

In addition to creating some of the most eye catching and lurid artwork ever to grace a poster, Kallis is remembered as one of the founding partners of International House of Pancakes in 1958.

“Legend has it that Kallis and film producer James Nicholson would work up a title and ad campaign and send artwork from the campaign to exhibitors and see how quickly they booked the film,” said Grey Smith, director of vintage posters at Heritage Auctions. “The film would then be written and put into production.”

Kallis, an American born artist, was American International Pictures’ art director for 17 years beginning in 1956 when a young Roger Corman spotted the 29-year-old artist's work. Prior to his work in film, Kallis worked with famed advertising artist Saul Bass and Capitol Records designing album covers. When Kallis teamed up with Corman, he became acquainted with Samuel Arkoff and Nicholson, co-founders of AIP.

This artwork was used for the half sheet format for Invasion of the Saucer-Men, but it was also likely used for additional promotional pieces for the film.

Meet a professional D&D dungeon master. Yes, that's his main gig.

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:22:04 +0000


Timm Woods, 30, is one of New York City's most popular Dungeons & Dragons dungeon masters-for-hire. He's also working on his PhD dissertation, titled "Anything Can Be Attempted: Table-Top Role Playing Games as Learning and Pedagogy." From Brian Raftery's profile of Woods in Wired:

...While Woods is one of several DMs-for-hire out there, this isn’t his hobby or a side gig; it’s a living, and a pretty good one at that, with Woods charging anywhere from $250 to $350 for a one-off three-hour session (though he works on a sliding scale). For that price, Woods will not only research and plan out your game but also, if you become a regular, answer your occasional random text queries about wizard spells. “He’s worth the money,” says Kevin Papa, a New York City educator (and occasional DM) who’s been part of this Friday-night game for more than a year. “Being a DM requires a lot of brainshare. I don’t know how Timm absorbs it all.”

As it turns out, the very attributes that help form the core of every Dungeons & Dragons character—strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma—are the same ones needed to be a stellar Dungeon Master. Woods describes himself as “100 percent an introvert,” but the kind of introvert who doesn’t mind being the center of attention under the right circumstances. Which explains why he has been known to crack jokes in an elf’s voice or dramatically narrate castle-yard battles with cacophonous verve. When he was younger, Woods preferred to be alone, living inside his imaginary worlds; now he has a job in which, night after night, he must share those worlds with others. “Being a DM is very intimate,” he says. “In many ways, the people who watch me run a game have a more authentic sense of what's going on in my head than many other people in my life...."

When Woods runs a game, his style is part dorm-room hangout and part one-man show. “I need to be cracking jokes,” he says. “I need to be acting as though we’re just a group of friends playing D&D, because that’s the experience everybody wants.”


(photo by Chris Maggio)

A cheap way to use Amazon Alexa

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:01:34 +0000


At $20, the Eufy Genie Smart Speaker With Amazon Alexa is the least expensive hands-free Alexa speaker I know of. I got my first Alexa device last year (a Dot) and my family uses it many times a day to listen to podcasts, get NPR news briefings, weather forecasts, audiobooks, latest bitcoin price, word definitions, Wikipedia entries, kitchen timer and more. I don't have this particular item, but I ordered one for upstairs.

Drones to airdrop hundreds of thousands of mosquitos to fight disease

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:28:35 +0000


One approach to fight mosquito-borne diseases is to introduce huge numbers of sterilized male mosquitos to beat out the wild males in competition for female mosquitos. The challenge is that it's expensive to airdrop the mosquitos from airplanes and often difficult to traverse developing nations by ground. Now, WeRobotics has prototyped a drone that carries hundreds of thousands of mosquitos and releases them at just the right moment. The first experiments in South or Central America will take place in the next few months. From IEEE Spectrum:

The goal is to pack as many mosquitoes as possible into the drone. However, clumping is a problem because the insects form “a big collection of legs and wings,” he says. The trick, according to Klaptocz, is to keep them inside a precooled container: “Between 4 °C and 8 °C, they’ll fall asleep, and you can pack them up fairly densely.”

It’s also important to control the release of the mosquitoes, rather than dumping them out all at once. “We tried different systems to get the mosquitoes out of the holding canister, including vibrations and a treadmill,” he says. “Right now, we’re using a rotating element with holes through which individual mosquitoes can fall.” Once the mosquitoes fall out of the canister, they spend a few seconds in a secondary chamber warming up to the outside air temperature before exiting the drone, to make sure they’re awake and ready to fly.

Carpenter shows how to raise a roof, roof doesn't cooperate

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:22:39 +0000


I don't doubt this guy knows what he's doing. But every once in awhile, non-living things like to show living things who is really in charge.

UK government votes that animals are incapable of feeling emotion and pain

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:11:12 +0000


A majority of the UK's members of parliament somehow know that non-human animals are incapable feeling pain or experiencing emotions. I guess that means when you see an animal suffering, it's just faking it. From the UK's Independent:

MPs have voted to reject the inclusion of animal sentience – the admission that animals feel emotion and pain – into the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The move has been criticised by animal rights activists, who say the vote undermines environment secretary Michael Gove’s pledge to prioritise animal rights during Brexit.

The majority of animal welfare legislation comes from the EU. The UK Government is tasked with adopting EU laws directly after March 2019 but has dismissed animal sentience.

Image: Screenshot from Independent video

A twitterbot that generates hypothetical Hallmark holiday movies

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 19:09:04 +0000


Mark writes, "Nothing marks the holidays like the predictability of a formulaic chestnut featuring '90s stars, magical religious holidays, SFW romance, good hair, and reliable stable camera work. For all those who need a bit more than TV can deliver, my kids and I created the Hallmark Holiday Movie Bot, which generates one feel-good Chrismukkah hit after another for your seasonal celebration!"

Meet the people who insist the Earth is flat

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 18:31:00 +0000


BBC News attended this month's Flat Earth International Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. I especially appreciate the fine craftsmanship of Chris Pontius, the "professional 'Flat Earth' model artist."

Optical illusion tights and swim shorts give you the junk of Michaelangelo's David

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:56:30 +0000


The yoga pants are $42, and the swim shorts are $45; either one will turn you into a Renaissance hunk. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) (more…)

When Bob Odenkirk perfectly played Charles Manson

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:51:39 +0000


Well before Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul (and even Mr. Show), Bob Odenkirk showed his comedic chops by playing Charles Manson on the short-lived 1990s TV sketch series The Ben Stiller Show.

In two of the skits, he plays the madman as a sort of incarcerated "Heloise" in "Ask Manson." In them, he answers questions on stain removal and car troubles.

The third one takes a different, and completely inspired, turn. It's Manson as Lassie and it's one of my all-time favorites.

I won't say anymore, just watch:

The Weinstein Effect is already taking a readership toll on the lefty blogosphere

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:51:31 +0000


The crackdown on "influencers" engaging in undisclosed paid endorsement roiled Instagram last year, but now the crackdown on sexual misconduct on influencers is affecting readership at Mic, Upworthy, GOOD, and Slate, who quietly paid influencers like George Takei to promote their articles on their personal accounts. (more…)

Adam Savage made a limited-edition "everyday carry" toolbag out of old sailcloth, with room for everything

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:49:31 +0000


Retired Mythbuster and maker extraordinaire Adam Savage (previously) gave up on finding a bag to carry everything he needed and designed his own, a white, Gladstone-style toolbag that costs $225 and ships in time for Christmas. (more…)

More than 50 tech ethics courses, with links to syllabi

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:43:54 +0000


There has never been a more urgent moment to merge ethics and technology: this shared spreadsheet of 57 (and counting) university courses on ethics and tech includes links to syllabi, moderated by Colorado University information science assistant prof Casey Fiesler, who runs The Internet Rules Lab (hey, grad students, she's hiring!)

Scientist puts his dog on the editorial boards of seven predatory journals as proof of their negligence

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:34:11 +0000


By day, "Olivia Doll" sits on the boards of seven academic journals; by night, she's a Staffordshire terrier named Ollie, owned by Mike Daube, a public health expert in Perth, Australia. (more…)

Puerto Rico, abandoned by Trump and facing disaster capitalism looting by big business, turns to socialist and anarchist collectives to rebuild

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:15:09 +0000


Disaster capitalism depends on the idea that "There is No Alternative" and that the populace can only sit by passively while their infrastructure, government, homes and schools are hijacked and sold off to low-bidder corporations to financially engineer and then extract rent from. (more…)

America's private health-care is rationed, but socialized medicine is luxury medicine

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:01:55 +0000


To hear America's fearmongering private health-care shills describe it, socialized medicine is a kind of Soviet death march, where rationed care and long waits are imposed on all and sundry; but if that state of affairs sounds familiar, it's because of how neatly it describes America's dysfunctional private care system, where you need to change doctors every time you change employers, where your care is denied and your prescriptions are deemed unnecessary by faceless insurance-company bureaucrats, and where three quarters of your family doctor's overheads are dedicated to filling in insurance forms in triplicate and chasing payment in a kind of LARP of Terry Gilliam's Brazil or a Stalinist hospital in deepest Siberia. (more…)

Charles Manson was not a good songwriter

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 16:06:27 +0000


Charles Manson, despite (or rather because of) his infamy as a charismatic cult leader and vicarious spree-killer, is often posed as a serious and influential musician. His fleeting connections to late-60s artists of repute are threaded into music history as metaphors for the dangerous genius and subversion of rock itself, a flame occasionally nursed by covers released by popular artists. But Manson wasn't a genius and his music is crazy trash. People only say otherwise because of the murders.

The BBC reviews his oevre: (more…)

Indescribable King of the Hill creepywave remix video

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:37:04 +0000



Now I'll be spending all day seeing what other divine nightmares await in the kingdom of KoTH YouTube poop.

A Darth Vader blazer with Death Star lining and buttons

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:16:46 +0000


Thinkgeek's $120 Darth Vader Blazer has lovely touches like satin lapels and shoulder-stripes, vaderish control panel lights embroidered over the breast, and Death Star themed buttons and lining. (more…)

Pick up these 8 acclaimed Mac apps for Black Friday pricing

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:00:44 +0000

Macs are pretty usable out of the box without any extra software. But the bundled stock apps don’t cover every use case, and don’t always provide the most configurable experience. To give your desktop some helpful new powers, we’ve collected some of our favorite apps in the Black Friday Mac Bundle. It’s available in the Boing Boing Store now for $39, and you can save additional 15% off with coupon code GIFTSHOP15. Here’s what’s included: PDF Expert 2.2 for Mac Making changes to a PDF typically requires that you have access to the original source file, as well as the software that generated it. PDF Expert eliminates needless dance by letting you edit text, swap out images, and update links inside the PDF itself. It’s also optimized to read large files, and provides a host of helpful annotation tools. Roxio Toast 16 Titanium Aside from offering a dead-simple solution for DVD burning, Roxio Toast 16 lets you easily create password-protected USB sticks, as well as capture media from multiple simultaneous sources like mobile devices, desktop screens, and external microphones. And once you’ve captured something, you can even edit and convert to different file types within the same environment.  Default Folder X 5 Sometimes the macOS open and save dialogs can seem to have a mind of their own — defaulting to illogical locations on your drive can quickly throw a wrench in your productivity. Default Folder X 5 modifies these system windows to give you a handful pre-selected places to save your stuff, no matter what app you’re using.  WALTR 2 for Mac Apple’s AirDrop usually works great between iOS devices, but moving things from your Mac desktop to your mobile device usually means digging through the less-friendly parts of iTunes. To perform file transfers in a much more sensible way, check out WALTR 2. It handles all the metadata and conversion necessary for music files, ebooks, and ringtones, and even works with older iPods. Flux 7 If you just need to throw together a quick website for a portfolio or side business, spending countless hours learning web development is definitely overkill. With Flux 7, you can design pages in a fully WYSIWYG environment. And if you already know basic HTML/CSS, it lets you modify the generated source code directly to provide as much customization as you want. Stylizer 7 Stylizer 7 is another beginner-friendly website editor, but this one is has a greater focus on CSS. You just enter any valid URL to get powerful GUI controls for every style property on the page. To ensure that your edits work everywhere, you can view pages in three different browser engines at the same time. Art Text 3 There’s no need to hire a professional designer if all you need is a simple word mark. Art Text 3 provides a huge selection of ready-to-use templates for logos, flyers, and other promotional materials. You can mix and match hundreds of textures, typefaces, and icons to create unique assets in no time. MacReviver When your Mac starts to run slow, it can be tough to determine the culprit. MacReviver helps you reclaim space on your disk, as well as optimize your system for faster startups and increased battery life. In the event that your computer is stolen, MacReviver also tracks its location and takes photos of the thief.[...]

Replacing every movie scream with Tom Cruise's weird scream from The Mummy

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:58:46 +0000


It works surprisingly well, giving every scene so enhanced the superficial intensity of a church-mandated declaration of love.

Anti-propaganda classic 'PsyWar' is available to watch online for free

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:28:53 +0000


In these spin-filled times, the documentary PsyWar feels as relevant as when it was released. Metanoia Films has made it available for free to all, so check it out.

(image) Via a review on PR Watch:

The new documentary "Psywar," featuring CMD founder John Stauber, explores corporate and government use of propaganda and public relations to manipulate American people. The movie explores how the U.S. government staged events to manipulate public opinion about the Iraq war, like the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, the supposedly spontaneous mob that pulled over the larger-than-life statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It also discusses the Pentagon pundit scandal, and the hidden activities of the Rendon Group, a PR firm specializing in spinning war. The film exposes government and corporate activities to blur the lines between real news and fake news, as well as the development over time of public relations misinformation campaigns, strategic corporate campaigns to generate goodwill and the perception of good works, the use of staged photo-ops, and other manipulative PR tools that have turned the land of the free and the home of the brave into a place where citizens are now manipulated with great efficiency, and on a massive scale.

Bonus: Their film Counter-Intelligence is on their Vimeo channel:

PsyWar (via S DN Vimeo channel)

This Amazing Crazy “Tiny” Drink is a Meal for Two @nerdvana

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 13:28:28 +0000

My mother used to make an incredible grilled cheese sandwich. It was neither greasy nor too buttery, but simultaneously buttery and toasty. The bread was pan fried golden brown with a nice crunch on the exterior, and it was evenly cooked all the way around and all the way through. I’ve never seen another one like it until last week, when I happened to be in Frisco, Texas, eating at the one-year old restaurant @nerdvana. I had not ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, nor had anyone at my table. But someone had ordered a drink by the name of Tiny Tina’s TKO, which appears on the brunch menu. The first thing you should know is that Tiny Tina’s TKO costs 20 bucks. If that sounds expensive for a drink, you should also know that it will feed two people. That’s brunch for two, with alcoholic beverage, for $20 (plus tax and tip). That’s about what you’d pay to eat at McD’s, but instead you will find yourself in @nerdvana, which is heaven for nerds, gamers, and folks who just like good food and spirits. The portion in Tiny Tina’s glass is a killer Bloody Mary, while the skewers towering from the glass include two hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, bacon, celery, a big-ass Jalapeño pepper, and an entire grilled cheese sandwich cut into quarters. The only thing I ate was the grilled cheese sandwich, and it was mighty fine. My mama would have been proud. @nerdvana is one year old and owned and run by Kristy Junio-Pitchford. (Full disclosure: I’m the editor and publisher of Genii, The Conjurors’ Magazine, which is owned by Randy Pitchford, husband of Mrs. Pitchford. If the food sucked, I would not be writing this piece.) The menu was created by Mike Junio, while Kristy created the idea of having a Bloody Mary with “ridiculous shit on top” and the restaurant’s manager Cathy Brown developed the final product. Kristy calls her a “baller mixologist.” People are blown away by it and it’s one of the most instagrammable menu items. Also really good is the French Toast, Randy’s concoction the Boss Monster Shake (skewers of chocolate covered strawberries and bananas growing out of a chocolate shake piled with whipped cream and chocolate bits), and at dinner the perfectly cooked and seasoned ribeye steak is as good as any steakhouse but at half the price. @nerdvana is a fun restaurant for people to pig out and hang out. The place is a celebration of video games, with games available for customers to play and live simulcasts to watch of great gamers in competitions. Me, I’m still dreaming of that grilled cheese, the steak, and that chocolate shake. Visit @nerdvana[...]