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Thursday, September 14, 2006

SHiFT: cyber-liberties conference in Lisbon, Sept 28/29

Bruno sez, "SHiFT is an event happening in Lisbon, Portugal in September 28 to 29. It will discuss how technology is influencing our everyday lives. We will discuss Civil Rights and Liberties in Technology, how to improve technology for the disabled and the rest of us, how technology is changing the media and other related issues. We will have speakers from Yahoo, Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Rights Group, amongst others." Link (Thanks, Bruno!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:57:48 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Psychological tricks of the retail space designer

Here's an excellent and fascinating list of the psychological tricks employed in shop architecture to make us spend more money:
Hopscotch – One American supermarket chain hit upon the idea of drawing a hopscotch in the aisle next to the children’s cereal in order to make the children play and thus pin Mum & Dad to a point where the children could hassle them for treats....

Order Of Price- Shops will often be laid out in order of price with the most expensive items being encountered at the beginning of your visit and the cheapest at the end. This is done to play on our sense of comparison, we are much more likely to spend money on accessories etc if we have just agreed to buy an expensive item, as in comparison they will seem cheaper than had we encountered them first...

Tiles – Supermarkets used to have a trick placing slightly smaller tiles on the floor in the more expensive aisles of the shop. When a customer entered on of these aisles their trolley would click faster making them think they were travelling faster and thereby subconsciously slow down and spend more time in that aisle.

Link (via Consumerist)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 04:43:08 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Agroterrorism summit: Attack of the killer tomatoes?

The FBI and Joint Terrorism Task force are hosting a conference in Kansas with an unusual theme: "Agroterrorism." Not "aggro" as in, "Osama totally aggro'd out on that infidel," but agro, like crops.

Oh, there's some tiny-font mumbo jumbo on the website about "devoting increased time and attention to specific topics related to the prevention, detection and mitigation of an intentional attack against the food supply," but I know what this is really about: Genetically modified foods rising up to eat their masters.

Hybrid cornstalks will fly through the sky in the form of spears, like something Carl Sandberg might write on a bad acid trip. Zucchinis will become zukillers, squash will squash us, and frankenshrooms will shroud entire cities in clouds of toxic spores.

Speakers include Republican senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and sits on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director John Pistole; USDA secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns; and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The truth and the arugula are out there. Link, and here's the conference agenda.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 04:41:54 PM permalink | blogs' comments

What if pre-flight announcements were truthful?

The Economist has an article that's the hypothetical pre-flight announcement for Veritas Airlines, the airline where they tell you the truth about the in-flight procedures:
he flight attendants are now pointing out the emergency exits. This is the part of the announcement that you might want to pay attention to. So stop your sudoku for a minute and listen: knowing in advance where the exits are makes a dramatic difference to your chances of survival if we have to evacuate the aircraft. Also, please keep your seat belt fastened when seated, even if the seat-belt light is not illuminated. This is to protect you from the risk of clear-air turbulence, a rare but extremely nasty form of disturbance that can cause severe injury. Imagine the heavy food trolleys jumping into the air and bashing into the overhead lockers, and you will have some idea of how nasty it can be. We don't want to scare you. Still, keep that seat belt fastened all the same.

Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Link (via Making Light)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 02:26:05 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Unfortunate blurb choice on bootleg DVD cover

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IDEO's Andy Switky brought my colleague Lyn "Virtual China" Jeffery this excellent bootleg package of "V for Vendetta" he picked up in China. Check out the blurb on the front cover:
"V for Vendetta is a poorly paced and spectacularly disjointed rehash of Orwellian themes."
Related posts about bad DVD subtitle translations here and here.

posted by David Pescovitz at 02:16:09 PM permalink | blogs' comments

HOWTO set up a cash-money ISP at a hotel

Here's a neat way to make a buck at a hotel. Bring along your EVDO wireless broadband card, use a router to turn it into a local WiFi network, and set the SSID of the network to: "8bucks-a-day-wifi-$YOUR_PHONE_NUMBER_HERE." Other guests call you up and offer to drop off money at your room to get online.
Yes, that's right. Your hotelling neighbors HATE typing in their credit card numbers into an auth screen that messes up their DHCP. So offer them an alternative. When they call you, tell them you only accept cash and give them a unique Login and PW.

You can create up to 10 unique user accounts with an enterprise grade router called the TGMB8000. Armed with an EVDO Verizon Wireless or Sprint Card, and a 3g Router, you are a mobile wifi hotspot purveyor.

Yes, this violates your term of service. Yes, If Verizon caught you, they'd cancel your account. BUT nice part is that if they cancel YOUR account, no $175 termination fee! In anycase, it's all natted so your evdo 3g internet access provider would know what you were up to. So you can just ignore the sentence above in blue.

Link (Thanks, Bob!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 01:56:13 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Ernie Fosselius's amazing hand-whittled automata

Ernie Ernie Fosselius is perhaps best known as the creator of the brilliant DIY Star Wars spoof Hardware Wars. We were delighted to find out that Ernie happens to live a stone's throw from the MAKE: compound in Sebastopol, CA. These days, he whittles incredible hand-cranked automata out of wood. He used to exhibit them in a big V8 trailer but now the Mechalodeon is traveling lighter and greener in a home-built pedal powered vehicle complete with a crank organ on the front. We visited his workshop recently and MAKE: media maker Bre Pettis put together a wonderful short video of Ernie talking about his magical creations. (Photo from Mark F.'s Ernie Fosselius set on Flickr.)

posted by David Pescovitz at 01:46:29 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Penguin Classics get new hipster covers

Penguin Classics have revamped their iconic covers by commissioning original illustrations from comic book and hipster artists like Chris Ware (see his Candide, left), Chester Brown, Tomer Hanuka, Art Spiegelman, Seth, Charles Burns, Jason, Anders Nilsen, and Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I love these> I think they really make this old lit seem like something that doesn't belong on a pedestal, bur rather the kind of think you can read on the subway (though Alicatte, who suggested the link, thinks they're awful).

The link below goes to a long interview with Paul Buckley, the Penguin art director who set this up. Link to part one of interview, Link to part two of interview (Thanks, Alicatte!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 01:42:44 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Man pops eyeballs really far out

Claudio Pinto, 48, claims that he can pop his eyeballs 95 percent out of the sockets. From Ananova:
Pinto Mr Pinto, from Belo Horizonte, said: "It is a pretty easy way to make money.

"I can pop my eyes out four centimetres each, it is a gift from God, I feel blessed."

posted by David Pescovitz at 01:22:31 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Factchecking the latest hype-cloud surrounding Area 51

On Defensetech, David Axe writes,

In the October Popular Science, veteran aviation journo Bill Sweetman writes about secret airplanes he believes might be under development at the Air Force's remote Groom Lake test facility in Nevada, a.k.a. Area 51. Sweetman describes three demonstrators unveiled in recent years -- the Northrop Grumman Tacit Blue and Boeing Bird of Prey manned stealth planes and the Lockheed Martin Polecat drone -- but insists these are just consolation prizes offered up by a military that is keeping its major black airplane programs under wraps.

Not that he has a ton of proof. "Hint[s]" and guesswork, mostly. The new construction at Groom Lake must mean something, he figures. And then there are those "obvious... significant gaps in the military’s known aviation arsenal -- gaps that the Pentagon can reasonably be assumed to be actively, if quietly, trying to fill."

It's a strange series of calculations to make. The perceived holes -- high-speed, penetrating reconnaissance and long-range, stealthy strike -- are fairly well plugged up, at least until 2020. And the proposed gap-fillers are some of aviation history's more discredited flops and boogeymen.

Link (thanks Noah Shachtman!)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 12:33:55 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" Katrina doc is online

When the Levees Broke, Spike Lee's powerful 4-hour HBO documentary on the human disaster surrounding Hurricane Katrina, has shown up online. Ajit at ticklebooth blog writes,

This film is Lee’s best non-fiction work and the best Katrina related film I have seen. The film goes to the very roots of the Katrina disaster (the man-made one) following the trails of race, Louisiana oil and politics.

The entire film comes in 26 parts [see ticklebooth for a long list of links, some of which appear to be changing]. Also check out this montage submitted by a user: When the Levees Broke. Another doc by Spike on the Gore and Bush 2000 Election aptly titled We Wuz Robbed

Link. This documentary was incredible, masterly, historically important work, and I know many who don't subscribe to HBO want to see it. The very moment HBO makes it available on DVD or purchaseable digital video download, I will eagerly be there with credit card in hand. I wish they'd done so already.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 12:20:47 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Project Facade: Post WWI surgical facial reconstruction

BoingBoing reader Carlo in Italy says,

Artist Paddy Hartley with the collaboration Dr Andrew Bamji and Dr Ian Thompson is creating one of the most fascinating exhibitions to date. Project Facade is an artistical rendition of facial reconstruction surgical techniques on veterans of the First World War, by means of military uniforms summarizing all the medical history and procedure applied on the servicemen. Be aware that some links in the website can lead to some strong images that can impress your most sensitive readers.

For your Italian users' reading pleasure, I've written an introduction to the exhibition and a brief history of reconstructive surgery on my blog: Link.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 12:06:51 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Comic Strip Artist's Kit

Around 1975, Disney animator Carson Van Osten created the "Comic Strip Artist's Kit," a fun, concise, and incredibly informative HOWTO for sequential artists. It's been floating around online for some time, often in the form of bad scans. Recently though, Van Osten graciously sent blogger Mark Kennedy a copy of the booklet to scan at high-res and share on his site. As Matt from Drawn! says, "It's like the Elements Of Style for cartooning." From Carson's own history of the handout:
Comicstrip I wrote and drew those sketches around 1975 and I'm so tickled to know that people still find them helpful today. It started as a slide presentation for my boss to show at the Disney meeting in Frankfurt. It went over so well that he asked me to expand on it when he returned. They printed 2000 copies and mailed it to all the Disney offices. My friend John Pomeroy asked for some to give to the animators at the studio. that was the time when the animation training program was going on. Frank Thomas saw it and used it for an animation class he was teaching at the Screen Cartoonists Guild. That's how some sketches wound up in the book that he and Ollie wrote, "The Illusion of Life".
Link (via Drawn!)

posted by David Pescovitz at 11:59:46 AM permalink | blogs' comments

New NSA Bill Makes Patriot Act Look Weak

BoingBoing reader Steve says, "Our old fiend Arlen 'The Undead' Specter is at it again. This time he's trying to fix the 'problem' with the warrantless wiretaps by... Wait for it... Making them legal!" Link to Wired News coverage of SB2453, the National Security Surveillance Act (PDF link to bill)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:59:32 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Fun With Guns day at Michigan college called off

Snip from the newspaper of Michigan State University:
Events allegedly planned to recruit students to the Republican Party at the University of Michigan have both Republicans and Democrats across the nation stunned. Morgan Wilkins, an independent contractor hired by the College Republican National Committee to recruit students to the party, was described as planning events such as "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day" and "Fun with Guns Day," in an article written Tuesday by The Michigan Daily.

"Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day" would involve volunteers posing as illegal immigrants and hiding on campus while students try to find them for prizes. For the "Fun with Guns" activity, students would shoot cardboard cutouts of Democratic leaders with BB or paintball guns.

Link (thanks, Emily)

posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:56:24 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Transcript of Air Force chief's remarks on nonlethal weapons

Seth Finkelstein says,
I called the Air Force, and asked about the nonlethal weapons story, and what was actually said. I received a transcript of that portion of the interview, which was apparently taken out of context in the AP article. I've posted the actual transcript here.

Previously: Air Force chief says beta test weapons on US citizens

posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:50:38 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Happy birthday, tank!

September 15 marks the 90th anniversary of the first use of a tank in warfare. On this day in 1916, British tanks advanced toward German positions in the Battle of the Somme. Here's more at the Sydney Morning Herald, and source article at the BBC.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:45:56 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Nik & Jay rap the Boing

Boingcar Nikjay
My pal Peder Burgaard in Copenhagen pointed me to this hot video for Danish rappers Nik & Jay's new single "Boing." From the lyrics:
Woop! Uh-huh. Boing Boing. Woop! Uh-huh.

posted by David Pescovitz at 11:05:11 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Montreal gunman's web profile, self-portraits

The folks at Metroblogging Montreal have been covering yesterday's mass shooting in that city by a man believed to be 25-year-old Kimveer Gill.

Here is a cached copy of his blog (warning: loud Goth music auto-loads), and here are photo portraits in which he poses with various weapons. A photoshopped gravestone he posted on his blog reads, "Lived fast died young. Left a mangled corpse" (image link).

One of his favorite online games was the free role-playing game Super Columbine Massacre RPG!, according to his blog. Danny "Columbin" Ledonne, the maker of that game, has posted a statement here.

Gill's last journal entry on was dated September 13, 2006, 10:41:am -- precisely 2 hours before he is believed to have fired the first bullets at Dawson College, where a total of 19 people were shot. The gunman was shot dead by police. The "mood indicator" tag on Gills final journal entry from that morning read:

Mood: No mood :(

Posthumous online footprints like this often show up after highly-publicized violent crimes, and I usually don't post them. It seems morbid, like turning a killer into an online celebrity. But it's so strange to see what this self-obsessed sociopath documented of his life (he took tons of online quizzes, and dug Dave Chappelle, South Park, Conan O'Brien, and The Daily Show). So strange and troubling to see all the "rock on!" comments people wrote next to snaps he posted of himself preening with a CX4 Storm Semi-Automatic Carbine.

Here's a related NYT story: Link.

Previously: Gunman opens fire at Montreal's Dawson College

Reader comment: Jeremy Clarke says,

I randomly checked a page of the archives of Gill's journal and found this post in which he worries about CSIS (Canadian CIA) and RCMP officers reading blogs on the VampireFreak site and arresting people for posting photos of themselves with guns, death threats etc.

He then encourages posters to post such things as private entries (assumedly similar to the LJ functionality where only people who are friends within the system can read it). This makes me suspect that there may be more or many more posts written solely for those he knew on the site, as well as implying that the strange Dave Chapelle final post could be intentionally misleading.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 10:43:15 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Anti-RIAA lawyers answer Slashdot's questions

Two attorneys who represent American citizens who are being sued by the record industry have conducted a public interview with the Slashdot community -- the questions and answers are fascinating and lively, as is the discussion that follows:
9) Evidence?
(Score:5, Insightful)
by eldavojohn

I hear a lot that the RIAA has the weakest evidence ever in these cases. Such as screen shots of dynamic IP addresses - - taken from Kazaa. How the hell do judges across this country uphold these cases with such lack of concrete evidence? I mean, give me five minutes in photoshop and I'll make you a "screenshot" of Kazaa with's IP address listed over and over on it. Can't an expert witness cause this evidence to be thrown out quickly?


I've tried, eldavojohn, I've tried. Look at our court papers in Motown v. Does 1-149. The judge didn't want to hear a word I was saying. You are absolutely correct that the entire underpinning of each case is a joke. An astute judge would laugh them out of court, as the Netherlands and Canadian courts have done.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 10:05:33 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Idolatr: new Gawker music blog says, "Kill yr idols."

Gawker Media launched a new blog today called Idolatr, seemingly penned by bitter music fans who lament the corporate co-opting of online indie music kultchr. They have a manifesto:
If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you love music, you love blogs, and you especially love watching YouTube clips of Steven Seagal warbling old blues songs. And because you love all those things, we're also willing to bet that you think music blogs are the best thing to ever happen to rock-and-pop nutcases such as yourselves since, well, ever.

And we at Idolator are here to tell you that you've been had.

Like Vioxx and the Patriot Act, music blogs were supposed to improve our lives: At a time when only a handful of carefully manicured acts could sleaze their way into the top 10, the music blogosphere was going to serve as the great equalizer, deflating the MTV-assisted hype machines and giving the asleep-at-the-wheel music mags a run for their ad money. They were as DIY as the zine movement and as musically savvy as the college-radio jockeys of the '80s. Finally, the power was in the hands of the people--very nerdy people, mind you, but they were a lot better than the record execs whose biggest claim to fame was discovering Crazy Town.

For a while, it seemed to be working--without Internet support, it's doubtful that bands like Cold War Kids or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah would have ascended so quickly. But in the last year, the music-blog netherworld has become as homogenized and indistinguishable as the record labels themselves.

Link. Idolatr is edited by Brian Raftery and Maura Johnston.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 10:03:34 AM permalink | blogs' comments

US State Dept to Europe: Apple's DRM is off-limits

A spokesman for the US Department of Justice has counseled European governments to stop investigating the anti-competitive, anti-consumer aspects of Apple's iTunes DRM. Apple imposes their DRM even when musicians ask not to have it applied to their music, and they have used legal threats to stop competitors from making players that can play Apple's music. Apple's DRM has been updated several times to remove the rights that iTunes Music Store customers bought when they bought their music -- all of this seems to make iTunes DRM a valid subject for investigation by competition and fair trading bureaus. Right now, Sweden, Norway, France, Britain and other European nations are investigating the fairness of Apple's technology.
Speaking in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general at the DOJ’s antitrust division, warned that forcing companies to reveal their intellectual property stifles innovation. He used Apple as an example, in a nod to growing discontent in Europe regarding the way that music purchased from iTunes is tied to the iPod.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 10:03:06 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Universal Music CEO threatens MySpace, YouTube

Universal Music's CEO Doug Morris told a Merril Lynch investor's conference that he plans to attack MySpace and YouTube for copyright infringement:
"The poster child for (user-generated media) sites are MySpace and YouTube," said Morris, according to a transcript obtained by Reuters. "We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars."

He added, "How we deal with these companies will be revealed shortly."

Link (Thanks, Andrew!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 09:34:31 AM permalink | blogs' comments

HOWTO get a free mobile phone in the UK

The oddly named Reestit Mutton site catalogs the cash-back and discount deals offered by UK mobile phone companies, figuring out all the angles -- follow their directions and assiduously apply for all the rebates and suchlike and you can get your phone and service for free (apparently in some cases, you can double-up on rebates and actually get paid to acquire a mobile and a year's service). Link (Thanks, Niall!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 09:31:23 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Cory's Down and Out as a printable poster

Aki Kyozoku, a fan of my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, has converted the entire text of the book to a poster that depicts the type and graphics from the book's cover. By shading the type and inserting spaces in it, Aki was able to use the type itself as pixels in a giant bitmap that you can print on your favorite large-format printer and stick on your wall. Man, that's cool! 628K PDF Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 09:06:07 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Digital Rights Ireland sues to overturn EU data retention rule

Digital Rights Ireland, the Irish activist group that works to uphold liberty in the technological sphere, is suing the Irish government to overturn an EU directive that requires government to spy on citizens. If they win, it could overturn the law in every EU nation!
“These laws require telephone companies and internet service providers to spy on all customers, logging their movements, their telephone calls, their emails, and their internet access, and to store that information for up to three years. This information can then be accessed without any court order or other adequate safeguard. We believe that this is a breach of fundamental rights. We have written to the Government raising our concerns but, as they have failed to take any action, we are now forced to start legal proceedings.”

“Accordingly, we have now launched a legal challenge to the Irish government’s power to pass these laws. We say that it is contrary to the Irish Constitution as well as Irish and European Data Protection laws.”

“We also challenge the claim that the European Commission and Parliament had the power to enact the Data Retention Directive. We say that this kind of mass surveillance is a breach of Human Rights, as recognised in the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights which all EU member states have endorsed.”


posted by Cory Doctorow at 08:56:40 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Jargon watch: Glog, a game-blog

Alice from Wonderland takes note of a new Internet neologism: "Glog" -- a game blog where "individual, self-appointed experts provide op/ed commentary on known contests, usually of the Reality TV variety." Alice notes, "I predict that this will not catch on." Link

Update: Neal sez, "NEOLOFIGHT! Glogging is already underway by the acolytes of Steve Mann - blogging from cyborg headgear is to keep a 'glog'. That definition will probably (hopefully) outlive the the one you mention."

posted by Cory Doctorow at 08:43:00 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Museum launches CC-licensed classical music podcast/archive

Charlotte sez,
Today, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston launches the first Creative Commons-licensed online program from an art museum. The classical music podcast The Concert is licensed under Creative Commons' "Share Music" license, and features unreleased recordings of master musicians and emerging young artists playing masterpieces of the classical repertoire by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and others to come.

The podcast has also given birth to a related project undertaken by the museum to build an extensive online classical music library, with all tracks licensed under a "Share Music" license. The digital library provides a new resource online for classical music lovers, students, teachers, scholars, and anyone worldwide interested in hearing and learning more about classical music. The library includes artist and composer bios, with links for more information elsewhere on the web.

Link (Thanks, Charlotte!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 08:39:46 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Sony's rootkit disables CD drives when combined with AOL software

The Texas Attorney General has been testing XCP, the rootkit that Sony BMG infected its customers' computers with last year (they were trying to stop their customers from making copies of the CDs they purchased). The AG's office has determined that the Sony rootkit, when combined with standard AOL software, could disable your CD drive entirely:
A glitch in the XCP DRM technology meant that anti-spyware features in AOL's Safety and Security Centre software and PestPatrol software could have tried to disable the CD-ROM's configuration.

The bug has been found by Texas attorney general's office who have been testing the XCP copy-protection technology as part of the state's lawsuit against Sony.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 08:27:55 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Google's new lobbyists: lying, astroturfing, push-polling scumbags

Google's new DC lobbyists have a reputation for slime, astroturfing and push-polling.

Joshua Micah Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, points out that Google has hired a DC lobbyist firm with a reputation for being good at courting Republicans, which makes sense, given that the GOP is the party in power.

But DCI, the lobbyists on Google's payroll, have a long history of using deceptive and slimy tactics to achieve the ends commissioned by their clients, who've used DCI's dirty tricks to fight Social Security, and DCI even hired the guy behind the notorious lying scumbag group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

I think that I probably share more than 80 percent of Google's legislative goals -- goals like a neutral Internet, a lawful book-search service, limitation of liability for search-engines, cachers, etc -- but my biggest and most important legislative goal is an America where open democracy, and not lies, push-polls, and sleaze dominate the political process.

It may seem like fighting the bad guys without resorting to scumbag tactics is fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. But we have an advantage that the other side lacks: we want what's good for America, the Internet and the world. The other side wants to line its pockets and give power to its cronies. They need astroturf to make that look like a populist agenda.

We don't need to lie to make our agenda seem populist and unselfish.

DCI, if you're not familiar with them, is an interlocking group of companies which is the phony seed bed for most noxious astroturf organizing and general bamboozlement in contemporary politics.
Link (Thanks, Bill!)

Update: An ex-lobbyist writes:

I think it's important to be clear that the issue is not with who DCI lobbies for (whether we agree with them or not) but rather the tactics they have used, and continue to. There's a good overview here.

Among other things, DCI invented "journo-lobbyists" in the form of "Tech Central Station." A site that purports to have news from sponsors who happen to be DCI clients, it's actually a front for DCI itself, which was disclosed only after being exposed by press in 2003: "The two organizations, Confessore explained, "share most of the same owners, some staff, and even the same suite of offices in downtown Washington, a block off K Street." It will be interesting to see what TCS thinks about Google these days... look, here's an article from yesterday on invasive privacy practices, which Google is getting dinged on, but the article is all about Amazon and Sony. This is classic shithead lobbyist strategy, to take the attack and distribute it to your client's competitors. You can imagine the long-term effects.

DCI's fingers extend very far into the world, in a way that make you sound paranoid if you actually start to look at fingerprints. A personal favorite is that one of the journalists directly on the DCI journo-lobbyist payroll, Michael J Totten is also the Politics Editor of Suicide Girls (not sure if he still is). That's how far DCI's payroll extends. Totten's political notes on Suicide Girls, for example, never specified that he receives paychecks from DCI.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 08:18:54 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Audio, slides from Jason Schultz's USC talk on Internet Freedom

USC's Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy is hosting audio from last week's speech by Jason Schultz, the EFF lawyer who runs the patent-busting project. Jason gave a great talk on Internet Freedom (his slides are online, too) -- the ways in which we've benefitted from an open Internet, and the ways that openness is threatened on all fronts, by legislators, greed, and censors. Regular Boing Boing readers will recognize Jason's name from the frequent contributions he makes here on matters of law -- his talk was tremendous.

You can subscribe to a podcast of all the USC Public Diplomacy talks that I'm hosting here -- upcoming speakers include Toshiba's Michael Ayers, EFF's Fred von Lohmann and Seth Schoen, Wendy Seltzer of ChillingEffects, Revver's Steven Starr, Xbox hacker Bunnie Huang, Bruce Sterling, Bruce Schneier, Jamie Love from the Consumer Project on Technology, and the grand finale, a triple-header from EFF founders John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow, and Mitch Kapor! Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 08:02:45 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Scientology expose film on the Internet Archive

An independant film-maker has made a fictional movie that purports to document the goings-on in the Church of Scientology. He worked with noted Scientology critics Operation Clambake on the production, called "The Bridge."

The CoS is notorious for suing and harrassing its critics, having abused copyright law in the past to censor web-based criticism. Brett Hanover, the filmmaker, has released his one-hour picture onto the net, hosting copies at the Internet Archive and Google Video. It's not a bad movie -- it moves a little slow, some of the dialog is stilted, but not bad for an indie feature shot in five days, and the information about the Church jibes with my own research into its practices. Link (Thanks, Modemac!)

Update: Chris sez, "Brett Hanover's last film 'Above God' was a surprisingly insightful documentary about Dr. Gene Ray, the Time Cube guy. It won Best Hometown Documentary at last year's Indie Memphis Film Festival. Brett is very young, and a product of the burgeoning Memphis independant movie scene, working with the Media Co-Op. He has a great future ahead of him."

posted by Cory Doctorow at 07:54:26 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Ad from 1933: Make lamps and ashtrays out of critters!

This Sept, 1933 advertisement from Modern Mechanix magazine invites you to learn taxidermy so that you can make lamps, ashtrays and bookends out of "squirrels, rabbits, frogs, etc." Apparently, you can make "BIG profits in spare time" this way. It's like training materials for Buffalo Bill. Link

Update: Rob sez, "The squirrel-lamp business is alive and well!!"

posted by Cory Doctorow at 07:47:22 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Les Paul's private NYC apartment building radio station, 1940

This Popular Science article from July, 1940 tells how Les Paul and his neighbors would run a little "radio station" of their live performances through their New York apartment building -- as the Modern Mechanix blogger says, "I wish Les Paul would start a private radio sation in my building."
TO ENTERTAIN friends and neighbors in a New York apartment house, a group of professional radio performers operates a unique basement "broadcasting" station. Every Friday and Sunday evening, led by Les Paul and Earnie Newton, they go on the air from their homemade soundproof studio near the furnace room. Programs go to all the apartments through a two-wire ground and aerial system which had been built into the structure and previously never used. The control room is in a closet on the second floor. Frequently, "big-name" musicians drop in to lend a hand, and guest announcers whose voices are heard regularly on nation-wide hook-ups have fun taking turns at the basement microphone. Even "Static," the apartment-house cat, occasionally goes on the air with amplified purrs and meows.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 07:41:56 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Revver 1.0: make money for your viral vids

Revver, the service that turns your homemade videos into commercial items, has just gone out of beta and into 1.0. Revver lets you upload your videos -- like the infamous Mentos/Diet Coke fountains -- and then distributes them with advertising rolls afterwards, splitting the money with you.

Revver's got a great toolsuite for creators and viewers, and to my eye, the videos look better than YouTube's or Google Videos, and a great collection of social gizmos to help you find the best stuff on the site. The extensive API invites you to remix the site to your heart's content -- unsurprising, given that one of Revver's founders is Ian Clarke, the co-creator of Freenet.

With the 1.0 launch, Revver substantially updates the creator tools, API support, and adds a Flash player and playlists. They've also ironed out a lot of bugs and added a ton of fit-and-finish to the service. This is good stuff. Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 07:37:49 AM permalink | blogs' comments

HOWTO make a foldable, one-cut, one-sheet mini-zine

Here's a little Flickr-set HOWTO for printing a one-shot mini-zine that's folded out of a single sheet of paper, with no one cut. Link (via Warren Ellis)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 07:27:22 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Changeling, a fairy tale of contemporary New York

I just finished reading "Changeling," the new young adult fantasy by Delia Sherman, and it reminded me of just how much I love "contemporary fantasy" stories that bring fairy-tales forward into the present day. Changeling's eponymous heroine is Neef, a human girl who is being raised in New York's Central Park by fairy folk. But this isn't Central Park as we know it -- this is the Central Park of New York Between, an over-the-rainbow parallel to New York, where the fairy folk of the world have converged, where German gnomes rub shoulders with Russian Kazni peris, Japanese Tenukis and Closet Monsters out of New York's own mythology. Also populating this world are fictional characters, like Water Rat from Wind in the Willows -- any character beloved and archetypal enough to become part of our folklore.

Changeling is a fairy tale, hewing to the ancient conventions of the fairy story even as it conducts an erudite, engrossing lesson on the world's mythologies and narrative conventions. The likable, mischievous Neef is disobedient, and ends up in the hottest of water, which she escapes through her cleverness and her exhaustive knowledge of folklore (Delia Sherman is herself an accomplished folklorist).

There's so much to love about this book -- Sherman's incorporation of the contemporary with the timeless is both seamless and endlessly amusing (Neef draws on her knowledge of such stories as "Little Red Baseball Cap" and "The Twelve Dancing Debutantes" and "Jack and the Extension Ladder"). You have to see the fairy version of the Metropolitan Museum for yourself -- and the Dragon of Wall Street!

Part of the power of fairy tales is their ability to transform our own world into a place of everyday magic. Some of that power is lost when we tell the stories of our middle-ages forebears, set in the world they inhabited. If the kids in your life are hooked on fairy tales but sticking to Bros Grimm and co, they're missing something -- the galvanizing wonder of the familiar transmuted into the fantastic.

Changeling is the book to fix all that. From Sherman's magnificent handling of Asperger's Syndrome in fairy-land to the clever puzzles and challenges that Neef overcomes, this story is fast-paced, and weird in an intensely recognizable way. Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 07:23:53 AM permalink | blogs' comments

NPR "Xeni Tech": Jigsaw wants your data

For today's edition of the NPR News program "Day to Day," I filed a report on the controversy surrounding Jigsaw Data, an online business contact management site that's something like Wikipedia meets eBay meets a Rolodex. Its founder, Jim Fowler, says he's just providing a way for professionals to reach each other more efficiently. Members pay $25/month to obtain 25 contacts from the site, or agree to put in 25 contacts a month to get 25 others out.

Users maintain the data, but unlike Wikipedia, they don't do it for love here -- they do it to score points, so they can download more contacts. Michael Arrington of Techcrunch says it ought to be illegal, and breaks an implied social contract -- nobody expects that when they hand someone a business card, this personal data will end up on a searchable, publicly-accessible website. Researcher danah boyd says it's an icky but expected evolution from sites like MySpace, Plaxo, LinkedIn, and Friendster, and says people tend to react negatively to services like this because we want control over how reachable we are, and don't like to think of friends or colleagues as numeric "points" to be cashed in.

Listen to the story here after 12pm PT (in streaming Real and WM), or hear it on your local NPR affiliate. "Xeni Tech" archives here.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 07:22:13 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Los Alamos Lab trains bees to stick out tongues at bombs

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has announced this year's Distinguished Performance Awards. Among them, the "Stealthy Insect Sensor Project." Oh, go ahead and read all the sciencey prose, but here's all you need to know: They trained bees to stick out their tongues when they smell explosives. Here's an excerpt from the official explanation, which includes more blablabla:
Honeybees are doing more than just making honey. Laboratory scientists studied honeybees and developed a platform to use the bees in detecting explosives... The team achieved its original goal of evaluating the proposed sensor platform and technology and greatly improved understanding of the platform’s specificity and detection technology. It studied protein expressions and isolated genetic and physiological differences in individual bee olfaction characteristics. The team studied structural units in the bees’ antennae and identified biochemical and molecular mechanisms that could account for differences in the insects’ training capabilities and retention capacities. The team also used Pavlovian training techniques that trigger a physical response to the smell of specific explosives.

Creating a controlled environment in which they could accurately determine the bees’ capabilities, the team demonstrated that the bees’ natural reaction to food — a proboscis extension reflex (PER) in which they stick out their tongues — could be used to record an unambiguous response to scent. The bees responded with a PER when they were exposed to explosive vapors. This paradigm has been tested many times in both laboratory and field settings and is a viable alternative to using dogs or elaborate hardware to detect explosives at low concentrations.


Image: Steve Jurvetson shot this amazing macro photo. This bee is not one of the explosive-sniffing bees involved in the Los Alamos study, but he she is sticking out his her tongue. There are many more wonderful photos in Steve Jurvetson's photo stream, and unlike bomb-bees, Steve is not known for sticking out his tongue. (thanks, Andy)

Reader comment: Grant Gould says,

The bee in question is sticking out _her_ tongue -- she's by all appearances a worker bee of species apis melifera, and workers are all female. The sex of bees has long been a source of contention, as the workers have no functioning genital organs. Aristotle, for instance, "proved" that worker bees are male (they can sting, and nature wouldn't arm a female with such a weapon), but alas for him these days we have genetics. Drone bees are haploid (only one of each chromosome, like algae) whereas queen bees are diploid (two of each chromosome, like us). Workers are diploid, and so female.
Thanks also, Ellen Bulger.

Justin says,

I know it is hard to believe but DARPA has been researching the use of bees to find explosives since at least 2001. I used to work at Southwest Research Institute, where they conducted this research until approximately 2004. Outside my office building, there was a a large (1 acre) green mesh facility known as the "DARPA tent," where the bees were trained to look for explosive residues. One time some of the bees got loose, and the entire facility got a global e-mail telling us not to bother the trained insects if they were encountered. If you look on google maps, you can still see the tent posts where it used to be. Google Maps Link: Link. Southwest Research Institute: Link. Research Paper mentioning the Bee work at SwRI: Link.
Bob Michaelson says,
Isn't the problem here that they need to train the bees -- and that honeybees have a fairly short lifetime (unlike explosive-sniffing dogs, for example)? How much time is required to train the bees, and how much useful sniffing life-expectancy do they have after training? From this website: "A worker's life expectancy is only several weeks during the active summer months. However, they can live for many months during the relatively inactive winter period."
OMG more bees! Link

posted by Xeni Jardin at 11:12:15 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Che'ney: Dick Cheney meets Che

The Che'ney shirt mashes up Dick Cheney and Che Guevara -- made me laugh, then wonder why this hadn't been done already! Link

Update: Nothing new under the sun, it appears: Cheney as Che T-Shirt, thanks Karl!

posted by Cory Doctorow at 11:05:03 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Sony BMG: Canadians don't deserve the same justice as Americans

Last month, Sony BMG settled with the Canadian people over its use of "rootkits" that it deliberately infected Canadians PCs with -- software hidden on music CDs that installed itself and hid itself away, all in the name of stopping copying.

The settlement falls far short of the mark that was hit by the US settlement in the suit, and what's more, a critical piece of the settlement, a mysterious document called "Exhibit C," was never published.

Now Michael Geist has obtained and published a copy of Exhibit C, in which a Sony BMG VP named Christine J. Prudham spun a bunch of excuses to explain why Canadians weren't entitled to the same relief that our American cousins received.

I have now obtained a copy of Exhibit C, which is an affidavit from Christine J. Prudham, Vice President, Legal and Business Affairs of Sony BMG Canada (Prudham is the same person who appeared today at the Copyright Board discussing how Sony BMG Canada released just 16 new Canadian records last year). The affidavit seeks to explain why Sony BMG Canada believes it is appropriate to grant Canadian consumers fewer rights than their U.S. counterparts. While there is the suggestion that Canadians would benefit indirectly from a U.S. injunction, the heart of the argument revolves around a series of copyright-related arguments that are utterly without merit. First, Prudham expresses concern that copyright is a federal matter and that the class action is being heard by a provincial court. This makes no sense - there is concurrent jurisdiction over copyrights (the Robertson v. Thompson copyright case currently before the Supreme Court originated in provincial court) but, more importantly, the case isn't about copyright but rather consumer protection, contractual issues, and privacy.

Second, Prudham argues that there is currently a "legal vacuum around TPMs in Canada", concluding that "Sony BMG Canada is not willing to potentially prejudice itself by agreeing to the Injunctive Provisions in the Canadian Agreement." This argument is simply embarrassing - there is no legal vacuum around TPMs in Canada. While Canada does not have anti-circumvention legislation, this is not a legal vacuum and is in no way relevant to this consumer class action lawsuit. The prejudice that Prudham refers to is not legal prejudice, but rather the "political prejudice" that will arise when Sony appears before a parliamentary committee discussing anti-circumvention legislation and is asked about the $25 million settlement arising from the rootkit fiasco and the fact that the company is subject to a potential injunction over the use of the technologies that it is seeking to protect.

Link, Link to "Exhibit C"

Update: Thanks to Amos for the great Sony/Nosy logo remix!

Update 2: EFF also has a critique of the Canadian settlement -- thanks, Derek!

posted by Cory Doctorow at 10:42:56 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Old London tube carriages to be recycled as shops

As the London Underground upgrades its lines, it end up throwing out tons of lovely tube-carriages. Rather than see them melted down for scrap, a new UK charity is taking possession of the old carriages and repurposing them as shops and workshops.
Typically carriages which no longer serve the travelling public are taken to pieces, the metals separated and the various parts disposed of, some into landfill. In the past there has been little demand for reusing them by converting them into unusual work or play spaces but Tom Foxcroft, who has set up Village Underground and approached Tube Lines about recycling carriages, has identified a use which benefits the environment and community.
Link (via Worldchanging)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 05:13:10 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Racecars made out of erasers

After Mr Jalopy posted on Hoopty Rides about his adolescent passion for little racecars made out of trapezoidal erasers, his readers treated him to photos of their own "e-racers" -- the entries are really amazing. These are way better than Matchbox. Link

posted by Cory Doctorow at 05:09:26 PM permalink | blogs' comments

RU Sirius show interviews Fred Burks

The RU Sirius Show recorded their first live episode last Sunday, a provocative discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theory with Fred Burks, former Foreign Language interpreter to Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, and Joel Schalit from Tikkun Magazine.
Joel-Fred Jeff Diehl: So Joel, are you suggesting that people should stop pursuing the details of various kinds of possible conspiracy?

Joel Schalit: What makes this situation in my opinion different from others that have preceded it, is that public grappling with the secrecy issue on the part of 9/11 conspiracy proponents has superceded what should be the primary concern of citizens -- the fact that the state is not subject to any kind of popular or democratic control in this country.


posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 02:56:53 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Fabric brain art

Marjorie Taylor, head of the University of Oregon's Department of Psychology, and Karen Norberg have created fabric artworks based on neuroscience and dissection. The work is exhibited at their "Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art." Seen here is a cloth brain that Norberg created.
 Brain Karen Norberg 1

From the museum page:
Our current exhibition features three quilts with functional images from PET and fMRI scanning, and an anatomically accurate knitted brain...

Techniques used include quilting, applique, embroidery, beadwork, knitting, and crotcheting.

Materials include fabric, yarn, metallic threads, electronic components such as magnetic core memory, wire, zippers, and beads.
Link (via Kircher Society, thanks Arwen O'Reilly!)

posted by David Pescovitz at 01:22:09 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Barnaby Whitfield: solo show opens Friday in Brooklyn

Shatter Barnaby Whitfield, my deeply twisted pastel artist pal, has a new solo show opening on Friday at Brooklyn's 31GRAND gallery. (Previous BB posts about Barnaby here.) The exhibition is titled "Putto Rising." Seen here, "Oh! Shatter The Mask! My Mother Is Anh Duong!" (2006, 30 x 22", pastel on paper.) According the show description, "In his latest work, Barnaby Whitfield celebrates his mother's well earned, well paid for newly relaxed face and life, the artist's own self granted graduation from tv's therapeutic reality program "Starting Over" and the beginning of his quest to paint Norman Rockwell's 'big' pictures at last."
Link to 31GRAND, Link to Barnaby Whitfield's site

posted by David Pescovitz at 01:04:27 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Weird old ad for Thorazine

200609131257This is good information. The next time I'm threatened by an agitated, cane-wielding, dementia patient, I'm going to shoot him with that dart of Thorazine I keep concealed in my Sixfinger. Link (Via Bedazzled)

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 01:01:11 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Reverse graffiti confounds authorites

Paul "Moose" Curtis creates his art by erasing dirt from public surfaces.
200609131246British authorities aren’t sure what to make of the artist who is creating graffiti by cleaning the grime of urban life. The Leeds City Council has been considering what to do with Moose. "I’m waiting for the kind of Monty Python court case where exhibit A is a pot of cleaning fluid and exhibit B is a pair of my old socks," he jokes.

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 12:48:48 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Artist Lisa Petrucci's fun-filled house

200609131245 Artist Lisa Petrucci's toy-filled house was featured in Seattle Dream Homes. Link (Via Thumbmonkey)

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 12:45:51 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Fez-wearing monkey cookie jar

Picture 8-5 This handsome cookie jar in the shape of an emotionally-agitated, fez-bedecked primate will set you back just $42.95. Link

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 12:42:39 PM permalink | blogs' comments

The plaster figures of Morton Bartlett

 Blogger 4074 2270 1600 Brom3.1 Amy Crehore: "Little-known while alive, except for an article in "Yankee Magazine" circa 1962, Morton Barlett was a reclusive Boston bachelor who made meticulously detailed, half-size, painted plaster figures of mostly teenage girls and a few boys. He also created and sewed outfits for each one and then documented his creations in realistic settings by taking B&W photos of them. The unique thing about his art was that these figures expressed complex emotions in their faces and gestures." Link

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 12:20:00 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Sneak preview from upcoming Blab! show

200609131214 Here's Amy Crehore's painting, "Roaming Tomcat Rag," which will be part of the upcoming Blab! group art show.
Copro/Nason Gallery
September 23, 2006
Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Avenue #T 5
Santa Monica, CA 90404

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 12:15:17 PM permalink | blogs' comments

Pictorial history of S.S. Adams company: Life of the Party

Picture 6-4  Bookpage1  Bookpage2  Bookpage3  Bookpage4  Bookpage5  Bookpage6
(Click on thumbnails for enlargement) S.S. Adams has been making inexpensive prank and magic gimmicks for 100 years. I've bought many a squirting nickel, bottle of disappearing ink, Chinese bottle, and other novelty from Adams' revolving racks found in toy stores. It's kind of amazing that in this day and age, it stay in business selling dribble glasses, rubber dollars, salt water taffy "loaded with lots and lots of salt," snakes that jump out of a can of peanut brittle, and sneezing powder.

I like the packaging even more than the products. The company seems to be stuck in the 1940s, when men wore hats and belonged to secret societies with ridiculous Oriental names, and kids kept wooden slingshots in their back pockets and could play pranks on the neighborhood beat cop without being tasered and sent to a correctional camp.

This book, called Life of the Party, with an introduction by cartoonist Chris Ware, is a terrific visual history of this curious living fossil of a company. You can buy it right from the S.S. Adams website. Link

posted by Mark Frauenfelder at 11:29:35 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Gunman opens fire at Montreal's Dawson College

Shots were fired at Montreal's Dawson College. It's unclear who was doing the shooting, who got shot, and why. CBC has ongoing coverage of the story:
Eyewitnesses say they saw a tall skinny man, wearing a black trenchcoat and a mohawk haircut, walk into the cafeteria carrying a large gun. He apparently fired several shots...

Montreal police confirm that there is at least one suspect they say has been "neutralised." Television images showed police officers dragging a bloody body out of the main doors of the building.

Link (Thanks, Mike!)

Update: Montreal Metroblogging has a first-hand account of the shootings.

posted by Cory Doctorow at 11:26:03 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Flickr stream of hundreds of pix of toothpaste on a toothbrush

Flickr user toothpastery appears hell-bent on documenting every toothbrushing moment in her life. The toothpastery Flickr stream consists of two daily photos of a toothbrush loaded with a strip of toothpaste, with meticulous notes about the brand of paste used that day ("Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Toothpaste with Baking Soda & Essential Oil of Fennel"). This is clearly a magnificent obsession.

In her profile, Toothpastery/Joanna notes "For the most part, I'm probably just objectifying toothpaste in an unhealthy way. These images are methodically captured, lovingly hand-tagged and uploaded daily. This is more boring for me than it is for you," and "These images are not licensed though Creative Commons for a damn good reason." Link (Thanks, Better Living Through Miles!)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 10:56:30 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Toshiba's DRM lawyer - public talk at USC next Tuesday

Michael Ayers, the Toshiba lawyer who negotiates their DRM deals, will give a free public talk at the University of Southern California next Tuesday at 7PM. Michael started out as an engineer and switched to law. He was there when the anti-copying standards were set for DVDs, DVD audio, digital TV, Secure Digital cards, and he is the president of the DTLA consortium, which licenses out the DTCP control-ware from Hitachi, Intel, Matsushita, Sony, and Toshiba.

Michael is the chair of the "Business Group" for AACS, the technology that controls users of Blu-Ray and DVD-HD.

Your home and life are increasingly full of devices that seek to control, rather than enable you, and Michael is part of the negotiations for how those devices will function. As the representative of a technology company, he usually bats for the user, but we're still getting devices with more and more restrictions.

Michael has generously agreed to speak to my class and then give a public lecture, and I'm really grateful to him for it. He's always been candid, reasonable and level-headed in the DRM negotiations I worked with him at, and even when we've come down on opposite sides of the debate, I've been impressed with his honesty and flexibility.

When: September 19, 7PM-9PM
University of Southern California, Annenberg School, 3502 Watt Way
Room 207

posted by Cory Doctorow at 10:16:02 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Cory co-editing Tesseracts Canadian sf anthology, call for stories

Holly Phillips and I will co-edit Tesseracts Eleven, the next volume of the award-winning anthology series for Canadian science fiction and fantasy, founded by Judith Merril. We're open to public submissions from Canadians and Canadian residents, in either French or English, at lengths up to 7,500 words. The deadline is December 31, 2006.

Send your manuscripts to the address below, and follow them up with an electronic submission to When formatting your electronic manuscript, adhere to the excellent formatting guidelines set out for submissions to Strange Horizons.

Tesseracts Eleven
Attention: Series Editors
c/o Tesseracts Eleven Submissions,
P.O. Box 1714,
Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7

posted by Cory Doctorow at 10:01:52 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Cory's Locus column: How Copyright Broke

My latest column for Locus Magazine is out: "How Copyright Broke." In this essay, I explore the fallacy that the public should treat the books and other media they buy as "limited licenses" and not as their property, and why telling your readers that they don't own the books they buy will never succeed:
When it comes to retail customers for information goods — readers, listeners, watchers — this whole license abstraction falls flat. No one wants to believe that the book he's brought home is only partly his, and subject to the terms of a license set out on the flyleaf. You'd be a flaming jackass if you showed up at a con and insisted that your book may not be read aloud, nor photocopied in part and marked up for a writers' workshop, nor made the subject of a piece of fan-fiction.

At the office, you might get a sweet deal on a coffee machine on the promise that you'll use a certain brand of coffee, and even sign off on a deal to let the coffee company check in on this from time to time. But no one does this at home. We instinctively and rightly recoil from the idea that our personal, private dealings in our homes should be subject to oversight from some company from whom we've bought something. We bought it. It's ours. Even when we rent things, like cars, we recoil from the idea that Hertz might track our movements, or stick a camera in the steering wheel.

When the Internet and the PC made it possible to sell a lot of purely digital "goods" — software, music, movies and books delivered as pure digits over the wire, without a physical good changing hands, the copyright lawyers groped about for a way to take account of this. It's in the nature of a computer that it copies what you put on it. A computer is said to be working, and of high quality, in direct proportion to the degree to which it swiftly and accurately copies the information that it is presented with.


posted by Cory Doctorow at 09:58:50 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Google Books promotes banned books for Banned Books Week

Google Book Search and the American Library Association have teamed up to offer searchable indices and library links to banned books, in celebration of Banned Books Week (Sept 23-30). Included in the catalog are 1984, Lolita, Lord of the Flies, the Great Gatsby, The Color Purple, Brave New World, Naked Lunch, Invisible Man, Cats Cradle, and many other titles that made me a better person for having read them. Link (via /.)

posted by Cory Doctorow at 09:56:37 AM permalink | blogs' comments

Jenn Shreve's Space Junk story online as PDF and audio

My dear pal and former BB guest blogger Jenn Shreve wrote a deeply-moving short story called Space Junk that was published in Seed Magazine a few months ago. The story is about a decidedly down-to-earth woman who is drawn into the wonder of the universe when she has her late husband's ashes launched into space. Space Junk is now available as a PDF download and a beautifully-read audio recording. Here is the beginning of the story:
Sonia had always assumed she’d be the sort of widow who wore tidy black suits and babbled to an engraved granite stone. Where would she go to leave the roses? Or tend to the weeds? Leaning against John and Anne’s floor-to-ceiling window, which looked out over the Bay from its perch in the green Berkeley hills, Sonia felt the stem of her wine glass slip ever so slightly between her fingers and clutched it more tightly. On the other hand, it wouldn’t do to spend her remaining days chained to a box of rotting flesh and porous bones. She pressed her cheek against the glass and felt the sun’s warmth pass through it. She’d known since the beginning this day would arrive and still it had come as a shock.

That morning his skin had been cold and damp like risen dough. The air above his lips and nostrils, cool and still. She had jerked away, as though death were a sudden rustling in the bushes, a snake slithering in the corner of her eye. A callous response, she’d silently scolded, though Seymour wouldn’t have agreed. She pictured him hinging upright at the waist, opening his eyes, and saying with a wry smile, “Instincts, my sweet pea. It is only natural and wise for the living to fear the dead.” But no such thing occurred. Instead, she had placed her head on his silent chest and hastily split apart his purple eyelids to make absolutely certain nobody was home. Her question answered, she took his stiff hand and ran his fingers through her short, black hair. She kissed his face and wiped her tears off of his cheeks.

When satellites are launched into orbit, they often have surplus cargo space, John explained, certainly enough for a crate of ashes. Once they reached their destination, Seymour and his fellow travelers would circle the planet for a year or so before plunging back into earth’s atmosphere, at which point they would be eviscerated once more in a sudden flash of fire. That’s good, Sonia thought. Her husband had of late railed against earthlings polluting the sky with their high-tech debris, as if ruining their own planet hadn’t been enough. Besides, space had always been his first love.

posted by David Pescovitz at 09:47:53 AM permalink | blogs' comments