Day: June 30, 2016

Humans and robots are on a collision course for a war, says Examiner

bloids21111

When you’re attacked by an alligator, the National Enquirer has some great advice for you: “Run!”

That’s just one of the really useful survival tips in this week’s helpful tabloids.

Don’t drive – “driving can be hazardous to your health,” the Enquirer claims, noting a medical study that found motorists who drove more than an hour daily were on average six pounds heavier.

“Sleep for health,” advises the National Examiner, which also offers “10 ways to beat menopause” and how to live with “losing a limb.” Is this a problem among their sedentary readership, or has Oscar Pistorius bought a life-time subscription?

But what’s the point of staying healthy, since the world will be ending soon?

“Humans and robots are on a collision course for a war that could break out by the middle of the century,” according to the Examiner, which cites experts ranging from a Canadian novelist to Stephen Hawking. Maybe now is a good time to make sure that robots have a five-day waiting period before buying guns – or might the NRA object to that?

The Globe continues its obsession with fat-shaming celebrities who dare gain an extra ounce or two. Candice Bergen is branded a “blue whale,” Jeff Bridges is “fat and sassy,” country singer Blake Shelton is suffering “fat shame” about his “soft belly and man-boobs,” and actress Tara Reid sports a “belly bulge.” “Diet lowers cancer risk” and “teen pounds are lethal,” state two articles on the Globe’s health page, all of which makes me hunger for People magazine’s recipes this week for eggs Benedict, strawberries & cream parfait, and apple rhubarb scones.

The Globe’s elite informers inside Buckingham Palace report on the British Royal Family: “William tells Charles: It’s okay if you’re gay,” claiming “He wants Dad to stop hiding taste for men.” Despite his rather public marriages to Princess Diana and Camilla, Prince Charles allegedly “has desperately tried to hide his gay secret for decades.” So kind and caring of the Globe to share his “secret” with the world.

The Enquirer returns to its favorite theme of “Crooked Hillary” with a cover emblazoned: “CORRUPT!” An Enquirer investigation claims that Hillary accepted $139 million for political favors, and used the Clinton Foundation as a slush fund for “fraud & bribes,” concluding: “Money-grubbing Hillary Clinton should be disqualified from the presidency!” It makes Fox News actually seem fair and balanced.

Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Heidi Klum wore it best (compared to Courtney Love . . . is that even a fair fight?) and that soul singer Maxwell ”would love a pet,” Nia Long carries Dior mascara, Nivea Creme and dental floss in her Street Level vegan leather tote, and that the stars are just like us: they ride bikes, buy in bulk, play musical instruments and climb ropes (though I can’t recall the last time I climbed a rope or played an instrument, so maybe the stars are different after all.)

Us mag worries that TV’s ‘Bachelorette’ …read more

Adnan Syed of 'Serial' podcast will get a new trial

Adnan Syed leaves the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse Feb. 5, 2016. REUTERS

A Maryland judge today granted a retrial to Adnan Syed, whose conviction for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend was the subject of the first season of the popular podcast “Serial.”

Syed’s lawyer C. Justin Brown announced the news Thursday afternoon via Twitter, and confirmed to reporters later that the motion for a new trial was granted by Judge Martin Welch.

(more…)

…read more

Nancy Grace out at CNN

This is the HLN we know and love.

After 12 years of true-crime bullshit and an official twitter account so demented as to be indistinguishable from parody, Nancy Grace is out at CNN.

A network spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter that a new series — one that will “utilize the expertise of the current team” — will replace Nancy Grace in the ‪8 p.m. slot following the airing of the final episode ‪on Oct. 13. The decision was a difficult one, according to Grace, who in an emotional interview with THR admits to being “really mixed” about taking a step she’s been “thinking a lot about” for the past three years.

Grace’s reputation is for shouting down guests and making dubious accusations, at least two of which preceded her targets’ apparent suicides. Her professional background was as a supposedly brilliant prosecutor, and her crime-fighting origin story was a fiance’s murder, but it never quite added up. The New York Times:

Ms. Grace came by her victimhood honestly when her fiancé, Keith Griffin, was killed when she was just 19. In her book “Objection,” Ms. Grace suggested that a stranger with a criminal record shot Mr. Griffin outside a convenience store, was arrested and denied any involvement. By her recollection, she had to sit through three days of agonizing deliberation and then the prosecutor asked her if the defendant should be given the death penalty. She said no, she had no stomach for it.

The New York Observer fact-checked her written account and discovered that Mr. Griffin was killed by a former co-worker with no criminal record who confessed to the crime immediately. At trial, he was convicted within hours and the prosecution did in fact ask for the death penalty, but was denied. Ms. Grace explained the variance by telling The Observer, “I have tried not to think about it.”

It seems CNN, though, has finally tired of all this shit, replete as it is with relentless lawsuits and dead-eyed efforts to trend hashtags such as #BabyInDryer and #TooFatToDie on their chyron.

…read more

Chemtrail activists want Marriott hotels to remove wall art

AVniINEAnKQFIMi-800x450-noPad

It’s bad enough that the reptilian power elite routinely release mind-numbing chemicals into the atmosphere in order to pacify Earth’s domesticated primates. Now they’re adding insult to injury by installing pro-chemtrail propaganda disguised as art on Mariott hotel room walls. It’s an outrage, and activists who have thus far managed to evade the deleterious effects of the gas are doing something about it, in the form of a Change.org petition. I’m cheering them on from my lair in a secret deep underground military base.

From the petition:

M

arriott’s newly decorated “chemtrail rooms” promote chemtrails and geoengineering by making guests grow accustomed to the sight of chemtrails (as if this is a natural occurrence!) This is outrageous and they should not be promoting this government secret agenda. Please sign to boycott Marriott and raise awareness of the global issue of chemtrails. Whether intentional or unintentional, promotion by Marriott and corporate America will not be tolerated, or the public will hit where it hurts…in their wallets.

[via]

…read more

U.S. military ends trans ban

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses reporters at the Pentagon. REUTERS

The Pentagon today ended its rule that transgender people were barred from serving in the U.S. military. The historic announcement formally removes some of the risks faced by an estimated thousands of U.S. troops, who could have been expelled from the armed forces because of their gender identity. Trans people who serve in the armed forces still have harassment, sexual violence, physical assault, and prejudice to face, but the hatred and sickness no longer has a Pentagon directive to hid behind.

(more…)

…read more

A look at Bulgaria's "bride's market"

brides

Bulgaria’s 18,000-person Kalaidzhi Roma clan holds an annual “bride market, where young virgins are paraded in front of suitors who bid on them.”

From Tai-wiki-widbee

Every year young Roma women attend “bride markets” with the intention of getting married to the highest bidder. “If you have gold jewelry and shoes that match your dress… the better family we come from, the higher price we get.” The average bride price is about USD$300-350. “But it’s more like massive speed-dating than the forced marriage market that the media reports.”

…read more

Irving Harper – The genius furniture designer created stunning paper sculptures for fun

tumblr_o61q62tw8I1t3i99fo1_1280

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Irving Harper: Works in Paper

by Irving Harper (artist) and Michael Maharam (editor)

Skira Rizzoli

2013, 176 pages, 8.3 x 10.3 x 1.1 inches

$33 Buy a copy on Amazon

Anyone familiar with the American version of the hit comedy The Office might remember a scene in which Michael Scott attends an art show where Pam exhibits her paintings. Struck by a painting she made of the office building, Michael buys it and muses, “It is a message. It is an inspiration. It is a source of beauty. And without paper, it could not have happened.” The quote could just as easily be said of famed designer Irving Harper, an alchemist who transforms paper into works of wonder. One look at Irving Harper: Works In Paper will be sufficient to astonish those who are not yet acquainted with the genius of design, and to further amaze those who are already fans of his.

Irving Harper was famous primarily as a furniture designer who championed the modernist style, becoming famous for the “Marshmallow Sofa” which comprises 18 plush discs arranged on a wire frame, and the “Ball Clock,” which resembles an asterix with multi-colored balls punctuating the tip of each line. Harper was not a sculptor by profession, but he created paper sculptures at home as a pastime to relieve himself of the stress of his regular job. This book features the astonishing results of someone who was ultimately more artist than hobbyist. Within these pages, a series of masks with graceful, Kabuki-like features can be found alongside vivid and striking depictions of wildlife including a wizened owl with expressive eyes, a snarling wolf hovering over its prey and a stoic elephant made with spare grace. A lavish cathedral skillfully depicts a stained glass window with a seraph in an arched doorway, while a sparse rendition of a scowling soldier on horseback offers a remarkable contrast. A series of abstract sculptures reminiscent of some of Robert Rauschenberg’s bold experiments also capture the reader’s attention.

The book offers a brief introduction to Irving Harper and discusses his design career in some detail, but the majority of the pagers are devoted to stunning full-color and black-and-white images of his paper sculptures. One photograph stands out: Harper, surrounded by his magnificent creations in his living room, idly scans a newspaper from his easy chair. The image remains in the mind even after closing the book as a quiet and powerful document of a humble genius who gave shape to his imagination with the simplest of resources. It is, as Michael Scott suggested, a source of beauty. And it couldn’t have happened without paper.

– Lee Hollman

…read more

#Brexit pusher Boris Johnson drops his run to be next Prime Minister of Britain

Vote Leave campaign leader, Boris Johnson,  delivering his speech in London, Britain June 30, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

It’s been a day of “intrigue and betrayal” in UK politics, as the New York Times puts it. The man widely predicted to be a solid candidate as the next prime minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, says he won’t run. This appears to be a response to today’s unexpected news of a candidacy launch by Michael Gove, a key Boris ally in the Brexit campaign. It’s hard to keep up, I know.

(more…)

…read more

Ku Klux Klan sees Donald Trump as a sign things are going their way

800px-Ku_Klux_Klan_Virgina_1922_Parade

With historic familial ties to the hate based organization, it is no wonder the Klan loves Trump. Klansmen across the nation see Trump’s successes within the GOP electorate as a sign their message is getting across.

Via TPM:

KKK leader Brent Waller, imperial wizard of the United Dixie White Knights in Mississippi, said stopping immigration — not blocking minority rights — is the Klan’s No. 1 issue today.

And other Klan leaders say Donald Trump’s ascendancy in the GOP is a sign things are going their way.

“You know, we began 40 years ago saying we need to build a wall,” Arkansas-based Klan leader Thomas Robb said.

Despite trying to rebrand itself, the Klan has not stepped away from burning crosses. As the sun set on a warm Saturday in April,Klan members gathered in a huge circle in a northwest Georgia field to set a cross and Nazi swastika afire.

“White power!” they chanted in unison.

“Death to the ungodly! Death to our enemies!”

…read more

Video about a cool gravity-fed marble "computer" game that beats human players

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 11.59.25 AM

Matt Parker is a “standup mathematician.” In this entertaining video, he demonstrates a 1960s plastic toy that plays the game of Nim against a human opponent. Interestingly, Dr. Nim is an ingenious mechanism that uses plastic levers to control the number of marbles it chooses to drop. If you go first, Dr. Nim will always win. In the video, Matt shows you how to play and win Nim every time, including a cheat that lets you win even if you go first.

…read more

"Dark Overlord"'s health record dumps were calculated, reputation-building spectacles

056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1123

“The Dark Overlord” is a hacker who’s made headline by advertising the availability of millions of health records on darknet sites, sending samples to news-outlets to validate their authenticity; in an interview with Motherboard’s Joseph Cox, Dark Overlord reveals that the disclosures are timed to put the pressure on other victims to pay ransoms to guarantee that their stolen data won’t leak.
(more…)

…read more

Cooking hotdogs on an air-cooled motorcycle

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 11.02.58 AM

The guys at Been there Done That drove around Portland, Maine with some hotdogs wired to the jugs of an Ural motorcycle. Unsurprisingly, the amazing airhead engine is too efficient at dissipating heat, and the hot dogs don’t get very cooked.

The story behind IMZ-Ural Motorcycles is also pretty cool, both the Soviet-ization of a BMW R71, and the handwork to keep the factory open and making bikes. If you want a bike with a sidecar, they make some cool ones.

(Thanks Kent K. Barnes!)

…read more

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock author, dies at 87

future-shock

“Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time,” according to Alvin Toffler, who died on June 27 at the age of 87. Toffler wrote a massively best selling book of the same called Future Shock, which made him a celebrity.

I saw Alvin Toffler at a Chin Chin Chinese restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood 20 years ago. I stared at him, slack jawed, until he finally said, “Yes, it’s me!” He seemed friendly, so I approached him and we talked for about 20 minutes. I was impressed with his energy level. I told him I was an editor at Wired magazine, and mentioned that we had just backed out of an IPO. “Sometimes, retreat is the smart thing to do,” he said.

Some Toffler quotes:

“You can use all the quantitative data you can get, but you still have to distrust it and use your own intelligence and judgment.”

“It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.”

“One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we’ll need a new definition.”

“Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it.”

“Technology feeds on itself. Technology makes more technology possible.”

“Science fiction is held in low regard as a branch of literature, and perhaps it deserves this critical contempt. But if we view it as a kind of sociology of the future, rather than as literature, science fiction has immense value as a mind-stretching force for the creation of the habit of anticipation. Our children should be studying Arthur C. Clarke, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Robert Sheckley, not because these writers can tell them about rocket ships and time machines but, more important, because they can lead young minds through an imaginative exploration of the jungle of political, social, psychological, and ethical issues that will confront these children as adults.”

He is survived by his wife, Heidi Toffler, who co-authored his post Future Shock books.

…read more

What if school was out, forever?

FF16_crop-600x350

Today a future without schools. Instead of gathering students into a room and teaching them, everybody learns on their own time, on tablets and guided by artificial intelligence.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon | Reddit

In this episode we talk to a computer scientist who developed an artificially intelligent TA, folks who build learning apps, and critics who wonder if all the promises being made are too good to be true. What do we gain when we let students choose their own paths? What do we lose when we get rid of schools?

Illustration by Matt Lubchansky.

▹▹ Full show notes

…read more

Eye-Fi orphans 14 products, which will therefore cease to function

eye-fi-kills-support-768x329

Eye-Fi makes clever wifi hotspots in the shape of SD cards; your camera sees them as SD cards but you can mount them on your network and automatically feed the images captured by your camera to a nearby laptop. But to make all this work with some models, you need an account on “Eye-Fi Center,” a cloud service run by the company that sends configuration data to your card.
(more…)

…read more

Star Trek's USS Enterprise restored and back on display at the Smithsonian

Photos by Dane A. Penland, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

The Smithsonian has restored and put the studio model of the NCC-1701 back on display! This video is full of awesome information, and shot vertically so people can complain! There is also a fantastic blog post about the process, and the small modifications they’ve made.

Via the National Air and Space Museum’s blog:

The final stages of the conservation treatment came together in the last few months. In April 2016, the Enterprise model, in pieces, was in the large artifact booth in the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar. Special Advisory Committee member Gary Kerr was dubbed our “oracle,” double-checking his notes and diagrams before any detail went onto the model. (There are 952 holes in the faux grill inside the starboard nacelle. He counted.) And Bill George and John Goodson, both of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), worked with Kim Smith of Pulse Evolution to carry out the physical detailing. Together, they were consummate professionals, bringing their expertise into an ongoing conversation with the Museum staff. More than once, the whole team stopped work to discuss the choices being made, assuring that everyone agreed before proceeding.

Photo by Dane A. Penland, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Before this dream team of model painters arrived, the Enterprise model’s body had already been expertly cleaned, reinforced, and repaired by Engen Conservation Chair Malcolm Collum, Dave Wilson, and Sharon Norquest (with a much-appreciated assist by Lauren Horelick). Then the whole model (minus the upper saucer paint, of course, which is original paint from the 1960s) was painted with a base color that had been carefully matched by the Museum’s Dave Wilson to the production base color that had been uncovered in multiple places on the model in sanding tests.

Kim’s first step was mixing the colors that would be used for the weathering, details, and markings. The detail paints were mixed to match the colors that Dave had carefully revealed, and were adjusted and balanced for appropriate contrast and intensity based on comparisons with the historic images.

A full-scale mockup of several of the model’s parts (nacelles and secondary hull) provided a way to test paints, techniques, and finishes before applying any paint to the actual artifact. Some eagle-eyed fans even caught sight of the mockups on the Restoration Shop floor and wondered online whether the Enterprise work was underway. The actual artifact pieces stayed in the paint booth, the large artifact bay, or otherwise out of public view through most of the process.

The masking was an art form itself. Bill, John, and Kim layered up Post-it® notes because the low-tack adhesive would be least likely to affect the base paint. And then they created fine edges using masking tapes, burnished to create a seamless transition between colors. The end result, as you can see in these photos, is beautiful – bringing the model back to what it would have looked like at the end of shooting season two, after the Trouble with Tribbles episode.

…read more

Facebook: We did ‘a test’ last year using some people's location data to suggest friends

Photo: Reuters

Facebook recently told Fusion reporter Kashmir Hill that Facebook uses location data to recommend friends.
People freaked out. Facebook retracted the statement. Then, the social media giant said what, that’s crazy, LOL, no. No, we didn’t do that at all. Now, Facebook’s communications team tells Hill the confusion arose “because there was a brief time when the social network used location for friend suggestions,” which involved a small percentage of Facebook users and stopped last year.

(more…)

…read more

Grizzly unseats and kills Montana mountain biker

Image: Yellowstone National Park

Near Glacier National Park, a surprised grizzly bear attacked three mountain bikers. Two were able to escape, but the third, Brad Treat, was killed.

Via Alaska Dispatch News:

Treat died Wednesday afternoon after being attacked by a grizzly bear just south of Glacier National Park. Though he had maintained his athleticism — he was riding his mountain bike, after all — Treat, who was just 38 years old and a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, couldn’t escape his fate.

But his companion did. Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry told the Associated Press that Treat and another man had been biking near Halfmoon Lakes when they came across the bear, surprising it. The other man escaped unscathed and sought help while the bear knocked Treat off his bike.

Help arrived too late, and Treat was declared dead on the scene. The bear has not been found, though authorities are searching for it, and campers were briefed on the incident.

…read more

Scientist uses magic (and psychology) to implant thoughts and read minds

mainimage

In a new scientific study, McGill University researcher Jay Olson combined stage magic with psychology to make people think that an fMRI machine (actually a fake) could read their minds and implant thoughts in their heads. Essentially, Olson and his colleagues used “mentalist” gimmicks to do the ESP and “thought insertion” but convinced the subjects that it was real neuroscience at work. The research could someday help psychologists study and understand why some individuals with mental health problems think they are being controlled by external forces. Vaughan “Mind Hacks” Bell blogged about Olson’s research for the British Psychological Society. From Vaughan’s post:

(The subjects) reported a range of anomalous effects when they thought numbers were being “inserted” into their minds: A number “popped in” my head, reported one participant. Others described “a voice … dragging me from the number that already exists in my mind”, feeling “some kind of force”, feeling “drawn” to a number, or the sensation of their brain getting “stuck” on one number. All a striking testament to the power of suggestion.

A common finding in psychology is that people can be unaware of what influences their choices. In other words, people can feel control without having it. Here, by using the combined powers of stage magic and a sciency-sounding back story, Olson and his fellow researchers showed the opposite – that people can have control without feeling it.

Using a cocktail of magic and fMRI, psychologists implanted thoughts in people’s minds(BPS)

Simulated thought insertion: Influencing the sense of agency using deception and magic(Consciousness and Cognition)


Illustration by Rob Beschizza

…read more

Gun nut mom's rampage was to punish her husband

48907786.cached

The recent double murder of her two daughters, by mentally ill gun-enthusiast Christy Sheats was evidently meant to punish her husband for their impending divorce.

Houston Chronicle:

The 45-year-old father told investigators his wife gunned down his two beloved daughters in front of him last week amid tensions that their rocky marriage was headed for divorce.

It was her choice, Jason Sheats said, that he survived the carnage last Friday.

“He felt Christy wanted him to suffer,” Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said Wednesday, after speaking with the distraught father. “Mr. Sheats stated Christy knew how much he loved Taylor and Madison and how much they loved him.”

…read more

Man pointed gun at priest "the whole time" he was giving confession

ht_Suspect_Composit_er_160629_4x3_992

A priest at St. Christopher Parish in Rocky Hill, Ohio says a man resembling this police sketch reportedly gave confession while pointing a gun at him the entire time. The fellow is still at large.

“He just came in, you know, to go to confession, and before he sat down, he pulled out this gun from behind his back,” the priest said in a call to 911 after the incident. “So I did confession at gunpoint.”

The question is, what did he confess? Well, that’s between him and his priest, and the man of god isn’t breaking “the sacred seal of confession.”

(ABC News)

…read more

Turn into a web guru with the Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 - now only $19

The realm of web development is constantly evolving. New platforms, languages, and processes materialize all the time, so staying on top of all that innovation is a tall order.

Whether you’re brushing up on new tricks, starting from scratch, or just looking to make your own website a little jazzier, Rob Percival’s new Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 (now just $19 in the Boing Boing Store) offers the cross-disciplinary chops to bring your website ideas to life.

This course features nearly 300 lectures and over 30 hours of content on all things code, from fundamental disciplines like HTML5, CSS3 and Python to more advanced practices like jQuery, PHP 7, and Twitter Bootstrap.

You’ll follow practical lessons creating real functioning websites, whether it’s developing e-commerce sites with WordPress or learning techniques to create your own Twitter clone. You’ll even get a free year of unlimited web hosting to try your creations out.

The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 puts all your web creation tools under one umbrella — and at nearly 85% off its regular price, it’s perfect for adding to your development arsenal.

…read more

Timur and the Dime Museum's 'Cobalt Blues'

0-75

Timur and the Dime Museum one up glam-rock into an incredible theatrical experience. Check out the just released video for Cobalt Blues, a track off their new album COLLAPSE.

I first experienced a performance of Timur’s last year, and I was pretty much instantly swept away. He is an incredible tenor, who combines amazing classic operatic skill with glam rock theatrics and style. It is a huge win.

The video was directed, shot and edited by Sandra Powers, muusic and words by Daniel Corral, and was produced by Nick Urata and Nick Tipp.

More info:

Glam-rock theatrical act Timur and the Dime Museum (TDM) release their third album Collapse on June 30th, 2016, produced by Nick Urata of DeVotchKa. Written and composed by TDM member Daniel Corral, Collapse is a glam-rock requiem with sardonic songs about the environmental catastrophes caused by humans with trenchant commentary and arch theatrical flair – by turns grungy, poppy, and apocalyptic. Collapse is available for download on iTunes, Amazon and other outlets.

The album Collapse is based on Collapse: A Post-Ecological Requiem, a staged production that premiered in 2015 at REDCAT, Los Angeles, with performances at Miami Light Project, Operadagen Rotterdam Festival, and BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival. The show garnered wide critical praise, including LA Times (“nastily seductive, dangerous…Timur embodies centuries’ worth of musical styles”), Miami Herald (“full of intensity and dark humour”), Artinfo Magazine (“upbeat hooks, slamming power chords, a Mercurian falsetto”) and LA Weekly (“a haunting and hyperbolic song cycle”).

Collapse is conceptualized as a theatrical Requiem, where different stories are refracted through the hauntingly eclectic sound of the four-member band – keys, bass, guitar and drums and the vibrant voice of the Kazakh-American tenor Timur, playing the role of Moloch, a God of human sacrifice, lamenting the environmental degradation of the past, present and future.

Congrats to the whole band, and crew, ‘Cobalt Blues’ is beautiful!

…read more

Great 1950s horror sci-fi novel, The Mind Thing, now on Kindle

mindthing

When I was in junior high school, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club. One of the books I got from the club was an anthology that included several stories by Fredric Brown (who was primarily a mystery writer but occasionally delved into science fiction). Some of Brown’s stories in the anthology were a mere page or two, and I loved their humor and surprise endings. As soon as I could, I went to the Boulder Public Library to load up on as much Brown as I could find. It turned out the library had just two of his science fiction novels: Martians, Go Home (1955), and What Mad Universe (1949). They were both terrific.

Martians go home freasNewImage

In Martians, Go Home a race of cartoonish little green men invade Earth for the sole purpose of being hideously bothersome pests, behaving very much like Internet trolls and Second Life griefers. (Artist Kelly Freas perfectly captured the personality of the martians in his cover painting for Astounding Science Fiction.) In What Mad Universe a man gets thrown into a parallel universe and has to figure out how to get back home. Both books are semi-parodies of science fiction novels (the protagonists in each novel are science fiction writers), with plenty of Brown’s signature wry humor. If you’ve not read these novels, I highly recommend them both.

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I scored a copy of The Mind Thing (1961), which is probably my favorite Brown novel, even though it is not as well-known as the other two novels, and could be arguably be classified a horror novel. The Mind Thing is an alien being (which looks like a turtle shell) that has been banished to Earth for committing crimes on its home planet. It is unable to move on its own, but can hijack the nervous system of any sleeping animal within range and take control of its mind and body. To leave the body, it forces the host to commit suicide. The alien goes on a spree, hopping into people’s bodies and killing them, as it moves forward with a plan to make the Earth ripe for takeover (in the hope that its fellow creatures will forgive its past crimes and hail it a hero). Eventually, a smart fellow (an MIT professor on vacation) figures out what’s going on and takes it upon himself to save the planet from the evil space alien.

Long of of print, The Mind Thing, Martians, Go Home, and What Mad Universe are available in Kindle editions. (I don’t recommend Rogue in Space or The Lights in the Sky are Stars because they both stink, unfortunately.)

…read more