Day: September 20, 2016

Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent Feature Image

The painter Vincent Van Gogh continues to fascinate, his popularity seeming to grow every year. His creativity came at the price of much misery and madness, and led to his eventual suicide at age 37 in 1890. He had produced approximately 900 paintings but sold only one during his life—and that was to his brother. It has been speculated that he suffered from bi-polar disorder, or possibly a type of epilepsy, and was able to work between episodes of delusion.

These few words do an injustice to someone who suffered so greatly while producing art in a new and unique style that has sold for as high as $82 million for a single painting.

Several years ago work began on a motion picture titled Loving Vincent, which uses paintings done in the style of Van Gogh to create its visuals.

The film’s website has an entirely different trailer, which allows us to see the characters speak.

And because you should be wondering how a film in which Van Gogh’s paintings come to life to narrate his own story was made, there is a video on that very subject.

One could write at length about all of this, but the videos convey more than words.

Something interesting, to me at any rate, is the music used during the making-of video: part of it comes from the soundtrack from the science fiction film Moon.

Directed by Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) and released in 2009, it is a painful meditation on what it means to be human. Not an easy question to answer, particularly within the context of the film. The sole actor for most of the movie is Sam Rockwell, doing gut-wrenching work in the depths of unspeakable melancholy. It’s quite wonderful and was well-reviewed. The late lamented Roger Ebert wrote, “Moon is a superior example of that threatened genre, hard science-fiction … The movie is really all about ideas. It only seems to be about emotions. How real are our emotions, anyway? How real are we?” Not getting the attention it deserved was the film’s score by Clint Mansell (he also scored Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, among others). It is his music which you can hear behind the director’s voice in the making-of video for Loving Vincent. It is perfectly chosen. Van Gogh, too, struggled with what it meant to be human.

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The Raven Pops Up!

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Earlier this year paper engineer David Pelham and illustrator Christopher Wormell collaborated on a masterful pop-up book rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven.”

It’s an unusually accomplished work in a genre that is often thought to be directed at children. And while kids’ books do make up a large portion of the pop-up books produced, adults who turn their nose up at anything more than a flat white page adorned with black text might find much to admire in the field of “moveable books.” A Moveable Book Society not only exists, but has a biannual convention that’s taking place this coming weekend in Boston. The earliest pop-ups appeared in books hundreds of years ago. This video lecture by pop-up wizard and designer Robert Sabuda was done for the Smithsonian.

I used to be a pop-up book nut, having started collecting them in the 1980s. Eventually, with hundreds of books stacked up all over, I sold it for a pittance. A pity, in retrospect, though I did keep an important few, including a beautiful copy of Model Menagerie published in 1895 by Ernest Nister which I snatched up for an unlikely C note on Portobello Road in London just as the dealer was opening his stand early in the morning. I scampered out with my prize feeling terribly guilty and simultaneously full of glee.

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These days pop-up books are most often produced on glossy stock. The Raven, however, is printed on uncoated paper, and this in combination with Wormell’s magnificent illustrations create a book of seeming mid-19th century engravings come to life. It looks quite rightly of its period, when Poe’s poem “The Raven” was first published in 1845.

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You can buy it on Amazon for only $13 plus postage.

While waiting for your copy of The Raven to arrive in the mail, I invite you to turn out the lights and listen to the late Christopher Lee read “The Raven” just before falling asleep. Sweet dreams … .

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The bear who fought in World War II

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During World War II a Polish transport company picked up an unusual mascot: a Syrian brown bear that grew to 500 pounds and traveled with his human friends through the Middle East and Europe. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet Wojtek, the “happy warrior,” and follow his adventures during and after the war.

We’ll also catch up with a Russian recluse and puzzle over a murderous daughter.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

Image credit

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What do we mean when we talk about home?

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HOME: Stories From L.A., a member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network, is on a brief hiatus, and returns for its fourth season in October. If you haven’t heard the show yet, this might be a good time to catch up with an episode from the archive — like “The House On The Hill,” about a forgotten figure from the Golden Age of Hollywood; or “A Home, A Murder, A Mystery (or two),” about a house that saw a horrific murder in 1959 and then sat empty and silent for more than 50 years; or “Rose, Mercedes and The Days Of The Dead,” about what an L.A. actress did to encourage the troublesome spirit of her late grandmother to vacate the house they once shared. (Hint: It involved sage. And hammers.)

HOME looks at home in the broadest sense — as a place, a feeling, an aspiration, a dream. Do you have a story about home that takes place in Southern California? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note. Tell me a story. And maybe you can have a hand in helping me figure out: What do we mean when we talk about home?

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Boars, Gore, and Swords podcast's ASOIAF book club - FeastDance #7: "The Fault of Our Complexion"

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Boars, Gore, and Swords podcast’s ASOIAF book club – FeastDance #7: “The Fault of Our Complexion” The Boars, Gore, and Swords book club reading of the Boiled Leather chapter order combining George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons continues with this week’s “The Fault of Our Complexion.” Ivan and Red covered Sansa I (AFFC) in a previous book club episode, and move on to The Kraken’s Daughter (AFFC), and Tyrion III (ADWD). They discuss their further dislike of book Tyrion, various titular line drops, and Asha/Yara Greyjoy’s thirsty suitor. For their Patreon donors, they’ve also begun their Great British Bake Off coverage, so kick in a dollar if you like talking about cakes.

To catch up on previous television seasons, the A Song of Ice And Fire books, and other TV and movies, check out the BGaS archive. You can find them on Twitter @boarsgoreswords, like their Facebook fanpage, andemail them. If you want access to extra episodes and content, you can donate to the Patreon.

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What happened when Mike Zuckerman brought his San Francisco culture hacking ethos to the migrant camps in Greece

Mike Zuckerman (striped shirt) with Elpida residents.

In 2013, Mike Zuckerman, a self-described culture hacker, attended the White House’s National Day of Civic Hacking. Inspired by what he’d learned there, Mike returned to San Francisco and founded [freespace], an organization that focuses on sustainability and urban tactical development. In the spring of 2016, Mike went to Greece where he spent four months rehabilitating an abandoned clothing factory in the industrial sector of Thessaloniki, turning it into a humane shelter that he and his colleagues named Elpida. Unlike the official migrant camps in Greece, where refugees have little say in the day-to-day operations of the camp, Elpida put its 140 residents in charge, and the results were remarkable. Not only is Elpida much less expensive to run on a per person basis than official camps in Greece, the residents don’t suffer from boredom, restlessness, and disengagement like they do at NGO-run camps.

As a pilot model, Elpida offers hope and improved living conditions for refugees in a place where no other NGO was able to provide in this kind of support.

Mike has been working with Institute for the Future (where I’m on staff) as an affiliate since 2014 and recently accepted an IFTF fellowship to help uncover and study new paradigms for restoring vulnerable places and space, such as post-disaster sites, informal refugee settlements, and decaying urban neighborhoods.

I spoke to Mike about his work at Elpida in August, 2016, just days after he returned from Greece.

Listen to the audio podcast interview with Mike Zuckerman here. Subscribe to the IFTF podcast on iTunes | RSS | Soundcloud | Download MP3

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Make clay robots with your kids

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We were stuck inside, on a rainy day, and decided to sculpt some robots! Clay Bots has everything you need, and some great design suggestions!

Use the included brightly colored air-dying clay to build your robot. Wind-up feet serve as the platform you start with, add a little creativity and Robot’ll be stumbling along before it has even dried. This is a wonderful activity for kids 5-12 years-old, or thereabouts.

The kit also has some simple sculpting tools, a rolling pin and some landscapes to play with. We found it was enough clay for a lot of robot making. I really enjoyed the progression of complexity in the design suggestions, and felt like I improved a lot.

I’m still a boring clay robot designer. I just wanted to make V.I.N.Cent.

Clay Bots – Craft Kit by SpiceBox Books (23512) via Amazon

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Iota - fun card game that comes in a small tin box

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The paradox of Iota ($8 on Amazon) is that the cards are small, but you need a decent amount of table space to play the game. You play by adding cards to a grid. There are certain rules for playing cards, depending on how their color, shape, and number matches or doesn’t match the neighboring card. We enjoyed playing this game with two players and three players (you can have up to four players).

Here’s a review:

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Designing the future of work

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Over at Democracy Journal, my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler explore the “digital coordination economy” (aka the on-demand economy) and how “it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well.” From Democracy Journal:

As software takes an increasing role on both sides of transactions—ordering and producing—it promises to bring vastly more efficient coordination to these kinds of basic economic functions. This emerging digital coordination economy, with its efficient matching and fulfillment of both human and nonhuman needs, has the potential to generate tremendous economic growth.

However, as software engineers essentially author a growing segment of our economic operating system, it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well. Already the growth of on-demand work has allowed investors and owners in some industrialized regions to reap substantial financial returns while many of the people using platforms to generate income streams are struggling to maintain their standard of living. Uber drivers, for example, have seen a drop in earnings in the United States over the last couple of years, even as the company continues to grow at a dramatic pace.

It is clear that the fundamental technologies driving the coordination economy are neither “good” nor “bad,” but rather offer a heady combination of opportunities and challenges. In order for society to thrive in this future, we will need a new design paradigm—a socio-technical framework in which the economic growth and societal benefits of an increasingly coordinated economy can be maximized. Such a paradigm could encompass: the technical design of platforms, regulatory frameworks necessary to both protect against inherent negative externalities and help distribute opportunities on a more equitable basis, efforts to foster the creation of new ecosystems of services, and public policies that support inclusive prosperity. Perhaps most importantly, it tries to create the most human value out of the big technological shifts that are advancing in stride.

Prosperity By Design(Democracy Journal)

For more on IFTF’s research on the future of work, visit: Workable Futures Initiative

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What San Francisco says about America

Image: Wikipedia

Journalist Thomas Fuller returned to the United States after 27 years abroad, mainly in Asia. He moved to San Francisco and wrote about the reverse culture shock he experienced. The thing that struck him the most was the disparity between the wealthy (ganja yoga, organic ice cream sandwiches, vegan shoes, Bluetooth compatible toothbrushes) and the poor (outbursts of the mentally ill on the sidewalks, vaguely human forms inside cardboard boxes).

From NYT:

Greater Bangkok, a sprawling metropolis with more than 10 million people, has 1,300 homeless people, a survey this year found.

San Francisco has less than one-tenth Bangkok’s population but six times as many homeless people. I’m sure you could fill a book with the reasons for this. Ms. Nopphan believes that homelessness is more intractable in rich societies. “In wealthy countries there are systems for everything,” she said. “You’re either in the system or out of the system.” There is no in-between in America. In Bangkok, by contrast, rich and poor coexist. There are vast tracts of cheap, makeshift homes and a countryside where people in the cities can return to if they lose their jobs or hit hard times.

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Nazi who originated Donald Trump Jr.’s Skittles metaphor was hanged at Nuremberg

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The Intercept’s Naomi LaChange presents the curious origins of Donald Trump Jr.’s tweet comparing Syrian refugees to poison Skittles. “The concept dates back at least to 1938 and a children’s book called Der Giftpilz, or The Toadstool, in which a mother explains to her son that it only takes one Jew to destroy an entire people.”

This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first. #trump2016 pic.twitter.com/9fHwog7ssN

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 19, 2016

.@DonaldJTrumpJr pic.twitter.com/7IIpy8uujI

— Gabe Ortíz (@TUSK81) September 20, 2016

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Nazi who originated Donald Trump Jr.’s Skittles metaphor was hanged at Nuremberg

mushroom

The Intercept’s Naomi LaChange presents the curious origins of Donald Trump Jr.’s tweet comparing Syrian refugees to poison Skittles. “The concept dates back at least to 1938 and a children’s book called Der Giftpilz, or The Toadstool, in which a mother explains to her son that it only takes one Jew to destroy an entire people.”

This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first. #trump2016 pic.twitter.com/9fHwog7ssN

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 19, 2016

.@DonaldJTrumpJr pic.twitter.com/7IIpy8uujI

— Gabe Ortíz (@TUSK81) September 20, 2016

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Elizabeth Warren's wonderfully brutal takedown of Wells Fargo CEO

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After Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf recited a drawn-out No True Scottsman Fallacy disguised as a hollpw apology at the Senate Banking Committee’s Wells Fargo hearing, senator Elizabeth Warren tore into him.

From CNN:

Warren slammed Stumpf for failing to fire any senior executives linked to the scandal, while Wells Fargo’s aggressive sales tactics helped pump up the bank’s stock price.

She said Stump’s personal holdings of Wells Fargo stock increased by more than $200 million while the fake accounts “scam” was going on, thanks in part to the bank’s success in selling tons of products to customers that they didn’t need.

“You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket,” Warren said.

Stumpf barely blinked, no doubt thinking that whatever Warren was saying, it was worth $200 million.

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Mooncop – A story with existential pathos that we Earth-dwellers can relate to. Released today!

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Mooncop

by Tom Gauld

Drawn and Quarterly

2016, 96 pages, 6.6 x 8.1 x 0.6 inches (hardcover)

$20 Buy a copy on Amazon

The great Moon colonization project was a failure. The few diehards who remain in their prefab pod-like houses are going back to Earth. That leaves the unnamed lunar police officer with barely anything to do as operations wind down. Author/illustrator Tom Gauld is in top form with his just-released Mooncop, telling a simple story with a deep layer of existential pathos that even we Earth-dwellers can relate to.

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Police accidentally record themselves conspiring to fabricate criminal charges against protester

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ACLU is suing Connecticut state police for making false charges against a man who was protesting a DUI checkpoint.

On September 11, 2015, Connecticut resident Michael Picard was filming a protest near a police DUI checkpoint in West Hartford. Unbeknownst to the troopers who confiscated his camera, it was rolling while they appeared to fabricate criminal charges against him.

“Let’s give him something,” one trooper declared. Another suggested, “we can hit him with creating a public disturbance.” “Gotta cover our ass,” remarked a third.

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You can now play retro Nintendo on mobile with the Bluetooth SNES Controller Kit

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With all the new amazing games and consoles out there, we still can’t help but have a soft spot for old school staples. From Super Mario to Mortal Kombat, classic games just never get old. Which is why we’re so excited to relive the nostalgia with our newest deal in the Boing Boing Shop: The Complete SNES Bluetooth Controller Kit.

This controller looks and feels exactly like the old SNES controller. From the colors to the plastic, every detail is exactly right. As expected, there are a few major upgrades: for one thing, it’s compatible with PS3, PS4, Wiimote, and Wii U Pro, so you can use it to play all your favorite games.

The kit even comes with a retro receiver that supports Windows, Mac OS X, and PS3 so there’s virtually nowhere you can’t use it. Plus this time around, it’s completely wireless, which means no getting tangled up just as you’re finally about to beat Bowser.

The best part is that it also comes with an expandable clipping mount so you clip your smartphone right on top. For the first time, you can actually play retro games on your smartphone using a real SNES controller.

The Complete SNES Bluetooth Controller Kit is just $49.99. You can also get the NES version for the same price, and shipping is free in the U.S.

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Man arrested after using fake boarding passes to live in Singapore airport lounge for 3 weeks

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Raejali Buntut, 32, overslept and missed his August 21 flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, so he did what anyone in the same situation would do: make fake boarding passes and live in the airport’s executive lounges. Alas, his ruse lasted only three weeks before he was carted to jail.

From Strait Times:

Passengers are required to have a valid boarding pass to enter into a transit lounge. Since Raejali’s boarding pass was no longer valid, he decided to forge boarding passes.

He downloaded images of mobile boarding passes issued by two airlines – Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines – from the Internet, and then used an image editing software on his laptop to alter them.

Raejali inserted his name, a false flight number and a false destination on the fraudulent mobile boarding passes, before sending them to his mobile phone.

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A song composed by artificial intelligence in the style of the Beatles

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https://youtu.be/LSHZ_b05W7o

Enjoy this song by the Pre-Fab Four!

Scientists at SONY CSL Research Laboratory have created the first-ever entire songs composed by Artificial Intelligence: “Daddy’s Car” and “Mister Shadow”.

The researchers have developed FlowMachines, a system that learns music styles from a huge database of songs. Exploiting unique combinations of style transfer, optimization and interaction techniques, FlowMachines composes novel songs in many styles.

“Daddy’s Car” is composed in the style of The Beatles. French composer Benoît Carré arranged and produced the songs, and wrote the lyrics.

The two songs are excerpts of albums composed by Artificial Intelligence to be released in 2017.

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2 days until Chelsea Manning's Disciplinary Board (for her suicide attempt)

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The Chelsea Manning Support Network has just emailed us this latest update:

1. Chelsea has written an op-ed for the Guardian explaining the painful experience of spending this whole last week
preparing for her disciplinary board hearing.

2. The disciplinary board hearing happens at 9:30 am, Thursday September
22, 2016.

3. Please sign the petition at FreeChelsea.com

4. Please spread the word by sharing these videos by Dan Ellsberg and Michael Stipe.

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Execs with a long coporate crime rapsheets stand up for Apple's tax evasion and "the rule of law"

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The EU has ruled that Apple has to pay taxes on the billions it laundered through Ireland by pretending that an empty room with no employees was the company’s “head office,” a move that has enraged the Business Roundtable, which has sent a letter calling on the EU to respect the “rule of law,” whose five signatories have all presided over acts of shameless lawbreaking.
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Trump used $258,000 from charity to settle lawsuits involving his for-profit businesses

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Washington Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold has been digging into purported billionaire Donald Trump’s purported charity and unearths a heck of a story: Trump used $258,000 from his ‘charitable’ non-profit organization to settle legal problems involving his for-profit businesses.

“The settlements were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses,” Fahrenthold writes.

According to Fahrehthold’s deep dive into Trump’s dirty deals, the repugnantly racist and sexist Republican presidential nominee spent more than a quarter million dollars of funds belonging to his charitable foundation “to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses.” The reporting is based on interviews with primary sources, and a review of legal documents.

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From the Washington Post article, which every voter should read in full:

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.

In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.

The devil is in the details, and boy can you see a lot of bedevilment in these details.

Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems” [washingtonpost.com]

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Great works of 16th-20th century art painted with ground-up mummies

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The lovely brown hues in Eugene Delacroix’s 1830 painting above, titled “Liberty Leading the People,” were actually pigments made from ground-up mummies from Egypt. From National Geographic:

The use of mummy as a pigment most likely stemmed from an even more unusual use—as medicine. From the early medieval period, Europeans were ingesting and applying preparations of mummy to cure everything from epilepsy to stomach ailments. It’s unclear whether Egyptian mummies were prized for the mistaken belief that they contained bitumen (the Arabic word for the sticky organic substance, which was also believed to have medicinal value, is mumiya), or whether Europeans believed that the preserved remains contained otherworldly powers.

What is clear to researchers is that early artist pigments were derived from medicines at the time, and were commonly sold alongside them in European apothecaries. And just as mummy was waning in popularity as a medical treatment, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt at the end of the 18th century unleashed a new wave of Egyptomania across the Continent.

Tourists brought entire mummies home to display in their living rooms, and mummy unwrapping parties became popular. Despite prohibitions against their removal, boatloads of mummies—both human and animal—were brought over from Egypt to serve as fuel for steam engines and fertilizer for crops, and as art supplies.

By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the supply of quality mummies for pigment appears to have dried up. A 1904 ad in the Daily Mail requests one “at a suitable price,” adding: “Surely a 2,000-year-old mummy of an Egyptian monarch may be used for adorning a noble fresco in Westminster Hall…without giving offence to the ghost of the departed gentlemen or his descendants.”

Was This Masterpiece Painted With Ground Mummy?(Nat Geo) …read more

DIY Epipen: the $30 Epipencil

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Mylan, the company with a monopoly on FDA-improved epinephrine auto-injectors (“epipens”) has quintupled the price of their life-saving technology since 2004, to $600/unit (and they have the be thrown out and replaced every year); for this, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch (daughter of US senator Joe Manchin, who secured her initial job interview through political connections while he was Governor of West Virginia, moving her laterally from her gig as an aerobics instructor) received a 671% raise , bringing her compensation up to $18,931,068.

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1TB SD card puts one sixth of Wikipedia in your camera

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The first terabyte SD card
will soon be sold by Sandisk. They were apparently first to 512GB too (don’t, PNY’s is cheaper), but no-one cared because that’s not as arbitrarily interesting a number. No release date, no price. It’ll be about $700.

Hitachi sold the world’s first one terabyte hard disk drive in 2007, according to Wikipedia, one sixth of which would fit in a terabyte, assuming you’re just counting the plain text of articles.

I wish there was an SD card format in the exact shape of tiny 3½-inch floppy disks, complete with a sliding metal hatch over the connectors and a free bootsector virus

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George H.W. Bush to "vote for Hillary Clinton"

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Politico reports that Kathleen Hartington Kennedy overheard George H.W. Bush saying he’s voting for Hillary Clinton instead of party candidate Donald Trump.

On Monday, Townsend posted a picture on her Facebook page shaking hands next to the former president and this caption: “The President told me he’s voting for Hillary!!”

In a telephone interview, Townsend said she met with the former president in Maine earlier today, where she said he made his preference known that he was voting for a Democrat. “That’s what he said,” she told POLITICO.

The republican and 41th President evidently has no liking for the millionaire TV star and real estate tycoon, but declined to confirm Kennedy’s claim to Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn.

The report comes–tellingly, perhaps!–a day after Republican National Committee chairman Rince Priebus publicly threatened Republican candidates who refuse to vote for Trump.

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George H.W. Bush to “vote for Hillary Clinton”

bush-fisted

Politico reports that Kathleen Hartington Kennedy overheard George H.W. Bush saying he’s voting for Hillary Clinton instead of party candidate Donald Trump.

On Monday, Townsend posted a picture on her Facebook page shaking hands next to the former president and this caption: “The President told me he’s voting for Hillary!!”

In a telephone interview, Townsend said she met with the former president in Maine earlier today, where she said he made his preference known that he was voting for a Democrat. “That’s what he said,” she told POLITICO.

The republican and 41th President evidently has no liking for the millionaire TV star and real estate tycoon, but declined to confirm Kennedy’s claim to Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn.

The report comes–tellingly, perhaps!–a day after Republican National Committee chairman Rince Priebus publicly threatened Republican candidates who refuse to vote for Trump.

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