Boing Boing

Lemur demands backrub

Before humans descended on the island of Madagascar there was a species of lemur as a big as gorilla. Today, the largest lemur weighs 20 lbs. (The smallest, the mouse lemur, weighs 1.1 oz, and has "the smallest known brain of any primate, at just 2 grams," according to Wikipdia.). I'm not sure what kind of lemur this is, but it likes to have people scratch its back. (And this is not a video that should make you feel good, says Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary.)

California lawmakers reject "John Wayne Day" because John Wayne was a racist creep

In a 1971 Playboy interview John Wayne expressed his views on blacks ("irresponsible") and native Americans ("selfish"). These comments came back to haunt Wayne's legacy when California lawmakers nixed Orange County Assemblyman Matthew Harper's proposal to designate May 26, 2016, as "John Wayne Day." The bill was defeated in a 35-20 vote.

From the Playboy interview:

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”


“Our so-called stealing of this country from [native Americans] was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

“Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!” said Harper in a statement.


Can you solve Martin Gardner's "coin of the realm" puzzle?

The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems is a 512-page collection of puzzles from the Martin Gardner's beloved Scientific American column. The easier puzzles are at the front of each section, and become more difficult as you progress. Here's one of the easy ones:

In the United States at least eight coins are required to make the sum of 99 cents: a half-dollar, a quarter, two dimes, and four pennies. Imagine yourself the leader of a small, newly independent nation. You have the task of setting up a system of coinage based on the cent as the smallest unit. Your objective is to issue the smallest number of different coins that will enable any value from 1 to 100 cents (inclusive) to be made with no more than two coins.

For example, the objective is easily met with 18 coins of the following values:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90.

Can you do better? Every value must be obtainable either by one coin or as a sum of two coins. The two coins need not, of course, have different values.

Glorious bird photos that won the 2016 Audubon Society Photography Awards

Bonnie Block won the grand prize in the 2016 Audubon Society Photography Awards for her magnificent photo above of a Bald Eagle and a Great Blue Heron in Seabeck, Washington. The two predators are known to fight over prey, with the Eagles usually winning.

Below, an intense photo that the contest's "youth winner," Carolina Anne Fraser, snapped of Great Frigatebirds in the Galápagos.

RAY: the smartest remote on Earth

Boing Boing is proudly sponsored by Ray, the super remote!

Walk into almost any room with a television set, and you’re bound to come across an unseemly pile of remote controls. The more game consoles and streaming media players we collect, the more plastic remotes we accumulate, and after 50 years of TV remote technology, controlling what you want to watch on your television set is more confusing than ever. Not even the traditional universal remotes have helped much. Why? Because most universal remotes are designed to function the same way as the remotes they’re trying to replace!

The only way to fix the remote control madness is to erase our notion of what a remote control is and how we interact with them. Start from scratch and reinvent one. Be less about how we control things and more about how we enjoy them. And that’s exactly what Ray Super Remote has done. Unlike any other remote control, the Ray recommends what you want to watch based on what you like to watch. It learns and improves the more you use it, tapping into various video sources like content from your cable provider, movies on Roku and other streaming services, making the TV experience less about searching through guides and more about sitting back and watching old favorites or new discoveries.

Founded by CEO David Skokna and created by a team of engineers and designers who come from innovative companies like Apple, MakerBot, Amazon, and Nokia, Ray could easily be mistaken for a smart phone. It’s a beautiful device, with sleek Gorilla Glass on the front and back, and the same machined aluminum siding you’d find on an iPhone. And most remarkable of all, this is a remote control with no buttons on its face! Instead, you control your TV and game consoles with a touchscreen.

“The whole process of hitting buttons and navigating all these different remotes is completely obsolete behavior,” says Mark Kizelshteyn, Head of User Experience at Ray, who came on board just after the company was founded in Brooklyn, NY almost three years ago. “It’s not about hitting buttons.”

The only buttons you’ll find on Ray are three on its curved aluminum sidebar: one to turn the screen on and off, one for volume control, and one for mute.

Kizelshteyn, who has also designed products for HBO GO and TED, says the driving factor in creating Ray was to make sure TV viewers find what they want to watch as quickly as possible. “The process of controlling the television needs to be invisible.”

And so it is, in the same way navigating anything on your smart phone is. You don’t think about the process, it’s intuitive. Just like a smart phone, you simply tap, type or swipe. It opens to a welcoming “Hello” screen with apps that personally apply to you. These could include TV, Apple TV, DVR, Cable, Kids, Sports, Xbox or a bunch of others to choose from.

So for example, hit the TV app, and from there you can choose from your favorite shows, look at a TV guide, search for something new, record a show, and so much more. The device is constantly learning, so it becomes more custom tailored to your tastes as you use it.

As far as getting started, setup time is faster than any other remote control out there, according to Rich Besen, Head of Hardware Design at Ray. “Our setup process is on average less than half the time of our nearest competitor, and this is due to the fact that we have this beautiful touchscreen, which makes it easy.” So easy, in fact, that Ray doesn’t come with a manual or instructions booklet. “We’re so excited to see people setting this up. It’s even easy for people who aren’t tech-savvy. You turn Ray on and it walks you through the setup process.”

It is a bit unbelievable that, with smart phones and smart technology already entrenched in the mainstream, it’s taken so long for the smart remote revolution to enter the new millennium. But according to Kizelshteyn, “People who have tried to go after this realize it’s a lot more difficult than they expect. There’s an enormous hardware, software and business development challenge, since it’s nothing like a traditional remote.”

Ray’s small team of industry insiders took on a Steve Jobs type of attitude and approach in the way that they strived for perfection. “We didn’t have a precious mentality about anything,” says Kizelshteyn, “We all worked extremely hard, but it wasn’t always right. We needed to be able to say, ‘You know, this doesn’t work. We need to throw this out and start over.’ And we did that time and time again. Sometimes it knocks you down and it hurts, but you have to get up and say, ‘It’s okay, let’s try it again.’” Kizelshteyn says everyone had this same mentality, and it was a really powerful force in the company.

Besen, who used to be a member of the Product Design team at Apple, says that, similar to the process at Apple, the Ray team controlled every aspect of the product’s high quality. “The materials were carefully selected from the most premium aluminum, and we made sure to own the design from beginning to end. There was no confusion at Ray about making this the best product possible.”

Currently, Ray has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and IR to work with new and old devices, and can control anything that accepts those kinds of wireless signals. By this summer it will also work over the air so that people who have antennas and who don’t have cable will have access to everything cable users have. As a bonus, Ray can also control the temperature and lighting in the room to create the perfect viewing atmosphere.

Finally, one of the great things about Ray is that its operating system is constantly updating to accommodate changes in streaming devices, so it never becomes obsolete. “As new technology evolves in the TV world, our hardware is there to support it. It’s futureproof,” says Besen. “We really wanted to bring the remote forward and make something that wasn’t just a remote, but that was a premium product and a welcome addition to the living room.” In other words, they reimagined the remote.

Learn more about the Ray Super Remote!

The amazing illustrated chart of Prince's hairstyles

Several years ago, Gary Card created a chart illustrating Prince's hairstyles from 1978 to 2013. After Prince's death, Dazed interviewed Card about the project, originally produced for Beat magazine.

Prince tweeted it and it went viral, it was one the most exciting moments of my life, knowing I’d impressed my hero. It came out with little fan fair when it was first printed, it was just some cute tribute by some weird obsessive nerd. I put a gif together of all the changing hair styles and put on Instagram, a couple of months later I was watching some nonsense on TV, when suddenly my phone starts going nuts with notifications, under one of the comments someone wrote, ‘Dude, Prince just tweeted your poster’ and that was it, it was retweeted around the world about ten times a second for two days, it was thrilling to watch. Of all of my achievements in my career, that was my proudest.

A Boy’s Best Friend

A zillion people seem to have seen this video already, but I missed it until I accidentally saw it on Facebook, where it had been posted in early April by HypeDoJo and already has 12 million views.

Might sound like a lot, but since the population of the United States alone is 319 million, give or take, there are probably a lot of folks out there who still haven’t seen it. Thought you might enjoy it.

I didn’t care for it because I don’t like dogs. Don’t hate me. I have a reason.

Growing up in an apartment building in Elmhurst, Queens (one of the five boroughs of New York City, Queens is known as the “borough of the dead” because it has so many large cemeteries that there are more dead folks than living at any given moment), I lived in a very small apartment with my mother. We moved in when my folks split up—I was seven, so 1965—and lived on the fourth floor; naturally I took the elevator a lot.

There was a weird bastard, must have been in his thirties (short black hair dotted with some gray, button up shirts that never fit quite right, black corduroy trousers that were inches too short revealing white socks), who lived with his mother on one of the floors above us. Even as a 7-year-old, I could tell this dude had some issues.

They had a dog, a medium sized black and white mutt, kept on a red leash. All was fine when Bizarro and his mother travelled the elevator and halls together. No sign of trouble. But by the time I was 10 years of age, the creep used to wait for me when I was taking the elevator alone and no other adults were around, then follow me in with his dog. And from the lobby to the fourth floor, he would purposefully allow the dog a long leash and let it bark and snap at me, sometimes only an inch or two from my hands.

I never told anyone.

After a few years it occurred to me that I could avoid the dog by taking the stairs, which I had always avoided since they were completely enclosed, somewhat dimly lit, and smelled of piss. However, despite my wariness, I took the stairs two and three at a time, getting up to the fourth floor pretty quickly. And there was no dog.

About six months later, on my way down, that weird bastard was waiting for me in the stairs. He grabbed my hand and rubbed it on my crotch for about a second before I started cursing at him (kids from Queens can use foul language like you’ve never heard). Pushed the sucker out of the way and ran past.

Then I stopped taking the stairs and resumed using the elevator. I saw a lot less of him after that.

As a kid, dogs terrified me, and as an adult, they make me uncomfortable.

This will sound really stupid, but it took about 35 years for me to figure out that the weird bastard was using the dog in the elevator to get me to take the stairs. Finally connected those two dots in middle age. Funny thing.

There is one dog in the world who has won me over; a dachshund named “Bertie” (short for Albert) and he lives in Los Angeles. Whenever I visit his parents’ home he is most catlike and promptly sits in my lap. He gazes at me lovingly with limpid brown eyes, although it would seem unlikely that he remembers me from year to year. He also likes to play tug ‘o war with you and his blanket. Over the past few years his muzzle has grown white like an ancient spirit, but he doesn’t know it.

Perhaps one day I’ll get a dog.

But not today.

New UK power station to be "most expensive object on earth"

At an estimated $35bn lifetime cost, the new Hinkley C reactor will be more expensive than any other civil engineering project on planet Earth, reports the BBC.

For that sum you could build a small forest of Burj Khalifas - the world's tallest building, in Dubai, cost a piffling £1bn ($1.5bn). You could also knock up more than 70 miles of particle accelerator. The 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider, built under the border between France and Switzerland to unlock the secrets of the universe, cost a mere £4bn ($5.8bn). The most expensive bridge ever constructed is the eastern replacement span of the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, designed to withstand the strongest earthquake seismologists would expect within the next 1,500 years. That cost about £4.5bn ($6.5bn).

Even the Great Pyramid would cost less than a billion to make, now, and require only a few hundred workers. But there is one man-made object pricier than a new nuclear power station in a western democracy: the international space station, alleged to have cost more than $100bn.

Take a nostalgic trip through the "Art of Atari"

The Art of Atari is a new hardcover celebrating the wonderful illustrations of the iconic game company's packaging, catalogs, and other artwork that, according to the book's introduction written by Ernest "Ready Player One" Cline, was "specially commissioned to enhance the Atari experience to further entice children and adults to embrace the new era of electronic entertainment." Speaking from personal experience, it totally worked.

The Art of Atari (Amazon)

Charles Gatewood, photographer of fringe culture, RIP

Charles Gatewood, a pioneering photographer of the underground for nearly 50 years, died today from injuries sustained in a fall from his third-floor balcony. He was 74.

From documenting the Beats and the dark alleys of 1970s Mardi Gras to extreme body modification practitioners and sexual fetishists, Charles lived his life as a curious, open-minded photographic anthropologist at the fringes of culture.

I first encountered Charles's work in the 1980s through the groundbreaking RE/Search book Modern Primitives and a grainy VHS dub of the documentary "Dances Sacred and Profane" about his quest for individuals "breaking the bounds of convention." We first met in 1993 and I always looked forward to the terrific stories of his travels through the interzones that he happily shared with me. Charles was warm, generous, witty, and very grounded. I feel fortunate that hanging in my home is his marvelous portrait of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin gazing into their dreamachine, an image that inspires me every day.

Charles's photography provided a glimpse of the sometimes shocking, always fascinating, and strangely seductive scenes that are waiting for us if we just know where to look. He relentlessly challenged us to open our eyes and minds. I'll miss him.

The Sartorialist – NYC stylish strangers happily caught by a candid camera

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The Sartorialist
by Scott Schuman
Penguin Books
2009, 512 pages, 5.2 x 7.4 x 1.6 inches (softcover)
$19 Buy a copy on Amazon

Scott Schuman once worked in the fashion industry but found that the outfits that amateurs wore on the streets of New York City to be a lot more interesting than those from famous designers. He began photographing people on the street who caught his eye, and, with their permission, posted their images on his blog, The Sartorialist. His street photos had their own style, and soon fashion followers were happy to be caught by Schumans’s candid camera. Soon The Sartorialist blog became legendary in the fashion world. It was also the first of many photo blogs to feature street fashion – showcasing what people with a personal flair wore everyday. This brick of a book collects the best of The Sartorialist’s first 10 years of images. It works as a one-stop shop of hip clothing designs; it also works as a document of “what they wore” in 2010; and it also works as a cool gallery of contemporary fashion photography. It lacks the richness of the life stories in Humans of New York, but it gains something by focusing so obsessively on the design decisions of creative people. A second volume called The Sartorialist X, takes Schuman outside of New York to other cities of the world.

Game reviewer learns how to make big corporations fight each other on YouTube

When game critic Jim Sterling uses video clips of the games he reviews on YouTube, the game companies claim copyright ownership of the video and run ads on Sterling's reviews. He doesn't like that because his videos are funded by Patreon and he doesn't think his audience should have to see ads. So what he does now is add video clips from other game publishers' titles. This causes the different companies to battle for control of the video, and they both lose out. “I figured every time I talk about Nintendo, I’m going to throw in other stuff that gets flagged by Content ID, and just watch the corporations battle it out,” Sterling said. His hope was that by pulling this stunt, he could stop any company from monetizing the video at all, since it wouldn’t be clear who really owned the footage in the first place. And if anybody did manage to monetize the video, they’d probably only get peanuts for it. The scheme panned out just the way he thought it would, Jim Sterling tells Kotaku.

Trailer for Oliver Stone's "Snowden"

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Oliver Stone's Snowden. Stone went to Russia and met with Snowden several times during the production of the movie, so hopefully it will be somewhat accurate, but you never know with Stone. It's opening on September 16, 2016.

Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone, who brought Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, tackles the most important and fascinating true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world. He is considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others. No matter which you believe, the epic story of why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it off makes for one of the most compelling films of the year.

FBI has no plans to share how it hacked into that iPhone with Apple or anyone else

Bless their cold, spyin' hearts. The FBI suddenly cares about the rights of technology developers.

On Wednesday, the official word came from the federal agency that it will not be disclosing what vulnerability it exploited to force its way in to the San Bernardino attacker's iPhone, because -- can you hear the gentle clutching of pearls?-- “it did not own the rights to the technical method a contractor used to open an Apple iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and therefore could not submit details of the mechanism for an interagency government review,” as Reuters puts it.