Image: Shadow Cities Book Cover

Cory Doctorow writes:

I’ve just finished Robert Neuwirth’s “Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World,” a nonfiction account of Neuwirth’s travels through squatter cities and shanty towns on four continents.

The parallels between the squatter story and the copyfight are fascinating. Last month, I gave a talk at a Berkeley law class and one of the students pointed out that when we talk about orphan works and the problem of discovering who has the right to authorize the use of old or obscure creative works, we treat this as a major difference between “intellectual property” and real property; but in the developing world, the ownership of physical land is anything but clear-cut; where you have squatters who’ve been sold deeds to their land by unscrupulous bureaucrats in exchange for votes, or where politicos have issued deeds to their cronies selling title to land that has been occupied for decades, or squatters who are granted title to their land, but who then have to resolve whether the squatter whose home is on the ground floor gets the title, or whether it’s the squatter who’s built her dwelling on the roof; or where you have squatters who’ve built and then rented out their squats to tenants who’ve occupied them for years — who owns that land?

All real-estate begins as “squatting.” Most of the Bay Area’s title deeds represent claims filed by squatters during the gold rush. At some point, every titled parcel of land belonged to no one, but was then fenced in and declared property.

Photos: Glenn and the PBR Girls

Photo: corey

chris writes:

Meet Corey, the Starbucks homeless-nerd. Stephanie and I decided to interview him the other night to answer all of your probing questions. Armed with notepad and iMic’d iPod we approached him at his “office” in Starbucks. He was a friendly and personable, well-spoken, and witty. He charmed us instantly, and we spoke with him for an hour. Stephanie wrote up our experience like this:

Corey turns 21 tomorrow. He won’t be celebrating this rite of passage at ‘21′ or over impetuous fistfuls of Jagermeister but will instead spend the night sleeping upright in a chair at a 24-hour Kinko’s. Corey has been homeless in New York City for the past three and a half months.

He bathes in churches, spending $20 a week on mouthwash, shaving cream, and other necessities. The self-taught Midwestern transplant earns money by helping people with their computer problems at Kinko’s come nightfall. During the day, he uses the ghetto-tech computer equipment, he discovered in a dumpster, to surf the Internet at Starbucks (picking up free wireless waves from the neighborhood). Is he surfing for a job? “No. What’s the point? No one will hire you if you don’t have an address.” Instead, he’ll navigate local news and spend most of his time in Yahoo! Chat rooms trying to find his soul mate. “I have to admit, I have quite a way with the ladies. Especially the big ones. I like mine big.”

DAVID BERNSTEIN, The New York Times, reports:

CHICAGO - HOMARO CANTU’S maki look a lot like the sushi rolls served at other upscale restaurants: pristine, coin-size disks stuffed with lumps of fresh crab and rice and wrapped in shiny nori. They also taste like sushi, deliciously fishy and seaweedy.

But the sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish. It is prepared on a Canon i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board. He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.

At least two or three food items made of paper are likely to be included in a meal at Moto, which might include 10 or more tasting courses. Even the menu is edible; diners crunch it up into a bowl of gazpacho, creating Mr. Cantu’s version of alphabet soup.

Clare Chapman, (UK) Telegraph, reports, via

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing “sexual services'’ at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.

Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners – who must pay tax and employee health insurance – were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.

The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe.

She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her “profile'’ and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.

Under Germany’s welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.

COOKY McCLUNG, Special to The Star Democrat, reports:,

CHESTERTOWN — Lucy the Goose was memorialized last Friday with a service fit for a high-ranking diplomat. Which, in a way, she was, having served faithfully, if sometimes cantankerously, as Chestertown’s avian ambassador for at least a dozen years.

I found her dead Dec. 19 on my daily pre-dawn walk, pausing to burst into tears before dashing home to call Chestertown Town Manager Bill Ingersoll. He responded immediately by contacting Ned Stirling, head of town maintenance, who had Lucy removed from the marshes where she lay. Even before Ned arrived, however, another early morning walker, noticing Lucy’s lifeless body, immediately called 9-1-1. Our police responded with compassion, checking to make sure the goose’s death was not a result of someone harming her. They found she had died of natural causes.

John C. Dvorak writes:

After witnessing the latest Presidential election process, it’s apparent to me that the Internet is turning into a bad dream. Nobody wants to admit it, but the Web’s natural ability to remove normal interpersonal structures that prevent society from falling into chaos is not a benefit to anyone. Information revolution notwithstanding, the Internet will prove to be the undoing of society and civilization as we know it. It may not happen today, but it will happen sooner than we think.

Photo: The Littlest Prisoner at Abu Ghraib

The Stranger’s 2004’s Scariest Halloween Costumes via BoingBoing:

“Your child will be the hit of the neighborhood costume parade in this recreation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal’s most indelible image. As an added bonus this easy-to-make costume will remind everyone on your child’s trick-or-treat route of our national shame! Simply roll a cone from a sheet of 24″x38″ black cardstock, making sure to cut out a hole for the face. Drape with two yards of black felt, and add leftover wires from your last lamp-rewiring project. VoilÀ! So easy, so quick, and so terrifying!”

Total cost: Under $20.
Total time: Under two hours.

Cory Doctorow writes on BoingBoing:

Meg Hourihan, the co-founder of Pyra, the company that invented Blogger, has retired from technology to become a chef:

So last night I ended my sabbatical and began my new career doing something I’ve always felt passionate about: cooking. I’m working in the kitchen of a restaurant called Fifty-Six Union (mentioned at the bottom of thisFeasting on Nantucket article) here on Nantucket. Yesterday at 3 PM I put on my black chef’s clogs, my black pants and white t-shirt, pulled my Red Sox cap over my hair and got to work peeling and deveining shrimp. Seven hours later, sweatily scrubbing the kitchen floors, I was still smiling.

I’ve learned a lot this summer during my sabbatical but it all can be summarized in three words: follow your heart.

Capsula Mundi Illustration

David Pescovitz, BoingBoing, (via Aeiou) reports:

Capsula Mundi is a design for a biodegradable coffin made from starch plastic that holds the deceased in a fetal position. The stunning artwork was created by Italian designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel:

“Capsula Mundi is planted in the earth like a seed. Above it, to signal the presence of occupied space, is a shallow concave circle dug out of the ground. In the center of which, a tree is planted, the essence of it chosen in life by the dead one, the care of this tree is the responsibility of everyone. The aim is ecological burial, literally a more natural way to decay.

The cemetery will, then, acquire a new look. No longer the overpopulated urban environment with congested architecture, it will be a natural one in contact with the earth, enveloping expansive areas, entire hills consecrated to the cult of the dead. Summarizing, it is a different landscape devoted to the worship of our ancestry: a sacred forest.”

Update: BB reader Jacob Schnickel points out the striking similarity between the Capsula Mundii and Frida Kahlo’s painting of Luther Burbank.

Time Magazine Cover

Xeni Jardin, BoingBoing, reports:

Check out the cover of this week’s TIME [magazine]. (Insert Beavisoid laugh) If you’re unfamiliar with the term “goatse” — it is the very definition of NSFW. A particularly abhorrent image which has become a sort of sick internet in-joke over the years. Search Google and ye shall find. But only if you’re prepared for irreversible eyeball scarification. Or, for an eyeball- and work-safe answer, try wikipedia’s entry. (Thanks, Brad, and Boogah)

The Economic Times via Slashdot:

Microsoft has also managed to upset women and entire countries. A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between “not specified,” “male” or “bitch,” because of an unfortunate error in translation.

Kabbalah Red String Photo

Target’s Web Site via BoingBoing:

A centuries-old spiritual tool used by Kabbalists, this red string is believed to protect against the evil eye, a negative energy source. What makes this particular piece of string so special is, in part, the fact that it has traveled to Israel, to the ancient tomb of Rachel the Matriarch, and returned, imbued with the essence of protection. The string is tied to the left wrist—the left being the body and soul’s receiving side—and worn to essentially deflect the negative energy brought forth by unfriendly and envious stares, unkind glances and looks of ill will. A feeling we’ve all experienced, the evil eye is considered by Kabbalah to be a powerful force and an influential factor in regards to achieving goals and everyday well-being. The string draws upon the connection to and awareness of Rachel and must be tied on by a loved one and sealed with Rachel’s protective energy by reciting the Ben Porat prayer (included on a card). From The Kabbalah Centre. 72L”.

ICT Video Still
A still from the ICT video ‘Devotion and Defiance’: nuns searching through the rubble of their demolished homes following the arrival of work teams to the Serthar religious institute, Larung Gar

International Campaign for Tibet via Snow Lion Publications:

A major new report released by the International Campaign for Tibet reveals the increasing threat to the survival of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet. ‘When the Sky Fell to Earth: the New Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet’ documents the rise in repression of religion in Tibet that is a direct result of China’s economic policies and strategic objectives.

EricEldred, Internet Bookmobile, via BoingBoing:

Yesterday (July 8, 2004) I took the Internet Bookmobile to Walden Pond in
Concord, Mass. It was the 150th anniversary of H. D. Thoreau’s book
“Walden.” The Thoreau Society had a dawn to dusk reading.

After an hour of having readers print and take away free copies of “Walden,”
I was asked by the Walden Pond Reservation police to pack up and leave
and threatened with arrest. I left.

The park supervisor (Denise Morrissey, ) told me I could
not pass out free literature without a permit. And she would not give me
a permit because, as she explained, the state park gets money from a
concession by the Thoreau Society, which operates a store that sells
“Walden”–and I was competing with them by giving away free copies.

Freshbot via BoingBoing:

Did you know that “pornography is more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes or illicit drugs?” Or that “one in five children ages 10 to 17 has received sexual solicitations while on the Internet” - and that, by extension, pornography per se is equivalent to pedophilia? Or that “over 80% of Americans are in favor of clamping down on Internet Pornography?” Neither did we. Nor can we find any sources to back up most of the claims made by an alliance of “several U.S. and Canadian organizations” that announced a “War on Pornography” campaign in Utah yesterday.

Photo: Antenna mast disguised as crucifixe

Rafael Heiling (dre) via BoingBoing

European companies are finding ingenious ways to disguise ugly, but necessary, mobile phone antenna masts. Customers can pick everything from trees to crucifixes.

Wayne Madsden, New Catholic Times, May 18, 2003, writes:

WASHINGTON DC — According to freelance journalist Wayne Madsden, “George W Bush’s blood lust, his repeated commitment to Christian beliefs and his constant references to ‘evil doers,’ in the eyes of many devout Catholic leaders, bear all the hallmarks of the one warned about in the Book of Revelations–the anti-Christ.”

Dot Matrix Bike Photo

Cory Docotrow, on BoingBoing, writes:
jkinberg has invented a bicycle that doubles as a dot-matrix printer, huffing out low-resolution ASCII characters from an array of spraypaintchalk cans mounted on the bike’s rear and controlled by a Powerbook. He’s planning to make a bunch of them to spray anti-GOP messages during the Republican convention — he calls the project “Bikes Against Bush.” Link (Thanks, Poppy!)

Kevin Kelly writes:

A decade ago some community librarians in California initiated a great idea: why not lend tools as well as books? The idea slowly spread to a couple of dozen other US towns, but the most active and well-stocked tool libraries are still in the Bay Area — one in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco. The typical tool lending library offers basic hand tools, and a selection of garden, landscaping and construction tools. The hot items with waiting lists at the San Francisco Tool Lending Library (now in the middle of a move to a new location on Howard Street) are heavy duty power tools. The top four borrowings are: an electric jack hammer, a drain snake for clearing sewage lines, an electric weed wacker (the library only deals with electrical tools, no gas), and rotary impact drills. There are racks of shovels, rakes, stampers, crow bars, pliers, and the usual shop tools, but the Saws-alls, belt sanders, wet tile saws, and other not-so-often needed tools get the most rotation. Many of these occasional tools are what you might find at a tool rental shop; indeed anyone with a city library card — including contractors — can, and do, borrow tools for the maximum 3 days.

Lending tools, like planting trees, is unalloyed goodness. Tool Lending Libraries are a great idea that should be duplicated everywhere. The biggest cost is not the tools but the liability insurance for the power tools. Patrons are pretty good at returning things in good order — they want to be able to use ‘em again.

Check your local system to see if they have one up and running. If they don’t, start one. If you live in the Bay Area head for one [Oakland Tool Library, Berkeley Tool Lending Library, San Francisco Tool Lending Library]. (Thanks to Charlie Bremmer for the reminder.)

– KK

Oliver August, The (Australian) Times, writes:

MONGOLIANS have been ordered to invent their own surnames, after generations of living with just one name on the orders of their former Soviet masters.

Hundreds, pondering what to call themselves, daily besiege a small office in the centre of their capital where identity documents are issued. Held back by armed guards outside, some opt for surnames like Seven Drunk Men that hint at Mongolia’s national pastime.

Others prefer to adopt the name of Genghis Khan, still the mightiest of Mongols, who now has 500 namesakes in Ulan Bator.

The (UK) Sun reports:

WIDOW (UK) - Lin Tandy will remember her geologist husband forever after having his ashes made into DIAMONDS.

She paid £6,750 to US firm LifeGem to turn them into graphite, which was polished into three yellow, ¼-carat gems.

Lin, 51 — whose hubby Brian died of a heart attack aged 56 — is having them set in rings for herself and her two daughters in Reading, Berks. She said: “I was amazed by their beauty.”

The Sun told last month how Catherine Hoare got Sussex-based LifeGem to make her pony’s ashes a diamond.

Xeni Jardin writes on BoingBoing:

I just got home from having coffee with a friend at my favorite cafe in West Hollywood. There’s a zany new age bookstore down the street. Sometimes I pop in for the sole purpose of sneering at book titles like Tantric Sex for Dummies and Is Your Pet Psychic?

Helen: Dancing With A Cat
But tonight was no ordinary night of snorting and hiding my face in the Feng Shui soy candle display. Tucked away on the shelf below that black velvet UFO portrait of The High ECK Master, I found Dancing With Catscle Books, 1999). Been around for years, but I’d never seen it before. Filled with pictures of humans fannying about in tights, striking “I-Wish-I-Were-Baryshnikov” poses — together with cats who doing the same thing. The text is rich. “Multicat” interspecies dance ensembles as a tool for enlightenment; think Busby Berkeley with hairballs and chakras.

Dig the pre-dance exercises:

kokogiak writes on MetaFilter:

Speaking of Transit Watching. I found it really interesting to see the collection of AP photos about the transit of Venus today. Apparently the compelling story is not so much the science (planets orbit the sun, got it), but the global spectacle. It’s a bit of an anomaly of late, but Venus watching seems to be something the whole world peacefully agrees is a good thing.

BBC’s h2g2 says:

One or two Americans have asked me why it is that the English like tea so much, which never seems to them to be a very good drink. To understand, you have to know how to make it properly.

There is a very simple principle to the making of tea and it’s this - to get the proper flavour of tea, the water has to be boiling (not boiled) when it hits the tea leaves. If it’s merely hot then the tea will be insipid. That’s why we English have these odd rituals, such as warming the teapot first (so as not to cause the boiling water to cool down too fast as it hits the pot). And that’s why the American habit of bringing a teacup, a tea bag and a pot of hot water to the table is merely the perfect way of making a thin, pale, watery cup of tea that nobody in their right mind would want to drink. The Americans are all mystified about why the English make such a big thing out of tea because most Americans have never had a good cup of tea. That’s why they don’t understand. In fact the truth of the matter is that most English people don’t know how to make tea any more either, and most people drink cheap instant coffee instead, which is a pity, and gives Americans the impression that the English are just generally clueless about hot stimulants.

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