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Ecocities = More Bicyle, Less Car

When I am able to blank out the last thirty five years, during which I have continuously despised and fought against the automobile (even when I owned one myself…yes, I’m talking about that rattling death-trap of a 1967 Ford Falcon!), when I can forget all that, it does my heart good to hear people talking about Ecocities. Richard Register has a decent column in Foreign Policy in Focus this week, advocating for more sustainable cities built around better transit systems and less automobile traffic. His points are well taken and straightforward, building upon his books on the subject (from 2001 and 2006): Switch to a pedestrian and transit-oriented infrastructure, built around compact centers designed for pedestrians and transit; Roll back sprawl development while vigorously restoring nature and agriculture; Integrate renewable energy systems while using non-toxic materials and technologies and promoting recycling. Which he follows immediately by pointing out the major obstacles to achieving this dream: A major difficulty in moving toward ecocities is that cars have influenced urban design for 100 years. Many of us caught in this infrastructure find it extremely difficult to get around in anything but the car. The distances are just too great for bicycles, the densities just too low to allow efficient, affordable transit.

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Octopus Balls from Frito-Lay

There is nothing like a platter of hot takoyaki octopus balls, one of the most beloved snack foods in Japan. Something about the half-cooked, gooey, pancake-like sphere, slightly browned on the outs

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Ironic How Freedom Rings, Isnt It?

While randomly grazing the sweet grass of the intertubes, and reading about such things as the Comic Salon Erlangen and looking at Andy Konky Kru’s photos of the 2006 Salon, I stumbled across Skip Williamson’s recent post on the history of Underground Comics. Not only did this remind me of my first major comic book convention (at the Playboy Towers in Chicago) where I met Skip Williamson, but also of Skip’s terrific “Class War Comix,” published about five years later in Snappy Sammy Smoot (1979). In addition to the classic newstand headline: Agnew Breaks Wind, Thousands Die! this comic featured a paranoid schizophrenic Richard Nixon being replaced as President by an even more freaked out long-haired capitalist, Amphetamine Arnie.

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Big Hair In Romania

There is something strangely futuristic about the fashions of the 2009 Estetika and Wellness Fair, held this week in Bucharest, Romania. A set of photos is floating around, depicting the weird loops

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That Pig of a Hedge Fund Manager

You don’t suppose any dialog like this will be overheard in the mansions of Connecticut, do you? “Ugh, that pig of a hedge fund manager gave it to me! If you want it…” But no, that would require s

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Orienteering on Mars

Finding your way around Mars just got a whole lot easier! The European Space Agency has just released thumbnail images of their lush cartography of the red planet. The glimpse above is from a 1:50

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Basil Wolverton: Advice for Weird Beards

Money saving tips are very useful these days, so take a word from the pros: when your beard gets too weird know how to mow it! This and other great advice is currently available in a series of 50 sc

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Chicken Little Protein: Space Merchants Radio Play

One of the great satirical classics of Science Fiction is surely “Space Merchants,” by Fred Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, which skewers the American traditions of corporate greed, deceptive advertising, and the treatment of consumers as stooges, suckers, retarded fools, and miserable cattle. The story accomplishes this in a slick, almost effortless Science Fiction setting, which is fast-paced and chock full of sadistic irony. It’s important to remember the context of American society at the time of publication — 1953 — when the Cold War was in full swing, and the complete subservience to the Capitalist credo was not only the mood of the times, but was enforced by psychological warfare, not the least of which were accusations, blacklists, and finally the foaming-mouthed lunacy of McCarthyism.

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Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.

Reading Clay Shirky’s latest thought-piece on the demise of newspapers poses for all of us the interesting question: what sort of social / professional / technological model will we develop to replace print newspapers when they all go belly up? Shirky makes a pretty solid demonstration of the facts regarding the transition from those inky presses (thrashing out miles of newsprint every morning) to a new paradigm, but he is careful not to speculate too precisely about what form that future paradigm will take. Indeed, the whole point he is making is that we are now living through a revolution in which print media is being overthrown. During these last five hundred years, the cost of print production and the profits made on the distribution of printed objects was tightly bound up with dissemination of knowledge, art, technology, and of information of all kinds. Now, with the advent of the Internet and the speedy exchange of digital objects of all kinds, the flawless reproduction of information-laden media objects is no longer bound to the burdens of physical products that must be moved through space. The near-frictionless pathways that our digital infrastructure provides, has creatively destroyed the entire centuries-old paradigm of manufacturing, selling, and regulating the rights for commerce for media such as books, recordings, images, at least in the material manifestions that we have come to know and love.