1. AppAfrica: The Future Exists for Africa, Too

    Nothing here in this post but a fanboy’s love for Mr. Jonathan Gosier‘s always interesting blog AppAfrica.  May I nudge you all to go and pick up one of the above t-shirts?  (Naturally, it’s on Zazzle so you can get it customized.)

    Appfrica facilitates, mentors and incubates entrepreneurs in software in East Africa. Entrepreneur projects are refined and prepped to help them secure funding and launch sustainable, profitable businesses. This project is loosely modeled after Paul Graham’s Y Combinator, providing small amounts of seed capital to startups. Appfrica Labs has also started an International Fellows Program which brings developers from all over the world to work alongside local Entrepreneurs as peers and mentors. That program can be learned about here.

    Combine that with Afrigadget and AfroCyberPunk and you’re .071% of the way to countering the mass media impression of Africa as a hopeless eternal backwater.  More on that thought coming along…

  2. Robot A-10s, Just Chillin’

    Your Countdown to Skynet news of the day: DARPA’s looking to wire up stock A-10s to fly by remote control to provide on-demand death from above.

    The Pentagon’s advanced research arm wants an aircraft 30 miles from a firefight to be able to attack within six minutes of a request by a JTAC. The airman would access the plane’s targeting sensors, enter coordinates to multiple targets and send ammo flying.

    Officials with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency expect to award a contract for the venture later this year; a live-fire demonstration is proposed for the last quarter of fiscal 2014. The contractor will modify an A-10 already in the fleet.

    Now I’m not saying that some AI will inevitably hack into the system and send squadrons of flying tanks hither and yon seizing power for the Roomba elite.  I’m just saying that we welcome our new robot overlords and gently remind them that their are many useful tasks that we humans are well-suited for.  Just ask Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

    via War is Boring, which you should be reading already.

  3. Opium for the Masses: DIY Dope for the Whole Foods Crowd?

    “Yeah… I used to homebrew but then I got into moonshining.  But that’s such a scene and y’know, everyone’s doing it.  Now I raise organic poppies and make my own heroin suppositories.”

    Just wanted to jump on this before three dudes in Brooklyn do it and it all ends up in the New York Times Styles section.  Via Dose Nation and EarthRites I heard of a gentleman by the name of Jim Hogshire who wrote the book on making ones own opiates from the completely legal, wild-growing, Opium Poppy.  This book would be Opium For the Masses:

    Opium for the Masses was such a national phenomenon when first released in the early ‘90s that Michael Pollan wrote a cover story for Harper’s magazine about the book, in which he he expressed his amazement that a common plant, P. somniferum, or the opium poppy, grows wild in most states, and could be made into a drinkable tea that acts in ways similar to codeine or Vicodin.

    With Opium for the Masses as the guide, Americans can learn how to supplement their own medicine chest with natural pain medicine without costly and difficult trips to doctors hamstrung by pernicious laws to prescribe proper pain relief.

    Watch for the DIY-organic-slow food set to latch onto this tome as the means of the ultimate insider drug: homebrewed opiates.  That’s hitting the cool-meter on all levels: illegal, exclusive, dangerous and independent.  How can you lose? (Oh yeah, by being a junky.)

    Opium For the Masses is still in print, available for 16.95 plus shipping.  My kneejerk smart-assery aside, it looks like a fascinating read.

  4. Get Your Secret Space Colony Fix in SciFi Video Form

    With NASA’s budget constantly getting the axe wouldn’t it be fun if somone else had an established space colony? Well, what if they were Fascist or Communist? That’s the premise of this potential movie, this movie, and this potential series.

    This movie Iron Sky in the works from the people behind Star Wreck is a fan funded effort to make a comedy– about Nazis on the moon. These people have experience making movies with fan contributions alone from their Star Wreck series, but this is fairly ambitious.

    Iron Sky Trailer 1

    Iron Sky Trailer 2

    Also on the lighter side of Fascists-in-space comes this comedy from Italy based on a 2002 sketch comedy series. It’s about a band of Mussolini flavored Fascists roughing it on Mars with no food, no water, and no oxygen.

    Fascisti Su Marte (Part 1, English Subtitles)

    Most recently is the pilot episode for a series called Pioneer One that like Iron Sky is fan funded. The same people did The Lionshare which was intriguing conceptually but fell flat in terms of acting and writing. It did include shots of my former favorite bar around these parts of Brooklyn called Stain (RIP), which was fun. Pioneer One is ambitious but the witty banter, acting, and cinematography fall flat. That being said, I wanted to see episode 2 after I saw this. It’s a strong premise: a DHS team finds a downed Soviet spaceship carrying a weak, ill cosmonaut with a note claiming he’s from a Mars colony secretly established in 1985.

    Pioneer One

    Note: you can download the torrent file free of charge at Pioneer One‘s website.

    Pioneer One S01E01 (2010) from vodo on Veehd.

  5. Brands of the World

    Wonder no more where you will be getting that vector image of BP’s logo.  Or Wal-Mart’s.  Or the Army of the 12 Monkeys.    Brands of the World has you covered.

    While by no means exhaustive, Brands of the World does provide a nice sampling of logos, mascots and trademarks from around the world.  It’s a good starting place for browsing around when you’re looking for branding inspiration or fodder for your next anti-corporate art action.  Files are provided in EPS or AI.  There’s a little trick to downloading though: it makes you click through the terms and conditions approval screen twice before you get to an actual download link.

    Go forth and détourne, you gangsters of Photoshop.

  6. Animals at War

    Following up on yesterday’s post about the Taliban’s dastardly plans to pit monkey mettle vs. the infidels, I got thinking about humanity’s tendency to enlist our animal friends in human wars.  While animals were absolutely vital to pre-modern combat–war horses, Hannibal’s elephant, pack mules, homing pigeons–the advent of mechanized warfare has made animal contributions to human conflicts somewhat more rare.  Still, the 20th century and the early 21st have seen their fair share of attempts to ace the enemy in hand-to-paw/flipper/wing combat.  Dig, if you will:

    The U.S.’s Bat Bombs – In the midst of WWII, someone got the bright idea to try to make a wide ranging cluster bomb out of hibernating bats, an empty bomb canister and small, bat-sized incendiary bombs to burn down Japanese villages.  Yeah.  Never got beyond the testing phase, due to it being a largely Rube Goldberg approach to a tactic that Curtis LeMay was having a lot of fun with in a more conventional, war-crimesy sort of way.  Murdoc Online gives a nice summary of the book Bat Bomb that details the project.

    Fake Ghost Foxes – In another effort to use animals to mess with the Japanese, American psy-ops (allegedly) went so far as to release ghostly dyed foxes off the coast of Japan with the aim of alarming the superstitious Japanese.  Word has it the dye washed off before the foxes could stir up too much fear.

    Post-Katrina Killer Dolphins – As if the storm surge, crumbling levees and marauding trigger-happy cops weren’t bad enough, rumor went around that some of the Navy’s dolphins got loose, dolphins that may or may not have been trained to kill with fin-mounted poison dart guns.  Says accident investigator Leo Sheridan:

    My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,’ he said. ‘The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?

    Snopes rated this tale a ‘probably not’ but the Navy does acknowledge that it has trained dolphins for mine detection and port security.  Just maybe not underwater assassinations.  Check out our valiant fighting sea mammals at their 1996-tastic home page.

    Anti-Panzer Dog Bombs – To combat the German’s speedy armored attacks, the Soviets came up with low-cost, low-tech guided bombs: dogs.  In training, dogs were starved, then released to find food under Soviet tanks.  In true Pavlovian form, the dogs began to associate the underside of tanks with food.  From there, it was a simple matter of strapping a bomb to the dog and taking them out to the battlefield to assault the undersides of Nazi tanks with their suicide attacks.  According to Damn Interesting, this tactic managed to take out 300 vehicles by 1942.  The practice came to an end in that year, though, when a squad of dogs forced a Soviet division’s retreat when they, basically, went nuts.  With bombs attached.  Quite a mental picture.

    This tactic has since been used, with less success, by insurgents in Iraq.

    Stalin’s Ape-men – This is a bit of s a stretch because it unlike the bat bombs and the monkey gunner, it wasn’t even possible.  Still, in the 1920s, a directive came on high to Soviet scientist Ilia Ivanov to create a race of half ape sorta-super soldiers.  The orders called for human-ape hybrids that would possess “immense strength but with an underdeveloped brain” that were less susceptible to pain and hunger.  As you might imagine, the attempt to create such ape-men was a little more than creepy:

    His archived reports show the Pasteur Institute in Paris let him use a research station in Guinea, West Africa, for ape-breeding research.

    And he wrote to the ruling Politburo: “The biggest problem is to catch living females.” Researchers learned to torch trees and chase apes into cages as they scampered down.

    Ivanov reported that African women had been seized to be impregnated with ape sperm, but no pregnancy resulted. Female gorillas were set to receive human sperm.  (via the Free Republic)

    As you might recall, the ’20s was a time when Soviet science made a mad giddy break from the accumulated years of “capitalist science”, leading to other such innovations as devastating famines and a lot of real scientists getting shipped off to Siberia.

  7. Simians and Scimitars: The Taliban’s Alleged Monkey Soldiers

    This is what we call Slow News Day Gold.  China’s People’s Daily Online reports:

    Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents are training monkeys to use weapons to attack American troops, according to a recent report by a British-based media agency.

    Reporters from the media agency spotted and took photos of a few “monkey soldiers” holding AK-47 rifles and Bren light machine guns in the Waziristan tribal region near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The report and photos have been widely spread by media agencies and Web sites across the world.

    According to the report, American military experts call them “monkey terrorists.”

    What we have here, gentlemen, is a monkey gap.  And I for one won’t stand around waiting for these furballs to start shooting up Des Moines before I do something about it.  I am hereby requesting $25 million from the Defense Department for the training of patriotic anti-simian sloth soldiers.  Oh and a $3 million extension for crystal meth.  For the sloths, I swear.

    The People’s Daily was also kind enough to give an audio recording of a text to speech voice reading the article, greatly increasing the meme potential by taking that first step towards a remix.  Dust off those jungle sample CDs and get cracking!