Jared Diamond's account of the collapse of Easter Island society is well known by now — how the Islanders decimated their ecosystem and drove themselves to the brink of starvation by using up the island's natural resources at a furious rate. But that's not the only possible explanation for how Easter Island lost its tree cover and ended up with a much-reduced population. In fact, some anthropologists say there's not really any hard evidence that the Islanders were practicing slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing the land with fire.
Instead, this other theory blames the little creature pictured above — the Polynesian rat, an invasive species that stowed away on canoes and chewed its way through the roots, sprouts, and seeds of Easter Island's trees. Instead of willfully destroying themselves, this scenario has the islanders desperately adapting to a quickly changing environment. It's not that the changes had nothing to do with people — the rats got there with human help, after all — but the angle of the story changes somewhat, becoming less about the destructive aspects of human nature and more about the lengths humans will go to in order to survive.
Image: Cliff from Arlington, via CC license
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Our friend Glenn Fleishman is crowdfunding a book of non-fiction essays and stories from a couple of dozen writers, along with work from illustrators and photographers. The stories were originally published in the first year of The Magazine, the ad-free electronic publication he edits and publishes. We've published a few of the stories appearing in the collection here at Boing Boing, as we feature a story of theirs every week or so.
You can back the project to get an ebook (in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI, with no DRM encryption at all), or both the hardcover and ebook version as a bundle. The project is past the 50% mark towards its funding goal, but it still needs several hundred more backers to pledge for books.
The book includes many tales that Boing Boing readers can relate to or enjoy, like having a secret superhero life (in this case, as a roller-derby racer), a small town trying to build a 60-foot-tall lava lamp, or finding the joy in the video-game Journey, which is quiet and emphasizes communication instead of blowing people up. You can download a PDF with sample layouts and the complete version of Scott Simpson's essay, "You Are Boring," which pokes fun at posers and groupthink. There's a full list of stories with brief explanations at the Kickstarter project page.
Glenn is a long-time Boing Boing contributor, and he likes to make sure that writers and artists get paid for their work. The budget for the Kickstarter includes reprint fees for everyone who contributes, and Glenn is increasing the rates if the project reaches a stretch target beyond its initial goal, as more copies printed reduce the cost of each book.
The book's cover is by one of our favorite painters, Amy Crehore, and is being sold as a separate fine-art print (with no logo or type on it) during the Kickstarter in a signed and numbered edition. There's also a limited-edition fine-art print by painter Olivia Warnecke of butterflies and moths of the southern California mountain ranges.
We could go on and on about the book, but we'd rather share with you some of the illustrations that will appear in it.
Josh Costello is the playwright who created the award-winning, sold-out stage adaptation of my novel Little Brother. Now, he writes, "The stage adaptation of Cory's novel Little Brother was a big hit in San Francisco in 2012, and the script is now available for licensing. Want to see Little Brother on stage in your city? Playwright Josh Costello has posted information about licensing the script, along with video clips, photos, and reviews from the premiere. If you know folks in your local theatre community that might be interested in producing the play, this is where to send them.
"Theaters will want to know that the adaptation is a full-length play for three actors (one woman and two men). There is also a large-cast version available (which might especially appeal to schools). A script sample (as published in Theatre Bay Area Magazine) is available for download.
If you’re an Artistic Director or Literary Manager looking for a small-cast play that speaks to the present moment, that appeals to a younger audience, and that comes with a sizable fan base eager to buy tickets, please take a look and let me know you’d like to read the script.
If you’re looking for a large-cast play with great parts for young people — perhaps for production at a high school or college — there is a large-cast version of the adaptation available as well.
If you’re a fan of the book and you want to see the play performed in your city, let’s make it happen. If you know folks in your local theatre community, tell them about the play and send them here (and let me know as well so I can follow up). If you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll see if I can make a connection.
The premiere production in San Francisco was immensely exciting, artistically fulfilling for me personally, and tremendously successful. I know it would be a hit in other cities as well — Cory Doctorow’s novel is so good, and the story is as relevant as ever. Let’s do it again.
Stewart Butterfield tells how a few million dollars worth of art, created for a beloved massively-multiplayer game, ended up in the public domain after its death.
Working on the now-defunct massively multiplayer game Glitch meant daily conversations — most of them quite earnest and a few of them even heated — on topics such as what a bubble tuner should do (aside from "tuning" the bubbles one harvests from a bubble tree) or which alchemical compounds should be required to produce a Powder of Startling Fecundity.
We were creating a world that was deliberately preposterous, one where "that seems implausible" was considered as a statement of praise. Players would go about donating to shrines in order to gain favor with one of the Eleven Giants in whose shared imagination the whole world existed, so that they could speed up the rate at which they were learning skills like "Bureaucratic Arts" or "Soil Appreciation". After several years of effort, the game actually got fairly fun.
In the end, however, it got fun too late. It didn't help that we were on the wrong side of a big technological shift, building around Flash as a client technology right before people started shifting their "discretionary computer time" from laptops to phones and tablets where the game couldn’t run. It eventually became clear that the game was never going to be a sustainable business. So in November of 2012, it was shut down.
But there were a lot of broken hearts out there, as there is any time the medium for an online community ceases to exist. There was also a deep sense of loss, shared by the players and the developers, for all the creative effort that went into constructing the world.
The team that gave life to the game's concepts were hugely talented. The expression of this world was both vast in scale —a huge variety of locations designed in a bewildering number of artistic styles— and minutely detailed, with hundreds of items, many individually animated and highly customizable.
But with the game offline and the art assets locked up in proprietary formats on private servers, the whole thing was effectively gone. The idea that all of that effort and creativity being forever inaccessible seemed more than a shame: it seemed almost criminal. One way to help mend those broken hearts was to get it back out into the world.
A sampling[a] of characters from Glitch’s world. From left to right: The Rube, a figure who appeared at random to propose a totally lopsided trade with a player (in the player’s favor); a Garden Gnome, a special kind of toy that players could place outside their house and train to speak certain phrases when people walked by; a Delivery Frog who was dispatched to deliver when you bought something at auction (and who could not leave without pretentiously showing off a yoga pose); a Helikitty, a flying cat pet; and a Crab, shown here enjoying some tunes (crabs always asked you to play them in-game musicblocks and would reward you for tunes they liked).
And so it was an easy decision to to contribute the art (along with all the writing, and nearly all of the code) to the public domain. The logistics took a while, but in November 2013, the formal announcement was made and all of the packaged-up assets and code were published on the Glitch site.
There are more than ten thousand items, millions of frames of animation and tens of thousands of lines of code to control them. It includes the whole avatar system, the world’s flora (from bubble trees to egg plants) and fauna (from metal-eating tree sloths to milkable butterflies), hundreds of unique characters (from the mythic Giants and the Rook to everyday vendors and street spirits), thousands of items (tools, resources, furniture), the complete housing and tower building systems and many thousands of environmental art assets used to create a massive world with dozens of styles.
By giving up our ownership and any rights associated with all these designs, images, characters, drawings, animations, systems, and code, we hope more people will be more easily able to create new works with them. (The initial release was targeted towards developers; the hope is that they will repurpose the assets in ways that will lower the technical barriers so they can be enjoyed, appreciated, or re-used by more people.)
It doesn't matter to us if those new works are commercial or artistic or educational. It doesn't matter if the Glitch art is just the basis for inspiring something else or if it is reproduced exactly. It doesn't matter if we like the results or not. Anyone can use any of it for whatever purpose they want without any restrictions.
That measure of freedom is important to us because when you come down to it, as a species, culture is all we’ve got. The more of it we make, the better. The freer the materials the easier it is for people to make new things.
Glitch was not a significant cultural milestone in its own right, but we hope that it has an outsize impact in its ability to foster the creation of more art and the expression of more creativity.
So please: help yourself. Go and make something beautiful.
Slack is currently in ‘preview release’ and is being used by high-performing teams like Soundcloud, Rdio, Buzzfeed, Medium & Lonely Planet. It will launch early next year.COMMENTS AND DISCUSSION BOING BOING'S 2013 GIFT GUIDE
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Hello everyone. I'm learning Angular as I want to add to my skills in JS development. (Plus we might be adding it in our Rails app in the future). My question is, since I know some CoffeeScript as well (Rails), should I code Angular in CS, or stick to JS? Should I code in CS as much as possible or JS as much as possible, or is there are correct places for each? Thanks!submitted by danimoth2
[link] [4 comments]