The Null Device


What is it with indie-pop's fixation on the 1960s? I recently picked up a free postcard advertising the Poptones record label; it is green in colour and adorned with various cover art, all of which has a strong retro motif. Day-Glo colours and earth tones, swirly psychedelic lettering and pop-art iconography abound. And then there are the shagadelic fonts used for the text (ones in which the @ sign in the email address looks out of place) and the Poptones logo itself, consisting of two swirly things in various shades of green. It's as if the past three decades never happened.

And then there's much of the indie music you hear. In between Damon and Liam acting like extras from Quadrophenia, Belle and Sebastian doing the flower-child thing (compare them, the leading exponents of introspective pop balladry, to countarparts from a decade earlier, such as the Field Mice, or even the Smiths, and you will see what I mean), and all the lounge-pop and Bacharach-hop acts, the whole indie ideosphere seems rather backwards-looking.

It wasn't always like this; during the late '80s/early '90s, things were more innovative. New Order had just combined rock and acid house, and the Madchester baggycore movement was doing something similar; meanwhile, further south, the shoegazer scene was happening. Bands looking for inspiration found it in The Smiths, not retro acts from decades ago.

Of course, then came the juggernaut that was Seattle Grunge, steamrolling everything in its path; faced with the Seattle onslaught, all the other scenes wilted like so many flowers (or alternative web browsers/ independent cafés, if you prefer). Once grunge inevitably degenerated into manufactured pop (i.e., Alanis, the Presidents of the USA), the landscape was blasted and barren, and what followed (such as the britpop movement, which of course was a construct of the music press) had to go back several decades to the Golden Age Of Pop(tm) for inspiration. (The Great Spirit of Perfect Pop, you see, lives somewhere around 1967.) Pretty soon it was just wannabe-Mods and flower children, with a few brave souls venturing into '70s prog-rock.

Me? I'm just holding out for the shoegazer/madchester revival.

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In the US, a conservative group is petitioning the Internal Revenue Service to revoke an environmental group's non-profit status. Frontiers of Freedom, based in the CIA company town of Arlington, VA, claim that Rainforest Action Network is ineligible for nonprofit status because their members have been involved in criminal activities, namely anti-globalisation protests. The IRS prohibits groups whose members engage in criminal activity from holding nonprofit status, a rule aimed at activities such as embezzlement. Needless to say, activists of all stripes are alarmed at the prospect of a Bush-administration IRS siding with Frontiers of Freedom.


This may or may not be satire: The Dallas school board plan to purge all school textbooks of Invictus, the poem used by executed bomber Timothy McVeigh as his last words. Meanwhile, textbook companies are already reducing the amounts of potentially controversial long-dead authors used in teaching materials:

Some textbook companies are simply creating entire literature texts around excerpts from the Bible, which has met with the quiet approval of school boards in Texas. In Dr. James opinion this effort "serves as a reasonable extension of President Bush's faith-based initiative. After all, there are no surprises in the Bible, and we are reasonably certain the murderer never read this book."

Ah, of course; McVeigh's twisted ideas were the product of corrupt, syphilitic 18th-century Enlightement philosophers and godless, sensual poets like Walt Whitman. These should all be banned from schools, and replaced with nothing more than the Bible, to make a more just, moral society. After all, there is no bloodthirst or evil in the Bible, is there? (via Lev)


A chilling look at the training of Palestinian suicide bombers, who are taught from very early childhood to seek martyrdom:

In Hamas-run kindergartens, signs on the walls read: "The children of the kindergarten are the shaheeds (holy martyrs) of tomorrow." The classroom signs at Al-Najah University in the West Bank and at Gaza's Islamic University say, "Israel has nuclear bombs, we have human bombs."
They also are promised something more risqué: unlimited sex with 72 virgins in heaven. The Koran, the sacred book of Islam, describes the women as "beautiful like rubies, with complexions like diamonds and pearls." In one of the passages of the Koran, it is said the martyrs and virgins shall "delight themselves, lying on green cushions and beautiful carpets."
"I know my life is poor compared to Europe or America, but I have something awaiting me that makes all my suffering worthwhile," says Bassam Khalifi, 16, a Hamas youth leader in Gaza's Bureij refugee camp. "Most boys can't stop thinking about the virgins."

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A Shetland pony on a farm in Cumbria has unexpectedly given birth to a half-horse, half-zebra hybrid. The hybrid foal has some zebra-like stripes; the question remains whether it is a zorse, a zetland or something else altogether.

A cross between a horse and a zebra is rare but by no means unheard of. Colchester Zoo in Essex has had three zeedonks - crosses between a Chapman's Zebra and a black ass - since 1983.

(Today's word of the day is zeedonk. Say it after me....)

A horse has 64 chromosomes; the zebra has 44. The zorse that results from cross breeding will have a number of chromosomes that is somewhere in between.