The Null Device


"Won't you ever ask me / who's going to make this night / the loneliest night of the year:" Valentine's Day, that celebration of the essentiality of coupledness to human self-worth and the essentiality of conspicuous consumption to the maintenance of coupledness, is approaching. Already the signs are appearing, just like shop-window Christmas paraphernalia in early November: pink, fluffy ads for romance-related goods and services are hung in shop windows, and spam reading "VALENTINE MUST: VIAGRA ORDERS MADE EASY" is flooding into inboxes.

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From The Onion: Judge Orders God To Break Up Into Smaller Deities, finding the Judeo-Christian Deity to be an illegal monotheopoly. Of course, whether or not it'll actually happen is another matter; didn't the defendant contribute heavily to the Bush campaign?

And there's also this amusing look at student radicalism.

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Tonight New Order played in Melbourne, and I went along with a friend to see them. We lined up outside the Metro (a former theatre, which is now a teeny-bopper nightclub of some sort) with other fans; one contingent had an English flag (that's the red-and-white Cross of St. George, not the Union Jack) with "NEW ORDER" inscribed upon it.

Once inside, we made it to one of the tables in the "corporate box" area above the dance floor. This afforded a good view of the stage (considerably better than my seat at the Cure concert in 2000); however, as I later found out, the sound in the glassed-off balcony was a bit muffled (not to mention people there talking through the set, as if it was background music in a shopping centre or something).

The support band was local outfit Underground Lovers, who played a set, mostly of rock numbers; they weren't bad. Then came a DJ set from Arthur Baker (who worked with New Order in the 80s).

Finally New Order came on. (Their line-up had changed slightly, with Gillian staying home to take care of a sick child, and some young bloke (either the guy from Smashing Pumpkins or the one from Primal Scream, I think) taking over her duties on guitar and keyboards. They played for just over an hour, and played mostly old songs (doing a spirited rendition of Temptation at one point). They played a number of Joy Division numbers, and quite well (though Barney did mix up the lyrics to Transmission a little), and various New Order classics (including True Faith, which they did with the true lyrics that don't appear on the recordings). Barney (who, strangely enough, looked like a middle-aged version of the Bernard Sumner in the old videos, his hair either bleached or greying) made comments between the songs, showing his sense of humour; at one stage, he said that he thought that the lyrics of Joy Division's Atmosphere were about golf.

And they played with much energy. Peter Hook almost stole the show with his bass-playing, crouching to play the instrument at ankle-level, and leaping onto a podium at various stages in a heroic pose. (If someday the city of Manchester commissions a statue of Peter Hook with bass in hand, it will probably look like he did during the show.) Barney played a guitar, mostly strumming chords, and sang; when he wasn't doing either he bounced around the stage, doing funny little dances.

(One thing to notice about the music of New Order: most of the melody comes from the bass; the guitars typically just play chords.)

Towards the end, they gave the audience a choice between one of the new songs and Joy Division's Isolation; everybody chose the latter, which they performed with a more dance/drum & bass-style beat; it was interesting to see them reinterpret the old standards as they did. And just after they finished and left the stage, just as people were asking themselves "where is Blue Monday?", they came back on, the lights turned blue, and they performed a version of their classic single. (Parts of it were pre-sequenced or prerecorded, of course, but the bass and various keyboard lines (not sure about the squelchy one at the start) were live, and so were various of the drum sounds, triggered from pads.) The crowd went wild.

All in all, it was a great show. Their recent songwriting may not be up there with the classics, but they can still rock and tear the roof off a venue.

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Looks like we're off to war with Iraq, Iran and North Korea next.

"For too long our culture has said `if it feels good, do it'," Mr Bush said. "Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: Let's roll."

Actually, "if it feels good, do it" sounds a lot like waging war, finding your approval ratings soaring, and then declaring war on three more states, don't you think?

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