The Null Device

2002/4/17

High-tech musical toys from the MIT Media Lab allow children to compose music without learning musical theory. The Toy Symphony site is here. How long, I wonder, until a future generation of ravers/indie kids pick up on these and start using them on records?

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Happy citizens of McWorld: no need to fear terrorism, when you can learn to kill terrorists with Coca-Cola cans; and more neat tricks, as anti-terrorism instructors will gladly show you (for a fee and proof of US citizenship).

(I sense a new marketing campaign in this: Coke for Freedom. Perhaps with ads in which sassy US-flag-wearing skater kids defeat vaguely terroristic meanies with Coke cans.)

But how can you identify a terrorist?
"They'd have black hair," one student offers. "Brown skin."
"They probably wear those kinds of shirts you button up at the neck," another says.
"Usually they got brown eyes. They might act nervous. Or maybe they'd show no emotion at all. You know, they sometimes have those dead eyes."

Though Middle Easterners, chronically nervous brown-eyed people and others are perhaps understandably concerned at the prospect of red-blooded patriots preemptively dealing out two-fisted "justice".

"I was on a fight where the pilot came on the radio, telling the passengers we have plenty of weapons at our disposal -- blankets, shoes, pencils," recalls Carol North, the psychiatrist. "It's a little unsettling when you are about to take off." She worries about what could happen if people misread something like mental illness as suspicious behaviour, and there is certainly a new risk for anyone who looks or sounds like they are from the Middle East.

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2002/4/16

Just heard Bis's cover of Love Will Tear Us Apart; it's pretty amusing, in a 80s-retro-kitsch sort of way. They use a speech synthesiser to do part of the vocals.

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Recently East Timor, which attained independence after years of bloody repression, held presidential elections. A thought that occurred to me: would East Timor have had any chance of getting its independence today, had it not done so before the World Trade Center terrorist attack? Probably not; given how governments across the world have capitalised on the War On Terror to label domestic pro-autonomy movements (from Chechens to Uighurs) as "terrorists" ineligible for sympathy or human rights, I can imagine Indonesia being given carte blanche to pacify its recalcitrant province by all means necessary, with no interference from the Western media, in return for joining the coalition against al-Qaeda.

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Addictive website of the day: The Covers Project, an online database of cover versions of songs, which shows the longest chains of cover versions so far, and accepts contributions. Also, it's accessible via XML-RPC; so if you were ever wondering what you can do with all this web-services stuff your local Sun/Microsoft salesdrone keeps rabbiting on about, this may be the answer. (via bOING bOING)

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Tonight, I went to the Old Bar in Fitzroy to see Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen. They rocked. They played two sets, going for about two and a half hours in total, performing various songs on accordion, contrabass, violin, clarinet and a few other instruments. Most of their songs had an eastern-European feel, though some were rather Spanish, and there was even a spirited Irish jig in the set. Their performance was intense; the melodramatic lyrics (from a world where people are routinely beset by entire Hells of devils, it would appear) executed with fearsome intensity; it wasn't all brooding madness though; there was a good dose of humour (the performers' stage personas and affected accents; the instrumental solos, which whilst technically impeccable were perhaps a little too flamboyant in places to be entirely straight, and the song where the musicians, who had wandered into the audience, joined in with animal sound effects in appropriate places). Towards the end, they did a few earnest songs; just acoustic guitar and heartfelt lyrics, with no theatrics; there were tears in the audience. And then they launched into an encore of their signature number which was about either sex or cannibalism, depending on how you interpret it.

Anyway, they're playing tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Old Bar again; I recommend seeing them.

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