The Null Device

2003/3/6

Japanese journalist buys a vintage map of Tokyo, and notices inconsistencies between the locations of subway lines. Digging a little deeper, he comes to the conclusion that there is a secret network of tunnels beneath Tokyo, dating back decades, whose existence is still being actively covered up by governmental authorities. So he publishes a book about this, only to find himself virtually blacklisted by the media. Is Shun Akiba a paranoid crackpot of some sort (like the ones you hear complaining that the establishment is "suppressing" their revolutionary new theory of physics), or is there really a conspiracy of silence about the tunnels under Tokyo? (I recall that Japan doesn't have a strong tradition of transparency in government.)

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While opinion of American politicians has never been lower in Britain, American comedians are doing very well; well, the more liberal ones like Rich "Otis Lee Crenshaw" Hall (whose act includes a song titled "Let's Get Together And Kill George Bush", whose irony would be lost on the typical middle-American audience).

Conversely, some jokes are now acceptable in America that would never be permissible in a mainstream British comedy club. "Why are there no Muslims on Star Trek?" Hall heard one American comic ask. "Because it's set in the future." "It's a very heavy joke, laced with blanket hatred. I disagree with that, but you can do that. You can get away with that in America, because the basic mindset of most Americans is that we're at war with the Muslims, and that really bothers me."

I seem to recall that there weren't many Christian Fundamentalists on Star Trek either (which would make its secular, vaguely multilateralist future, profoundly un-American, if some polls are to be believed). Though I recall that there were religious Jews on Babylon 5.

Meanwhile, British hip-hop comic Ali G has fallen flat on his face in America, partly due to an inopportune joke about 9/11; and partly because the idea of a white gangsta news anchor isn't that much weirder than some of the things sincerely on US cable TV.

Anyway, apparently Rich Hall is doing some gigs at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I saw him a few years ago, and can say that he's well worth seeing.

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Welcome to the Bush Era: In the U.S., Plastic figurines of soldiers replace chocolate rabbits in Easter baskets.

At the Astor Place Kmart, the encampment is on display just inside the main entrance. A camouflaged sandy-haired soldier with an American-flag arm patch stands alert in a teal, pink, and yellow basket beneath a pretty green-and-purple bow. Within a doll-arm's reach are a machine gun, rifle, hand grenade, large knife, pistol, and round of ammunition. In the next basket a buzz-cut blond with a snazzy dress uniform hawks over homeland security, an American eagle shield on his arm, and a machine gun, pistol, Bowie knife, two grenades, truncheon, and handcuffs at the ready.
Easter provides a way for makers of generic troops to capitalize on the trend. Unlike superhero dolls, war toys don't come with costly trademarks attached. That lowers the bar to entry for small manufacturers, today typically Chinese. That industry has followed confectioners to transform Easter into the second-largest selling season, Rice says.

(via bOING bOING)

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One annoyance I've noticed with the Archos Jukebox Recorder: it has no pre-amplified microphone input, only a line-level input. Which is OK for MP3ing vinyl or those poxy "copy-controlled" EMI discs or something, but not so hot for recording gigs. (Mind you, it does have a built-in microphone, though the words "built-in microphone" rarely inspire confidence.) Can anybody recommend either (a) a pocket-sized battery-operated microphone preamp or (b) a small, reasonably good quality (though not ultra-expensive) microphone with built-in preamp? (If it's a stereo lapel microphone or something similarly good for live situations, that's even better.)

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