The Null Device


The EU is planning to launch its own navigation satellite system to rival the US military-controlled GPS network. The CESMs fear that the US' track record for throwing its weight around would extend to tactically distorting GPS results to punish trade rivals or such; some would argue that given that GPS is a US military facility, one which has only been opened to civilian access out of the goodness of their hearts (much like the original Internet), they have every right to use it; though, by the same logic, the Europeans (and the Chinese and Russians and whoever) have the right to launch their own networks. The Pentagon claims that this is a dreadful waste of resources given that they have GPS, though reserves the right to manipulate GPS accuracy for tactical reasons.

The ideal would be a unified global network controlled by a non-partisan body (the UN perhaps, or a multinational infrastructure cartel like the ones that lay submarine cables). Maybe in 50 years we'll reach that level.

Of course, this is all assuming that Galileo, the ESA's GPS alternative, gets off the ground. After the Iraq debacle, Britain is unlikely to support it for one (the Blair administration has been outspoken in condemning multipolarism, and given that Washington is unhappy with potential challenges to its supremacy, London probably won't hurry to pay its share of the Galileo bills, and may even attempt to scrap it); meanwhile, the system is mired in the usual Eurobureaucracy, with international squabbling over funding halting work. And if they wish to go ahead, they'd better hurry; the frequencies allocated to Galileo by the ITU will be forfeited if a satellite isn't launched by 2005.

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Another sign of the rising culture of militarism in America? First toy soldiers started appearing in easter egg baskets, and now online merchandise emporium CafePress are offering printable teddy bears in military uniform:

And they're available in "Army Green" and "Marine Camouflage", and printable with your message of choice.

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Remember the Tunbridge Wells costumed crimefighter? Well, it turns out that was all a hoax. Well, there was a chap in an brown-and-orange superhero costume (a local hairstylist named Matt Lees), but the bits about him rescuing townsfolk in trouble were made up, mailed into newspaper letter pages (where else?) by Lees and two of his friends.

Mr Shaw, a designer in a publishing company, said: "This 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' thing is such a cliche. We decided to see how far we could push it, to write the funniest letters we could."
There was only one thing for it. Mr Lees made a costume that fitted the "witness" descriptions. "The O on the chest was supposed to be a zero, because it was nothing all along," he said.

(via NWD)

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Tonight I went to see Spider, David Cronenberg's most recent film, about a mentally ill man recently released from decades in an asylum, finding himself near his childhood home and coming to terms with old memories, and whether or not his father murdered his mother. The main character, Ralph Fiennes, plays an almost silent role, mumbling incoherently to himself, scrawling illegibly in a notebook, skulking about and performing various seemingly irrational actions; soon the film shows him literally visiting the scenes of his childhood (as they are in his mind), invisibly lurking in the background as the dramas play themselves out; the film all falls together in the end, with his quirks all taking on new meanings. The film is set in the bleak working-class London of kitchen-sink films (the photography and sets emphasise the coldness and bleakness very well; the traditional English wallpaper is just one of the details), only rather than literal-minded socialist-realist homily we get a more internal, psychological film. This film is a break from Cronenberg's usual plastic sex-horror, having virtually no special effects in the traditional sense (unless one counts clever quirks of casting).

I'd recommend it. Probably not an ideal date movie, or the thing to see if you're suicidally depressed, but it's a very good portrayal of mental illness. (It'd probably be on my list of Best Schizophrenia Films of All Time, alongside Angels of the Universe.)

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