The Null Device


In the recent Slate (the same one with this Salam-Pax-was-my-translator article), there is a review/summary/explanation of the new Radiohead album:

I hear their dialectic progression out of order--Kid A and Amnesiac are the thesis, The Bends and OK Computer are the antithesis, and Hail to the Thief is the synthesis, though it's much closer to the last two than any of the "rock" albums.
The effect isn't quite a lullaby; I've got that wrong. He's keeping himself awake with these worries, these phrases he repeats over and over--"The raindrops, the raindrops," or "they will suck you down to the other side"--and then he needs to talk himself back to sleep, or off the ledge. They've been like this for a few years, even before Yorke became a parent and had another mind to soothe. Amnesiac did the soothing bit, too, but Hail really makes it explicit.

Which reminds me of Graham's review of Amnesiac:

To compare the two volumes, as I think of them: Kid A felt like you were spending a cold winters day in an unfriendly village, with the only relief with the sun coming out just as you're setting off for home. Amnesiac, though equally as dystopian, encapsulates the feeling that you've moved into that village for whatever bizarre reason, become a regular at the pub, and starting to make sense of the local rumour mill, where you're the target all too often.

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A Canadian company has devised a universal postcode system. With this system, a 10-character code, of the form "W2B00 8P2H0" uniquely denotes an area measuring approximately one square metre anywhere on the earth's surface. The Natural Area Coding System itself is quite simple; each character is a base-30 digit, and the two groups of characters refer to longitude and latitude as fractions of 360 and 180 degrees respectively.

This all sounds like one of those brilliantly original ideas, like Esperanto or Metric Time, which, for all their ingenuity, come up face-first against the brick wall of pragmatism and inertia, people being creatures of habit and all; except for two things: firstly, in the age of GPS, Natural Area Coding System codes will be easier to determine than traditional post codes, as there will be no maps or databases to look up, and also no questions of changing boundaries (as happens from time to time, for example when resident groups or landlords lobby to redraw the boundaries so their properties aren't in Footscray or South-Central LA or somewhere similarly insalubrious). And secondly, Microsoft are backing the idea, and plan to integrate it with their MapPoint map service. (Perhaps they hope that they can use it to lock customers into depending on Microsoft technologies or something? I wonder if it's patented.)

NACS could eventually become a world-wide postcode, replacing legacy postcode systems devised in the pre-GPS era. It would probably happen with shipping/courier firms utilising the codes internally, and businesses which deal with them putting them on their details, and finally postal services phase out the pre-GPS system and adopt this. Of course, if someone detonates an EMP bomb in the high stratosphere and fries all the GPS satellites (or if the Americans stop being our friends), we're all fucked; but if all the satellites disappear, we'd have more important things to worry about.

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Authorities across the Middle East are cracking down on music subcultures: form heavy-metal fans in Morocco to gay disco-dancing "Satanists" in Lebanon to anything to do with Michael Jackson in Saudi Arabia.

Among the objects exhibited in court as being contrary to good morals was a black T-shirt with heavy metal symbols on it. This prompted the judge to comment that "normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie".
Lebanese devil worshippers are easily recognised. According to one security official, they are young men with long hair and beards who "listen to hard rock music, drink mind-altering alcoholic cocktails and take off their black shirts, dancing bare-chested".
What is probably the most bizarre heavy-metal-and-satanism case occurred in Egypt in 1997 when state security police, armed with machine guns and satanically clad in masks and black uniforms, dragged about 70 youngsters - some as young as 16 - from their beds in a series of dawn raids. They took away posters from bedroom walls, CDs and tapes ranging from Guns 'n' Roses to Beethoven's fifth symphony and, in one household, a black t-shirt with a Bugs Bunny design.
"In the 1980s," Mohammed continued, "Saudis started dressing like [Michael Jackson], copying his hairstyle and doing moonwalks on the roundabouts. This is the reason most people give me about why his stuff is not allowed here.

authoritarianism culture war drugs gay islam lebanon metal middle east moral panic morocco music saudi arabia 2