The Null Device
Some good news: Morrissey has signed a record deal with UK independent Sanctuary Records (I think they're big on ska/reggae or somesuch, and possibly metal as well), and will start recording a new album forthwith. (Hang on, didn't he sign something with Rough Trade last year?) (thanks, Ben)
There's a good piece on Radiohead and their new album in today's Age (sourced from the Telegraph):
As far back as October 1991 Yorke was demonstrating his singular lyrical vision. In the band's first interview he described how an early song, Nothing Touches Me, was "based on an artist who was imprisoned for abusing children and spent the rest of his life in a cell, painting. But the song is about isolating yourself so much that one day you realise you haven't got any friends." When it was pointed out that the scenario sounded fairly miserable, Yorke replied, "Yeah, I'm just aggressive and sick."
And this bit where he explains The Gloaming:
"I was totally hooked on Radio 4, and it coincided with Noah's times to get up (for feeding). We were staying in our house on the coast, and in the evenings I used to go driving. I'd go into this weird dream state. There was something about the colours of the headlights, the twilight and the animals running into the bushes for cover. It had this ominous nature that stuck with me. It was all wrapped up with the fact that I found it incredibly difficult to come to terms with the fact that maybe we were leaving our children with no future at all. This imminent sense of moving into the dark ages again. The rise of all this right-wing bigotry, stupidity, fear and ignorance."
And another piece on Radiohead from the same Age:
Youth culture's connection to corporate culture is just one of the socially aware angles explored on the album. While past Radiohead lyrics - written by singer Thom Yorke - largely addressed the inner life, Hail to the Thief moves the focus outward. Previous themes of alienation and our relation to modern machinery have taken a backseat to our relation to society's power structures. Though Greenwood feels Yorke's lyrics embrace "sarcasm, wit and ambiguity," there's often a sorrowful or condemning tone. The band's original title for the album was The Gloaming, which, Greenwood explains, "is an old English word for that period of half light before it becomes dark. The world feels a bit like that at the moment."
In fact, all 14 songs on the album have subtitles, making for names as bulky as Sail to the Moon (Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky) and Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner). That should provide nice ammunition for all those who find this band too intellectual by half. Greenwood explains the idea for the subtitles came from "old Victorian playbills which chronicled the kind of moralistic songs which were played in music halls. That whole theatre culture was wiped out by the development of cinema."
When the European Union recently sent a probe to Mars, they had to deal with a number of issues, such as which language to have the count-down in:
During the research period they realised that the rocket would actually be too heavy to get off the ground unless they got rid of that manual printed in all 37 European dialects. But in the end this week's launch was an enormous example of European cooperation and every country agreed on one thing: that it was their own scientists who had made the greatest contribution to this success. What's more, this milestone shows that Europe now rivals the US when it comes to space exploration.
But not everybody's enthusiastic about the exciting possibilities of space exploration:
This ought to be a mission to inspire our imaginations, but there are plenty of us on the left who are instinctively cynical about any sort of technological breakthrough. And this because underneath it all, there is a vague suspicion that all science is somehow vaguely rightwing. That everything from double physics on Thursday afternoons to man landing on the moon is the sort of nerdy boy's stuff that ought to be automatically sneered at by any self-respecting old leftie. Never mind that science has brought us the cure to countless diseases and clean water and warm homes and laserjet printers that work almost 50% of the time. The bottom line is that the kids who wanted chemistry sets for Christmas were not the ones wearing Rock Against Racism badges or going on the CND marches; indeed they could probably only see nuclear explosions as a fascinating cosmic phenomenon. So for generations on the British left there has been a lazy hostility to any major scientific achievement, whether it was cloning a sheep or keeping Margaret Thatcher's hair fixed in place.
The composer of a UK Garage song recently sued a rap group for damaging his reputation by using his record as a backing track to a song allegedly about drugs and violence. The case, however, was thrown out of the high court because the judge failed to understand the lyrics, and thus couldn't tell whether the song was derogatory or not:
The judge said the claim "led to the faintly surreal experience of three gentlemen in horsehair wigs [himself and the two barristers in the case] examining the meaning of such phrases as 'mish mish man' and 'shizzle my nizzle'." In any event, the words, although in a form of English, were "for practical purposes a foreign language" and he had no expert evidence as to what they meant.
German director Thomas Tykwer (of Run Lola Run fame) is apparently working on a film adaptation of The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov's magic-realist novel about the Devil visiting Leninist Russia, written at the height of the Stalinist purges. The Devil (aka Mr. Woland) will be played by Johnny Depp, and filming will take place in Prague (where else?). This should be interesting. (via Reenhead)
(Thankfully Hollywood didn't get it; with the way they massacred Lem's Solaris, it's obvious that the Hollywood script-doctor/focus-group/computer-aided-character-development methodology doesn't go well with serious eastern-European literature.)
(There have been other adaptations of this work; there was an Italian version, made in the 1970s, which gutted it and turned it into a fairly average sensual love story, and a Polish TV mini-series made sometime in the 1980s, which was apparently very faithful to the original and quite good. It'll be interesting what Tykwer makes of it.)