The Null Device
Things overheard on the London Underground, including the surreal ("I rather look forward to the Ragnarok"), the absurdly poetic ("I woke up to find a dead bird in the gutter", " I am very nearly cured of happiness", "The little gingerbread fellow has raisins for eyes."), the droll ("No. I'm not pro-war. I just can't muster up the moral outrage and smugness to oppose it."), bloodlust ("All I ask is fifteen minutes with Britney and a hacksaw","I am a bit disappointed. I expected more carpet-bombing"), aggression ("Hey! Pussy Boy! You act so scared! We are gonna do you bad.", "Don't worry... Robert Fisk will get what's coming to him"), the chatter of London's culture industry ("Let's kit the boyband out in brown leather jackets"), miscellaneous observations (" Every charity shop in London has a copy of 'Jaws' by Peter Benchley.") to too much information ("Gordon, have you ever considered that I might not be gay?", "There is a touch of vomit still on your lapels."). It's a bit like reading the liner notes for a Radiohead album, or something. (via Found)
Naomi Klein on how the War on Terror has become a universal tool for smashing dissent, with everyone from unassimilated ethnic minorities to trade unionists becoming terrorists-by-association, and thus exempt from pesky human-rights considerations:
[Spanish PM] Aznar has resisted calls to negotiate with the Basque autonomous government and banned the political party Batasuna (even though, as the New York Times noted in June, "no direct link has been established between Batasuna and terrorist acts"). He has also shut down Basque human rights groups, magazines and the only entirely Basque-language newspaper. Last February, the Spanish police raided the Association of Basque Middle Schools, accusing it of having terrorist ties.
So Basque separatists are all tarred with the brush of terrorism now? I wonder whether we'll see Tony Blair or one of his successors cracking down on Plaid Cymru or the Scottish National Party in this fashion. Those pesky Welsh-speakers are probably all up to something...
Post-September 11, the [Indonesian] government cast Aceh's movement for national liberation as "terrorist" - which means human rights concerns no longer apply. Rizal Mallarangeng, a senior adviser to Megawati, called it the "blessing of September 11".
And then those who practice that most heinous form of economic terrorism, trying to sabotage the efficiency of export processing zones by agitating for workers' rights:
Last August, speaking to soldiers at a military academy, [Philippine president] Arroyo extended the war beyond terrorists and armed separatists to include "those who terrorise factories that provide jobs" - clear code for trade unions. Labour groups in Philippine free trade zones report that union organisers are facing increased threats, and strikes are being broken up with extreme police violence.
The radio in the office next door is tuned to a commercial radio station. Despite my well-stocked Archos Jukebox and set of PC speakers, I cannot escape this. Part of this is bad music, middle-aged rockers howling out bland MOR ballads, like some meaningless ritualisation of what was once a mating call. But most of it is ads. Annoying, intelligence-insulting, in-your-face ads. They tend to fall into three categories:
- The dialogue between two characters, acting out a drama. One character has some problem, and the other knows the solution, which involves the advertiser's product. The main character development involves the other character becoming enlightened as to the beneficial properties of the product, and the advantages of buying from the advertiser. The voices are invariably exaggerated, with all the realism of a Punch and Judy show, but realism isn't the goal here.
- A bloke shouting out a monologue about the product, hitting you, the listener, with reasons why you should "CALL NOW". You can tell he's excited about the product by the way he raises his voice.
- The female equivalent of b): some saccharine-voiced woman, speaking through a smile as wide as her face and as natural as phenylalanine. "Call us now, on oneeighthundred eighthundred onetwothree", she coos, breathily, as if to seduce your credit card out of your wallet with her siren-song.
One thing one notices about commercial radio is the way all the advertisers (and the announcers) constantly speak with that "I'm Excited! Ask Me Why!" tone of voice; their voices are always raised, sometimes to the point of shouting, and each syllable sounds like the start of a new sentence.
Why anybody would willingly choose to subject themselves to this, I do not know. Though I have some theories; perhaps the constant sugar-rush of excitement in the advertisers' voices is contagious, acting as a subconscious stimulant, helping the average working stiff through their otherwise tedious and/or exhausting day with a plastic smile on their face, and keeping them from realising the all-pervading emptiness of their life and collapsing into black despair? It's just a theory.
As for me? I'll stick to 3RRR, thanks.