The Null Device


Accelerated Democracy is a sie looking at four technological possible future scenarios in which technology is used to enhance the democratic process. These include personal voting agents, vote value being based on participation, location-based referenda and post-vote tracking of election promises; all are illustrated with mock-ups of products, screen shots and newspapers, and point-counterpoint arguments.

It is an interesting exercise, if a bit light on consideration of risks and unintended consequences in places. For example, the site doesn't raise the possibility that if a voter's vote is made proportional to their amount of participation, the very fact that the "one person, one vote" formula has been broken opens the possibilities of the vote value formula being tweaked in a partisan fashion to advantage one side or another. (Theoretically the agency handling this would be independent, though in practice, the question is how much money must be spent and/or how many levels of political appointments must be negotiated to corrupt it.) Post-vote tracking does sound feasible though, and a simple advisory form of it could be implemented today by groups of enthusiasts with websites. (via bOING bOING)

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I picked up a copy of New Waver's The Defeated. It's basically techno (in the casual sense of the word) with spoken-word samples from suicide hotlines, medical reports, documentaries about natural selection, football commentary and self-help tapes on how to be a winner; some of it sounds like some of SNOG's early interludes.

Words don't do justice to how profoundly depressing a listen it is; in fact, it is probably the most depressing thing I have ever heard. Compared to New Waver, Thom Yorke is a veritable Pollyanna and Ian Curtis' bleakest lyrics are positively life-affirming. Much has been said about the existential-crisis-inducing potential of post-rock, but this even outdoes A Silver Mt. Zion in that department. Perhaps it's the way the bleak realities of the words subliminally penetrate your consciousness under the repetitive techno beats that does it. Anyway, I was feeling quite cheerful last evening; then I listened to the whole thing, and by the end, I went away with the feeling that life is a pointless, Sisyphean ordeal from which the only reprieve is death.

And then I put on Stereolab's People Do It All The Time and felt a lot better.

Update: And here is New Waver's Kraftwerk tribute MP3 album.

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The new Ninetynine mini-CD is out, and it's called Receiving the Sounds of Science Fiction (how's that for a cool title?). So how do you get it? Well, you can't buy it, but you can get it by joining the Dark Beloved Cloud singles club. No, it's not a dating service. To join, you send your details and six hand-decorated 3"x3" cards (which will become the artwork for other people's singles) to a PO box in New York.

If your creative skills aren't up to it, you can always wait for the UAR Australian rerelease next year, which apparently will have bonus tracks. (I wonder what those will be; new original material, remixes, live tracks, or multimedia content?)

(Thanks to Leigh for the heads-up)

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20 unanswered questions about 9/11; from who shorted airline stock on September 10, 2001, and why Pentagon officials cancelled commercial air travel plans before September 11, to whether the 19 men named as the hijackers were in fact the actual hijackers, and the EPA's cover-up of toxins released after the WTC collapse (which could probably be said to be just standard Bush-era environmental policy).

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Sweet Surrender, a sci-fi story combining angels and NP-hard problems. (via MeFi)

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When Johnny Cash passed away, I noticed how he had virtually been claimed by the industriogothic scene as One Of Their Own, because of his dress sense and melancholy themes. (Though his covering Nine Inch Nails and Bad Seeds songs probably helped too.) It's funny, as I'm fairly sure that when Siouxsie Sioux and Andrew Eldritch were inventing what was to become 'Goth", they weren't heavily influenced by Johnny Cash, or indeed much country music at all; I doubt that Throbbing Gristle and their ilk were either.

It appears to be a rule that any vaguely dark, ethereal or otherworldly eventually gets lumped into the "Goth" genre, even if it starts life a million miles from goth's tightly circumscribed perimeter. It happened to Depeche Mode (in the 1980s they weren't goth, but now they're Goth As Fuck), and in the U.S. it seems to have partly happened to the shoegazer genre. (In Commonwealth countries, shoegazer is firmly ensconced in the indie-rock tradition, however.)

To wit, a list of artists and genres who might be filed in the "Goth" sections of record shops in 10 years' time:

  1. Radiohead
  2. Portishead
  3. Sigur Rós
  4. Godspeed You Black Emperor, and related outfits; in fact, all gloomy post-rock
  5. all Norwegian Black Metal
  6. various German/Austrian laptop glitch techno

And some things you probably won't find filed under "Goth":

  1. Architecture In Helsinki
  2. the Dixie Chicks
  3. The Vines/The Datsuns/Jet
  4. Kid 606's Missy Elliott mash-ups

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