The Null Device


Your Humble Narrator has recently arrived in North London, and has made the following observations:

  • Holloway Road's closest Melbourne equivalent would be Sydney Rd., Brunswick. Grungy, downmarket, and running north-south through various working-class areas. (I think it's the street the record shop in High Fidelity is meant to be on, which basically is a way of saying that it'd be a small, obscure and struggling sort of place). There are no fashionable shops (except perhaps one near the Highbury end, which sells Ben Sherman gear rather cheaply), lots of bargain shops, discount phone-card vendors, internet cafés (the going rate seems to be £1/hour), halal fried chicken shops (the confluence of Islamic food-preparation doctrines and American-style fried chicken, often named after randomly-selected US states, is one of those puzzling artefacts of contemporary Britain, but I digress), and the odd McDonalds (though no Prets; that would be too posh). And most, but not all, of the shops have shutters (probably suggesting that the area used to be a no-go zone blacklisted by insurance companies, though has improved somewhat recently), usually covered with aerosol art. There are plenty of beggars, gnarled-looking trolls, working the streets; every cash machine seems to have an "attendant" sitting down beside it, ready to claim his perceived share of the privileged users' largesse.
  • I've heard it claimed that Upper Street, Islington, is roughly equivalent to Chapel Street. Or possibly Brunswick Street, though probably not: Brunswick Street would probably be Camden High Street without the market; William Gibson called it the "Children's Crusade".
  • North London seems like a rougher environment than inner Melbourne. There's a faint vibe of aggression in the streets, evident in groups of hard-looking youths. And then there are the local community newspapers: where the inner-Melbourne papers go on about insufficient community health-care funding and insensitive high-rise apartment developments, the papers here talk about gay-bashing youth gangs and muggings in broad daylight, and you know you're in a grittier, more hard-edged reality. Keep moving, don't make eye contact, and try not to look like a soft target.
  • Highbury (which is east of Holloway Road) is a pleasant, village-like place; small shops and restaurants, leafy streets and a quiet atmosphere. The area around Highbury Grove/Blackstock Road (or A1201; given how often British roads' names change, most major ones are known by a number instead) and near Arsenal football stadium in particular seems rather pleasant.

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Foreign Policy (that's the Carnegie Endownment magazine, not the Illuminati Council on Foreign Relations one) has a set of articles on eight of the World's Most Dangerous Ideas, such as War on Evil, Transhumanism (by Francis "End of History" Fukuyama), Spreading Democracy (by Marxist academic Eric Hobsbawm), Religious Intolerance, and Anti-Americanism. (via FmH)

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I have just been informed that, in the upcoming Australian federal election, all major parties (Liberals, Nationals and Labor) and the Democrats are giving their preferences to Christian Fundamentalist parties (the Fred Nile group and Family First) ahead of the Greens, which stands the religious right a good chance of winning the balance of power on the strength of people voting above the line. Still, if it annihilates the Green Party before it becomes a threat to the established order, four years of religiots holding the balance of power must be a small price for the major parties to pay.

The table shows the preference orders on the above the line Senate tickets in NSW. It omits the minor parties that have little or no chance of winning. Check it out for yourself at
1. Democrats
2. Family First
3. Liberals for Forests
4. Christian Democrats (Rev Fred Nile)
5. Greens
6. 50% Liberals/Nationals, 50% Labor Party

Labor Party
1. Labor Party
2. Liberals for Forests
3. 33% Christian Democrats (Rev Fred Nile), 66% Greens
4. Democrats
5. Family First
6. Liberals/Nationals

1. Greens
2. Democrats
3. Labor Party
4. Liberals/Nationals
5. Family First
6. Christian Democrats (Rev Fred Nile)

(via Peter)

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Stanley Milgram, the social psychologist responsible for the how-much-pain-would-you-inflict-whilst-following-orders experiment and the six-degrees-of-separation experiment, is also known for another experiment: getting able-bodied students to ask Subway passengers for their seats. Surprisingly many passengers gave up their seats (though some with scornful remarks), though the thing that surprised Milgram was the degree of social mortification, and indeed physical distress, felt by the students asking the question. (via FmH)

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