The Null Device
One of Britain's leading "visual merchandising consultants" reveals the psychological tricks used by shops to get people to buy stuff: (via Mind Hacks)
Most of the prices in electrical stores end in.99p. But a few end in.98p or 95p. That's a signal that a product is old stock and needs to be sold quickly. If you're foolish enough to ask a sales assistant for advice in a big electrical chain, the loyal staff will steer you towards these.
Table tops positioned next to racks allow women to handle the trousers and tops. "Younger women like scruffed-up clothes displays it suggests that these are popular. If the piles seem too neat, then obviously no one else is buying these items. Older women are more exacting in their standards."
A gallery in London is staging an exhibition of Italian late-futurist "aeropainting", vaguely Art Deco-ish paintings of bombers on missions and such from Mussolini's Italy. The Ettorick Collection are downplaying the fascist subtext of the images, though that hasn't gotten past the appalled Guardian columnist, who also suggests that the Berlusconi government's backing of such an exhibition may be part of an attempt to rehabilitate Mussolini, and/or a fascist streak in the right-wing Italian government.
Tato painted this piece of fascist crap in 1937. Does the date ring a bell? It was on April 26 1937 that the Condor Legion of the German Luftwaffe, in support of General Franco's war against the Spanish Republic, bombed the Basque capital Guernica, on a market day, killing 1,654 people out of a population of 7,000. Pablo Picasso began Guernica after he read about this new chapter in the story of human cruelty. It seems plausible that Tato's painting Aerial Mission refers to the same events. For more than half a century Picasso's Guernica has preserved the memory of a town torn to pieces by aerial bombing. Now, at last, Futurist Skies gives us the other point of view: that of the murderer in the cockpit.
Futurist Skies is not a joke. It is not a parody but an example of the moronic complacency of the art world. And it really does have the support of the Italian state. Silvio Berlusconi's government has meanly and destructively starved museums of cash. But the director of the Estorick Collection warmly thanks the Italian foreign ministry for its "commitment" and "support" for this exhibition of meretricious art from the golden age of Il Duce. At least it's good to know where the Berlusconi government's cultural priorities lie. Claiming "aeropainting" as a major 20th-century art amounts to rehabilitating fascist kitsch.
And, for reference, Flying and the Fascist Aesthetic, a screed from USENET a decade or so ago, making a connection between the two subjects:
Why is flying inherently fascist? Because it exploits man's drive to put himself *above* the masses, as if the masses were some sort of disease that needs to be expurged from the soul. Flight becomes partly a search for clarity [of the sort that fascist movements purport to offer], partly a quest to raise the spectre of patriarchic hegemony to new, unfounded heights. Here there are many parallels to Hitler. Everything in Hitler's speeches built on the idea of "purity", "room for living", etc. So it is no doubt that some parallels may rise to the surface, once that surface is scratched.
Rumour has it that Six Apart, creators of Movable Type and TypePad, are about to acquire LiveJournal, for an undisclosed sum. I wonder whether this will mean them folding the two services together completely, merging the codebases whilst keeping LiveJournal as a "TypePad for teens" brand, keeping them entirely separate as now, or integrating LiveJournal's social networks with TypeKey. And whether this will put a halt on LJ's existing development plans, such as splitting the "friend of" relation into separate reading and trust relations.
Is the English town of Hertford, on the outskirts of London, the secret base of the Knights Templar, home to a vast network of secret tunnels and possibly the secret of the Holy Grail?
Someone in Hertford is now claiming to be the Templar order, which they say went underground when the church suppressed it; furthermore, they have written to the Vatican, demanding an apology for their persecution, and claim that "things are about to happen that will deserve attention".
"The vast majority of Templars either escaped, or didn't escape, but survived," Acheson says. So how did they end up in Hertford? History records that a number of them were imprisoned in Hertford Castle, but how did Hertford become a centre of operations? "I can't really tell you that. All I can tell you - it's going to be quite vague - is that they flourished in western Europe." He explains that there is a stained-glass window in St Andrew's Church, just down the street, that contains a clear metaphorical allusion to the Holy Grail, and a cryptic hint that it might be hidden in Hertford. In the picture, Acheson adds, Jesus and Mary Magdalene are looking at each other "in a very meaningful way". (Later, I find the window, interrupting local parishioners who are decorating the church for Christmas. I think I can see what Acheson means about Jesus's expression, although mainly he just looks a bit depressed.)
Public accountability is a laudable goal, but it's hardly something you expect from the secret rulers of the universe. Indeed, when a group of amateur archaeologists recently announced their intention to investigate Hertford's tunnel network, someone posted a message on a local website warning that anyone who tried would be "dealt with". The message read: "Anybody intending to find out more, let alone discover hidden areas of the labyrinth, should check their life insurance policy very carefully indeed."
The tantalisingly mysterious word "labyrinth" in the warning does raise some questions. I wonder whether the upcoming great revelation is going to be a Templarland theme park or similar tourist trap to attract Da Vinci Code fans and the well-off and credulous.
Acheson takes me on a walking tour of Hertford, and proves a knowledgeable guide, but a frustratingly cryptic one, too. So I decide to take matters into my own hands and head for Monsoon. Gemma, the manager, responds far more patiently to Grail-related inquiries than might arguably be her prerogative. There's no tunnel beneath the shop, she insists, "just the store room" - but it's "definitely haunted. When we have sales meetings there you can hear someone walking over our heads, or doing the vacuuming. But upstairs, the shop's closed and empty."