The Null Device
What do Saudi Arabia, the Bush Whitehouse, the Mormons, the Vatican and former Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad have in common? They are all part of an international alliance against liberal secularism:
The Doha conference, and the resulting UN resolution, provided a striking example of growing cooperation between the Christian right (especially in the United States) and conservative Muslims - groups who, according to the clash-of-civilisations theory, ought to be sworn enemies.The coalition succeeded in introducing a resolution in the United Nations asserting "traditional" definitions of the family and attacking progressive social policies including promotion of contraception, tolerance of homosexuality, nontraditional views of the status of women and sex education. The resolution, proposed by Qatar, was backed by the United States, though, unusually, Australia (with its socially conservative and vehemently pro-US administration) sided with Godless Europe. Chances are that was the result of a miscommunication and, the next time such a resolution comes up, Australia's UN ambassador will vote with the Coalition of Willing.
The family debate certainly divides the world, but the divisions are not between east and west, nor do they follow the usual dividing lines of international politics. The battle is between liberal secularists - predominantly in Europe - and conservatives elsewhere who think religion has a role in government.
On this issue, with a president who sounds increasingly like an old-fashioned imam, the United States now sits in the religious camp alongside the Islamic regimes: not so much a clash of civilisations, more an alliance of fundamentalisms.
And in another unholy alliance, US Christian Fundamentalist groups are holding their noses and jumping into the hot tub with Hollywood on the issue of file-sharing, in the interest of instituting centralised control over the lawless internet, mechanisms control which could just as easily be used for enforcing religious morality and stamping out sin as for making sure that every byte of copyrighted content is paid for.
Over a decade after The Year September Never Ended, AOL cuts off USENET access for its users. Don't hold your breath waiting for the blighted ecosystem to recover, though; pretty much everyone who values signal-to-noise ratios and not receiving megatons of spam has moved to mailing lists, blogs and web-based forums, leaving only marauding gangs of spammers and a hard core of freaky insane radioactive mutant porn pirates too far gone to be saved. Eleven years after September began, a "newsreader" has more to do with RSS feeds than NNTP, and in this cynical, spam-infested interweb, the USENET of the small, polite academic network of old is far too naïve to survive.
A Japanese company named Gametech have released a handheld Nintendo Famicom clone. (For those not in the know, the Famicom was the Japanese game console rereleased in the west as the Nintendo Entertainment System.) It's about the size of a modern handheld game console and takes full-sized Famicom cartridges (which are shaped somewhat differently from the NES cartridges sold in the west, but an adaptor is available). It's not clear how legal it is, though given that it's on the Japanese market, they'd probably have an excuse of some sort (quite probably unlike a different handheld NES clone sold in China, and using miniature copies of Nintendo cartridges). The page says that it's of quite good quality, though given that they're trying to sell them, they would. (via gizmodo)
Wearing his design-commentator hat, Momus dissects VICE Magazine's Design issue, peeling back the magazine's hipster-nihilist façade:
Here's where Vice's real agenda begins to peep through the scatology, like a seam of lace under a crumpled Kleenex; behind the affectations of hoodlum and white trash style, the glorification of rural teenage delinquency and the cheap shots at NYU students, Vice is a magazine written by and for urban sophisticates, people who know quite a bit about art, photography and design and are actually highly invested in aesthetics. Vice's photo editor, seen holding a fake iBook in the iHustle feature, just happens to be Ryan McGinley, an American Photo Magazine Photographer of the Year and, at 25, the youngest artist ever to have a solo show at the Whitney. Could it be that behind the sophomoric, mischievous, dismissive, even nihilistic style, Vice is the voice of a twentysomething generation clearing the decks for a new aesthetic? Is the magazine's iconoclasm pure destruction or preparatory work for a new definition of the 'iconic'? Is the disgust directed here at design actually disgust at its co-option by consumerism, its low aspirations?
The Vice Design Issue is not an anti-design tract, but the championing of an aesthetic that's already quite well-established, already wowing museum curators -- a casual, trashy, porno-party style that celebrates tack, lo-tech and the good old bohemian values of sex, drugs and rock and roll. This salon des refuses, populated by people in their twenties, is well on its way to becoming a salon tout court.
What, VICE is run by a bunch of educated middle-class yuppies? All the nihilistic rants, casually homophobic epithets and keeping-it-real articles about prison life and street violence and ultraviolent musical subcultures and guest contributions by the likes of Jim Goad and such are just the affectation of a bunch of privileged scions of the cultural elite slumming it before they join the establishment proper? Say it ain't so!
Long-haired, pot-smoking country singer Willie Nelson is now selling a line of biodiesel to America's truck drivers. Nelson, a supporter of American agricultural communities (btw, do those actually exist, or are they all owned by ConAgra, Simplot and Monsanto now?) and organiser of the Farm aid concerts, is promoting his BioWillie biodiesel as a patriotic alternative to imported oil, at once reducing dependence on Middle Eastern supplies (and the entanglements that that causes) and helping local farmers. Which sounds like the most sensible suggestion touted in the name of patriotism I've heard in a long time. More power to him.