The Null Device
According to this piece (a response to the question of whether DJs were meant to be the rockstars of the new millennium), the age of rock stars is over:
In actuality the economics of the dance music scene make any kind of real rock star virtually impossible. rock stars were actually a product of the corporate hegemony that controlled the music industry before punk and disco made independent labels significant. you should read "the long tail," it's an essay or a Wired article or something, I don't recall, but the nub and the gist is that sites like Netflix and Amazon sell the usual mainstream crap that big physical stores sell, and in roughly proportionate quantity, but Netflix and Amazon both sell MUCH more material which comes from outside of the mainstream, in substream clusters essentially, than they do of the actual mainstream.
The DJ is actually a product of network economics as much as of postmodernism and technological change. the rock star is a product of industrial-revolution factory economics. that's the crucial difference. the economic mechanisms powering the distribution of music are no longer sufficiently hegemonic for true rock stars to exist.
Inappropriate LiveJournal user icon of the day. You can count on the furries taking two segments of a Disney animation, juxtaposing them and making something that's just wrong.
Momus has posted several extremely short stories he made up for telling at an art show:
Each time an ice skater completes a lap of the rink, he adds a decade to the faces in the crowd watching him. Guilty that he's killing many in the audience, he's relieved to discover that by skating backwards he can remove a decade from their ages. But many people still "die" by being taken back before the time of their birth.
A man follows a toothpaste trail to a small room in the red light district. In a room at the end of it he finds a woman surrounded by money. He asks why she's surrounded by money. She says "Pay me, and I'll tell you." He pays, and she says other curious fools like him have paid to learn the same thing. He goes off and starts a similar business, but makes less money at it.
A wild goose is flying in V formation with fellow geese, flying south over and away from Denmark. Surveying the land below, the goose longs to land, to peck at corn. It lags behind its comrades, and lands. The winter comes on fast, and the goose is buried by the snow.
A man buys an inflatable woman and takes her to a love hotel. He tries to make her sing karaoke with him by controlling the flow of air escaping from her. It's so exhausting blowing her up and squeezing the air out that he falls asleep without trying to have sex with her. The next day they go to the beach. The man uses the inflatable woman as a lilo, and floats with her around the coast to a temple. He tries to have the doll accepted as a new monk, but when she's having her hair shaved off she deflates.Brilliant.
Scans of a 1970s-vintage childrens' book on computers, in two editions: from 1971 and 1979. Full of fascinatingly anachronistic detail of core memory, punch cards, disk packs and COBOL and PL/1, along with illustrated with Look Around You-esque scenes of high technology circa the 1970s: collages of microprocessors and paper tape, scenes of smiling women in Mary Quant-esque dresses operating desk-sized data processing units and brown-suited men loading disks into washing-machine-sized drives and the like.
It also has the sort of low-level detail that childrens' books on computers would not contain in later decades; I can't imagine a recent children's book on computers (or, indeed, anything before a second-year university subject) going into error-correcting codes, opcodes or the magnetic encoding of binary data. Mind you, back then computers were simpler; the physical details of how data is stored wasn't hidden behind a high-level interface like ATAPI or USB Mass Storage and machine language wasn't an esoteric specialty confined to compiler writers, BIOS hackers and hardcore masochists. These days, being interested in things that are too low-level is at best quaint, and at worst casts suspicion on one as being a potential h4x0r/virus writer/DRM cracker/troublemaker; all the details of computers one is meant to know about are exposed at a higher, and much more user-friendly, level, so why would anyone delve deeper if they're not either one of a tiny number of specialists or up to no good?
(via bOING bOING)
NME/MTV2 art-rockers Franz Ferdinand's latest affectation is to decide that their next album will have the same title and artwork as their first, only in slightly different colours, and their subsequent albums' packaging will differ only by colour scheme. Which probably means that the Future's Burning compilation (a compilation of highly formulaic and stylised NME-favoured "indie"/"art rock"/"new wave of new wave" bands which, ironically enough, was dedicated to John Peel) would be an unofficial part of the series.
A comprehensive history of 1980s UK indie band Stump, probably best known for their surrealistic song "Buffalo" (you know, the one with the "HOW MUCH IS THE FISH! DOES THE FISH HAVE CHIPS!" chorus) on the C86 compilation, by former Stump bassist Kev Hopper. (Aside: I wonder how hard it'd be to find a copy of A Fierce Pancake.)
I went to see Derren Brown's show, Something Wicked This Way Comes tonight, at the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden. It was pretty interesting.
For those not familiar with him, Brown is a mentalist whose act includes reading and influencing people using various psychological techniques. In this show, which went for about two hours and was in two parts, he did things including influencing volunteers to select specific cards/envelopes and "guess" things, presumably from suggestions he had subliminally planted. He also did an act in which he determined when people were lying. Five volunteers drew balls from a bag, and the four who got white balls (which was unknown to him) were told to lie in answering a question; Brown then determined who was lying by observing their body language.
During the second half of the show, he started off with a few fakir-like acts of physical endurance (hammering a nail into his nose and walking on broken glass). The best part was at the end, where he successfully "predicted" a word selected seemingly at random; and then, using video replays, demonstrated how he had done it. All I'll say is: pay close attention.
Derren Brown is performing until Saturday or so, and is (IMHO) well worth seeing.
Zero Wing Rhapsody; two tastes that go surprisingly well together. (Flash animation with music)
The EFF's take on the US supreme court's unanimous decision in favour of Big Copyright against Grokster. Executive summary: it's not as bad as it could have been (the court didn't strike down the Betamax doctrine or explicitly oblige designers of technologies to take steps to prevent copyright infringement), though it does open up a legal minefield, allowing Big Copyright to sue anyone who makes anything that handles intellectual property if they can argue that their business model depends on inducement. (Presumably they could sue Apple for selling iPods if that they can show that Apple's iPod business model depends on people ripping CDs or downloading MP3s.) The RIAA and MPAA will undoubtedly be making hay of this, launching salvos of lawsuits to make examples of technology makers, and possibly positioning themselves as a regulatory agency for any technology involving copyrighted materials. The EU and Australia will, of course, follow in lockstep in their reading of intellectual-property law, so the chilling effect will go beyond the US. In a few years' time, the hottest and most usable gadgets may be smuggled in from Brazil, India or China (assuming one can get them through customs).
Meanwhile, commentators on SCOTUSblog say that this is at best a hollow victory for Big Copyright and quite possibly a huge loss, as they didn't get the blunt instrument they wanted. And this Salon piece suggests that the decision may open the door to Google being sued for copyright infringement.
This afternoon, I went to The Hospital, a gallery in Endell St., Covent Garden, to see a video installation titled Anyone Else Isn't You, by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (the artists behind the reenactment of that Cramps gig in the mental hospital, and a number of Smiths-themed installations in the 1990s). This video work (named after a Field Mice song, which played at the end of it) was about the way people's lives and relationships are influenced and mediated by music, and consisted of fragments of interviews with 12 people talking about such things as mixtapes they made for/received from lovers, songs they couldn't listen to any more because they were associated with relationships gone bad, records associated with specific times of their lives, and other anecdote (one woman mentioned a friend who did so much acid he thought he was living in Pet Sounds). The people were mostly in their late 20s/30s, and the music they mentioned ranged from the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Belle & Sebastian to the Velvet Underground; the video went on for about half an hour.
There is also a booklet with the exhibition, featuring writing on the subject by Momus, Steve Lamacq and one JJ Charlesworth.
LiveJournal user icon of the day:
(Note: for the full effect, make sure you have animated images enabled.)
As well as seizing control of industrial relations from the states, the Australian federal government will also use its new powers to unify the school systems. All Australian schools will have an emphasis on "values"; not much is said about what sorts of values, but there are hints in the other changes: all students will take 2 hours of mandatory physical education training a week (all the better to make fit soldiers for our future engagements, and/or foster a naturally conformistic and conservative jock culture), and schools will also need to fly the Australian flag at assemblies (to instill a US-style culture of jingoistic patriotism; perhaps a pledge of allegiance will be next). And so, the Australian school system becomes a weapon in the culture war, striking a hammer-blow to the degenerate un-Australian values of Whitlam/Keating-era latte-leftists and producing a new crop of strong, patriotic, God-fearing future Herald-Sun readers; or so it is hoped.
Proof that we're living in the Interweb Age: bicycle manufacturers give their models names from computer jargon:
Meanwhile, a Google search for "fomalhaut lovecraft" returns, among its top 10 results, the Suicide Girls homepage of someone who's into H.P. Lovecraft and Ayn Rand.
In Tokyo, where space is at a premium, they now have underground farms under the city:
Perhaps, if/when the oil crash causes the collapse of transport-based economies, such farms beneath farmland-deprived cities may help keep them somewhat viable.
The Onion's 2056 issue, with stories like "Government May Restrict Use Of Genetically Modified Farmers", "Final Installment of Frogger Trilogy Poised To Sweep Oscars", "Halliburton Wins Bid To Rebuild Midwest" and "Could Jimi Hendrix Mk. IV's Disappointing Synth-Funk Output Spell The End Of The Vat-Grown Celebrity?":
"Our first objective is to suppress the Wisconsinite and Illini insurgents," Halliburton spokesman James Rothman told reporters. "Attacks on the area's megasilos and supermills have cut the region's grain production in half. Once the insurgents have been contained and the farmland has been adequately irradiated, we will build our own MechaSuperfarms, which we will manage for as long as is necessary to maintain stability in the area."
One thing seems clear: If vat-grown celebrities continue to follow their own muses, it may spell the end of the entertainment industry's latest and most expensive case of sequel-itis.
"It looks like the ancient curse of entertainment--the infamous 'mind of their own' problem--might keep everyone from taking a chance on bringing back anyone else," Miner-323 said.Meanwhile, Charles Stross's future-history of the Singularity, Accelerando, has been released under a Creative Commons licence; you can read it as straight HTML on the site, download it to your PDA, or, of course, buy a dead-tree copy. It covers time from the very near future (or perhaps the present) to the age of solar-system-wide matrioshka brains with incomprehensibly complex cultural/economic systems and wormhole-spanning colonies of posthumans (not to mention uploaded lobsters and Machiavellian robot cats).
(via bOING bOING)
US satellite radio network Sirius is about to start broadcasting BBC Radio 1 in the US, time delayed to sync up with local time. Now Americans frustrated with the Clear Channel monoculture will be able to catch John Peel's heirs playing all sorts of eclectic music at odd times of the night.
Meanwhile, back in Britain, Xfm (which, for the Australians in the audience, was once the closest thing Britain had to 3RRR, but now has turned into a Carling-flavoured Nova FM, playing the latest NME darlings on heavy rotation) is shedding one of the last vestiges of its alternative heritage, by merging with Kerrang-style hard-rock station Storm; both stations are owned by the Capital Radio group.
An investigation by the Evening Standard has found that the London Underground is hotter and more humid than Miami or Hong Kong, with commuters enduring worse conditions than residents in subtropical zones.
Our investigation found the worst conditions on the Northern line, where relative humidity - at 58 per cent - sent the apparent temperature soaring to 46C. Around the world, only the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, had a higher apparent temperature, at 48C.
The temperatures are officially dangerous-The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - America's version of the Met Office - classifies any apparent temperature above 41C as carrying the risk of heat exhaustion.
The controversial redevelopment of Camden Town station, which would have replaced the station buildings, as well as the Buck St. Market (that's the Doc-Martens-and-T-shirts one) and the Electric Ballroom (considered a sacred site by many who were teens in the 1980s) with a wedge of glass and chrome containing shops and offices, has been scrapped, after the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, rejected the plans. Opposition to the plans attracted prominent supporters, including Dame Judi Dench, Bob Geldof and Nick Cave, who described the Electric Ballroom as "part of the lifeblood of Camden Town".
According to a study at Flinders University, good social networks of close friends are more beneficial to a long life than family members:
The new study followed almost 1500 Australians, initially aged over 70. Those who at the start reported regular close personal or phone contact with five or more friends were 22% less likely to die in the next decade than those who had reported fewer, more-distant friends. But the presence or absence of close ties with children or other relatives had no impact on survival.Which all flies in the face of conventional wisdom, that supportive, tightly-knit families are the key to health and happiness. Though the explanation for this could be that it is not so much a truth as a manifestation of an evolved cultural response to the environment, a mantra of family-values repeatedly recited to counterbalance the ambient irritation of interaction with family members and reinforce stable social structures.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out a return to the 40-hour work week as part of the Tories' industrial-relations reforms. Which could mean (a) that Australia gets to keep its socialistically inefficient 38-hour week (Oh, the lost productivity!), or possibly that working hours will be deregulated, as they are in the UK (where employment contracts routinely include clauses waiving the EU's 48-hour work week limit).
It looks like Australia may be facing another tightening of its already notorious censorship laws, this time governing TV nudity; Australia's equivalent of the Janet Jackson nipple outrage is reality-TV-show contestants getting it on in a hot-tub, which has made it into Federal parliamentary debates:
"What we basically have is pornography and full frontal nudity on television at a time when children are watching. These people have an aspiration to be porn stars," Draper told Reuters.It's hard to believe that this is the country that, only five years earlier, was considering introducing a "non-violent erotica" film classification.
At least Howard/Hillsong Australia c.2005 isn't quite as bad as Iran, where the government is microwaving its own population to save them from satellite-TV-borne "westoxication". The huge volumes of microwaves being pumped into population centres as Iran's elections approach are claimed to cause everything from migraines to birth defects or worse; though what are a few brain tumours compared to eternal salvation?
Google Maps now has satellite imagery (of varying resolution) and coastlines/borders for the entire world. While Australia is probably far from getting anything like street maps (in terms of potential AdWords revenue per square kilometre, for example, it'd probably trail some way behind Europe and Asia, making it a low priority, unless they just do the major cities or something), it does have maximum-resolution satellite maps. Here, for example, is a view of Brunswick St. and the Fitzroy Pool. And here is Merri Creek and the last house I lived. (Searches on "fitzroy north" draw a blank right now, though; apparently there are no places by this name in the UK or North America. There are quite a few Brunswick Streets in Britain, though.)
Interestingly enough, much of Carlton/Parkville is shrouded in cloud, and the resolution drops off sharply just east of the State Library (it appears that they only have high-res photos for a chunk of Melbourne from Hobsons Bay to Geelong and some adjoining chunks). This, however, is a lot better than Sydney appears to have fared; I believe that this is the coathanger at the highest resolution they've currently got it; though things get much clearer below that for some reason. Meanwhile, Brisbane gets some nice photos, as do Perth and Adelaide. Darwin and Hobart, however, are blurred. It also manages to find Ballarat, Wollongong, Cairns and Albury (though be sure to put in "australia", otherwise it'll ask whether you want the one in Hertfordshire or Surrey), but draws a blank at suburbs and smaller places.
The past week has been unusually rich in worthwhile gigs in London, and Your Humble Narrator spent much of it going to such, often with camera in hand:
- Monday night was Suzerain at the infamous Hope and Anchor in Islington. I've seen them before; they're not so much an indie band as tomorrow's chart-toppers who haven't been signed yet. They sound somewhere between David Bowie and Duran Duran, with elements of Icehouse, the Scissor Sisters and early Nine Inch Nails, look not too unlike Interpol or Franz Ferdinand and play a rather tight, catchy glam-pop. They'll probably go far.
- On Tuesday, I went to Club AC30 to see Sambassadeur, a Swedish indiepop band on the Labrador label (also home to the likes of Acid House Kings, Club 8 and The Radio Dept.). They were pretty good; somewhere between various Sarah Records bands, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and other recent Swedish bands including The Radio Dept; two guitars, bass, harmonium, boy/girl vocals and an iPod providing the drum tracks. There are some photos here.
On Thursday, I went to see Mirah, the K Records singer-songwriter and her band, at the Purple Turtle in Camden. They were quite good; the eponymous singer/guitarist was quite animated, and was accompanied by the usual bass and drums, as well as violin and accordion. Meanwhile, the bass player proved that Justin Timberlake and Von Dutch have not yet managed to kill off the trucker hat among US indie-rock hipsters; either that or we are witnessing a second wave of ironic appropriation of mainstream fashion's adoption of an earlier ironic hipster style. Anyway, there are photos here.
I ended up picking up a copy of Mirah's second album, Advisory Committee, at the gig. There seems to be an interesting lo-fi experimental-electronic thing happening on some of the tracks, amidst the (sometimes stereo-doubled) breathy vocals, indiekid guitar strumming, layers of fuzzy sound and the odd glockenspiel and such. It's a bit more adventurous sonically than You Think It's Like This... (if perhaps not quite as innocently playful), and has a sort of spiky quirkiness that seemed to be absent in C'mon Miracle, which (from memory) seemed more like a straight alt-country record.
On Friday night, I went to see a band named My Favorite play in Hoxton. They're an electropoppy outfit from New York; bouncy upbeat songs sounding like OMD or 1980s New Order at their poppiest, with pleasant-enough boy-girl vocals; upon closer listening, though, the songs turn out to be quite dark, about the ghosts of dead teenagers and such. I picked up their album, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives; the booklet looks more like something one would expect from a lugubrious Montréal post-rock collective than a New York electropop band, and betrays a morbid obsession with Joan of Arc. Photos here.
Incidentally, Hoxton Square on a Friday night is a rather interesting experience; upon entering the square, the noise of hundreds of people talking is the first thing one notices. The crowds outside the clubs and swanky bars are to be expected; the large numbers of people sitting on the grass in the centre of the square, as if waiting for a band to come on at an outdoor concert, seemed a bit more unusual. Were they there just to bask in the ambient coolness that is Hoxton? Is this what the cool set in London do when they become too old to get their teenage kicks by walking slowly up and down Camden High St. in orange "PSYCHO WARD" shirts, hardcore band patches and cutesy-goth-cartoon-character bags or something?
Could the future of employment be job dumping, where prospective employers put jobs up for auction and employ the lowest bidder, harnessing the same market dynamics that give us cheap Wal-Mart clothes?
Well, that was a cracker of a way to end a season of Doctor Who. Dalek cultists? Who would have thought. Even if it did seem like a bit of a deus ex machina.
Anyway, David Tennant will have a tough act to follow as the next Doctor, given how good Ecclestone's grinning-nutter-with-heart was.
MI5 is warning British tourists to watch out for foreign spies when travelling abroad, or when returning from abroad:
The advice warns: "Lavish hospitality, flattery and the 'red carpet' treatment are used by some intelligence services to soften up a target for recruitment who may then feel obliged to co-operate rather than offend the hosts."
MI5 also urges sunseekers to be careful about holiday romances, as having sex with a stranger could make them vulnerable to blackmail. Tourists might also think twice about discussing national security within earshot of hotel staff or taxi drivers who in some countries are required to report to the local security service.
Holidaymakers are even being told to be alert on their return to Britain. MI5 has compiled a list of warning signals that could indicate a foreign intelligence service is "cultivating" them. They should consider contacting the police or their company's security co-ordinator if they come across people who prefer to meet face-to-face, want to become friends, or ask personal questions.
A magazine named Radar has the start of a potentially interesting series on Kabbalah (not the Mediæval branch of esoteric Judaism, but the red-string-and-sacred-bottled-water one that's the hottest new celebrity cult in Hollywood):
In December the Guardian of London published a 10-month investigation that revealed the dubious nature of the Rav's qualifications as a religious leader, as well as the Centre's avaricious ways. Then, in January 2005, a BBC documentary caught high-ranking Kabbalah Centre officer Rabbi Eliyahu Yardeni on undercover camera saying that the Jews who died in the Holocaust perished because they weren't studying Kabbalah. The same documentary showed an employee at the Centre's London office selling a man with cancer more than $1,500 worth of merchandise, including Aramaic books he could not read and bottled water with no proven health benefits.
The article promises more details on findings, including:
The false claims the Centre has made about its distinguished origins.
The Centre's use of cultlike techniques to control members, including sleep deprivation, alienation from friends and family, and Kabbalah-dictated matchmaking.
The bizarre scientific claims made by the Centre's leaders on behalf of Kabbalah Water, ranging from its ability to cleanse the lakes of Chernobyl of radiation to its power to cure cancer, AIDS, and SARS.
The Centre's sponsorship of the Oroz Research Centre, a "23rd century" scientific institution that markets a "liquid compound for the treatment of nuclear waste" that also cures gynecological problems in cows, sheep, and other farm animals.
The Bergs' explicit strategy of steering Kabbalah away from its Jewish roots in order to appeal to a wider global market, and their plans to brand both the Centre and family members for maximum popular appeal.
As for steering Kabbalah away from its Jewish roots, isn't that old news, though? There have been non-Jewish self-professed Cabbalists since the time of Aleister Crowley if not John Dee. Though, granted, they weren't peddling overpriced bottled water to celebrities.
(via bOING bOING)
An image recently found online:
(Posted on the unpopart LiveJournal community, which appears to be a den of Satanists, Nazi-fetishists, serial-killer fans, misanthropes and aesthetic extremists connected with the likes of Adam Parfrey, Boyd Rice and Jim Goad.)
I wonder whether the resemblance between Michael Jackson and Ronald McDonald is pure coincidence or intentional. Ronald McDonald predates Michael Jackson's adult career by more than a decade. Could McDonalds have finetuned their mascot's appearance to be more Jacksonlike during the 1980s (when Jackson was hot property, and was moving lots of units for Pepsi)? (The alternative theory would be that Jackson (consciously or otherwise) modelled his public image on the World-Famous Magical Clown, perhaps to better appeal to children.) Also, could McDonalds' recently announced makeover of their mascot also be an attempt to shed similarities to Michael Jackson (which could be more of a liability than an asset these days)?
Surprise of the day: large-screen TVs use more current than the smaller ones. Wal-Mart America's love affair with the jumbo plasma screen has resulted in massive increases in electricity consumption, calling on some to compare the TVs to that other emblem of the divinely-sanctioned and non-negotiable American lifestyle, the SUV. The fact that a lot of people leave the TV on 24 hours a day as a psychological security blanket probably doesn't help.
(Though is anybody really surprised that large TVs use a lot more current? Electricity consumption would, I imagine, be a function of the square of the screen size, meaning that even small increases in size result in large increases in power consumption. Which, also, is probably one of the reasons why small, wimpy-looking laptops have about twice the battery life of the larger, more-impressive-looking ones.)
For the freakazoid who has everything: a squirrel-shaped drinks flask, made from a real squirrel; nothing says coolness like pulling a real, formerly-live rodent out of your pocket, twisting the head off and taking a swig from its neck, without missing a beat:
(via bOING bOING)
Concorde may be dead and gone, but supersonic passenger air travel may yet return; France and Japan have signed an agreement to develop a successor to Concorde, which will be able to fly from New York to Tokyo in 6 hours. Though, given Peak Oil and the looming oil crunch, it's probably not likely to be any more affordable than the original was. I suspect that Ryanair won't be putting in an order for any.
Tory-affiliated British magazine The Spectator has a rather arch write-up of the Schapelle Corby spectacle and reaction to it in Australia: (registration required)
It's the ultimate reality TV show. Corby, who seems to be the only bule (foreigner) in Bali who doesn't sweat, has adapted well to her starring role. In jail she has slimmed down from a plumpish and brassy suburban shrill to a demure girl-next-door. Last week she added an elegant and much-fingered necklace crucifix to her outfit. The news execs love it, but their concern for Corby contrasts with their apparent indifference to the plight of the dozen or so other Australians -- Asian Australians -- held elsewhere in the region and either charged with or convicted of drug-smuggling.
Australians fancy they see something of the Gallipoli spirit in Corby. She has been cast as a humble "Aussie battler" abandoned by her government and struggling in vain to overcome an insurmountable foreign adversary. The enemy is not "Johnny Turk" this time but the "brutal" Indonesian legal system which has the nerve to conduct its affairs in Bahasa Indonesia, not Australian English. As Corby fans see it, the bases were clearly all loaded against their girl, the sinister outcome predetermined in Indonesia's murky shadows.
Though could one think of a better folk hero for a nation which prides itself on its larrikinism, whose unofficial national anthem is a song about a sheep thief, and where an armed robber has been transformed into everything from Robin Hood to the spiritual father of the Australian Labor Party and/or the Republican movement? Especially in the age of reality-TV, where photogenic looks and image management count for a lot.
At the end, the article ties in the spectacle to the latte-sipping-cosmopolitan-elite-vs.-silent-majority-of-suburban-battlers culture-war dialectic:
The demographer Bernard Salt says the Corby matter explodes what has always been the myth of Australian egalitarianism. Salt has previously noted, controversially, that Australia, like most countries, has an educated minority, a cultural and cosmopolitan elite that directs its politics, its economy, its popular culture, with the majority functionong as essentially its market. He says that Australia's cosmopolitans account for at most one million of the nation's 20 million people.
But the elite aren't calling the shots on this one. There has been talk of a "redneck coup". And the circus shows no signs of packing up. A new lawyer has just been appointed to handle Our Schapelle's appeal. I met him last week, and he did not disappoint me. His name is Paris Hutapea, and he carries two sidearms (a Beretta and a Walther), sports shiny blue suits and an impressive mullet, and drives to work in a Humvee. His fingers drip with opal and diamond rings. He and big sister Mercedes should hit it off.
Meanwhile, Bruce Schneier writes about the anthrax scare at the Indonesian embassy, revealing that, since 9/11. there has been a white-powder scare in Australia on average every four days (most of which have been kept out of the news by the Australian press's (voluntary) D-notice regime).
A DJ in Russia built his own DJing cassette decks, with hand-operated jog-dials and motor and pitch controls, all in handmade Masonite packaging for that ghetto-tech look. And there's a Flickr photo set here.
Social psychologists in the UK have enumerated the nine types of (romantic) love. These include a "grown-up version" that involves mutual trust, recognition and support, the "Cupid's dart" variety, "hedonistic love" and "dyadic partnership love" (where two people become a single unit, presumably delegating cognitive tasks to each other), as well as various transitional forms.
First there were signs advising London Underground users to carry a bottle of water at all times; now, the managing director of the Underground has advised passengers to have a shower before travelling on the Tube. Because it's presumably easier to get everyone to do so than it is to install any sort of air conditioning in the ancient system of tunnels that comprises the Tube. You'd think that at least the Tube could meet people halfway and install coin-operated shower cubicles in their ticket halls?
This just in: Michael Jackson is not a child molester; just a misunderstood individual with a messianic complex who lives in an amusement park and shares his bed with children. Jackson's fans are acclaiming the verdict as a historic moment (while Jackson's own web site has compared the acquittal to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the birth of Martin Luther King and the release of Nelson Mandela), and it looks like the kingdom of pop is saved from collapsing into anarchy as its king returns.
What will happen to Jackson's career is another question, now that his image has been somewhat tarnished. (For one, the sordidly mundane public revelations of his tastes in pornographic magazines probably won't sit well with the larger-than-life personae he had cultivated, and some of the magic will be gone forever.) Some say that his brand is effectively finished, and his debts will take care of the rest; others are saying that what he needs to do is immediately depart on a world tour playing all the old songs people still hold in reverence.
If the new, post-abuse-trial Michael Jackson is a timid, emasculated creature fearing controversy, then any new music he may make, however much studio gloss and big-name production is applied, won't capture the imagination. In the old days, Jackson flirted with an image of being vaguely dangerous (witness Thriller, Bad and Dangerous and his 1930s-gangster image). Perhaps, by that token, what he should do now to reignite that dangerous frisson would be to take on the role of the Childcatcher in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang musical?
Goodle Good News, an all-good-news site, with headlines about politics ("World Peace sparks outpourings of joy", "Saddam patted on head and put back in his hole"), business ("Capitalists realise: "What's the point?"", "Daily Mail to shut: "Hate & fear not selling"", "arms industry to make vases, picnic tables"), technology ("Scientists pack up: "Everything explained""), the environment ("M25 turned into a garden", "Extinct species "coming back to life""), society ("Adults allowed to appreciate and play with children"), and the media ("George Lucas to re-film all three Star Wars prequels", "Radiohead to record "happy songs" (um, hang on, if they did that, how would they differ from Coldplay?)).
(via The Fix)
The blanding of St Kilda, once the sleazy, dangerous and vital epicentre of Melbourne underground culture and now safely homogeneous chrome-plated playground of the affluent, continues apace; now local independent record shop Raoul Records is closing down at the end of the month. Which means one fewer reason to venture south of the Yarra. I guess the Porsche-owners of the new St Kilda don't care much for weird little post-punk/garage-rock/psychobilly/country-and-Preston bands.
Your Humble Narrator recently travelled out of London and stayed briefly in the town of Brockenhurst, on the border of the somewhat misnamed New Forest.
Brockenhurst is a small country town in Hampshire (south-west of London); it either is or was cattle-farming country; at any time, there are cows and horses wandering about, and streets are fitted with strategically-placed cattle grids (as are many driveways). I was struck by how similar it looked to Australian country towns; of course, Australia got its agricultural and civic traditions mostly from Britain, but I didn't think there'd be so much similarity; the streets are slightly narrower, the houses older, and there are no eucalypts, but other than that, Brockenhurst could easily have been somewhere near Echuca or Dubbo. Except, possibly, for the pictures apparently mocking an Australian sports team above the bar at the pub:here.
The next advance in Total Information Awareness (or whatever it's called) may be a technique, currently being developed in Canada, to detect suspicious activity by the absence of keywords in email; this is more sophisticated than looking for keywords in emails (as the NSA was believed to have been doing since the days of UUCP):
One difference might be the complete absence of words someone might possibly think would draw a law enforcement agencys attention to their e-mails, but that most people would occasionally use innocently (as in "my presentation yesterday really bombed".) Another, Skillicorn says, is that research shows people speak and write differently when they feel guilt about a subject, for instance using fewer first-person pronouns, like I and we. "If you're up to no good", he says, "it's very hard for you to write something that looks ordinary."
Skillicorn doesn't know all the ways suspicious e-mails might read differently from innocent ones. The beauty of his approach is that he doesn't need to know. His software is designed simply to look for messages that are different, based on word frequencies, from the mass of e-mails. It neednt understand the reasons for the differences.So, when this technology matures (assuming that the will is there, which if it isn't now, it will probably be in a few terrorist outrages' time), we can expect, at the heart of ECHELON or similar, supercomputers tracking the email traffic of individuals (by email address, IP number or possibly a cluster of identifiers) and monitoring them for variations; as soon as an individual's behaviour changes microscopically (regardless of what it changed from and to; this works much in the way that highly-skilled readers of body language such as TV mentalist Derren Brown can detect truthfulness or lies by familiarising themselves with natural patterns and watching for deviations), they can be flagged for review. This could detect conspirators, criminals or other deceivers (right down to people planning surprise parties for loved ones, or trying to conceal embarrassing secrets), or possibly other shifts in mental state (depression, anxiety and such). The possibilities of such a technology extend beyond merely catching potential terrorists (or paedophiles, or MP3 pirates, or tax avoiders, or pro-democracy activists, depending on jurisdiction); I imagine that, for one, intelligence agencies with access to it could use it for pinpointing the weakest links in organisations they are targetting for infiltration, or otherwise use it to flesh out psychological profiles.
Elsewhere in the article, it mentions the possibility of detecting telltale patterns of activity by traffic analysis alone, and mentions that the infamous Enron email collection is not particularly useful for such research because those sending the emails didn't actually try to pretend that they were doing anything other than screwing people over.
The latest recipients of knighthoods include actor David Jason (best known as the voice of Dangermouse) and BBC presenter Terry Wogan (who misses out on being called Sir because he's an Irish citizen). Meanwhile the title of Companion of the British Empire goes to Dame Judi Dench and the two founders of film production company Working Title (which is sort of the Merchant-Ivory of Cool Britannia).
What mobile-phone-related juvenile-delinquency fad could come after "happy slapping"? How about train-dodging, where kids use their camera phones to film themselves playing chicken with trains, and proving how hardc0re they are by staying on the track until the last possible minute, and then post the videos to dedicated train-dodging web sites. Of course, the hardest of the hardcore are the ones who don't jump out of the way like a big girl's blouse, instead choosing to become track chutney (and, rumour has it, extra-valuable video files for trading). Which seems even more Darwinian than the old-sk00l craze of train-surfing.
(And then, one imagines, there are probably those who combine train-dodging with gricing, filming themselves jumping out of the path of trains in the nude.)
jwz gets pissed-off at Linux soundcard complications, buys an iMac, never looks back; imminent death of xscreensaver predicted.
The taller one is, a common belief goes, the better one's career and romantic prospects are. (There is some truth to this; studies (in America, I believe) have quantified the expected increase in income per inch of height to be in the order of thousands of dollars a year.) In China, this belief has reached its logical conclusion, with height-anxious Chinese investing in torture-rack-style stretching machines and Gattaca-style height-enhancement surgery.
An unexpected dividend from the Enron scandal: the corpus of emails turned over to investigators by the dodgy energy-trading company (which, in this case, includes everything ever emailed through enron.com) fell into the hands of academics and has since proven to be a boon to social network researchers.
Some of the methods in the paper (i.e., automatic community detection) look useful; it'd be interesting to apply them to, say, LiveJournal, Flickr or even inter-blog links.
(via bOING BOING)
A paper recently published by the University of Utah makes several controversial statements: that Ashkenazi Jews have genetic mutations which enhance their cognitive abilities, making them more intelligent than average, that this originated from selection pressures in mediæval Europe (where Jews could only make a living in various cognitively-demanding niches, many of which Christians were barred from), and that the same mutations cause many of the degenerative diseases common among the Ashkenazi population, as well as high incidences of depression (could it be no coincidence that cities with high Jewish populations (such as New York and Buenos Aires) have the most psychiatrists?):
Greg has referred to this hypothesis as "overclocking". The analogy is to overclocking computer processors (computer processing units or CPUs). Some hobbyists turn up the clocks on their desktop PCs to them run faster than they were designed to run. This can cause system instability and other problems. In the case of the Ashkenazis in Europe the hypothesis proposes that selective pressures for higher Ashkenazi intelligence were so high that it caused the propagation of mutations that pushed their intelligence up so quickly (evolutonarily speaking) that the selective pressure overrode the reduction in reproductive fitness caused by the deleterious side effects on some of those who received those mutations. The problem with overclocking is that "Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't."
More generally, if this is what I think it is, all these Ashkenazi neurological diseases are hints of ways in which one could supercharge intelligence. One, by increasing dendrite growth: two, by fooling with myelin: three, something else, whatever is happening in torsion dystonia. In some cases the difference is probably an aspect of development, not something you can turn on and off. In other cases, the effect might exist when the chemical influence is acting and disappear when the influence does. In either case, it seems likely that we could - if we wanted to - developed pharmaceutical agents that had similar effects. The first kind, those affecting development, would be something that might have to be administered early in life, maybe before birth. while the second kind would be 'smart pills' that one could pop as desired or as needed. Of course, we have to hope that we can find ways of improving safety. Would you take a pill that increased your IQ by 10 or 15 points that also had a 10% chance of putting you in a wheel chair?The article goes on to suggest that mediæval laws on Christian and Jewish occupations were ultimately responsible for the founding of the state of Israel. Meanwhile, there's a New York Times piece on the paper here, which has a quote from evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker:
"It would be hard to overstate how politically incorrect this paper is," said Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard, noting that it argues for an inherited difference in intelligence between groups. Still, he said, "it's certainly a thorough and well-argued paper, not one that can easily be dismissed outright."Anyway, back to selection pressures in medieval Europe; I imagine that the fact that the brightest Christians were put into monasteries and sworn to celibacy could also have had an effect on inherited intelligence among that group. Could it also be that Europeans of Christian descent are (inadvertently) bred for low cognitive ability?
For your daily dose of socially-approvable schadenfreude: bait car videos; video/sound recordings from specially wired "bait cars" left by Canadian police to trap car thieves. Watch the perps squeal like bitches over the movie-hip soundtrack coming from the stereo. (Which makes one wonder whether the cops pre-supply the cars with Franz Ferdinand CDs.)
(via bOING bOING)
A Washington Post article looking at Akihabara, and how the Tokyo electronics-retail precinct has become transformed into the world's first geek ghetto:
"We have been discriminated against for being different, but now we have come together and turned this neighborhood into a place of our own," said Yamagata, nursing his tea as he sat with a portly computer technician friend at Akihabara's Cos-Cha, one of a dozen "maid cafes" in the neighborhood. Here, the waitresses' uniforms are inspired by the French maid-meets-Pokemon outfits of adult manga. At other cafes, waitresses greet patrons at the door with a curtsy and the words "Welcome home, master."
Tetsu Ishihara, 34, a computer programmer whose three-room apartment in west Tokyo is filled from floor to ceiling with comic books, does not want to be associated with such charges. Ishihara maintains a growing collection of 130 life-size pillows of female anime characters -- both purchased and self-designed. His favorite is Mio-chan, a female character from a love-simulation computer game in which a high school boy builds up the courage to ask a girl for a first date.
"There are some people who do lose their grip on reality, but that is not me -- or most of us," said Ishihara, a chubby man with glasses who this year started dating a woman steadily for the first time She's an anime artist. "For me, the pillows have been my source of unconditional love, a reminder of when I used to be hugged by my parents. There is nothing strange about it."Don't expect Gwen Stefani to commercialise this any time soon.
The best summary of the Star Wars franchise I've seen:
So this ordinary, middle-class American male walks into a bar. "Gimme a beer, whatever you have on tap," he says, slapping down a fiver. The bartender, smiling, reaches below the bar, audibly unzips his fly, and a moment later produces a tall glass that looks suspiciously as if it might be full of warm urine. But our guy is a trusting soul, and he gulps it down anyway. Big mistake. He retches, curses, and then storms out, furious.
Three years later, the same guy walks into the same bar and asks the same bartender for a beer. No problemo , says the barkeep. Zzzzip . Handed what again looks like something better suited to a specimen jar, the guy barely even hesitates. Down the hatch it goes, and then halfway back up the hatch again. Tears of rage are shed; a lawsuit is threatened. Exit the dude, livid.
Three years later, the same guy walks into the same bar and asks the same bartender for a beer.
You're waiting for the punch line. It's not a joke, I'm afraid. It's a parable. The guy is you, the bar is the neighborhood multiplex, and the third steaming glass of piss you're about to be served with a smile is called Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith.
For God's sake, don't drink it.
Another minor label is set to bite the dust; Sanctuary Records, home of Morrissey, is reportedly in talks with EMI and Warner, who are interested in buying it. Given how independent labels have a way of losing their vision and going to shit when bought out by the majors (look at Def Jam, Mute or Creation, for examples), this can't be good. (OTOH, it can be argued that Creation went to shit before Sony invested a penny in them, probably thanks to Alan McGee's cocaine-fuelled loss of taste, though the other two examples stand.)
Meanwhile, the British government intends to double the copyright term of recorded music, saving the Beatles' recordings from the ignominy of falling to the public domain in the 2010s and to ensure that the big record companies have a steady flow of income, because as we all know, that's good for all society. I mean, if EMI don't have the guaranteed income of the Long Tail of Beatles copyrights in perpetuity, they may sadly be unable to sign the next Coldplay or Kasabian or Sugababes or whoever.
And those all-round monopolists and homogenisers, Wal-Mart, provide yet another reason to hate them: their in-store photo processing services refuse to print photographs that look too good, just in case they are copyright violations:
Spokeswoman Jackie Young said Wal-Mart is "a littler tougher than the copyright law dictates."
"We want to protect professional photographers' rights," Young said. "We will not copy a photograph if it appears to be taken by a professional photographer or studio."
She related the case of a bride whose wedding photos were rejected by Wal-Mart because they "looked like high-resolution quality."
My mind's still reeling from the possible implications of Apple's announcement of abandoning the PowerPC platform in favour of x86. Here are some thoughts:
- After the change, Apple's hardware will be just x86 hardware. Well-designed, well-engineered x86 hardware, but not an entire separate platform. Apple had been heading in that direction since abandoning SCSI and NuBus, though the change in CPU architectures makes it final. It is speculated that Apple will make it possible for those who want to to boot Windows on their Macs; as such, think of the first non-G4 PowerBook as the Apple Vaio.
- Whether Apple will allow OSX to run on commodity hardware is another matter, though. Commodity hardware means loss of control and quality control, which has undoubtedly contributed to the Macintosh user experience. How aggressively Apple will ensure that OSX doesn't run on commodity hardware is another matter; it may be possible for hackers to get it working (though possibly violating paracopyright laws in doing so). Another possibility is of Apple doing deals with individual manufacturers to allow OSX to boot on their machines. (Sony could be a natural for this, given the tightly-controlled semi-proprietary nature of their hardware; and wouldn't you like an Acer Ferrari laptop with a non-crap OS?)
- Over and above that, it is possible that Apple will separate their hardware and software businesses. If their computers are not anything particularly exotic anymore, why not let someone else build and sell those, and concentrate on adding value? Perhaps Apple will spin off and sell its hardware manufacturing business (and the licence to use the Apple trademark on hardware) as IBM did.
- The future of OSX as a separate operating system may also not be assured. Apple own some high-end software (Shake, Logic, Final Cut Pro), which only runs on their own platform. Now that their platform will run on exactly the same architecture as Windows Longhorn, demanding that people boot to Apple's own non-mainstream OS to run it could lose sales. (Anyone remember Linux-based Final Scratch? That didn't do too well, because its electronic-musician audience didn't want to keep rebooting between using it and their Windows-based software.) As such, it is conceivable that, in some years' time, Apple will attempt to redefine OSX as a set of layers (CoreAudio, CoreImage, Cocoa) that runs over Windows, much as its Windows QuickTime does. The layers could be shipped with copies of their software and installed without the user needing to know about them. The remaining Mac faithful will cringe and cry sellout, and techies will dread the loss of OSX's technical advantages over Windows, but Apple will sell more software and gain compatibility with the Windows standard, and, at the end of the day, that's what counts.
A court in Sicily has overturned a decision by road authorities who suspended a man's driving licence because he was gay:
In a written ruling released on Monday, the Sicilian court said: "It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely."
The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance".
Homosexuality is legal in Italy, but openly anti-gay comments from politicians and officials rarely cause a stir.
It's official; Apple are moving to an Intel Pentium architecture, and will phase out the PowerPC by 2007.
Steve Jobs says that a reason for the move is that Intel chips now offer much more power per watt than PowerPC chips. Which sounds strange, given that Intel chips are encrusted with legacy backward-compatibility baggage dating back to the IBM PC, whereas the PowerPC platform is free of such constraints. Though perhaps, because of Intel's far greater market share, enough was invested in getting around this.
Jobs also revealed that MacOS X had been built internally for Intel platforms for the past five years (which is plausible, given that NeXTSTEP, on which it is based, was sold for Intel machines). Which goes some way towards explaining the somewhat backward choice of architectures: i.e., it's inertia.
Of course, this does not make it any less of a missed opportunity to provide a computing platform on a new, unencumbered architecture. Especially given the PowerPC-like nature of the Sony/IBM Cell CPU, which would (if reports are correct) have been an immensely desirable platform for a new era. (Who knows; perhaps whoever owns the Amiga can resurrect it as a Cell workstation?) And as far as x86 chips go, AMD would have probably been a better choice than Intel. Unless, of course, it's the DRM issue again, and Jobs needs to have a black iron prison in place that the MPAA will sign off on.
And so, the last major bastion of diversity in the world of computers falls to the x86 monoculture, and Apple becomes just another PC manufacturer, albeit one with its own OS. Perhaps in five years' time they'll give up on that as well and switch to providing a Cocoa layer over Windows too? After all, it'd save them a lot of hassle.
Meanwhile, Sky TV (the Australian satellite TV company, jointly owned by Murdoch's BSkyB and two other Australian media oligarchs, Kerry Packer and Kerry Stokes) is lobbying to take over the ABC's Asia Pacific television service. The contract comes up for renewal next year, and the government hasn't said which way it'll lean. Who knows; perhaps some Evangelical Christian group will come out of nowhere and snatch the contract or something?
Everybody, it seems, is now saying that Apple are about to dump the PowerPC architecture, and move to Intel. I'm hoping that it doesn't happen; technically, the main advantage of the Intel architecture (which includes AMD and other third-party processors) is backward compatibility with MS-DOS and Windows; for this, the CPUs pay a price in extra transistor count, power consumption and performance, which other platforms (such as, say, the PowerPC) do not incur. Given that Apple machines don't run Windows, there would be little point to doing this, unless to take advantage of these chips being cheaper due to their being manufactured in larger volumes. Given that Sony's PowerPC-based Cell architecture is on the horizon and promises to revolutionise computing, Apple jumping to Intel boxes sounds like a dead end.
Meanwhile, Alec Muffett speculates that the "Intel architecture" Apple might adopt may not be IA64 but rather the XScale, an unrelated architecture based on the ARM, and used in power-efficient devices such as Palm handhelds and Nintendo DSs. On one hand, it would be cool to see a Mac mini (or even a Mac Micro) based on an ARM chipset, drawing about as much current as a nightlight and offering a usable Macintosh-flavoured web-browsing/word-processing/communications/media-playing machine. OTOH, does the ARM architecture actually scale up to the higher ends of the performance spectrum? Would an ARM-compiled version of Photoshop or ProTools be able to run efficiently on tomorrow's high-end Macs?
And WIRED reckons that Apple's switch to Intel will be in order to add Intel's DRM technology to their hardware; i.e., doubly crippling their platform to please Big Copyright.
This book looks interesting; it's apparently a travel guide for aspiring surrealists and such, filled with suggestions for offbeat ways of experiencing foreign locales:
Do you yearn for the glories of yesteryear? Pack an octogenarian guidebook and replace the subway with a penny farthing for an Anachronistic Adventure. Do you like to gamble? Taste the real thrill of adventure with Trip Poker or Monopoly Travel. Are you desperate for a holiday but strapped for cash? To undertake Budget Tourism low funds are not an obstance but a prerequisite.
(via a BBC News 24 segment on Saturday)
A recent Worth1000 contest involved making Photoshopped versions of M.C. Escher images. There are some really good ones here.
Sonic Finger sell some interesting audio plug-ins, including the Dead Quietenator, which provides 56 types of digitally-modelled silence, including previously unattainable vintage sileces, and Virtual Studio Visitor, which, when applied to a track, simulates the effect of a specific visitor watching the performer (presets include "Guy From Label", "Resentful Girlfriend/Wife", as well as generics like "Clown" and "Ninja"):
ICANN has approved the .xxx top-level domain, intended for use by porn sites, rejecting arguments that governments appealing to populist puritanism will eventually force all sex-related sites (including sex-education sites or those supporting victims of sexual abuse) into this easily-censorable ghetto.
Other new domains approved have been .jobs, .post and .cat. I wonder whether the last one means that cat pictures now have their own TLD.
If you're pop royalty in need of medical treatment, your celebrity can buy you a lot; such as, for example, a hospital ward to yourself:
Reports today suggested elderly heart patients at the Cabrini Hospital were moved from their beds to vacate an entire ward for [Kylie Minogue].
The night before Minogue arrived, patients were moved from their beds to give her a wing to herself with a security guard at the end of the corridor, the report said. Visitors to the hospital were made to enter through the intensive care unit, escorted by a nurse each time.
"Several people were severely inconvenienced. I was very surprised that eight beds were given to one patient with a non-cardiac condition."
"One of the (security) chaps that had a British accent said to me, 'You can't go there', and I said, 'Yes I can, I've visited my mother here for a week, I'm certainly going to see her tonight. "These guys escorted me back like a criminal.''
Paul Slocum converts dot-matrix printers into musical instruments, by reprogramming the EPROMs; the resulting instruments use the print head, paper feeder motors and internal beepers to play music, of which MP3s are provided (this one is probably the best). And then there's the Mellotron-like contraption made of a printer, a Walkman and a length of cassette tape.
The Mundane SF Manifesto, an attempt at a Dogme-style manifesto for a new science fiction movement (i.e., no aliens, universal translators, easy interstellar travel, parallel universes). Which sounds a bit like the New Puritans, a movement of mostly hip young British authors of the post-Ibiza generation from about five years ago which forbade nonlinear narratives and settings outside the present, and ended up with such edgy-hip works as stories about narrators masturbating by the side of motorways and such, in dogmatically-correct real time.
Alternatively, there's the Infernokrusher Manifesto, which is all about monster trucks and blowing stuff up:
Infernokrusher fiction explodes stagnant genre conventions, e.g., that it's not okay to have all your characters run over by a monster truck in what would seem to be the middle of the story
While other attitudes to art yearn to communicate truths, to move people, to challenge, or to entertain, infernokrusher art wants to blow stuff up
The first Infernokrusher poem: I blew up the plums
that were in the icebox
and which you were probably saving for breakfast
I like fire
(via Charlie, bOING bOING)
Attempting to soften its hardline image somewhat, the Australian government recently "granted freedom" to several imprisoned asylum seekers. Only, according to a recent letter to The Age, not quite:
Reports of the Government "granting freedom" to 10 long- term detainees (The Age, 31/5) are misleading. These 10 people are being released into the community on the Removal Pending Bridging Visa (RPBV). This is a visa that can be revoked at any time without notice and requires the person to abandon all their current legal proceedings and future legal rights to seek asylum. This means that an asylum seeker will have no access to judicial review against any decision to revoke or cancel this RPBV and cannot do anything to stop their removal.
All this visa does is prey on the desperation of people who will agree to it to get out of the hell of being in detention. It is designed to circumvent involuntary return, and provides no solution to those who cannot return and rather just leaves them in limbo, possibly
Is this what we call "freedom" these days in Australia?
Kon Karapanagiotidis, co-ordinator, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Avondale Heights
Scientists in Zurich have found that dosing people with oxytocin (aka the "cuddle hormone", associated with makes them pathologically trusting:
"Of course, this finding could be misused," said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, the senior researcher in the study, which appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. "I don't think we currently have such abuses. However, in the future it could happen."
"I once likened trust to a love potion," Damasio writes in Nature. "Add trust to the mix, for without trust there is no love."
Dose a group of people with oxytocin and it's group hugs all round. The problem with that is that they become easy prey for anybody wishing to take advantage of them, such as con artists. If a delivery system (perhaps an aerosolised form of oxytocin, or one that can be dissolved in drinking water) could be developed, oxytocin could also be useful as a non-lethal mass-behaviour-control weapon. Imagine oxytocin bombs dropped on Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba or Venezuela; all the warring factions, insurgents and resisters put down their weapons and become one big happy family, with the added advantage that they're more than happy to sign over their sovereignty, oilfields, folk-song copyrights and traditional medicine patents, and give Starbucks a national coffee monopoly if merely asked.
(via bOING bOING)
Canadian academic Russel Ogden has spent the past decade studying the assisted-suicide underground; for this, he has been kicked out by various universities (and is now doing a PhD remotely at a Norwegian university) and had his research notes (unsuccessfully) subpoenaed by the authorities:
But the biggest surprise was that many of these deaths were not the "good deaths" often described in proeuthanasia books, which tend to romanticize the process. Of the 34 euthanasia cases, Ogden found that half were botched and ultimately resulted in increased suffering.
These people were first- or second-timers, "not serial death providers," Ogden remarks. "They weren't sure what they were doing." He concluded that the lack of medical knowledge, as well as the unavailability of suitable drugs and ignorance of lethal doses, contributed to the additional suffering. "This study showed that without medical supervision and formal regulations, euthanasia is happening in horrific circumstances, similar to back-alley abortions," he declares.
NuTech's approach is to take medicine out of assisted death, with methods that are simple, painless, inexpensive and impossible to trace. Suffocation devices, such as the "debreather," a modified piece of scuba diving equipment, and the "exit bag," a plastic bag equipped with Velcro straps, are commonly used. Most popular, Ogden has found, is the plastic bag in conjunction with helium gas. "This is the quickest way to go; used properly, you're unconscious after the second breath and dead in about 10 minutes," he reveals. Such methods are more efficient and reliable than lethal drugs, but suffocation devices remain unappealing and undignified to people. Most still want something they can drink.
You are carrying:
A cell phone with a message from your friends Dave and Paul telling you what a fun time they're having in the Bahamas
A slowly coalescing escape plan
A piece of ham
Resentment toward Emily for persuading you that visiting her parents at Christmas would be "totally fun"
Indonesian embassy in Canberra evacuated after biological weapon scare, when white powder in an envelope sent to the embassy tested positive for a bacillus related to anthrax. It is believed extremely unlikely that the incident is unconnected to the recent conviction of Australian Schapelle Corby (who, incidentally, is said to have become the newest client of celebrity agent Harry M. Miller) for drug trafficking in Bali.
It was sickening enough to hear of Australians calling tsunami relief charities and demanding their donations back over this incident; this takes it to a whole new level. If nothing else, the possibility that people who form their beliefs from tabloids and reality-TV shows have access to biological weapons is truly alarming. The human race is doomed.
The latest sartorial innovation from the hipsters of San Francisco is the banana-shaped cell-phone cozy, shown below modelled by the CEO of its manufacturer, Nanaco (wasn't he also one of the writers for SugaRAPE Magazine?):
Note: coolsie afro and ironically mocking attitude not supplied and must be provided by the user; otherwise, you're not a hipster, just the sad berk in the office who desperately wants to be liked and probably has the Crazy Frog ringtone as well.
Even after EMI's herculaean effort to keep the new album from schmaltz-rockers Coldplay off the net (giving it to reviewers as "The Fir Trees", routinely searching pressing-plant employees, sending nastygrams to student radio stations), the
terrorists pirates have already won. Mind you, the fact that EMI's goons couldn't routinely strip-search the entire population of Japan, where the album was released shortly before ending up on the file-sharing networks, probably had something to do with it. Oops!
The Demos thinktank in the UK claims that democracy is facing a crisis of legitimacy, with the public losing faith in the trustworthiness of leaders and the integrity of the political process. This appears to be result of the Blair Doctrine, which holds that in the short term, honesty is a liability and a mastery of weasel words and spin, a good relationship with the press and a faith in the public's short attention span are what counts.
It probably also has to do with the disconnexion between the polite fiction of democratic accountability and the reality of where the power really rests. For example, it's likely that Blair had no choice but to do whatever Washington ordered as far as Iraq went (as Britain has surrendered most foreign-policy sovereignty to the US since World War 2, though maintains the illusion of being an autonomous world power, even having a nuclear arsenal of its own (operated by US technicians)), and to spin it increasingly tortuously into the context of an independent decision, with increasingly bizarre results.
Anyway, the article claims that the main parties have become obsessed with a "strong leader myth", and that the solution is to recast democracy to the neighbourhood level. It is reported that Downing Street has been listening, and is "experimenting with new more direct forms of consultation with the electorate", "experimenting with" presumably translating as "looking at ways to rig".
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have their own crisis with claims that Charles Kennedy has adopted his own version of the Blair Doctrine and put the party too much under the influence of campaign strategists.