The Null Device
A comparison of US and British media's responses to domestic terrorist acts:
Right this minute, on the BBC World service: a lengthy report on humanitarian efforts in Africa. No news crawl. If you didn't know the London bombings had happened already, you wouldn't even know.
Right this minute, on CNN International: a lengthy report on anti-terrorism efforts in other countries, so far specifically framed as a series of successful trades: decreasing freedom for increasing surveillance, with greater security supposedly as the net result. Along the bottom, a news crawl repeats bombing-related headlines constantly.
One of these things is not like the other. One is constant, constant fear-pandering. The other -- from the country that actually suffered the bombings, no less -- is still reporting something resembling actual news, with something resembling a dose of actual perspective.Then again, don't Britain's commercial news providers (Murdoch's Sky News) push the fear angle hard as well, mostly because that's what gets the eyeballs? Or is it a matter of (a) the American public being fear junkies, or (b) the US media being in the service of neocons (and/or reptilian aliens that psychically feed off fear), in whose interests it is that the population is kept terrified?
A related thought: if Britain was like America, we'd probably have Dannii Minogue singing Rule Britannia (and/or God Save The Queen, complete with the jingoistic third verse -- "confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks, on Thee our hopes we fix") at a star-studded gala right now.
I'm getting rather fed up with the Fresh prepaid mobile service I use. I got it when I arrived in the UK, as it was the cheapest way to get a +44 mobile number (essential for getting calls about accommodation/jobs returned), and to someone living off saved Australian pesos, cheap is good. (It's something like half or less of the cost of using other services.) What I've since learned is that what you save in call costs, you pay for in gratuitous inconvenience. Consider, for example:
- There is no convenient way of knowing how much credit you have, short of calling an automated voice number and going through the menus. They occasionally send you texts when you're "running low" (i.e., below £4 credit, which is enough to last a month or two)
- If you're not careful, the first you find out that you've run out of credit is when your phone is barred.
- Unless you pay a lot of money in, your phone will not be unbarred when you top it up. You hav e to go in/call up separately after topping up to get the bar removed.
This happened to me a few times. The most recent time, yesterday I went to top up my account, and asked the clerk to remove the bar immediately. He said he could do that. He lied.
As such, I just spent 9 minutes on hold, being subjected to what sounded like some kind of jazz-fusion/whalesong melange, punctuated at 15-second intervals by a plastically cheerful female voice insincerely apologising for the delay, before getting a call-centre employee who could lift the bar for me.
There is no technical reason for why Fresh needs to suck so badly. I suspect it may be part of an experiment in how people monetise convenience, and how much inconvenience they are willing to put up with to save a few quid.
Screenshots of the latest Windows Longhorn beta. It looks like Microsoft have one interesting eye-candy feature that Apple currently don't: the ability to do translucent elements, i.e., ones in which the pixel value can be a function of not only the background pixel but its neighbours (which allows Gaussian blurring and such). I wonder how computationally expensive this is compared to Apple's straightforward transparency; it certainly looks pretty, though.
Impaled Northern Moonforest is an Acoustic Black Metal act, and has songs for downloading, with titles like "Lustfully Worshipping The Inverted Moongoat While Skiing Down The Inverted Necromountain Of Necrodeathmortum" and "Entranced By The Northern Impaled Necrowizard's Blasphemous Incantation Amidst The Agonizing Abomination Of THe Lusting Necrocorpse". They sound exactly as you imagine them to.
Word of the day: Londonistan, or the US press's term for London-as-the-Jihadist-hub-of-Europe:
In articles with headlines such as "For decades London thrived as a busy crossroads for terror" (New York Times) and "Continent's Issues include Geography and Open borders: Bombers travel freely, police cannot" (Wall Street Journal), the American press argue that London is a global hub for Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist cells.
"If London became a magnet for fiery preachers, it also became a destination for men willing to carry out their threats," said a front page report in the Times on Sunday. "For a decade, the city has been a crossroads for would-be terrorists who used it as a home base, where they could raise money, recruit members and draw inspiration from the militant messages."There is now debate in the US about whether Britons should be able to enter the US without a visa.
Link via hairyears, who points out that, more than that, London is a hub of open debate of the sort suppressed in the Middle East, and the liberals and reformists greatly outnumber the Wahhabi exterminationists:
This is the world's largest population of educated middle-class Arabs in an open society. As a consequence of our tolerance, all shades of opinion are expressed here, from Hamza and the exterminationists to governments-in-waiting, to exiled monarchs and all manner of opposition newspapers that are banned and smuggled into the 'home' country by travellers and relatives. Small cabals of nutcases in bedsits with bombing videos and extremist tracts, attending Arabic-speaking private mosques? Yes, we've got them, too. What's Arabic for Unabomber? Madmen have existed here since the Anarchists came to London a century ago, with their futile factional extremism and their bombs, but it never amounted to anything much. London's politically lively - raw and strident, if you know where to look - but it's no hotbed of violence: politics, not warfare.
It is also well worth pointing out that the suppression of moderate Arabic opinion has been condoned by successive Washington administrations, who do not grant political asylum to embarrassing critics of strategically-useful despots. That's why the moderates are here, not in New York's great melting-pot.
The wheel of fortune turns again; disgraced blogging pioneer Jorn Barger is now homeless on the streets. He has been seen in San Francisco, holding up a sign "Coined the term 'weblog,' never made a dime". I wonder whether he shares the sidewalk with several failed dot-com entrepreneurs.
(via The Fix)
Recording company bosses are livid after the BBC makes MP3s of Beethoven's symphonies available for downloading:
Managing director of the Naxos label, Anthony Anderson, said: "I think there is a question of whether a publicly funded broadcaster should be doing this and there is the obvious issue that it is devaluing the perceived value of music. You are also leading the public to think that it is fine to download and own these files for nothing."Of course, the value of music that the label executives are so valiantly defending is not its use value (how much enjoyment it can bring) but its exchange value (how useful it is as a currency).
In today's dominant ideology of Reaganite-Thatcherite monetarism, where the key participants are corporations (beings incapable of actually experiencing the use value of art) and humans are merely the microorganisms in their guts, art is primarily currency; any subjective artistic or aesthetic value is secondary. Scarcity is essential to the value of a currency, and any loss of scarcity damages that value. Which is why copying is seen not as cultural cross-pollination but as equivalent to currency counterfeiting, making music available for free, even when legal, is considered unethical.