The Null Device


First there were zombie sharks swimming down the main streets of New Orleans; now, it emerges, there may be US Navy hunter-killer dolphins on the loose in the Gulf of Mexico, waiting to start picking off unsuspecting surfers with toxic darts:

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

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The famous photograph of The Smiths outside the Salford Lads' Club, taken by rock photographer Stephen Wright and seen on the The Queen Is Dead album and countless bedsit walls, is about to take its place in the National Portrait Gallery. Which, I suppose, is what happens when yesteryear's teenage bedsit tragics grow into positions of cultural influence.

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Sociologists attempt to answer that most baffling of questions: why do we have Goths?

"Sometimes you'll find that people who were low status in the school environment will suddenly find this new group in which the things that they do are considered much more high-status, credit-worthy things," he said.
And he added that particularly noticeable was the role of relatively feminine men in the goth scene.
"At school they were either bullied or just not really noticed too much," he said. "Suddenly they discover goth music, and they find themselves in an environment where actually, to be feminine as a man is rather valued, and suddenly girls are rather interested in you. "I think it's an alternative set of values which renders people - who previously didn't have status - desirable."
That's not quote the explanation I heard (i.e., that wearing black PVC fetishwear, smoking extra-carcinogenic Indonesian cigarettes and cultivating an appreciation of laughable Teutonic fascist-themed dance pop is the best way for spotty, awkward geeks to get bootywhang some semblance of a social life). And there's the fact that wearing black is a safe choice for appearing less unfit than otherwise (which is why today's society, with its dominant aging baby-boomer demographic, has yet to find a lasting New Black).

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An Australian study has found that drivers of four-wheel-drives (SUVs) are often obese, reactionary, intolerant and aggressive, and have crew-cuts and rottweilers named Winner:

A new study has found that city owners of large four-wheel-drive vehicles are less community minded than other drivers, less charitable, more likely to be homophobic and have a low opinion of indigenous culture.
The Australia Institute study has also found they are more likely to use force to get their way.
Two thirds of their drivers in the city are overweight or obese. They also had a lower regard for the welfare system than the general population.
In other words, 4WD drivers are model members of John Howard's Relaxed and Comfortable Australia. One could almost say that not owning a 4WD is un-Australian.

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Tonight, I saw Belle & Sebastian at the Barbican. The performance was one of several in the ATP Don't Look Back series, in which bands perform live renditions of their classic albums. For their turn, Belle & Sebastian did If You're Feeling Sinister.

The support band for this gig was Broadcast, who were excellent. They played a combination of new material and old (including Come On Let's Go), and played like a tight, finely-tuned groove machine. One got an impression of retrofuturism, as if their music (with its analogue fuzz, live drum grooves and clunky bass) was something out of a 1960s-vintage view of a shining, stylish future. Anyway, they're doing a gig at Koko in Camden on Wednesday as well.

Then Belle & Sebastian went on. They had 12 musicians on stage and an astonishing array of kit (including a xylophone or similar, an electric piano and a PowerBook they seemed to play software instruments on); one can see why they might need their own trucking company just to get all their stuff to gigs. They started off playing a few random songs (mostly from EPs, though including a rare live version of Electronic Renaissance, with two drummers), then went into If You're Feeling Sinister. There was a rather fitting muted trumpet solo at the end of Like Dylan In The Movies, and after The Fox In The Snow, Stuart recounted a dream he had about Isobel agreeing to play this gig if they kept a taxi running for her outside throughout the gig, before confessing to missing her, to the audience's sympathy. For Judy and the Dream Of Horses, the band got a number of people who had been dancing in the audience to dance on stage; afterward, they proceeded to play about half a dozen other songs, including a rousing version of The Boy With The Arab Strap. In total, they played for almost two hours.

It wasn't too unlike their Melbourne gig; at first it started with people sitting quietly in the seats and watching them, but ended up with people dancing in their seats and the aisles, clapping and singing along. Towards the end (in the middle of If You Find Yourself Caught In Love, Stuart paused the song and revealed that he could see many familiar faces in the crowd; he compared this to the end of episodes of The Simpsons. And, towards the end of The Boy With The Arab Strap, the line about "the cool set in London" was followed by applause.

Anyway, it was a brilliant gig. They were in fine form and put on an excellent show.

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