The Null Device


An article in The Age talks about the role of pop lyrics in the cultural shift of the "1960s":

For a while they were a very effective form of mass media, communicating notions about authority, sex and drugs to kids around the world. This mattered because other media, such as newspapers, television and films, were still very conservative. Eventually they caught up, but until they did pop lyrics had an importance they have never had before or since.
But others, particularly those about sex, contained messages that were able to be played on radio only because so few people knew what they meant. In some cases, this was because few people paid close attention to the words. In other cases, it was because the words were obscure, at least by the standards of the time. (It was, let's not forget, a period when Ian Fleming could call a woman in one of his bestsellers Pussy Galore.) This meant lyricists could get away with sentiments that were pretty blatant, even by more recent standards.
For the markers of cultural change, I referred to my favourite book on the period, The Sixties, by American academic Arthur Marwick. He likes the idea that the decade was a "mini-renaissance" that actually ran from 1958 to 1974. In the first of those years, the forces that had been building through the 1950s (civil rights, affluence, the extension of adolescence through expanded higher education) accelerated. The latter date is when the end of the West's participation in the Vietnam War and the impact of the oil crisis hit home.

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The BBC News has a piece on the Exclusive Brethren, who, aside from their love-in with te Tories in Australia, have been trying to get into bed with New Zealand's conservative National Party:

The group was then accused of seeking to influence post-election negotiations by aggressively lobbying minor political parties to form a coalition with Mr Brash's centre-right National party.
Most disturbingly, private detectives claimed they were hired by the group to dig up dirt on the private lives of senior politicians in the Labour party, including the Prime Minister Helen Clark and her husband.
Apparently their political allegiances arise not just from the theocratic hard line they take (after all, if they isolate themselves from sinful worldly society, what's the point of electing governments to punish and straighten this sinfulness among the nonbelievers? It'd be like, say, an Orthodox Jewish group lobbying to ban pork or something.) as from their business interests:
Like all small business people, they need a world of de-regulation and lower taxes, he says, adding that their interests in the agricultural sector would naturally pit them against the Greens.
Ominously enough, Australia's right-wing Prime Minister John Howard is on record as saying that he has no problems with the Exclusive Brethren's values, and that they're a lot more in line with mainstream Australia than a lot of other groups (by which, I'm guessing, he means those latte-sipping SBS-watching inner-city socialist cosmopolitanists).

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Former Russian spy turned defector Alexander Litvinenko has died in a London hospital, having been mysteriously poisoned. The authorities still don't know what substance was used to kill him, though thallium and radioactive agents were both suspected. The Russian secret services have denied poisoning him (though they of course would). Some are pointing the finger at Russian President Putin, an ex-KGB man, whose government Litvinenko had criticised.

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