The Null Device

2008/3/26

US Department of Homeland Security convenes a group of science fiction writers, dubbed "SIGMA", to brainstorm ideas for defending the nation; writers, instead, go off on bizarre tangents:

Niven said a good way to help hospitals stem financial losses is to spread rumors in Spanish within the Latino community that emergency rooms are killing patients in order to harvest their organs for transplants.
“The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren’t going to pay for anything anyway,” Niven said.

(via Boing Boing) a modest proposal bizarre larry niven scifi society the long siege usa 0 Share

This book looks like it could be interesting:

They believe that in-authenticity is the defining nature of popular music and that notions of authenticity have been manufactured and marketed, as a matter of fact they argue that the more performers try to "keep it real" the more artificial they become. Everything from black-and-white minstrel shows, the "primitive" blues of the South, and The Monkees, to Neil Young's Tonight's The Night as their most "honest" record and Kurt Cobain's suicide note denouncing his own "fakery" are all grist for their mill.
Another case was Mississippi John Hurt who was in fact was not from the Mississippi delta, his name was amended by his record company for marketing purposes. Originally he played a mixture of Tin Pan Alley tunes and ragtime guitar with a white fiddle player but that was seen as problematic, the reverse of the situation where Jimmie Rodgers who was a white blues player was told to play folk and country because it was more saleable for a white man. For Southern whites, meanwhile, "authenticity" consisted of fiddle tunes, Appalachian ballads and square-dance songs. And so, after one recording session, John Hurt went back to his house in Avalon, Missouri. He stayed there until 1963, when two young white men found him and hauled him off to help lead the blues revival. That he didn't think of himself as a bluesman seemed not to matter.
The authors argue persuasively that the authenticity commonly ascribed to these forms of so-called roots music is, as often as not, artificial in that the distinctions drawn between these musical categories distort both the experience of the musicians who played the music and the history of the songs assigned to one category or another. They argue that considerations of authenticity distort the music and constrain the musicians in the world music genre (Ry Cooder, Paul Simon and the Buena Vista Social Club) and how authenticity plays out in genres that embrace artifice such as bubblegum pop (The Monkees), dance/electronica (Kraftwerk) and early rock (Elvis Presley).

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The Graun has an article on the phenomenon of fried chicken shops in Britain, tying in the class aspect (fried chicken as a signifier of underclass status), the racial and cultural dimensions and the connection with Islam:

The increasing number of halal fried chicken shops in the UK is testament to changing demographic and eating patterns. "The Muslim community here is growing," says Enam Ali, chair of the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs. "Fried chicken is cheap - [people who eat it] are young, students, with limited pocket money." Masood Khawaja, president of the Halal Food Authority, says, "A great percentage of third generation Muslims are not eating the original cuisine of their families - they want more takeaways, more convenience foods."
"Let's just grasp the nettle here," says black comic Paul Ricketts, whose stand-up observations often turn to this issue. "All black areas have loads of fried chicken outlets. It is a socio-economic thing. Chicken is one of the cheapest birds you can get. When people go on about smelly food, what they really mean is fried chicken, and they're having a dig at the people eating it - we have an era where we don't mention class any more, we just call them chavs or hoodies - it's a term for working-class scum."
At Halal Southern Fried Chicken in London's Brick Lane, they lace their hot wing batter with chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander. Most customers are men in their 20s. The story is the same further down the road at Al-Badar Fried Chicken and Curry Restaurant, where their hot wings are coated in cinnamon, coriander and fresh and crushed chillies. Manager Amer Salim differentiates his product from the nearby KFC, which, he says, caters to another market. "In London's Tower Hamlets, the Bangladeshi community like spicy with more and more chilli," he says. "Fried chicken in KFC is not spicy."
It doesn't mention the iconographic idiosyncracies of these shops, with their varyingly plausible faux-Americanisms (from "_ Fried Chicken" shops named after random US states to shops whose signage evokes images of cowboys frying chicken over campfires on the Rio Grande to the ubiquitous cartoon mascots of chickens in cowboy hats.

class fried chicken islam multiculturalism postcolonialism race society uk 0 Share

Pandit Surinder Sharma, avowedly India's most powerful black magician, claimed on television to be able to magically kill any person within three minutes. The president of Rationalist International, Sanal Edamaruku, took him up on that, with unsurprising results:

After nearly two hours, the anchor declared the tantrik’s failure. The tantrik, unwilling to admit defeat, tried the excuse that a very strong god whom Sanal might be worshipping obviously protected him. “No, I am an atheist,” said Sanal Edamaruku. Finally, the disgraced tantrik tried to save his face by claiming that there was a never-failing special black magic for ultimate destruction, which could, however, only been done at night. Bad luck again, he did not get away with this, but was challenged to prove his claim this very night in another “breaking news” live program.
Sharma repeated his attempt on Sanal's life some hours later, at night, with millions of people watching; the attempt ended with the magician cutting a dough effigy with a knife and throwing it into a fire, with Sanal laughing, and with black magic's prestige taking a battering throughout India.

(via Boing Boing) india magic rationalism skepticism supernatural tantrik 0 Share

Muxtape.com is a new web application which allows users to make online mix tapes by uploading MP3s, which then can be arranged into a "mix tape" people can listen to online. It gets bonus points for the interface, which has a minimal elegance about it and does everything other than the actual music playing in DHTML. On the down side, you only get to put 12 MP3s in your mix, and are not supposed to have more than one mix.

(For what it's worth, my one's here.)

(via MeFi) mp3 music web web 2.0 web toys 1 Share

The LA Times tracks down Rick Astley, asks him about the unexpected second act of his 1980s pop career, this time as an internet meme. Astley seems quite cool about it:

“Listen, I just think it’s bizarre and funny. My main consideration is that my daughter doesn’t get embarrassed about it.”

(via MeFi) culture memes online rick astley rickroll 0 Share