The Null Device
When the prices of metals rose, one started to hear of thieves electrocuting themselves on powerlines, train services being disrupted because someone nicked all the signal cables and public artworks disappearing in the middle of the night, undoubtedly destined for the scrap market. Now, in the US, the subprime crisis has caused a wave of foreclosures and evictions, and a glut of empty, mostly new houses, some of which are now worth less than their pipes and wiring. So, not surprisingly, these houses often end up being torn apart by scavengers:
"We're seeing houses sold for $100 that are distressed houses that should not be recycled," he said. Some boarded-up homes in his Slavic Village community have "No copper, only PVC" painted on the boards to stop would-be thieves.
(via Boing Boing, Reuters)
The government of Thailand has outlawed cosmetic castration, a surgical procedure that was becoming surprisingly popular as a cheaper, quicker alternative to sex change operations:
However, at the lower end of the market, clinics have responded to demand from teenage boys to look more like girls by posting Internet advertisements offering castration for as little as 4,000 baht ($125).Demand for teenage boys to look more like girls? Is this driven by particularly harsh economic considerations, or is it an extreme manifestation of fashion?
Something which amuses me is the ads on Facebook, and the juxtapositions of irrelevant images (typically of attractive-looking young women, at times in provocative poses) next to pitches for products of various dubiosity, ranging from fairly well-known credit-rating agencies to get-rich-quick schemes and online gambling sites, but having as a common feature an inherent lack of sex appeal. The rationale, I'm guessing, is pure postmodern cynicism: somewhere, some executive decided that the model consumer they're pitching at is like one of the slack-jawed halfwits from Idiocracy ("Gee, I don't know the first thing about work-from-home schemes and stuff... but I sure like hot chicks!"), and decided to market at this notional demographic. Not aiming merely for the dullards, but also for those consumers, brought up on trashy television and celebrity gossip, who are well versed in the practice of simulating being simpletons in order to be entertained, as the Judd Apatows and Seann William Scotts of this world (and their bank managers) know. Call it cognitive slumming, if you will.
Sometimes, though, the juxtaposition between the content (or, rather, its tone) and the Irrelevant Hot Chick Picture becomes quite jarring. Case in point:
Britain's Royal Mint has unveiled the designs for Britain's new coins. The new set of coins is based on the Royal Arms, or rather a hip, edgy, modern treatment of it befitting a marketing powerhouse such as post-Thatcherite Britain. When arrayed in a pattern, you see, the sub-pound coins come together like Voltron's lions and show the edges of the Arms. The design was created by a 26-year-old London-based graphic designer named Matthew Dent.
I think the coins look pretty nifty, though part of me wonders how dated the concept will look in a few decades.
Momus observes that, far from being centres of culture or creativity, districts which attract "funky" bars are merely centres of drunkenness:
I thought that being in the midst of a district dominated by theatre and retail I'd be living in a refined environment. Instead, I found I was living in a sewer. Brydges Place, of an evening, became an open toilet, used as a slash-wall of last resort by many of the thousands of people who descended on central London every evening to drink... heavily. My friend Thomi, who had a studio above John Calder's publishing house on Green's Court in Soho, had it even worse: people would stand on his step and pee right through the letterbox. Later I moved to the Chinese end of the Lower East Side just in time to see it teeter between a quietly industrious Asian district by day and a burgeoning, boisterous white people's drinking district by night.Momus lays the blame squarely at the feet of white people:
White people -- if you'll forgive the generalisation -- drink, and the further north you go the more immoderately and self-destructively they tend to drink. Or, to put that a little differently, the whiter your district gets, the more bars are going to pop up, and the more your Friday and Saturday nights will fill up with piss, shouting, boom-boom -boom, swagger and bravado.Momus' solution to avoiding being surrounded by vomiting revellers is simple: choose an area with a large Islamic population.
Tony Blair is launching a foundation to promote religious faith in public life. Blair's Faith Foundation is not specific on which religious doctrine the faith should be in, as long, as long as actual religious faith is involved. Because it would be a shame if the big decisions that affect millions of lives were made on some lesser basis, such as, for example, reason or empirical observation.
Apparently 2% of internet traffic now consists of denial-of-service attacks, mostly launched by botnets of hijacked Windows PCs operated remotely by organised crime. By comparison, email comprises 1 to 1.5% of internet traffic (though a majority of that is reportedly spam).