The Null Device
A study recently published in the Australasian Psychiatry journal has found correlations between musical preferences and a variety of mental illnesses and antisocial tendencies, and recommends that doctors ask their teenaged patients what sorts of music they listen to. The study, by Dr. Felicity Baker of the University of Queensland, is not online, but these articles contain various points from it. Among them:
- There are associations between listening to heavy metal and suicidal ideation, depression and drug use, while both metal and trance, techno and "medieval music" are connected with self-harm (though, apparently, only when associated with the goth subculture). Outside of the goth subculture, it seems, dance music is just associated with drug use.
- Different forms of rap/hip-hop are associated with different levels of criminality and delinquency, as well as violence and misogyny; apparently the worst is "French rap". I wouldn't have guessed that enough Australian teenagers would understand French well enough to get into the sound of les banlieues. Could it be that teenagers are learning French for the street cred?
- Those who are into jazz tend to be misfits and loners (one could presumably call this the Howard Moon Effect?) Is jazz a big thing among today's teens, or did they lump in a whole bunch of non-pop/non-dance genres, like post-rock, krautrock, Balkan/klezmer/gypsy and nu-gazer, with jazz?
There's an intriguing article in the Guardian about the descendents of German Nazis who converted to Judaism and moved to Israel. The article interviews several such converts (the son of a SS man who's an Orthodox rabbi, a left-wing lesbian campaigner for Palestinian rights, and a professor of Jewish Studies who is related to Hitler, and who describes his (Israeli-born, Arab-hating) son as a "fascist").
One somewhat obvious explanation for this phenomenon is that of assuagement of guilt by rejecting the oppressor population one came from identifying with the victims, and this explanation is floated by an expert on the psychology of the children of perpetrators. Interestingly, though, none of those interviewed, when asked for why they converted to Judaism, mention the Holocaust or Nazism, instead giving theological reasons:
"During my theological studies at university it became clear that I couldn't be a minister in the church," he says. "I concluded that Christianity was paganism. One of [its] most important dogmas is that God became man, and if God becomes man then man also can become God." He pauses. "Hitler became a kind of god."
I tell Bar-On they talk obsessively about the Trinity. But is incredulity really a reason for abandoning a religion with a three-in-one god for one that still believes bushes talk and that waves are parted by the will of God? "That is another way of saying what I have already told you," he says. "They want to join the community of the victim. They may have their own way of rationalising it."
Google adds Australia to Street View, meaning that large segments of road in Australian urban areas have been given the once-over by Google's camera trucks, producing panoramic images. The images are quite close together, meaning that you can take a virtual tour of various streetscapes.
The coverage seems quite comprehensive; Google's vans managed to trundle down most of the streets in the inner cities, some of those in the outer suburbs, and vast stretches of highway along the outback. Not only can you see inner Sydney and Melbourne, but unimaginable expanses of suburban cul-de-sacs (I imagine there are quite a few Britons who'd be excited by the fact that Pin Oak Ct., Vermont South, has been photographed), and sweeping expanses of outback and desert (they got most of the highway across the Nullarbor, for one). Everywhere from the CBDs and funky lattelands of the inner cities, to towns with one pub, two churches (Catholic and Anglican) and a war memorial, from golden beaches to the unforgivingly majestic landscapes far from anywhere where the idea of the "tyranny of distance", so key to understanding why Australia became what it is, is viewable and scrollable, in increments of ten or so metres. Most of these views will, in all statistical probability, never be looked at by a human being (other than Google's editorial staff).
Personally, the first places I visited when I found out about this were my former homes and old stomping grounds in Melbourne. It was reassuring to see that everything's still there (the flats I was living in in North Fitzroy still look as they did, the Tin Pot and Piedimonte's are still there, Brunswick Street's still unchanged, and even the Lord Newry Hotel looks like it might still serve as a pub, rather than upmarket apartments). A flat I lived in in Carnegie, and a childhood home near Caulfield Racecourse, were also faithfully recorded. The outer suburbs of Melbourne, however, fared somewhat more patchily; the two houses in the outer eastern wilderness where I spent my adolescence had both been passed over by the Google recording angel. Though the major roads were all there, as were the scenic routes leading out of the city.
Australia has stolen a march on much of the rest of the world with Street View. While the technology was, infamously, pioneered in the US (with the usual outcry about the privacy of scantily-clad sunbathers, porno-theatre patrons and housecats in windows being violated), coverage in Europe is presently limited to a few swathes cut through France. (Though, to their credit, the Street View mannequin rendered on French maps does appear to be wearing a beret.) Apparently Britain is on the way, though, as Google's vans have been seen on these shores.