The Null Device
Analysis of street cocaine found in Britain has shown that your typical sample is about 10% pure, with the rest being made up, essentially, of anything white and powdery, including some rather nasty chemicals:
Much of the seized cocaine is found to have been cut with phenacetin - a pharmaceutical drug banned some years ago in Britain and most other nations for causing kidney failure and cancer.
Other drugs used for cutting or "bashing" cocaine include lignocaine (a dental painkiller), tetramisole (used for de-worming pets) and boric acid (used to kill cockroaches).Not that such revelations are likely to dampen demand for what is essentially Britain's national drug. After all, the risk of an agonising death from cancer hasn't put many people off bacon, and cocaine feeds into the celebrity-obsessed, superficially success-oriented bling culture of Blatcherite Britain; and even if people know that the £2.50 line of coke they do is unlikely to be like anything their footballer/WAG/indie-star idols touch, suspension of disbelief is a powerful thing.
The problem, of course, is that cocaine is, by definition, sold by criminals, and there is no incentive for anything remotely like fair dealing. One answer, of course, would be to legalise cocaine and regulate it as stringently as alcohol and tobacco are. As soon as that happened, coke dealers would go the way of bathtub gin merchants and the quality and reliability would go up; Waitrose would carry organic, fair-trade cocaine from day one, and for those on a budget, £3.79 would get you a line of Tesco Value coke (3% purity, but cut with thoroughly innocuous substances). Lidl would undoubtedly come to the party with a janky-looking faux-authentic store brand; "Medellin Hills", perhaps, or "Mr. Montana's"?
Of course, legalising drugs is the sort of thing only somebody with an excess of common sense would advocate, and there is no way that it would ever happen in the real world. Thankfully, there are other, more politically viable, possibilities. Given that the majority of the active ingredient in street cocaine is not actually cocaine but various tranquillisers (hence the feeling of numbness which many naïve cokeheads assume as proof of the drug's authenticity), the next logical step would be to do away with the illegal substance altogether and sell perfectly legal pseudococaine. It'd have the right colour, texture and consistency for doing a social line at a party, would function excellently as a prop for one's fantasies of celebrity glamour, and would even give one a mild buzz, though would contain nothing more dangerous (or illegal) than a few stimulants and tranquillisers, heavily diluted.
A British scientist has come up with a bold solution to the environmental consequences of aviation: nuclear-powered airliners. Not only will they be able to fly around the world without a break, emitting no carbon whatsoever, but they could also be made safe. The nuclear engines would be on the wings in armoured casings, and could be jettisoned on parachutes in the event of the plane falling (and, presumably, the pilot giving up any hope of saving it). Should the casings rupture, the worst that could happen would be radioactive contamination over a mere few square miles. (Of course, there is also that, should terrorists blow up, shoot down or hijack one of these airliners, they'd have a most serviceable dirty bomb, though surely somebody would have thought of an answer to that. After all, they wouldn't suggest such an idea otherwise, would they?)
Despite these reassurances, Professor Ian Poll concedes that it would take about 30 years to convince the public of the benefits of nuclear aviation.
Tonight, I went to the Forum to a gig in tribute of someone named Nick Sanderson (the frontman of a band named Earl Brutus, apparently, whom I only know from the Gary Numan tribute compilation they appeared on around 1997). Playing were The Jesus and Mary Chain (headlining), British Sea Power and Black Box Recorder.
Black Box Recorder started just after I came in, and were great. They played almost entirely songs from their first album and B-sides thereof, which was good as those were the good ones IMHO. They did England Made Me, Child Psychology, Girl Singing In The Wreckage and a somewhat more dubby take on IC One Female. And Sarah Nixey's vocals were as archly breathy as ever.
When I heard British Sea Power a few years ago, I came away underwhelmed; tonight's gig has reaffirmed that assessment. Their music strikes me as rather dull; competent though uninspiring stadium-filling wall-of-noise workouts in the U2/Coldplay mould, with a bit of Magic Joy Division Dust sprinkled over them to give them some edge.
The Mary Chain, though, were great; they sounded just like the records they made two decades ago, and got the crowd moving. They played mostly more recent tracks, though did get in a few from Darklands and Psychocandy, and they also played one new song. Could there be a new album on the way?
One thing that left me wondering: why was there a huge tinsel rendition of the British Rail logo (you know, the one with the arrows) behind the stage? Is this the RAF Bullseye of 2008 or somesuch?