The Null Device
Some hackers have found a Palm Pre firmware image in a recovery tool and started looking around in it, examining the system. It is, as expected, a fairly standard-looking Linux system, with the full complement of command-line tools (not that you can access them from the GUI), and a lot of hackable low-level settings. Also in the ROM: a JVM, icons for other application types, and some settings in configuration files which hint at other Palm WebOS devices in the pipeline (including one codenamed "Zepfloyd"). In general, it looks fairly elegant. There's a long discussion thread, containing discoveries in the ROM image, here
The town of Kingsville, Texas, is doing its bit in the battle against the powers of evil by banning the word "hello", which contains the word "hell":
"When you go to school and church, they tell you 'hell' is negative and 'heaven' is positive,'" said the 56-year-old Canales, who owns the Kingsville Flea Market. "I think it's time that we set a new precedent, to tell our kids that we are positive adults."
On Thursday, courthouse employees were answering the phones, "heaven-o." And the chamber of commerce was working on a campaign promoting Kingsville, a Rio Grande Valley town of 25,000, as a "heavenly" place to visit.
Canales, a Catholic but not a regular churchgoer, has been as serious as heck about "hello" since 1988, when he told his brother he might start greeting people with "God-o." His brother suggested "heaven-o" instead.Pointing out that the word "hello" has no etymological connection with the word "hell" (the OED says that it stems from an old German greeting for hailing a boat) is, as one might expect, of little avail to the sort of mediæval mindset that finds omens and portents in things.
Two years after last.fm was bought out by CBS, who ran it as an autonomous unit, the three founders have handed in their resignations; they will stay on as consultants until September, after which control will be handed over entirely to CBS. After that, we can probably expect the servers to be boxed up and shipped to the US and the site to be rebranded as "MTV Online" or something, plastered with intrusive ads, and generally stripped of anything that made it cool in the first place.
So where do you go after last.fm? How do you display the superlative coolness of your musical taste to the world once last.fm is no longer fit to point people at? Well, there's libre.fm, which is still in alpha, doesn't look very good and has next to nobody using it. Libre.fm, though, is open-source, so you could easily run your own server. Perhaps the future will consist of people running their own scrobblers, or social networks providing scrobbling services to their users; your music stats will be available as standard XML feeds, with a XFN-style microformat link from your profile/homepage, letting the world know that this is what you've been listening to. Of course, one advantage a centralised site like last.fm had was that it could easily crunch the data and find recommendations or determine the compatibility of musical tastes, though if it's a web service, someone could write a third-party site to crunch exported music profiles. (Perhaps that someone will be Google or Facebook? Or perhaps Murdoch's struggling MySpace will leap at the opportunity, implement scrobbling, and then make a hash of it with obnoxious in-your-face Flash ads and a garishly unpleasant user experience.) As for finding upcoming gigs, event sites like upcoming.org, or Facebook's Event facility, could be expanded to be aware of band/artist names and search by user profiles.
Christian lander, author of the Stuff White People Like blog (and book) visits Melbourne, pronounces it to be "white":
'MELBOURNE is definitely whiter than Sydney," says Christian Lander, before taking a sip of organic Fair Trade coffee. "In Sydney, most people seem to spend their days jogging around large bodies of water," he adds. "Melbourne is more chilled. If I lived in Australia, I'd live here."And the "whitest" part of Melbourne is apparently North Fitzroy, my old 'hood:
We're in North Fitzroy, huddled over a small table in a trendy cafe-slash-grocer. It's the sort of place that sells organic vegetables, bio-dynamic meat and expensive pots of jam. On weekends, it's overrun by couples with babies on their chests and The Age under their arms. It's the perfect place to begin our search for Melbourne's Whitest Spot.
We leave the cafe and wander down Scotchmer Street and St Georges Road. "This place ticks all the boxes," Lander says excitedly. "Organic bakery! Cafe with retro furniture! Vintage clothing store! Authentic Thai restaurant! And old-school pub! Another organic bakery!"
But then we encounter a pub with — oh no! — pokies. "Everything about this place is problematic. It's definitely not white. But, paradoxically, it makes this suburb even whiter because it reminds everyone that working-class people still live here, which makes it more authentic."Lander has some other observation on the "whiteness" of Melbourne:
We hop on a tram and spend the next three hours strolling around Brunswick and Fitzroy. Lander asserts that Smith Street's grungy vibe makes it slightly whiter than Brunswick Street. But Gertrude Street, with its record shops, handmade toy retailers and natural cosmetics stores, is the whitest of the lot. It is here his wife Jess buys a funky koala doll for a friend's baby. "That koala was made by someone who lives in Fitzroy," the assistant tells her. Big white tick.(Smith St. is "whiter" than Brunswick St.? I'm guessing that he hasn't encountered its significant Aboriginal community. Or is Brunswick Street by now gentrified and suburbanised and changed to a different colour (perhaps pink, after the SubGenius usage)?)
Of course, by "white", he undoubtedly means "creative class" or "bourgeois bohemian" or somesuch, with an undertone of opprobrium, a hint of latent racism or sharply wielded and insufficiently atoned-for privilege. Note: merely having the privilege of not having been oppressed for one's skin colour doesn't seem to qualify one as "white"; otherwise, why is having a preference for organic food, vintage clothing and authenticity any more "white" than, say, NASCAR racing or country music, or the default option of honestly vegetating in front of a suburban plasma screen with a bucket of KFC? Lander seems to be identifying whiteness as the hypocrisy of pretending that one is something other than an oppressor whilst maintaining privileges derived from oppression. At least people who drink instant coffee, listen to commercial radio and get their clothes from K-Mart are honest, he seems to say.
Landers doesn't put the case directly in this fashion, and doesn't actually level a serious accusation. Instead, he asserts that "white people" here are "hipsters". Which brings us to the question of what is a hipster. Originally it meant a jazz enthusiast in the 1950s (and, coincidentally, Norman Mailer described the hipster as "the White Negro", in reference to their embrace/appropriation of African-American culture). Now it seems the word is used in several ways. It is used by people of low cultural engagement saying "those people are weird, I don't get them, heh heh", sometimes in a pejorative sense. On the other hand, you often get people who are engaged in creative cultures self-describing as "hipsters", in quotes, because it saves having to explain themselves, and in the next breath using the word pejoratively for superficial fashion victims (or perhaps those whose subculture they don't get).
When the word hipster is used in the pejorative sense, at its harshest it becomes synonymous with pejorative uses of the word "gay"; an aggressive assertion of the metaphorical homosexuality of the subject.
Incidentally, this is not the only parallel between hipsterism and homosexuality. Richard Florida, author of The Rise Of The Creative Class, pointed out a correlation between locales with gay scenes and locales with creative activity. As such, Lander's "whiteness" could be a repackaged form of "gayness", and if one can argue that being a "hipster" is latent racism, one could also argue that hipster-bashing is latent homophobia.