The Null Device


The age of vector graphics on the web is drawing closer; Raphaël is a JavaScript library which gives you a portable way of drawing vector graphics, not only on all modern browsers but, amazingly enough, on Internet Explorer from version 6 upwards. (It uses SVG on modern browsers and VML on Microsoft's ones.) Anyway, Raphaël code looks like:

var paper = Raphael(10, 50, 320, 200);
var c =, 50, 40);
c.attr({fill: "#000", stroke: "none"});
c.node.onclick = function() {
    c.attr("fill", "red");
It also handles images, text, and paths (using the SVG path notation). And here is a set of free icons, all implemented as path strings for use in Raphaël; they look fairly neat and modern, though, being single path objects, are monochrome. Being paths, though, they scale seamlessly.

So how soon can you use this in your web sites? Well, it runs with most of the web browsers in use these days, though needs a 55Kb (20Kb gzipped) JavaScript file. You'll probably need to host this file yourself, neither Google nor Yahoo! seem to have added it to their public CDN systems yet (though perhaps it's only a matter of time).

graphics javascript nifty svg tech web 0

Another horrible example of public transport privatisation gone wrong, this time from Auckland, where the efficiencies of the free market have produced a system that's expensive and inconvenient, and encouraged the public to drive:

City planners impose various pseudo-quantitative performance indicators on the contractors, such as sophisticated GPS systems to monitor on-time performance. But even this minimal nod to public accountability produces unintended consequences. Bus companies fear being fined for missing schedule targets, but are driven by the profit motive to ruthlessly minimize outlays on equipment and staff. The resulting pressure is intense on drivers (some of whom don’t even get paid overtime) to meet unrealistic timetables – a media exposé last year showed this often requires breaking the speed limit. Several times, we’ve watched an awaited bus race by without stopping, the driver shrugging helplessly and pointing at his watch.
Yet Aucklanders still pay for transit – three times over. Once through taxes – subsidies to private transit consume half of all property taxes collected by the regional government. Then again at the fare box. And finally a third time through inconvenience. No wonder Aucklanders take transit one-quarter as often as Torontonians.
The article is written by a Canadian journalist resident in Auckland, and is in response to a debate about privatising Toronto's (fairly highly-rated, by all accounts) public transport system.

(via Infrastructurist) canada fail neoliberalism new zealand privatisation public transport 1

Chopsticks At Dawn; a fascinating 30-minute BBC radio documentary, presented by comedian Anna Chen, exploring pseudo-Oriental motifs (such as the Oriental Riff) in Western popular music. These motifs bear little relation to any actual Chinese or oriental musical traditions (the closest link is their use of pentatonic scales, though even these are neither as exclusive to or common in the East as widely believed), but became stereotypically "Chinese" to Western ears by virtue of sounding exotic, and plausibly oriental to someone who is not overly familiar with the actual cultures in question. The foundations were laid by 19th-century composers naïvely trying to evoke the Orient; they took a more malignant turn with the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment in the west, rising from Britain's opium wars, and subsequent need to dehumanise the Chinese, as well as popular xenophobic panic about the "heathen Chinee") turning into a set of mocking, vaguely ridiculous caricatures. The most egregious of those stereotypes have been consigned to history, but the musical clichés running through them still lied sufficiently close to the surface to emerge in pop songs like Kung Fu Fighting and Hong Kong Garden, serving as musical shorthand for an entire region and set of cultures for Westerners.

(via Hong Kong In The 60s) china culture history orientalism 0