The Null Device

Posts matching tags '2009'

2009/12/30

Another year is drawing to an end, and once again, it's time to look back on the past year in music. So here's my list of the top records of 2009, in alphabetical order.

With honourable mentions going to: Aleks & The Ramps, Midnight Believer (it's good to hear a new album from them, though a bit more understated than Pisces vs. Aquarius), Atlas Sound, Logos (nice summery ambient pop; the guest appearances by Panda Bear and Lætitia Sadier are particularly good), The Brunettes, Paper Dolls (the New Zealanders move further from their doo-wop retro-pop roots, in style if not in themes; they're still the band who sing about boys and girls holding hands and feeding ducks, but it sounds like they've been listening to a lot of Architecture In Helsinki), Decoder Ring, They Blind The Stars, And The Wild Team (the project, always hovering in the spaces between electronica and post-rock, moves further into post-rock territory), The Depreciation Guild, Dream About Me (only a 7", and sold out except in MP3 form, but a damn fine song for the shoegazers out there, with the same sort of dreamy romanticism as Slowdive's "Alison"), The Horrors, Primary Colours (though only Sea Within A Sea really grabbed me), Loney, Dear, Dear John (a darker record from Emil; where I could hear unrequited longing in the predecessors, in this one, time has run on, the flame has sputtered out and the cold shadow of death looms all too near; or at least that's what it says to me), Misty Roses, Villainess (more genre-movie-quoting loungecore from the transatlantic duo), Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (immaculately assembled pop from Paris), various artists, Dark Was The Night (a collaboration between 4AD and the AIDS charity Red Hot, consisting of indie bands doing folk standards and their own pieces; there's a thread of the longing for human intimacy running through the record, and perhaps an echo of This Mortal Coil in places). Not to mention three rereleases from significant artists: Another Sunny Day's London Weekend (on Cherry Red, with bonus tracks, including an entirely unexpected OMD cover), Spearmint's extended edition of A Week Away (weighing in at almost twice the original's length, thanks to the generous helping of bonus tracks) and, of course, Kraftwerk's magisterial box set, The Catalogue.

Were there a gong for the record of the year, it'd have to go to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

2009 cds lists music 2

2009/12/13

The New York Times has published its annual roundup of the past year in ideas (unfortunately, in a pretty but annoyingly unlinkable JavaScript-based format).

This list has the usual variety of design/technological ideas (artificial engine noise for electric cars, artificial guilt for battlefield robots, a kitchen sink that puts out fires by filling the air with a fine mist, the glow-in-the-dark dog), environmental interventions/observations (artificial carbon-absorbing trees, a way of more efficiently disposing of corpses, bans on suburban culs-de-sac, pessimistic variants on the Gaia hypothesis), psychology and the social sciences (lithium in the water supply reduces suicide rates, randomly promoting employees works best, being given "counterfeit" goods to wear can increase one's likelihood of cheating), geopolitics (promoting communication in itself to undermine dictatorships) and business (subscription models for funding art). Where last year's had a recurring theme of trying to fix a dysfunctional capitalism, this year's theme seems to be zombies (both in the context of Jane Austen mashups and finding scientific models of how to survive a zombie epidemic; the answer, for what it's worth, is strike back hard and annihilate them before it's too late).

2009 design environment ideas politics tech zombies 0

2009/1/5

Texan Cyberpunk sci-fi author turned father of the Viridian pro-green design/technology movement turned Belgrade-based design theorist Bruce Sterling gives his annual state-of-the-world address to the Inkwell forum. It's focussed mostly on the economic cataclysm in progress, and it's full of the sorts of apposite powder-dry black humour you'd expect from him:

Do we HAVE to talk about the economy this year? I'm wondering what conceivable event could overshadow the fiscal crisis. Maybe a cozy little nuclear war? An Indo-Pakistani nuclear war might conceivably take a *back page* to the fiscal crisis.
I'm a bohemian type, so I could scarcely be bothered to do anything "financially sound" in my entire adult life. Last year was the first year when I've felt genuinely sorry for responsible, well-to-do people. Suddenly they've got the precariousness of creatives, of the underclass, without that gleeful experience of decades spent living-it-up.
If the straights were not "prone to hostility" before that experience, they might well be so after it, because they've got a new host of excellent reasons. The sheer galling come-down of watching the Bottom Line, the Almighty Dollar, revealed as a papier-mache pinata. It's like somebody burned their church.
After indulging in terriblisma for a while, Sterling turns his attention to Dmitry Orlov's prediction of the US disintegrating, and ideas for a "new localism" that might arise in the event of catastrophic collapse:
In any case, after eight glum years of watching Bush and his neocons methodically wreck the Republic, both Kunstler and Robb have gotten really big on American localism -- "resilient" localism. Kunstler has this painterly, small-town-America, Thoreauvian thing going on, kinda locavore voluntary simplicity, with lots of time for... I dunno, group chorale singing. Kunstler seems kinda hung up on the singing effort, somehow... Whereas Robb has a military background and is more into a gated-community, bug-out-bag, militia rapid-response thing.
Certainly neither of these American visions look anything like what happened to Russia. As Orlov accurately points out, in the Russian collapse, if you were on a farm or in some small neighborly town, you were toast. The hustlers in the cities were the ones with inventive opportunities, so they were the ones getting by.
So the model polity for local urban resilience isn't Russia. I'm inclined to think the model there is Italy. Italy has had calamitous Bush-levels of national incompetence during almost its entire 150-year national existence.
Meanwhile, Clay Shirky gives his predictions for 2009. Whether or not we're all toast, a lot of the old media, such as newspapers, seem to be:
The great misfortune of newspapers in this era is that they were such a good idea for such a long time that people felt the newspaper business model was part of a deep truth about the world, rather than just the way things happened to be. It's like the fall of communism, where a lot of the eastern European satellite states had an easier time because there were still people alive who remembered life before the Soviet Union - nobody in Russia remembered it. Newspaper people are like Russians, in a way.
Why pay for it at all? The steady loss of advertising revenue, accelerated by the recession, has normalised the idea that it's acceptable to move to the web. Even if we have the shallowest recession and advertising comes back as it inevitably does, more of it will go to the web. I think that's it for newspapers. What we saw happen to the Christian Science Monitor [the international paper shifted its daily news operation online] is going to happen three or four dozen times (globally) in the next year. The 500-year-old accident of economics occasioned by the printing press - high upfront cost and filtering happening at the source of publication - is over. But will the New York Times still exist on paper? Of course, because people will hit the print button.
Shirky's not one for terriblisma, so not much about social collapse, cannibalism or killer caravans marauding the post-apocalyptic landscape there. For that, you'll have to read Charlie Brooker's column:
Dim your lights. Here's the highlights reel. The worst recession in 60 years. Broken windows and artless graffiti. Howling winds blowing empty cans past boarded-up shopfronts. Feral children eating sloppy handfuls of decomposed-pigeon-and-baked-bean mulch scraped from the bottom of dustbins in a desperate bid to survive. The pound worth less than the acorn. The City worth less than the pound. Your house worth so little it'll collapse out of shame, crushing you in your bed. Not that you'll die peacefully in your sleep - no, you'll be wide awake with fear, worrying about the situation in the Middle East at the precise moment a chunk of ceiling plaster the size of a flagstone tumbles from on high to flatten your skull like a biscuit under a shoe, sending your brain twizzling out of your earholes like pink-grey toothpaste squeezed from a tube. All those language skills and precious memories splattered over your pillows. It'll ruin the bedclothes. And instead of buying expensive new ones, your grieving, impoverished relatives will have to handwash those bedclothes in cold water for six hours to shift the most upsetting stains before passing them down to your orphaned offspring, who are fated to sleep on them in a disused underground station for the rest of their lives, shivering in the dark as they hear bombs dipped in bird flu dropping on the shattered remains of the desiccated city above.

(via Boing Boing) 2009 bruce sterling business charlie brooker clay shirky economy predictions society terriblisma wd2 0

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