The Null Device


The Christmas/New Year holiday season is nigh upon us; and with it comes the traditional epidemic of seasonal depression, as people compare their own miserable lives, unfavourably, to idealised images of Yuletide bliss. Not surprisingly, the suicide rate peaks in late December and early January; while some open their presents, others open their wrists. Also unsurprisingly, Christmas is the traditional release date for violent action films:

Watching wrathful murders makes depressed people feel strong. They walk home in the cold to their empty apartments, hopped-up on the sexy pump of rage, hoping some asshole will say something obnoxious to them so they can feel justified in kicking the joker until he doesn't move anymore. "Howdya like that, heh?" one can leer as the perp squirms in the gutter. "Merry f---ing Christmas." This violently escapist conclusion is less painful for both parties than staying home and watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and crying hot, piteous tears for oneself when everything turns out OK at the end. "When will I get my happy ending?" one sobs between chicken nuggets. Not this Xmas.

Fortunately, suicide, drunken stupor and impotent hatred aren't the only options: you can always subvert it into an occasion to play pranks.

Another fun one is to rip up cotton balls and throw ketchup on them, in front of the fireplace. That way, when everyone comes into the living room for Xmas morning, you can say, "Uh-oh. White hair and blood. Looks like the dog got him. Poor Santa."


Only in America would they have something like drive-through Santa.


Writing in Salon, critics compare Kid A to DOGMA 95, Joy Division and Aphex Twin, to name three.


New Scientist on mate copying, or the scientific reasons why single people are considered less sexually attractive than the non-single.

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<RANT> How, you ask, can Sony Music and Universal Music crush the Internet to shore up their business model, Graham? Well, imagine if, in a few years time, your ISP put a box into their network which cut off all bulk downloads after, say, 200K, unless they were accompanied by a cryptographic licence certificate; and all other ISPs did the same to avoid legal liability for copyright infringement. Or if your ISP blocked peer-to-peer connections from customers' machines to anything not on a list of legitimate servers (after all, legitimate consumers have no business connecting to each others' computers without going through a central server; only pirates and hackers would want to do that). Sony have the technical expertise to implement something like this (and as senior VP Steve Heckler suggests, are working on it), and they and Universal (who have been most aggressive in the offensive against the Net) have literally billions of dollars to spend on lawyers, lobbyists and the odd crooked politician. A lot of US ISPs already automatically delete MP3 files on users' web sites to avoid legal liability; automatically filtering content using a easy-to-install box from Sony isn't that far removed from this. (And then there's the operating system issue; a secure SDMI-like audio player, like a legal software DVD player, will never run on Linux or anything open-source, as the SDMI model assumes that the customer is a potential thief, and under Linux the customer could alter the system to steal Sonyversal's jealously guarded content.) They are willing, and quite probably able, to push in an Orwellian revenue-protection régime; and that's reason enough to not buy anything from them. </RANT>


Scary right-wing paramilitary organisation The Salvation Army may be expelled from Russia, under new laws which force "militarised" organisations to spend a lot of time and money wrestling with the bureaucracy. (via Leviathan)


Mozilla 0.6 is out; it's basically bug-for-bug identical to Netscape 6.0, except less bloated, not quite as sluggish and without the advertisements in the menus. (via Slashdot)

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French computer-game giant Infogrames is buying Hasbro, the game conglomerate whose properties range from Atari and Microprose to the classic Parker Brothers board games.


Ironic juxtaposition of the day: Australian avant-garde electronica act B(if)tek are holding a contest based on subversive uses of technology against mainstream cultural products. Bravo to them for that; then again, the bulk of the profits from their album do go to Sony Music, who have vowed to crush file sharing on the Internet; in the words of Sony senior vice president Steve Heckler:

"We will develop technology that transcends the individual user. We will firewall Napster at source -- we will block it at your cable company, we will block it at your phone company, we will block it at your [Internet-service provider]. We will firewall it at your PC. These strategies are being aggressively pursued because there is simply too much at stake."

While I applaud B(if)tek's subversive goals (not to mention their music), I cannot recommend buying their recordings, as more of the proceeds go to Sony and its Orwellian plans than to the band.