The Null Device
A slice of life in Howard's Neo-Menzies Australia: As the tide of censorship pushes us back to the 1950s, the Australian censor's office have banned a magazine article about cosmetic genital surgery. Meanwhile, it is revealed that the local editions of Playboy and Penthouse are obliged to digitally alter photographs of female genitalia to make them look less realistic. Isn't Judaeo-Christian morality odd?
Child slavery, 2001-style: Manufactured pop groups are in fashion with mainstream radio and the major-label recording industry. As such acts have a life of 3 years at most, and no lucrative back-catalogue (tomorrow's kids will be as interested in All Saints or Steps as today's are in Bros or New Kids On The Block). recording companies and the media pimps who promote these acts are trying to squeeze as much out of them as possible. Which means that the kids, often in their teens are being worked until they burn out:
Band members threatened to walk out after discovering that all they were earning from a promotional deal with British Telecom (BT) was a free mobile phone each. Even BT's generous gift of 30 minutes of free talk time wasn't enough to placate them. Already exhausted from a punishing round of European promotion - in which the distressed group had been forced to slum it by flying in economy class - the Clubbers had to be mollified with a Christmas present of US$150,000 apiece.
"as the global music market has opened up, so has the desire by record companies to exploit it. So you'll get situations where a teen star might not be doing great business in the UK but is very popular in the Far East. This means they're doing long-haul flights two or three times a week to cram in as many TV appearances in those markets as possible. Often they're not even travelling in business class - even Britney Spears travelled economy until recently - so sleep isn't really an option."
Goodbye, secularism: George W. Bush's constitutional ban on abortion has not yet seen the light of day, though the procedure is unavailable in 84% of the U.S., due to well-organised pressure campaigns by religious-right activists. (via Unknown News)
Recent research has shown that humans, songbirds and whales share a common musical instinct; namely that their instinctive awareness of scale and rhythm have too many similarities to casually discount; which suggests that music evolved in a distant common ancestor, and is much older than language. Which is very interesting; given the similarities between music and language (i.e., the fact that Western tonal music at least can be defined by a generative grammar, a formalism traditionally used for language), can the ancient musical instinct have been what the human language instinct evolved out of? Can instinctive awareness of grammatical structure in language (a universally and uniquely human trait) have originated as a mutation of instinctive awareness of musical structure?
(In that case, do any other primates, who share a relatively recent common ancestor to humanity, have anything resembling music or song, or would the instinct have either atrophied in all non-human primates, have been latent for some time? Or would it be not so much a musical instinct as something deeper, of which music is one possible manifestation?)