The Null Device


Site of the day: The War Against Silence. Record reviews, more thoughtful than most. (Their article on The Field Mice, going on to Sarah Records and the whole question of pop melancholia and optimism, is quite worth reading.)

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Scientists at University College London have discovered that making eye contact with an attractive face stimulates the brain's reward centre. Eye contact with an unattractive person triggers no such reward, and looking at a beautiful face without eye contact triggers a much diminished reward. The reward is not tied to the sex of the face. This goes some way towards explaining snap judgments made of people, and the evolutionary basis of evaluating social status and attractiveness.

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No surprises here: US news agencies shelve indefinitely the results of a recount of the Florida presidential election, as not to cause disunity. And so any question of George W. Bush's legitimacy as President has been expunged.


An alert from Red Hat (the Linux vendor) about the SSSCA. If you're in the US, you may want to act on it before this thing gets into Congress. Why? Well, for one, such a law could cripple open-source software, essentially setting up a government-sanctioned 100% Microsoft/Intel monopoly in the interest of moving everybody onto locked-down "trusted-client" computers and protecting the movie/recording industries' precious content from file swapping or unlicensed viewing.


Metablogging: Portal of Evil News appears to have gone down the path of knee-jerk good-ol'-boy jingoism. Posting a CIA press release denying having taught Bin Laden as fact (within a few articles of a piece decrying corporate press releases being rebadged as news, no less), and a comment wishing someone to send anthrax to Michael Moore over anti-war comments he made.


Hey Mr. Taliban: A piece in the Hindustan Times claims that Mullah Omar, the chief of the Taliban, suffers from brain seizures, locking himself away for days at a time, with the official line being that he is having visions. He is also said to suffer from bouts of depression alternating with childlike behaviour. Then again, there's a good precedent for that kind of thing among Holy Men; St. Paul, the founder of the Christian church, apparently suffered from similar seizures, and doesn't the Bible tell believers to be like a child? (Not to mention the Borges story in which a madman is used as a judge in a religious court, on the grounds that the insane are in touch with the Godhead.) (via Follow Me Here)

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Last night (Wednesday night) I went to the Steve Smart "Crash Course in Absurdity" spoken-word performance at Babble. It was a disappointment. Perhaps I was expecting some sort of surrealist head games, but instead I got 45 minutes of Smart rambling on about various topics. That Mr. Smart writes some very entertaining poems/short pieces, but he's nowhere near as entertaining when making stuff up on the fly.


Aid agencies decry US food aid drops to Afghanistan, as "virtually useless", claiming that they are merely a propaganda exercise to improve support at home.