The Null Device


New claims have emerged that the Queen Mother, who died in her sleep last year aged 101, was euthanased with a massive dose of heroin. It is claimed that she saw it as her duty to avoid dying at an inappropriate time (such as her daughter's jubilee), and thus elected to die a "mercy death" beforehand. Euthanasia is somewhat of a tradition in the British monarchy; the terminally ill George V. was euthanased with cocaine and morphine, so that his death would make the morning papers rather than the "less appropriate" evening ones. Nonetheless, royalists are outraged by the allegations. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal in Britain, with terminally ill commoners forced to travel to places like Switzerland to die with dignity.

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The Realities of Online Reputation Management, an essay about the Internet's effect on reputation and spin.

Hate campaigns are surprisingly unsuccessful with the masses. Certainly hate sites attract the like-minded, and for awhile got good mainstream media attention. But again, the "Back" button. On the Web there is always another "channel." The ethnic slaughters in the wake of Yugoslavia's disintegration were largely blamed on inflammatory talk radio - and the absence of contrary opinion.
In a similar vein, at present it would probably be impossible to spread a false "oil shortage" story through the Internet, as the American oil companies and mainstream media did in 1972. In fact the Internet would probably demolish such propaganda in days. In 1972, it was not until months later that a merchant marine officer told me how his oil supertanker had been held off the New Jersey coast for six weeks at the height of the "oil shortage." Today, he would have emailed Matt Drudge.

Of course, the fact that the Internet has put paid to older forms of skulduggery doesn't mean that new, more subtle forms won't take their place. (via Slashdot)

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Read: Why nerds are unpopular, an interesting essay which starts by asking the question of why intelligent kids are so unpopular in schools, and going from that to the malaise of living in a world detached from any real meaning:

And the active persecution is, if anything, the less painful half of the popularity equation. As well as gaining points by distancing oneself from unpopular kids, one loses points by being close to them. A woman I know says that in high school she liked nerds, but was afraid to be seen talking to them because the other girls would make fun of her. Unpopularity is a communicable disease; kids too nice to pick on nerds will still ostracize them in self-defense.

The author posits that the culture of sadism and cruelty is an emergent property of human nature in an unnatural environment (both schools and the wastelands of suburbia), and that in a world without meaning or purpose, kids find their own meaning in popularity and create their own arbitrarily vicious society. (I.e., the Lord of the Flies Effect.)

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it's populated by adults, but that it's very large, and the things you do have real effects. That's what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.
If I could go back and give my thirteen year old self some advice, the main thing I'd tell him would be to stick his head up and look around. I didn't really grasp it at the time, but the whole world we lived in was as fake as a twinkie. Not just school, but the entire town. Why do people move to suburbia? To have kids! So no wonder it seemed boring and sterile. The whole place was a giant nursery, an artificial town created explicitly for the purpose of breeding children.
As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. I don't think this is a coincidence. I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they're made to lead. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance were working dogs. Teenagers now are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere.

(via MeFi)

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It seems that the asp-heads, those unimpeachably honorable defenders of the integrity of intellectual property (and consequently civilisation; see Ayn Rand for details), are now turning to spam to advertise. I found a spam advertising "anti-piracy" services "Locating software piracy sites", "Internet piracy monitoring", "evidence collection" in my mailbox, with the following disclaimer:

This letter is not SPAM! You have previously opted to receive promotional emails from If you wish to unsubscribe please call us at 1-661-832-5757

Any further comment would be superfluous.

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For the love of Ghod, no: Russian Mafia-manufactured pedo-porn-pop duo Tatu cover The Smiths' How Soon is Now (aka "the song with the same guitar line as Soho's Hippychick"). And all signs are that it can't possibly be anything other than utter pants.

Tatu's Julia Volkova told NME that she had never heard of The Smiths before being given the song to sing: "[The producers] just put it on for us and we decided it was worth a try. Frankly speaking, we hadn't known this group."

So we know it's going to be dire; the question is: will it be dire enough to appreciate in an ironic sense (like Pee Wee Ferris' commercial-dance version of Blue Monday), or will it just be shite?

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Scientists discover what I had suspected all along: artistic creativity is a mutation; more specifically, it's a mutation that appeared some 50,000 years ago, resulting in the rise of abstract art and symbolism.

(I wonder what proportion of people have the creativity gene, or whether it's just one gene. A population of eccentric artists would not necessarily be sustainable; society needs practical, uncreative people much like an insect hive needs drones. Though perhaps it'd be a recessive gene, with one copy being normal and two turning you into Damien Hirst or David Bowie or someone?)

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Up here for thinking, mate: As our governments press on to wage war on Iraq, the head of ASIO (that's essentially Australia's equivalent of MI5/the CIA) warns that a war in Iraq would help al-Qaeda to launch more terrorist attacks. That's right; rather than trying to hunt down or contain the terrorists we know had a hand in killing over 3,000 of us, we're going on an adventure to settle the Bush family's scores and get cheaper petrol for our SUVs, whilst giving them more opportunities to strike again. Mind you, it may well be that more al-Qaeda terrorist attacks are just what's needed to win Bush a second term in office and secure the passage of the Patriot II bill in the US. After all, the public are starting to think that questioning isn't necessarily disloyal.