The Null Device
A mostly comprehensive database of indie pop bands, divided into 15 categories ("60s influenced pop", "twee pop", "lo-fi", "jangle pop", "C-86", and so on). Some of the categorisations seem a bit off (I'd have classified Broadcast as "60s", or perhaps "international pop", rather than "synthpop", and as for the Field Mice being "slowcore"...); this is the sort of document that could spark hours of debates between record shop clerks and people in button-badged trucker caps, about issues such as whether Saint Etienne are "Polished/International/Euro Pop" or "Club Pop". Anyway, it's full of leads I'm going to have to follow up...
Recently, claims have been coming to light that a lot of exotic inventions really came from Britain; first we had the mediæval English origins of curry, and the Scottish origins of the Afro-American musical tradition. And now a popular history author wants to add the boomerang to the list of British inventions, on the strength of rock carvings in the West Yorkshire moors depicting four-armed boomerangs. (Mainstream archæologists, however, believe that the swastika-like design was merely a common motif in Greek and Roman mythology.) Do you suppose that the contemporary two-armed design came about to make them more compact and easier to ship from England to Australia?
(Hmmm; someone should do up "historical" boomerangs made of brass or porcelain or somesuch and adorned with British imperial designs; lions, cannon, Union Flags, and such, which, in this alternate universe, could have been issued to British explorers.)
Two villages in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu are the scene for a war between a Christian sect and a cargo cult.
The John Frum movement first emerged in Vanuatu in the 1930s when the islands were jointly ruled by Britain and France as the New Hebrides. Rebelling against the aggressive proselytising of Presbyterian missionaries, dozens of villages on the island of Tanna put their faith in a mysterious outsider called John Frum. They believed he would drive out their colonial masters and re-establish their traditional ways.
On Tanna, islanders became convinced that John Frum was an American. They have spent the past 60 years dressing up in home-made US army uniforms, drilling with bamboo rifles and parading beneath the Stars and Stripes in the hope of enticing a delivery of "cargo" again.
"In the past we believed in John Frum, but now we believe in Jesus," said Alfred Wako, 49. "The John Frum people don't go to church and they don't send their children to school. They believe in the old rituals. They are heathens."
Tonight I went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I really enjoyed it. The writing was by Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich), though he wasn't being as much of a clever-dick as he usually was (though the somewhat self-absorbedly neurotic voice-over at the start had me worried for a while). The direction was by Michel Gondry (who did a number of other films with Kaufman, as well as videos for Björk and French TV commercials), and makes the most of the visual idiom.
I'd classify the film as speculative fiction (one could have called it "science fiction", only this term has been hijacked to mean action movies with dark metallic corridors lit by strips of neon, 1-piece jumpsuits, futuristic gadgets and lots of blinking lights). Basically, the story is this: neurotic boy (Jim Carrey, who's not at all the buffoon he's best known as) meets psycho hairdye girl (Kate Winslet, looking like too many cute-but-insane punk/goth/raver chicks you've probably met), and they hook up; then, sometime later, their relationship falls apart, and she goes to a clinic to have all memories of him eradicated from her mind. He runs into her, she doesn't recognise him then goes to the same clinic to do the same. Only as it's happening, he suddenly has a change of heart and races around the landscape of his mind, trying to save the memories of her from the erasure technicians. There's more to the story, such as one of the technicians (played by Elijah "Frodo" Wood, only looking like a member of a nu-metal boy-band) hitting on a way of using attractive female patients' erased memories to hook up with them, and the issue of whether erasing all memories of a failed relationship would be mostly good or mostly bad.
The gist of the film seems to be that erasing a memory is not the same as preventing an event from recurring; in the film, characters whose memories of their relationships with each other have been erased hook up again and repeat their connections. If you're a sentimentalist or wish to consider the film as a romantic comedy, it could be about the power of destiny and true love and soulmates being brought together by powerful forces beyond their control, like the angels people talk about on American daytime TV talk shows or something. If you're more of a skeptic or a cynic, it's more about one being destined to repeat mistakes if one doesn't remember them. On a deeper level, I thought it was about how the dynamic workings of the human mind are composed not so much of things (such as memories of moments and people) as of processes; you can lose your memories, but if you're still the same person you were before (and if you have lost learnings since, you may be more likely to be), the internal processes of your mind will guide you into repeating what you have forgotten, or at least riffing off it. (Maybe if one was to start a real-life Lacuna Inc., one would combine aversion conditioning with memory erasure, to make the patients avoid their problem exes, but I digress.)