The Null Device


John Howard's Australia's 1950s-style parochialism and prudery strikes again, as Michael Winterbottom's latest film receives an X rating, preventing it from being shown in cinemas or made available except in the ACT. The film, 9 Songs, involves a couple attending live music gigs, before repeatedly having sex; Winterbottom (who also did 24 Hour Party People) made it as a statement against prudery. I guess such statements have no place in Relaxed and Comfortable Australia.

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Police in Dorsetshire are sending persistent burglars postcards of local prisons, in order to discourage them from offending. Though, if the police have evidence that the recipient is committing crimes, can't they just arrest them? If not, how long until a recipient of above-average chutzpah sues the police for harrassment?

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Photographs by David Shrigley; evocative urban scenes with prepared objects or signs placed, thus reinterpreting the scene imaginatively; in places, they are reminiscent of Far Side cartoons, or perhaps something more ominous. My favourites so far: Try To Be Happy, One Day A Big Wind Will Come, Sunday Adventure Club. (via Gimbo)

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What happens when technical ingenuity and scatological humour collide: RoboDump, a pair of legs with speakers, fitted over a toilet in a cubicle, and playing an endless loop of a vividly evocative soundtrack. Prank of the year.

I snuck RoboDump into the men's room at the office. Unfortunately, today turned out to be the day of a board meeting. Whoops! It still went over well; the office was abuzz all morning with gossip about the guy in the bathroom. Several people theorized it was the CFO. The janitor commented to someone in the hallway that he wanted to clean the restroom but "this guy's been in there all morning."

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Working Title, the (Hollywood-funded) British film company whose studiedly "quirky" romantic comedies have become as synonymous with the 1990s as Merchant-Ivory costume dramas were with the Thatcher era, are putting the formula to rest. That's right, Hugh Grant will have to find something else to do. The studio will continue to make films in other genres (and, indeed, outside of swinging London and whimsical Britain; Working Title have made several films in Australia, including Ned Kelly and that Australian gangster comedy that followed shortly afterwards); chances are, whatever they are, they will be written to formula, focus-grouped to grab the broadest possible audience, and will make a mint.

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The twilight of secularism (an ongoing series): Australia's highest-ranking Catholic clergyman and leading conservative hardliner, Cardinal George Pell, gave a speech comparing Islam to Communism and saying that secular democracy has failed and must be replaced with what he called "democratic personalism", with paternalistic Christian government being the only hope of countering the spread of fundamentalist Islam.

"The small but growing conversion of native Westerners within Western societies to Islam carries the suggestion that Islam may provide in the 21st century the attraction which communism provided in the 20th, both for those who are alienated or embittered on the one hand, and for those who seek order or justice on the other," he said.
He asked: "Does democracy need a burgeoning billion-dollar pornography industry to be truly democratic? Does it need an abortion rate in the tens of millions? "What would democracy look like if you took some of these things out of the picture? Would it cease to be democracy? Or would it actually become more democratic?"

Perhaps, after a few more terms of John Howard/Tony Abbott, we'll find out. Besides which, "democratic personalism" has a nicely euphemistic ring to it. Given how misleading it is for the Tories to call themselves the "Liberal Party", perhaps they'll take the hint and rename themselves the Democratic Personalist Party.

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