The Null Device
Blog of the day: Suicide Food ("animals that want to be eaten") looks at the profusion of anthropomorphic animal mascots used to advertised food made from such animals, gleefully rejoicing in the eating of such food, and rating each one on how disturbing or perverse it is when you actually think about it:
It's not what it seems. The chicken, while being strangled harshly enough to pop out feathers, isn't pleading for help. That is not the international "I'm choking!" gesture. No. It's a wave. The chicken is waving to us. And with his left wing, he is welcoming us to the ranch. ("Ta-daaa!") Whether this is perverted or pathological, it's unwholesome. This playful pair, interrupted during a murder-suicide pact--or, is it merely prelude to the most revolting sex ever?--doesn't even have the decency to be embarrassed. The pig's ten gallon hat is pulled down tight enough to shut out the world, and the bug-eyed chicken just wants to get on with it and get it on.
The Wagon Wheel gives us a new twist on a standard theme. Pinky (as the website identifies him) is not simply preparing to dive onto the grill. No, he has contrived to be sent from present-day Stilwell, Kansas, back in time to the Papal Inquisition, there to subject himself to horrors unending and the torments of the soul. Thus, the act we see the pig performing in a state of near-ecstasy. "The Devil's Bicycle," as it is known in the alternate universe under discussion, involves the penitent pedaling a burning wagon wheel, all the while dodging the Holy Spit.Update: Just after I posted about it, Suicide Food outdid itself with this beauty:
One could write an essay on the cultural differences between France and America based on this entry and the others on this site.
(via Boing Boing)
Scientists at Mitsubishi have developed a camera which allows photos to be refocussed after being taken. Unlike previous experiments in this field, this system retains the full resolution of the camera's image sensor in the resulting image. It uses a special lens with a semi-transparent patterned mask (resembling a crossword puzzle) in the middle:
Using the combination of the mask and the post-processing software, MERL researchers were able to reconstruct a 4D light field from the standard 2D camera, explained MERL Visiting Scientist Amit Agrawal. Instead of bending light rays, the patterned mask attenuates the rays inside the camera. The post-processing software reconstructs the light field using an inverse computation of the Fourier transform equation, allowing the user to refocus the image.The article has a slideshow, including some sample images. For some reason, they seem a bit dull, a bit like the images taken with digital cameras from 10 years ago; I wonder whether this is a result of the image reconstruction algorithm.
The Guardian looks at why today's hot new music all sounds like something you've heard before:
Pop's history, not its future, has become the driving force for so many artists that it's possible to get a modern British version of just about any music you care to mention. Want to hear brand-new 1930s swamp blues? Look to Duke Garwood. Ever wondered how the Andrews Sisters might sound transplanted to the present day? Turn to the Puppini Sisters. In search of rock'n'roll sporting unscuffed blue suede shoes? Here's Vincent Vincent and the Villains. The list goes on, taking in the Pipettes' and Lucky Soul's updates of the girl group/60s pop sound, the Draytones' recreation of 60s garage, Selfish Cunt's rowdy 70s punk, Franz Ferdinand's and the Futureheads' homage to post-punk, travelling from genre to genre and decade to decade until it reaches the so-called post-Libertines bands - most prominently, the View and the Fratellis - who take their inspiration from a group nostalgic for the 1970s and who still existed three years ago.Paul Morley, music journalist and founder of 1980s Fairlight-driven avant-garde artist of Art Of Noise, believes that music has become backward-looking:
"Instead of music moving forward," Morley says, "there was a moment - which you could pin down to around Britpop, or even earlier - when it started to fold backwards on itself. Instead of music having an idealistic need to create a future, to change things and have enough optimism to believe that could happen, it has ground to a halt."Britpop is one candidate for such a moment, especially with the media-driven hype about it being a new Mod revival/second coming of the Swinging Sixties, which some of the bands and promoters either started to believe or played along with, inaugurating a tradition of fashionable musicians dressing, knowingly or otherwise, in the drag of past eras. In Rip It Up And Start Again, however, Simon Reynolds places the end of originality after post-punk declined, via "new wave", into "new pop" and the mainstream, and places the C86 generation of indie music, with its unexperimental pop song structures and traditionalistic guitar/bass-guitar-driven instrumentation, as the start of a new conservatism in indie music.
If there is no originality any more, then originality becomes simply a matter of choosing which reference points you slavishly rip off (and/or update by putting in more swear words and references to iPods and text messages) more creatively:
Vincent Vincent thinks it's a positive advantage that someone like him has more than 60 years of musical history to draw on. "That's what this whole first decade of the 21st century has been about: this massive amalgamation of all the previous decades," he argues. "We now are in the luxury position that we can cherry-pick our favourite things from the past." A fan of Elvis, doo-wop, Bob Dylan and the 1970s rock'n'roll revisionism of Jonathan Richman and Richard Hell, he aims to "pull rock'n'roll apart and add modern things to it". Doing so, he thinks, makes Vincent Vincent and the Villains "perhaps the most forward-looking, adventurous band out there. I feel like I'm presenting something new, something different that people haven't thought about. An English rock'n'roll band of now."
For the Pipettes, choosing different reference points from your contemporaries is a sign that you're "being intelligent". "If other bands can go as short a time back as Britpop and try to recreate that, why can't we go back and discover music that we think is more interesting?" asks Becky.
Asked whether he thinks it's possible to create original music today, Lucky Soul's Andrew Laidlaw grimaces. "I think that would be utterly pretentious," he says. "And it immediately dates - unlike timeless melody." By its nature, timeless isn't modern - and it certainly isn't futuristic.Today's hot young revivalists are, of course, not the first musicians to stand on the shoulders of giants; however, they differ from their predecessors in the reverence with which they treat what came before them. Rather than ripping it up and starting again, they elevate it to sacred canon:
Think of the Libertines: they were so enamoured of punk, they hired Clash guitarist Mick Jones as their producer. "I cannot help but marvel at how peculiar that is," says Morley. "Something that was meant to be a radical music has become truly conservative, in that it conserves: it's recreating shapes and riffs and sounds that have happened before."And here's Momus' take on this.
Interestingly enough, the package was not postmarked from one of the five boroughs of New York, but from Tucson, Arizona, where Dorothy Gambrell's return address was given as being. I hope that her now living (presumably) among unironically-attired people doesn't dull Cat And Girl's astute focus on the commodification of underground culture, the quixotic quest for authenticity and the zen of hipsterdom.