The Null Device
Mess+Noise has an interesting interview with Bart Cummings, songwriter for classic 1990s indiepop bands such as The Cat's Miaow and The Shapiros, now working as a librarian in Ballarat (a provincial city an hour or two out of Melbourne; think, I don't know, Northampton or somewhere) and recently having released an EP, involving collaborations with the likes of Mark and Louis of the Lucksmiths and Pam Berry (of The Shapiros/Black Tamborine/Chickfactor zine), under the name Bart And Friends.
The last couple of years remind me of the early ’90s a lot, not just in the networking but the music as well.
A lot of that era’s sound has been coming back, thanks to bands like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. And Black Tambourine recently got a reissue.
Yeah, it’s funny. I emailed [Black Tambourine singer] Pam [Berry] about 18 months ago and said, “You know everyone’s dropping your name?” She [had no idea]. She’s in the situation as me: she’s got kids the same age and doesn’t go out that much.
In this economic downturn, spare a thought for the British royal family; the costs of heating all those palaces are becoming so burdensome that the Queen asked ministers for a handoud from the state poverty fund to heat them; a request which was, eventually, politely rebuffed:
Royal aides were told that the £60m worth of energy-saving grants were aimed at families on low incomes and if the money was given to Buckingham Palace instead of housing associations or hospitals it could lead to "adverse publicity" for the Queen and the Government.
Taxpayers already contribute £38m to pay for the Royal Family. Yet some of the buildings which would have benefited from the energy grant were occupied by minor royals living in grace and favour accommodation on the royal estates. Surprisingly the Government offered no resistance to the proposed application and cleared the way for the Queen to take advantage of the handout.Though to be fair, those palaces are appallingly inefficient to heat:
Last year thermal imaging technology, used to identify and measure energy waste, showed heat pouring through the closed curtained windows, the roof and cracks in the walls. A team of energy surveyors labelled the Palace "shocking and appalling", the biggest "central heating radiator" in the capital and gave it a score of 0 out of 10.You'd think that Prince Charles, that great ecologist, would take some time out from promoting homeopathy and waging war against nontraditional architecture to get some insulation installed, but alas, it doesn't seem to have happened.
Perhaps another argument for moving to a Dutch/Scandinavian-style "bicycle monarchy", in which the Royal Family earns its own keep? (A republic may be attractive to the more left-wing at heart, though it can be argued that the Royal Family is a cornerstone of British cultural "soft power", and its loss would weaken Britain's standing in the world. Having said that, one could say that the accession of Prince Charles may well end up doing that.) The Royal Family occupy that curious space between government institutions and popular entertainment; they have vestigial constitutional functions (mouthing whatever words the government of the day pens, opening Parliament), for which they are richly compensated, but the rest of their functions are providing fodder for celebrity gossip magazines and enticement for foreign tourists to visit these "quaint" isles. Perhaps if it was acknowledged that the Royal Family are part of the tourism and entertainment industries, they could be paid by these industries, in return for giving them more value for money than under the inefficient old system. Minor royals could become "tourism ambassadors", doing everything from international tours to viral video spots to get Japanese and Americans over here; a US-style surcharge on tourist visas to fund tourism promotion could help with the civil list. Meanwhile, one palace could be given over to a reality-TV company, with the royals spending a specified period of time in it, in front of the cameras, giving the paying public what they want; the revenue could be used to maintain and heat all their palaces.
Design consultancy IDEO have posted a video presenting three concepts for the future of electronic books. The concepts are: "Nelson", a critical reader intended for politically and culturally influential books, which charts the influence of points within books, links to debates and discussions arising from them presents links validating or repudiating supporting facts and presents books mentioning and mentioned by a book; "Coupland", an enterprise-oriented social reader, which allows books to be recommended within an enterprise, and "Alice", an entertainment-oriented reader which relies on ebooks branching out from the stream-of-linear-text model that they inherited from paper books; by participating in various games, you can unlock hidden chapters of a book.