Sometimes behaves so strangely

by Kieran Healy on October 9, 2006

Just “listen to at least the first few minutes of this radio show”: (“or via links here”:, which begins with the work of “Diana Deutsch”:, a psychologist who studies the psychology of music. The opening segment demonstrates a remarkable phenomenon, whereby a looped segment of ordinary speech appears — after a few repetitions — to become musical. Moreover, once you’ve perceived it as music, listening to the segment in context makes it sound like the speaker is in a Busby Berkeley musical and has just begun to segue into a solo number. The general musicality of speech is obvious, I suppose, especially when you listen to certain accents, or hear “uptalk”: But this is a very nice sort of case.

Via Clifford at “Cosmic Variance”:

Death of a President

by Chris Bertram on October 9, 2006

Just finished watching the “C4 faux documentary”: about the assassination of GWB. Very watchable, I thought. The technique mainly consisted on interspersing genuine newsreel footage with deadpan interviews with participants, including various law-enforcement people and protestors. Politically it wasn’t too heavy handed, though there was a clear attempt to situate Cheney as an opportunist who would use anything, even the killing of Bush, to advance his pet view of the world. Ditto the Syrian oppositionist who postulates official Syrian invasion on the basis of claimed insider knowledge in a manner that reminded me very much of the neocon’s pet Iranian exile. The twist was good, but I won’t spoil things for others by posting it here. I just hope that US cinemas and networks get over their reluctance to show an interesting piece of film.

The Art Mafia

by Henry Farrell on October 9, 2006

I meant to respond a few weeks ago to Matthew Yglesias’s “complaints about Pitchfork Media”: and never got around to it thanks to work obligations and the nine month old. But since it’s not a time sensitive topic, here goes. [click to continue…]

The Wire

by Chris Bertram on October 9, 2006

I’m slightly reluctant to post this recommendation, for the simple reason that most of our readers are in the US, and this is old news (really old news) to them. But I’ll post anyway, for the benefit of those who are not, and, especially, for my fellow Brits. I was watching some show the other night in which Charlie Brooker (yes, “that”: Charlie Brooker) was talking about American TV, and he recommended “The Wire”: . The fact that David Simon was behind it was enough for me, because “HLOTS”: was my favourite cop-show ever, so I started renting the DVDs. The Wire has never been shown in the UK (except on some nearly impossible to get satellite channel) and I guess I can see why: plot and dialogue hard for non-Americans to follow, no concessions to the viewer. But it is absolutely compulsive. Basically, it is a tale of two competing bureaucracies: the Baltimore PD and the Barksdale drug gang. On the whole, you’d say that the drug dealers have the more functional of the two organizations but the focus on the internal politics of each and on their political pathologies will elicit instant recognition from anyone who works in, say, a university. And there are great iconic characters too, such as Omar, the gay stick-up man, who only robs from the dealers and leaves civilians alone. I’ll leave it at that (since I won’t post plot spoilers). If The Wire has never been shown in your country, beg, borrow or steal the discs.

A whine about wine

by Chris Bertram on October 9, 2006

As a good European, I aim to get through half a bottle of wine most days, though I occasionally abstain midweek, or when drinking beer instead. We in the UK are really blessed when it comes to wine, since, making little drinkable of our own, we import it from everywhere (by way of contrast, try getting a decent bottle of South African in France). Lately, though, I find my enjoyments somewhat diminished by the increasing alcoholic content of the stuff. Time was, 12 or 12.5 per cent was pretty standard for a bottle of red. Not any more. A trip to my local branch of Oddbins (about 40 yards) revealed that 14.5 per cent was very common (not far off some fortified wines) and that it was hard to find a decent bottle of red under 13 per cent. I guess that there’s some good explanation for the rising strength of the stuff – probably to do with New World techniques. But I’d like something a little less fierce to knock back in front of the Sopranos.