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Tue, 23 Sep 2008

Noise Hurts

Studies show noise is a health risk

There is growing evidence that noise-related stress is a significant public health hazard. According to a report from the World Health Organisation, unwanted noise is causing hearing impairment including tinnitus, disturbing our sleep and triggering stress hormones which could in turn affect the immune system and metabolism.

It also makes us feel helpless and more aggressive and increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke, accounting for an estimated 3% of ischeamic heart disease (the most common cause of death in the EU) in Europe. "There is increasing evidence that air and road traffic noise might be related to high blood pressure," says Stephen Stansfeld, professor of psychiatry at Barts and the London School of Medicine. "Exposure in school to aircraft noise is also linked to reading impairment in children."

Another study, by Cornell University in New York, found that workers in an open-plan office with constant exposure to hubbub from machinery, telephones and office chatter had higher levels of adrenaline in their urine than workers in a quiet, self-contained work station. The open-plan group were also less effective at puzzle solving than the quiet group, who slept better, had better digestion, and were less irritable.

"When people get annoyed by noise they get stressed," says Stewart, who went on to set up the National Noise Association pressure group. "Constant exposure to even moderate levels of noise can be harmful. One Austrian study showed that children living on a main road had shorter concentration spans than those who didn't."

More at The Guardian including a list of things to do.

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Mon, 01 Sep 2008

Tricky things

Over ten years ago while on a summer trip around England and Ireland, I thought I'd go and check out Bristol which at that time was supposed to be a happening spot - the likes of Massive Attack called Bristol home and there was reputed to be cool stuff happening. There wasn't. Not even a tiny bit. The venues were either for pyscho alkies of the ordinary kind or pyscho alkies of the student kind. In both kinds of places there wasn't much happening of interest musically.

The lower town had trolling groups of racist piglets who had sport in telling Japanese tourists to F*ck off. The upper town near the University was a somewhat nicer place. Leaving aside the mystery of how some towns can get like this and others escape, the highlight of the visit was bumping into Kerstin who was from another place and passing through and who I'd met in Shrewsbury... and who couldn't shed any light on any of Bristol's mysteries.

All that is by the way of introduction to Tricky's latest album, Knowle West Boy. Knowle West is a suburb of Bristol and is said to be not very nice, and not very nice in Bristol is actually fairly horrible ... and that is actually just the sort of thing you need for edgy, sharp statement if you can somehow survive the rest of it. Tricky certainly did and he's been putting out regular albums over the last decade while being mostly based in NYC and L.A. ... which probably annoyed some people but his tone has remained much the same.

This release has some gas too - some of the tracks almost mini-operatic in their changes and flow but without the pretension that "mini-operatic" might suggest. There's lots of life here - problems, serene moments, frantic moments, although the serene tends to be a heartbeat or two rather than a settled-in mood. It's flawed as well in maybe a little too much trickiness (sorry) on tracks such as Council Estate, or the somewhat flat guitar bits but flaws are life too, and music too - wasn't that what we liked about Punk or some of the Indy stuff? All in all, it's worth checking out. (thunderfinger)

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