Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A traditional home night

Last night, despite the absence of my brother in Singapore, was a traditional party night for our family when the Brownlow Medal was counted. Although for the past couple of month I have been under an awful daily rhythm whereby I get to bed at 2:00 and do not get up until 12:00, am often not washed and dressed before 13:00, am frequently not out to do basic jobs like checking my post office box or buying essential meal supplies until 16:00, and typically back home for dinner at 21:00 or three hours after my mother has cooked and eaten it.

The Brownlow count, like few other events, motivated me to do something to change this habit, so that after a stint in the State Library, I hurried quickly home with traditional party chips, pies and sausage rolls. An excellent Bolognese sauce was cooked for me - though I cooked the spaghetti myself since my mother prefers to have it on toast when I am not home at 17:00. After that, I rested for an hour and when I came down to cook the pies and sausage rolls the Brownlow count had already began.

When I sat down - rather awkwardly I will admit because of the angle I had to view the television at - I was disappointed at the early rounds because the long-familiar method of reading had been changed and the votes were being read at generally too fast a speed. There was also a somewhat erratic manner in showing this early footage and, as is so often the case with sports broadcasting these days, too much emphasis on overblown, noisy music to try to add drama to the skills of the players. With a clear eye I can see how this drama makes footy more appealing and exciting to casual fans, but it does the game discredit in my eyes since it tries to make the game more aggressive and violent when footy should be a game of skill above all else.

A result of this was that when people like myself became eager to see whether a player near the top had won votes after his team was announced, there was less suspense than in previous Brownlow counts. A lot of ridiculous and irrelevant time wasting about developing footy overseas - environmentally ludicrous given footy requires a surfeit of land only the southern and western states of Australia can provide - would have been better replaced by slow and more relaxed reading of the votes. An alternative was to provide more and better footage of the games where Brownlow votes were taken - the would have been enough space for nine games as we will have from next year with good footage if all irrelevant program material were deleted - even perhaps for slow motion highlights.

At first, I told my mother I was not enjoying the Brownlow count, but later, even as she politely declined more than one pie or any sausage roll as part of the party, I found it fascinating. As a number of rank outsiders like Andrew Swallow and Matthew Boyd obtained considerable numbers of votes, I noticed for the first time in watching Brownlow counts that North Melbourne have had the second-longest Brownlow drought in the VFL/AFL, not having won for twenty-eight years. Though Boyd and especially Swallow faded out, Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell attracted constant attention as he led the count for most of the night despite being ineligible due to a one-match suspension. there was no precedent apart from Chris Grant of the Western Bulldogs in 1997 for an ineligible player obtaining nearly so many votes as Mitchell did. Moreover, the highlights became better-broadcast and I came to enjoy watching it even if I was generally lolling about the fragile couch to get a good view.

Another twist that made the night fascinating was Gary Ablett junior reaching twenty votes for newcomers Gold Coast even though they received the wooden spoon. No player for a wooden spoon team had received twenty votes since Gary Hardeman of Melbourne in 1974, when votes for teams losing a game were much more frequent due to the lack of scrutiny during the count.

Then, when Mitchell finally faded there was the surprise of Nick Dal Santo winning 3-vote after 3-vote during St. Kilda's form recovery. My mother being a strong Saint fan, she was really excited at a Dal Santo Brownlow making up for a disappointing year for the Saints, but by Round Twenty, when I was really enjoying the count, it seemed clear that he had little chance as the familiar and expected name of Collingwood's Dane Swan received votes in most of the games he was predicted to. Moreover, the suspense returned as Collingwood's and swan's unbeatable form his a peak from the early August matches, and he received votes even when the Magpies got an expected scare from Brisbane.

As a finale to a day that delivered more than it promised, Swan received in the end more votes than any other player, and I, utterly tired, managed still to watch him receive the award. It was really exciting, though, to hear the discussion of Swan's record.

Friday, 9 September 2011

What the list says about Australia

It is unfortunate that I forget the site from which this 2011 list of the best Australian albums of all time was taken. However, I still feel I should have some sort of look at it as I had planned to do a long time ago.
  1. Odyssey Number Five – Powderfinger

  2. Frogstomp – silverchair

  3. Back in Black – AC/DC

  4. The Living End – The Living End

  5. Kick – INXS

  6. Internationalist – Powderfinger

  7. Apocalypso – Presets

  8. Wolfmother – Wolfmother

  9. Since I Left You – The Avalanches

  10. UNIT – Regurgitator

  11. Like Drawing Blood – Gotye

  12. Guide To Better Living – Grinspoon

  13. Crowded House – Crowded House

  14. Vulture Street – Powderfinger

  15. Slightly Odway – Jebediah

  16. The Hard Road – Hilltop Hoods

  17. Eternal Nightcap – The Whitlams

  18. Woodface – Crowded House

  19. Innerspeaker – Tame Impala

  20. Conditions – The Temper Trap

  21. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1– Midnight Oil

  22. Diorama – silverchair

  23. The Calling – Hilltop Hoods

  24. Sunrise Over Sea – The John Butler Trio

  25. Get Born – Jet

  26. Hourly, Daily – You Am I
  27. Neon Ballroom – silverchair

  28. The Cat Empire – The Cat Empire

  29. The Sound of White – Missy Higgins

  30. Themata – Karnivool

  31. Down the Way – Angus & Julia Stone

  32. Universes – Birds of Tokyo
  33. Diesel and Dust – Midnight Oil

  34. Memories & Dust – Josh Pyke

  35. Hi Fi Way – You Am I

  36. In Ghost Colours – Cut Copy

  37. Highly Evolved – The Vines
  38. A Book Like This – Angus & Julia Stone

  39. Birds of Tokyo – Birds of Tokyo

  40. Echolalia – Something for Kate

  41. Double Allergic – Powderfinger
  42. East – Cold Chisel

  43. Freak Show – silverchair

  44. Tu-Plang – Regurgitator

  45. Sound Awake – Karnivool

  46. Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

  47. Black Fingernails, Red Wine – Eskimo Joe
  48. Ivy and the Big Apples – Spiderbait

  49. Whispering Jack – John Farnham

  50. The New Normal – Cog

  51. I Believe You Liar – Washington
  52. Murder Ballads – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

  53. Three – The John Butler Trio
  54. Tea & Sympathy – Bernard Fanning

  55. Blue Sky Mining – Midnight Oil

  56. Bliss Release – Cloud Control
  57. The Honeymoon Is Over – The Cruel Sea

  58. New Detention – Grinspoon

  59. As Day Follows Night – Sarah Blasko

  60. We Are Born – Sia

  61. Hold Your Colour – Pendulum
  62. Cruel Guards – The Panics

  63. Grand National – The John Butler Trio

  64. Polyserena – george

  65. Cold Chisel – Cold Chisel

  66. Running on Air – Bliss N Eso

  67. Flying Colours – Bliss N Eso

  68. The Experiment – Art vs. Science

  69. Gossip – Paul Kelly and The Coloured Girls

  70. Young Modern – silverchair

  71. Beams – The Presets

  72. Beautiful Sharks – Something For Kate

  73. Highway To Hell – AC/DC

  74. The Overture and The Underscore – Sarah Blasko

  75. Living in the 70s – Skyhooks

  76. Human Frailty – Hunters & Collectors

  77. Immersion – Pendulum

  78. Lovers – The Sleepy Jackson

  79. Gravity Won’t Get You High – The Grates

  80. (I’m) Stranded – The Saints

  81. Feeler – Pete Murray

  82. Up All Night – The Waifs

  83. Wonder – Lisa Mitchell

  84. 16 Lovers Lane – The Go-Betweens

  85. State of the Art – Hilltop Hoods

  86. This Is the Warning – Dead Letter Circus

  87. A Song Is a City – Eskimo Joe

  88. Imago – The Butterfly Effect

  89. Pnau – Pnau

  90. The Long Now – Children Collide

  91. Gilgamesh – Gypsy & The Cat

  92. A Man’s Not a Camel – Frenzal Rhomb

  93. Moo, You Bloody Choir – Augie March

  94. Everything Is True – Paul Dempsey

  95. Stoneage Romeos – Hoodoo Gurus

  96. Paging Mr. Strike – Machine Gun Fellatio

  97. Begins Here – The Butterfly Effect
  98. The Boatman’s Call – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

  99. Thrills, Kills & Sunday Pills – Grinspoon

  100. Two Shoes – The Cat Empire
On the whole, it is very hard to say much abut this list for the very simple reason that I know so little about most of the albums in that list. Powderfinger, who top the list, are a band I have always disliked since first hearing them on Triple M as a young Melbourne University student, and Silverchair are a band I have hated ever since hearing many times awful songs like “Pure Massacre” (which I heard as “New Mexico”) and “Israel’s Son” - though they have actually disowned Frogstomp today.

When one looks at Australia’s comfortable, conservative culture, it is hard to with hindsight see ultra-macho AC/DC as being part of it. They really were a part of the European rock scene that lived in Australia, though some aspects of their music - its very basic rock and roll character - are Australian. INXS have not held up that well with age since Hutchence’ suicide in 1997, and the Presets are totally retro even in the middle 2000s. Those artists lower down on the list are mostly “alternative” rockers whom I have come to realise really are not properly an “alternative” to the mainstream of the post-grunge era. Critics outside of Australia have never remotely been attracted to these groups even though they are generally not without experience of Australian music.

When one looks through the rest of that list, one sees more than anything that Australia’s extremely high “connectedness” or natural unity leads to a stifling conformity even with the incentives of perhaps the freest market in the world. Newspapers have long notices Australia’s lack of distinctive music - I recall such being noted by The Age in 1996 - but the cause is never considered.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Culture mod and pop music linked? I am not sure at all.

My brother - firmly established in singapore and just as well since recent rainless weather is almost certainly where Melbourne will be forever headed - sent me today an article by "Elliott Wave" that aims to show how popular culture is related closely to swinging economic fortunes, based on a 2009 study by USA Today.

The argument is that the angry mood of the late 1970s "punk revolution" reflected the way in which markets were collapsing due to stagflation, and the same with the Bush Senior Era's rap revolution.

On the other side, the "Oh, wow, I feel great and I love everybody" sentiment of the 1960s is seen as reflecting the long boom since World War II. Author Susan C. Walker even extends her idea before rock even existed, arguing that the atonal music of Bartok reflected the downturn from World War I and the Great Depression. To me, that is unlikely; rather atonal music - which is wrongly seen as rebellious I think - may reflect the highly sensual culture found in developed sectors of the Enriched World during the 1920s. "The Waste Land", with hindsight, was a reaction against the materialistic excesses that some saw as philosophically responsible for the colonial struggles crucial for producing World War I. (The same is basically true of, say Patti Smith's decadent mysticism in the late 1970s which combines almost-religious tones with extremely sensual poetry). Another big problem is when they say:

Some darker rock bands even get back together when the mood sours. AC/DC hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2008, and The Sex Pistols returned to the concert circuit after the Dow peaked in 2007.

they fail like so many to recognise how AC/DC and the Sex Pistols were anything but dark. Rather, they were about trying to eliminate all rationale for restrictions on hedonistic pleasure as hand existed in Western culture since Christianity. Their music was celebratory like no other bands before: to the point of celebrating violence. It is more likely that the period between punk and the Bush Senior Era reflects the rise of the Baby Boom Generation and its frequently hedonistic and extremely selfish attitudes. If these have been repressed by commercial radio since the Bush Senior radicals faded, they could come back if later generations are equally selfish and not because of economic factors.

Are people in agreement with me about music?

As a whole, I have always found it tough to agree with what the public says about music, even though I have been a music listener for a long time.

When in 1995 I heard of Triple J being a major source fo new Australian music, I was suspicious because I hated the aggressive noises which formed a wrongly and badly stereotyped vision of "alternative rock" for me for almost a decade.

10. 4 Non-Blondes, "What's Up?"
I have never liked this one: its drearily annoying lyrics and syrupy hard rock sound really stands as terrible

9. Right Said Fred, "I'm Too Sexy"
Have no definite recollections of this song at all, but cannot imagine it beging great after the techno/dance style music of the 1990s I did hear

8. Baha Men, "Who Let The Dogs Out?"
If I recall correctly, I would have to agree with this one even more than the previous two

7. Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On"
Not as offensive, perhaps, as the others, but even more syrupy.

6. Hanson, "MMMBop"
Not as bad as the previous four, to be frank, and not as bad as songs by Corona or The Real McCoy I did hear, but still has no substance at all

5. Chumbawamba, "Tubthumping"
This is one I never recognised from its title in the day but now do see as an utterly awful song, distinctly worse than any of the previous five. Despite having an interest in anarchism myself, I do not see any message exept partying here.

4. Vanilla Ice, "Ice Ice Baby"
Though it became awfully unfashionable soon after ceasing to be a hit and I have not a single memory of it on the readio thereafter, I do not find this one as bad as the previous two - which does not mean it's remotely good or has redeeming qualities!

3. Billy Ray Cyrus, "Achy Breaky Heart"
If anything, I would say this huge it is worse than what Vanilla Ice did the previous year. Though in the cloistered suburbs I saw nothing of the Bush Senior era cultural revolution, I never liked "Achy Breaky Heart".

2. Los Del Rio, "Macarena"
Now we have an utterly awful song! Probably the line "return of the Mac" was the single song that had the most decisive effect in turning me awya from contemporary hits even before I was seriously exposed to songs that I though went "I kill you"/"What's that gonna change" which in an environment where people nearly murdered me with a heavy rock naturally made me think of as awfully dangerous to young kids who at times confessed to watching Double Dragon, saying "Double Dragon is rated R"!

1. Aqua, 'Barbie Girl'
It's hard for me to say this is nearly the worst song I have ever heard, but it really is rather childish and, as my mother once said when she thought Triple J played songs saying "you must have big (expletive)" and that Triple J was designed for 11- or 12-year-olds, I cannot sympathise with the message.

However, I feel as if Rolling Stone's readers have not recalled a few songs at least that were worse than most of those here:
  1. TISM "Shut Up, The Footy's One The Radio" - one of the most awfully noisy songs trying to commercialise a sport that had no need for it
  2. Corona, "Rhythm of the Night" and The Real McCoy "Love and Devotion" - the most utterly tuneless noise for a spoiled generation (of course I'm much worse so maybe it makes no difference)
The odd thing is how I hate every song listed by music listeners whose experience since I first read Joe S. Harrington a decade ago a so vastly different! It's as if, even if I had no understanding of music history and saw no seriousness in listening as I hope I do now, I still could see something even in the 1990s!

How costly will climate change in the Enriched World be?

Although for years I have emphasised the cost of man-made global warming in the fragile environment of Australia and the dreadful failure for the past thirty years of Australia’s ruling classes to act as if they were interested in maintaining the value of Australia’s environment by preventing greenhouse emissions with a rigid one hundred percent renewable energy policy, I have always thought the impacts on the Enriched World (and even the Tropical World) would not be of any importance.

However, Time this year has shown that the effects of climate change even in the robust environments of North America have the potential to be serious. Last month, when there was still hope for good rains that have been quashed by a bone-dry spell in Victoria that I would rather believe will last forever, Time published an article about drought in the American South and Southwest that made me suspect climate change’s effects could be felt in areas with greatly higher runoff ratios and essentially zero (as against 200-400mm in southern Australia) runoff thresholds. Evidence of extreme patterns of dryness and wetness in the US, as can be seen from last “year”’s rainfall data by state and district, is as with Australia in recent years proof that carbon emissions are chnging the climate immensely.

The way in which the eastern part of the affected region has been affected by a hurricane and flooding is perhaps a suggestion that in the future the American South may acquire the rainfall variability of a tropical region, which as those who understand Central Queensland (which does not even include people in southern Australia) will know, can have drastic effects. At the same time it is these very regions (actually in the hottest parts of the Enriched World) which are gaining people through their more hospitable (less masculinised) cultures as regions further north lose people to high living costs, big government and glaciation-generated lack of mineral resources. A potential problem in these regions is that as hotter regions become drier or harsher, market reforms in cooler regions (which invariably have little land and hence no economic agriculture) could force more production onto hot regions that have even less water than before anthropogenic global warming.

Such a change could make global warming even worse if hotter regions resort to coal-based desalination, since they will either lose soil nutrients from erratic tropical rainfall or become even drier and have to irrigate more with less – and there are limits to what can be done here because crops cannot withstand heat above a certain point. This gives a good reason to try to farm in cooler regions for the future and to try to get around the huge governments: it could mean a lot for the world if sustainable demographics return in cooler regions even without the extreme living standards.