Friday, 31 October 2014

A “people’s” list of the best albums – familiar, really

Today, when searching Google for fan responses to changes of direction by various rock bands, notably the famous and extremely influential Pantera, I encountered this list of the greatest albums of all time from Pie and Bovril, which I later discovered to be actually a Scottish site largely focused on soccer.

The unusual thing about the Pie and Bovril list is that although it is written up by a single person, it is a list voted for by the fans, which will largely mean those who follow Scottish soccer which was the main subject of the site’s main page. Each user of the site voted for ten albums, and these were scored – I think according to the individual user’s rank thereof – and the top fifty albums were listed, with ranks equalled if the number of votes was the same.

The full list is:

=47: Rage Against the Machine; Rage Against the Machine (1992)
=47: Dookie; Green Day (1994)
=47: Ashes of the Wake; Lamb of God (2004)
=47: Generation Terrorists; Manic Street Preachers (1992)
=47: Moseley Shoals; Ocean Colour Scene (1996)
=45: Dirt; Alice In Chains (1992)
=45: Different Class; Pulp (1995)
=36: Paranoid; Black Sabbath (1970)
=36: Blonde on Blonde; Bob Dylan (1966)
=36: As Daylight Dies; Killswitch Engage (2006)
=36: In Utero; Nirvana (1993)
=36: Vs.; Pearl Jam (1993)
=36: Doolittle; Pixies (1989)
=36: Transformer; Lou Reed (1972)
=36: The Queen Is Dead; The Smiths (1986)
=36: The College Dropout; Kanye West (2004)
=32: Revolver; The Beatles (1966)
=32: The Music; The Music (2002)
=32: Screamadelica; Primal Scream (1991)
=32: Born to Run; Bruce Springsteen (1975)
=29: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars; David Bowie (1972)
=29: Bat out of Hell; Meat Loaf (1977)
=29: Urban Hymns; The Verve (1997)
=27: The Marshall Mathers LP; Eminem (2000)
=27: A Grand Don’t Come for Free; The Streets (2004)
=22: Powerage; AC/DC (1978)
=22: Rumours; Fleetwood Mac (1977)
=22: ...And Justice for All; Metallica (1988)
=22: Moving Pictures; Rush (1981)
=22: Radiator; Super Furry Animals (1997)
=20: Nightmare; Avenged Sevenfold (2010)
=20: The Blackening; Machine Head (2007)
19: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; The Smashing Pumpkins (1995)
18: The Number of the Beast; Iron Maiden (1982)
=15: Rust in Peace; Megadeth (1990)
=15: Loveless; My Bloody Valentine (1991)
=15: The Bends; Radiohead (1995)
14: Funeral; Arcade Fire (2004)
13: The Dark Side of the Moon; Pink Floyd (1973)
=10: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?; Oasis (1995)
=10: Ten; Pearl Jam (1991)
=10: OK Computer; Radiohead (1997)
=8: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not; Arctic Monkeys (2006)
=8: Siamese Dream; The Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
7: Definitely Maybe; Oasis (1994)
6: The Holy Bible; Manic Street Preachers (1994)
5: Automatic for the People; R.E.M. (1992)
4: The Stone Roses; The Stone Roses (1989)
=1: London Calling; The Clash (1979)
=1: Nevermind; Nirvana (1991)
=1: Appetite for Destruction; Guns‘n‘Roses (1987)

The thing is that, with the exception of a few modern albums like A Grand Don’t Come for Free and The Music and a few of the heavy metal albums, none of this is unfamiliar to me who has read music criticism for a very long time. The former is a rap-rock album that was described as similar to Eminem but not as good; the latter is alternative/indie rock from Leeds and influenced by the Stone Roses – neither is actually “out of left field” when one reads descriptions on Rate Your Music.

This really suggests that it is rare to see an album canonised by the public before critics see it – though the fact that many critics do not hear albums later acclaimed is of itself a major question.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The divergence revealed – again

Whilst I have known for a number of years now that Australia’s culture is diverging from that of the Enriched World, two articles I have looked at today seem to imply that this divergence is very real and actually occurring today.

Rod Dreher in ‘Wellesley’s First World Problem’ does a great deal to show just how masculinised (a synonym for secularised) the Enriched World has already become, as he illustrated women, frustrated that laws trying to equalise their outcomes with men cannot do so effectively, are beginning to actually take testosterone to turn them into men. Although the idea of women taking testosterone is not something I have imagined, if one looks at the Boomers’ cultural ambassadors AC/DC, one sees them say:
“Shoot to thrill”
“Play to kill”
Too many women
“Too many pills”
it is extremely easy to see why so many feminists would wish for women to be turned into men on a large scale. The very fact that radical feminists have embraced this rather than question the Weltanschauung of AC/DC – a worldview much more consistent through the AC/DC canon than is the Bible or the Qur’an) is very telling as to what it says about the mainstream of Enriched World culture today. A culture that follows what ‘Shoot to Thrill’ says is a culture that believes there are too many women and that it would be better with only men – despite the impossibility of reproduction! Dreher shows that women are trying to be men because they feel they will be stronger and tougher if they do so, even if there are regulations in colleges that they be only for women.

In contrast, The Guardian in its ‘Australia Is on the Road to a Tea Party Revolution’ reveals just how far and how rapidly Australia is moving towards the policies advocated by the Tea Partyists in the United States. Despite its criticism, The Guardian itself thinks this shift likely to continue because of Australia’s uniform media.

Whereas Obama’s support among the American Millennials was and is much too strong for any Tea Party revolution, and the Republican Party too pragmatic about losing more marginal states of the mid-east, Australia lacks such qualms. Its comparative advantage in land-intensive industries like family housing and agriculture means Australia still possesses a strong “community culture” that works in manual trade, mining and farming jobs largely lost from the Enriched World.

These people – in the middle and outer suburbs of Australia’s cities – express themselves primarily via family and community rather than what Michael Woolridge called “work”  but is more accurately “art” and constitutes the primary means of self-expression for people of the Enriched World and a few Australian academic communities. In addition to Woolridge, David Brooks has noticed how much smaller the “self” is in suburban Australia than for people in Blue America, Canada, New Zealand or Eurasia. As critics of the “War on Poverty” have argued, this sense of community in suburban Australia makes its residents extremely suspicious of people on welfare, because they believe in a level of self-reliance rarely seen in the Enriched World.

Outer suburbanites do recognise as few others do how the governments of the Enriched World, despite a rhetoric and ideology of radical egalitarianism, govern for a tiny minority – for a start those without high-paying jobs cannot afford the geographically restricted and heavily regulated housing supplies of most Enriched World cities. This is a critical problem for the Enriched World but one considered only by the Right, whose solutions are almost certainly effective but politically unviable. On the Left it is argued that increased welfare from taxing the super-rich could allow everyone to afford housing in cities like London, Vancouver or New York, an idea shown outlandish by history and one that makes the modern Left look extremely hypocritical.

The division we are seeing between Australia and the Enriched World is in many ways profoundly natural – experienced ecologists like Antoni Milewski, Tim Flannery, Ian Rowley and Dustin Rubinstein known that Australia’s animals are much more social and group-living than those of the Enriched World – and profoundly disturbing because it, as The Guardian points out, ignores the critical issues facing the future on both sides.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

An amazing blunder by a plumber

Today as I was browsing through The West Australian in the State Library, where I have a project of referencing and describing WAFL seasons for Wikipedia, I found, as I tried to look at the 2006 WAFL pre-season, an amazing story.
In Norway, a plumber at a bar had accidentally hooked beer hoses to water pipes and water hoses to beer pipes! This was so amazing and the story shocked me from the title so much that I felt I had to record it like I did almost no other story I have found browsing the papers, especially with Per Egil Myvang’s succint comment that it would take a lot of skill to connect beer to a water pipe!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

“Primitive peasant culture”? No, an industrial city!

For many years my mother and brother – who deplore my interest in the topic and say it shows I am not scientific – have said that stigmata stories in countries such as Italy and Spain and their absence in Australia reflect a “primitive peasant culture”.

I have told my relatives the difference is that in Italy and Spain the working classes favoured doctrinally atheistic Marxism, whereas those in Australia were very conservative and often practicing Catholics. Consequently, unusual means were needed for the Church to protect its right to state its moral position, since the working classes desired this impossible in order to eliminate opposition to the right to seize wealth workers believed the ruling and business classes usurped.

When today I read an article by Rod Dreher about the efforts of the US, especially the Northeastern states, to completely outlaw the practice of traditional Christianity as a step beyond legalisation of homosexual marriage, I recalled the story of Marie Rose Ferron, the only (major) stigmatist from North America. Upon reading Father Michael Freze’s They Bore the Wounds of Christ, I instantly took the fact that Ferron came from the most liberal and most atheistic region of the United States as proof that radical leftist working class politics was the driving force behind stories of stigmata and inedia (living only on the Holy Eucharist).
Marie Rose Ferron with spiritual director Father Gauthier
The desire to find out the history of radical politics in the Northeast drew me, though some will think this paradoxical, to Ferron, about whom I knew less than European stigmatics like Thèrése Neumann, Marthe Robin, Pio of Pietrelcina and Louise Lateau.

These are pictures of Marie Rose Ferron’s feet
What I found was revealing – that Ferron was a Québécois who migrated to Massachusetts due to lack of job opportunities in Québéc and the refusal of the government there to encourage industrialisation, and that Ferron’s stigmata were received when she was living in the Providence, Rhode Island metropolitan area! This counts as one unsurprising revelation, but a telling one. A stigmatist in a working-class industrial city is unlikely if stigmata stories are a product of a primitive peasant culture as those near me suppose. However, if my theory that modern stigmata stories reflect class war aimed directly or indirectly at the Catholic Church be correct, industrial cities are exactly the places one would expect stigmatists, since it would be there that stigmata miracles (whether true or not) most clearly oppose the beliefs of locals.

At the very time Ferron received the stigmata a strongly Catholic Democratic “industrial machine” developed in the Northeast and Great Lakes. This may explain the timing of her story and that of Rhoda Wise, as beforehand Catholics may have been too few among the ruling class for such need. At the same time, many in the working classes of the Northeast favoured policies much more radical and morally liberal than either the mainstream Democratic Party or (especially) more radically Catholic organisations like the Catholic Worker. Thus a fear that Communism could take over was present among Catholics in the Northeast in a manner contemporaneously absent from the rest of North America, which was then generally too conservative.

The existence of a stigmatist in the middle of an industrial conurbation is certainly a challenge to the  “primitive peasant culture” theory of stigmatists, and strengthens my notion that the critical requirements for stigmata stories are:
  1. a politically radical and atheist working class that seeks to erase Catholicism from the public sphere
  2. a ruling class with a strong influence from Catholicism whose power is an obstacle to (1) achieving its atheist goals
This theory explains the concentration of stigmatists in southern Europe, the “headquarters” of Catholicism, and their absence from not only Australia but also the American South, which also has a long Catholic history but is little higher, steeper or (except for the Mississippi alluvial areas) richer in nutrients. Both regions are consequently naturally extremely conservative and have very limited or no class struggle. The one exception seems to be Latin America, which was strongly Catholic (but is now less so) mainly mountainous and had strong socialist movements, but never had the stigmata stories found in Europe. It’s possible that its ruling classes were not as ideologically Catholic as Europe’s (at least one Guatemala dictator was a born-again evangelical) but this is uncertain and needs more research on my part.

Friday, 3 October 2014

The impossibility of “efficient density”

The problem of the vast disparity in available land space versus population in Australia compared to the rest of the world is something seldom said but which I have emphasised – in case you are not familiar this site is the basic place to look to see how enormous a supply of land Australia has. Personal experience and reading has long made me suspicious that dense Enriched World neighbourhoods are in any way “liveable” – besides being unaffordable they are extremely crowded and noisy.

The claim that low-denity rural-style living as most Australians (although, most likely due to Enriched World farm subsidies, few actually farm) tends to reduce social interaction is one I have long been suspicious of both from personal experience and from reading books such as Arthur Brooks’ Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism — America’s Charity Divide, Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Nonetheless, whilst I intuitively thought that social interaction in flat, sprawling Australian cities must be much greater than in constrained, mountainous, high-density Enriched World cities, I never had any clear evidence.

However, Jan Brückner and Ann Largey – in a very poorly-styled and badly-written article and focusing only on the United States – have clearly shown that, as I expected, low-density “Australian” cities have much greater social interaction than high-density “Enriched” cities. Their article ‘Social Interaction and Urban Sprawl’, although lacking the most basic elements of writing style like given results in the introduction (which it does not) or clear tables showing the expected results of how high density creates noise and fear (which is again absent) and taking numerous reads to merely understand results in the final table, shows clearly how limited the group involvement of high-density “Enriched”-style cities is, and that group involvement is strongly correlated with the presence of school-age children which cannot be affordably reared in crowded, noisy Enriched World cities. Moreover, Brückner and Largey confirm Brooks’ simultaneous findings about the extreme selfishness of welfare recipients – who are the least likely of all groups to engage in group activities or even non-religious clubs.

Brückner’s and Largey’s final note is that:
With a negative effect of density on interaction, individual space consumption would tend to be too low rather than too high, tending to make cities inefficiently compact, as explained in section 2.
This, indeed, may be why Australian cities do not sprawl to the extremely low densities (less than 100 people per km2) the land supply would permit, because:
“Thus, the empirical results suggest that social-interaction effects may counteract, rather than exacerbate, the well-recognized forces (such as unpriced traffic congestion) that cause cities to overexpand.”
This would imply strong social and family interactions in Australian cities that the Enriched World (and even more the Tropical) lack the land to achieve serve to limit sprawl. It is virtually certain, too, that these strong social ties create higher religiosity and combine therewith to greatly reduce ideological materialism and individualism in Australian suburbs and exurbs vis-à-vis their complete dominance in the Enriched and Tropical Worlds.

The problem facing the Enriched World is that, although individual space consumption is too low, the region has much too little flat land to increase space consumption to the levels actually or potentially possible in Australia under Abbott. Even in low-sediment regions where building on steep slopes is low-risk in terms of water quality and erosion, there is very little land relative to population compared to Australia’s three people per square kilometre. In most of Asia, southern and central Europe, and the western Americas, the situation is much worse again, as tectonically active mountains make “minimum lot sizes” advocated at the end of section 2 out of the question due to major potential erosion problems and higher value for species diversity.

These simple facts suggest that Brückner’s and Largey’s theory of a socially efficient density is impractical in the Enriched World – at all events once the discovery of the role of chalcophile elements as biological catalysts allowed the correction of their severe deficiency in the Australian environment and the discovery of current electricity permitted smelting the abundant lithophile elements enriched in the Australian environment. Christianity, especially in its most radical Anabaptist forms, certainly was very successful at countering the natural individualism and egalitarianism of European and American environments before these discoveries and thus limiting the demand for space.

Abundance of noise resulting from extreme scarcity of space in Enriched World cities undoubtedly makes it impossible to maintain the rituals of traditional Abrahamic and Dharmic religions (which require deep silence). Along with, as Brückner and Largey briefly note, alternative forms of “entertainment” or “ritual” to religion and family gatherings like:
  1. political protests or activist movements
  2. live music, cinema or theatre
  3. live sport or games
tend to concentrate in the highest-density cities. They would also be more easily heard in a noisy environment with low sound attenuation, and history shows these alternatives have shaped the dense cities of the Enriched World as strongly atheistic and politically liberal. There is no political or practical possibility of this changing: in fact opinion polls suggest it is intensifying with the Millennial Generation and will further deplete the Enriched and Tropical World’s limited social capital.

Brückner and Largey – naturally – ignore the massive global pollution costs Australian suburbs impose, given that their greenhouse emissions per capita are four or more times higher than social-capital-depleted Enriched and Tropical World cities. If these costs were taken into account, Australian densities might rise if its suburbanites be willing to accept the large costs that must be paid, but as Melissa Sweet points out, that is almost impossible since the sacrifices in privacy and comfort of having by law to travel in crowded trains or buses is something history shows they will not accept – even without higher taxes on income and fuel to pay for it.