18 January, 2020

10 reasons why the best rock stars are nerds

Being a rock star is of course the coolest thing you can possibly be. But it doesn’t mean everything about you is cool. In fact, some of the biggest rock stars you know are nerds just below the surface.

Jimmy Page
Page started his career as a session guitarist and can be heard on dozens singles that would be deemed far too poppy and cheesy for any Zep aficionado. Led Zeppelin themselves dropped several references to The Lord of the Rings into their early songs and Page is such a fan of Aleistair Crowley he bought Crowley’s former home.
Nerd score: 7/10

Brian May
The Queen guitarist is a Doctor of Astrophysics, a passionate campaigner for animal rights – particularly badgers – and plays a guitar which he built himself as a teenager out of timber from the family fireplace. With a sixpence!
Nerd score: 12/10

Their image is heavy but Metallica are music nerds at heart. Their rhythms are meticulously crafted and they will never play eight bars of 4/4 where a mix of 5/8, 3/4, 12/8 and 6/4 will suffice.
Nerd score: 8/10

Frank Zappa
Although the bulk of his lyrics were aimed at frat boys, Zappa’s music was all nerd. Auditions for his band bordered on the cruel. Applicants were required sight-read ridiculously complex parts and then improvise over bizarre time signatures like 11/8. Having learned from his father, Dweezil has said that 4/4 is the hardest rhythm for him to play.

When Zappa discovered he had a namesake in ’cellist and composer Francesco Zappa, Frank made an album of Francesco’s work by programming it into his Synclavier – an instrument he used for composing parts that were practically impossible for a human to play.

In the early 90s, Zappa had planned to set up a consulting business to facilitate trade between former Soviet Union states and the west. Czechoslovakian president Václav Havel had named him Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism but the appointment was nixed by then secretary of state James Baker.
Nerd Score: 10/10

John Lennon
The working class hero was never really working class. He was brought up by his middle-class aunt and went to art school. He published two volumes of absurdist verse, prose and cartoons in his lifetime and another was posthumously published.

Having once described avant-garde as “French for bullshit,” he fell in love with conceptual artist Yoko Ono, and embraced her experimental style on the albums Two Virgins, Life with the Lions and Wedding Album.

Later, during his house-husband years, he would take Polaroid photos of the loaves of bread he baked and send them to friends.
Nerd score: 8/10

George Harrison
The Quiet One discovered Indian music almost by accident while filming the move Help! He took to it with a passion and studied the sitar under master Ravi Shankar. His interest in non-western instruments influenced almost all of late 60s music. He signed Radha Krishna Temple to Apple Records and inadvertently invented WOMAD.

He was a supporter of the Natural Law Party, a political offshoot of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

A lifelong Monty Python fan, he appeared as a reporter in Eric Idle’s spoof The Rutles, and financed Life Of Brian after big studios balked at the subject matter.
Nerd Score: 7/10

Jeff Baxter
The Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers guitarist has probably the most interesting side hustle of them all: he is a consultant to the US Defence Department, with a particular focus on missile defence. Stemming from an interest in how objects can be used for things they weren’t designed for, he wrote a paper in 1994 about how an anti-aircraft facility could be adapted into a missile defence system and passed it on to his representative. He’s been on the Pentagon payroll ever since.
Nerd Score: 7/10

David Bowie
Bowie’s earliest releases flopped at the time, and it’s probably just as well. He later admitted that if his first album had been a hit, he would probably have ended up in West End musicals. His first album is pure music-hall, with songs the likes of Uncle Arthur and She’s Got Medals that make his novelty song The Laughing Gnome sound positively hip by comparison.

Bowie was also a keen reader who could easily drop Philip Larkin quotes into an interview. He played the lead role in the cult classic Labyrinth, and in the 90s, set up his own internet service provider so subscribers could have their email address @davidbowie.com.
Nerd Score: 10/10

Art Garfunkel
Garfunkel is a voracious reader and keeps his books in chronological order of when he read them. He once walked across America by getting a friend to pick him up at the end of the day, drive him to the nearest motel, and drop him off at the same place the next morning.
Nerd score: 8/10

Gordon Sumner’s day job was as an English teacher. He practices tantric yoga (among other things if you believe the rumours), and learned to play the lute for an album of 16th century British compositions, released on Deutsche Grammophon.
Nerd Score: 14/10

09 January, 2020

We actually need celebrities to be political

The world destroying itself either through accident or design was not enough to completely overshadow something as really important as an awards night.

And ZOMG - did you see Ricky Gervais? He totally flipped call-out culture. Amazing!

Well, up to a point...

"You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world."

And Gervais does? He says "you," not "we," so I'm assuming he thinks he does.

And it's not as if Gervais himself doesn't do a good line in lecturing the public about animal cruelty - which I completely endorse. It just makes me wonder why he thinks he's different to the rest of them.

Predictably enough, the hit-and-miss Jonathan Pie has chimed in with his defence of Gervais, hitting a few more easy targets.

Now they both make a few good points. No-one denies that celebs who constantly bang on about some political hobby-horse can be pretty bloody tiresome. But the truth is, we need them.

We need them because there were people watching the Golden Globes who can spell Joaquin Phoenix without Googling it, and can list the entire Kardashian family tree from memory, who have no idea who the prime minister is.

If Gervais and Pie were half as in touch with "the real world" as they would like to think they are, they would understand this. Or perhaps they do, and are just using it for their own self-promotion. They're celebrities too, after all.

But what the educated elite (in which I include Gervais, Pie, myself, and you too most likely) need to understand is that these slightly embarrassing, not always well-informed speeches are not aimed at us. They're aimed at people who can recognise who designed Nicole Kidman's dress but not what party their representative belongs to. They're aimed at people who can dispute the legality of a touchdown or an LBW, but not of the government's actions. They're aimed at people who vote every week on Dancing with the Stars but never in an election.

They're aimed at a president who is a TV addict, and known to tune in to these shows just to live-tweet how boring they are, and it might be the only thing he hears that comes from outside his own echo-chamber.

Pie rightly suggests that Scott Morrison's views on global warming are more important than any celebrities. But let's take a look at Scott Morrison meeting a voter at a time when Morrison had been all over the news:

Now if Gary Ablett had spoken to this bloke, he might just have paid attention.

02 January, 2020

The GG will not save us

Since the prime minister’s ill-advised holiday timing and his government’s mostly inadequate response to a quarter of the country being on fire has prompted some people on Twitter to demand the Governor General – or even the Queen – step in and remove the government.

To all those making such calls, please stop embarrassing yourselves. That’s not how it works and you (should) know it!

The reserve powers of the Governor General do not include sacking the government for being a bunch of dills, nor should they. We had an election seven months ago. We as a nation need to own the fact that collectively, we chose this mob.

If you want to take it up with someone, take it up with your mate who fell for Morrison’s daggy-dad schtick.
Take it up with your neighbour who thought Bill Shorten was arrogant.
Take it up with your relatives who have never owned shares but managed to get spooked over franking credits.
Take it up with the students who re-elected the people who cut their penalty rates.
Take it up with a generation of renters who will probably never own property who were convinced changes to negative gearing would be bad for them.
Take it up with the shops and taxis that play 2GB all day, the airports that show Sky News, the cafes that provide the Herald Sun.

You may not have voted for this but enough of us did. We need to learn from it.

What we need to learn is you don't get a do-over whenever we feel like it. We’re stuck with this shit show for another 2 and a half years because of decisions we made last May. Remember this in 2022. You might also remember this next time people start advocating 4-year fixed terms.

The only way the Governor General could justifiably intervene would be if Labor and the crossbenchers combined in the Senate to block supply, forcing a 1975-style crisis. There are several problems with this scenario:

1: Labor would need to grow a spine. It would also force them to abandon their sense of injustice over 1975.
2: All the crossbenchers would need to resolve to work together with the opposition.
3: Parliament would need to be sitting, which is hardly ever these days.
4: Most importantly, it’s not a responsible course of action to throw the country into a constitutional crisis at the same time as we’re fighting a bushfire crisis. The government would much rather be playing politics than addressing the real crisis, and the first thing they would do is spin it that the opposition is blocking funding for emergency responses, which would actually be true.
Morrison as prime minister can be replaced, and he possibly will be if he doesn’t lift his game quick smart. But who would replace him? Dutton? Frydenberg? Porter? They would all be worse.

Your vote is for three years, not just a weekend.