April issue #181


Hank Marvin wonders if his goggles are an asset
Mike's Pith & Wind
The Phantom of the Future is standing next to me..
The landline rings, as it does quite regularly after 5.00, optimum pest-call time.
Long silence. This happens with most of these calls and usually ends with the call being terminated – interestingly mostly by the caller.
Then the silence gives way to the sound of background voices, guaranteeing a cold call.
‘Mr Rudd?’ pronounced ‘rudd’ rather than ‘rude’ for a change.
‘How can I help you today?’
‘Fucked if I know. Goodbye’. (True).
There are at least two of these calls every day on average. This is the price we pay apparently for being modern human beings. This never used to happen when I was a child. The phone was entirely the province of adults. Children in this case were neither seen nor heard.
In fact, I was nearly ten when I was reluctantly compelled to become phone-literate. It might’ve been earlier by a year or two, (or maybe even later), but these days babies of less than two years of age know how to dial their mother’s phone and also know they should smile angelically when it’s pointed at them.
Technology, even basic technology like a phone, has always confused and even frightened me. For instance, I wasn’t at all keen to learn to drive, whereas bro’ Dick was jumping out of his skin to get his licence as soon as he turned sixteen. (Yes, sixteen!)
So I eventually felt I had to respond to the urgent competition from my junior sibling and got my licence at about the same time as he did – only I was eighteen, of course. We both had driving lessons – Richard probably didn’t actually need the formality of lessons, having taken every opportunity that was presented to him to drive a vehicle – but I certainly did.
Till then I’d thought of myself as being reasonably coordinated. I was passably adept at sport. I could run. I could catch a footy. I could swim – just. But when I was asked to drive a car I was absolutely clueless. I think I’ve probably related the following story, but it’s worth repeating.
The driving instructor and I were driving his dual-control car in Cathedral Square, since so sadly devastated in the second earthquake. The Square isn’t actually square, but more like a giant roundabout and I was anxiously driving (clockwise) around it when the instructor asked me to change lanes and reminded me to use my indicators before doing so.
The car had a column shift and for some reason I applied the same force to the hapless indicator stalk as I would to the gear shift – and snapped it off in my hand!
I was mortified, but I thought the instructor took it pretty well in the circumstances, even giving me the impression that some other idiot, or even idiots, had done this before. When I think about it now I just know that I was the only one.
Those who have followed my recent adventures on the Stop Press page gig reports will have noticed a continuation of the same nerve-wracked ineptitude with modern technology, but this time as applied to musical performance. For instance, I have a ongoing battle with two brands of perfectly adequate loop pedals, both of which only demand of me that I press my foot down in time with the music to make them work, but both have brought me to my knees, ripping out leads and swearing in frustration because I’ve managed to jam them in a manner totally unforeseen by the manufacturers. In public. I know it’s only practise that’s needed, but I’m so slow to learn and then suddenly the next solo gig’s upon me and I’m having to excuse myself before I even start.
Then there’s the Lenovo android that I attach to the mic stand and brightly shows me the list of songs that the band is about to play. It replaces the tried-and-true analogue version that requires a cumbersome stand equipped with a light, but my eyes are getting so weak I can’t easily read the printing.
Despite its advantages, I’ve learned the hard way the the android is useless in sunlight and sometimes I’ve turned it on to discover the battery is flat, so I keep an analogue version handy.
Lately I’ve found myself another technological aid / adversary to tantalise and frustrate me. It’s so modern it nearly defies description to the non-musician – but I’ll give it a go.
It starts with my amplifier. That’s the piece of equipment that makes my guitar sound TOO LOUD. It’s a Fender. One of my guitars is also a Fender. So far, so good.
Since I began playing guitar quite a bit more than fifty years ago (I’m celebrating my alleged fifty years in music next month – but that’s another story) I have always fantasised about having a good guitar sound. I’ve come close a few times and actually experienced my ideal guitar sound momentarily, but it remains an elusive quest.
I’ve got a neat app on my home recording program that emulates guitar and amplifier sounds very effectively called Amplitube and I noticed that there is a portable version you can load on your iPhone. The idea is that you dial up your ideal sound, plug your guitar into your iPhone and plug that in turn to your amplifier to reproduce those exquisite sounds you’ve always dreamt of – in public! Or, that’s the theory.
So I purchased all the bibs and bobs, put them all together and plugged it in to my amplifier – at home - and it sounded great! Now to do the same thing at a gig.
Unsurprisingly, I suppose, it hasn’t quite gone to plan. There was the one gig that it worked wonderfully and I can remember being overjoyed, but I haven’t been able to reproduce the settings I used. The most recent Spectrum gig was the Fabulous Double Bill Show with Madder Lake at the Barwon Club Hotel on last Sunday afternoon. The previous night in Warrnambool had been a sonic disaster from which no useful data could be gleaned, but the sound on-stage on this day was pretty good.
We were a bit rushed I suppose, but in reality that’s not an excuse. The rule is that you simply don’t start playing until you’ve got all the equipment working to your satisfaction, but I’m a bit of a nervous Nellie and I don’t like making people wait, so I unilaterally waived that rule.
We’d arrived at about half way through the set when I detected, well, nothing really. My guitar sounded boringly bog-standard.
I got down on my knees and fiddled with my iPhone. Still nothing. It was so dark I couldn’t read the symbols on the iRig2 (I didn’t tell you about that bit but it’s not important) and I was starting to get angry.
Broc was standing by trying to be helpful, but he’s not seen me angry too often and here I was on the floor yelling at him for A FUCKING TORCH – NOW.
It finally dawned on me that I’d set it up totally back-to-front and while the signal was getting through alright it was without the virtual effect attached.
I angrily ripped it all apart and crunched it back together again - and this time it worked, but I was so generally bothered I don’t remember if it was close to the sound I was looking for or not.
Back to the drawing board I suppose.
You may’ve detected a theme here. You’re right - my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be and I’m actually on a promise to get them checked. It’s possible I’ll end up with glasses and it’s possible that they’ll be a fixture, including for on-stage.
Interesting. There aren’t too many famous players that sport glasses, on stage anyway. Buddy Holly comes to mind. And then there’s Hank Marvin.
Hank Marvin! Crikey! There you go! I promise to do a Shadows’ cover if I do end up with Marvin-esque glasses. I choose Apache!
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Denial, a curiously unsatisfying account on the telly

Dick's Toolbox
Who died at Auschwitz?
Recently I was forwarded a document called ‘Who Died at Auschwitz’ allegedly by a Spaniard called Sebastián Vilar Rodrigez. It was first published on November 21, 2004, by the Spanish website Gentiuno. The author then was listed as Sebastián Vivar Rodriguez. There’s no record of a Spanish writer named Sebastian Vivar Rodriguez - or Sebastián Vilar Rodrigez.
After the Christchurch massacre it makes interesting reading. You can find the document on-line but its contention is that, as a consequence of the guilt Europe felt after the murder of six million Jews during the WWII, twenty million Muslims have been allowed to settle in Europe. And it is alleged that the recently arrived Muslims are no match for dead Jews who are justly praised for their contribution in all areas of “….life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. Look at any donors' board at any symphony, art museum, theatre, art gallery, science centre, etc. You will see many, many, Jewish surnames. These are the people who were burned.”
The first thing that is apparent, and blackly ironic, is that the language of the short essay that condemns Muslims is depressingly reminiscent of the global anti-Semitic propaganda that preceded the WWII. Phrases such as “who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty…. they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts.” Pretty much all Europe – and this is Europe that extends through Russia - vilified and persecuted the Jews for centuries. The Spanish under Isabella and Ferdinand, expelled the total Jewish population in 1492 unless they converted to Catholicism. But, even if they did convert they weren’t believed and were pursued by the Inquisition. Most went to Holland were they led the commercial rise to power of that nation which had recently been at war with Spain.
The article has some genuine nasty lies such as “Recently, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offends' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving in to it.”
It has always been apparent that people are aggrieved by other people’s beliefs and appearance. We are generally more happy when we are surrounded by others who don’t create too much of a disjuncture to our own little world of expectation and normality. So Australia has recoiled in horror to incessant generational migrant waves - each one being decried until it was normalised so it could join in the name-calling of the next plane load of the talented, useful and needy. Australia is no different starting with the 1850’s gold rush, when the Chinese were physically attacked and driven off the fields. Prior to that the Aboriginal population was quickly, physically and legally, disposed of the whole land mass by invading settlers and suffered generations of humiliation.
As a New Zealander, a group that represents about three percent of the Australian population, I can say that I have passed almost unnoticed, though my Maori brothers do not. But the Muslim population, which also represents about three per cent of the population, has not passed unnoticed as their numbers increased and international events bring them in to focus. The Muslim faith, to which less than a quarter of the world’s population subscribe, is no more batty than most others and given its quite close monotheistic mythological relationship with both Judaism and Christianity, is not that distant in belief structure and numerous prophets. All share the same invisible friend, all require an irrational faith to overcome the disconnect between science and everyday reality. Both regard the other as competition and deserving of conversion to their chosen cause, although I don’t know of a Muslim equivalent of Mormons travelling in flocks around the globe knocking on doors. However, there is fifteen hundred years of competition, war and bloodshed between the two belief systems, with Christianity often losing the high moral ground in terms of behaviour in the past.
In some circumstances, cultures and sects of the Muslim dress code is confronting, but in its oddity no worse than nuns and monks that I recall from the 1950s and currently less prevalent. Like Christianity it is a religion that has both modern and deeply conservative, reactionary elements. And, as with Christianity, the moderates aren’t the ones that make the front pages and they are not the ones wearing medieval clothing that seems to celebrate the lesser role of women. It is also a religion with centuries of rules, covenants and codes that have grown around a relatively simple core to cement and preserve a large number of power roles and minority oppressions. The lesser role of women in Arab Islam is ensured in Sharia Law in matters of inheritance that divides property under various complex rules depending on the number of relations and their kinship, but which gives males relatives twice as much as female relatives. Distant male relations can inherit ahead of closer ones.
But Australia is a secular state so this does not apply and it should be noted that there are only half a dozen Sharia States in the world, most of which are not high on the holiday list.
One interesting distinction is the separation of Church and State which has been cemented in western civilisation since the French and American revolutions at the end of the 18th Century. This is far from complete when the old state-church system still produces aftereffects in the form of tax privileges of the church (exemption from most taxation), the exemption of the clergy from military service, and the financial furtherance of confessional school and educational systems. America ‘Trusts in God’ and prayers are still said at the commencement of the Australian Parliament no matter that we are a nation of non-believers.
But as usual I digress.
Immigration has become a necessity for most European countries as well as Australia. In an aging population with secular stagnation more than half the real GDP growth in Australia so far this decade is directly attributable to growth in the population. Australian growth in real GDP per person has averaged 1.1 per cent a year – equal to its performance during the 1930s, and slower that anything we’ve had in between. As Ross Gittins wrote “If our economic performance seems better than the other advanced economies, that’s just because our population is growing much faster than theirs.”
As birth rates plummet in the developed world, migrants are keeping the economy afloat. They account for half the increase in the US workforce since 2005 and seventy percent in Europe. With no migration Europe’s population is set to fall seventeen percent by 2050 with a thirty percent decrease of people of a working age. To maintain overall numbers the EU needs 850,000 migrants per year.
We need migrants and we need to cope and adjust to the increasing diversity that this means. Success lies in accommodating rather that erasing diversity by creating a broader sense of ‘We’. Success lies not in assimilation but adaptation on both sides.
In tragedy, Jacinda Ardern, Te Pirimia o Aotearoa, showed that it can be done.
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