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
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
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
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
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! 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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a curiously unsatisfying account on the telly
Who died at Auschwitz?
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
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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