Wednesday, 31 December 2008

"100 Greatest Americans"

Searching through information about Silent Spring, I discovered this list of the 100 most influential people in America. (On the post where I first discovered it, Silent Spring was criticised as it often is for killing many Africans).

Although one writer called "Borges" called the list "right-wing" because Hilary Clinton was absent, with the two Margarets (Mead and Sanger), plus Nader, John Dewey and Friedan, it is overall anything but. It is true that Rockefeller, Carnegie and Henry Ford are all in the top twenty, which will lighten the faces of Austrians out there, but apart from the two admittedly important Mormon pioneers Joseph Smith and Brigham Young there is nobody closely related to conservative religious viewpoints. One writer did suggest John Cardinal O'Connor (though misnaming him), another Jerry Falwell, another Dorothy Day and most surprisingly the Poor Clare Mary Angelica, but many other religious figures were not suggested at all.

However, the list is not as politically correct as possible. Recalling Elizabeth Kantor in The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, it is worthy of note that Toni Morrison was not suggested, even though she is supposedly the most studied writer in US education today. Nor, much more remarkably, was William Seward Burroughs III, who has been seen (quite fairly) as the godfather of punk and thus modern culture in Blue America and Europe. Even Chuck D, the spokesperson for the 1980s rap revolution, would not have been an unfair choice, but no one suggested him. Nor were John Coltrane or Charles Mingus among jazzmen. Nor was Henry Adams, who wrote a book about his own education often listed as the very best of the twentieth century.

Of those actually included, there are some whose names are so often mentioned on out products or elsewhere but of whom I have never heard, like Morse (the Morse code) and Gallup (the familiar opinion polls). To be fair, there are far more people whom I knew already than on any previous "Top 100" list I have read, but there are still a few whom I did not know of before today, such as Olmstead, McCormick, Eli Whitney and Goldwyn.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Radio stations returning to ridiculous behaviour about climate

Around seven years ago, passengers on the route 250/251/253 bus felt anger toward me because I constantly accosted them with the question of what temperature they liked the weather to be.

Although back then I already knew that accosting people was socially unacceptable, my enthusiasm for the question utterly overrode any scruples. The reason is that every summer GOLD FM bombarded me with advertisements saying “all around the temperature is rising”/“meet you down the beach cause were gonna have a good time” when I was sweating because of the heat and glary sun which I wanted to escape from via nothing except cooler weather. Even days of 25 degrees could be uncomfortable, and when it was thirty or more I hated it. The consequence was that I could not believe that most people really enjoyed horribly hot weather and thus I was extremely eager to ask people “what temperature do you like the weather to be?”

Having accosted many people on buses and asked them that question, I found that the popular temperature for most Australians was from 24 to 28 degrees, being a little higher for women than men. I find such temperatures still very warm to hot and prefer something from 15 to 17 degrees ideal, with a little cloud to keep off the glare being wonderful. As I see it, the best weather in Australia is on the coast of Tasmania from Hobart to Eddystone Point.

After a few messages in the Green Guide that pointed out not everybody likes the weather to be thirty-three degrees (I say “halve that and you’d have it perfect”) GOLD FM toned their advertising down until this spring. Their ads saying “water restrictions are here to stay” and saying the government is securing Victoria’s water supply are pure lies. If the government were securing Victoria’s water supply, it would take the following steps:

1) Legislate for an minimum 99 percent reduction in Victoria's greenhouse emissions over the next decade

2) Phase out all coal-fired power stations

3) Shift all smelting of aluminium to nations with reliable hydroelectric power – most likely New Zealand.

4) Legislate for a 100 percent reduction in “private” motorised vehicle registrations over the next five years

5) Invest in road demolition to cut road capacity in Victoria by a minimum 90 percent

6) Invest in public transit to ensure one-to-two minute services to every suburb 24 hours a day. This would cost as little as the total wastage on CityLink and ensure that no Melburnian would be disadvantaged by a complete ban on private vehicle registration.

7) Make sure that every cent of land transport investment must be on rail as it is more energy-efficient than road or air.

Such a "seven-point plan" has been outlined in Environment, Capitalism and Socialism for over twenty years and it is time everybody inside and outside Australia sees its necessity.

The problem that the DSP can’t comprehend is that politically most of Australia outside academia is – by overseas standards – nothing except far-right and will never consider socialism as it would hurt the personal relationships they value in a way exceedingly rare for urban peoples.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Nixon with Messiaen?

Having become a fan of Messiaen in recent years, I was very shocked to think that he was involved with President Nixon, as this post says.

Apparently the two had little liking for each other because Nixon did not like Messaien's traditional Catholic outlook, but Nixon was nonetheless obsessed because he thought that engaging in public with Messaien could serve to confuse his enemies on the international stage.

The linked text is shockingly rude and I would not recommend it to young kids! For those who will not be influenced by its language it is a fascinating look at early 1970s politics.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

An inconsistent list that could have been comprehensive

The revealing fact that literature courses outside Australia, as I have mentioned before, have been drastically changed over the past couple of decades in a manner that I fear as potentially very shallow, has made me look further for criticisms of literature even as I try to seriously read it for the first time in my thirty-one years. I had known of the Modern Library list since reading Pat Buchanan's The Death of the West when I felt it might be useful to understand Islamic terrorism back in 2002 or 2003.

However, when I was trying to look for assessment of authors criticised in the PIGs like Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood, I fond a large list titled Masterpieces of Women's Literature and had a good look.

Based on a volume written in 1996, the list contains a few books with which I am familiar, notably Alone of All Her Sex by Marina Warner which I read as an admittedly immature student a decade ago, and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin which I read at RMIT last year and whose description of androgynous humans is frankly a not inaccurate description of where most developed nations outside Australia are today. I have looked at a great many others without reading them seriously.

The thing that annoys me is that, whilst most of Masterpieces of Women's Literature is as many critics on the site point out, focused on the self-consciously feminist and omits famous religious writers and is short on poets, there are writers like Jane Austen and Flannery O'Connor who vigorously opposed such attitudes. Their presence makes the omission of such famous spiritual writers as Dorothy Day or even Teresa of Avila appear a serious (and inconsistent) mistake in the interest of political correctness via opposition to extremely rigid ecclesiastical decrees against female ordination. To put it another way, they are excluding women who loyally support these decrees no matter how great the merit of anything they write.

With age, I can in fact name the mistake being made for what it is. Namely, it is seeing the rigid restrictions on the role of women found in traditional churches as by their nature repressive to women. Having looked at books on basic personality theory and a great many biographies of women, I conclude somewhat differently. It is definitely true that many women find being rigidly restricted from leadership and influence unacceptable, but others find it allows them to find a more fulfilling, even more dutiful, role than they could ever achieve competing with men. Personality theory tells me clearly that

- thinking type women find traditional gender roles repressive
- feeling type women find them fulfilling (and believe there are terrible dangers in changing them)

If this is correct, then the list is neglecting a large proportion of female experience because only a small proportion (historically less than twenty percent) of women have been thinking types. It may be true that, because feeling types tend to be suspicious of too much education, thinking types have always been more creative, but nonetheless one should look at women whose lives are enriched rather than repressed by marianismo is still important at least for balance.

Ecological hell in "petrol paradise"

In a Tasmanian newspaper today, there is talk of wonderful reactions to petrol's cheapness rising to 1,110 millilitres per dollar.

The problem is that such high cheapness of petrol is awfully destructive to a country that refuses to set anything like a reasonable date for the elimination of carbon-producing fossil fuels - well, if you don't realise that a "reasonable date" for Australia to eliminate all private vehicle registration and coal-fired power would have been more like 1988 (with a balanced report rather than the car company sponsored Lonie Report) than 2020.

If Australia had common sense it would, regardless of public opposition, use the declines in pre-tax price of fuel and possible inflation to re-index excise on all fuel starting at a minimum of seventy cents a litre - still very low compared to ecological requirements but much better than the dirt-cheap thirty-eight cents a litre we have now. The inclusion of such discounted fuels as aviation fuel will eliminate the subsidies to air transport that encourage the production of titanium, which is the most greenhouse-intensive of all metals to produce and which should always be a target in greenhouse reductions. Titanium metal is primarily produced for aircraft and if some air routes that would be uneconomic without heavy subsidies then the reduction in greenhouse emissions would be much greater than merely from the aviation fuel no longer used.

A bad habit revealed

Yesterday, whilst my mother and I shopped at Barkly Square in Brunswick as we usually do every weekend, she told me a warning garnered from a program I will confess I should have watched when it was on one recent night. (I have been out late every night, with terrible consequences for my sleep and daily routine).

As I went to the Coles checkout for purchasing shopping for the coming Christmas meals, I asked the cashier whether they had read or heard of Benjamin Wiker's Ten Books that Screwed Up The World. Whilst the shopkeeper was more sympathetic that some I have accosted in the past, when I started talking to him about Ten Books that Screwed Up The World, my mother added "according to some right-wing person" as I began listing them.

What then happened was far more revealing. Whilst I will admit that my constant accosting of people over the past decade (I remember it beginning with One Nation on a bus near Mordialloc in 1998) has been aimed to help me gain contact with people and the make people more willing to listen to my opinions, my mother told me quite firmly yet gently that accosting people never serves to encourage people! She says that accosting people actually serves to make people fear the accoster, because he or she is felt dangerous and irritating to the accostee. Consequently, the study shows, people who accost others as often as I have done over the past decade find it more and more difficult to form friendships or get to know others.

Given the trouble I had getting to know others before my accosting spree began, deciding to accost people was a very bad move!

Friday, 19 December 2008

The value of interviews

The video in which Benjamin Wiker discusses his Ten Books that Screwed up the World has much more to offer even to those who do not agree with his viewpoint that just finding out the title parodies a famous socialist work about the Bolshevik Revolution.

In my initial post about Wiker's book, I noted several books that are regarded as extremely destructive by the Right but which were not included by Wiker. These included Democracy and Education by John Dewey, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes and The Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno.

In his interview Wiker says that all the books he chose for Ten Books that Screwed Up the World were pamphlets. Wiker says that it is pamphlets, and not detailed and properly referenced books, that can persuade people to adopt a particular idea. He says that applies both to good and bad ideas, but of course wants to focus on what he sees as bad ones. Having tried to read The Authoritarian Personality more than once with no success in comprehending it, I can confidently say Wiker believes that people cannot be persuaded by The Authoritarian Personality the way most workers in Europe and eventually Asia and Latin America were by The Communist Manifesto or young women by The Feminine Mystique, which at the very end of his interview Wiker describes as a "perfect execise in rhetoric" that "repeats ideas that could be summed up in half a page".

I have heard that The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (which I have never touched) is even harder to understand and I don't imagine most ordinary people were ever remotely influenced by it. Two other books listed by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as among its 50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century that fit the same criteria (but which I have read without understanding them) are:

- Beatrice and Sidney Webb's Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation
- John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society

The question of the omission of The Population Bomb I still have not resolved. It might be:
- Wiker thinks Sanger makes The Population Bomb superfluous
- Wiker does not want to include anything by a living author (he had trouble gaining information about Kinsey and those with the details would likely not give it with Ehrlich)
- Wiker might, as I do in my review think The Population Bomb with hindsight just too silly to have influenced enough people.
- Wiker might think The Population Bomb simply too recent to have had enough destructive influence. this would explain the omission of such common Right targets as The Greening of America or Our Bodies, Our Selves.

Besides providing insight into Wiker's character, the video tells one a lot about how people really develop views - very seldom, as I have, by serious study, but by much simpler persuasion, even if (as with myself) not all of it is one hundred percent logic.

An undiscovered play on words

When it came out, I discussed Benjamin Wiker's book Ten Books that Screwed Up the World, but after ignoring it for some time I have looked at it again, likely because of my feeling that its selections offer a lot of insight into values rejected in Australia but dominant in every other "Western" nation.

Today, when I met with a half-sister of mine for Christmas shopping, I talked to her about what I had been studying and when I mentioned Ten Books that Screwed Up the World, she told me that its title was actually a parody on Ten Days that Shook the World. Knowing the fact that, on the other side of the culture wars, Margaret Atwoods The Handmaid's Tale was a play on the various Canterbury Tales, I felt that her argument might well be true. The extra syllables in Wiker's title compared to Reed's classic made me initially doubtful. Nonetheless, the fact that, four minutes ten seconds into a video on the book Wiker acknowledges that Regnery chose its title, makes it certain that the title really is parodying Ten Days that Shook the World.

Yet, not one reader among many who discuss the book has ever noted this likelihood, though Ten Days that Shook the World is listed as an omission by one commentator without justification. It is surprising that someone with so little cultural knowledge can make such a discovery, and I wonder if it will inspire others to find other similar trivia.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

You can have your doubts, but denying the cultural gulf separating Australia is wrong

Via a recent list of books for a university course and a corresponding post, I pointed out that Australia is rapidly developing into a relict of the culture praised by a substantial Right in America and a tiny number elsewhere in the world. Whilst the cultural differences between Australia and other OECD nations are growing clearer and larger year by year (especially on environmental policy and social issues like homosexual marriage and racial that are never, even mentioned in Australia), there is no corresponding increase in the publicity surrounding them.

My brother denies that Australia is increasingly becoming a cultural relict. To support his contention he says that, contrary to what the Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature says, there are still courses in the classics easily available. Whilst I accept both that fact and his evidence, it is impossible for me to believe that a quite conservative father or mother would allow children to take a course like this one if something more focused on literature like The Canterbury Tales, Jane Austen or Flannery O‘Connor existed.

As a student of Recreational Literature for Young People at RMIT in 2007 I read quite a number of very new children's books. Although I will not pretend to have analysed them any more than superficially, I certainly could not see in them the themes supposedly dominating the literature of introductory American college courses.

Most of the books I read were about themes used in literature throughout its existence, such as loneliness (Walking Naked, An Abundance of Katherines), social responsibility (On the Jellicoe Road), struggles with reality (Secret Scribbled Notebooks), emotional problems (Love Cuts) and what to do in the event of social disasters (How I Live Now). Two of the books were historical - The Red Shoe dealing with the Petrov affair of the 1950s and Secrets of the Fearless about the Anglo-French wars of the Napoleonic era.

Striking about my course was the utter absence of books targetting homophobia, religion, or patriarchy. Although one much remember the course was on child and young adult literature, my professors told me they were not averse themselves to such themes. If attacks on homophobia, religion, or patriarchy are dominant in North American courses, Australia's distance from the culture of other OECD nations is already great and I don’t feel I have touched its true tip.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

A matter of 100 percent reduction

Today in the Sydney Morning Herald is an article about what sort of levels of greenhouse emissions reductions are required by the various nations of the OECD to deal with the threat of global warming.

Back at the time of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol I accepted the consensus of generalised cuts, but today as I observe runaway climate change all though Australia and no efforts to reduce the emissions of both the most fragile ecology and the worst per-capita polluter, I have gradually come to the conclusion that climate scientists have been taking the wrong tactic all along.

What textbooks on plant diversity I read when a student at Melbourne University clearly show is:
1) much of Europe and North America is of negligible conservation value as its flora is entirely recent and postglacial

2) perhaps the single most critical area in the world is southwestern Australia, already threatened by climate change and predicted future declines in rainfall

3) as Tom McMahon points out, Australia and subequatorial Africa have much more sensitive ecological and hydrological systems than the rest of present-day Earth owing to their extremely old soils that were formed during the previous ice age during the Carboniferous.

It is because of these facts that I strongly believe international conservation bodies need a narrower focus on regions of major biological importance. So limited is the actual conservation value of the most sustainable states such as Scandinavia and the Netherlands that I believe people in those countries are not aware they do much less to control global warming and other ecological problems by reducing their own emissions than by investing in and/or lobbying for radical conservation measures in Australia. As I see it, the key issue for global warming is Australian emissions, since fertility rates in the “Asian Tigers” are even lower than in Europe, whilst in Australia they are (relatively) high and rising due to low housing and transport fuel costs, which mean there is little incentive for any emissions reductions.

Instead of a protocol for generalised reductions in emissions, what should have been done was a call for absolute one hundred percent reduction in Australian emissions without any reduction required elsewhere. Such a move would have placed Australia’s emissions and energy prices on an ecologically equitable footing with the rest of the OECD, rather than with the ability to by itself radically alter the global climate even as other nations both developed and developing reduce their emissions.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Proof Australia is far from the mainstream of the West - or from another angle a relic

The US election is one thing I have decided it best not to write on - especially as I am in no way somebody to believe that voting can change much - but recently I have felt I should really point out what is shown by the United States election, namely:

That Australia, rather than being a central part of modern Western culture, is either:

1) if you are a liberal, a relict of the past age of imperialist, colonialist attitudes
2) if you are a conservative, the one and only stronghold of the traditional values of Western civilisation

The fact that Australia is the stronghold of Western civilisation probably became apparent to me when reading about what politically correct professors teach in American universities. It really rather startles me to know that an apparently quite conservative American would send his daughter to a university with such a curriculum and feel he has no superior alternative.

I was a student in 1992 and 1993, so an equivalent curriculum would study only literature published since 1970! The works I did study included

- Oedipus Rex
- Romeo and Juliet
- A Streetcar Named Desire
- How Many Miles to Babylon? (the only book actually written after 1970, but actually set during World War I)
- Hard Times
- A Man for All Seasons (a period piece about the sixteenth century published in 1960)
- Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (the only Australian piece, but if Diana West is right, more relevant overseas)
- Death of a Salesman
- Twelve Angry Men

If these lists are a representative selection, then Australia is indeed a society unlike any other in the OECD, with values completely abandoned elsewhere. Its values of relatively free development, free private car use, scepticism about global warming (in spite of overwhelming evidence something should have been done a long time ago), opposition to greenhouse targets and scepticism of government solutions to economic problems are quite unlike those of Europe, New Zealand, Canada, and now it seems the US as well.

The complete absence of movements for things like homosexual marriage and racial quotas proves further that Australians view human nature very differently from the rest of the developed world - and most likely even the urban populace of developing nations too.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Scientists in desperation, but is our population half-serious??

This recent article in The Canberra Times suggests – as I have worked out for half a decade now – that Australia is at far greater risk of runaway climate change than was ever thought beforehand. At long last our scientists are trying to persuade radical changes that should have taken place in the days of the horrific Lonie Report, whilst opinion polls in the US show clear support for radical measures to cut greenhouse emissions.

In his most recent work, Now or Never, Tim Flannery shows that only storage of carbon dioxide can prevent catastrophic climate change. The problem is, unlike his previous books Flannery really does go into the wildest flights of imagination in believing sustainable cities will soon be developed in Australia. He dreams a city based on geothermal power being developed in the centre of the continent! Whilst that might theoretically be possible, in reality I cannot see where the money would come from.

Even with Melbourne receiving less than 50mm of rain per year, it is hard to see how people could be persuaded to move such a distance. The abundant coal and land resources mean that even the complete drying up of southern Australia’s water resources could never make the tiniest difference to this. With petrol’s cheapness rising to 1330ml/$ according to reliable forecasts, the fuel efficiency of cars will tumble to record lows even as other countries mandate extremely strict emissions standards. (Indeed, such emissions standards could serve to further increase the cheapness of petrol in Australia by lessening competition from abroad). Public transport patronage will decline enough that the closures advocated by the Lonie Report become a reality – especially if a major depression does ensue.

The prosperity that record cheapness of petrol will cause would make it very hard for Australia’s politicians to really think about changing policies to improve sustainability. Already ultraconservative outer suburbanites will – even if they know of the changes taking place – feel extremely sensitive to governments taking their prosperity, and of course there is the obstacle of powerful mining and car companies opposed to any emissions targets.

Even if our scientists become more and more vocal, I do not see the fantastic plans put forward for dealing with Australia’s appalling emissions actually happening. Simpler, lower technology and more straightforward plans to phase out all private registration of motorised vehicles, revegetate farmland, shift metal smelting abroad and prevent further coal development make much more sense and if put forward passionately and vocally enough would have a much better chance.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

A giant step back for Sunbeam

It was a pleasant surprise that I was able to get a replacement Sunbeam cappuccino machine for free after it was found the fault was in the pump and that it could not be repaired.

However, I was in for yet another terrible shock on Thursday when after I tried to make a cappuccino with coffee brewed in the replacement machine, steam pressure inside reached such a level that the coffee breweing filter was forced out and it went straight into the mug, smashing it in a curious way so that it broke not at the top but at the bottom where the brewing filter hit.

What I suspect this time is that the regulation of steam pressure in my replacement machine is faulty. If this is correct, Sunbeam must have taken the most extraordinary step back in workmanship, and on current trends it seems every machine they make will be defective!

I plan to really question Choice's recommendation of this machine as the best cappuccino machine available, and to make them view workmanship and the most, or one of the most, important issues in evaluating these machines.

Monday, 1 December 2008

A more accurate way of decribing the cost of petrol

As readers of my blog will be aware, my knowledge of runaway climate change and Australia's abysmally low fuel excise rates has made me for a long time realise that the two words "petrol" and "expensive" should never be put together in the same sentence (or, more poetically, "never the twain shall meet").

The fact that one can gramatically use "less cheap" to describe an increasing petrol price is unfortunately not realised by most people even in the environmental movement. I have been using "less cheap" over a decade and the disappearance of the southern winter rain belt in Australia makes me more determined to teach people not to put "expensive" and "petrol" in the same sentence.

This fact, I have come to think, creates a problem with the conventional method opf describing the cost of petrol. By the conventional method of measuring by the amount of money for a given volume of petrol, people who have to pay for petrol can always say it is "less expensive" even when as currently petrol has never been so cheap.

What I have thought of doing since petrol's cheapness began rising and rising is to meausre how much one pays for petrol by the amount of petrol for a given sum of money (in Australia's case the number of millitres of petrol per dollar, written ml/$.

This way:

- when the volume of petrol per dollar increases, one sees it really is getting cheaper (and its emissions of greenhouse gases make it always cheap)

- when the volume per dollar falls as it was earlier this year people with a constant sum of money are less able to produce greenhouse gases and less damage will be done to the climate.

The formula for convertine x cents per litre to y millitres per dollar is:

y = 100000/x

Thus:

- 3349 cpl (a price reasonable for Australia's sensitive environment) equals 29.85ml/$

-99.9 cpl (a current price in Perth) equal 953.3ml/$.

Petrol above 1000ml/$ will mean ecological ruin

The last three months have seen the cheapness of petrol soar and Melbourne’s rainfall decline even more. September was the driest on record and there has been little improvement of late.

Such motives, along with eleven successive dry years, ought to convince everybody that Australia should have fuel taxes equal to the combined total of the rest of the world – which would provide incentive for extraordinary levels of innovation by our industry to make at the very least cars so fuel-efficient as to do no damage to the environment or better still a public transit system that will beat the car for any urban journey and most rural ones.

Yet, probably due to the mellowing of Islam that was predicted several years ago by the brilliant demographer Phillip Longman, petrol’s cheapness has been going up and up and up. From a low of a still-very-cheap 590 millilitres of petrol per dollar (590ml/$), petrol’s cheapness has been rising to 953ml/$ last Tuesday, and predictions suggest it could reach 1250ml/$ soon. Though being able to get 1250 millilitres of petrol for a dollar might not seem that cheap in comparison to past eras, it is equivalent to obtaining around 2050 millilitres for a 1988 dollar or 10,611 millilitres for a 1969 dollar.

In reality, petrol now is twice as cheap as in 1969. Indeed, petrol in Australia is currently cheaper than ever at a time when runaway climate change is becoming more and more definite. If petrol’s cheapness keeps increasing, another 4x4 boom is certain since with cheap petrol people who opted for small cars when it was less cheap will surely return to thirsty 4x4s.

If Australia wants to counter climate change, re-indexing petrol excise (which would cut the cheapness to 735ml/$ with excise at 70 cents per litre) and increasing aviation fuel and LPG excise to 70 cents a litre would be tiny step. Australia’s ecology is so fragile that for equivalent levels of protection it would require fuel excise to be around 70 or 80 percent of the OECD total instead of the actual level of 1 percent. Even if the least fragile countries in Europe might have fuel taxes beyond the ecologically necessary, that would mean Australia should aim for a maximum cheapness of 50ml/$ (in more conventional terms twenty dollars a litre). At such a price there would be enough money for a really first-rate public transit system – and with mining and car companies taxed sufficiently to eliminate their dictatorship over transport policy, the country that ecologically needs a superlative mass transit system far more than any other might finally get it.

Friday, 21 November 2008

The Rock Hall Backlog Part 6: "Popular" artists with consistent previous votes from the Nominating Committee but no ballot appearances

The next three parts of assessing the Rock Hall backlog will involve artists who have never reached the ballot but have been consistently on the agenda of the Nominating Committee.

The first section will focus on artists whose reputation is based chiefly on hit singles and/or albums but excluding those artists who belong to distinct genres that have no or exceptionally few representatives in the current Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Artists from genres without or nearly without representatives in the present Hall will be dealt with in the eighth part of this series.

One note: be careful with artists who have been eligible only since 2003/2004. I do suspect that none of the non-rap artists eligible since then who have not got to the ballot are likely to be inducted. As I see it, the Nominating Committee firmly feels it possesses too large a backlog. It thus does not wish to waste time discussing artists whose induction is so much as uncertain.

Artists discussed here are listed by date of eligibility from earliest to latest.

The Five Satins: Eligible since the foundation of the Hall, they were a major hitmaker in the late 1950s, which could well be valuable when it comes to the present Committee containing "doo wop fanatic" Seymour Stein. With no other "untried" doo-wop act on the backlog, it might be their turn in the next three ballots.

Neil Sedaka: One of the few artists among the most successful on Billboard's Singles charts in this backlog, Sedaka has never been considered to be a likely candidate by any prognostication. Even should that Nominating Committee believe most artists they have tried are doomed to fail the voters, it is not easy to see him being one of the first to gain attention.

Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns: This must rank as one of the most surprising artists to have ever been discussed by the Committee. They are never noticed by any critic or historian of rock, and did not have a Top 50 hit on the charts: it would be baffling to see them reach the ballot, but maybe those who see them as important I have never read.

The Crystals: Eligible since 1988/1989, they were the most successful girl group to the 1960s with hits like "He's A Rebel", "Then He Kissed Me" and "Da Doo Ron Ron". Widely viewed as unfairly overlooked, if the Nominating Committee feels it has failed with already-nominated vocal groups the Crystals may well get a shot soon.

Neil Diamond: Among the most unfairly overlooked artists in the eyes of long-time Rock Hall observers, evidence for bias against Neil Diamond from the Nominating Committee has not been as forthcoming as for some progressive rock or heavy metal groups. Still, mega-selling 1960s artists played on "beautiful music" radio have tended to be very much overshadowed by the large number of innovators during the late 1960s and early 1970s who did manage to sell at least modest numbers of records.

The Hollies: Adored by Steven van Zandt and eligible since 1989/1990, the Hollies were predicted to be on the 2008/2009 ballot by Future Rock Hall. There have often been claims of bias against them, but if van Zandt continues to have influence they would rank as one of the most likely artists on this list to get a chance on the next three ballots. One would be uncertain they would be voted in if they reached the ballot, however.

The Spencer Davis Group: As with solo Steve Winwood, one would be very doubtful of the Spencer Davis Group's chances after Traffic's induction. Very unlikely.

Herman's Hermits and The Turtles: Eligible since 1990/1991 and both groups whose discussion has surprised many Rock Hall observers, if Neil Diamond and the Crystals do not get considered, it would be hard to see either Herman's Hermits or the Turtles being on the ballot. With their famous song "Happy Together", the Turtles would be the better prospect if either make it.

Boz Scaggs: eligible since 1990/1991 but most famous for his middle-of-the-road hits of the middle 1970s like "What Can I Say" and albums like Silk Degrees, the discussion of Boz Scaggs does not fit perfectly with the failure to discuss other 1970s megasellers like Hall and Oates or Foreigner. It may be that the megasellers of the 1970s are not hated as those of the 1980s, but still Boz Scaggs does not seem as likely presence on a ballot yet.

Sonny & Cher: Eligible since 1990/1991, their iconic song "I Got You Babe", later covered by inductee Chrissie Hynde, may be responsible for their presence in the backlog, but they had a number of other hits that I recall being criticised on Triple M with the phrase "while they're playing these two, we're playing U2". Given that Cher as a solo act has never been discussed, one wonders if they really have a chance at all.

Junior Walker: Eligible since 1990/1991, Junior Walker was a rhythm and blues singer/saxophonist with a number of hits in the 1960s, but probably best known to people my age for his solo on Foreigner's anthemic "Urgent". With so many sixties and seventies black artists discussed, it would be hard to rule Junior Walker out of consideration if War and Bobby Womack get in - or even if they don't, for the Nominating Committee is quite likely to rotate its backlog until they hit a "jackpot" artist.

Tommy James and the Shondells: Eligible since 1991/1992, they were major hitmakers with such songs as "Mony Mony" (covered by Billy Idol) and "Crimson and Clover" (Joan Jett's other hit apart from the awful "I Love Rock'n'Roll"). Their reputation may not be very good today but I would be far from surprised if they get a chance soon.

Jimmy Cliff: Another well-known 1960s and early 1970s hitmaker, his reputation for making reggae popular may give him some chance at being inducted. On the debit side, however, there is the question of whether he might be perceived as "reggae-lite" like UB40.

The Steve Miller Band: Eligible since 1993/1994 and not popular with most critics, but tremendously so with every generation of audiences, the Steve Miller Band have always been seen as a gross omission from the Hall and indicative of its Nominating Committee's bias. The fact that similar artists like Seger, Springsteen, Petty and now Mellencamp are in augers well for Steve Miller getting a place on one of the following three ballots. I never really expected Mellencamp would get in, so Steve Miller should have a real shot at a ballot place.

Joe Cocker: Eligible since 1994/1995 and an artist I personally always hated despite much acclaim for his early works, Joe Cocker's early 1970s notoriety gave way to a reputation as a bland MOR singer in the 1980s and 1990s (when his "Unchain My Heart" was used in ads for the Green Services Tax). People might debate my claim he belongs in the same boat as Michael Bolton (he really sounds similar as a singer) but I would not see him as very likely even being more objective.

Poco: Eligible since 1994/1995, Poco are a particularly surprising group to have been discussed. Formed from Buffalo Springfield by future Eagle Randy Meisner, their commercial success was uneven and in recent times they have been seen as part of the presently discredited so-called "Mellow Mafia" of the West Coast. Recent trends away from commercial music of this period may hurt their chances of a ballot appearance.

Three Dog Night: Eligible since 1994/1995 and one of the biggest hitmakers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, they popularised the songs of such cult artists as Randy Newman (they made a #1 hit out of his "Mama Told Me Not to Come" when the parent album of Newman's version did not dent the Top 200). Though not generally seen as a major artist by the critics, their continuing airplay on classic rock radio could well mean Three Dog Night are better than a longshot for a ballot appearance and possible induction.

Dr. Hook: A major hitmaker up to their 1980s smash "Better Love Next Time", Dr. Hook do not have a great reputation even among the musically conservative followers of the Rock Hall: I have never seen Dr. Hook listed amongst the unjustly overlooked. It does not seem likely Dr. Hook will be amongst those given a chance in the next few ballots.

The Doobie Brothers: Eligible since 1996/1997, the Doobies certainly are one band generally regarded as unfairly dismissed. Though they have always been viewed far too commercial to gain critical favouritism, the Doobie Brothers continue to maintain a loyal following thirty years after they were one of the major players in the Billboard charts. It would by no means be surprising to see them on a ballot soon, though I would not rate them the same chance as the Steve Miller Band.

Electric Light Orchestra: Eligible since 1996/1997 and fronted by Beatle fanatic Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra started slowly but in the late 1970s they were one of the biggest bands in the world (to illustrate, A New World Record was ranked as the second-biggest album of the 1970s in Melbourne behind Neil Diamond's Hot August Night. They have generally been seen as both too pompous (with their strings) and too slickly commercial by critics, but in recent years their reputation has if anything improved a little (e.g. in The MOJO Collection) so ELO are probably a better bet than the Doobies.

The Average White Band: Eligible since 1998/1999, the Average White Band were the most commercially successful white soul group of the 1970s after Hall and Oates. The fact that Hall and Oates have never been considered by the Nominating Committee is one factor that makes them quite questionable as serious candidates.

The E Street Band: It is hard to see why they were not inducted with Bruce Springsteen in 1998/1999 and it would be equally hard to see them inducted separately when they have done nothing or almost nothing outside of Springsteen's own albums.

The Marshall Tucker Band: One of the mainstays of the "southern rock" movement, they never achieved the respect of inductees the Allman Brothers Band or Lynyrd Skynyrd. They did have considerable commercial success on both singles and album charts during the 1970s and were not detested enough by the critics to hamper their chances. Still, though "Heard It in a Love Song" might be the recognisable song they need to improve their chances, it is difficult for me (the Marshall Tucker Band are little-known in Australia) to see them on the ballot.

Barry White and The Commodores: Eligible since 1999/2000, one is inclined to think they both possess a major chance because of the frequent favouritism toward black artists. Both were major figures on the commercial scene with one very easily recognised song ("Easy" for the Commodores and "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" for Barry White) that greatly enhances their chances. The Commodores are probably the better bet because of their longer career (they had a big post-Lionel Richie hit in 1985 with the Marvin Gaye tribute "Nightshift"), but Barry White is still a good prospect should neither War nor Bobby Womack get in on the 2008/2009 ballot.

The Gap Band: A major 1980s funk band who had relatively limited success on the pop charts, the Gap Band were a major figure in black music when rap was emerging and their role in keeping funk alive during the disco era may have them seen as a serious candidate. However, from what I read there is nothing in their reputation that would suggest they are outstanding enough to deserve a place on the ballot - nor do any Hall observers seem to think they do. One of the less likely black artists on the backlog.

Chaka Khan: Discussed only in 2007/2008 though eligible since 2003/2004, Chaka Khan is revered by some for keeping fairly traditional soul music alive during the disco era. Her iconic song "I'm Every Woman" being covered by Whitney Houston on the Bodyguard soundtrack may increase her visibility, and the fact that Chaka is regarded as "one of the best singers of her generation" may also have been a factor in her recent discussion. Her pre-1978 work with Rufus Khan is often seen by musicians and critics as equal in importance and this may - as with P-Funk - improve her chances as the committee seeks the few candidates from the late 1970s and 1980s with commercial viability and no critical hatred.

Eurythmics: Eligible since 2006/2007, I guessed before the 2008/2009 nominees were announced that Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart would be on the ballot and quite likely elected. The present critical disrespect for all mainstream 1980s white music is the factor that makes me doubt the induction of Eurythmics, but Rolling Stone still listed several of their albums in their Top 500 so that a berth on one of the next three ballots for Annie and Dave is by no means unlikely.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Why don't they take durability seriously?

After meeting me and accepting my mother's failure to find the receipt that would at least have allowed me to get a replacement for my Sunbeam cappuccino machine, I had a few tantrums but in general behaved better than I usually do when really angered at something like that not going as I want.

My mum suggested I do without a cappuccino machine if it is going to anger me as soon as it fails, and I simply said buy the most expensive one as it will be cheapest in the long run through lasting longer!

My mum and brother both doubted this - and they have reason to assume that a high price means more features rather than decent workmanship - and the on Choice magazine my brother had a look at the available cappuccino machines. You know what: the Sunbeam one I bought was still listed as #1, but there was no discussion of its durability or assembly quality. I imagine that if anyone has had a similar experience to mine then the Sunbeam would go straight from first to last unless other brands often have the same fault as my machine. If that be the case, then my fear that tolerably good workmanship is rapidly becoming more and more unaffordable for the average cappuccino lover must be completely correct. If it is becoming that unaffordable, then the only solution would be a consumer boycott or developing a new brand with decent workmanship at sub-$1000 prices!

If either of those is not possible, then at least we should force consumer magazines like Choice to consider durability and workmanship as at least equal in importance for their recommended buys to any other aspect of the cappuccino machines they review!

How a problem turns back the clock

Late in September, after excellent service for a decade from a Sunbeam cappucino machine, my mother bought me a new version of much the same model when we had a problem with the froth.

To my horror, this morning the machine broke down so that the water that was put into the container flowed out whenever I switched it on. I tried to fix it up, but it is clear that the machine is ruined because the problem could only be caused by an electrical fault causing what should wire to the heating element to burn the pipe that normally holds water in the container.

When I noticed the fault, my immediate response was to recall the radical socialist site Wallace's Corner, who claim that under socialism with no profit motive every consumer good produced would be of exceptional quality and would never break down.

In my past experience I have always dreamed of things being warranted for fifty years
and the writings of Wallace's Corner make me feel as though if capitalism were demolished such high quality could become normal. Despite having become more suspicious of radical socialism's ability to solve such problems, the fact that the Mises institute at the other end of the political spectrum has written an article "In Praise of Shoddy Products", which is surprising given they do focus on maximising quality in many of their writings.

Whilst I feel very much that going back to becoming a socialist is a retrograde step, I still feel cheated. If Sunbeam's products really are declining in quality as rapidly as my experience suggests, then one really will have to pay very large prices for decent quality cappucino machines. This morning I told my mother that paying for an $1500 machine that lasts decades rather than a few weeks will be expensive initially but - as I have known before - very cheap in the long term. So, maybe the socialists point that capitalism cheats the poor who cannot afford the best is right even should their remedy be impractical.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Expanding horizons without rectifying mistakes, it seems

Although amazon.com has compiled lists of essential music as long as I have had connections wiht the site, recently I saw a list of a thousand essential recordings aiming to cover the entire history and breadth of recorded music.

Being as interested in music as I am, I was eager to have a look and compared it with other lists I knew. Although its compiler, Tom Moon, had much more to cover than Joe S. Harrington, I still could not help noting than only twenty-three of that man's Top 100 Albums were included, namely:

#2: The Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols
#6: Parliament's Mothership Connection
#17: Patti Smith's Horses
#20: Jimi Hendrix' Are You Experienced?
#25: The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground and Nico
#27: Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
#33: Theolonius Monk with John Coltrane
#43: Black Flag's Damaged
#45: Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica
#48: Andrew Hill's Point of Departure
#49: Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity
#52: The 13th Floor Elevators' Easter Everywhere
#55: Big Star's Radio City
#63: The Ramones' The Ramones
#65: Deep Purple's Machine Head
#69: Love's Forever Changes
#70: The Modern Lovers' The Modern Lovers
#71: X's Wild Gift
#83: Television's Marquee Moon
#84: The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds
#86: The Minutemen's Double Nickels on a Dime
#88: The Incredible String Band's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
#93: Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation

It is true that many other artist on Harrington's list are represented by a different album, but I imagine both Harrington and "janitor-x" would not be pleased at the omission of Minor Threat's Complete Discography - though how many other readers of the site would care??

The reason I say Tom Moon has "not rectified mistakes" can be seen from reading Danny A. Vogel's review of the 2003 Rolling Stone list. Many important artists listed by Vogel are still not included (e.g. Nico, Popol Vuh).

Also, it is quite easy to see that, at least among genres I possess any knowledge of, that Moon still does not seem to rectify commonly perceived mistakes in neglecting metal and progressive rock as much as some might wish. The few albums from those genres are as familiar as anything listed.

As for me, I can find quite a number of omissions, such as:
- Sofia Gubaidulina's Sieben Wörter/Silenzio/In croce
- on the rock side, Slint's Spiderland and Godspeed You Black Emperor's Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven could represent the omitted post-rock genre.
- Dead Can Dance's Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
- Joanna Newsom's Ys
- Third Ear Band's Elements

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Rock Hall Backlog Part 5: Discrepant artists between lists of the "previously considered"

The last stage of assessing the Rock Hall backlog is to look at those artists previously considered by the Nominating Committee who have not made the ballot.

Before I look at individual artists, I will note a discovery that Future Rock Hall's two lists of artists of this type do not match. Although there was three years between them, most of the artists on the newer list but not the older were already eligible in 2004/2005. Since no artist first eligible in 2004/2005 or even 2003/2004 was on the older list, we will only consider discrepancies amongst artists already eligible in 2002/2003 - which means they had to have released a record in or before 1977. The full list of discrepancies arranged by date of eligibility is:

- The Five Keys
- Lee Andrews and the Hearts
- Jack Scott
- Pat Boone
- Johnny Burnette and the Rock N Roll Trio
- Patsy Cline
- Paul Anka
- Cliff Richard & the Shadows
- Johnny Hallyday
- Judy Collins
- Lee Dorsey
- Manfred Mann
- Tim Hardin
- Love
- The Monkees
- Big Brother & the Holding Company
- Procol Harum
- Ten Years After
- Blood, Sweat & Tears
- Iron Butterfly
- Blind Faith
- Nick Drake
- Linda Ronstadt
- The Faces
- solo Mick Jagger
- Fela
- solo Ringo Starr
- solo Tina Turner
- Bad Company
- Grace Jones
- Peter Tosh
- Cheap Trick
- The Jam
- Teddy Pendergrass

Neil of Future Rock Hall says artists are never officially discarded by the Nominating Committee after being discussed. He does suggest that it is rare but not unknown for artists to be discussed after being initially rejected (Chaka Khan appears to have been reconsidered during the 2007/2008 discussion).

However, it is tough to see most of the artists above ever being inducted. Pat Boone and Iron Butterfly both make Blender's 50 Worst Artists, only Love and Lee Dorsey (Ride Your Pony) can be found on best-albums lists I have read, and only Manfred Mann is a major artist on classic rock radio.

Unless Anthony DeCurtis is desperate to get Judy Collins in, I cannot personally see any artist above eligible before Love being well-enough known even amongst aging Boomers to gain the necessary votes to reach the ballot. Love would be one of the few cult groups to get in if they do, but they would probably need a few ballots to get enough votes not having the reputation as a songwriter Cohen does.

The Monkees may be interesting: I have imagined they have been discussed for the first time recently despite Jann Wenner's avowed opposition, but it is also possible Wenner has influence enough to prevent them getting widespread votes amongst the Committee.

Nick Drake would be interesting as the Hall appears even less sympathetic to pastoral/psych folk than to heavy metal or progressive rock.

I have in the past predicted solo Tina Turner would reach the ballot in either this year or 2009/2010. I still do not rule this out because her massive comeback album Private Dancer might put her in the spotlight of judges who know the 1980s better than some of the present Nominating Committee seems to.

Fela and Peter Tosh are both remote possibilities never spoken of by most Rock Hall observers, but if inducted they would be the only "world music" artists except Bob Marley to get in. Both might well appeal to much of the Committee with their political activism.

Cheap Trick and The Jam are the leading "power pop" candidates. Though this is a genre I generally detest, it has respectability among critics. Cheap Trick's movement - in reverse from popular trends - from grunge-like heavy rock to big power ballads may divide perception if they do reach the ballot.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Rock Hall Backlog Part 4: Artists with one previous ballot appearance

This next post about the backlog of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will look at artists who have had one and only one previous ballot appearance.

It is noteworthy that no artist with only one previous ballot appearance had that single appearance so long ago that one can seriously rule that artist out. The longest space between successive ballot appearances is eleven years for Brenda Lee between 1989/1990 and 2000/2001.

Artists in this post are arranged by date of their sole ballot appearance. Artists who appeared on the same ballot are arranged alphabetically.

1) War: a product of the Rock Hall's "affirmative action" bias. They had a major hit still played on classic rock radio in "Spill the Wine", plus "Low Rider", covered in the 1990s by Korn. They did have one album in Rolling Stone's deservedly criticised Top 500 Albums, but have been neglected by other modern magazines and books like The MOJO Collection.

It is very possible the Hall will turn to other funk bands like the Meters since War were not elected in 2008/2009, but I have a grave feeling War will get in before 2012/2013.

2) Afrika Bambaataa: a pioneering hip-hop group whose major hit was "Planet Rock" before the rap revolution really began, Afrika Bambaataa were one of only two artists first eligible in 2005/2006 to be discussed by the Nominating Committee - a low that beat the three considered artists eligible in 2000/2001. They reached the ballot in 2007/2008 but missed out last year.

Despite the fact that rap is the only music since the "punk revolution" both respected by critics and commercially successful, there is still some doubt from both observers and voters about inducting rap artists, especially one who does not rank among the best-known.

3) the Beastie Boys: eligible and on the ballot in 2007/2008, despite missing out this year the Beasties, whose 1982 release was an EP out of sync with their most famous album Licensed to Ill, are probably the most certain of all backlog inductees in the long term. Many think they will get in on the 2011/2012 ballot. Since no other artist from 2007/2008's newly eligible crop apart from (inducted) Madonna and Metallica has been considered, one cannot imagine much discussion of newly eligible non-rap artists in the next few years.

4) Donna Summer: from a year that stands as the first since well over 25 years before the Hall began in 1985/1986 to have produced no inductee, Donna Summer was always regarded as the "Queen of Disco" and in her early days - though less so today - she gained considerable respect from critics as well. She made the ballot in 2007/2008 but missed this year.

This respect from earlier critics may lead the Nominating Committee to push Summer if the feel they cannot get Chic inducted. That would give her a real chance.

5) the Paul Butterfield Blues Band: eligible since 1988/1989 and controversial for the 2500 copy limit on a reissue, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band never had any record in the Billboard Top 50 but their influence on acid rock and jam bands was vital: they were the first to within a rock context develop jamming to create songs longer than the standard pop song.

They reached the ballot in 2005/2006, and with Steven van Zandt describing the eighties as a cultural wasteland, they may have a chance among the backlog artists though there is always the possibility that people on the Nominating Committee feel they know not enough people could vote for them because of their poor commercial record.

6) the Sir Douglas Quintet: a Tex-Mex group who were one of the originators of country-rock, the Sir Douglas Quintet had three Top 40 hit singles but disbanded in 1972 just as their influence became felt. They were eligible in 1990/1991 but nominated only in 2005/2006, the last year (for good, I am utterly sure) with more than the current nine nominees on the ballot.

Though I have never heard of them in the past, their influence on the rootsy music so popular with the Nominating Committee could well get them another nomination, though the same proviso of possible Nominating Committee rejection is applicable.

7) Cat Stevens: his notoriety for converting to Islam and supporting the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie may have actually increased his chances because his supporters feel they have more to defend.

Eligible since 1990/1991, Cat Stevens reached the ballot in 2005/2006 but with the reduction in numbers it will be tough for him to make it again and it is easier to see the Nominating Committee trying someone else than to try to have him elected again.

8) Randy Newman: a singer/songwriter who was initially a complete commercial failure but became an unlikely hero for the "punk revolution" and was, with the novelty single "Short People" in 1977/1978, denied a #1 hit only by Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life".

Newman has remained a revered critical figure ever since, but has turned his attention to film music since the 1980s. Eligible since 1990/1991, he was undoubtedly under the radar of the Hall for a long time before reaching the ballot in 2004/2005. If the Stooges get in, Newman, rather than the MC5, New York Dolls or Captain Beefheart, may be the next among the late 1960s cult artists in line for the ballot. With the competition so poor, his induction by 2011/2012 is certainly very possible.

9) Conway Twitty: eligible since the Hall was founded, Twitty reached his only ballot in 2004/2005. He had a seven Billboard Top 40 hits in the late 1950s inspired by Elvis Presley, but later became a country artist unsuccessful on the pop charts.

Unlike Randy Newman, Twitty is not the type of artist the Committee might return to after failure to be elected. The lack of popular support makes his induction as I see it still less likely.

10) ABBA: Eligible since 1998/1999, ABBA reached the ballot in 2002/2003. Their reputation as popsmiths is not so bad that they could be ruled out like, say Michael Bolton or Air Supply or Asia, but their relatively limited success in the US (versus having two of the top three singles of the 1970s in Australia) has made them much less of a chance than might be thought globally.

11) Kraftwerk: famous for their influence on electronica and 1980s synth-pop, Kraftwerk were eligible in 1996/1997 and made the ballot in 2002/2003. They have often been predicted for another appearance but it has not materialised, which suggests that increasingly people are rejecting the view that their influence is enough to get them inducted.

12) the MC5: after the Velvets and Stooges, the most important proto-punk band. Their Back in the USA album was #59 in Joe S. Harrington's Top 100 Albums and also listed as one of the Best Albums Ever...Honest by Englishman David Keenan in 2003.

Eligible since 1991/1992, the MC5 reached the ballot in 2002/2003 but, with the failure to induct the Stooges, they have been off the radar since. If the Stooges do get in, we can expect to see pressure for the MC5 from the Nominating Committee. It may be a wee bit easier to get the MC5 voted in because Kick Out the Jams actually made the Top 40 on Billboard due to controversy over explicit lyrics.

13) solo Steve Winwood: this is one that can probably be ruled out. Although "Steve Winwood" was only released in 1977, he was deemed eligible in 1996/1997 on account of other releases and made the ballot in 2002/2003.

Apparently there was a conflict among the Nominating Committee over whether to nominate him as a solo artist or instead nominate Traffic or the Spencer Davis Group - Winwood was the lead singer of both.

With Traffic getting in unexpectedly in 2003/2004, the question of inducting Winwood seems settled.

14) the Chantels: eligible since the Hall was founded but nominated only in 2001/2002, the Chantels were the premier 1950s black female singing group and have continued to perform to this day.

Although their ballot appearance may seem remote now, if Little Anthony and the Imperials fail, it would not be hard to imagine the Nominating Committee giving the Chantels another chance. The Chantels might not have to wait until 2013/2014 for another chance with the present Nominating Committee.

15) the New York Dolls: along with the Velvets, Stooges and MC5, regarded as the prototypes of the "punk revolution". Their self-titled debut was #90 on Joe S. Harrington's Top 100 Albums.

If and only if the Stooges are elected, the Dolls should soon re-appear on the ballot after failing in 2000/2001. It might take a long time for them to be elected, though.

16) Darlene Love: eligible since 1988/1989, she is best known for her Christmas albums and made the ballot in 1998/1999. It is hard to see her having another chance against other backlog artists with more credentials.

17) the Meters: eligible since 1994/1995 and on the ballot in 1996/1997, it would break a record for the Meters to reach another ballot. It may have been considered that P-Funk alone was the key influence on the development of 1970s funk. The Meters did have one undoubted legacy, however, in session bassist George Porter Junior.

However, Bobby Womack's election and War’s elevation to the ballot in 2008/2009 points in exactly the direction of the Meters reaching the ballot. It will be interesting to see.

18) Billy Ward and the Dominoes: pioneering early 1950s r'n'b group who began the career of Jackie Wilson, they reached the ballot in 1996/1997 and seem off the radar at present. Perhaps they are too old to be well-known to most of the Nominating Committee and too new for induction as an Early Influence. A longshot, but people say strange things do happen even in the Rock Hall.

“Greenhouse robots” might be real, but they’re not who we think they are

In the face of a rainfall for the last two months of one-sixth of the 1885 to 1996 mean and for the last three years has been only 22 percent of that 1885 to 1996 average, I have generally had the extremely minor satisfaction that Australia’s major newspapers have avoided going towards positions that suggest, contrary to all paleoclimatic data, that global warming is not man-made but cyclical.

With no rain having fallen in Melbourne since the seventh of October and none forecast for the next week, one hopes that the major newspapers will move from a position of acceptance tainted by refusal to accept the need for head-on struggle with those forces responsible for global warming such as the coal and car industries to a position of demanding radical change via protests that have been conspicuously absent despite warming from such scientists as George Monbiot.

In this context, The Australian’s most recent article, titled ‘Greenhouse robots clamp down on true climate debate’ is an embarrassment. The manner in which it asserts that the decline in Melbourne’s rainfall, which up to 1996 had a reliability as good as that of Europe, could be part of a natural cycle and that temperature increases which recent data show to be unprecedented in the past four hundred and twenty thousand years could be related to the power of the sun, clearly does not fit in with what experienced scientists know.

What The Australian might have a point about is that those who recognise man-made global warming as real do not seem to provide as wide a variety of evidence as they should. Never does one see in papers like Green Left Weekly the story of Western District lakes drying out for the first time since the Last Glacial Maximum. Nor are rainfall changes ever mentioned in even the most “alarmist” books on global warming.

Similarly, few moderates advocating desalination or more efficient water use ever realise that such moves will encourage many of the ecological problems inherent in agriculture in Australia.

Nor do people ever discuss the paradox of Australia having the least productive soils and at the same time the lowest farm subsidies in the world.

It is the failure to discuss these critical issues that amounts to “robotics” and should be challenged, not the existence of anthropogenic climate change!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Entertainment Weekly Top 100 Albums list

The magazine Entertainment Weekly has recently compiled a list of the top 100 albums from 1983 to 2008.

To be fair, most of the list appears to be a compilation of other lists, since the albums do not fit a clear pattern. Of itself, not fitting a pattern of taste is no bad thing, but the fact that it combines exceedingly popular albums but widely hated by critics with those widely praised is surprising.

#100: Faith - George Michael
#99: Live Through This - Hole
#98: Transatlanticism - Death Cab for Cutie
#97: Britney - Britney Spears
#96: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea - PJ Harvey
#95: Trap Muzik - T.I.
#94: Synchronicity - The Police
#93: Either/Or - Elliott Smith
#92: The Writing's on the Wall - Destiny's Child
#91: Siamese Dream - Smashing Pumpkins
#90: Toxicity - System of a Down
#89: Bachelor No. 2 - Aimee Mann
#88: So - Peter Gabriel
#87: All Eyez on Me - 2Pac
#86: Loveless - My Bloody Valentine
#85: Home - Dixie Chicks
#84: Low Life - New Order
#83: Learning to Crawl - The Pretenders
#82: Grace - Jeff Buckley
#81: The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails
#80: Back to Basics - Christina Aguilera
#79: Let It Be - The Replacements
#78: Vs. - Pearl Jam
#77: Dummy - Portishead
#76: Heartbreaker - Ryan Adams
#75: Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen
#74: Play - Moby
#73: The Queen is Dead - Smiths
#72: 1984 - Van Halen
#71: Rock Steady - No Doubt
#70: My Life - Mary J. Blige
#69: Give Up - The Postal Service
#68: Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
#67: Metallica - Metallica
#66: The Chronic - Dr. Dre
#65: Elephant - The White Stripes
#64: Mama's Gun - Erykah Badu
#63: The Joshua Tree - U2
#62: OK Computer - Radiohead
#61: Paid in Full - Eric B. & Rakim
#60: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement
#59: Ray of Light - Madonna
#58: Surfer Rosa - The Pixies
#57: Harvest Moon - Neil Young
#56: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco
#55: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy
#54: Rhythm Nation 1814 - Janet Jackson
#53: King of America - Elvis Costello
#52: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - Spoon
#51: The Score - Fugees
#50: Sounds of Silver - LCD Soundsystem
#49: A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay
#48: American IV: The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash
#47: Exile in Guyville - Liz Phair
#46: Homogenic - Björk
#45: If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle and Sebastian
#44: Car Wheels On A Gravel Road - Lucinda Williams
#43: Paul's Boutique - Beastie Boys
#42: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Wu-Tang Clan
#41: Legend - Bob Marley and the Wailers
#40: Ready to Die - The Notorious B.I.G.
#39: Sheryl Crow - Sheryl Crow
#38: Raising Hell - Run-DMC
#37: The Moon & Antarctica - Modest Mouse
#36: CrazySexyCool - TLC
#35: Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette
#34: Is This It - The Strokes
#33: As I Am - Alicia Keys
#32: Life's Rich Pageant - R.E.M.
#31: FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin Timberlake
#30: Appetite for Destruction - Guns'N'Roses
#29: Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
#28: Illmatic - Nas
#27: Funeral - Arcade Fire
#26: Time Out of Mind - Bob Dylan
#25: Turn On the Bright Lights - Interpol
#24: Come On Over - Shania Twain
#23: The Soft Bulletin - The Flaming Lips
#22: 3 Feet High and Rising - De La Soul
#21: The Emancipation of Mimi - Mariah Carey
#20: Tidal - Fiona Apple
#19: Dangerously in Love - Beyoncé
#18: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm - A Tribe Called Quest
#17: Odelay - Beck
#16: Rain Dogs - Tom Waits
#15: The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem
#14: Disintegration - The Cure
#13: You Are Free - Cat Power
#12: Stankonia - OutKast
#11: MTV Unplugged in New York - Nirvana
#10: In Rainbows - Radiohead
#9: Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
#8: Graceland - Paul Simon
#7: The Blueprint - Jay-Z
#6: American Idiot - Green Day
#5: Madonna - Madonna
#4: The College Dropout - Kanye West
#3: Achtung Baby - U2
#2: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill - Lauryn Hill
#1: Purple Rain - Prince and the Revolution

Of the list, the only ones I could remotely agree with are numbers 86 and 79. I think Björk deserves a great deal of praise and definite recognition from this list, but would have put Post, Medúlla or even the remix album Telegram (my absolute favourite album by her) above Homogenic.

Just having read a few other books is enough to make me see that the list is very flawed. Where is the post-rock of albums like Spiderland or Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven? Where are albums like Hounds of Love, Days of Open Hand or even somthing as challenging as Within the Realm of a Dying Sun? Why is Dummy only at #79?

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Rock Hall Backlog Part 3: Artists with exactly two previous ballot appearances

This third part of the study of the backlog of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame will cover artists who have been on exactly two previous ballots without being successfully inducted.

Before I look at the four serious candidates fitting this qualification, I will note four artists who would be in this or my previous post but have so little chance they should be looked at separately:
1) Johnny Ace
2) Esther Phillips
3) Mary Wells
and 4) Chuck Willis.

All of these were eligible when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was founded in 1985/1986 except Mary Wells who became eligible in 1986/1987. The last ballot appearance by any of them was in 1990/1991, which suggests that those in charge of the Rock Hall (who have not changed since then) do not consider these four to have the qualifications for induction.

The four other artists who have had exactly two previous ballot appearances (including this year) are:

1) The “5” Royales: Also eligible since the Rock Hall was founded, the "5" Royales are viewed as a major influence on famous soul singers like James Brown.

They were nominated for the ballot in 2001/2002 and 2003/2004, which does give some possibility that the Nominating Committee does not believe they could ever gain enough votes from record companies for induction (and they never got higher than #67 on Billboard's Singles Chart).

Still, with an aging Nominating Committee unlikely to consider any but the most obvious newly eligible artists or reconsider rejected ones eligible for a long time, doo-wop acts seem likely to be prominent until the core of the rap revolution is eligible. Though the "5" Royales were not strictly a doo-wop act, they have been associated thereby by music historians.

2) The J. Geils Band A popular artist in the early 1980s so that I can recall their "Centrefold" played all the time on TTFM's "Saturday Night Party" in the 1990s, they were first eligible as early as 1995/1996 but got on the ballot in 2005/2006 and again in 2006/2007.

Apart from "Centrefold" and "Freeze Frame", classic rock radio does not play them and critics have tended to ignore the claims of their music, which is very much the type of rock and roll the Nominating Committee grew up with.

It may be this facet of a Nominating Committee that is very much part of the Boom Generation that has made the J. Geils Band serious candidates - rather than artists whom most music fans and critics would consider more deserving. Even artists who had far more hits over the same timespan, like Hall & Oates are often snubbed in favour of groups like J. Geils and black artists of questionable credentials.

Unless Wenner and Landau become too ill to do the job they do now, it's unlikely much younger blood will be added to the Nominating Committee in the subsequent decade. Thus, one should give the J. Geils Band a chance.

3) Lou Reed (solo): Inducted with the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed had a more commercially successful solo career including hits in "Walk on the Wild Side" and in Australia, "Dirty Boulevard".

Though Reed's solo career has often been as acclaimed as his work with the Velvets, recent critics have tended to see it in a less favourable light: according to Joe S. Harrington, Lou Reed "hung in there and trashed the legend".

Reed made the Rock Hall ballot in 2000/2001 and 2001/2002, but seems now to be off the radar for a further nomination so he is the least likely of the four artists mentioned to reach the Hall artists