Sunday, February 23, 2014

Reducing Australia’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

This week the Climate Change Authority will release its review of Australia’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. The review is intended to recommend greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for the short, medium and long term that are in Australia’s ‘national interest’.

Currently, Australia has an international undertaking to reduce emissions by at least 5 per cent by 2020 compared with 2000 levels; however Australia has indicated it may amp up the reductions to 15 or even 25 per cent. In its draft report, released in November 2013, the Climate Change Authority’s view was that Australia should reduce emissions by more than 5 per cent. It had three main reasons for doing so:
·       other developed countries are trying harder;
·       so as to avoid dangerous climate change the global goal is to limit the increase in global average temperature compared with pre-industrial levels to below 2 degrees, and a 5 per cent reduction in Australia is considered inadequate if it is to ‘play its part’; and
·       it might be easier to achieve the more ambitious targets than previously thought, given that the costs of low emissions technologies have fallen significantly, and emissions are not growing as quickly as previously forecast.
Therefore, the CCA favoured a reduction target of 15 or 25 per cent over 5 per cent. But how will Australia do this? Well, it could purchase international emissions reductions to help it meet such a target. From an environmental perspective it does not really matter where emissions are reduced, and purchasing international emissions reductions would lower the cost of Australia’s emissions reduction task if the cost of emissions reduction is lower overseas. The CCA also reckoned that there are substantial low to medium cost emission reduction opportunities, particularly in the electricity sector through a mix of demand reduction and decreased generation emissions intensity. As the CCA noted though, neither of these paths come without their challenges.

Essentially, as is always the case with climate change, the trade-off is between ‘pain’ now and ‘pain’ later. In my view, the CCA has made a convincing case so far that a reduction target of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 is too low. Beyond that, it depends upon how much ‘pain’ we want to leave until the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Greatest Scorer In NBA History

Who is the greatest scorer in NBA basketball history? The player with the most total points in NBA history is clearly Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain though have the highest amount of points per game.

However, points scored should not be the only measure of a great scorer. At a ridiculous extreme (at least in professional basketball), a player might average 60 points per game but take every one of his team’s shots, in which case – given that NBA teams average around 100 points per game – that team is not winning many games. To my mind, a better measure of a player’s scoring prowess is ‘net points’, which subtract from a player’s scoring total the points a player’s team did not score because he missed shots. On average, NBA teams score about one point per possession, so a player missing a field goal and who uses up his team’s possession is on average costing his team a point (the penalty is a bit less than half a point for a missed free throw).

Over at The Wages of Wins Journal it has been calculated that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was a relatively efficient scorer, still leads all scorers when total points are replaced by total net points, and quite easily. That is, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gained the most ‘extra’ points for his team over his career. Case closed then? Not quite. When I looked at who was the NBA’s greatest rebounder, I essentially defined it as the player in NBA history who was most likely to grab a rebound that was offer. Similarly, in my mind, the greatest scorer in NBA history is the player who, in any typical minute, would be most likely to successfully get the ball in the basket.

For that then, I think we need to divide a player’s total net points by the number of total minutes he played. And if you do that, then the player who emerges as the greatest scorer is … Adrian Dantley, with almost 13 net points per 100 minutes. Artis Gilmore, Kevin Durant and Charles Barkley are next, with over 11 net points per 100 minutes. Then there are a bunch of players with about 10 net points per 100 minutes, including among others, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James.  Jordan though would be up with Gilmore, Durant and Barkley if he hadn’t come out of retirement at 38 to play with Washington.

One other point to note is that less points are scored per game in the current era in which Durant plays than they were in Dantley’s era. Durant would be pretty close to Dantley if one accounts for the relative points per game of their eras.

So that means I’ve called Dennis Rodman the NBA’s greatest rebounder, and Adrian Dantley the greatest scorer (or at least joint greatest with Kevin Durant). That means the 1986-87 and 1987-88 Detroit Pistons had both the greatest scorer and greatest rebounder on their roster. Neither though was at their peak at this time (Dantley was on the way down, Rodman had just began his career and was playing limited minutes), which might be why those Pistons teams did not sweep all before them, though they would win back-to-back championships without Dantley soon after. Also while Dantley was an amazing scorer, and Rodman was an amazing rebounder, it is a rare player who can make major contributions on multiple fronts.  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Wooden Finger Five: February 2014 - The Ten Best Semi-Classic Albums Ever Part Two

Counting down my top 10 albums that typically do not make all time best albums lists. Read here for Part One.

5. LOST SOULS – DOVES (2000)

Best Ever Albums Rank: 1079

As has often been mentioned in the press, Doves’ evolved from English ‘90s dance act Sub-Sub, and while the indie-rock sound of Doves is considerably different from the trio’s earlier incarnation, they still retained some hefty beats on their Doves’ work, starting off with their first album ‘Lost Souls’. There is a definite 11pm feel to this album, starting with the instrumental ‘Firesuite’, which kicks into the chiming piano of ‘Here It Comes’ and drummer Andy Williams spookily intonating ‘This is the day/this is the time/to stare at the skies in wonder’. ‘Sea Song’ has an even darker imploration to ‘Drown with me …’, but just as the listener feels they might be dragged down into the murky depths, up pops the glorious ‘Rise’, whose sun-drenched sound hides the fact that it too is making references to drowning and being in the sea belly up. Somewhat perversely though, Doves reserved the second half of ‘Lost Souls’ for their singles, which come as a one-two-three punch towards the end, starting with the terrifically infectious pop-rock of ‘Catch The Sun’, and continuing into the morose, late night lounge sound of ‘The Man Who Sold Everything’. But even these pale in comparison to the magnificent ‘The Cedar Room’, a seven and a half minute epic of regret and longing with the heftiest drum beats of all and a beautiful backing vocal. Without being complex, Doves presented a mature alternative for indie rock fans coming out of the Britpop era.

Best tracks: The Cedar Room, Catch The Sun, Here It Comes, Rise, Sea Song.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 968

Owners of the greatest band name of all time … And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead gained popularity not long after other literate, semi-hard US rock groups At The Drive-In and Queens of the Stone Age had helped sweep away the puerility of nu-metal. They seemed like less of a ‘musos’ band than the latter though, and less like they had swallowed the Oxford Dictionary than the former. Their album ‘Source Tags and Codes’ is almost perfect rock – no track stands out, but every track is listenable, with even the Middle Eastern-tinged interludes holding up to repeated listening. Tracks like ‘Heart In My Hand’, ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Days of Being Wild’ positively embody the phrase ‘tooth and claw’, while ‘Baudelaire’ captures the decadence of its subject, and ‘Relative Ways’ and ‘Another Morning Stoner’ encapsulate the lazy days of 20 year old indie kids hanging out in the Texan suburbs. Lyrically and musically this is a dense album, and one that still stands resolute atop its thick stone pillars long after the reputations of less substantial discs from the early 2000s have crumbled into dust.

Best tracks: Days of Being Wild, Monsoon, Relative Ways, Baudelaire, Heart In My Hand, How Near How Far.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 1278

If Doves’ first album ‘Lost Souls’ was, like its cover, like being closed off in a dark room with faint lights, then their second album ‘The Last Broadcast’ is also representative of its cover of a massive flash of light through dark clouds overhanging the city. From the moment the guitar and keyboards kick in on second track ‘Words’ Doves’ whole sound expands and soars beyond areas only faintly glimpsed on their first LP. ‘There Goes The Fear’, at almost seven minutes, goes even higher (with vocalist Jimi Goodwin saying to ‘Think of me when you’re coming down’), ending with what sounds like a Brazillian drumming exhibition in its final minute. Doves retain this stratospheric position as they fly into ‘N.Y.’ and look up to the stars for the slowly burning ‘Satellites’. Strangely enough, the best track is possibly the most earthly – ‘Pounding’ pumps along like a track that has somehow jumped its start, though it pulls itself together in time to also end with more of the bands’ ethereal vocals. Doves would come back to ground level with their next album – the excellent ‘Some Cities’ – leaving ‘The Last Broadcast’ behind as an uplifting example of what can happen when musicians aim for the skies.

Best tracks: Pounding, Words, There Goes The Fear, Satellites, N.Y., Down By The River.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 1143

It is all a matter of personal taste of course (and some will claim I have none by making this statement), but for me the first eight tracks on the Vines’ first album, ‘Highly Evolved’, is about the most perfect twenty minutes of rock-pop music since the Beatles’ ‘Revolver’. It had raw, freaky (and short) punk rock tracks in ‘Highly Evolved’, ‘Outtatheway’, and the most viciously snot-nosed of them all, ‘Get Free’, gorgeous Beatlesesque ballads in ‘Autumn Shade’ and ‘Homesick’, bouncy, pseudo-Europop in ‘Sunshinin’’, semi-nonsense white reggae in ‘Factory’, and a cracked, porchside ‘roots’ tune in ‘Country Yard’. Every moment of it is compelling, and through all of it you have singer Craig Nicholls’ double and triple-tracking his vocals as if his mind is about to split apart at any moment. Of course, it all went horribly wrong after this, and nothing they subsequently did was a patch on what they achieved on this album. But I don’t care what anyone says, this was an awesome record. (Pity they couldn’t come even close to approximating it live though.)

Best tracks: Get Free (link to review), Homesick, Highly Evolved, Autumn Shade, Outtatheway, Country Yard.


Best Ever Albums Rank: 1005

Is ‘In Ghost Colours’ the definitive Melbourne album? On every listen, it brings to mind summers on a cool, calm beach, walking through alleyways, hopping through bars and clubs, and even using the city’s ice-skating rink (see ‘Out There On The Ice’). Australians – and particularly Melbournians – have often been good at taking the best elements from pop in both the US and UK, and ‘In Ghost Colours’ reeks of cosmopolitanism on every one of its tracks. It also reeks of doomed romanticism – with lyrics like ‘don’t let it tear us apart/even if it breaks your heart’ on ‘Out There On The Ice’, ‘all the girls I’ve know are crying’ on ‘Feel The Love’, and ‘I fall in your dreams tonight’ on ‘So Haunted’ – except that Dan Whitford delivers it all in a voice that is so matter-of-fact that all that potential outpouring of twenty-something emotion is held just beneath the surface. It doesn’t fit in with the image of rough and raw Australian rock like Midnight Oil, AC/DC, or (god help us) Cold Chisel, but not all of Australia’s youth are out there on the land; indeed, many of them are young urbanites who don’t spend their nights out in the open skies, but rather spend them winding their way through narrow city streets. Cut Copy’s ‘In Ghost Colours’ perfectly captures that mood, and that for me makes it the best Australian album of the new millennium, even if there are relatively few others that may recognise it as such.

Best tracks: So Haunted, Feel The Love, Out On The Ice, Lights and Music, Hearts On Fire, Unforgettable Season. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

BEER!![13] – Great Australian Beer Festival

Brewery: Prickly Moses, Bellarine, Forrest, Little Creatures, Southern Bay, True South, Stone & Wood, Mildura, Hawthorn, Mountain Goat, Murray’s, Matilda Bay, Grand Ridge, Two Birds, Napoleone, Feral, Brew Cult, Odyssey, Cavalier, Kooinda, Killer Sprocket, Temple, Holgate, Three Troupers, Tooborac Hotel, 3 Ravens. (And some cider breweries as well.)
Place Of Origin: Geelong, Vic.
Type: All types, but I had mostly darker beers. I even had a Black IPA (by Kooinda).
Alcohol Content: On average, I reckon more or less 5%, give or take a percentage point.
Why I Bought It: Because it’s beer and music all in one convenient location.
Taste: All pretty good – but I’m massively biased towards Victorian craft beer.
What I did while drinking it: Listened to Owl Eyes and Tigertown on the main stage. Saw a couple of comedians at the Beer Cabaret. Roasted in the sun.
What I did after drinking it: Went to someone’s house and watched ‘10 Things I Hate About You’. 30 tokens worth of beer really helped with watching that movie.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Ephemerality of Triple J’s Hottest 100

Each year, Australian radio station Triple J’s ‘Hottest 100’ counts down the 100 ‘hottest’ songs of the past 12 months as determined by its (mostly Australian and indie-loving) voters. The list is typically a mixture of the classic and the ephemeral – i.e. songs that hold up over time, and songs that are essentially just the flavour of the moment.

In 2013, Triple J ran a vote for the hottest 100 overall songs since the countdown switched to its annual format in 1993. This vote can give us an idea of how transient the songs in the yearly countdown are. If the top songs each year – more specifically, the Top 5 - are full of timeless classics than these should have more or less occupied the Top 100 slots in the twenty year vote (ignoring that some years are better for music than others), if not, then few of them will have made it.

As it turns out, 46 of the 100 songs that had been in the annual Top 5 made the 20 Year Anniversary list. By country, it looks like songs that make the Hottest 100 Top 5 from the UK and US are most likely to still be liked by Triple J listeners down the track (see table). Top 5 songs from Australia are more likely to fit into the ‘flavour of the moment’ category.
Total Top 5 Hottest 100 Songs
Made 20 Years of Hottest 100 Countdown

By era, Top 5 songs from the first decade (1993-2002) of the Triple J Hottest 100 were more likely to make the 20 Year list, although not by a lot. Note too that only 3 Australian songs made the Top 5 during 1993-1997, so this pattern by era is in part related to Australian entries being more ephemeral. 
Total Top 5 Hottest 100 Songs
Made 20 Years of Hottest 100 Countdown

Unsurprisingly, 27 of the 46 Top 5 songs that made the 2013 countdown finished either #1 or #2 in their original year.
The last point to make is one that gained some notice at the time – very few songs by female solo artists or bands fronted by females made the 20 Years of the Hottest 100 list. Indeed, of the songs that did, only three had been Top 5 songs in an annual countdown (‘Big Jet Plane’, ‘Zombie’, and ‘Little Talks’), and all of those had been #1 or #2. Missing out were ‘Linger’, ‘Cannonball’, ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’, ‘Celebrity Skin’, ‘Weir’, ‘London Still’, and ‘Scar’ (yep, there were only 10 candidates).

So if Triple J does a similar countdown again in 2033, which of this year’s Hottest 100 Top 5 would have the best chance of making it? Probably Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’ – even though Australian tracks hold up less well than US or UK tracks as far as voters go, former #1s tend to hold up pretty well unless there is a strong novelty element to them. After that though the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ probably has the best chance, while Lorde’s ‘Royals’ – with the double ‘whammy’ of being from outside the US or UK, and being by a female solo artist – may struggle more than your average #2 song. But who knows; maybe tastes will have changed considerably by 2033?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Book Review: Autobiography – Morrissey

My, there have been a lot of fools in Morrissey’s life. There were the teachers at his drab Manchester school, and indeed, anyone in Manchester outside of his immediate family. There was Rough Trade Records boss Geoff Travis, who didn’t fully appreciate the Smiths' hit-making capabilities, a precursor to the many other record company that would thwart Moz’s tilts at chart glory. There were the Smiths, particularly drummer Mike Joyce, who apparently did not understand the 10 per cent share in Smiths’ royalties he was signing up to and subsequently took Morrissey and guitarist/songwriting partner Johnny Marr to court over it. And then there was Judge Weeks, who presided over ‘the Smiths’ case’, and whose bias and incompetence, along with that of Joyce’s, is teased out over around fifty pages. 

No doubt there are other sides to these stories, but history is written by the eloquent. And eloquent this book is, even if in sentences it reads like the work of a lyric-writer. No matter… better that than bland ghost writing, and Morrissey’s words positively flow, with the odd witty remark thrown in. I originally skipped straight to the Smiths part, and then continued on to his early solo career, and then went back to his critical adoration of early punk rockers the New York Dolls, but the parts on his early and later life are also well worth reading. The only parts I really got tired of hearing about was how many fans he has cheering him on stage, but I suppose when you are a touring musician for a living fawning fans are a large part of your life.

Like many indie fans, I’m pretty familiar with the Smiths’ work, but reading this inspired me to go back and listen to his solo stuff. His shift to a Johnny Marr-less career was not as dramatic as I had imagined, and reading about Morrissey’s life also helps to give a proper perspective on his time as a Smith – really, it was only five short years, and much of Morrissey’s life and art is built on what came before and after. So definitely pick it up, chortle at the fact that Morrissey insisted on being published under the ‘Penguin Classics’ album, and enjoy a music autobiography to rank alongside those of Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. Just remember that, if you ever have the chance to talk to Moz himself about it, you’d better have your facts straight.