15. Fragile

It’s a cliche to imagine bullies as weak; to me it’s not especially important whether people doing harm are “secretly weak” or just as strong as they claim to be and just sadists. But it is galling when people who have had every advantage in life like to portray themselves as “tough guys” and portray the people who are ignored, victimised, disenfranchised and generally given shit every day of their lives as weak. I doubt the “tough guys” could walk a metre in their shoes.

In a real sense we’re all weak. Temperature is a statistical concept, really – it refers to the distrubution of energy in a system, and you can freak out it out and do weird stuff like create negative temperature*, so it’s hard to say what the range of temperatures in the universe “naturally” is. But I read that some stars can reach a temperature of 300 million Kelvin** – 300 million degrees above absolute zero. The universe gets pretty close to absolute zero in places. And the human body has a working range of about +/- 5C ***. If the body is over 42C, you’re dying, if it’s under 32C, you’re dying. It seemed a weird coincidence I was in the US, a country of about 300 million people, and a country that loves kicking its weakest in the groin on a regular basis, and not keen on people that deviate by more than millionth of a percent from the norm.

So we have an extended metaphor where you live on a street of 300 million people, but only your 5 closest neighbours don’t want to kill you. And this song is very much addressed to the tough guys – in the grand scheme of things, you’re very very lucky the universe hasn’t killed you yet, and rather than making it difficult for the other people who are also very very lucky to be alive, you might pull your head out of your arse and help them out a little.

There are a few songs in this collection that can safely be filed under “obvious sentiment which could bear to be said a bit more often”, and this is probably one of them.

I laid down the guitar in San Francisco at the start of May and didn’t get the lyrics recorded for two or three weeks. The drum part came in late – when I revisited the demos in 2019 – because it was kind of flat without it. This song took a long time to write because I was learning music (written by Sean Real of Little Teeth/99% Invisible) for the Radiotopia tour, and then playing on the Radiotopia tour. Being in the band usually meant getting up at 8am to get on a bus, arriving in a town at 1pm and getting to the soundcheck at 2pm, sound checking till show time, playing the show and then going to bed. Not to complain, because the crew were working 20 hour days and sleeping in the tourbus and crazy shit like that. I got craft services and a hotel – it was very rock and roll. Playing with the Radiotopia Tour Band – Sean, Dannie and Ash (aka Little Teeth and friends) – was one of the best musical experiences of my life. They are wonderful people and I feel truly privileged to have gatecrashed their band.

Next week I was terrible jet lagged in Sydney and had an existential meltdown that I processed through the medium of Robocop.

*in slightly contrived systems

** backed up by this paper, which annoying quotes temperatures in keV (kilo electron-volts, a unit of energy) and not Kelvin. The conversion rate to Kelvin is about 12 million K per keV, and the paper quotes the temperature as 25 keV, so 300 million Kelvin is about right.

**or 5K, which is the same

Pre order Year of The Bird, Volume 2 at https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-2 this week and you’ll get the download of this track (and all previous tracks) right away, and the full album when it’s released on July 8th, 2019! Why not listen to Volume 1, too: https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-1