Despite a legendary career with the Beatles and as a solo artist, John Lennon remains underrated for his guitar playing skills. Over the course of his lifetime, Lennon established himself as one of the greatest rhythm guitar players in the history of the instrument. Even today, his body of work remains as energetic and dynamic as ever.

If you want to improve your rhythm guitar playing skills, examining Lennon’s style is a great place to start. Between his early rock and roll playing and his later experimentation with different genres, there’s plenty of techniques that you can adapt to your own playing style.

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the key concepts you’ll find in Lennon’s rhythm playing. Afterward, we’ll examine some of the former Beatle’s best rhythm guitar parts in specific songs and run down the gear that he used to form his style.

Key Concepts

Emotion

Even though he became one of the greatest guitar players ever, John Lennon never took a formal lesson! Rather than dazzle audiences with his technical skill, Lennon preferred to communicate through raw, unbridled emotion in his playing.

Lennon’s reliance on emotion and feel undoubtedly had something to do with his lack of technical knowledge. Because he approached learning the instrument by picking up new songs, Lennon never learned how to copy chords by sightreading the way guitarists who play jazz guitar, for example, did. Instead, the Beatle nailed the feel and vibe of each song that he approached.

In a British rock and roll scene dominated by self-taught players, Lennon never needed to distinguish himself on technical skill — indeed, his rhythm playing might have suffered if he had focused on technique more. As a rhythm guitar player, feel and time management are far more important than nailing every note of each chord.

The music scene today is completely different from when Lennon broke onto the stage with the Beatles. However, emotion remains just as important in rhythm guitar playing today as it was in the early 1960s. If you want to improve your rhythm guitar, injecting some emotion into your playing is one of the best ways to do it.

Great Rhythm Songs

While Lennon played rhythm guitar on a host of iconic tracks throughout his life, a couple, in particular, stand out for their quality and creativity. These songs are by no means the only great John Lennon rhythm parts — but they are some of the coolest! If you want to pick up more from Lennon’s rhythm style, it’s a good idea to listen through the Beatles catalog and some of John’s solo albums as well.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here are some of John Lennon’s greatest rhythm parts along with the full songs. These parts shine, often becoming the defining feature of the track they appear on; they’re also chock-full of valuable techniques for any player who wants to take after the Liverpool native’s approach to rhythm guitar. Let’s take a closer look and check each song out!

Play Guitar like John Lennon

The complex chord changes on “All My Loving” make it a difficult song to play on rhythm guitar!

“All My Loving”

An early Beatle stand out from the group’s second LP, “All My Loving” was one of the first tunes where John managed to take over a song completely with his rhythm guitar. Though Paul McCartney’s melody is infectious (and his bass playing is nimble), it’s Lennon’s triplet-centric rhythm strumming that takes over the pulse of the song.

This tune is an outstanding example of a simple modification that can make a huge difference. Strumming in triplets doesn’t require a change to any of the chords or even a modification to the “on” and “off” beats of the song. However, dividing each beat into three subdivisions completely alters the feel of the track. And while it may be conceptually simple, it’s still deceptively difficult! You’ll likely need to practice for some time before you can nail the tune at speed as John did.

 

Take a listen to “All My Loving” in the video above. As you hear the song, take note of how steady the rhythm guitar remains throughout the song. Whether he’s on the verse or chorus, Lennon never wavers. As with other patterns, the little details here also contribute greatly to the sound.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear that Lennon accents the first beat of every triplet, which is each numbered beat of the measure (the one, two, three, and four). Triplets can often be distracting to listeners because there’s so much strumming going on. Lennon avoids that with these clever accents — even though he’s strumming like a madman, the accents on each beat keep his audience locked into the groove throughout.

You should also pay attention to the contrast in rhythm between the chorus and verses. The tempo and pulse of the song don’t change, which ordinarily might allow the chorus and verse to bleed together into one big mess. Lennon, however, keeps that from happening by deftly switching to a different strumming pattern during the chorus. This pattern is significantly less busy, and accents the off beats of the bar at times. Both of these tweaks create a decidedly more of a “swinging” and less of a “driving” feel than you find in the verses.

Emulating the triplet strums in your own songs can be difficult because Lennon made them so famous. At this point, “All My Loving” is such a well-recognized tune that listeners may instantly connect any triplet strumming with the Beatles rather than your band! However, you can still use triplets for emphasis at certain points in your song or to create a sense of excitement during a bridge. There are few better ways to drive a rhythm forwards with some flair. Just remember to accent the on beats!

Abbey Road Studios

Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles recorded nearly all of their albums.

“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”

Just three short years after releasing “All My Loving,” the Beatles had grown into a monumental creative force. Rubber Soul, their sixth studio album, marked a serious turning point for the band towards adult topics and sophisticated lyrics. Oftentimes, they reflected that shift through their songwriting and rhythm playing. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” is one of those times.

The vast majority of early Beatles songs begin with the vocals, or with just a bar or two of introduction before the vocals enter. While the intro to “Norwegian Wood” might seem short by today’s standards, it was a longer buildup than you’d find throughout the rest of the band’s catalog to that point. That extra time created a void, which Lennon filled by merging rhythm and lead guitar into an outstanding single part.

Listen to “Norwegian Wood” using the video below. Chances are, you’ll immediately notice how the rhythm guitar introduces the primary melody of the song, which the vocals later follow. This sort of chord-based sound wasn’t uncommon for the Beatles, but it was unusual to see them play the main vocal melody on guitar before actually singing it!

Besides the history and context of the track in the Beatles’ body of work, “Norwegian Wood” is simply an excellent example of working a melodic hook into a rhythm guitar part. This is a tricky skill to pull off because when done wrong it can butcher the timing and sway of a good melody. If you can pull it off, though, the results are spectacular.

Lennon’s rhythm guitar here introduces the audience to the primary melody at the beginning of the track, without any introduction or dead space. He continues to play the same pattern throughout the bridge, always mirroring the melody. This creates a lovely doubling effect that strengthens both Lennon’s voice and his guitar. When they play together, they push the song forwards in a way that seems both forceful and soft.

“Girl”

Another one of Lennon’s greatest compositions off of the outstanding Rubber Soul, “Girl” is an angst-ridden ballad that thrives on space and timing rather than rhythm and drive. It makes a lot of sense, then, that Lennon opted for a much more laid-back approach to the rhythm guitar on this song.

He eschews the wild triplet strumming found in “All My Loving” for a few lilting, sparse chords played on an acoustic guitar. This part offers a great example of setting the mood of a song with the rhythm guitar. Where early Beatles tunes were upbeat, boppy, and filled with energy, “Girl” signified a major step forward into more complex topics (along with other songs on the album, like the aforementioned “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”).

Take a listen to the tune below and focus on the acoustic guitar rhythm. As you hear the song, notice how the guitar sounds so offbeat and deliberately messy — almost as if Lennon was just strumming absentmindedly without a clear rhythm.

In most scenarios, the lack of direction would create an ineffectual and pointless song. Here, however, it marries perfectly with Lennon’s lyrics, which detail the passion and anxiety the narrator feels towards the titular girl. It’s an exceptionally raw track, and rather than polish off the edges the rhythm part leans into the vibe. That gamble certainly pays off when you listen to the song.

The Beatles

While “Yer Blues” left the early image of the Beatles behind, it did incorporate some heavy rock and roll rhythms reminiscent of the group’s early days. 

“Yer Blues”

This song moves much further into Lennon’s career with the Beatles. After the massive productions that were Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles were feeling stressed creatively and wanted to get away from some of the grand orchestration they had favored in their last album. The result was The Beatles, often referred to as “The White Album” for the color of its cover.

“Yer Blues” is one of John Lennon’s most memorable compositions on the double LP, in part because of its cutting genre parody and in part because of its morose sort of catchiness. It also features another stunner of a rhythm part!

Listen to “Yer Blues” through the video below this paragraph. As this tune was an intentional parody of the incredibly sad blues songs of the day, it features over-the-top lyrics and instrumentation. Listen in particular for the jagged, ripping guitar licks that Lennon plays after the end of each vocal line.

More than “bookending” each lyric, these riffs contribute a great deal to the sound and vibe of the song. Their stabby shape and blown-out sound contribute to the song’s over-the-top blues atmosphere. Beyond that, though, they’re just plain cool! These lines are some of the hardest, raunchiest Delta blues guitar lines that anyone created in the ‘60s.

If you’re looking to take something away from this rhythm part, you should note that “rhythm” guitar doesn’t always have to mean “playing block chords.” In fact, Lennon drops out entirely during the vocals, leaving only the bass and drums to carry the song forward. It’s a smart strategy that’s intended to shift the focus of the song to the words he’s singing.

However, pulling it off requires you to create some strong licks that can serve as “shorthand” for all of the rhythm changes of your song. The 12-bar blues format makes this much easier — Lennon only needs to hit a couple of notes to convey the V, IV, and I chords within the same lick.

In fact, the minor pentatonic scale and blues scale work so well over all three of these chords that it’s not even necessary to outline each different chord individually. If you want to go for this sparse approach to rhythm playing, make sure that you start out with a harmonically simple pattern.

Rickenbacker

In addition to Lennon’s rhythm guitar, “Come Together” centers around a heavy bass riff from Paul McCartney.

“Come Together”

As the opening track to Abbey Road and one of Lennon’s most famous compositions, “Come Together” has few equals in terms of success and classic status. The song itself sounds very simple, both in harmonic and rhythmic terms. However, the chugging, pulsing rhythm part is a classic in its own right — and one of the finest examples of John Lennon’s rhythmic intuition throughout his career.

Cue up “Come Together” from the video below, and the first thing that you’ll notice is the alternating on-and-off rhythm. The guitar clearly accents every other stroke, which creates a “walking” feel.

Likewise, the first stroke of each pair comes across as a choppy staccato note, while Lennon allows the second strum to linger for a bit longer before cutting it off to move into the next pair. It’s particularly noticeable in his rendition of the song live from New York City. This strengthens the loping vibe created by the alternating emphasis and injects a bit of personality into what would otherwise be a relatively robotic rhythm part.

“Come Together” also offers valuable lessons about chord selection. Right after Lennon exclaims the title of the track, he begins a downward run of four chords: a descending Bm, A, and G, followed by a return to the A chord.

Not only is the Bm chord unexpected since the rest of the song follows a rough blues pattern in the key of Dm, but the upward shift at the end of the sequence is a major curveball. It delays the smooth resolution down to the I chord (Dm) until after Lennon finishes the lyric (with an unaccompanied “over you!”) and moves into the next verse.

As with many of his other rhythm parts, the strumming here serves to accentuate the words and move the attention to the central theme of the song rather than steal the limelight on its own. U These tracks accomplish a lot more than just keeping a steady beat! But while the underlying ethos may be difficult to implement at first, if you apply it to your own songs you can greatly improve the strength and cohesion of your tunes.

“Cold Turkey”

This single, originally released in 1969, was one of Lennon’s first major solo hits. Even though it captures Lennon just as he was breaking up with the Beatles, it still contains many of the hallmarks of his unique solo style. Listen to the audio of the track below to hear how it sounds.

Like many of Lennon’s greatest solo hits, “Cold Turkey” is built around a stark, jagged riff that he repeats throughout the song. In fact, this riff is often the only guitar part that appears — Lennon declines to play any sort of rhythm throughout the vast majority of the song!

Though it may seem like a stark approach, the riff-based part found in this cut exemplifies some of the greatest features of Lennon’s songwriting. Rather than clutter or overcomplicate a rhythm part, the Beatle knew when to keep things simple and straight to the point. Taking this approach and applying it to your own songs can help you weed out any parts that don’t serve the purpose of the song but hang around to fill space.

However, if you’re going to cut out most of the rhythm it’s also important that what you leave sounds good! “Cold Turkey” succeeds because the central lick is so powerful and raw. Before you try to build a song around a riff or lick like this, make sure that it’s sturdy enough to carry the weight of vocals and rhythm without extra support.

“Hold On”

 

Compared to all of the rough, blues-based rock and roll guitar playing that Lennon was so fond of, “Hold On” displays a completely different side to his playing. The rhythm guitar part here, soaked under waves of tremolo, feels so delicate that it might crack! But even though it’s so distinct from the rest of Lennon’s work, “Hold On” still reveals a few amazing concepts you can implement in your own playing.

First off, Lennon’s rhythm part here relies on a mix of single notes and chords intertwined with each other. While these notes don’t mirror the vocal melody exactly, they do bounce off of Lennon’s spoken lines and replicate some parts of the lyrics. It’s an outstanding example of a rhythm that’s integrated completely with the song.

Beyond the interlocking structure of the rhythm, the heavy tremolo effect is another highlight. This can be difficult to pull off on many songs — particularly because tremolo can destroy your tempo and feel if you don’t use it right — but here it creates a lilting, swaying effect that underscores the calm and relaxed feel of the tune.

Adding heavy effects to your rhythm playing doesn’t always work out, but when done well it can be a very distinctive feature. It’s a great idea for any song if you want to create something a listener can easily remember.

John Lennon’s Essential Gear

Any player with a career as long and historic as John Lennon’s will use lots of different gear. And as guitars, amps, and effects improve in quality over time, it’s easier than ever to achieve plenty of different sounds with less and less equipment. However, different models still offer very different strengths; certain pieces of equipment often lend themselves naturally towards playing in a certain style.

If you want to truly emulate the feel of John Lennon’s rhythm guitar playing, you might want to check out some of the essential gear that the man favored. While you can obviously still apply his techniques and study his songs without these items, you may find that they’re better suited to accomodate all of the nuances and tricks that made Lennon’s rhythm style so iconic.

John Lennon Gear

John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325, like the model in this photo, and Vox amplifier powered the early Beatles sound.

Guitars

Rickenbacker 325

Lennon’s 1958 Rickenbacker 325 stuck with the musician from when he purchased it in 1960 all the way until the end of his life 20 years later. It’s the guitar that he played throughout the Beatles’ early residencies in the German city of Hamburg and on most of their pre-1965 albums and tours. All in all, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this model on the guitar world — it’s quite possibly one of the most famous (and certainly one of the most expensive!) instruments in history.

But while many people assume that Lennon first purchased the model 325 because he wanted any American guitar that he could get his hands on, the truth runs much deeper. The 325 is a ¾-scale guitar, which makes it perfect for the chugging rock and roll rhythms that the Beatles loved to employ.

Rather than a standard 24.75” or 25.5” scale, the Rickenbacker 325’s scale is just over 20” long — roughly equivalent to placing a capo on the third fret of a standard guitar. The shorter distances between frets helped Lennon pound out barre chords using the famous Chuck Berry-style patterns which alternated between the fifth and sixth note of the chord.

It’s no overstatement to say that the 325’s size was the defining factor in many early Beatles rhythms. Think about John’s complex triplet pattern on “All My Loving,” which we spotlighted in the “songs” section above. With less distance to go between the different chords in that sequence, Lennon was able to stay on beat and maintain a rock-solid foundation which became one of the defining characteristics of the tune.

The Rickenbacker also offered a bright, punchy tone that offered a lot more treble than was common on rhythm guitar. In comparison to relaxed, warm rhythm patterns on some other tracks, Lennon’s 325 brought a frenetic, cutting energy to each song. It proved the perfect way to slice through crowded mixes on studio tracks and in a live setting and helped establish rhythm guitar as an essential role in a band rather than an auxiliary piece.

Lennon Residence

Along with his all-white piano, Lennon’s Epiphone Casino has become one of the musician’s most recognizable instruments.

Epiphone Casino

Later in his time with the Beatles, Lennon shifted to an Epiphone Casino for his rhythm and lead work. While it offered a different tonal palette from the Rickenbacker, Lennon created some of his best rhythm parts on the Epiphone — thanks, in large part, to the guitar’s unique sound and style.

In contrast with the chambered Rickenbacker, the Casino’s hollow body gave it a warm, woody tone with plenty of acoustic resonance. Rather than elbowing its way to the front of a mix, the Casino created a lush, smooth sound that pinned down plenty of memorable tracks. It’s the guitar Lennon used on the legendary “rooftop concert” from Apple Records.

However, that’s not to imply that the Casino couldn’t produce some incredible distorted tones! All you need to do is look at songs like “Revolution” or “Yer Blues” to hear the cutting, ripping sound of an overdriven Casino. As far as hollow-body guitars go, it’s hard to find a more versatile model than this one. It’s one of the best rock guitars around.

Les Paul Jr.

Along with the Rickenbacker 325 and Epiphone Casino, Lennon used instruments like the Fender Stratocaster throughout his time with the Beatles. It was the mahogany red Les Paul Jr. that he picked up after leaving the group, however, which became one of his most enduring instruments.

In comparison with the chambered Rickenbacker and hollow Casino, the Les Paul Jr. is a fully solid model — it’s heavy and offers plenty of power and sustain. It’s the modifications that Lennon added, however, that truly make this instrument special.

The Les Paul Jr. featured a P-90 pickup in the bridge, just like the Casino that Lennon loved so much. However, this guitar originally came without any pickup installed in the neck position — a design feature that lowered the price of the instrument but also reduced its versatility. Lennon had luthier Ron DeMarino add a Charlie Christian pickup into the neck position; the addition gave the guitar a smooth, clean neck tone in addition to the hard-edged bridge P-90.

This is the model that Lennon used to craft many of his solo hits. If you’re looking for a versatile instrument with its own distinct character, a Les Paul Jr. with a Charlie Christian pickup like Lennon’s is a good model to check out.

John Lennon

Even today, Lennon’s legacy lives on through his discography and influence over other musicians.

Summary

John Lennon’s rhythm guitar style paved the way for dozens of other iconic players. In no small way, Lennon was the engine that fueled the rise of the guitar as a rhythm instrument. And though his style contains many different facets and approaches depending on each song, a couple of tenets remain the same throughout the former Beatle’s discography.

First and foremost, Lennon kept things simple. One of his greatest strengths was knowing when to accentuate a rhythm part and when to let it stand on its own weight. Developing this sense on your own takes time, but it can transform your rhythmic and compositional skills alike.

Beyond his simplicity, Lennon’s emotion was the other constant animating feature of his playing. The man attacked the instrument with a ferocity and drive that few other players in the history of the guitar have managed to copy since. As you strive to emulate the master’s rhythm guitar, keep this emotion in mind. It’s often better to play raw and eel the spirit than to drill the life out of a certain part and lose your feel for a certain tune in the process.

Whether you’re studying Lennon’s rhythm for your own playing or if you just love the Beatles and want to learn more about their “forgotten guitar player” (as Lennon once remarked), this guide contains most of what you need to know. Keep playing and work on the techniques mentioned here (particularly with a metronome) to take full advantage of Lennon’s prodigious skills!


This article was originally published at beginnerguitarhq.com


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

new book makes the case that those who understand the basics of climate change and clean energy will be the “smart money” in the coming years. Those who don’t, however, will make bad decisions for themselves and their family. They might, for instance, end up holding coastal property after prices have begun to crash due to due the growing twin threats of sea level rise and storm surge.

In short, climate change isn’t just something every educated person ought to know about because it will impact future generations or because everyone will be talking about it during the upcoming Paris climate talks. It is something everyone needs to know about now because “Climate change will have a bigger impact on your family and friends and all of humanity than the Internet has had.”

“Climate Change, What Everyone Needs to Know” is part of the highly regarded Oxford University Press series of primers on subjects ranging from China to Islam, which all share the same subtitle. For its climate change book, Oxford chose Dr. Joseph Romm, the founder of the popular blog ClimateProgress.org. Romm, a physicist and former U.S. Energy Department official, writes as easily on climate science as he does on solutions.

Climate Change - What Everyone Needs to Know

The book is written entirely in a Q&A format, which makes it a highly readable introduction to the subject. Romm answers such basic questions as, ‘Why are climate scientists so confident that humans are the primary cause of recent warning?’ ‘Which extreme weather events are being made worse by climate change and which are not?’ ‘Why did scientists and governments decide 2°C (3.6°F) was the limit beyond which climate change becomes “dangerous” to humanity?’.

Even people who consider themselves science literate will learn from this book. Consider the question: “What fraction of recent global warming is due to human causes versus natural causes?” As Romm explains, “The best estimate from the world’s top scientists is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have experienced since 1950.”

On the solutions side, Romm offers clear and up-to-date explanations of the roles solar, wind, biomass, and nuclear power will play in the next quarter century. If you are wondering which alternative fuel will replace oil in our cars, Romm makes a compelling case why it won’t be hydrogen but will be electricity.

Romm examines one question that few people have even thought to ask, “Does carbon dioxide at exposure levels expected this century have any direct impacts on human health or cognition?”. The surprising answer is “yes” – a subject Romm has explored in more detail in recent weeks on his website.

In the final chapter, Romm examines “How will climate change impact you and your family in the coming decades?”. Romm explains how U.S. government policies artificially inflate coastal property values and why climate change means that this trillion-dollar-bubble is going to burst in the foreseeable future. He looks at the question of how climate change should influence any decision about where to retire. He looks at what students should study today “if they want to prepare themselves for working in a globally warmed world” and maximize their future employability.

Climate Change, What Everyone Needs to Know” is a must-read for those who want to become climate literate and join the growing conversation about the greatest threat humanity faces today – or simply for those who want to be in on the “smart money” rather than the other kind.


This article by John Abraham was originally published on theguardian.com

About the Author:

Dr John Abraham is a professor of thermal sciences. He researches in climate monitoring and renewable energy generation for the developing world. His energy development work has extended to Africa, South America and Asia.

Message from The Guardian:

As the climate crisis escalates…

… the Guardian will not stay quiet. This is our pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. The Guardian recognises the climate emergency as the defining issue of our times.

We chose a different approach: to keep Guardian journalism open for all. We don’t have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.

Our editorial independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental catastrophe.

The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment.

We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable.

Support The Guardian from as little as NZ$1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

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TV showrunners have a lot of work to do.We came into this blog with a pretty simple goal: To write a listicle about the five best TV shows taking on the climate crisis. A little less than a year ago, we created a similar list of must-see movies, and it turned out to be a big hit.We had no problem putting that blog together; there were plenty of great movies to choose from. So many in fact, that when we turned our attention to the small screen – but importantly, before we began our research – we set up a fun additional hurdle for ourselves: No docu-series expressly about climate change.

That meant fantastic shows like Years of Living Dangerously and Planet Earth II would have to sit this one out on the bench. That’s how confident we were that there’d be more than enough meaty dramas, reality series that touch on climate while being about something else entirely, and perhaps even a great sitcom or two tackling big issues in a lighthearted way (wherefore art thou, The Good Place or Superstore?) to choose from.

We were wrong.

What we mostly found were crickets. There simply are not many TV shows out there incorporating, oh you know, the biggest crisis facing humanity today into their plotlines. And we thought that was pretty strange.

So what did we find that’s airing now for viewers looking for something thought-provoking for their latest binge? Not a ton – but that’s not to say what is out there isn’t pretty great. (And yes, we’re deliberately ignoring Jesse Eisenberg’s cringe-worthy activist cameo on Modern Family for the sake of all humanity.)

GAME OF THRONES

OK. So right up top, having just gotten done wagging our proverbial finger at the TV industry for its lack of attention to this crisis, we’re the first to admit that it’s kind of incredible that one of the biggest TV shows is pretty much one great big allegory for the threat we all face from climate change.

Among the myriad fan theories about the political themes in HBO’s Game of Thrones, the one that’s long held the most weight was recently backed up by none other than George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series on which the show is based. Late last year, in an interview with New York Times Magazine, the writer laid bare the “great parallel” between his fantasy epic and our modern climate crisis:

“The people in Westeros are fighting their individual battles over power and status and wealth. And those are so distracting them that they’re ignoring the threat of ‘winter is coming,’ which has the potential to destroy all of them and to destroy their world. And there is a great parallel there to, I think, what I see this planet doing here, where we’re fighting our own battles. We’re fighting over issues, important issues, mind you — foreign policy, domestic policy, civil rights, social responsibility, social justice. All of these things are important. But while we’re tearing ourselves apart over this and expending so much energy, there exists this threat of climate change… And it really has the potential to destroy our world.”

The good folks at Vox even put together a terrific, concise video explaining the connection:

LIFE BELOW ZERO

This popular (it’s just wrapped up its eleventh season last month) National Geographic docu-series follows the lives of several remote Alaskans as they deal with the daily pressures and very hard work of living a subsistence lifestyle in the Arctic.

Throughout the show’s run, we’ve watched its cast of characters grow and change – special shout out here to Jessie Holmes, who’s gone from struggling to make his way in early episodes to recently placing seventh in the Iditarod – yet, we hear again and again about how the Arctic they call home is also changing… and not for the better.

From melting permafrost, unseasonal warmth, and flooding to the increasingly erratic migration patterns of the numerous animal species they rely on for survival, nearly every character on the show has at one time or another (and often more than once) spoken of the impact warmer temperatures and changing seasons are having on their lives.

These observations hit especially hard coming from native Alaskan Agnes Hailstone, who lives with her husband and their children in Noorvik, Alaska, just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle. When Agnes, an indigenous Inupiaq whose ancestors have fished and hunted the Alaskan wilds for countless generations, worries where the caribou are or why the fish aren’t running like they used to, it’s especially ominous.

After all, her beloved mother (and hers before her on down the line) taught her how to survive in an Arctic that just doesn’t exist anymore.

OCCUPIED

This critically acclaimed Norwegian political thriller – available in the US and many other countries on Netflix – is a set in a near-future “cleantech-minded Norway held hostage by Russian and EU oil interests” (via Grist). That’s one heck of a hook!

The reason for the hostage situation? The newly elected, pro-environment Norwegian government goes all-in on renewables to fight climate change, halting oil and gas production in the North Sea. What unfolds is part high-stakes political drama, part study of gender and power, and part action thriller. And a lot of highly compelling television.

Watching Occupied, we see the Russian occupation become a broader metaphor for the role of fossil fuels in our lives. As the show suggests, we are all living lives occupied by fossil fuels, forcing us into decisions and down paths none of us would have chosen – it’s right there in the title.

But what pushes Occupied over the line from “good” to “great” isn’t just how clearly the series captures the creeping tyranny of fossil fuels. It’s also how every episode makes the tensions between our ideals and actual actions felt at a skin-tingling visceral level, prodding us at home with one simple question: “What would you do?”

Created by legendary Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø, Occupied (Okkupert, in its native country) is the most expensive Norwegian television production ever. It’s also been renewed for a third season, but a debut date has not yet been announced.

THAT’S ALL, FOLKS

Yep.

That’s all we got.

But luckily, the dearth of tv shows tackling the climate crisis seems to be changing, if slowly.

TNT is turning director Bong Joon Ho’s brilliant film Snowpiercer – which we included on our list of 6 Must-See Movies About Climate Change – into a TV series. And Apple TV is working on an adaptation of Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine story, “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change,” about “efforts by a number of top scientists, activists, and politicians to stop climate change in the 1980s.”

And that’s great to hear, because as Sara Poirier, an educational consultant on tv shows, writes for Yale Climate Connections, TV can play an outsized role in helping vast masses of people understand climate change a little better: “Television remains a leading source of informal education. It’s also a promising vehicle for climate change communication as it can place the issue in an entertaining and informal context, while leveraging the power of visuals.”

Indeed, because this crisis touches every one of us – and because we need to take urgent action now to end it – we should be talking about everywhere. On television. At the movies. On podcasts. In books. Everywhere.

But you know where it’s especially important for factual information about the climate crisis to appear?

On the website of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for crying out loud.

Two years ago, in the spring of 2017, EPA erased the words “climate change” widely across its website. Led by a longtime friend of fossil fuels, EPA’s goal was clear: Hide the climate crisis from us so the oil, coal, and gas companies most responsible for it could keep making billions.

But making the words vanish didn’t make the crisis disappear.

And now we’re fighting back.

It’s time to tell EPA to stop trying to hide the truth, and put the facts about climate change front and center on EPA.gov now.

Sign our petition demanding action now.


This article was originally published by Climate Reality Project

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But we can’t do it without your help.

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Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Mosley: Movie Review

Temuera Morrison, Rhys Darby and Lucy Lawless lend their voices to this animated movie feature from Kirby Atkins (who also stars), produced by Kiwi animation house Huhu Studios in collaboration with China Film Animation.

It might not always hit its visual marks, but the originality of the story won Liam Maguren over.

New Zealand hasn’t created a film quite like Mosley. Though it’s the third animated feature made in Aotearoa, it wouldn’t make sense to compare this family flick to Murray Ball’s irreverent phenomenon Footrot Flats: The Dog’s Tale or Leanne Pooley’s ANZAC doco 25 April. It’s an all-ages adventure squarely focused on a story writer-director Kirby Atkins has been waiting two decades to tell—and it’s one worth telling.

The tale centres on Thoriphants, horse-sized elephant-like creatures that can speak and comprehend human language. However, these greedy humans value their brawn over their brains, forcing Thoriphants into lives of servitude and, in Mosley’s case, backbreaking labour on a farm.

Sounds pretty heavy for a children’s movie, but rest assured that they get the most heartbreaking moment out of the way in the opening minutes. (Be prepared, though: it’s a Bambi-level gut-punch.)

Voiced by Atkins himself, Mosley is a fairly run-of-the-mill hero placed in a situation more compelling than his personality. He’s only known farm life, so for the sake of his child and pregnant partner, he keeps his head down and the fields ploughed. At first, he doesn’t want to learn more about the tales of historical Thoriphants that stood upright in fear of disrupting his merciless routine. But when he’s forced to run, Mosley goes in search for their help.

Mosley Movie Review

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John Rhys-Davies and Rhys Darby deliver predictably superb vocal performances as fellow Thoriphants Mosley encounters. And while Temuera Morrison doesn’t say much as a silent-but-deadly hunter, he makes every single word growl with menace.

As the journey unravels, Mosley‘s real-world parallels become clearer. Perhaps the most invigorating comes from the story’s emphasis on whakapapa and how learning one’s cultural background grants them a certain strength. There’s also a plea to move away from disrespecting nature for the sake of profit—a timely moral given the current climate crisis. Mosley doesn’t get automatic praise for simply tackling these complicated ideas though; it earns praise for making them easy to understand in an enjoyable adventure setting.

Unfortunately, the art direction doesn’t always live up to the story’s power. While it’s easy to forgive technical grunt that doesn’t quite match blockbuster studios like Disney and DreamWorks, certain design choices and colour palettes come off a little bland—especially the farm with its vapid sense of space and overwhelming use of oranges and browns.

Fortunately, other vistas prove more memorable. Luscious valley waterfalls, illuminating cliffside fireflies, a surreal infinity forest… there’s enough inspired environments to justify a big-screen viewing. The animation impresses even more, especially when it comes to character expressions—these Thoriphants emote just as hard as any Pixar toy.

Though Mosley makes for a mixed bag of visuals, it gets the most important job done: servicing the story. With the current state of children’s cinema clogged up with merchandise tie-ins (I’m glaring at you, UglyDolls), seeing something as original as a Mosley movie caresses a cynical heart.


This article by Liam Maguren was originally published on flicks.co.nz

 

A memoir that is racy, pacy and crammed with scurrilous anecdotes – what more could you ask from Elton John the rocket man?

Choosing one’s favourite Elton John story – like choosing one’s favourite Elton song – can feel like limiting oneself to a mere single grape from the horn of plenty. Leaving aside the music for the moment, Elton’s public and maybe even private persona can be divided into two phases: first there was the raging drugs monster, as extravagantly talented as he was costumed. Now that he’s sober, there’s the more conservatively dressed, happily married elder statesman of British pop, a proper establishment figure, albeit one who’s still unafraid to pick fights with everyone from Keith Richards (“a monkey with arthritis”) to Madonna (“looks like a fairground stripper”). Both eras have yielded a steady crop of outstanding Elton anecdotes, often retold by Elton himself, who, possessing the kind of self-knowledge few of his fame and wealth retain, tells his stories better than anyone else. Probably the most infamous of all is the one about the time he’d been up for several days (this, clearly, was from the pre-sobriety era) when he decided something really needed to be sorted out. No, not his devastating drug addiction or his lack of sleep – the problem was the weather. So he called a chap in his office and told him to sort it out: “It’s far too windy here, can you do something about it?”

Such is the wealth of material he has to choose from, this story gets only a passing mention in his outrageously enjoyable autobiography: “This is obviously the ideal moment to state once and for all that this story is a complete urban myth. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that, because the story is completely true,” he writes, with a self-deprecating shrug. And then he moves on to the next tale, which might be about the night he and John Lennon refused to answer the door to Andy Warhol because, as Lennon hissed to Elton: “Do you want him coming in here taking photos when you’ve got icicles of coke hanging out of your nose?” Or it might be about the time Richard Gere and Sylvester Stallone nearly came to blows over Princess Diana at one of his dinner parties. That he has celebrity anecdotes to burn is not a surprise. But the self-mocking tone is more unexpected from a musician so grand that at his 2014 wedding party he had one table dedicated solely to the Beatles and their families. Yet while his extraordinary talent justified his personal excesses, it is his self-awareness that has counterbalanced the narcissism and made him such a likable figure. This is, after all, the man who allowed his husband, David Furnish, to make a documentary about him and call it Tantrums and Tiaras.

One of 12 Royal mail stamps issued as a tribute to the musical contribution of Elton John.
 One of 12 Royal mail stamps issued as a tribute to the musical contribution of Elton John. Photograph: Royal Mail/PA

 

So it is entirely and pleasingly right that Elton has called his book, quite simply, Me: not for him any pretentious effort to dress up the navel gazing nature of memoir writing as art or courageous truth-telling. It’s just Elton talking about Elton. It quickly becomes clear in Me that few people are more suited to the celebrity autobiography genre, given that he combines the most essential ingredients of the form. First, his life is still hilariously over the top (tabloid photos of Elton, dressed head to toe in Gucci, tootling about on his yacht with his similarly clad family have become as much of a signifier of summer to me as any number of swallows). Unlike other celebrities who act as if their position on the A-list is only provisional and they therefore mustn’t break the rules of discretion among the famous, Elton cheerfully gossips about everyone from Bob Dylan (terrible at charades, FYI) to David Bowie (“don’t know what [his] problem was”) as if they were his neighbours in Pinner, where he grew up. He is Joan Collins mixed with Joan Rivers, and if anyone can think of a more delicious combination they are probably deeper than I am. Best of all, he remembers, if not everything, then certainly a lot – unlike that arthritic monkey, Keith Richards, whose poor ghostwriter, James Fox, “had to do a little sleuthing” to confirm the Rolling Stone’s stories for Life, his 2010 memoir.

Elton has his own ghostwriter, of course – the “auto” in “celebrity autobiography” is always a loose concept – in the form of Alexis Petridis, this paper’s pop critic. Petridis has a journalist’s eye for the comically absurd, such as Elton’s predilection for sexual voyeurism competing with his innate tidiness (“They’d end up having sex on the snooker table with me shouting, ‘Make sure you don’t come on the baize!’ which tended to puncture the atmosphere a bit”), and he makes sure there is a laugh out loud moment on pretty much every other page. This gives a pacy originality to what could have been a by-the-numbers celebrity tale: the miserable suburban childhood, the early musical failures, the sudden meteoric success, the sex, drugs and dodgy financial advisers, the eventual redemption through marriage, parenthood and activism. The book could also have easily tipped into self-parody, with Elton as a musical Zelig figure, witnessing, in turn, the death of 1960s pop, the emergence of 70s rock, the brief burst of punk, the rise of 90s hip-hop and rap. Alongside all this is the glorious triumph of the gay rights movement in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, handily embodied by Elton himself, a pop star who once barely understood his own sexuality, but can now bring his two sons with Furnish, born by a surrogate, up on stage with him in Las Vegas, and has raised almost half a billion dollars for Aids charities. But Petridis wisely keeps the focus on the personal over the sweeping cultural: Elton’s immediate reaction to the Sex Pistols, for example, was not any cliched shock of the new, but rather delight in Johnny Rotten slagging off his friend and rival, Rod Stewart, on TV. 

But credit really must go to Elton, whose extremely amusing voice very much drives the book. The most acclaimed celebrity memoirs of the past two decades have been thoughtful disquisitions on the weirdness of fame itself – Rupert Everett’s autobiographies, and Feel, Chris Heath’s book about Robbie Williams. Me is not like that, and the most Elton has to say about fame is it’s a lot of fun, but probably not very good for you. His book is closer in spirit to David Niven’s memoirs with their litany of namedrops – although Niven, as far as I know, never wrote a line like “I sat around, wanking, in a dressing gown covered in my own puke.”

Me is its own original thing because Elton makes fun of no one more than himself. He is utterly, astonishingly, hilariously self-lacerating. A half-hearted suicide attempt at the height of his fame could have been played for drama; instead Elton merely asks: “Why was I behaving like such a twat?” He sums up the experience of writing songs for The Lion King, which ultimately won him an Oscar, as: “I was now writing a song about a warthog that farted a lot.” And yes, Elton was also mystified by the hysteria over the version of “Candle in the Wind” he wrote for Diana’s funeral.

One subject he has strikingly little interest in is his creation of a catalogue of music that is now a licence to print money. He is very sweet about his friendship with his longterm lyricist, Bernie Taupin, but the process of how they write their songs is dealt with in a single paragraph, which concludes: “I can’t explain it and I don’t want to explain it.” And yet there’s no doubt his talent is miraculous. Some of his songs took as long to write as they do to listen to; in one morning he knocked off “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, “Amy” and “Rocket Man” before breakfast.

Elton has never come across as an especially warm celebrity: too sharp tongued, too ridiculous. Neither quality is played down in his memoir. And yet his clear-eyed honesty and his ear for the comic line make him a deeply appealing memoirist. By the end of the book I felt only regret that I am unlikely to get an invitation to join him on his yacht, where I could listen to him recall the time he asked Yoko Ono what happened to that herd of cattle she and John Lennon once bought: “Yoko shrugged and said, ‘Oh, I got rid of them. All that mooing.’


This article by Hadley Freeman was originally published on TheGuardian

About the Author:

Hadley Freeman is a Guardian columnist and features writer.


Message from the Guardian….

It’s about how we will respond to the escalating climate crisis – we will not stay quiet. This is the Guardian’s pledge: we will continue to give global heating, wildlife extinction and pollution the urgent attention and prominence they demand. The Guardian recognises the climate emergency as the defining issue of our times.

Our independence means we are free to investigate and challenge inaction by those in power. We will inform our readers about threats to the environment based on scientific facts, not driven by commercial or political interests. And we have made several important changes to our style guide to ensure the language we use accurately reflects the environmental catastrophe.

The Guardian believes that the problems we face on the climate crisis are systemic and that fundamental societal change is needed. We will keep reporting on the efforts of individuals and communities around the world who are fearlessly taking a stand for future generations and the preservation of human life on earth. We want their stories to inspire hope. We will also report back on our own progress as an organisation, as we take important steps to address our impact on the environment.

More people in New Zealand, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s journalism – made possible by our choice to keep it open to all. We do not have a paywall because we believe everyone deserves access to factual information, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

We hope you will consider supporting the Guardian’s open, independent reporting today. Every contribution from our readers, however big or small, is so valuable.

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Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

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