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May 31, 2005

Ex-Steely Dan Guitarist Now Defense Consultant

Rock stars-- is there anything they can't do?

I was amused to learn that Iron Maiden's lead singer Bruce Dickinson (no, not that Bruce Dickinson) was now a commercial pilot, flying 737's.

But now Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers is now a defense and counter-terrorism consultant:

His defense work began in the 1980s, when it occurred to him that much of the hardware and software being developed for military use, like data-compression algorithms and large-capacity storage devices, could also be used for recording music. Mr. Baxter’s next-door neighbor, a retired engineer who worked on the Pentagon’s Sidewinder missile program, bought him a subscription to an aviation magazine, and he was soon reading a range of military-related publications.

Mr. Baxter began wondering whether existing military systems could be adapted to meet future threats they weren’t designed to address, a heretical concept for most defense thinkers. In his spare time, he wrote a five-page paper on a primitive Tandy computer that proposed converting the military’s Aegis program, a ship-based antiplane system, into a rudimentary missile-defense system.

On a whim, he gave the paper to a friend from California, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. To Mr. Baxter’s surprise, the congressman took it seriously, and the idea proved to be prescient: Aegis missile-defense systems have done well in tests, and the Navy says it will equip at least one ship with the antimissile system by the end of the year.

“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Mr. Rohrabacher says. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”

Note to self: Aid American war cause by 1) learning guitar, 2) joining several multiplatinum acts, 3) then thinking up cool shit involving computers and missiles.

The way I see it, #1 is the bitch of the bunch. But I've got basic music theory down from my days rockin' it old school on the bassoon in my marching band. I figure I can learn to wail on the guitar in just a couple of months.

And a few years after that I'll build a Terminator cyborg, but shaped like a Tyrannasaurus Rex.


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posted by Ace at 12:39 AM

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