Tuesday, April 25, 2006

51 Not Out

Not bad for 5 overs, I think. That's what Chi and I managed to score in the latest match of our now regular weekend cricket games.

Chi and I were the first pair to bat, and things got off to a disasterous start as I called Chi through for a suicide single. I'm sure he was out of his ground but I think we were given the benefit of the doubt (and sympathy). From there on we had the tough work of seing off the two young speedsters Ted and Andy. Both were bowling at a good pace (definately the quickest I've faced in the last few months) but lost some control. This gave us some valuable runs via byes - easily contributing 20 to our total! We tried to keep the strike rotating over with quick singles and I think the left-right combination unsettled the bowlers line a bit.

After the youngsters we faced an over from Phi who managed to york me on the big toe (ouch! still hurts!) but we batted sensibly and saw him off too. From there we managed to score at a steady rate knocking off ones and twos with the odd boundary in the mix. Somehow we managed to get to 51 off our five overs, which is a new all-time record in the Five5 games we've played.

Of the following pairs the Brothers Luc put in a good effort as expected from the defending champs, but only managed 40 runs. A lot was expected from the brothers Bates and Nguyen, but lack of recent practice showed and they posted lower than expected scores. The highly rated team of Chunga and Van put in a dash but were undone by some great bowling and fielding. Speaking of wich, Van and Andy took some screamers today, Andy snatching a ball at full strech over his head feilding at Gully, and Van at Deep Square Leg taking a powerfully hit shot off Marto(?). I also partnered with Quang for the last pair, with my goal being to run singles and give QT as much of the strike as possible. He did very well, running ones and twos, hitting a few boundaries and getting a very respectable 40 38 runs!

On the bowling front I think I was a bit wayward today. I'm still bowling far too short, even leaving out the two bouncers I bowled at Lucky - sorry dude! :) - the length just wasn't right. The few times I did pitch up I did pretty well. One a hard catch to first slip (if we had one), another hitting Ted on the ankle on his back leg, and another hitting Chunga on his thigh as he tried to pull a ball that was a bit too low.

I'll really be concentrating on bowling full of a good length next time. Very few of our batsmen (if any) play off the front foot, and you rarely see anyone driving through the off side. So my new mission - full of a lenth, just outside off stump. Don't hold your breath though.

Kokoda

Just got back from watching Kokoda, as you would, today being ANZAC Day and all. I went in really wanting to like this movie, and the start was very good, the voice-over explained the situation and the opening scenes introduced us to the characters, though I really didn't like the opening "dream sequence".

Unfortunately I left the film feeling somewhat underwhelmed. There are only a few positives I can really take from the movie. The performances were great and the cinematography was at times brilliant, but there were many things that I didn't really like at all. The first was the hand-held camera. It just moved around too much, and even made me feel somewhat dizzy (first time a film had done this to me). The hand-held combined with lots of tight close ups just didn't work for me. Made the film very hard to follow, I actually had to take my eyes off the screen during the action scenes.

The characters were underdeveloped. I really didn't care what happened to them, partly because we didn't really get to know them, but more because this was just a few blokes who got seperated from the main body. This wasn't the battle that halted the Japanese, this was pretty much inconsequential for the war (though obviously not to the people involved).

I guess the main reason I'm dissapointed is that I was sort of expecting something as defining as Peter Wier's Galipoli (also about a small part of a large war). This film about an equally iconic piece of Australia's history somehow lacks the gravitas that the occasion demands. Kokoda is a commendable film, but that name carries with it high expectations, and I'm afraid to say, mine weren't met.

Oh, and a word of warning - if you didn't like The Thin Red Line and it's obsession with palm fronds waving in the air, this won't be your film. It manages to fit in a lot of waving palm fronds, spiders, centipedes and various other minutae in it's 90 minute run time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Fad?

I've got nothing interesting to write on my blog, so I'm gonna write an entry about other people not writing anything...

So what's the deal? Seems everyone on my blogroll only update their blogs once a month at best? OK so Chunga does a bit better... but the general trend is once a month or less. Has the whole blogging bus been and gone? Was 2004-2005 the year(s) of the blog (seems that's when the posts are concentrated.)

Maybe other people have a higher posting threshold. I tend to blather on about anything and everything. Others seem to only say somethying when there is something worth saying.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Great Escape Photos

Finally got around to putting some photos from The Great Escape up on the site. Only took the camera on the last day, so pics are only from then. Taking pics at a festival is really hard, the light at the main stage was very harsh and then the light at the indoor Songwriter's Sessions was very poor.. oh well, did my best.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Two Years

Yesterday (Easter Sunday) marks 2 years since my European Adventure began. Though it really still feels like only a few months ago. Except that in those two years I've had 2 jobs, moved to a new apartment, met some new friends, reunited with some old ones and done a heap of other shit.

Was talking with Chi about how time seems to just fly now... I don't know if I want it to fly so the New Zealand (and eventual UK) trip comes closer or if I want time to slow down so I can savour the moment...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Clare Bowditch Day (AKA Great Escape - Day 3)

So I was sort of jokingly calling Sunday "Clare Bowditch" day in my head. How little I knew!

The day started at 1330 when I set up camp (so-to-speak) in front of the main stage for Clare's show. She was out and about with Libby and the rest of the Set, getting their gear set up... There was a nice crowd building with a few folks standing up front and the rest of us sitting on the grass and enjoying the afternoon sun. She came out and got right into it, with a big smile and really looked like she was enjoying herself (everyone else was too). She even "borrowed" some sunscreen from "Jess" in the audience in the middle of the set.

Clare played a lot of the stuff from What Was Left including Little Self Centred Queen, Starry Picking Night, Lips Like Oranges, On This Side and even The Thing About Grief. There was plenty of singing along and clapping and a real nice vibe up on the stage and in the audience. Definately the highlight show of the festival for me. Oh, and can I say, Libby and Clare were looking absolutely gorgeous! (I know, people are prolly gonna get sick of my saying that, but hey, it's true!)

Right, back to the story. After being mesmerised by Clare and the Feeding Set, I went to catch a bit of Epicure. Once again, I was too uncomfortable in the Big Top (dust) so headed to the Bunker to grab a good spot for the APRA Songwriter's Sessions with Clare, Kevin from Jebediah and Mat from Decoder Ring. When I got there Clare and co were setting up and plugging in.. Anyways, the songwriter sessions were really good once again, not just to get an idea of how they write but also just to get into their headspace.

Clare, for instance says that writing songs is something she MUST do, else she doesn't quite feel right. Kevin said something along the same lines, but he says he comes up with a melody/chord progression first and then tries to fit lyrics to it, which he finds to be a lot of hard work. Decoder Ring obviously works very differently, usually with the lot of them working together to throw ideas into the mix.. It was a really fun session (even including an attempt at Guns 'n Roses Sweet Child of Mine!) and everyone was really getting into it. I actually had my camera with me and snapped a few pics, will put em up later.. tho don't know how many of them are actually worth publishing.

After that I managed to catch a bit of Josh Pyke (pretty good), Butterfly 9 (same) before heading out to the big stage for Berndard Fanning. Everyone was really pumped and I think Fanning delivered. Clare Bowditch Day continued as he got Clare up to sing backing vocals on one song.. :) Songbird and Wish You Well just went off! with the audience singing along nicely... afterwards caught a bit of the Mountain Goats (meh, only knew one song which was ok) and headed to see Bob "Kevin from Jebadiah" Evens at the Riverside Stage.

Bob Evans really surprised me. It was just him with a guitar and mouth organ, playing some really nice country rock songs. His singing and musicianship was lightyears ahead of the first Jeb album.. and he had a really nice presense on stage, chatting along with the small audience. (I don't know what it is with lead singers from rock bands going solo and doing country records, but I'm really looking forward to the next album from the Jebs and Powderfinger.)

At one stage Kevin mentioned doing the APRA Songwriter's Sessions, and said that was the most nervous he'd been in ages, suggesting that maybe it was because he got to sit next to Clare Bowditch.. "I think she even smiled at me" he said like little boy in love with some Godess... Of course who just happened to run in front of the stage at that moment? Clare of course!! She had been listening to the show from the back and decided to embarass Kev a bit... Poor Kev turned red as a beetroot and fell to the stage, maybe trying to dig his way out. Clare waved at the audience and ran off, and everyone continued to laugh at poor Kev. He finally recovered (took a few swigs of his JD and Coke) and started a song dedicated to his wife-to-be!! Poor guy.. I understand, I'd be speechless and nervous if I had to sit next to Clare for a hour too!

After that we (Xtn, Chi and myself) caught a bit of Donavon Frankenriter and headed over to the Big Top to see Decoder Ring. We only made it through 3 songs before the other two got bored - and I had a go at them not expanding their musical horizons :) - but I was tired as well, so we headed home.

All in all, it was a great festival. Only a few standout shows, well, only two actually. Clare on Sunday and Dobacaracol on Friday, but lots of decent stuff inbetween. The numbers were a bit thin though, the only really big crowd was for Silverchair, and the main stage never filled to that size again. I think the organisers took a bet each way with the lineup and lost.. I don't think they quite knew if it was a country/roots/blues/folk festival or an indie rock/elctronic/dance festival. A more focussed lineup (and concentrated into 2 days) probably would have been better, IMHO. Also, I think some acts like Sigur Ros and Silverchair were really out-of place in the festival. Oh well, there's always next year.. and Splendour is coming up again...

The Great Escape - Day 2

OK so Sat was prolly the least exciting day (line-up wise) for me. There weren't any real must-see gigs, so I went along with an open mind to try and catch as many acts as possible.

Everything kicked off with Eskimo Joe, who rocked as expected. Played a couple of tunes from Girl, but most of it was from the new CD that I didn't know... Since I had no particular act lined up next, I was thinking of seeing Endorphin, but he was playing at the Big Top which I was avoiding whenever possible becuase of the horrible dust that goes everywhere as people dance around.

I'll just make a note about the weather here. First, it was FREEZING!! Sunday night was worse then Sat and Friday, but all days were bloody cold. Second, it was really dry and dust was EVERYWHERE. Specially when people started dancing you could see a column of dust rising into the air... mix that with all the smoke and, urgh! Horrible. I was really hoping for some rain to put the dust down, but nah.. my first music festival in aaages where it didn't rain. I missed the rain.

I discovered that there was a thing called APRA Songwriter's Sessions where APRA got musicians to talk about their songwriting process. Today was Lindsay from Frenzal Rhomb and Lior. It was really entertaining and interesting stuff, even for non-songwriter-person like me. Good to hear that I'm not the only person who thinks Jet (and all the other "new rock" acts) are boring as batshit and just ripping off 70's rock. Lindsay got into the story of how tsuna-you, tsuna-me was written as well as how Frenzal generally write their stuff (Jay used to get off his face, but now he writes songs "on his face", apparently).

Anyways, after that I headed to the main stage to see Juan de Marcos' Afro Cuban Allstars, who went OFF! Absolutely mad energy, big horn section and infectious sound. They were followed by Femi Kuti who was also great to watch and listen. The whole big-band thing is very cool!

The last act of the night for me was The Black Keys. I had heard a few of their songs on the js, but was pretty dissapointed with their live act. Didn't really catch me.. JC and Xtn headed to see Paul Mac afterwards, and I headed home... it was a pretty good day, but I was already looking forward to Sunday, with all that Clare Bowditch goodness.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Great Escape - Day 1

The much anticipated day rolled around, and Xtn, Chi and I walked over to the armoury at about 1300. We saw Shuai in a long, long line and made fun of him.. thinking that our cool moshtix would let us right through. But no. Seems that people who pre-ordered tix had to join the long,long line and queue for an hour! Great frikken start that was!

Anyways, we caught the tail end of The Fumes, a two person punk rock band. They were going off! After that we took a stroll around the place and ran into Lucky and Thu, who were just there for the day..

We eventually wandered around to the Riverside stage to watch Arabesk (4 piece jazz band) do their schtick. They took about 45 minutes to set up (!!) but they were really good musicians. Quite liked their stuff. After that strolled off to see Hawksley Workman, a Canadian duo who were great fun..

From there I headed to my first "must see" gig, Dobacaracol. They also had problems with the sound at the Riverside stage, but finally got on at about 1700. When they got on stage the whole crowd was sitting down relaxing in the afternoon sun.. I was kinda expecting some nice folky, world music type set from them.. but nope.. They were straight into some pumped up African beats with heaps of precussion. Pretty soon the whole audience was on thier feet dancing madly away. I must say their live act really surprised me.. completely diff from their album, with all that mad energy and jumping around. They did do Baiser Sale pretty much like it's on the album, tho.

I fitted in Silverchair (meh, pissweak) and Martha Wainwright (really good, but sound problems again) afterwards, and heded to Sigur Ros. I had some pretty big reservations about Sigur Ros playing a place like this.. They were following on from Silverchar (and as pissweak as they are) Sigur Ros' energy and style is completely different. The crowd for SR was also a lot smaller than for the Chair, though I expected that.

I hyped up SR to the other boys (Xtn, Shuai and Chi)... tho I was pretty sure they wouldn't like the stuff.. SR opened with a white screen in front of the stage, with them being alternatively front and back lit.. it was a very cool effect... tho kinda confusing to watch. They did a couple of songs from Takk... and by that stage the other guys were bored and ready to leave.. :) They started up Svefn-g-englar and the guys stayed for that, but letft afterwards.

SR continued with some songs from Takk and (), but the style was definately changed.. faster tempo and the drums dominating the soundscape (the drumming was AWESOME, BTW.) Towards the end of the set they played Olsen Olsen which sounded lot more like the album version. Overall I really didn't connect with the live act. I went home and listened to ¡gÊtis byrjun again, just to make sure I wasn't just tried and cranky and somehow "missed" the music. Nope, ¡gÊtis byrjun is still as good as I remember it being.. just that SR don't quite fit in a rock festival. An opera house is probably more their thing.

Overall a pretty good day. Saturday is pretty slim for me.. not much to listen to.. I'm going to see Eskimo Joe and maybe catch the APRA Songwriter's sessions (with Clare Bowditch!).

Some pictures of the Sigur Ros show from my phone:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pieces of the Puzzle

Another piece just dropped. Or least solidified whilst reading Gorge Monbiot's blog.

It's pretty clear the that US attacked Iraq not for it's "weapons of mass destruction" but to secure it's oil for US companies... but considering the current state of the place it's hard to see how they can get any usable infrastructure up to export a useable quantity of oil. Despite that failure looks like they are saddling up for another brilliant move...

Iran obviously realised it's next on the hit-list. Not because it's a hotbed for terrorism, but because it has about 10% of the world's crude oild and a LOT of it's natural gas (from GlobalSecurity.) Of course this threat started Iran down the only path that will provide a deterrent against attack, which is nuclear weapons.

Of course the US happily seems to want to escalate this even further.

Confluence

First, a disclaimer. This is going to be a data dump, I haven't had time to really organise it into a coherent whole, but I'm hoping it makes some sort of sense.

I think we're at a turning point in modern history, but not a "point" as such, but more like the large turning circle of the QE 2. And I'm not the only one saying this, for sure. Only recently has the pieces really fallen in place in my own head.. maybe I'm just slow. After all, Kenneth Boulding did say "Anybody who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."

There is a confluence of many things happening now that will have a massive (and probably detrimental) effect on our lives. We're pretty sure that climate change - be it due to humans or not - is happening. Energy and commodity prices are skyrocketing. Corporations are making bigger and bigger profits and megacorporations are starting to dominate our economy. Globalisation has made the economy much more fluid and lead to the rise of the next superpowers, China and India. People's health (specially in the "Western World") is deteriorating rapidly - depression, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and ADHD are just some of the "lifestyle" diseases we're suffering.

What is clear is that all these problems are interlinked. Climate change is probably due to the massive amount of fossil fuels we are using to drive our economy. The economy is driven by markets which expect each year (and quarter) to produce higher profits than the previous one. This exponential growth in the market creates an exponential demand for resources (providing further impetus to climate change). The profit driven market sees everything including it's employees and the environment simply as another variable to maximise efficiency. The overstressed and depressed workforce finds solace in the only way it knows how - further material wealth. Which feeds back into the cycle.

Any engineer or scientist will know that a positive feedback cycle like this can't continue forever. Or even very long. We will hit some hard resource limits (be it natual resources, economic or human) sooner or later. Sooner, I think.

To be continued..

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Nuclear Option

An interesting and scary article from The New Yorker about the next possible target for the US Government - Iran.

It seems that the Government is even considering using "tactical" nuclear weapons to take out the Iranian's nuclear facilities. Obviously if the US attacks they will have to do so before Iran develops it's own nuclear weapons and targets Israel (not sure what sort of range their missiles have, but Israel would be the obvious target, followed by US bases in the rest of the Middle-East).

This is quite a worrying escalation of events. Specially with Bush apparently considering "freeing" Iran as his Presidential legacy. According to the article the officials at the Pentagon are so worried about the use of nuclear weapons that they have considered resigning their posts.

An attack on Iran could really be the turning point of modern history. As the article says, I don't think many of the 1.2 billion Muslims around the world will take kindly to Iran being attacked. This could escalate the current insurgent/terrorist threat to a new level...

Dangerous times indeed.

Vendetta

Saw V for Vendetta over the weekend. Despite my concerns of yet another classic comic being adopted for film, I was pleasently surprised. The story survived the transition to screenplay, and some of the scenes and locations were spot on (particularly liked V's "Bat Cave"). The performances from Portman, Weaving, John Hurt and Stephen Fry were brilliant. Stephen Fry in particular struck a chord as the only person in the film who was really hurting under the oppressive regime.

Looking at the film by itself and ignoring it's source material, I'd say it's pretty good. Certainly tried to cram into many ideas into it (specially Evie and V's backstory) but that I can generally forgive. The world was coherent enough for an action-oriented movie..

Still, if I look at it as an adaptation, it leaves a lot to be desired. The film is not dark enoug at all in it's depictions of a totalitarian state. The token modernisation of adding the Qua'ran to the list of banned items seems just tacky and over simplified. The ending also annoyed me on a number of counts but I won't go into that.. Oh and the tag line (which has got a lot of attention already) "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people" is just stupid. It makes V sound stupid.

In the end, it's a decent movie, but once again, could have been so much more.