Monday, January 30, 2006

Big Day Out

Yesterday was the Melbourne stop for Big Day Out. Big Day Out is an annual concert festival that travels the country, and was originally inspired by Lollapalooza. There is a mix of international and local acts on the bill and it's just one big day of music. I met up with Will and Helen along Sydney Road and we took the tram for a quick ride down to Princes Park South in North Carlton, where the show was happening this year. Thankfully the line moved quickly and we were inside around noon.

So many acts are scheduled on the eight stages throughout the day that you have to plan out who you want to see. Inevitably, there are conflicts and hard choices to make. There is no down time on the main stages because once one band finishes, the next band plays on the adjoining stage. This gives the crews time to set up for the next act. The main area on site was the Orange and Blue Stages. The other big place to see acts was the Green Stage and Converse Essential Stage, which were side by side under a tent.

We wandered around the grounds, caught a bit of Gerling's set on the Orange Stage, and then went to see Sarah Blasko on the Green Stage. Next was Cut Copy, who were very entertaining with their mix of pop and dance music. At 3:00 p.m. is was time for Wolfmother on the Blue Stage. Wolfmother are the Aussie band of the moment with their 70s inspired classic rock and extended jams. One of my favorite lines of the day was when lead singer Andrew Stockdale asked the crowd, "Are you ready to go to a new dimension?" They closed with their big hit "Mind's Eye" and if you are in the States, they are doing some shows in February, so go check them out. The next band we went to see was The Go! Team from the UK. They were another dance/pop band and had the crowd going at the Green Stage.

After taking a little break and eating some food, it was time to settle into place at the Blue and Orange Stages for the rest of the evening. We chose the Orange Stage side because the big screen allowed us to see what was going on much better. First big act of the evening was The Living End, and they rocked as usual. Chris played "Waltzing Matilda" on the guitar and the crowd sang along. Next up was Franz Ferdinand, who were excellent. Helen and I had a good dance to all their hits, and it was great to finally see them live. I love the whole look and attitude of the band, and their videos are never dull and have a great sense of humor to them.

Then is was time for Iggy and the Stooges. The Stooges are the godfathers of punk rock, having put out records in the late 60s and early 70s. Iggy Pop has been releasing solo albums since then, but the Stooges have reformed in the last couple years and have been touring. Their set was relentless and insane. Iggy is amazing to watch. Half way through the set he invited people to come up on stage from the crowd and sing and dance along. Iggy also went down to the barricades and almost surfed the crowd a couple of times. Henry Rollins was watching it all from side of stage and loving every minute.

The final act of the night was The White Stripes, another band I love that I had never seen live before. It was a ripping set of songs taken from the last few albums, as well as their cover of "Jolene." Jack White was amazing to watch as he went from guitar to piano and sung into the multiple microphones placed around the stage. Meg White even sang a couple of songs too, which was great. There's a definite intensity watching the two of them perform together as they communicate with each other through the music. Jack is also such a fantastic musician. I love that their crew is required to dress in suits and hats- it's a well dressed entourage.

After The White Stripes finished Helen and I headed over to meet Will, who was dancing to 2manydjs in the Boiler Room. We stayed outside because it was so hot in the tent. Helen ran into her brother, and around 11 p.m. we headed for home. Despite the sunburn, (and I did have on a lot of sunblock) it was a magical day of music and worth every penny.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day. It's sort of like the 4th of July, but instead of celebrating independence (because, you know, they haven't ditched the monarchy here yet), it marks the day on January 26, 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip took formal possession of the colony of New South Wales and became its first Governor. The only equivalent day in America would be Columbus Day, and if you know the history around that day, you can imagine how Australia Day is perceived by the Indigenous population here. Jackie Huggins, Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia, has the following personal thoughts on the day:
It's a day of reflection and mourning, a time to think about what the invasion of their country meant for my ancestors, and on the terrible suffering that continues for many Indigenous Australians. It wouldn't make any difference if the date of Australia Day changed - this is what the day represents for me.
Some articles/opinion pieces to read about Australia Day:
Christopher Bantick "The Old Australia Day-ja-vu"
Michael Leunig "A Picture of Innocence"
Karen Kissane "Latest Outfit Flags a Trend in Patriotism"
Stuart Rintoul "Come Let Us Rejoice"

I spent my Australia Day catching the first season of the award winning Aussie drama "Love My Way." It stars Claudia Karvan, who was in the show "The Secret Life of Us." I was really impressed by "Love My Way"- very well written and the acting is superb. They are about to start the second season here, which is why they had an all-day marathon. There aren't that many quality Aussie dramas on tv, and this one is on pay cable. The first season is coming out on DVD, so if you can, check it out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My CD Binge

From time to time my music wish list gets too long, and I have to do something about it. As a result, I've been ordering CDs online and I went a little crazy at JB Hi-Fi today:

Friday, January 20, 2006

Afternoon in the City

Today I met up with Adrian for lunch in Carlton. We went and had pizza at Cafe Corretto on Lygon Street. Now, one of the amusing things about eating on Lygon Street is the absolute obsession with Formula 1 racing, and Ferrari and Michael Schumacher in particular. I've walked past shops in the area that have posters for shoes or pasta that are endorsed by Michael Schumacher. It's bizarre. Our restaurant had Ferrari memorabilia all over the place, including the shell of a Ferrari Formula 1 car hanging from the ceiling. In honor of this, I chose to eat the Ferrari pizza, which was quite good. It had cheese, tomatoes, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives. Adrian went with the American pizza- it had salami, and I'm not sure why that makes it "American." After eating lunch we walked down the street to get some gelati at Casa Del Gelato. I had a chocolate and lemon mixture, which was yummy. We headed back towards Melbourne Uni trying to eat the gelati faster than it was melting. I said goodbye to Adrian (he had to go back to work) and headed into the City.

I finally decided to get private health and apartment contents insurance from HBA. We do have government funded health insurance in Australia (Medicare), but it does not cover dental or optical. Having private insurance means that you get these "extras" and can avoid government surcharges and waiting lists for needed medical treatments. The Federal Government does rebate 30% of the costs as an incentive. I went with a medium level of cover hospital plan and basic level of cover for extras. It's good that you can pick a choose what you want. The only bummer is having to pay out of pocket for a higher level of health care that would be standard in the States with employer provided health insurance.

It was a hot and sticky day today. We reached at top of 37 degrees C/98 degrees F. As I headed home the sky was turning very dark. Right now it is absolutely pouring rain and cooling down a bit- yay for the thunderstorms! It's still meant to be very hot this weekend though (especially Sunday). Hopefully I'll survive.

Monday, January 16, 2006

DVD Screening

Tonight I was lucky enough to attend the screening of "How to Make an Album and Influence People," which documents the making of The Living End's new album "State of Emergency" (out February 4th). The screening took place in a small theater at the Victoria College of the Arts on St. Kilda Road. It was great to watch the process of how this album was made. JT, the director, followed the boys from pre-production and demos to the recording and mixing of the album with producer Nick Launay. Interspersed throughout the film were interviews with Chris (guitar/vocals), Scott (bass), and Andy (drums), and some live concert footage of them trying out songs before going into the studio. After the screening they held a Q&A session with JT, Andy, and Scott. I got to ask them a question about how their disappointment with the last album influenced their decision making going into recording the new album. It got a fairly thoughtful and insightful response from Scott and Andy, which was cool. After the Q&A the boys signed autographs and took pictures with fans. I had a brief chat with Andy, as I had met him before in San Francisco on the Aussie Invasion tour in 2004 (he even remembered me). He was kind of shocked when I told him that I'm living in Melbourne now. Unfortunately our chat was cut short since the guys had to leave. If you are interested in seeing the documentary, it will be released as a bonus DVD with the limited edition version of "State of Emergency."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Good News, Bad News, Good News

Good News: My shipment finally arrived today! I rang up the removalists in Sydney on Tuesday, and they told me that my stuff had been freighted by rail down to Melbourne and should have arrived on December 30th. Keep in mind I had no idea it had cleared customs since they never called. So I rang their Melbourne office and sure enough, it was there, and I scheduled delivery for today. If I hadn't called them, I wonder how much longer my stuff would be sitting in their warehouse... In any case, I've opened about a third of it, and no broken glass so far. Big thanks to Lynne for her help with packing and cushioning all the picture frames. I haven't done the kitchen stuff yet, so we'll see if all the glasses and dishes made it intact (one box looks a bit dodgy). Only bummer is that my box of files with all of my school worksheets, etc. has gone missing. They better find it. Update: Only one broken glass in the entire shipment!

Bad News: Yesterday my iBook decided it was time to die. I did have slight warning on Tuesday when all these lines started to appear on the screen, but I was able to shut down and reboot, and everything was fine- so I thought. On Wednesday morning when I went to open up my laptop I was faced with a black screen. I thought it was just the screen that had died, but it turns out that the logic board was fried and there was a real possibility I would not see anything on my hard drive ever again. However...

Good News: My wonderful and talented friend Ben was able to rescue all my stuff off the hard drive! It took some time, but the iBook had a glimmer of life and he was able to get everything- Thank God. This is a reminder that you should always back up your data. At least I had my address book on my iPod in case things didn't turn out ok. So how am I typing this message, you ask? Well, I am the proud owner of a brand new 15" PowerBook G4 that I got for about half of what it would have cost me, thanks again to Ben, who got me a ridiculous deal. I am forever indebted!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Zoo Twilights

Tonight I went to the Melbourne Zoo for the first night of their Zoo Twilights concert series. Vika and Linda were performing. Michelle and I met up with Donna and her friends. It was a bit of a Medley Hall reunion because Adrian was there- he lived in the room across the hall from me. Adrian has just finished his PhD in physics and will be moving to Los Angeles in July to work at UCLA. Everyone brought some food, so we had a picnic on the grass, along with hundreds of other people and families. It was a fun night of music and we could hear the lions as we left the zoo.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year's Greetings

While I sweated my way into the new year (it was 43 degrees C/109 degrees F on New Year's Eve), my family and friends in the Bay Area had to deal with torrential downpours and flooding. I hope you made it into 2006 in one piece! A new year allows you to step back, take stock, and start fresh. Resolutions or goals help you to focus on what you want to accomplish, and writing them down is one way to make sure they happen and keep yourself honest. So here are my goals for 2006:

1. Find a Job
The job hunt so far has been unsuccessful. Each school does its own hiring, so when I see postings I apply for the position. There have only been a couple of postings for government school jobs, and I'm hoping that will be changing soon as people return from holidays and start getting ready for the new school year at the end of this month. I have applied to quite a few Catholic schools, but since I am not accredited to teach religious education, I think that has hurt my chances of getting hired. I would really like to have a permanent classroom position for the start of the school year, but if all else fails, I will substitute teach through an agency. This would allow me to get to know some local schools and more than likely result in a permanent job. At least they pay substitutes twice the amount I would get in the States.

2. Finish Decorating my Apartment
There are still some small little things I would like to get. I also need to rescue my belongings, which have been stuck in customs and quarantine in Sydney since the ship docked on November 18th. All my posters, photos, and picture frames are in there, along with my dishes and pots and pans. I know there were big computer issues at the docks a few months ago, but I would have thought they had straightened it all out by now. Time for another call to the removalists who are handling my stuff.

3. Have a Consistent Exercise Schedule
I have been a member of the YMCA Brunswick City Baths since I moved in to my place. They have a great schedule of exercise classes to choose from and are just a short walk down the road. I usually go 3 - 4 times a week, but I would like to get more consistent and make it there 5 - 6 times a week. I already do Body Pump (weights) and RPM (cycling), but I want to add in kickboxing and yoga on a regular basis.

4. Better Communication with Friends
Moving half way around the world can make it difficult to stay in touch with people. You get busy with the day to day events and pretty soon it becomes weeks since you last spoke with someone. I really want to make the effort to stay in contact with my friends and family. This blog lets you know what I am up to, but without e-mail or phone calls, the conversations get lost. I want to do a better job of corresponding, so I promise to respond back in a timely fashion. And don't be afraid to write to me- I love hearing what people are up to. As for my Aussie friends, I should be seeing and talking to you more frequently than I currently do. We are finally living in the same city together (well, most of you are at least), so let's do something fun.

I hope you and your family have a fantastic 2006! Maybe I've inspired you to write your own list of goals for the new year.
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