Thursday, December 30, 2010

Presents Everywhere

Christmas may have come and gone, but due to the post office my Christmas keeps continuing.  The box of presents from my parents finally arrived on Wednesday, chock full of little surprises including lots of excellent kitchen gadgets, See's Candies, local calendars, and a personalised Christmas stocking and ornament.  Then today I picked up a box from the post office from my aunt, which included a festive blouse and a hand sewn apron from my cousin Leilani.  The apron may be my favorite gift ever- it's so cute!  I can't wait to wear it while baking, but that will be well after all the See's Candies is gone from my cupboard.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays

Since I was not going to fly home for the holidays, Clinton invited me to join his family's celebrations this weekend in Rosebud, which is about an hour and half south-east of Melbourne.  The boys picked me up and we drove down around noon on Christmas Day.  His family were very welcoming and even had little Christmas presents for me (which was nice because my presents from home are currently MIA and likely stuck in customs).  I brought some snowball cookies to contribute to the meal and a bottle of wine, which turned out to a favorite of Clinton's father.

The weather was warm but not too hot and the backyard tables were festively decorated.  Various family members stopped in and joined the celebrations throughout the afternoon.  We had so much food to eat starting with chips, dip, cheese and crackers.  We then had prawns, barbecue steak, sausage, shish kebabs, coleslaw and potato salad.  On top of all this food Clinton's brother, who is a bartender, was mixing drinks and made sangria as well as various fruit daiquiris.  After digesting the late afternoon lunch we ate Clinton's pavlova and my cookies for dessert.  There were lots of funny stories about growing up in Rosebud and we played a few games.  It was a nice evening.

Today we woke up to some rain, but it managed to clear by early afternoon.  Since I haven't ever explored the Mornington Peninsula before, Clinton's parents took us for a bit of a drive around the area.  We started with a walk in Arthurs Seat State Park with its great views of Port Phillip Bay and the Seawinds Garden, which contains several sculptures by William Ricketts.  The chairlift to the summit isn't working, but Clinton, Kevin and I took a picture on "Arthurs Seat."  We next drove down to Point Nepean Road and through the various seaside towns on the way to Sorrento to visit Clinton's brother, who was working.  We took a walk along the front beach and out onto one of the piers.  After some fish and chips at the restaurant we headed back to Rosebud and then packed up the car for the drive back to Melbourne.  It was such a lovely weekend and a great way to spend the Christmas holiday.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oprah-mania

Oprah Winfrey and 300 of her lucky audience members are currently in Australia as part of Oprah's Ultimate Australian Adventure.  The media countdown to her arrival in Melbourne has been intense, and this afternoon she appeared at Federation Square along with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu to greet the thousands of fans who turned out to see her.  I was going to go down there but I had my work Christmas lunch on at the same time and didn't make it.  Clinton and Kevin were there and they said it was amazing.  You can watch Oprah's speech here.  The next stop on the trip is Sydney, where she will be taping her shows at the Sydney Opera House early next week.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Locusts!

Victoria's worst locust plague in 70 years has reached Melbourne in the past couple days due to the warm weather.  I spotted my first one walking to the train station this morning.  Thankfully they are not swarming in the city like they are in other parts of the state.  We had a lot of rain today, so I am hoping that has washed many of them away.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Melbourne Victory vs. Brisbane Roar

After drinks to celebrate surviving the first week of the new government, Chantal, Amrita, Justin and I headed into Chinatown for dinner at Ants Bistro.  Justin goes there frequently enough that they were pouring him his beer by the time we sat down at the table.  It was a good and filling meal and I'll probably go there again.

Justin and I then left and headed to AAMI Park to watch Melbourne Victory take on top of the table A-League team the Brisbane Roar.  This was my first time attending a professional soccer match, and the atmosphere was quite entertaining.  On the north and south ends of the grounds behind the goals are the hard core fans who chant and sing (and sometimes throw flares) during the match.  Justin is a mad soccer (or football) fan and was explaining the nuances of the game to me throughout the evening.

The first half was a bit of a disappointment as Brisbane ended up scoring two goals.  However, Melbourne fought back in the second half, scoring three straight goals and had the lead going into stoppage time.  In the last minute of the match Brisbane's goal keeper appeared to pick up the ball outside of the box, which wasn't called by the officials.  The ball then made it's way down the field and Brisbane ended up scoring a goal off a rebound from the Melbourne goal keeper in the dying seconds to bring the match to a 3-3 draw.  The crowd was not impressed and the officials were booed off the ground.  Even though it was a heartbreaking draw, the match was very exciting, especially in the second half.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The New Premier

Yesterday afternoon John Brumby conceded the election to the Coalition, which means Ted Baillieu is now the 46th Premier of Victoria.  It will be interesting to see how much things change in government, especially since Labor has been in power for the past 11 years.  We are still awaiting confirmation on who the Ministers will be, as well as the appointment of a new Secretary for our Department.  I do hope though that we don't have to endure daily photos of Baillieu out for his morning swim.

Monday, November 29, 2010

J Awards 2010

The J Awards (from radio station Triple J) were announced today and my faves Boy & Bear won Unearthed Artist of the Year.  Very exciting stuff and well deserved.  Here they are performing an acoustic version of "Blood to Gold" in New York City.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Washing Machines and Apartments Don't Mix

Once again I have had an incident with a neighbor and their washing machine causing chaos.  The previous times have unfortunately been with the people who live above me, which meant I had water coming through my ceiling along the beam when their machine has overflowed.  Last night however it was the people across the hall from me.  While they were out (it always happens when they go out) their washing machine broke mid-cycle, with the door opening and water coming out for a couple hours.

I first noticed a bit of a wet spot on the carpet by my door, and when I opened it the entire hallway was soaked.  Other neighboring units also had water seeping in.  We ended up shutting off their water, but I had a very soggy portion of carpet.  When they did finally get home they were horrified, especially since they were leaving for India in the morning for two months!  Thankfully they organized to have someone come today to remove all the water from the carpets and dry them.  I now get the great pleasure of having an industrial strength fan blowing in my unit 24/7 for the next two days.  It's so loud I can't really watch tv.  So the lesson here to any renter is never leave your apartment while you are doing laundry, because it will be the one time when things go horribly wrong.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Victorian State Election

Today was the Victorian State Election, and as expected it was a very tight race.  There has been a huge swing against Labor and it looks like the Coalition will take control of the government, since they are only one seat away from the magic number of 45 in the Lower House.  However, nearly 30% of people voted either by postal vote or at an early voting centre, and those votes won't be counted until Monday.  As a result, it looks like we will wait and see how a few of these marginal seats fall. 

Unfortunately the Greens did not do as well as expected, and Labor retained all of the four Melbourne inner city seats (partially a result of the Greens not getting Liberal preferences).  One of the two Ministers for my Department lost her seat, and if the Coalition wins, we will have two new Education Ministers and some brand new policies to implement.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and family.  Hopefully you are not in a food coma at this moment.  Besides giving thanks and gorging ourselves with food, there is also the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.  They have giant character balloons, marching bands and various floats.  I saw the parade in person when I was in New York in 1998.  It was raining and we had boy band 98 Degrees and Kenny Rodgers.  The mix of celebrities on floats in the parade this year was an interesting one, and included Jessica Simpson, Kylie Minogue, and Kanye West.  I have no idea why Kanye chose to perform in the parade, but here he is singing a bit of "Lost in the World."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Teachers Want

Occasionally for work I attend seminars on workforce reform issues, and tonight I went to one hosted by the Victorian Institute of Teaching on teacher evaluation.  The guest speaker was Dr. Ben Jensen, Program Director for school education at the Grattan Institute.  He spoke about the report What Teachers Want: Better Teacher Management, which was released in May 2010 and utilized the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) of teachers and their principals.

Key findings were that teacher evaluation and development does not identify effective or quality teaching, is not linked to career advancement, and does not address ineffective teachers.  The report shows that teachers want meaningful evaluation and development and not something that is just an administrative exercise.  Since the event was hosted by VIT I was expecting some tough questions from the audience, but everyone seemed to be in agreement with the report's findings.  If you are interesting in reading more Grattan Institute educational research, check out their latest report Investing In Our Teachers, Investing In Our Economy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Early Voting

The Victorian state election is on Saturday.  Since voting is compulsory in Australia they offer early voting options such as postal votes or going to an early voting centre, which I did today at lunch time.  This is actually the first time I have ever voted in person at a polling booth as I always do absentee ballots in the US.

The voting process is different than I am used to because there are two different ballots- a small ballot paper for the Lower House, and a large one for the Upper House.  Also, since it is preferential voting, instead of filling in a bubble next to a name you actually number the candidates in order of preference.  For the Lower House this is easy because of the small number of candidates, but for the Upper House there are numerous people running for office.  This is why there are two ways to vote on that ballot- above the line, where you vote for a party (and then get their set preferences) or below the line, where you can number each candidate in the order you choose.  To make my life easier, I voted above the line.  The whole process was pretty painless, and now that I have voted, I can relax on Saturday and not have to wait in line in what is forecast to be rainy weather.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Myer Christmas Windows

Every year the Christmas decorations seem to appear earlier and earlier.  Australia does not have the buffers of Halloween or Thanksgiving to keep things under control, so the official launch for all Christmas activities here is the start of November (although I saw decorations up in October).

For the past 55 years Myer has created Christmas windows based on a certain theme at their store in Bourke Street Mall, and this year the focus is The Nutcracker.  The windows attract huge crowds and I often pass a line of people waiting to see the display when I walk through the mall on my way home.  All the windows have sound and animation, with Santa narrating the story of The Nutcracker in each window this year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Middle Management, Here I Come

In exciting news I got the secondment to the manager position I interviewed for!  Starting on Thursday I will be the acting manager until February 2011.  The other good news is that Chantal has come back to the branch and will be working with me.  It's just like old times.

Hopefully, however, this doesn't happen to me:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sarah Vowell on Thanksgiving

In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I would share this audio clip of Sarah Vowell, one of my favorite authors due to her mixing of American history and pop culture.  This was taken from a 2007 live tour for NPR's This American Life where Sarah spoke on the topic "What I Learned From Television."

Part One:


Part Two:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner

Tonight I hosted my second Thanksgiving dinner here in Australia.  Even though I am now an Aussie I was instructed that this would be one American tradition that I need to maintain.  For the past few days I have been busy cleaning my place, shopping for food, and last night I baked a pumpkin pie.

Unfortunately a few people who were invited couldn't make it, but that was okay in the end because it meant that everyone fit at the table.  Also, those who came contributed a dish to the evening, which was nice.  Chantal brought some cheese and dips for appetizers, Ruth and Danny the salad (and a couple chairs to fill out the table), and Clinton and Kevin brought a homemade apple pie.  I was responsible for the main dishes, which were turkey, stuffing, green beans, and mashed potatoes.  The stuffing in particular came out quite well.

After digesting dinner we each had a slice of both the pumpkin and apple pies, and were then all completely full.  It was quite a fun evening filled with of lots of conversation, and time flew by because when I looked at the clock it was after 11 pm all of a sudden.  Thanks to everyone for coming and hopefully we'll do it again next year.  Good luck to all my American friends and family who are cooking and celebrating for the real date this Thursday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Australian TV Shows

There are quite a few good Australian tv shows that have aired this year, and the key player in their creation is Southern Star John Edwards Productions.  John Edwards has a fantastic track record from producing such award winning tv shows as The Secret Life of Us and Love My Way.  His latest crop are also quite good- usually hour long dramas with well written and interesting characters (and often with many of the same excellent actors involved).  If you can find these shows I strongly encourage you to check them out.  Below is a synopsis of what each one is about.

Tangle (Showcase)
Tangle is about two generations of two families — sometimes connecting, sometimes colliding, sometimes at cross-purposes — as they navigate their way around the maze of love, sex, money and politics.

Spirited (W)
A drama/comedy/romance starring Claudia Karvan as Suzy Darling, a dentist who has moved so single-mindedly through life that she has not stopped to smell the roses. When she walks away from what has become a loveless marriage and moves into an old apartment block, Suzy encounters the ghost of '80s rock star Henry Mallet. It is a blackly funny exploration of love, death and life.

Rush (Ten)
Rush is a contemporary action drama series set in a critical incident police unit; providing an insider's view of police under pressure. Our heroes are a mobile squad trained to be smarter, tactically superior and technologically advantaged.

Offspring (Ten)
Offspring is a contemporary drama series about Nina Proudman, a thirty-something obstetrician and her fabulously messy family. It is about the life forces that drive us all: love, sex, babies, food and music. Stylistically fresh and visually exciting, Offspring mixes conventional narrative drama with flashbacks, graphic animation and fantasy sequences.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gotye- Eyes Wide Open

Today I bought tickets for Gotye's first live show in three years.  Thankfully Wally is doing some theatre dates in January before the Laneway Festival.  He has recently released the single "Eyes Wide Open" off of his upcoming album.  It's a song with a strong message about the destruction of the environment, and has an amazing video to go along with it.  I really like the main refrain of the song "We walk the plank with our eyes wide open," which you can interpret in a couple ways.  One being the obvious that we are willingly ruining our planet and doing nothing about it.  But taking that line outside the meaning of the song, I see it as being brave and defiant- walking the plank with eyes wide open, and not being scared about what will happen to you.


Gotye- Eyes Wide Open from Gotye on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bring on the Royal Wedding

Prince William and Kate Middleton announced they are engaged to be married today.  He proposed using his mother's engagement ring, which I thought was a nice touch.  This wedding is going to be a massive worldwide event when it occurs next year.  I can only imagine how many billions of people will be watching on tv.  From reports they want a low-key wedding with friends and family.  I'm not sure if they will get their wish, but hopefully it doesn't become a complete circus and they can enjoy their special day together like any other couple.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

State Election Campaign

The Victorian state election is on Saturday, November 27th.  The caretaker period started on November 2nd, and unlike in the US, campaigns here only last about four weeks.  This week both major parties officially launched their campaigns (I don't quite understand why this happens two weeks into the process).  The Liberals, led by Ted Baillieu have the slogan "Fix the problems. Build the future." while the ALP, lead by John Brumby have the slogan "Strong leadership for the times ahead." 

The ALP have been in power for the last 11 years, so the question is can they win re-election again?  Things were looking quite shaky as there is a huge challenge for the Melbourne inner city seats by the Greens, and many people thought we would have another hung parliament, with a Labor/Greens coalition likely to form government.  However, on Monday the Liberals decided to put the Greens last in their preferences, which has seriously hurt the Greens chances of getting seats in the Lower House.  There is still a week and a half to go, so we will have to wait and see what happens.  At least I get to have a voice in this election.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sydney- Shopping

Yesterday Mel and I took a drive out to the outlet stores at Birkenhead Point for some shopping.  They have three levels in the outlet centre and we went in to most of the stores there.  I have been looking for new sandals and found a great pair in Diana Ferrari.  When I took them to the cash register, the lady said that I got lucky because I picked up one of the mislabeled boxes which had the price $20 cheaper than it should have been- and she sold them to me for that price.  Score!

We found a place in the food court that served Turkish gozleme, so we had that for lunch and it was delicious.  After some more shopping we had run out of stores to go to so we headed back into the city to relax at Mel's place before I had to leave for the airport.  For the second time this trip I was swabbed for explosives at security.  I had a lovely time in Sydney and it was nice to get away for the weekend.  The weather contrast could not be more different as Sydney was hot and Melbourne was rainy and cold when I arrived in the evening.  Now it's time to head back to reality for the start of another work week.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sydney- Bronte Beach and Fireworks

Yesterday after having brunch at a local cafe Mel and I caught the bus to Bronte Beach.  The weather in Sydney was hot and we went to Bronte because it was less crowded than Bondi would have been.  We started on the beach and took turns going into the water.  The current and waves are really strong so keeping my feet was a bit of a challenge at times.  Even though I was slathered in sunblock I knew it was only a matter of time before I started to get a sunburn, so after a bit we went over to the salt water lap pool on the other side of the beach where there was some shade.  The pool was nice and occasionally a wave would crash over the wall.  We next headed to the grassy park area and lounged for a while, watching the action on the beach.

After a few hours at the beach we went back to Mel's place to shower and clean up.  We then walked down to Darling Harbour for dinner, eating at Asian restaurant Wagamama.  Post dinner we grabbed a spot along the harbour to watch the free fireworks show.  I've never been that close to them before, so it was great to see them explode and fill up the sky.  Since it had been such a long day we caught the train home and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hungry Kids of Hungary- Escapades Tour

I flew into Sydney yesterday afternoon and took the train into the city to meet up with Mel.  We walked back to her lovely art deco apartment building in Potts Point/Kings Cross so I could drop off my bag and have a quick change before heading back out.  After meeting up with a friend of hers we headed to The Factory Theatre in Marrickville to see Hungry Kids of Hungary.  The venue was interesting with this outdoor lounging area before you head upstairs into the bandroom.  Since this was an all ages show, the front of stage area was dominated by some very enthusiastic teenagers, while those of us over 18 were in a raised bar area in the other half of the room.

When we arrived we caught the second half of the set for fellow Brisbane band Ball Park Music.  They are a very young six piece with a heap of energy.  I found them quite entertaining and their single "iFly" was a big hit with the crowd.  The lead singer even did some crowd surfing during the song.  Next up was Melbourne two piece Big Scary, who I saw earlier in the year opening for Little Red.  I enjoyed their set, which was primarily their heavier songs on guitar and drums including "The Apple Song" and "Tuesday Is Rent Day."  On the heavier numbers they still remind me of The White Stripes.  They did also play two of their quieter songs on piano and drums in the set- "Autumn" and "Falling Away."

Hungry Kids of Hungary came out to big cheers from the nearly sold out crowd, starting with "The Vacationer" and then launching into "Wristwatch."  On this tour for their debut album Escapades they have added another guitarist to the band to fill out the sound.  I thought the band had great energy on stage and fed off the crowd's enthusiasm.  "Let You Down" and "Scattered Diamonds" got a huge response. I was also really happy to hear "China Will Wait," "Set It Right," and old favorites "Arrest This Heart" and "Old "Money."  They closed the main set with current single "Coming Around" and then for the encore brought out both opening bands to do a cover of Weezer's "Buddy Holly" and finished with "Two Stones."  It was probably one of the best shows I have seen them do.

Here is the video for "Coming Around"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Job Interviews

The one great thing about getting an ongoing job earlier this year was that I did not have to do job interviews anymore.  They are definitely my least favorite part of the application process, especially when I've had these horribly long hour and half ones with an activity (usually writing a briefing).  I'm just not that good at interviewing, especially when the panel is all people you know or work with.  It's a bit hard to sell yourself and your accomplishments when they see what you do on a daily basis.

I have, however, dressed up nicely today to interview for a two month secondment to a manager position in my Branch, which is covering for my manager who is going on holidays over December and January.  The interview process this time was a little less stressful as it was an informal conversation for 20 minutes.  I felt that I did well answering their questions and emphasizing my strengths.  Hopefully I'll be given the opportunity to do the role- will hear a result sometime next week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Double the Passports, Double the Fun

I am now officially a dual citizen since I received my Australian passport yesterday.  Did you know that you are not allowed to smile in Aussie passport photos?  No one can really explain to me why this is the case.  Having my new passport means that I can finally leave the country again.  I won't be needing it tomorrow though because I am only traveling up to Sydney.  It should be nice to have a weekend excursion and visit my friend Mel.  I will also escape another weekend of thunderstorms in Melbourne and the inevitable flooding of my street that will follow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fitness

I have been going to Virgin Active Health Club for over a year now and still enjoy it.  I have a good mix of group exercise classes that I attend, and usually am there 3-4 days per week.  I do kickboxing and spin for cardio, Body Pump for weights, and Pilates and Body Balance for mind/body.  The instructors are all great and quite nice.  I've been particularly enjoying the kickboxing class because the instructor we've had for the past few months actually comes up with her own routines, which are much closer to what I was used to in the States.

I have also just recently started to keep a food and exercise diary.  I found a fantastic free app for my iPhone called MyFitnessPal (they also have a website you can use).  You start out by entering in details about yourself, what kind of weight goal you have and how much you would like to lose each week.  It then calculates how many calories you should eat in a day.  So many foods and brands are already in their database that it is easy to accurately put in what you are eating and drinking. Since it keeps a record of what you have previously listed,  most times it's just a matter of moving things across for each meal.

The MyFitnessPal site is also good because you not only enter in food but also your exercise.  It takes both into consideration when calculating your net calories and how many you have remaining for the day.  In addition, it also gives you a nutritional breakdown summary each day, so you can see if you are meeting your targets there as well.  I have found the data interesting because on days where I have exercise classes I usually have a lot of calories left over, but when I'm not exercising it's either even or a bit over my goal.  Also, having a food diary really keeps you honest, and when you see that a small cookie has the same calories as an apple, it makes you reconsider heading for the cookie jar for an afternoon sugar hit at work.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Conan's Back!

I am so excited that Conan is finally back on the air in late night.  His show may have moved to basic cable on TBS, but I'm sure it will be just as funny as his stints on Late Night and The Tonight Show.  The only downside for me is that his show is airing on an HD channel in Australia, and I don't have HD.  Therefore, I am hoping that the majority of each episode will be uploaded onto the show's website so I can watch it.  I've been a fan since 1993- can't miss the show now!

Here's the cold opening from his first night:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Hillary Clinton's Australian Visit

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been in Melbourne for the past couple days holding meetings with various Australian politicians as well as Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  Her visit culminated today with the annual Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) meeting, the principal forum for bilateral consultations between US and Australian defense and foreign policy leaders.  They discussed a wide range of global, regional and bilateral issues.

Yesterday she held a town hall style meeting at the University of Melbourne with young Australians, which was broadcast on the ABC.  Titled Hillary Rodham Clinton: An Australian Conversation it was interesting to watch and hear her answers on a wide variety of topics.  You can watch the hour long program here (although I'm not sure if it will work outside Australia).

Sunday, November 07, 2010

2010 ARIA Awards

Tonight was the 2010 ARIA Awards, which were held outside at the Sydney Opera House.  They have done things differently this year by announcing the winners of various music genre awards during the week and saving the 10 main awards for the tv broadcast.  The show began with the last ever live tv performance from retiring rock band Powderfinger.  The nominees this year reflected the new crop of Australian artists that are emerging onto the music scene.  Live performances included album of the year nominees Sia, Birds of Tokyo, Washington, and Angus and Julia Stone as well as old favorites like John Butler Trio and INXS.  Carrying on the strange tradition of needing "international celebrities" as presenters at Australian award shows, this year they flew out Carmen Electra and Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family.  The multiple winners on the night were The Temper Trap, Powderfinger, Washington, and Angus and Julia Stone, who won both single and album of the year.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Crowded House- Intriguer Tour

Last night after viewing Kevin's exhibition I headed down to Rod Laver Arena for the sole Melbourne date of Crowded House's Australian tour in support of their latest album Intriguer.  I had the best tickets I have ever had in my life for this concert- front row and center.  The opening act for the evening was the lovely Oh Mercy.  They started with "Hold Out Your Hand" and played other unreleased songs in their set including "Confessions," "On The Run" and "Stay Please Stay."  It was good to hear "In My Stride," "Broken Ears," "Lay Everything On Me" and "Keith St," which has just been released as an EP.  They closed their set with "Get You Back" and seemed to get a good reception from the building crowd.  It's such great exposure for them to be on this tour and I hope they gain some new fans along the way.


Crowded House took to the stage and started with "I Feel Possessed" and then launched into "When You Come."  The whole set was a fairly even mix of songs from all their albums.  Neil and Nick were in good humor and had amusing banter going on throughout the night.  I thought the tracks from Intriguer really stood out- "Amsterdam," "Either Side of the World," "Archer's Arrows" and "Isolation."  Of the older songs I was very happy they played "Whispers and Moans," "Love You 'Til The Day I Die," and "Locked Out."  The majority of the crowd stayed seated for most of the show, except for the two people next to me and some girl behind us who decided to jump over their chairs and stand up front with them.  This was my one annoyance during the night as she occasionally obscured my excellent view at times (I should have called security on her).  Everyone on the floor did eventually get up for "It's Only Natural" and stayed standing throughout the encore.

As expected at a Crowdies gig, some songs took unexpected turns.  In the middle of "Private Universe" Neil started to sing a snippet of "Black and White Boy."  During the encore, "Weather With You" became an epic medley with them covering portions of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax," Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing," and Mark Hart doing Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Born on the Bayou."  Some people in the crowd started to sing "Mean to Me" and the band picked it up in the second verse and completed the song.  The final number of their over two hour set was "Better Be Home Soon."  It was good to finally see them live again after two years and hopefully Melbourne won't have to wait so long for a return visit.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Kevin Chin- Playing House

Tonight I went to the closing night and catalogue launch for Kevin Chin's art show Playing House at The West Wing in Melbourne Central.  The blurb for the show says it all:
What happens when you combine the First Home Owners Grant, TV home makeover shows, and a clueless couple of the Ikea generation undertaking their first home renovation?  Playing House offers a whimsical look at how rising housing prices and the domestic blitz craze affect a generation that refuses to grow up.
The show covers Kevin and Clinton's renovations of their unit through photos, paintings and other pieces, including a life size vinyl laminate bear rug and "panic room" made up of thousands of different colored paint card samples.  I liked how Kevin interspersed photos of their renovations with ones of Clinton's baking, which added to the theme of home.  It was good to finally see the show and celebrate the launch of a catalogue of Kevin's work.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

San Francisco Giants Parade

It is days like today that I wish I was home.  I think the entire Bay Area turned out for the San Francisco Giants parade down Market Street to City Hall to celebrate their being the 2010 World Series champions.  The crowd estimates are that over 1 million people were there!  It was the first World Series title for the Giants since the team moved from New York to San Francisco 52 years ago.  I had been eagerly following the playoff games online at work and at home and cheering them on from half way around the world.  It's so exciting for The City that the Giants have finally won the big one.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

US Midterm Election

Today was the midterm election in the United States, where all of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate were up for election.  Considering the state of the economy, any party in power was going to get pounded, and that was the case for the Democrats.  There has been a huge swing of at least 60 seats to the Republicans in the House, but at least they did not gain control of the Senate, with the Democrats holding a very slim majority.  The Tea Party candidates also had mixed success, with both Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle not winning their races (thank God).  In California, Barbara Boxer retained her Senate seat and Jerry Brown is once again the Governor (he was first Governor when I was born!).

In The Age this weekend there was a great article by Simon Mann called "Divided states of America" which explained the current state of play in the US.  There is a shift underway that is especially squeezing the middle class.  According to CNN's Fareed Zakaria, ''[Americans] fear that we are in the midst not of a cyclical downturn but a structural shift, one that poses huge new challenges to the average American job, pressures the average American wage and endangers the average American Dream.'' 

This, along with a widening inequality in the US, is leading to a lot of the fear that is currently going on.  Robert Reich, a former member of President Clinton's cabinet views it this way:
"What we get from widening inequality is not only a more fragile economy but also an angrier politics... When virtually all the gains from growth go to a small minority at the top - and the broad middle class can no longer pretend it's richer than it is by using homes as collateral for deepening indebtedness - the result is deep-seated anxiety and frustration.  This is an open invitation to demagogues who misconnect the dots and direct the anger toward immigrants, the poor, foreign nations, big government, 'socialists', 'intellectual elites', or even big business and Wall Street.''

Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution sees the collapse of opportunity for the working and middle class as the core issue.  "Mass unemployment, underemployment, entire industries down-sizing with no particular hope of recovery … And so, the atmosphere of anxiety I think is rooted in the fact that people don't have a clear understanding of what the success story is for the next decade, either for the country or for themselves personally."

So what is the solution?  According to Galston, "Unless [people] have some increased confidence that somebody does understand the path to a better future and is prepared to put the country on course to move down that path, our political system is going to be very unstable and characterised by resentment, rejection and mistrust.''  With a gridlocked government, will anything get done over the next two years?  Only time will tell.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Melbourne Cup

Today was the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation and allows those of us living in Melbourne to have a public holiday.  The weather for the Spring Racing Carnival has not been too kind this year, with all the big racing days so far having rain, including today.  So You Think was the big favorite going into the Emirates Melbourne Cup, but it was won by Americain, with Maluckyday finishing second and So You Think coming in third.  If only I had listened to my instincts and placed a bet on Americain!

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Basics- Live Album Tour

The last couple of nights I have been at the Northcote Social Club to see The Basics play shows in support of their recent live album /ðə'bæzɪtʃ/, which you can download for free here.

October 30
After having a lovely dinner at Ruth and Danny's place we headed over to Northcote for the gig.  Mary and a couple of her friends met us there.  I had a brief chat with Kris at the merch desk before Georgia Fair began to play.  Their alt-country set was very good and I liked a lot of their songs.  One I recognized was "Picture Frames," which was used for a Big M milk ad.

The Basics played a rocking and tight set of primarily old material.  They started off with "Yeah, Yeah" and then did pretty much the entire first half of the Stand Out/Fit In album.  Michael Hubbard, their original guitarist, joined them for some songs from their first album Get Back (including the rarely played "Sound Off") as well as some covers, including The Kinks "All Day and All of the Night," and the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin".  The only recent stuff played was "With This Ship" and a brand new song called "So Hard For You."  The banter was amusing throughout the night, especially since Tim was on cold medication.  Wally's voice was really strong and he sounded and played great.

October 31
Tash came down from Ballarat to attend this show.  We had dinner at the venue, where Mary joined us before heading into the bandroom.  The stage was all decked out in cobwebs and spiders since this was a Halloween show.  Georgia Fair once again played support and did a good job.

The Basics came out onto the stage in costume, with Wally dressed as priest, Kris as a monk, and Tim with some black lines drawn onto his face (perhaps he didn't get the costume memo?).  They started off the night with our favorite song from Keep Your Friends Close "The No. 1 Cause of Death Amongst Youth Today."  This show was a bit of a contrast to last night because it was very loose and a bit all over the shop since Kris appeared to have had a lot to drink.  The hour and a half set was a mix of Basics songs and covers, with Dave Bramble joining them on keyboards throughout the night.  From The Basics catalogue the highlights were "Lookin' Over My Shoulder," "Like A Brother," "U R The 1," and "Feels Like Love."  Covers included The Cramps "Garbageman," Neil Young's "Old Man," The Police's "Roxanne," and New Kids on the Block's "You Got It (The Right Stuff)." 

The banter throughout the night was quite funny but there were some dark undertones to what was being said and you could sense a bit of tension between the band members.  The encore was an epic medley of Henry Nilsson's "Lime in the Coconut" interlaced with "All Day and All of the Night," "Gimme Some Lovin'," and "Lovin' Man."  Sadly this will be the last time we see The Basics live for a while as Wally is about to embark on promoting a new Gotye album.  Hopefully they will pop out of hibernation to play a show here and there over the next year, otherwise I guess we will be seeking out each band member's solo projects.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Little Red- Midnight Remember Tour

Last night I went to the Forum Theatre to see the sold out first night of Little Red's Midnight Remember tour.  The opening act for the evening was New Zealand native Kimbra, who I saw a couple years ago when she first moved to Melbourne.  She has gone from a singer/songwriter to more of a jazz-soul chanteuse, looking much more glamorous these days.  Although she has a full band now, she still does samples of her vocals and loops them into the songs. Besides playing her own material she also did a cover of Prince's "I Wanna Be Your Lover" in her set.

Next up was Sydney band Sparkadia, who I missed seeing on their last album tour and have been wanting to catch live for a couple years now.  They have been on a bit of hiatus, but are now back and about to release a new album.  Their set consisted of songs from Postcards as well as a few new ones.  It was so great to hear "Too Much To Do," "Morning Light," and "Animals."  The new songs are pretty amazing as well, with the audience singing along to the chorus of "Mary" and their new single "Talking Like I'm Falling Downstairs."  They closed the set with "Jealousy."

It continues to amaze me how popular Little Red have become.  Each time they play in Melbourne they are in a bigger venue and selling it out.  They opened the night with one of my favorites, "Lazy Boy."  For these shows at the Forum they had a horn section along, which really adds so much to the songs.  Dom, Quang and Tom alternated lead vocal duties throughout the night, playing songs from both Listen to Little Red and Midnight Remember.  Taka added his usual flair by wearing a fantastic white suit and standing up on his drum kit to get the audience to clap along.  Highlights of the night were "Get a Life," "Slow Motion," "Forget About Your Man," "Witchdoctor," "Jackie Cooper," "She's Not The Only One" and "It's Alright."

The crowd for the show was interesting to watch, because they really did not seem to know any of the album songs except ones that were singles.  I wonder if the success of "Rock It" is what brought most people to the gig as that was one of the few songs to get a massive reaction.  It's a bit of a shift from previous shows where everyone in the crowd has been singing and dancing along to every number.  For the encore they started slowly with "Follow You There" and then picked it up to another level with "Coca Cola."  The last song of the night was my other favorite, the fabulous "Misty, I."

Here's the video for the latest single, "Slow Motion"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Boy & Bear- Blood to Gold Tour

Tonight I headed over to The East Brunswick Club for the second of three sold out shows by Boy & Bear.  The first opening act for the evening was Passenger, aka UK singer/songwriter Mike Rosenberg.  He was great to watch and listen to, with both funny and moving folk songs played on acoustic guitar.  His latest album Flight of the Crow has him collaborating with assorted Australian artists, including Boy & Bear, who came out and joined him to sing "Shape of Love" without mics from the middle of the floor.  He did a fantastic cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" and had the crowd singing along at the end of his set to "Holes."  Next up was Perth alternative band The Chemist.  They had the song title of the night with "Heaven's Got a Dress Code."  Highlights of their set included the songs "Lullaby #1" and "When the Morning Comes."

It's exciting to see the word spreading about Boy & Bear and how popular they have become.  They opened with "The Storm" and then went into their latest single "Blood to Gold."  The set was a mix of songs from With Emperor Antarctica and new ones they have written, which are these amazing, epic numbers.  All of the bands came onto the stage to sing a cover of Bon Iver's "Flume."  Other highlights of the night were "Rabbit Song" and "Mexican Mavis" with its extended intro.  I absolutely love this band and their harmonies are just so beautiful and uplifting that you can't help but walk away feeling inspired after seeing them perform.

Here's the video for "Blood to Gold"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Adam Lambert- Glam Nation Tour

Tonight I was at the Palais Theatre in St. Kilda (amazingly the first time I've ever been there) for the first stop of Adam Lambert's sold out Australian Glam Nation tour.  Earlier this year very few people would have known who he was, but his promo visit in March really did the trick so far as radio is concerned and he's had a couple top five hits on the Australian charts.

This show was originally a general admission concert at The Palace, but it got moved to a bigger, all ages venue when it sold out within a couple weeks.  The Palais Theatre is seated, and while I would have preferred it to remain a general admission gig, I couldn't really complain about the fact I got allocated a seat in the eighth row on the side.  I had an excellent view!  The opening act for the evening was Sydney-based singer songwriter Morgan Joanel.  She played a good half hour set on acoustic guitar and used a loop petal to overlay instrument and vocal samples into her songs.  She even did a cover of Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop the Music."

When Adam finally took the stage the whole floor section was standing up and cheering.  He started off with a medley of "Voodoo," "For Your Entertainment," and "Down The Rabbit Hole"  (I would have loved to hear full versions of all three songs!)  as well as a teaser of "Ring of Fire," which he performed on American Idol.  The show is set up as a musical journey and the set list doesn't really change from night to night.  "Fever" really got the crowd pumping (especially the kiss with bass player Tommy) before the set moved into the acoustic section of the evening.  Absolute highlights were "Soaked" and "Broken Open."  The final more rock section of the night included fantastic renditions of "Sure Fire Winners," "Strut," and "Music Again."  Probably my favorite song off the album, "If I Had You" finished up the main set and had everyone dancing and singing along.  The band returned for just one encore, "Mad World," which was performed much closer to the tempo of the original Tears For Fears version.  It was a bit of an odd way to end the concert as I would have expected them to play at least one more song.  In any case, I still can't believe I actually saw Adam in person.  His voice is amazing live and he and his dancers and band put on a great show.  Hopefully he will return to play in Melbourne again, and actually get to spend more than a day in my fair city.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nicole Turns Aussie

Tonight I completed the final step to becoming an Australian citizen- the citizenship ceremony.  I arrived early at Coburg Town Hall to register and was then shown to my seat, which was in the front row.  They had some musicians playing beforehand and then got everyone to be seated in order to start.  The Mayor of Moreland City Council, Cr Stella Kariofyllidis presided over the ceremony.  We had a keynote speech by Melanie Raymond, the Chair of the Board of Youth Projects, and also remarks from the Federal Member for Wills, Kelvin Thompson MP.  I'm not sure if doing a political speech about sustainability and population control at a citizenship ceremony was the best move on his part.

After the speeches it was time to stand and recite the pledge:
From this time forward,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.
Then the Mayor presented each candidate with their certificate and an Australian native plant.  My crew of friends (Ruth, Danny, Michelle, Tash, Mary and Elvira) gave a big cheer when my name was called, which made the Mayor comment that I must have a fan club.  After everyone had received their certificates we sang the national anthem and then the ceremony was finished.  Danny grabbed my camera and started taking photos of everyone.  I was very appreciative of people coming to watch, especially Michelle and Tash who drove down from Ballarat in the rain.  We said goodbye to Elvira and then headed out to dinner at Baba on Lygon Street to celebrate.  It doesn't yet feel like I'm an Australian citizen, but I'm sure it will sink in over the next few days.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh Mercy- Melbourne Music Festival

Today is the last day of the Melbourne Music festival so I headed into the city to watch Oh Mercy play at the closing concert in City Square.  As always it was great to see them and we got a mix of old and new songs in their 45 minute set.  Of the new ones I really liked "Confessions," and as always it was good to hear "Broken Ears," "Get You Back" and "Lay Everything On Me."  Alex did a brief and amusingly awkward interview with Dave O'Neil after they finished playing.  The exciting news for the band is that they will be the opening act for Crowded House's Australian tour in November.  I look forward to cheering them on from front and center at Rod Laver Arena.

Here is the new video for "Keith St"

Friday, October 08, 2010

Melbourne On Stage

Today I spent my lunchtime at City Square watching the free Melbourne On Stage musical performances, which were part of the Melbourne Music festival.  We got to see a medley of songs performed by the cast of Hairspray The Musical, an aria sung by Emily Wang from the upcoming Melbourne Opera production of Madame Butterfly, assorted songs from past musicals sung by music theatre students from the Victorian College of the Arts, and the cast of Mary Poppins- The Musical singing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."  All the performances were really amazing and highlighted the quality of theater productions that come through town.  There was also a running theme of So You Think You Can Dance Australia throughout the hour with judges Jason Coleman (choreographer of Hairspray) and Matt Lee (Mary Poppins), as well as Season 1 winner Jack Chambers (Hairspray) all up on the stage.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Frowning Clouds- Melbourne Music Festival

After work today I headed down to City Square on Swanston Street to see The Frowning Clouds play a free show as part of the Melbourne Music festival.  The festival is running from 29 September - 10 October and provides the opportunity to see acts from different musical genres at various venues around the city (and mostly for free).  It is a true showcase of what the Melbourne music scene has to offer.

It has been a while since I've seen the The Frowning Clouds play live, and their set was filled with songs from their debut album Listen Closelier, which I finally managed to pick up a copy of after the show.  Highlights of the set were "Purple Heart," "Snake Charmer," and "I Saw You."  It was fun to see a band playing outside in the middle of the city with people and trams going by in the background.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Five Year Anniversary

Today is the five year anniversary of my arrival in Australia. It certainly doesn't seem like it's been that long since I first moved here. I feel very settled in Melbourne, and in ten days I will officially become an Australian as my citizenship ceremony is on October 12th. It will be great to have an Aussie passport and be able to leave the country again.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Domino Effect

I have been debating for a while whether or not to get an Apple iPhone, but with the release of the iPhone 4 in August I finally decided to take the plunge. I ordered the phone a couple weeks ago, and it arrived on Monday. However, getting the iPhone 4 has had a bit of a domino effect:
1. My previous mobile was on a pre-paid plan, so getting the iPhone meant finding a cap plan that would allow me to make international calls. As a result, I have switched mobile phone carriers.
2. The iPhone 4 requires your computer to have the latest Mac operating system in order to sync it. My nearly 5 year old PowerBook G4 unfortunately couldn't run the latest OS due to it not having an Intel chip. Therefore, I needed to buy a new laptop. I am now the proud owner of a shiny new MacBook Pro. It's really great and has a much bigger hard drive than my old one. In addition, I am no longer worried about my computer dying on me.
3. Going onto a mobile cap plan made me examine the need to keep my landline. Since my home phone plan was bundled with my internet account, I started looking around at plans offered by assorted internet providers. I found a fantastic deal that bundled a home phone and ADSL 2+ plan for less than what I'm currently paying for just the internet. As a result, I'm switching to a new internet provider (and able to keep my home phone line as well).

Despite all these changes, I am enjoying having new toys to play with. I am loving my new laptop and manged to successfully migrate all my files over (including, most importantly, my iTunes library). The iPhone 4 is pretty great as well, and it's like having a mini-computer with you at all times. I'm still figuring out how to use it, but I have installed a few apps, the best of which are the Melbourne public transport ones which will prove to be very useful.

The only downside so far occurred when I bought my laptop a few weeks ago. I purchased it at My Mac on Flinders Street, which proved to be a really bad decision because they are totally dodgy and completely ripped me off. In order to get the $300 education discount in their store I was told I needed to buy Apple Care. I thought the guy said it cost $79, so I agreed to it. It wasn't until I got back to the office and had a close look at the receipt that I discovered the price was actually $579.

When I realised the mistake and tried to return the Apple Care, they first told me I couldn't because they had already registered the software. I rang Apple and they told me that was incorrect, and that I could return it as long as it wasn't opened. So I went back to the store and argued with them and got them to take it back for a refund. However, the small print on their receipt (which I only received after paying for everything) says that if you "change your mind" they charge a 20% restocking fee. At the end of the day I lost the education discount and ended up having to pay an extra $115. I was so disgusted with the store that I wanted to return the laptop too, but again I would have been hit with the 20% restocking fee. The whole experience was really traumatic and took away the joy I initially had about getting a new computer. Consumer protection laws in Australia suck and Apple really should not have these guys as authorised resellers of their products. If you are in Australia tell everyone you know NEVER to shop at a My Mac store.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Essendon Coach

The Essendon Football Club announced today that former great James Hird will be the new coach of the club. He replaces Matthew Knights, who was fired a few weeks ago after what was possibly the club's worst season in 40 years. While Hird has no AFL coaching experience, he will help reunite the various factions in the club and shore up the fan base that has been unhappy over this past season. Hirdy will have a lot of work to do to bring the club back to its former glory, but we have a good list of young players who will only get better in the coming years. And with a four year contract, hopefully the club and the board will be patient and give him time to improve the team.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hipsters are the new Emos

A couple funny videos have popped up recently mocking indie hipsters, which must mean that hipsters have become the new emos. First up is a UK one called "Being a Dickhead's Cool" by The Grand Spectacular.


And not to be left out, Melbourne comedian The Bedroom Philosopher (aka Justin Heazelwood) has the song "Northcote (So Hungover)" from his album Songs from the 86 Tram.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tim Burton: The Exhibition

After work Clinton and I headed down to ACMI in Fed Square to see Tim Burton: The Exhibition. It charts works from his early years growing up in Burbank through to the movie Alice in Wonderland. Here's the blurb for the show:
Curated in direct collaboration with Burton, the exhibition brings together over 700 works, including paintings, drawings, puppets, costumes, storyboards and film. Discover the elements of gothic fantasy, dark humour and motifs that characterise Burton's work as director, concept artist, illustrator and photographer.

It amazing how much of his artistic style was already developed from an early age. I had no idea he had a background as an animator, even working for Disney out of art school. There were costumes, artifacts, storyboards and clips from his films, as well as some sculptures he has done. One of my favorite things in the exhibition though was his 1982 film Vincent.


If you are in Melbourne, the exhibition is on until October 10th.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Australia Finally has a Prime Minister

Julia Gillard was officially sworn in today by Governor-General Quentin Bryce as Australia's first elected female Prime Minister. The federal election took place on August 21st but neither Labor nor the Coalition got the required 76 seats in the House of Representatives to form government. As a result, Australia had its first hung parliament since 1940. Since both parties were stuck on 72 seats, it all came down to which party the six elected Independent and Green MPs would side with to get them over the line. After 17 days the final 3 Independent MPs announced their preferences, and Labor got the two final seats that they needed to form a minority government. It will be interesting to see how Gillard holds together this bare majority and gets her policy agenda through the legislative process. The results will also make things interesting for the Victorian state election in November. Will Labor lose even more inner-city Melbourne seats to the Green Party? Could there be another hung parliament?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oh Mercy- Keith St. 7" Single Launch

Tonight Tash and I met up at The Toff in Town for the launch of Oh Mercy's new 7" single "Keith St." The two opening acts were lead singers from up and coming Melbourne bands: Geoff O'Connor of Crayon Fields and Kieran Ryan of Kid Sam. Geoff played his set on electric guitar with a sampler, while Kieran's set was all on acoustic guitar. It was good to see them both play for the first time after hearing positive things about their respective bands.

Oh Mercy started the night with "Lay Everything on Me" and then segued into "Seemed Like a Good Idea." Their set consisted mostly of new material from their upcoming album, which will be out in early 2011. It was nice to get a sneak preview and hear what they have been working on, including the new single "Keith St." A few of the songs really stood out on first listen, and Eliza even sang lead on one song called "Doldrums." We also got some of my favorites like "Broken Ears" and "In My Stride," and they finished their set with "Get You Back." The only downside of the evening was the fact that guitarist Thomas Savage has gone MIA. For some reason he is no longer touring with the band, which is a bit of a worry as he and Alex are such a great songwriting partnership. I would hate it if he has left the band.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ruth and Danny's Wedding

Yesterday was Ruth and Danny's "Dutchnamese" wedding day. They started the morning with a traditional Vietnamese ceremony with both families, and then had the wedding in the afternoon at St. Margaret Mary's Church in Brunswick. It was a joyous ceremony and the priest's homily about them was quite funny. I hitched a ride with people over to the reception at Abbotsford Convent, and while they took photos we killed time in a cafe and then a small bar.

At 6pm the reception officially started with hors d'oeuvres and drinks in the courtyard. We then headed inside and sat down for the eight course Vietnamese seafood banquet which included oysters, scallops, lobster, abalone, and trout. In between the courses we had speeches, the cutting of the cake and first dance, which Danny and Ruth had a refresher swing dancing lesson for. After all that food we managed to hit the dance floor during the last hour of the reception. It was a great night and I am sure they will have a long and happy marriage.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hungry Kids of Hungary- Shady Haze of Winter Tour

Last night Tash, Mary and I met up at the East Brunswick Club for Hungry Kids of Hungary's Shady Haze of Winter tour. After eating dinner in the bar we headed for the bandroom to catch the first act, Auckland's Artisan Guns, who were good. Next up was Sydney band The Holidays, who Tash and I last saw a couple years ago. They entered the stage to Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" complete with lights flashing along to the beat (quite funny). Their set consisted entirely of new songs off their upcoming debut album Post Paradise, which I thought was a brave choice. The standout track for me was "6am."

Hungry Kids of Hungary hit the stage to big cheers from the crowd. They opened the night with "Set It Right." This was their first sold out show in Melbourne, which was exciting. The set list consisted of a few new songs, but was mostly all of their released material. "Wristwatch," "Scattered Diamonds" and "Let You Down" had the audience singing along and it was also good to hear some rarely played songs such as "Arrest This Heart" and "One By One." The encore saw an invasion of about 20 members of the crowd onto the stage for "Lenny" and "Good Times." It was another fun show by the Hungry Kids, and I can't wait for the release of their debut album Escapades on October 1st.

Here's the video for their latest single "Wristwatch"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Music Video Star

I got an interesting message from Mary yesterday alerting me to the fact that she, Tash and I appear in The Basics latest video for "Better." This was filmed at the last night of their Northcote Social Club residency in June, and is the first single off their new live album /ðə'bæzɪtʃ/, which is available now for free download.


Amazingly, this is not my first appearance in a music video. I am also in the Crowded House video for "It's Only Natural" in a crowd shot from a free show they played in Golden Gate Park in 1991 at the 2:22 minute mark (center of front row, black top). Blink and you'll miss me!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ruth's Hen Night

Last night was Ruth's hen (or bachelorette) night. It was thankfully a very civilized affair. We started at Ruth's place around 4pm for the "triangles of wisdom" craft activity where everyone created a colorful triangle with some words of wisdom that were then strung together to create a banner. Next we headed out to dinner at the Turkish and Middle Eastern inspired restaurant Baba on Lygon Street in East Brunswick. For $35 per person we got a massive amount of food off the three course food safari banquet, which ranged from dips to assorted vegetables dishes and a lamb roast claypot. It was all very good and we had heaps of food left over.

After dinner we discovered a cute little bar a few doors down from the restaurant called Eydie's. We found a nice quiet spot at the back near a fake fireplace and had a couple of drinks before heading for home. Next Saturday is the wedding, so it was nice to meet and chat with Ruth's family and friends before the big day.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Visiting Schools

Over the last week and a half I have been able to escape the office and visit schools to do some filming. We are putting together a short DVD to show what a wider workforce in schools looks like and try to get away from the image of one teacher in front of 25 students in a classroom. We went to schools in the eastern and northern suburbs, as well as Ballarat. All these schools are using a variety of staff with different expertise to work in teams with students. Some of the schools also have built brand new open learning spaces using state and federal funding. It was good to get back into a school environment, and one school in particular with open learning spaces and teams of teachers made me even consider wanting to return to teaching. Now the fun will be editing down the massive amount of footage we have into 10 minutes. We probably have enough material to make several clips on different topics.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mamasita

One of the biggest things I miss from home is Mexican food, and trying to find a decent Mexican restaurant in Australia has been a struggle. A few months ago I heard about a new restaurant opening in the former space of the Recorded Music Salon on Collins Street called Mamasita. I have been wanting to try it out and today Clinton, Jonathan and I headed over there for lunch. We got seats at the bar and started off with chips and salsa. The salsa had that smokey flavor that I love and the chips were made fresh (not from some cheap kilo tortilla chips bag like most places).

Next we shared a tostada tasting board with four tostadidas each of the de Maiz (sweet corn, black beans, epazote & jalapeno salsa, queso fresco) and de Pescado (market fish with lime, guacamole, nasturtiums & serrano chili). They both tasted fresh and delicious. For my main I ordered three de Pescado tacos (soft corn tortillas with grilled fish with lime, achiote paste & red onion salsa) which were absolutely amazing and had the most fantastic flavors. I also had bites of Jonathan and Clinton's food and it was great as well. Every dish I tasted just made me happier and excited to have finally found a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Melbourne. I can't wait to go back and try out more dishes on the menu.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Return to endota spa

Tonight I treated myself to an hour and a half of bliss at endota spa. I had received a gift certificate from endota around my birthday for a free 30 minute facial with any hour-long treatment. Since it was about to expire in a few weeks I finally made an appointment to go. I started off the evening with the scrub and glow body treatment. It began with a billabong footbath, then a body scrub with essential oils, salts and organic herbs. After washing off the salts she applied the lilly pilly moisturiser. Next I had the organic endota facial, which involved cleansing my skin, putting on a mask, a scalp massage, and then moisturising my face. I felt great after the treatments were finished and it was such a relaxing process having all these things massaged into my skin, which has never felt so soft and smooth.
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