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


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.
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