Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Spring Super Stable Competition Returns

With the hopefuls for the Spring Racing Carnival due to start their campaigns in a week or so, the Spring Super Stable competition is now open for entries.

Naturally I am keen to compete again. It’s my favourite competition on the Racing & Sports website.

Members of the Racing & Sports message board run all the competitions and I am deeply grateful to them and also amazed that these people generously give their time to do this. It’s an unpaid task and can be quite complex to maintain.

A guy who goes by the tag The Shu runs the Super Stable competition. He’s been running this completion for years. If you’re interested in taking part the direct link to the Super Stable thread is here.
You will have to register on the Racing & Sports website as a member (it’s free) to participate.

All I can say to encourage you is that the super stable competition is great fun and the only prize is fame and glory. It also gives one a stable of horses to follow over the carnival.

I’ve selected my initial stable as follows:
APACHE CAT $117,500
EL SEGUNDO $399,000
HARADASUN $209,500

HERE DE ANGELS (3) $50,000
MURTAJILL (3) $53,000
MUSKET (3) $50,000
SEA CHANGE (M) $115,000

My total virtual outlay is $994,000 leaving me with $6000 from an opening virtual bank of $1 million.

The prices are set by the competition organiser (The Shu) and are based on the past years performances of the horses, i.e. if they have won at group level or not. The more group wins, the more expensive the horse.

Apache Cat and Haradasun will be competing against each other in the Bletchingly Stakes on 4th August so if one or other of them wins or places, my stable will be off to a good start.

Anyway, I’m looking forward with keen anticipation to the start of the spring racing season and it’s good that two of my favourite runners have early spring build-ups. The Bletchingly Stakes should be a ripper of a race. Will Apache Cat, who runs very well fresh, revenge his two defeats by Haradasun, or will Haradasun demonstrate just how good he is and win first up?

Also in early August, the first daughter of the great New Zealand mare Sunline will be having her second start. Her first start was a disaster. In a rough race, run on a very heavy track, she was poleaxed by other runners and almost knocked down. Her name is Sunstrike aand she appears to be a very attractive filly. Her mum was a great favourite of mine during her racing career, so I’m very interested in the careers of her progeny.

I’ll keep you posted on how my stable fares.

Monday, July 23, 2007

New Music Discovery

There is quite a story attached to my discovery of Ginja Roe, a young local female duo whose music I have only managed to track down in the past week.

I first heard their music at the Fred Eaglesmith show at the East Brunswick Club back in March. In between acts, the sound guy was playing a really ear catching CD of an unknown female singer. My friends and I were speculating on who it could possibly be, so I approached the sound guy and asked him. He was preoccupied and it was dark, so I didn’t catch the name of the artist or only came away with a vague impression of it. I spelt it as Chinja Roe on my notes. A subsequent search on the Internet came up blank. I even rang the East Brunswick Club and asked them. They spelled out the name and I wrote it down incorrectly as Ginger Roe. Still not right, obviously, as a Google search on that spelling proved unfruitful.

Finally, I found them after reading an article in the Age newspaper on a business enterprise called New Found Frequency. New Found Frequency technicians attend small venues and record the shows live. They have the means to be able to produce a CD of the show and offer multiple copies of it for sale to the audience before they leave the venue. An intriguing concept, I thought. I checked out their website and noticed they had recorded some shows at the East Brunswick Club and Ginja Roe – I recognised the name instantly – was on their books. A direct link led me to Ginja Roe’s website and I promptly sent off a cheque for their CD. A listen on their
My Space page, confirmed what my ears had heard before, these girls were something special.

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing them perform live at a gig in Fitzroy at the formerly infamous Rob Roy Hotel.

On walking into the venue I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Whiskeytown CD being played through the sound system. What good taste, I remarked to the friend who accompanied me. Whiskeytown is of course Ryan Adams former band and the CD was Whiskytown’s last hurrah, Pneumonia, which I had not listened to for ages.

Ginja Roe when they took the stage, were quite wonderful. The first artist on the schedule was a single artist, singer songwriter Carolyn Oates who was quite good but limited by her resources, the sameness of her songs and her serious attitude. Not a light set by any means, which showed up Ginja Roe’s assured and lively act to advantage.

Ginja Roe are Megan Doherty and Pamela Wouters who both hail from the outer suburban township of Pakenham. Meg is the songwriter of the duo and is the main singer. Her voice is amazing. Think Natalie Mains (Dixie Chicks) with an Aussie accent and you’ll get an idea. Pam takes the lead on occasions but mostly sings harmony vocals. She also has a very fine voice which when blended with Meg’s creates beautiful harmonies. Both girls play a variety of instruments, Meg on guitar and harmonica with Pam providing guitar support, drums and other tympanic effects. Together they make a big, bold sound to accompany their beautiful singing.

Not only was Ginja Roe’s performance good, Meg is no mean slouch at song writing. Their music is sort of alt country pop with catchy lyrics and engaging melodies. I was very impressed with their performance and am astounded that they are not all that well known. Yesterday there were only about four or five people watching the show (including me and my friend).

Check out Ginja Roe’s My Space page to listen to some of their music.

The above photo is one I snapped yesterday with my new Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ3 digital camera. I am rather disappointed with its performance in low light so will probably revert to my old Panasonic camera in those situations in future, as it appears to take a better, clearer picture in low light. I was attracted to the Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ3 because of its wide-angle lens and 10 X Optical Zoom feature. However the burst mode, which I generally use at concerts seems sluggish in action so you get more blurred than sharp pictures. Noise is also evident at full size. It is good for daylight shots and macros of small objects. I’m glad I didn’t dispose of the old Panasonic as it has always served me well and takes remarkably good photos in most situations.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Troy Cassar Daley at Northcote Social Club

Shane Howard at Northcote Social Club
Last night at the Northcote Social Club turned out to be a splendid night’s entertainment and Troy Cassar Daley, I discovered, is a great live artist.

Opening the show was none other than Shane Howard, the legendary singer songwriter of Goanna fame; Goanna was a very popular band in the 1980s.

Shane naturally played a couple of songs from his Goanna days, Razors Edge and Solid Rock. It was good to hear those songs again, as I haven’t heard them in ages. It’s amazing how you still remember the lyrics even after 25 years or so. Those songs were hits for Goanna back in the old days.

This was the first ever time I had seen Shane Howard perform, and even if he is a lot older these days, his sound has hardly changed. He has a pleasant singing voice and can play guitar with the best. A better than average opening act, he is pretty much a star in his own right.

Troy Cassar Daley is undoubtedly a star. It was amazing that he was doing a show at the small and intimate Northcote Social Club. Despite it being Monday night, and cold to boot, there was a reasonable crowd present, but not oppressively crushing. A great many of them were fans. Troy has won several Australian Country Music Awards. Judging by his performance last night, I’m not in the least surprised.

He had a small backing band, comprising a bass player, a drummer and a keyboardist. Together, they made great music. It was country rock more than anything. Troy has a fantastically good voice – he could sing the telephone book, as someone observed – it is attractive and note perfect. He can sing anything from rockers to ballads. The bass player and keyboardist both provided harmonies.

So, recalling my comment in the post below, I was indeed impressed with the showmanship and stage performance of Troy Cassar Daley. And the added treat of having Shane Howard as the opening act was an unforeseen bonus to an excellent night out.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Happy Now

After getting up half an hour early this morning and standing in the icy wind for an hour, waiting for the ticketing agency to open in a queue of one, i.e. me, I felt rather ridiculous to have arrived so early. But it was worth it. I managed to get the seats I was wanting – H row in the centre.

In case you’re wondering, this effort could only have been expended at the prospect of seeing my favourite artist, Ryan Adams, at a seated venue.

I’m over the moon with relief that I can now stop obsessing about it, and happy to have achieved my heart’s desire as far as seating goes. Ryan Adams had better put on a good show!

Buying tickets at an outlet is considerably less stressful than vying for them online. Being so early at the outlet and being first, the girl at the outlet counter was primed to hit the button as soon as tickets went on sale. Saved me all the anguish of doing it myself on my computer.

On Monday I’m going to a show at Northcote Social Club, a CD Launch for Troy Cassar Daley, a country music artist. I have free tickets, courtesy of Nu Country, so even if I’m not a great fan of the artist, it should at least be a good night’s free entertainment. Troy Cassar Daley is a well-known Australian country music star. He’s been around for quite some time and no doubt is a very good showman. I’ve never seen him perform before – there is every likelihood I will be impressed.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Day Fraught with Nerves

Yesterday, pre-sales tickets for the Ryan Adams concert in Melbourne in August went on sale. It’s hell trying to book a popular event over the Internet. The trouble is that this concert is at a reserved seating venue, the Palais, so one is at the whim of fate if one wants a good seat close to the stage. Good seats go in a flash, while one is still trying to work out the system. I gave up after not getting quite what I wanted. I will try my luck at an outlet on Friday when tickets for the general public go on sale. There will still be good seats available if one is fortunate enough to be first in line when the ticketing outlets open. Until then I shall be anxious, as I really want to go and have a good seat as well. I’ve heard from various people that often one can get better seats at an outlet as opposed to pre-sale opportunities. Let’s hope this is not a furphy.

Despite the trials of booking for reserved seating, I am really pleased that Ryan Adams is playing at a decent venue for a change. I love the Palais as a venue. It’s a grand old theatre in St Kilda, a beachside suburb. I have been fortunate enough to have seen some great acts there, such as the Dixie Chicks, Emmylou Harris and Doctor John. Mostly I’ve had good seats 7 rows from the front, the prime position for viewing and hearing a concert at the Palais.

The last time I saw Ryan Adams perform was two years ago at a general admission standing venue. It was pretty horrific – cramped, hot, and tiring what with having to stand for something like 5 hours straight. Still I thought it was worth it as the concert was excellent and I managed to get a position in the third row of people. My sole photo of that show is above.

Actually I don’t mind general admission as it is up to oneself to get to a venue in good time to grab a good position. I just hate being at the mercy of the vagaries of chance and having no control over the outcome. Trying to gain an advantage, by queuing an hour or so early and waiting for the ticketing office to open, is the only option. I’ll even get up an hour early just to be first in line.

So wish me luck – I’ll be obsessing about it all week, quite contrary to my usual sanguine temperament.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Recent Reading

Over the past week or so I've been reading a variety of different genre books.

I read The Bird of Kinship a fantasy trilogy by Richard Cowper, We, a distopian novel by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin and most recently, Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet.

The Bird of Kinship series is set in a post apocalypse Britain, where global warming has inundated Europe resulting in the formation of island kingdoms. The story centres around the legend of the martyrdom of young Thomas a talented piper and pupil of the wizard Morfedd, who has gifted the boy with a set of magical pipes, which when played, induce in the listener an enchantment that brings forth an overwhelming feeling of kinship with the land and towards other people. The phenomenon is represented by the image of white bird.

The growing cult of kinship is vigorously opposed by the established church who, after The Drowning (as it is known), along with a feudal aristicracy, control the remnants of society.

The three novels in the series present three different ages in the evolution of the new popular belief in kinship, and how the established church is overcome for all time.

Not a bad read at all.

Zamyatin's novel We is a distopian novel along the lines of 1984. The book was originally written in 1920 and its first publication was an English translation of the Russian novel. It is obvious that George Orwell was influenced by it.

In We, society is depicted as living in the One State. Individuality has been abnegated and each member of this society are known only as numbers. The story is told by D503 in the form of a diary. His encounter with a woman known as E330 disturbs his acceptance of the status quo, where each number (as individuals are called) live in the rigidly structured society, where each action of the day is performed in synchronicity with every other number. Freedom is anathema. D503's diary describes his fall from grace within the One State as he is drawn in to a rebellion through the seductive wiles of E330.

It is a highly original novel and is as chilling as 1984.

You Don't Love Me Yet was a complete change of pace. I read it this morning, so it is fresh in my mind. I've been a fan of Jonathan Lethem's novels for years and each one has been quite different from its predecessors. His first novel Gun With Occasional Music is a bizarre science fiction cum hard boiled detective novel, Amnesia Moon is an equally odd road novel. Motherless Brooklyn is perhaps his most extraordinary novel in that it is a murder mystery narrated by a character who suffers from Tourette's Syndrome.
The opening lines of the novel say it all:

"Context is everything. Dress me up and see. I'm a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in tongues, a senator drunk on filibuster. I've got Tourette's."

Motherless Brooklyn is a veritable firecracker of a novel. It is marvellously well sustained through the explosive voice of Lionel Essrog the tourettic hero. I highly recommend it as a most unusual reading experience.

This latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet, is possibly Lethem's most straightforward novel yet. That's not to say that it is lacking charm - it is a very engaging novel. It is a love story, and as with many of Lethem's novels explores popular culture, in this case a rock n roll band.

Peter Wild at Bookmunch has a great review here.