Friday, November 30, 2007

Sunny Melbourne Country Blues

Shannon Bourne & Kerri Simpson - Basement Discs - 30/11/07

On this pleasant sunny Melbourne afternoon, I took the opportunity to wander down to the Basement Discs for yet another in-store.

Today it was Kerri Simpson, who has been around the Melbourne music scene for something like 20 years. This was the first time I had seen Kerri perform as far as I remember, but she is a well known artist in blues and gospel circles, having one of those great singing voices that suit those genres down to the ground. She can however sing anything and performs all types of roots music.

Kerri Simpson

However, today she was promoting her latest CD Maybe By Midnight a tribute to alt country music. Accompanying her was guitarist Shannon Bourne who is regarded as one of the best guitarists in Australia. This was amply demonstrated today where his playing practically eclipsed the supposed feature artist.

It was an enjoyable half hour of music, the penultimate in-store for the year. Next week Canadian singer songwriter Oh Susanna plays the last show for the year. She is quite wonderful and has a very appealing voice that sounds irresistibly sweet and sad as she sings her languid folk songs.

I picked up a new CD today as well. It’s Alison Krauss & Robert Plant’s collaborative album Raising Sand which has been receiving rave reviews. Alison Krauss is a well known bluegrass artist. A child prodigy on violin she also has a superb singing voice. Robert Plant was the lead singer for Led Zeppelin. This unlikely partnership has produced a very likeable album. I haven’t heard it all the way through, but the bits I’ve caught when Basement Discs have been playing it in the shop, have intrigued me so I decided to get the CD.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Labour Victory

The Labour Party was swept into power by a record breaking majority on Saturday. All my dread at a return to power by John Howard's party has been consigned to the dustbin. In fact it appears John Howard has lost his seat, to the likeable Maxine McKew, former ABC journalist, turned aspirant politician. At the beginning of the campaign she was given little hope of taking the electorate from him, but her hard work has paid off.

So we can look forward to a new era in Australian politics - hopefully a kinder, greener and more compassionate era.

It goes without saying, I was delighted with the result. I spent Saturday night glued to the television, watching the results come in, and persisted until John Howard conceded defeat.

It reminds me of the heady days when Gough Whitlam came to power. A friend of mine remarked at the time " Even the stars look different...". It's like that now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sime Nugent at Basement Discs

Sime Nugent live at Basement Discs - 23/11/07
I was pleased to see Sime Nugent performing today at Basement Discs. Sime is a local artist - a fine musician, songwriter and exceptional singer. Sime's voice is powerful and expressive. I don't know how you would classify it, but it's certainly a great voice.

This was the third time I've seen Sime perform, and his performance, as always, impressed me with likeable songs and interesting musical arrangements. He has recently released a new CD "Happy Hour" which was the occasion of his appearance at Basement Discs today. He had a few members of his band supporting him today in the persons of Amos Sheehan on electric bass and Roger Bergodaz on drums.

Election Fever

Cartoon by Michael Leunig - click for larger image

Tomorrow Australians get an opportunity to throw John Howard’s Government from office. This chance only comes round every three years, so let’s hope the Australian electorate collectively make the right decision. It’s time for John Howard to go.

It’s looking good - touch wood – for a Labour victory. The headlines in yesterday’s newspapers read “Liberal race-hate scam exposed” a telling blow against the Coalition. In an act of incredible stupidity, some Liberal Party members were caught red handed distributing a scurrilous pamphlet, purportedly from the Islamic Australia Federation urging Australians to vote for Labour because of their support for Muslim causes, including support for the Bali bombers. All patently untrue, it was designed to incite anti Islamic feelings within the electorate and show Labour in a bad light.

Howard’s “pin-up” girl, Liberal MP Jackie Kelly, was involved in this scam and when questioned laughed the whole thing off as a joke and prank. It has caused the Coalition dire grief, yippee!

It seems that the election campaign has been going non-stop all year. It has certainly run its course. I am heartily sick of it, and gave up listening to both parties long ago. I’m no swinging voter and made up my mind at the start of the campaign. Being a single tax payer, there’s no money in it for me. My hip pocket won’t be affected at all as the pitch has been towards families, with individual tax payers being ignored as usual.

Kevin Rudd, the Labour leader, has run a very good campaign and has consistently been the preferred PM in opinion polls since he took over the Opposition leadership. Support for Labour and a change of government has been high throughout the campaign and the latest polls show a solid Labour victory. Let’s hope they are true to form.

Despite this hopeful outlook, I am still steeling myself for disappointment. It’s been so long - eleven years in fact - since Labour was in power, and each win by Howard has been devastating and depressing.

Tomorrow night, early or late, whatever, we’ll know.

Review of the Spring Racing Carnival

It’s over until autumn next year. It was an odd spring of racing due to the Equine Influenza Virus preventing horses from other states competing. Victoria miraculously remained free of the virus, though I believe that some horses, Miss Finland for instance, being affected by the anti virus inoculation, raced below expectations. Apache Cat in particular had adverse reactions to it which prevented him from completing the season.

The final day of the Melbourne season threw up some remarkable long shot winners. A horse called Tears I Cry romped home in the Eclipse Stakes. It was one of those rags to riches incidents. The horse was ridden by a female jockey; it was trained by a young rural trainer and was owned by a Warrnambool dairy farmer. For all of them, Tears I Cry’s win was totally unexpected.

So how did my super stable go this year? I ended up coming 19th out of 109 with virtual stable earnings of $4,614,600. I came second in the financial version of the competition winning a real $100. I also came second in another competition in which I won a modicum of glory.

Here’s how the horses in my super stable (substitutions included) performed:

APACHE CAT – was lightly raced early in the season and won well on each occasion. His bad reaction to the anti virus shot put him out of contention for the rest of the spring.
EL SEGUNDO – won the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes & the Cox Plate. The most expensively bought of my stable, he finally justified his selection.
HARADASUN – I was really hoping he would perform better than he did. However, he managed to get a place in all but one of the races he competed in. At least I won’t have to agonise over selecting him for my stable next year, as he will be racing overseas and that doesn’t count.
HERE DE ANGELS – beat Gold Edition on her first run back from a spell, but in subsequent races failed on all counts
MURTAJILL – didn’t race up to expectations
SEACHANGE – splendid New Zealand mare, whose points didn’t count in the competition
BEL MER – only ran one or two times and came second in both races
GOLD EDITION – a great sprinting mare who won the Manikato Stakes, but was subsequently defeated twice by the amazing Miss Andretti.
PURPLE MOON – came 6th in the Caulfield Cup and second in the Melbourne Cup
WEEKEND HUSSLER – he was the new sensation for spring with an unbeaten run until defeated in his last race of the season. Certainly one to watch out for in the autumn.

Autumn 2008, with racing in all states being back in action, should reignite my interest in the sport as it usually does, though I will continue to watch the form and read the gossip over summer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Patty Griffin at Northcote Social Club – WOW!

Patty Griffin with Doug Lancio - NSC 14 November 2007

It was quite a night at NSC full of wonderful music. We got there early for a meal and managed to be first in line to enter the band room, whereupon we grabbed a good position right in front of the stage.

The venue filled up fast until it was packed tight, being a sell-out show. There are several advantages to being up the front. As well as being the prime spot for viewing the show, it tends not to be as crushed as elsewhere in the room and also puts one in the best place to take photos without heads blocking the view.

Karl Broadie opened the show with a short engaging set. He was thrilled to be the support act for an artist of Patty Griffin’s calibre and intimated that we were in for a real treat.

How right he was, not that anyone in the audience had any doubts about the quality of the performance we were about to witness.

Patty Griffin was superb. Her powerful and affecting voice was wondrous to hear in a live setting. A guitarist called Doug Lancio is touring with her, playing lead guitar to her rhythm guitar. He was pretty good at it too.

The songs seemed to range across Patty’s entire repertoire and included two cover songs. She sang the gorgeous Trapeze song and Top of the World, which is regarded as one of the great songs of modern times. Her voice was perfect and so expressive it is hard to describe how it can tug at the heartstrings one moment, send chills down the spine at the next and rock one's soul to the core.

Patty’s set lasted for almost two hours and those hours appeared to flash by at the speed of light.
I barely noticed my feet, sore from standing for several hours.

I am thankful that I have tickets for her show on Friday. One certainly couldn’t just go and see her once.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tonight - Patty Griffin

I am looking forward enormously to seeing Patty Griffin performing at Northcote Social Club tonight.

I recently got hold of her recent DVD – Live at the Artist’s Den. Watching it, I was awe struck and extraordinarily moved by her performance. It is anticipated that her actual live show will be as good if not better than watching the DVD. The Show at NSC is booked out, so it will standing room only. Naturally, I will be getting there early to grab a good position in front of the stage.

This is the first time Patty Griffin has toured Australia. As well as tonight, I am also attending her show at the Athenaeum Theatre - a quaint old theatre in the city - on Friday.

I’ll report back tomorrow on her Northcote show, with pictures.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Checking out the new version of Windows Live Writer

I just downloaded the new version of Windows Live Writer. It has desirable new features such being able to insert local images into one's blog at the writer stage and they are then uploaded to Google Picasa at the same time as the post is loaded to Blogger.

Live Writer is a wonderful free program from Microsoft. I have been using it fairly regularly to compose entries for my blog. It intuitively adopts the formatting already set up on one's blog so requires little editing afterwards. Especially now that you can add pictures to it.

So to test this here is a photo I snapped today at the Basement Discs where Stephen Cummings was performing an in-store.

stephen_cummings 018 (Small)

Stephen Cummings is another of those long time on the scene artists. I remember seeing him for the first time way back in1976/77. At the time I had a job as a drink waitress at a pub in Carlton called Martinis. Stephen Cummings with his band The Sports used to play on Tuesday nights. They were a great little rockabilly band and as Tuesday was a relatively quiet night, I got to watch the band, rather than being distracted by customers.

I've seen him several times since then, of course and today's mini show was up to expectations. He was accompanied by Bill McDonald on electric bass and Billy Miller on guitar and harmony vocals. I just checked Billy Miller out on Google and discovered that way, way back he was the lead singer in a band called The Ferrets. They had a hit with a song titled "Don't Fall In Love".

Well I will now post this blog and see how it goes with the upload.


It worked splendidly.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Nation stopped as usual ...

Efficient on his way to winning the Melbourne Cup - photo from The Age website

...for the running of the 2007 Melbourne Cup this afternoon. It was won by an iron grey horse called Efficient, whose form of late has been uninspiring. In fact he hasn't won a race since winning the Victorian Derby this time last year. My fancied runner, Purple Moon, came second.

Half an hour before the race, I had an extraordinary intuition . I had been doing the daily cryptic crossword and idly glanced at the answers for an omen clue for the winner of the Cup. One of the answers was "iron horse". I quickly scanned the form to see if there were any grey horses running. Efficient was the only one so I hastily got online to my Internet betting account and placed a $5.00 each way bet on him.

He paid very good odds - $23.00+, so I'm very pleased I didn't ignore the flash of intuition. I had already had each way bets on Purple Moon and the third placed horse, Mahler so I actually backed the trifecta, alas, not as a trifecta. Still, I made a profit of over a $100.

The race as usual was exciting and seemed to be run at a rattling pace, the field stretched for lengths behind the leaders. Efficient came from the rear down the outside and pipped Purple Moon at the post. Post and pre race ceremonies were full of pomp and circumstance, which I found amusing.

Days before the cup I create a horoscope for the day and hour of the race to see if any planetary influences are prominent at that time. Once, I did successfully predict the winner by astrology, so I give it a go every year. Unfortunately my mind is always biased towards a particular horse, so I study the horoscope to see if it matches the characteristics of my favoured runner, which tends to muddy the interpretation. The horoscope showed an interesting Grand Trine (120 degrees separation) configuration between the Ascendant in Pisces conjuncting (0-3 degrees separation) Uranus with the Sun in Scorpio and Mars in Cancer. It pointed to a horse with watery connotations in its name. Uranus was the interesting planet being so close to the Ascendant as it signifies something unusual or quirky, and may indeed have pointed at a long shot winner. The postion of the Sun in the 9th House indicated a winner from abroad. Efficiency was bred in New Zealand, Purple Moon and Mahler are Irish.

Another, and more orthodox, method of picking a possible winner is to look at the horse's breeding. Efficient's sire is Zabeel who in turn was sired by Sir Tristram whose offspring won or were placed in several Melbourne Cups. Zabeel's sons and daughters have also been prominent, with at least two, now three, winning the race.

Normally on Cup day we go to a party, and a very fine party it is. This year the hosts are touring Europe so no chance of meeting up this year. Lucky I suppose, as otherwise I wouldn't have been able, or would have dismissed the chance, to get to a computer and place a bet on Efficient after my revelatory intuition.

I have always, being a dinky-di Aussie, listened to or watched the Melbourne Cup since I was youngster. Today I was reminded of my first attendance at the Melbourne Cup in 1970 when another grey horse, Baghdad Note won and I picked it as the winner simply because it had green silks. I haven't actually attended the race course since the early 70s. Too crowded for my liking these days.

In other racing news, and of interest to you Brits out there, Haradasun, a horse I have been following since his first start, is to be transferred to Ireland and trained for a season at Ascot in June 2008. I'll watch with interest myself how he does over there and hope he performs better than he has done this spring in Melbourne. He will be under the care of top Irish trainer Aiden O'Brien. Goodbye Haradasun and good luck.

So Jan, referring to your comment below, it really takes no special inside knowledge to pick a winner at the races. It helps, sometimes, but not always.