Friday, May 30, 2008

Josh Owen at Basement Discs

Josh Owen - Basement Discs - 30 May 2008

Today’s lunchtime in store performance at Basement Discs featured local soul & funk artist
Josh Owen. He was there to tout his new acoustic mini CD Do You Wonder, a low key solo effort as opposed to recording with a band.

I had seen Josh at a previous in store in 2005, but didn’t remember much about his music.

For the show today Josh brought along four guitars and played a set alternating between acoustic and electric accompaniment, singing songs from the aforementioned album.

A pleasant little show it was too, to break up a dreary Friday here in Melbourne. Actually, it’s not all that dreary – the weather is sunny and moderately warm (18°C) for this time of year.

Check out
Josh Owens’ My Space page to listen to his music.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I had a day off work on Monday so availed myself of the opportunity to go and see the latest Indiana Jones film on a big screen. Westgarth Theatre is situated a few minutes walk from home, so B & I wandered down there for the 1.30pm session. Only about 10 or so other people had the same idea, so we basically had the place to ourselves which is how I like it – no rattling popcorn, no chatterers, just observers like ourselves.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, though not a great work of the cinema, is thoroughly enjoyable and great fun to watch. I’ve always had a fondness for the Indiana Jones films since seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark way back in 1981, when I took my nine year old nephew to see it. I’d never seen anything quite like it before, but it brought back memories of the “boys own adventure” type books I read as a child.

This latest film in many ways reminded me of Raiders, and as remarked by Howard Waldrop & Lawrence Person in their review of the movie on Locus Online
-contains spoilers-, it is a sort of sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It reminded me too of one of my favourite computer games, Tex Murphy – The Pandora Directive, mostly through the references to Roswell and the Amazonian jungle.

The beginning and end of the film are spectacular, and in between it is pretty much non-stop action adventure. There‘s also plenty of humour and unbelievable escapes from dire situations. Harrison Ford is just as engaging as the hero as ever, with Karen Allen’s return giving him a romantic interest of his own vintage.

The special effects are fantastic as can be imagined and the period setting of 1957 is depicted with acute attention to detail. Cate Blanchett appeared to be enjoying herself enormously playing the villainous Russian commissar.

All in all a highly entertaining film well worth the cost of admission.
I wonder if my nephew, whom I have not seen nor heard from in many years, remembers our outing to the first Indy film all those years ago.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Apache Cat Gallops into History


In winning the Doomben 10,000 yesterday, Apache Cat became the first horse to win five consecutive Group 1 races since the great Australian racehorse, Tulloch, completed this sequence of wins in the 1950s . The Cat did it in spectacular fashion and with apparent ease, totally blitzing his rivals, winning by four and a half lengths.

If you've been reading my racing posts you'll know that I have been following the Cat's career for years. He's a very popular racehorse due to his unusual appearance, with that big white blaze on his face and he now has his own web site maintained by one of his fans.

The Doomben 10,000 is one of the Group 1 featured races during the Queensland racing carnival. Apache Cat also won the BTC Cup two weeks ago, another Group 1 sprint. He'll now be spelled till the spring and will possibly trying his luck on the International circuit later this year.

Another of my former favourite race horses, Haradasun, who was imported to Ireland last year, ran his first race in the UK last weekend. He was badly held up for a run and failed to run a place. His next assignment is the Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot on June 17th after which he will probably retired to stud.

Over the past 10 weeks I've been participating in a tipping competition on the Racing & Sports web site, called Group 1 Glory. It's been tough and very challenging, but I made it to the final round. I'm waiting the results to see if I have won the competition, which by my reckoning I should have.

Victory is mine in the Group 1 Glory competition! I won by a good margin, tipping three winners last Saturday.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Blast From the Past – Ross Wilson plays Basement Discs

Ross Wilson and the Urban Legends live 23/5/08

The lunchtime concert today at Basement Discs was a ripper. Legendary Aussie rock artist, Ross Wilson was at Basement discs playing songs off his new album, Tributary which reworks many of his old hits in new ways, mostly with acoustic instrumentation.

A big crowd was at this mini show, many of them my vintage, and I saw a lot of them singing along to well known classics such as Come Back Again, Fugitive Kind and of course Eagle Rock. These songs are burnt into the Australian psyche from the days when Ross Wilson fronted such bands as Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock – way, way back - 30 years or so ago.

Ross’s current band, The Urban Legends, were on stage with him today and included Eric McCusker a survivor from Mondo Rock on electric guitar. There was also a bass player, a keyboardist and a drummer. Ross Wilson was looking well for his age and his voice had lost none of its distinctive sound or power.

It was a great little show, and interesting to hear the old standards played in mostly acoustic mode. Eagle Rock was played as an old time ragtime number and has been renamed on the Tributary album as Eagle Rock 1908.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cordwainer Smith

"The story ran – how did the story run? Everyone knew the reference to Helen America and Mr. Grey-no-more, but no one knew exactly how it happened. Their names were welded to the glittering timeless jewelry of romance. Sometimes they were compared to Heloise and Abelard, whose story had been found among books in a long-buried library. Other ages were to compare their life with the weird, ugly-lovely story of the Go-Captain Taliano and the Lady Dolores Oh."

The above quotation is the first paragraph of the Cordwainer Smith story “The Lady Who Sailed The Soul”, which story is part of the collection titled The Rediscovery of Man.

If you haven’t read Cordwainer Smith you are missing out on one of the master writers of Science Fiction and are to be envied if you have not read any of his wonderful futuristic tales.

I first read the entire Cordwainer Smith collection back in the early 1970s and every so often read them again, as I am doing at the moment. Unlike some older Science Fiction, Cordwainer Smith’s tales have not dated despite the fact they were written in the 1950s and 60s.

There is something in Smith’s writing that instantly transports the reader to the far flung future of the Instrumentality of Mankind. The stories are entrancing, strangely wonderful and wonderfully strange. A great many of the stories are told from the viewpoint of an unnamed narrator in an even more distant future, a sort retelling of the history and folklore of the Instrumentality.

You’ve only got to look at the titles of the stories to get some sense of the wonder waiting for you in the stories. How could you resist a story titled “Golden The Ship Was – Oh! Oh! Oh!” or "The Dead Lady of Clown Town” or “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

There is a fairly recent article on
Cordwainer Smith by Graham Sleight on Locus Online here, and it is also worth reading Jeff VanderMeer's response to this article on his Ecstatic Days Blog.

If you visit the
Wikipedia page on Cordwainer Smith there are links to several of the stories that are available online.

Cordwainer Smith was the pen name of Paul Linebarger who was a Professor of Political Science and an expert on psychological warfare. He was born in America in 1913 and spent a portion of his younger life in China. He was the godson of Sun Yat Sen, with whom his father had close ties. His literary output was small, predominantly short stories, with only one novel to his credit. He died in 1966 so his work is all the more precious there being so little of it.

I’m sure I’ll continue to pick up and reread his stories till my dying day with as much a sense of wonder as I felt when I first read them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Back in April Jeff VanderMeer, on his blog Ecstatic Days, had a giveaway of a couple of advanced reading copies of Steampunk, a book edited by Jeff and his wife Ann. I was one of the fortunate winners, and the book arrived late last week, complete with personalised zeppelin. I had to convince Jeff that I could photograph the book in a steampunk setting.

Below are some photos of the book in a kind of steampunk setting, taken around Melbourne, which in fact has some wonderful Neo Gothic and Victorian architecture as well as plenty of strange modern sculpture.

First off, Gog and Magog and Gaunt’s mechanical clock, located in the
Royal Arcade in central Melbourne, are giant automata created in 1892 by a gentleman named Mortimer Godfrey after a similar pair once located in the Guild Hall, London. The mechanism of giants and clock is still operational and continues to strike the hour and half hour. I was unable to take a photo of the book at this location, it being raised, but I thought it worth noting. It struck me that Mortimer Godfrey would be a great name for the captain of an airship.

This peculiar sculpture is inside a building in Spring Street. God knows what it is supposed to represent, but it has an interesting shape, rather like something out of the Myst games or – dare I speculate - a steampunk universe.

The cable sculpture in the Telstra building is another odd construction with some claims to being steampunkish.

I have yet to read the book, but I am looking forward to it immensely as I have fondness for the genre.

The book has been receiving enthusiastic reviews one of which is
here on OFBlog.

Even though the first edition has been sold out you can probably get yourself a copy on Amazon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nick Charles – guitar maestro performs at Basement Discs

It’s a nasty windy day in Melbourne today after a week of calm warm weather, so in order to protect my eyes and contact lens from being assaulted by flying debris, I trammed it down to Basement Discs at lunchtime today for Nick Charles’ mini show.

It was worth venturing out for, as Nick Charles is a wonderful guitarist and interpreter of various styles of music. The small audience was treated to a variety of music – blues, jazz, country and roots. From memory, Nick performed about six or seven numbers, predominately instrumental. He did a version of Dylan’s One Too Many Mornings, the Beatles Norwegian Wood, a Scott Joplin type ragtime called Meditation Rag among other tunes, all quite different in style.

Nick Charles is a local Melbourne artist who has been performing for over 25 years. He was at the Basement Discs promoting his latest recording Closer To Home.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Yearlings at Basement Discs

Tthe Yearlings - Basement Discs 9 April 2008

There are four in-store performances at Basement Discs this month and the first of these was a pleasant performance by The Yearlings at lunchtime today.

The Yearling are Adelaide couple Robyn Chalklen and Chris Parkinson who style themselves on Gillian Welch, hence the duo’s name, which is I assume a tribute to Gillian Welch’s CD “Hell Among the Yearlings”.

Their music is laid back, quiet and slow rocking folk/alt country/rock with charming melodies and close harmony singing. They really are very good, and I remember being very impressed with them when I first saw them perform at Basement Discs in 2005.

I have seen them many times since, mostly performing as a support act at concerts and at CD launches for other local artists. However, my impression of them was coloured when at one gig Chris Parkinson made a really silly comment, which instantly made me regard him as a moralising, holier than thou, wimp. Since then I just can’t really warm to their act.

Anyway, today they were promoting their latest CD, Highway Dancing which is apparently more electric than their previous acoustic offerings of Wind Already Blown (2005) and their self titled debut CD of 2003.

Check out their attractive website to listen to their music.

Next Friday at Basement Discs, local blues master guitarist, Nick Charles, will be putting on a mini show, then the week after, iconic Aussie rocker Ross Wilson is scheduled to perform with his band.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Autumn Racing Carnival – a review

Last weekend’s racing at Randwick marked the end of the autumn racing carnival. It certainly seemed to go on forever, but at the same time demonstrated a remarkable recovery from the Equine Influenza crisis of spring last year. As I am in several tipping competitions on the Racing & Sports web site, it was hard to come up with winners each week, but I seem to have acquitted myself quite well nonetheless. If you’ve been following my previews, and taken note of my predilection for certain horses, and placed bets accordingly you would have at least made a modest profit.

Last Saturday, the results of the Group One races were mostly predictable if one studied the form, except for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, where the rank outsider Sarrera caused a boilover. Tuesday Joy, the favourite, only managed to come third. Sebring failed to win the Triple Crown, being narrowly beaten in the Champagne Stakes by Samantha Miss. However No Wine No Song won the Sydney Cup and Racing to Win the All Aged Stakes as expected.

Overall it was an interesting season of racing and it was thrilling to see some new stars of the turf emerge to engage racing enthusiasts’ interest in spring. Weekend Hussler of course was the standout performer. It will be fascinating to see if he can continue his winning ways in the spring and in the years to come. He’s only three years old so no doubt maturity will add to his already outstanding abilities. He may well become a giant of the turf, and match the achievements of such former champions as Kingston Town, Might and Power and Tulloch.

As well as the Hussler, several other horses caught my attention this autumn. Let’s not forget Light Fantastic who remained unbeaten after a short and brilliant debut season, or Augusta Proud who found the going in the Slipper a bit much, but won six races in a row prior to that. There’s also Sebring, Tuesday Joy, Zarita and good old Apache Cat who will be competing over the Brisbane winter carnival which hopefully, if he wins, will establish him as the top sprinter for the year.

We won’t see former grand performers Miss Finland, Divine Madonna, Gold Edition, Dance Hero or Desert War racing again, but there will be plenty of other runners to maintain an interest in the sport come the springtime.

I don’t know if many people read my racing posts, but I have enjoyed writing them for my own reasons in that I can refresh my memory of the season by reading through each entry in chronological order, should I so wish.

Cat Politics blog is two years old today and I must admit I still find blogging thoroughly stimulating. My writing has improved, I think, and I find it much easier to string sentences together these days than I did before I started blogging.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Autumn Racing Carnival – Week 14

This weekend marks the end of the Sydney racing carnival, but after that the action moves to Brisbane.

Yesterday saw the Group One Oaks being taken out by Heavenly Glow. My pick was the classy Zarita who failed to get a place. New Zealand filly Boundless came second.

It now appears that New Zealand horses are to be taken seriously again. In the past they had a great reputation and won many of Australia’s top races. But for the past decade they have hardly challenged Aussie runners, excepting of course the great Sunline who was a freak.

The AJC Derby last Saturday was won by New Zealand colt Nom de Jeu and another New Zealander, Red Ruler, was runner up.

Melbourne’s favourite horse, Apache Cat, won the TJ Smith Stakes in sterling fashion last Saturday. He will be competing in the Group One sprints in Queensland and there is a possibility he will be challenging the world and be set for races in Japan later this year. He remains unbeaten in all the races he has contested this year.

This coming Saturday sees the running of the Sydney Cup over 3200 metres and three other Grouo One races including the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000metres), Champagne Stakes (1600 metres) for two year olds, and the All Aged Stakes (1400 metres).

Sebring will be vying for the triple crown of the Golden Slipper, Sires Produce and the Champagne. He won the Sire’s Produce last weekend, marking him as the best two year old performer in the country. As long as he’s not worn out from racing three weeks in a row, he should win the Champagne Stakes.

As for the other races on the cards, I fancy Tuesday Joy in the Queen Elizabeth, Racing to Win, who was beaten by Weekend Hussler at his last outing, in the All Aged, and haven’t a clue on the Sydney Cup though I do like Lacey Underall who won the Adelaide Cup over the distance. Also, No Wine No Song is worth consideration as he’s been performing well of late.