Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cat Pics – an update on the state of Cat Politics

Timmy has now been gone for over a month so the other two cats have happily settled back into their old groove. Willy hangs around at home much more these days, and Lizzie is her usual self - a home body who rarely strays far.

Earlier this afternoon I got out the Canon G10 when Pickle, the very friendly cat who lives a few houses up the street, made an appearance in our back garden. She’s extremely arboreal and ventures out on the outmost twiglets of branches without falling.

Here she is in the almond tree. She spotted Lizzie on the ground and alternately growled and meowed whilst weaving around this branch.


Lizzie, far from being aggressive, was mewing back, but keeping careful watch.


Willy was out the front enjoying the sun.


I must admit it is much easier with just two cats, the tension involved with keeping Timmy and Willy apart was the hardest part of Timmy’s short residence.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

OYNK – Swine Flu

I hope I’m not tempting fate by writing at this time about the dreaded Swine Flu, but I seem to be surrounded by it in the neighborhood where I live. There are cases of swine flu in the next suburb north to mine and also cases in the adjacent suburb to the south. They have closed down the schools where it first showed itself, so schoolchildren, not quarantined, are roaming the streets.

Each morning when I catch a tram to the city I feel as if I’m putting myself in the firing line and wonder how long I can last without coming down with the virus. The tram of course runs in a direct line between the two affected suburbs, so any passenger could be the unwitting carrier of the virus. I take heart in the thought that I seem to have a good immune system and have, year after year at work , survived the winter without coming down with anything, despite being surrounded by coughing, sneezing colleagues.

An interesting thing I have noticed this year is that if someone has an upper respiratory infection, they carelessly refer to it as “just a cold”. In the past they would have referred to it as flu to garner more sympathy.

So cross fingers, touch wood, in the hope I can get through the winter without succumbing to some awful lurgy, in particular the swine flu.

The above joke has been doing the rounds of email inboxes everywhere, but I still find it funny.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Racing Scene

Apologies to all who wait with bated breath for my posts on horse racing. I haven’t written anything on the subject for over a month, despite the fact that there have been many interesting races during that time. There were too many distractions at work for me to consider the form in any serious way after the Golden Slipper meeting in early April, so I merely watched and didn’t comment on the rest of the Sydney Racing Carnival.

Over the past few weeks the racing action has switched to the Queensland winter carnival and tomorrow has the feature Group One sprint, the Doomben 10,000 over 1350 metres. It has been very wet in Southern Queensland this past week with the worst storms for over thirty years creating a disaster zone in certain parts of the state, so tomorrow’s track at Doomben will be rated heavy going.

Apache Cat, who ran a close third to Duporth and Bank Robber in in the BTC Cup a couple of weeks ago, will be in his element on a heavy track. He will be out to redeem his reputation by winning the Doomben 10,000 in as fine a style as he won it last year. There is a top field of sprinters opposing him, including the WA horse Marasco, the New Zealander Sir Slick, Bank Robbber and Duporth, wet track specialist Jungle Ruler, and my other old favourite Light Fantastic, though I don’t think he handles the wet very well. It should be an excellent race, but my heart will be with the Cat.

The Spring Racing Carnival is not that far off – the build up starts in early August. Can’t wait!

Psychedelic Rock Spectacular – Downhills Home at Basement Discs

You certainly couldn’t accuse Basement Discs of favouring one type of music over another…

Last week’s in store featured FLAP! (see below) playing 1930s inspired Jazz and folk, this week
Downhills Home played a scintillating psychedelic rock set at today’s lunchtime in store performance.

Downhills Home are promoting their new CD The Wolves In The Woods - a much more rock n roll oriented album than their previous country tinged CD Minor Birds, which I had the fortune to see
them promoting at an in store in August 2007.

The band, a five piece outfit, is Sean McMahon (guitar, lead vocals & dobro), Michael Hubbard (lead vocals & guitar), Chris Goff (bass), Brendan McMahon (keyboard & piano) and Josh Duiker (drums). They produce a big bold sound, quite loud and gratifyingly thrilling to the inner rock child.

Sean McMahon leads the vocals and he has one of those classic pop voices – you hear hints of any number of artists that you can’t place off hand.

There was a good crowd at the show today, but I got there early enough to snare my usual spot directly in front of the stage – great for photographs.

Downhills Home unashamedly wear their influences on their sleeve, admitting to a love of 60s and 70s psychedelic rock, but they somehow manage to give that old genre a fresh sound and are worthy followers of the greats of the past. They are one of the best new bands on the Melbourne music scene and have been gathering a devoted following along with rave reviews of their music, over the few years they have been active.

Today’s mini show was ideal sunny music to suit the unseasonable warmth of the weather in Melbourne – after a cold misty start it had turned into a mild sunny day by midday.

Check them out on My Space…

Friday, May 15, 2009

FLAP! And all that Jazz


Today’s lunchtime in store at the Basement Discs featured new Melbourne band FLAP! They were fabulous!

They are Jessica Guille (Vocals and Ukulele), Eamon McNelis (Vocals and Trumpet), Mark Elton (Double Bass and Vocals).and Ben Hendry (Drums) and their music is a mix of Latin, Swing and Jazz. They are spirited, energetic performers and have a winsome stage presence that instantly engages the audience and, besides, are great fun to watch.

They are promoting their debut self titled CD - a collection of original songs that have an old time sensibility but with thoroughly modern (quirky) lyrics.

I found the below description of the band on the web, and it struck me as being funny and appropriate:

“…FLAP! sing songs about falling off cliffs, getting naked and being poor, as well as the universal themes of falling in love and getting wasted. Flap! sound like roaming minstrels from the rural back roads of 1930's America who somehow discovered a time machine and ended up at a Kylie Minogue concert.”

Check them out on their My Space Page

Next week Downhills Home are in store – not to be missed!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Playing Games


Of the computer variety, I mean.

I spent most of last weekend and spare time I can find at night playing a new Adventure game. I’ve become addicted to it and have shamefully neglected everything else to continue playing it.

Mostly I do not have the time or inclination to play computer games, other than card games and such, but I occasionally can’t resist buying a new Adventure game. It has been several years since I last bought, let alone played a long and involved computer game. This was Dream Fall – The Longest Journey 2, in June 2006. Though, I must admit that earlier this year, I installed Virtual PC with Windows 98SE loaded into it, onto my computer so I could play the original Longest Journey again, after the game refused to install on Windows XP. The game works extremely well in Virtual PC, but I lost interest in playing the game after a short while, but will probably take it up again sometime or other.

Anyway, last year I was delighted to hear the news that the creators of my all time favourite games, the Tex Murphy series, were developing a new game. It’s not a Tex Murphy game, alas, but a casual, puzzle driven adventure game called Three Cards To Midnight, which promised to have an interesting story and be well written and enjoyable to play. It was released for download last Friday at Big Finish Games – the new company of Aaron Connors and Chris Jones who were the creators of the Tex Murphy games when they traded under the name Access Software.

So I paid my $20.00 and downloaded Three Cards To Midnight and haven’t regretted it at all. It’s a good game, certainly not up to the sophisticated level of the Tex Murphy games, but I really like the way the plot is slowly being revealed and is building up to a very interesting story. The opening scenes set the picture. A young woman finds herself facing a man whom she has never seen before. He tells her that she has lost her memory and that he will help her to remember. He hands her a pack of Tarot cards and asks her to shuffle and draw the first three cards. The cards represent the keys to open her lost memories, by key word suggestions.

The game is puzzle driven and mostly involves finding objects through word association in rooms opened by the memories triggered by the cards, though at the end of each “chapter” there is a puzzle to solve. I’m now up to chapter three and so far it has been easy going. My only beef is that it is impossible to save the game when in the word association section of the game, so if you use up your tries, you have to start from the beginning of that section again.

Despite this irritation, I’m only too pleased to support Big Finish Games in the hope that they will get around to developing a new Tex Murphy game.

The Tex Murphy game Under A Killing Moon, was one the first games I played on my first PC way back in 1994. It totally captivated me and I subsequently bought and played The Pandora Directive and Tex Murphy Overseer. I haven’t played them for years so I really must try them out in Virtual PC as they certainly can’t be played in Windows XP.

Excuse me now…I’m going back to play Three Cards To Midnight

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Musing on Lord Byron and other books

I’ve always had a bit of thing for Lord Byron, being attracted to his bad boy image no doubt. Come to think of it I’ve always been attracted to bad boys; they seemed to have more fun than good boys. When I was a young thing, I used to divide the young males of my acquaintance into cads and sinceres. Not surprisingly I liked the cads best and generally hung out with them.

Anyway back to the topic in hand…

At a loss for something to read a couple of weekends ago, I idly picked up The Memoirs of Lord Byron (1989) by Robert Nye. It proved to be an engrossing read, an interesting fictional version of Byron’s memoirs, which stuck to the facts and was written in a voice I imagine is pretty close to Byron’s own. Byron did indeed write his memoirs, but the manuscript was burned after his death, it being too sensational in content to publish, and to protect the innocent still living.

There have been other fictions featuring Lord Byron, notably John Crowley’s 2005 novel, Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land , a book that very wonderfully imagines the rediscovery of a lost manuscript of Byron’s, a novel titled The Evening Land.

Another is Conversations with Lord Byron on perversion, 163 years after His Lordship’s death (1987) by Amanda Prantera. In this novel a computer program has created a virtual identity for Lord Byron, and the story revolves around the interaction of the Byron expert hired to test the program, and the virtual Byron. A novel with a great deal of charm, it primarily deals with Byron’s relationship with the choir boy John Edleston and posits an alternative version of the story of this friendship.

Anyway, my musing on Lord Byron has to do with his celebrity status. He is of course known as the first person to attract a cult following and become a celebrity; based on his reputation for being extravagant, melancholy, courageous, unconventional, eccentric, flamboyant and controversial.

With a reputation like that he wouldn’t really be out of place in the modern world. I can think of many modern celebrities who share the same characteristics, Ryan Adams for one – the description above would suit him to a T.

On the subject of books I have just ordered the new A S Byatt novel The Children’s Book that sounds fascinating. It is available locally, but I like to collect Byatt in hard cover, so ordered it from Amazon UK. I’m also eagerly anticipating Four Freedoms, John Crowley’s new novel, which I’ve pre-ordered from Amazon US as it certainly won’t be available locally. I don’t even dare hope for the 25th Anniversary Edition of Little, Big to be in my hands by southern winter, but according to recent news, production is nearing completion, so it can’t be all that far away.

I am presently reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers first full length novel. I was inspired to pick up Carson McCullers after reading
an article on her on the Book Slut site. She sounds like she was a pretty wild woman.

Over the last weekend I perused a new novel - The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery which was highly praised by
Michael Dirda in his review of it on Washington Post. It wasn’t a bad read and is a superior quality “best seller”, which it was in France. If all best sellers were like this, I might read more of them.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Wagons Rock at Basement Discs

Henry Wagons, the eponymous leader of the band, likens the Wagons listening experience to "being thrust into a brick wall and then sitting down in a comfortable recliner".

Actually that’s quite an accurate description of what it was like at the lunchtime Wagons in store performance today. They rocked!

Wagons have not been anywhere within my radar for local bands, but they have four recordings to their credit and have been performing since the late 1990s. So today was the first time I’d seen them play. I was impressed. Henry Wagons is a character and has an entertaining stage presence with an ironic sense of humour.

They have a new album, 'The Rise & Fall of Goodtown’, which has been receiving rave reviews and today the appreciative Basement Discs audience heard snippets from it, including the title track which is a rambunctious dark country rock tune.

It was an enjoyable hard rockin’ interlude in an otherwise dull sort of day.

Check out their
My Space page and give them a listen.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Vale Sunline (29 September 1995 – 1 May 2009– one of the greats of the turf


I learned early this afternoon that Sunline has passed away. She was euthanased today after a long battle with laminitis. She will be buried with full honours at Ellerslie Race Course in New Zealand.

This news has filled me with sadness as I remember her well. I followed her illustrious career from the start - as a two year old in 1998, to her retirement in October 2002. She was a great sentimental favourite of mine. A race day that had Sunline in the competition was always extra special. I remember how flat it felt when she retired. She gave racing fans five years of excitement. I saw her once in the flesh in the 2001 Feehan Stakes where she raced against Northerly for the first time and was beaten by a head.

The photo is one I purchased from the Sunline fan site way back when. It is signed by Trevor McKee her trainer, Claire Bird, her strapper and Greg Childs, her jockey. Unfortunately it didn’t scan all that well, it still being wrapped up in cellophane after I had it framed. It still remains unhung.

From 48 starts her record stands at 33 Wins (13 at Group One level), 9 Seconds and 3 Thirds

One the great racing mares of modern times, she was a champion middle distance runner who’s like we’ll not see anytime soon, unless Typhoon Tracy proves me wrong.

I have been following the racing careers of her progeny. Her eldest daughter Sunstrike (by Rock of Gibraltar) has been moderately successful and is racing tomorrow in New Zealand in Te Aroha, race five. Sunstrike’s little brother Sun Ruler (by Zabeel) won his first race a week ago, so it appears Sunline’s children have talent as well. There are two more fillies by Rock of Gibraltar and Hussonet yet to race.

A detailed review of Sunline’s racing career is at

View her sensational 1999/2000 Cox Plate victories, below: