Friday, August 28, 2009

The Seductive Music of Tin Pan Orange at Basement Discs

After a week of wild, windy weather, Melbourne today hinted that Spring is on the way, putting on a mild sunny day.

Even if it had still been blowing a gale I would have made it down to Basement Discs to see Tin Pan Orange perform their delightful music.

Tin Pan Orange is a trio comprising brother and sister Jesse and Emily Lubitz, and multi instrumentalist Alex Burkoy. Together they produce a sweet, accomplished sound. Emily is lead singer of the group and has one of those great voices – somewhat smoky and sultry, with a lovely sorrowful quality to it. She also plays guitar and ukulele. Her brother Jesse lends his voice to some songs and also leads the vocals on occasions and plays guitar. Alex Burkoy’s beautiful instrumental accompaniment on violin and mandolin was the icing on the cake for what was a simply beautiful half hour of music.

They have just released their third CD, The Bottom of the Lake, which was indeed the reason for their in store at Basement Discs today. They sang several songs from it today - La La La, A Song for Frida Kahlo, and Saudades to name a few. They also did a slow jazzy version of a song credited to the Hank Williams, Jambalaya (On the Bayou).

Showing remarkable confidence and poise for persons of their tender years, Tin Pan Orange gives the impression they will go very far indeed in the local and perhaps international music scene.

Give them a listen on their My Space page and be impressed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 – Week Five

The first Group One of the season will be run at Rosehill on Saturday – the Golden Rose Stakes, is a race for three year olds, over 1400 metres. It has attracted a top field of colts and fillies. Denman, the hot favourite, Slipper winner Phelan Ready, the filly Headway, and last week’s giant killer Trusting appear to be the main chances.

Trusting, to elaborate, beat a quality field in the Warwick Stakes last Saturday. Of course he had a weight advantage, but he did win in dashing style. O’Lonhro finished second with Mr Baritone filling third place. Racing To Win was badly blocked for a run, failing to get clear in time to challenge the leaders, so had to settle for fourth placing.

At Moonee Valley it was gratifying to see Black Caviar live up to her hype with an easy win in the Arrow Training Services Plate. Another pleasing result was the run of Rebel Raider in the Penny Edition Stakes where he flew into third place in a race that really is not his pet distance. More Joyous was scratched from the Silver Shadow Stakes which was won by another of Lonhro’s smart progeny, filly Deer Valley. More Joyous is now scheduled to run this weekend at Rosehill in the listed Sheraco Stakes.

As well as the Golden Rose, Saturday also offers the excitement of the Group 2 Memsie Stakes at Caulfield over 1400 metres. It has a super field of competitors. Mic Mac (the only representative of my super stable racing on Saturday) will be up against some of the best racehorses in the land, with the likes of Whobegotyou, El Segundo, and Melbourne Cup winners, Viewed, and Efficient, all entered. It should be an excellent race and I’ll be barracking for Mic Mac, though I will also be very interested in the rest of the field, mindful of the Group One races coming up in the near future.

Good Old Games

I have written about computer games before and have mentioned at the time that my all time favourite games were the Tex Murphy series.

The Tex Murphy games are set in a post apocalypse San Francisco and owe a lot to film noir and hard boiled detectives of the Philip Marlowe type. There’s also a touch of Blade Runner in the setting. The games are well visualised and written, having complex plots, interesting stories, witty dialogues and enjoyable game play. They have a cult status these days, Under A Killing Moon being one of the first FMV (full motion video) games ever released.

It has been years since I was last able to play these games as they don’t work in Windows XP, that is, until now.

I was idling by the
Unofficial Tex Murphy web site message board the other night, to check if there was any news worth noting, and lo and behold there was. A software company called Good Old Games ( has reformatted the Tex games and rendered them, and many other old games, playable in the latest operating systems by including a DOS emulator in the installation files, but not requiring the end user to have any specialised tech savvy to set it up.

I signed up instantly and purchased
Under A Killing Moon and The Pandora Directive for the reasonable sum of $10.00 each. This gives me ownership of the games, DRM free, though I do have to download them from the site. Still I never use much of my bandwidth allowance, so for a change I can use up some of it downloading these games.

The original boxed games cost something like $80.00 each back in 1994 (UAKM) and 1996 (PD) when they were first released, and they came on multiple CDs which required swapping CDs as one advanced in the game. I recall that Under A Killing Moon cost me considerably more than $80.00, in that I had to purchase more memory for my 486 DX computer in order to play it. Memory cost a fortune back in those days, something like $50 a megabyte.

The difference between old games like the Tex Murphy series and new games like The Longest Journey, is the game environment. Believe it or not, the old
FMV games were truly 3D and the player could explore the game setting in amazing detail. You could crawl under desks, poke into any little cranny and become wholly involved with the environment. The newer games concentrate more on the Graphics – very pretty, but not half as engaging to the gamer. You can look, but not touch, unless you’re meant to.

The best thing about the reformed old games is that you can play the game straight through without having to swap CDs. I’ve yet to try it out, so cross fingers Under A Killing Moon will work fine when I install it tonight.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Close Encounter with a Tawny Frogmouth


The above bird, which I have identified as a Tawny Frogmouth a variety of Australian bird often regarded as a type of owl, is sitting on a low branch in a fig tree in the backyard. It has been there for hours. The cats are locked inside and very displeased that they can’t go out and torment it.

It is quite rare to see an owl anytime in the metropolitan area, let alone in the daytime, but I believe this particular frogmouth regards our place and next door as part of its territory. Our neighbour has observed an owl at night watching his compost for rats and mice. It could very well be this one.


These birds are supposed to rest during the daytime in a camouflaged position.This bird, though its colour does match the branches of the fig tree, is very conspicuous.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spring Racing Season – Week Four

Black Caviar

Last Saturday’s results were slightly disappointing as far as my spring stable was concerned, though Typhoon Tracy did put in a very good performance in the Liston Stakes gaining third place in what was a top quality field. Her jockey admitted he made a move too early, and was overrun by the combined force of Predatory Pricer and Whobegotyou who fought out the finish. Tracy was only ¾ of a length behind Whobe who was beaten a nose by Predatory Pricer into second place. Heart of Dreams was held up by Gallica and ran fourth.

Former star performer, Mentality, showed a surprising return to form by dead heating for first with Kroner in the Premiere Stakes in Sydney with Phelan Ready filling third placing.

Denman, a son of Lonhro, who really looks like his father, appears to have his ability as well. He won his fourth race in succession on Saturday in the Run to Rose Stakes. Now hot favourite for the first Group One race of the season, the Golden Rose Stakes, he’s certainly one to watch out for this spring and may prove to be a superstar like his father before him.

The Group 2 Warwick Stakes at Randwick this coming Saturday is the feature race for the day. It sees the return of Group winners Vision and Power, Mr Baritone, Racing to Win, and Court Command, returned from stud duties. It also has O’Lonhro, another highly regarded son of Lonhro. It is sure to be an interesting competition. Metal Bender was one of the nominations but apparently he has a bruised heel and will now start his spring campaign in a fortnight.

More Joyous starts her spring campaign in the Group 3 Silver Shadow Stakes. She’s up against smart fillies Melito, Sunday Rose and Our Joan of Arc, but will most probably show them a clean pair of heels.

In Melbourne (Moonee Valley) all eyes will be on hyped filly Black Caviar in the Listed Arrow Training Services Plate. In her only two starts, she has won by five to six lengths on each occasion, so a lot is expected of her. It’s a small field and her main dangers are Maka Ena and Noesis, also an impressive winner at her first start, though she failed to gain a place last week in the Quezette Stakes.

And in Adelaide one of the main fancies for the Melbourne Cup, Rebel Raider will be launching his spring campaign in the Listed Penny Edition Stakes over 1400 metres, with Claire Lindop on board as usual.

With Metal Bender’s non acceptance for the Warwick Stakes, Black Caviar is the sole representative of my super stable running on Saturday, so here’s hoping she wins.

Friday, August 14, 2009

King of Rocking Blues WOWS Basement Discs

Life’s good if you can spend your lunchtime at Basement Discs getting your socks rocked by Louis King and his band, The Liars Klub. On this mild and sunny Melbourne day, that’s just what I did.

Louis King is a Melbourne musician who has been around the scene for some years, 30 years it says on his website. Today however, was the first occasion I have had the pleasure of seeing him play live, and he sure was good.

He has a new CD just out. Called That And A Quarter, it is distributed by
Shock and he gave the fair sized audience at Basement Discs a taste of it to the tune of about eight songs.

A very entertaining and energetic performer with a charismatic on-stage presence, Louis King looks like a classic rocker with the slicked back hairdo and black outfit. He also has a voice to match. It reminds me strongly of
Delbert McClinton, another great rocking blues artist. Not only does Louis have all the above virtues, he’s also a damned good songwriter. Check out his website and read some of his lyrics - they’re fantastic!

Louis today was accompanied by an electric bass player a drummer whose names I didn’t catch.

Check him out on My Space

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Spring Super Stable 2009 & week 3 of the Spring Racing Season

Typhoon Tracy
Well, I have now selected my initial super stable as below.


The above horses represent some very promising performers for early in the season, the bulk of them being four year olds. I was very tempted to substitute El Segundo, who put in a great performance last Saturday, for Black Piranha, and is a bargain at $50,000, but I have doubts about him remaining fit for the whole season. Mic Mac started his season with a sensational win in the Aurie’s Star Handicap and is surely destined for better things.

The meeting next Saturday at Caulfield sees a few of my super stable in with a chance. Typhoon Tracy is to run in the Group 2, JJ Liston Stakes over 1400 metres, thrown in at the deep end with a classy field which includes Heart of Dreams, Whobegotyou, Gallica, Predatory Pricer to name a few.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Typhoon Tracy race again and it would be great if she won at her first go against the boys. She has drawn well (Barrier 5), likes to lead and with her sizzling sprint, can be counted as one of the main chances. It will be her first start in mixed company, as her previous wins have all been in fillies and mares races. So far she remains unbeaten, but that may change on Saturday, though I hope not. Go Tracy Go!

Besides the Liston Stakes there are several other interesting races. I’m keen to see how Rostova goes in the Listed Quezette Stakes against the likes of Headway who ran second in the Golden Slipper. Rostova should win on her home turf you’d think. And gutsy mare Romneya will be starting her spring in the Group 3 Cockram Stakes.

In Sydney the Golden Slipper winner Phelan Ready will be kicking off his spring campaign in the Premier Stakes. He’s up against the old trooper Mentality and 2008 Doncaster winner, Triple Honour who also won this race last year before being sidelined by injury.

So the spring racing season is well under way now and can only get more exciting. And the big questions is: who will be the new super star?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Van Walker plays his new CD The Last Record Store

Van & Cal Walker - live at Basement Discs - 7 August 2009
There hasn’t been a Basement Discs In Store performance for some weeks, so it was a welcome interlude in the ho hum of Friday, to saunter down to Block Place and see Van Walker, with a “cast of thousands”, play his new CD, The Last Record Store, from start to finish.

Originally from Tasmania, Van Walker now is another supremely talented member of the local Melbourne music scene. He writes fantastic songs and appears to have learned his song smithing at the feet of masters. His songs are story songs and tell tales of “misunderstood werewolves, bus driving pariahs, gentle bushrangers, homicidal drifters, lost dogs & odes to old slow computers”

He has the voice too to carry them off – a strong attractive tenor, not to mention the musical credentials to give the songs solid tunes and is moreover a pretty good guitar picker.

As well as his older brother Cal, today there was a large band of musicians backing him – they barely managed to squeeze onto the tiny Basement stage - and included a string bass, keyboard, fiddle, banjo, clarinet and a female backing singer.

In the audience I spotted several other local musicians, Suzannah Espie for one, and Liz Stringer for another.

You can check out Van Walker's music on his
My Space page .

Next week Basement Discs present
Louis King and the Liars Klub – a local rhythm and blues band, whose new record “That And A Quarter” has been receiving rave reviews.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Spring Racing Season 2009 - week 2

Mic Mac at Moonee Valley – 14 February 2009

Well I hope the season is not going to continue as it started with surprising results and long shot elderly winners. Good for the punters perhaps, if they were lucky enough to pick them. Veteran, Let Go Thommo won the Bletchingly Stakes and Teasing won the Missile Stakes last weekend. I seem to have put the kiss of death on Amelia’s Dream by mentioning her last entry; since then she has been retired having sustained the same injury that previously put a stop to her racing career. So we’ll never know just how good she could have been.

The Auries Star Handicap this coming Saturday appears to be the most interesting competition on the cards. It sees the return of El Segundo, winner of the 2007 Cox Plate who has not raced for some time, being sidelined by injury and enjoying a long break. Also in the field is Mic Mac who performed very well in the autumn racing season winning five races in succession. Other runners, likely to be in contention are Gran Sasso, Grand Duels, New Zealander Rios and All American of whom much was expected when he was a juvenile.

I’ll also be following the fortunes of Augusta Proud again in the Group 3 Spring Gully Spring Stakes in Adelaide. She has drawn a wide barrier, so may have difficulty in scoring a win this time around.

And good news for those keen to follow a stable of horses over the Australian Spring Carnival, the The Shu’s, Spring Super Stable is back and open for entries on the Racing & Sports forum.

It’s a great competition where the only gain is fame and glory, This competition was the first of its kind, and I even won it in 2004. To participate, you will need to register for a member account on Racing & Sports. It’s free and has some handy features like a black book service, which notifies you by email when horses in your personal black book are running, and also sends you the results.

As usual the competition involves purchasing a stable of seven horses with a virtual $1 million to spend. It is my strategy to purchase the best horses I can from the set price list. I am in the process of selecting my 2009 stable, but will wait until after the weekend before submitting my final stable. The price list is set by The Shu based on his Horse of the Year calculations and assessments.