Friday, December 26, 2008

on the road again

Today, Boxing Day , we head down the road to Apollo Bay and the Otways. We'll stop at Werribee Park and have a lunch and possibly do a tour of the Open Range Zoo. Then on across the boring basalt plains to Geelong, city of hope, where we will visit a relative and then with the 3 hip Taiwanese lesbians self identified queer guests we will scandalise invade pick up our food supplies at an ordinary supermarket. Hopefully the carsick one won't feel the need to stop every 10 ks and we should make the Bay by nightfall without incident. Argueing over air con and music choice in either Mandarin or English will not be granted incident status. We all agree we can listen to Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. So far so good.

The next 4 days look to be around 20c - 23c at the Bay - good for me - not so for the heat lovers and swimmers.

Televisual delights

I'm hoping for a bit of chillin' tv. If I can get decent reception, always a gamble at the bay, I'll be trying to grab the couch for these programs:

Fri Dec 26 - ABC1 Kylie Kwong China - 8 pm, maybe Miss Marple after that or more likely on SBS at 8.30pm is the doco - The Night James Brown Saved Boston . Later at 10.10 on ABC2 is soundtrack: Wet Wet,Wet followed by Rock Profile of Oasis.

Sat 27 - Iron Chef and Rock Kwiz on a lean night.

Sun 28 - Chan 7 - 1.45 - West Side Story, 7.30pm - Seven Wonders of Industrial World - Bell Rock Lighthouse - I've seen it before but it's a beauty, 7.30 on SBS Lost Worlds - Germanic Tribes followeed by Foolproof Equations for a Perfect Life - about the Brain. ABC2 ALL DAY is running great music - 7 am, Meatloaf, 7.25 Genesis, 8.25 Lou Reed, liver at Montreaux, John Lennon Live NYC,

10.20 Newport Folk Festival 1963 - 66 - yes the one where Bob was said to have been booed and unplugged.

Mon 29 Dec - 9.30 Crime Investigation - John Wayne Glover the North Shore Granny Killer.or on ABC1 @ 10.55 The Mafia - or Red Dwarf on ABC2

Tues 30 - 7.30 SBS The Doctor Who Makes People Walk again, Doco, then Return of the Bible Plagues, followed by Hot Docs - Respect Yourself - The Stax Story - or flip over to Rush Hour with Jackie Chan on ch 7 or Fr Ted at 8 on ABC2 followed by Hamish McBeth

Wed 31 NYE - won't miss Dinner For One on SBS @ 7.30 a 20 minute delight I always enjoy and then simply because I'm a wild party guy - Can't Stop The Music - Village People on 9 at 12.15

On food and cooking : the science and lore of the kitchen  McGee
Little black book of stories A S Byatt
A question of upbringing   Anthony Powell - first of the series of 7 called A dance to the music of time
A writer's people : ways of looking and feeling  V S Naipaul
 Reading & writing  : a personal account V S Naipaul
Sir Vidia's shadow [text] : a fascinating memoir of Theroux's friendship with V.S. Naipaul
India [text] : a wounded civilization V.S. Naipaul
Four days in November : the assassination of President John F. Kennedy Vincent Bugliosi.
Where flavor was born : recipes and culinary travels along the Indian Ocean spice route by Andreas
The cellist of Sarajevo  - Steven Galloway
The Irish story [text] : telling tales and making it up in Ireland / R.F. Foster
Modern Ireland, 1600-1972 / R.F. Foster.
Cultural amnesia : notes in the margin of my time / Clive James.
Modern Indian cooking : the next generation of Indian cooking / [Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna
Beyond belief [text] : Islamic excursions among the converted peoples / V.S. Naipaul

Will also be searching for the perfect fish n chips at the bay and trying to buy fresh fish to cook - used to be impossible.

Best Wishes for the season, Drive safely - that stupid old prick you want to run over might just be me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

xmas catering

This year it's my turn to host the family xmas do. I calculate around 25 people for late lunch. I had the brilliant idea to bbq a pig.  No fiddly antipasto, cheeses and fancy salads. Simple earthy tastes with fresh bread. Sophisticated peasant. 

Last time I did something like this was years ago. I looked up hints. I found a lot of advice like this:

"Getting the spit through the pig is tricky, especially if it's a fat pole and you get to prise the little piggy's jaws open to fit it through the mouth. Getting the whole thing to stay on the spit while it's roasting needs lots and lots of strong wire.

If you use coal or wood, you will need more than you can possible imagine. More. More than that, even. No, get more. That's still not enough. You'll run out, the pig will be half raw, and you will look a git.

Controlling the heat is almost impossible. Ambient temps, breezes, fat flareups and the like mean that it's almost certain your pig will be charred on the outside and raw on the inside. Once the spit has been set, raising it and lowering it is a bitch. You will get the height wrong again and again. When you get it right, it'll only stay right for a while because the fire will change on you.

People will smell the pig for miles, and will come to ooh and ahh. You, on the other hand, will be intimate with this fucker for at least 9 hours, and you won't be able to smell it at all, let alone eat it. At the end, you'll want a celery stick and a good lie down."

After that, and seeing it's the weekend after next, I'm now drawing up a list of who will bring the fancy salads, cheeses and some sausages. And I'll do the antipasto.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

females succeed at uni

An Australian study into the sexual history of 185 students at the University of Sydney found male science "nerds" were the least likely to have had sexual intercourse.

At the other end of the spectrum, female arts students ranked as the most sexually active.

The study of 16 to 25-year-olds, published in the journal Sexual Health, said: "Males in the study were less likely to have had sex as a group compared to the group of females in the sample.

"Science students were also less likely to have had sex compared to their counterparts in other faculties."

NB: Before anyone one sniggers - yes I did notice "Males in the study were less likely to have had sex as a group..." Group sex - no thanks I'm an engineer.

Monday, December 01, 2008

youth outa control

xmas blog meet from elsewhere

Ms Elsie Wear of The View From Elsewhere is visiting Melbourne. This is an excuse to hold a Blogmeet. The Blogmeet will be at The Builders Arms Hotel, in 211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy from 1.30 pm onwards (yes daylight!) on this coming Saturday the 6th December 2008. Possibly running until much much later that day.

Ms Elsewhere is arguably in the top 5 of Alice Springs' Premier female, bike riding, cat loving, script writing bloggers.

A special welcome is extended to those who have never attended a blogmeet before. Commentors please come along. If you are a bit shy just lurk around the pub without declaring yourself, identify the bloggers, (they'll be the ones having breakfast at 1.30pm and asking if there's wifi). If you don't like the cut of their jib from a distance, just pretend you were there for some other reason and slink off, or get half tanked and come over and have a quick snark and run off. Just like blogging. Big things have come out of previous blog meets: like ...ah, er.. yeah some big things.

NB: There is no truth to the rumour that Cast Iron Helen picked the Builders Arms because it's on Ralph Magazine's list of top 10 Melbourne Pubs.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Supermarket diary continued:

Today at the checkout I slipped in behind the neat 30 year old guy in a T shirt and jeans because he had a smallish basket of goodies. My gaze drifted toward his shopping on the belt:
  • 20+ small packets of expensive gourmet cat food
  • 4 very big packs of Ferrero Rocher chocolate thingos
  • 1 packet of kitty litter
  • 8 potatoes
  • 1 large packet of Trojan condoms

That's all.

I'm still working it out.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

times are tough

Overheard. Near the potato section at supermarket today.

Blonde mum 1
"And then there's the school fees"

Blonde mum 2
"Yes, and the rest. Fiona had to get a laptop for VCE. Oliver got jealous and demanded one too. Luckily we got Rudd to pay for it. We both salary sacrificed a laptop"

Under Fringe Benefits Tax legislation one laptop or notebook computer can be provided per employee per FBT year without incurring Fringe Benefits Tax where that laptop is primarily for use in the employee’s employment. The FBT year runs from 1st April until 31st March in the next year.

All laptop computers purchased after 13th May 2008 need to be used primarily for use in the employee’s employment to be exempt from Fringe Benefits Tax.

The salary sacrifice request form includes a declaration from the employee that the laptop relating to the salary sacrifice request is primarily for use in their employment. This documentation and declaration will be held on file should an audit be undertaken by the Australian Taxation Office.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

van re-ignites - he's back to form

From Randy Lewis of the L.A. Times:
For anyone who wasn't at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night, there'd be little chance of explaining how Van Morrison's repetition of one seemingly innocuous sentence -- "This is a train" -- could turn into a deeply spiritual incantation.

But transcendence is what Morrison has been after with his music from the beginning, and it's what he achieved frequently on Friday, when he played his watershed 1968 album "Astral Weeks" live in its entirety for the first time. That included the repetitive vocal workout on the "train" phrase from "Madame George," one of the cornerstone songs of "Astral Weeks," an empathetic portrait of a transvestite's journey through the streets of Belfast, Morrison's birthplace.

To these ears, it evolved from statement ("This is a train") to question ("Is this a train?") to invitation/command ("Get on the train!"), an intensely moving progression that crystallized his alchemist's approach to music.

He's long known the power of a mantra -- the chanting of a word, phrase or verse has become a potent signature of his music. Every good gospel preacher knows the cumulative power of repetition. Morrison doesn't preach, he seeks -- an answer, or communion -- and the chant becomes his method in relentless pursuit of one or both. When everyday language just wouldn't do, he shifted to syllables, growls, moans, sometimes just phonemes, anything that would take him, and his audience, where he wanted to go.

In "Beside You" it was the phrase "you breathe in/you breathe out" looped back on itself enough to replicate the fundamental life process. For "Cyprus Avenue," he sputtered out words, "My Generation" style, about being tongue-tied in the presence of his beloved. Fiddle player Tony Fitzgibbon paralleled him with skittering bowed runs while pianist Roger Kellaway dribbled out notes accordingly.

And in the climactic "Madame George" it was the circular "the loves to love the loves to love the loves to love."

True to form, he showed no interest in recreating what he did 40 years ago in a New York recording studio, but was focused on revamping the song structure dramatically in service of the present.

The performance opened, as the album does, with the title song, and was followed by "Beside You." He then abandoned the original's song sequence by continuing with the album's closer, "Slim Slow Slider," and then moving into a 1-2 punch created by placing the two jazz waltzes, "Sweet Thing" and "The Way Young Lovers Do" back to back. The arrangement impressively balanced competing time signatures, a ¾ waltz seamlessly working in tandem with a subservient 4/4 pulse.

The wondrous youthful timbre of his voice then has evolved over the years into a richer, fuller instrument , with every bit of its remarkable elasticity very much intact.
The poetic imagery he crafted for "Astral Weeks" was light-years beyond the straightforward narratives of his early rock hits with Them, such as "Here Comes the Night" and "Gloria," or even his first solo hit "Brown Eyed Girl," the latter two reconstructed during the show's career-spanning first half. He reached forward as far as "The Healing Game" but spent most of that first portion tapping the '70s and '80s material he's visited only sporadically in concert in recent years.

It was easy to see why Morrison said he'd always wanted to do "Astral Weeks" live with the kind of large and resourceful band that backed him at the Bowl. As it turned out, that band did not include bassist Richard Davis, who'd been on the original recording sessions, because Davis had a last-minute family matter come up, Kellaway said Saturday. Instead, longtime Morrison band member David Hayes handled the woody stand-up instrument that's so crucial to the album's unique sonic palette.

The jazz-rooted compositions of "Astral Weeks" are poetic stories of young love and the quest to find one's place in life. They were, and remain, ideal source material for musical improvisation that gives way to the sense of wonder for which Morrison has always striven.

Friday, November 14, 2008

astral weeks live - by the man

In-depth interviews with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and two-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Van Morrison are exceedingly few and far between. But in conjunction with his performances Nov. 7 and 8 at the Hollywood Bowl, where he’ll perform his 1968 album “Astral Weeks” in its entirety for the first time anywhere, along with other songs from throughout his career, he agreed to respond by e-mail to questions from Times staff writer Randy Lewis.

What combination of opportunity and motivation was behind the decision to revisit "Astral Weeks" in a live setting now?
I am not “revisiting” it, as this is a totally different project. I had always wanted to do these songs fully orchestrated and live. I never got around to it -- then I thought, well, we have lost the great [drummer] Connie Kay already and Larry Fallon the original arranger –- so I thought I should probably get to it now. Jay [Berliner] and Richard [Davis] have never done it fully orchestrated and live before either so I see it as a new project.
Update: In the paragraph above, we originally identified Connie Kay as the bassist. He was the drummer on "Astral Weeks."

What's your thought at this stage of your career about the boldness of a 22-year-old Belfast musician with some rock hits to his credit going into a New York studio with the likes of Downbeat's jazz bassist of the year [Richard Davis], the Modern Jazz Quartet's drummer [Connie Kay] and one of Charles Mingus' collaborators [guitarist Jay Berliner]?
Well, first, I think I have probably always been more advanced in my head, in my thinking, than the calendar age of 22. My thinking musically has always been more advanced -- it is difficult to get it down onto paper sometimes, even now. And the Music on “Astral Weeks” required these great musicians because no one else could have pulled it off like they did. There is another reason, too, and that is the fact I did not settle for anyone other than these guys -- they were the ones I insisted on.

What, if any, contact has there been with Richard Davis and Jay Berliner (or Kay before his death in 1994) over the years?
Connie Kay called me a lot over the years, on a regular basis. He was the drummer on “Tupelo Honey” and “Listen to the Lion.” He is also on several recordings I did in the '80s, numbers I have not released yet. Connie was the best drummer I have run across yet. The original arranger, Larry Fallon, kept in touch with me over the years, but we had lost contact with him, unfortunately. I actually called him for this project, but I found out he had passed away not too long ago. That was a shame -- he was a great arranger. He seemed to understand this music -- which is rare and is not easy to do. I was in touch with Richard a few times over the years.

The circumstances that brought you to the East Coast of the U.S. at the time [in 1968]?
I had been with Bert Berns’ Bang Records label, and I didn’t get paid, so I was living on a shoestring -- a very hand-to-mouth existence at that time -- in Boston and for a long time after that too. I went down to New York and this is when I got the offer from Warner Brothers. They had told me they had to buy out the Bang deal. Then I got involved with [producer Lewis] Merenstein, et al. The real reason I made Astral Weeks Recordings in New York is because I was literally broke and they kept me stranded there.

Did these songs emerge more or less fully formed lyrically and melodically, or did you spend considerable time reworking, shaping and editing them during the live performances that led up to the recording session?
Well, I had already written “Ballerina,” in 1966!, if this tells you anything, and the poetry written on the backside of the “Astral Weeks” album [cover] was an excerpt from something else I had written prior to that! Matter of fact, thinking back, I had previously recorded “Madame George” and “Beside You” well before the '68 Warner release, for Bang Records. But the arrangements were nothing like what I had in mind for those songs. I had also previously played versions of a few of the songs Live at the Catacombs [club] in Boston well before going in and making what became the “Astral Weeks” recordings that ended up as the record. We made that record straight through finally like I wanted them, without stopping. We did it my way in the studio that day.
So, yes it took a very long time and a lot of thinking and arranging and hard work to structure these songs like I wanted them, like I envisioned them in my head. That was the hardest work, but then I found out I then had to work through the people in the music business, and then the people that come around as a result that you are in the music business, and that was even harder, but in a different way. All for the sake of making my music, my song.

What were you reading, listening to, experiencing, feeling after "Brown Eyed Girl" and all the Bert Berns sessions that sent you in this direction musically and philosophically?
“Brown Eyed Girl” is misunderstood. I already had that song down -- so I did not turn anywhere or change direction -- it was already done, just not released. If you listen closely you can hear there is depth to that song; there are layers of arrangement in my original version. Thing is, Bert required a “hit” record. He thought “Brown Eyed Girl” was the hit single. The song sounds catchy and pop, but [it] is really multi-dimensional. I was not happy with it, as the music in my mind is much more sophisticated than that.
I call that 'The Money Song' -- because they got all the money and I got none. What happened after that is I ended up with zero money. I was broke and depressed and remained that way for many years after that, and I just decided to make a stand for myself and do things my way, not theirs, like I was already doing in songs like “TB Sheets” and “Who Drove The Red Sports Car?”— which I guess were over the heads of those who were so-called “in the know.”
I did not ever want to be on a pop label -- I thought Bert was musically beyond that, but it turned out he was more interested in money than musical ability, song craft and poetic artistry. Despite all that, if Bert were not in with a bad crowd, I think he may have been interested in having the ears that hear. He probably did.

How did you settle on Lewis Merenstein to produce “Astral Weeks”?
Merenstein came about when my back was against the wall. I did not have a choice at the time. I was all the way on the ground. People only have a choice when they have money -- I did not have either, they made sure of that. Then I found out when you have success, then come the sharks in disguise -- and those [were] quite obvious. I did most of the [production] work myself, though, if the truth be told. I wrote it all, put it all where it needed to be.

What was the immediate aftermath for you? Was it a natural evolution, or a sharp turn toward the more easily accessible verse-chorus song structures you used in many of the songs on the "Moondance" album?
First of all “Moondance” was written by me in 1965, as an instrumental, so I did not turn toward anything other than what I had already written and done. I have always played what I feel like playing whenever I feel like playing it.
I put out records to this day that are not necessarily in a sequence of anything. Some could be written a while back, some not. There is no set pattern. I just put things out when I decide to put it out; [that] does not mean that it’s what I was thinking or doing or writing in any time frame. It usually comes down to what goes with what else, or what needs to go out whenever. It would be a mistake to think such and such because something comes out or came out when it did. My records do not require a lot of thought of ‘What is this?’ and ‘What is that?’ That would be too contrived for me.

Do you connect differently now with the "Astral Weeks" material, and what is it about these songs that make them feel like they exist outside of time? I've talked to some musicians who say they didn't understand the real meaning of some of their songs until years later; that their music reached beyond their intellectual understanding of themselves at the time.
Astral Weeks” songs were written over a period of time -– some early 1966 -- and evolved musically. They are timeless works that were from another sort of place -- not what is at all obvious. They are poetry and mythical musings channeled from my imagination.
The songs are poetic stories, so the meaning is the same as always -- timeless and unchanging. The songs are works of fiction that will inherently have a different meaning for different people. People take from it whatever their disposition to take from it is. It is like Tolkien’s “Hobbit” -- the hobbit is what it is. I doubt he would change what the stories [are] just because time went by.
“Astral Weeks” are little poetic stories I made up and set to music. The album is about song craft for me -- making things up and making them fit to a tune I have arranged. The songs were somewhat channeled works -- that is why I called it “Astral Weeks.” As my songwriting has gone on I tend to do the same channeling, so it’s sort of like “Astral Decades,” I guess.
I am about the arrangements and the layers of depth in the music. So, no, I do not see it any differently than it is -- it just is whatever it is.

Did you know what you wanted and what you'd achieved right away?
It is all poetry I made up anyway. It’s like asking "What is art?" It is whatever the beholder decides it is. To this day most all of my music comes from a similar place. I am not exactly sure where the location it comes to me from is located, but it always comes from the realm of the imagination. It is all fiction, and like all art, listeners can take from it what they want from it -- or not.
Like the song “The Way Young Lovers Do.” What is it? I do not know -- I made it up. Anyway, what 90-year-old does not want to feel like young lovers do? Most probably would -- it is as simple as that.
It’s a funny feeling that you actually have the courtesy of asking me about my songs. Did you know there have been numerous books written about my music where none of the authors were interested in my take on my music? None of the authors have ever had the courtesy of asking me to elaborate on my own music -- 500-page books and not one word did they want from me -- on anything, ever. I have tried to offer up help and am refused. They have flat out refused all insight from me. :-)
I guess they all want to make it into something it’s not or was not intended to be by me. Anyway, it’s bizarre to me.

Does it mean anything to you that "Astral Weeks" is so highly regarded -- No. 2 on the Mojo list of all-time greatest works -- yet it took 33 years to go gold?
The music on “Astral Weeks” is sophisticated poetry that is multi-layered in sounds that I do not think the majority take the time to wrap their head around. It’s subjective. I think it would be reductive for me to try to answer why.
I’d guess there are many reasons why it took so long, but yet it is recognized. It’s different than anything then and different still than anything that is obtainable now. Maybe there is not a big market for thoughtful deep music, I do not know. It speaks different things to different people. Maybe it spoke “Don’t buy me” to some –- not sure. I have always been quite sure it is not Top 40 material.

Does "Astral Weeks" represent to you something unique and extraordinary within your own body of work, more than any other album you've made?
Now that I really think about it, this, like all of my work, comes from the collective unconscious, I suppose. That is why it speaks different things to different people. All of my records are unique unto themselves and this one is no different. It is just part of what I do as a songwriter. These are just another set of stories and poetry, like all of them.

Over time has it gotten easier or harder to make your records the way you want to make them, and why?
Harder to find musicians that understand the depth of the arrangements as I originally write them, and harder because my style is a mixture of many elements. But easier because I am my own producer and I make them myself. I have the freedom to create, rather than to be stifled by someone else’s notions or far off-the-mark ideas.

Your albums continue to sell impressive quantities of physical CDs -- nearly 2 million in the last year, I understand -- in an era when the music industry has shifted its attention to downloads and sometimes can't give music away. How do you interpret the continuing success of your music when it's not being played heavily on commercial radio or promoted intensively by record companies?
Yes, I am lucky I have an audience that is not into the fad of the download. I am very grateful for that. My fans must intrinsically understand the value of having a record in their hand. With so much standing to kill the record business and make it extinct, I think it is great there are still people who appreciate the beauty of a record -- a real record, not a purchase of bad quality air through a wire that can erase with a punch of a button :-)
People must really want to save the records -- in spite of the record business that cannot seem to see the forest for the wood.

People in the record business have always been concerned about making money, but when you were a young fan and then started out as a recording artist, there were label owners like Sam Phillips, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler who actually had ears -- people who knew music inside and out, rather than treating it strictly like a commodity to be marketed for maximum profit. You've made no secret of your disdain for many aspects of the music business -– did you start your own record label at least in part to show what's still possible when music itself is the driving force?
Let’s put it this way: When these men started selling off and moving on it was the beginning of what is now becoming the end of the record business. For the record business to win and win big it has to have people within it that have ears for music and who understand the old greats and respect [them]. With the way things have gone, it looks more and more like there is not much of a chance for new men with ears to emerge in the music business. It’s too money driven and no one seems to know how to really do simple mathematics.
Ahmet knew the value of respecting true ability and those who were there for the long haul. Today record companies are run by 30-year-olds who are more into who “famous” came in the building. They don’t care about selling hard copy CDs, where their real long-term money is. If they did, they would stop shooting themselves in the foot by ignoring the tried and true, and stop betting on so many losing horses. And they would learn how to use a calculator.
I have been independent with my own label since late '70s early '80s. I am really not trying to set any example for anything. It is the only way I can do what I do. It is the only way I can operate.

You've written some of the catchiest pop songs in the history of rock music ("Jackie Wilson Said," "Wild Night," "Bright Side of the Road"), as well as some of the most deeply spiritual ("Listen to the Lion," "In the Garden," "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God"). Do those come from two different places inside?
No, I think everything comes from the same place in the imagination, just a different topic du jour, so to speak. I have worked with my art of song craft, and the result of that is somewhat of an across-the-board variety. I have experimented with many types of singing and use of voice as well as many types of songs, most ending up a mixture of a lot of different styles. But I prefer writing and crafting the spiritual-leaning songs the most.

Is there a legitimate place for music that simply entertains rather than music like yours that seeks to touch the heart and soul? Conversely, is it inherently destructive to commercialize music, which is fundamentally a sacred form of human expression?
Well, I myself will start playing entertainment-type songs if the audience is not understanding, or if I get a vibe they are not really listening, or if they seem to need to go somewhere else, or if I need to go somewhere else.
When music is commercialized, others tend to copy the formula. Then we end up with the drone of the constant loop of the same old thing over and over.
When music is contrived to the nth degree I do not think it can be sacred in that form. It loses its soul its heartbeat; its freedom to be.

Were you always a spiritual seeker?
Of course. How could I be a musician or write poetry if I am not?

Has all the inner work you've obviously done led you to a deeper understanding or knowledge of your role in life? Is that a never-ending process for you?
I do therefore I am. I do not assume that I have any “role” -- I do not think I do. That word does not feel right to me. I do not wear it well.

Perhaps the better word would be “purpose,” or “mission”?
My spiritual understanding has grown only to the extent [of my knowledge] about myself. But there is no role. That is illusion placed upon me by other people. I have no illusions about who I am. As a writer interested in wordsmith, what I gain spiritually can only help me and my writing or topics of my writing. But I have no role, no role at all. I am on no mission. I am what I am, and I write what I write.

I've always admired your sax playing, because it truly seems to express something you can't get out any other way. So even though you could probably hire whatever session great you wanted --and many times you have -- those where you choose to play sax yourself seem very special. What outlet opens for you when you pick up your horn?
Thank you for the compliment. I really enjoy the sax and [in] fact, I sometimes throw in an ‘entertainment’-type of kick-up song just so I can play it. On the other hand, I like playing very spirit-driven songs like ‘St. James Infirmary’ live on the sax. Can’t beat that feeling of just taking it where it wants to go. There is a freedom in that -- a good feeling, for sure.

I've been told by record execs at Warner Bros. and Rhino that the reason there has never been a Van Morrison CD box set is that you never wanted to stop looking ahead long enough to do it. Is that true, and given this decision to return to "Astral Weeks" now, is that still the case?

Well, Warner Bros. and Rhino don’t speak for me. They do not know me. I have always been forward-thinking, but other than that I have not really thought much about it. Putting “Astral Weeks” live to orchestration is my idea of being forward-thinking.

For all B.B. King has accomplished as a guitarist and a singer, when I talked to him recently, he said "If I could sing like Bobby Bland I'd be a happy man." Do you ever have a similar view of your own abilities as a songwriter, a singer or instrumentalist?
No, I only am what I am. But I sure do like the timbre of John Lee and I wouldn’t mind if I sounded like Leadbelly.

What musicians haven't you worked with that you'd still like to?
I would have loved for Miles Davis to have played on a record of mine. Actually, he said he would, but I didn’t get to him in time. I would have loved to have played with Howlin’ Wolf, Leadbelly, Lightnin’, Mahalia Jackson, Ella, Billie Holiday, so many.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

making up nonsense

" MEN are born with a highly tuned infidelity detector designed by nature to help them ensure they are supporting their genetic offspring and not those of an interloper.

It's so sensitive, though, that suspicious men are prone to see cheating when it doesn't exist, according to US evolutionary biologists.

The new findings fit with statistics reported yesterday in The Australian that one in five fathers who seek private paternity tests have their suspicions confirmed that they are not the biological father of the child."

The above is from an article in The Australian that contains more of the usual nonsense we have come to know and love from "evolutionary biologists" both here and overseas.

I'm not going to address the "findings" from the "research" here. I'm interested in the statistics on paternity tests. This claim that one in five fathers who have paternity tests discover to their shock and horror that they aren't the fathers is often tossed around. By tossers.

Surely it is far more accurate to point out that four in five or 80% or the overwhelming majority of suspicious men who get paternity tests done are proven wrong and are in fact found to be the biological fathers. Only a minority, one in five or 20%, have their doubts confirmed. Bugger all in the greater scheme of things. And certainly not enough to suggest that these males have any bloody idea at all how to sniff out paternity.

UPDATE: dr faustus has a similar problem with a BBC report of having sex within 24 hours of first meeting

Monday, November 10, 2008

my radio station

Browsing at a proddy church fete I found this single for 25 cents. I slung them 30c as I casually but kindly tossed over my shoulder "Keep the change".

If you didn't watch The Goodies you might not understand my excitement.

Friday, October 31, 2008

derby day tips

The good oil, the drum, heads up, nod is as good as a wink, say no more, no bum steers.

"It's super Saturday tomorrow for the running of the Victoria Derby with four Group One races on the program. Including the Derby, there is the Coolmore Stud Stakes, a 1200 metre race for three year olds, the Mackinnon Stakes over 2000 metres, the traditional last chance for Melbourne Cup hopefuls to qualify, and the Myer Classic, for fillies and mares, over 1600 metres.
Last week's Cox Plate was won by
full story and tips at Cat Politics

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

no words

With his father and a firearms instructor standing nearby, an 8-year-old Connecticut boy shot himself in the head with a submachine gun yesterday, killing himself in an accident some say should never have happened.

Christopher Bizilj was testing a 9 mm Micro Uzi at the Westfield Sportsman's Club in Westfield, Mass., as part of the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo, when he shot himself Sunday.

"The firearm instructor prepped the weapon for him, and once it was ready he handed it to the child," Westfield Police Lt. Hipolito Nunez told today. Christopher then pulled the trigger, and the gun's recoil pulled the barrel upward, causing a round to hit him on the right side of his head, according Nunez. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Baystate Medical Center in nearby Springfield.

ABC News By SARAH NETTER Oct. 27, 2008 ..continued

red meat curry

Even though its spring time and the salads are getting a flogging and the BBQ is all cleaned up ready to rock and roll the nights are still cool enough to allow for the odd curry or soup or other winterish type dish – before we pack away the casserole pot for another 6 months.

It was 16 degrees this arvo when I decided “Bugger it – I’ll do my Red Meat Curry”. So off to Box Hill market I went. The kilo of rump already chopped was $9.90. It was chopped a bit smallish for me – I like bigger chunks in this dish but it would save me the slicing when I got home. I bought it from the Italian guys down the end as I don’t reckon the Asian butchers have got the beef under control. Worse with the lamb – I reckon the Asian guys don’t know anything about lamb and I suspect they don’t even like it. When it comes to pork and especially belly Pork I head straight to the asian guys. But tonight its Red Meat Curry. I have tried Lamb as a substitute for this dish and it works ok. But Beef is better.

Setup: Usually I would put Dr John Naw’lins on the speakers up loud while I’m cooking but tonight it was PM on Radio National.

4 medium brown onions roughly chopped.
Melt them down in a big pan on top of stove – a bit of brown don’t hurt just don’t burn them . When they are melted down a fair bit throw in about 4 good cloves of chopped garlic and a whole lot of chopped ginger. Continue to melt down for a while.

Have ready on a plate the spices:

2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of turmeric
1 teaspoon of chilli powder
12 Curry Leaves
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Throw all these spices in the large saucepan on medium high heat and stir to brown off onions and melt them and toast up the spice and mix them.

When ready shovel out onto a plate and wait.

Slop more oil in the saucepan. I use Rice Bran Oil . Until exactly 5 minutes ago I thought it was healthier than Peanut Oil - now I'm not so sure. Get the oil hot- drop in half the red meat – not too much or it will stew. We are seeking to brown it here. Brown it. Then tip that half out on plate and brown other half.

Meanwhile you will have been warming the casserole bowl in the oven at around 220 degrees.

Throw meat and onions and spices into casserole and place in warm oven.

Get a large tin of Coles brand diced Italian tomatoes and open it up. Pour it into the saucepan used to brown the meat and smoke the spices. Deglaze the bowl and heat tomatoes. Grab about half a Beef stock packet – I usually have half ones frozen in freezer - and plonk it in the mélange. It's not strictly Gunga Din but I like to splash a bit of salt in at this point. Depending on your tendencies you might like to chuck in a dollop or two of tomatoe paste – I don’t.

Slop a small amount of water in. Then pour it into the casserole dish what has the meat in it. Then whack it in the oven somewhere above 220C for two hours. Give it a stir every now and again.

I hardly need to tell you that this is best cooked slow and then left overnight before eating. That will make it taste mature and well integrated. But if your ungrateful unwashed unfed are like mine hanging around the kitchen saying “When's it ready” then, like me, you will roll your eyes heavenward and sigh and you’ll serve it up on the night it's cooked too.

OK. It goes with Basmati Rice. Plonk a measure for each person in the rice cooker and 1.5 of water for each measure. Sometimes I put frozen peas or sultanas in the rice mix prior to cooking. Squeeze a lemon into the rice cooker.

Ok its ready.
Rice on plates with meat curry alongside it – not slopped on top please, some Pataks Lime Chili Pickle on each plate, a big drop of ordinary mild chutney on each plate as well and a big dollop of fresh Greek yoghurt. Or you can plonk it all on the table in separate serving bowls and yell out "It's ready".

All that’s needed is a fork and mouth.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

spring time melbourne - going the punt

For those of us who don't regularly follow the gee gees spring time in Melbourne presents a dilemma. How to get the good oil on a nag to do the betting thing. I can usually rely on my mate Stan to give me the drum but others are less connected.

Problem solved. I’ve discovered a Melbourne blogger who seems at home with the bookies, strappers, slappers and squeaky voiced jockeys of the Spring Carnivale.

Cat Politics not only knows the form guide but likes cats and real country music and is a female of the species. Say no more.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

i'd love to kiss the bangles

I see the reformed Bangles are touring. The Bangles had little effect on me one way or t'other. The Saw Doctors are one band I find myself listening to a lot these days. Especially watching the DVD Live In Galway and the song Joyce Country Ceilhi Band. I came across one of their lesser songs - I'd Love To Kiss The Bangles.

They are not loud or angry, or vigorously uncompromising. They have no image, message of "attitude"… Yet in Ireland, where the critical establishment has greeted their uniquely emerald brand of post punk country-rock with sniffy talk of "designer bogmen" they are adored in a way that even U2 would envy.

It is not just that their singles and albums have topped the charts or that their biggest live show there last summer attracted a crowd of 50,000 devoted fans. They are loved for their lack of pretension, the catchy choruses and for a repertoire of songs which give universal expression to specific aspects of Irish culture.

In the way that Lou Reed or Paul Simon can paint a picture of life in New York that often has a vivid resonance regardless of where in the world it is heard, so the Saw Doctors draw their inspiration, both lyrically and musically, from a parochial Irish background, and then use it to create the kind of songs that will strike a chord anywhere that people have ears.'

David Sinclair, The Times.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

tell 'em they're dreamin'

Tell ‘em they’re dreamin’ alright. As part of my continuous quest to understand local cultures I call into a Crime Cash Converters store whenever I see one. I have a quick squiz to see what the local specialties are then I’m on my way. I can report that the Forest Hill branch of this home grown Aussie business isn’t hiring. At least that’s what they told the perky passionate people person girl who asked. The cheapest DVD player on sale was a cruddy scratched 2 or 3 year old model for $120. Across the road at Big W the cheapest new DVD player with a guarantee was $45.

Having a bit of a poke around on eBay just before I found this
Giant OCR 3 bike for auction with a Buy Now price of $800. Second hand, no warranty, or at least no shop to take it back to, could probably do with a service, so that bumps the price up by at least $80, not to mention picking it up. Say around $900 all up. I had a quick google for a similar bike. Ivanhoe Cycles has one advertised for $595.00 brand spanking new without any bargaining.

eBay sellers are blinded by thinking sunk costs matter to buyers and Cash Converters buyers must work overtime to reduce the cognitive dissonance enough to convince themselves that second hand is always a bargain no matter what. It's a funny old world isn't it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

takin' tha piss

Urine is produced by the kidneys, and plays a vital role in maintaining homeostasis by removing excess water, electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, and calcium ions, urea and other metabolites from the blood. Urine excreted by healthy kidneys is sterile.

Human urine has energising and strengthening properties which make it most useful for treating many deficiencies. Although it can be used externally as a baldness cure or as a cure for trembling hands or persistent itching, it is probable that is is most usual medicinal use is as a drink. Drinking your own urine is a excellent cure for scurvy,dropsy and jaundice

From: Wiki4CAM - an online encyclopedia for Complementary & Alternative Medicine!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

easing back in

Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers.

Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats.

"Porn is a weak test for the success of participatory media - it’s like tapping a mike and asking, “Is it on?” If you’re not getting porn in your system, it doesn’t work. Activism is a stronger test - if activists are using your tools, it’s a pretty good indication that your tools are useful and usable."
From: Ethan Zuckerman: The Cute Cat Theory

Saturday, June 28, 2008

virgin on the ridiculous

Mobile phone plans seem to be designed to drive people to despair or at least confuse one enough to defer switching to another day. Even economists like Joshua Gans and Nic Gruen , who no doubt have hundreds of research assistants slaving away, have trouble figuring stuff like this out.
I‘ve had a reliable Siemens phone now for a few years and seeing I mainly only text and talk and don’t need a camera or an MP3 player in my phone I have seen little need to enter into a contract involving a “free” phone. Much of the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been out of contract. Occasionally I have gone into contract and got a cash rebate of around $150 per phone from a local independent phone agent.

I have avoided Capped Plans because my usage varies a lot from month to month, and being an old fashioned kind of guy, I tend to not yap for long on mobiles if I’m paying. Capped plans come with super offers of $200 for $49 or so but the trouble is most capped plans aren’t really capped at all and the charges are at two or three times the normal fee.

Firstly I set about to find out exactly what plan I’m on and the item charges. No luck. As far as I can see my provider's
site has not been operational for the last two weeks. I tried to complain to them but got nowhere. Talking on the phone to Optus owned M8, in the Philippines I think, is hopeless. All they seem to do is spout scripted sales blurbs.

Anyway I sniffed around and somehow got to
Slimtel a small Vodafone reseller. They have a nice bring your own phone, no contract, no minimum monthly, no flagfall, 1 Second billing, 11c per 30 seconds to any landline any time, 11c per 30 seconds to Vodafone Mobile any time, 17c per 30 seconds to Non-Vodafone Mobile at any time, 18c per SMS, Voicemail d 7.5c per 30 seconds and only $11 exit/porting fee. Seems pretty good to me.

Old geeky habits die hard so I thought I’d have a squiz at
Whirlpool to see what the sadly obsessed had to say. There a person aptly called G WiZZ has taken the effort to set up a spreadsheet with what seem to be all the possible current plans and providers available. G Wizz has also placed a nice little usage calculator in the top right had corner of the spreadsheet so that you can adjust for your usage needs. Download the spreadsheet here.

The very strange thing about all this is that the Virgin Pre paid no contract, no monthly minimum, no cap, el cheapo, for the kids Bean Counter plan seems to outperform almost any other plan or be in the top 5, no matter what figures I punch into it. I’m about to buy myself into the Virgin Bean Counter and give it a go. After all with no contract and no monthly minimum I don’t think I can lose. The weird thing is Virgin Mobile, at least in Oz, is owned by Optus.

I’d be keen to hear what others think.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

mark steyn

No doubt most readers will have caught up with the legal, liberal, libertarian and left blogging on Mark Steyn’s right to turn a phrase as he pleases about what pleases him not.

I don't much read Steyn’s current writings on politics. He’s not to my taste and I reckon his writing has gone downhill. I should add the usual disclaimer; as much as I disagree with what he says at times, I would defend his right to say it. At least until I was placed under a mild degree of discomfort. Say threatened with a paper cut or having to drink instant coffee.

However I’d like to praise Steyn a bit not bury him. I still enjoy re-reading
Broadway Babies Say Goodnight one of the must have books if you enjoy musicals.

Some of the time Steyn misses the mark and doesn’t run a good argument but mostly this lament on the decline of a great art is a delight to read. There’s enough insight and ideas to force the reader over to the radiogram to spin a platter or two in order to check up on him, disagree or just to enjoy the music. If, like me, you have no time for the crop of Lloyd-Webbers, Cats and Phantoms you’ll enjoy his deft ranting, feel his love of musicals and not be irritated by squinting through his ideological prism.

If you can’t get the book try this for a taster:
The Death of the Show Tune, A rant on Rent.

Mark also does a nice line in grumpy old men type writing about popular culture. Granted a lot of the content is a predictable but the occasional flowing paragraph makes it worthwhile. A bit like finding a tasty black olive in an otherwise flaccid 70’s cold platter.

Twenty years ago today:
And most of us of Sir Mick Jagger’s age and younger don’t want to hear, either. To be sure, this or that gangsta rapper is a bit much, and Britney’s a sad old slapper, and Madonna’s a clapped-out provocateur, but what’s wrong with a bit of rock and roll? Nothing. Except that, when it’s ubiquitous, it’s stunting. Paul Simon and I once had a longish conversation about this and eventually he conceded that even the best rockers had nevertheless been unable to develop beyond a very basic harmonic language: There isn’t enough there to teach in a “music” course. But what else is left? The old middle-brow middle-class couples who subscribed to the symphony every season and dutifully sat there through Beethoven, Bartók, Brahms, and Bernstein are all but extinct, and pitied for their inability to cut loose and boogie in the same way we feel sorry for those trapped in a loveless marriage. What a difference it would make if grade-schoolers could know just enough of a smattering of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony to recognize the excellent joke “The Simpsons” makes of it. What an achievement it would be if every high-school could acquire a classical catalogue as rich as that used in Looney Tunes when Elmer Fudd goes hunting Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny. Carl Stalling, who scored those cartoons, often fell back on formula: If someone was in a cave, the orchestra would play “Fingal’s Cave.” But you can’t even do that any more, because no-one gets the joke.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

bill henson photo

This is a photo of my mother taken about 1924. The whole family has always admired this and I have it hanging framed in my hallway for all to see. I've loved it ever since I was a little kid.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

plug & play 4 faggots

The other day I bought an external USB hard drive enclosure that will do both IDE and SATA. Only $45 at my local computer shop. Looks pretty spiffy with shiny black case and blue led light.

Anyway I needed to find out more info than was on the bit of paper that came with it. So I googled "Ritmo Quiro External 3.5 Hard Drive enclosure".

One of the pages gave me this:
* Compatible with both USB 2.0 and USB 1.1

* 2 colour indicator
* Screwless, easy to install
* Plug & Play 4 faggots
* Stylish Aluminium cover and stand
* Support Win98/98se/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003/VISTA, MAC OS 8.6/9 and above.

Plug & Play 4 faggots?

Sheesh go easy - even Linux has plug & play these days.

Some one should grab the /. nerd who wrote that web page by his security lanyard and have a quiet word in his shell like.

Friday, May 23, 2008

happy birthday bob

Tomorrow Bob Dylan will turn 67. Thanks for all the goodtimes Bob. And thanks for giving all smalltown youths a chance to dream. Not only of being yourself but becoming somebody else as well and impacting on almost the whole known world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

33 1/3

Forgotten I ordered them. They arrived last night from Amazon.

Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture (Music in American Life)"Patricia R. Schroeder; Hardcover

Swordfishtrombones (33 1/3) David Smay

Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (33 1/3)Carl Wilson

The whole 33 1/3 series is marvellous and at around aus$10 a throw I'll be chucking at least one in all future Amazon orders as well as reading their blog.

I immediately stuck my nose into the Celine Dion book and despite being less than halfway through I already have my money's worth. Carl Wilson explores his own music snobbery, the meaning of cool, notions of low brow, high brow and non ironic middle brow and kitsch, in an effort to understand the appeal of his fellow Canadian Dion.

Those defenders of the faith in music blogging Flop Eared Amanda and Shaun "Leather Pants and Vest" Cronin had already given me the good oil but it was walking around Beijing last month and hearing that Titanic song everywhere and then a 4 day sell out concert in Beijing at the same time that propelled me to jump onto Amazon and swipe the plastic.

I'm already learning what I already know again about my tastes and I'm feeling more and more comfortable about my love of sentimentality in songs from Frank and Elvis through to smaltzy Irish pub ballads from The Fureys. (At this point I'm still snobby enough to reject Daniel O'Donnell).

A quote from Carl Wilson: To the extent we agree that coolness and lack of same are enormously influential-and that coolness is a social category, not a natural attribute (with the possible exception of Keith Richards)-we are all Bourdieuvians.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

hutong happiness

Looking down our Hutong.

Looking out our bedroom window onto courtyard.

Looking across courtyard to bedroom.

Beijing's hutongs are intricate maze-like lanes, made up of courtyard houses built with incredible attention to detail in accordance with the principles of feng shui. Hutong is a Mongolian word meaning water well, indicating that homes like these were built around wells since the 13th century. Due to the imperial rule that no building should be higher than the palaces, these low-level buildings spread out from the Forbidden City, creating a large part of the physical landscape of the city. More importantly, hutongs formed the social framework of the city. With several families living in close proximity, using communal courtyards and toilets, the community network and support system was very tight. Still today in the hutongs of south Beijing and around Houhai, men drink beer on the streets while watching the world go by as women gossip and knit, and children chase and kick balls off the walls of the narrow alleys.

But increasingly, sprayed on the wall of a hutong in white paint, is the character 'chai' – demolish. The increase in land prices, combined with the urgent need for further infrastructure, has led to large swathes of hutongs being destroyed to make way for road expansion and new property developments. With almost no legal tenants' rights, combined with the rampant corruption of officials and property developers, land is cleared with almost no concern for either the heritage being destroyed or the people who once lived there. Residents are often offered paltry compensation and have to move outside the city – forced evictions are not uncommon, with families protesting and even using suicide as a tool to be heard.

Records show that there were 3,679 hutongs in the 1980s. That figure has dropped by over 40 per cent, with up to 600 hutongs destroyed each year. Homes, shops and restaurants have all been demolished, most notably in the south of Beijing around Qianmen and Dazhalan – home to some of the most interesting and famous hutongs in the city.

Walking through bulldozed Hutongs 8 April 2008

ich bin ein beijinger

Not only am I good at the lingo like Kev, I also have acquired Beijinger aspirations. 
I want what all Beijingers want - a black Audi A6 with blacked out windows:

If I can't afford the Audi I'll settle for a Police bike: 

Or an electric bike: 

Or if I can't afford that I'll settle for a rusty but trusty old Flying Pigeon like everyone else. 

hi [gloss] fi in beijing

For Harry Clarke.
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that bling. There are a bunch of audio / home theatre shops near XiSi Crossing in Xicheng.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

sound advice 2.5

Speakers and Value

I was going to save this and write a longer post. But a few people have been nagging me. So here is the quick and dirty version.

Most decent speaker drivers are a comodity product all made by a few manufacturers. Most boxes and crossovers are designed and made overseas and a very large part of the cost is transport to import a large box. Added to this wholesaler and retailer margins and the cost of even very ordinary speaker is high.

It will come as no surprise then that the big savings to be made in purchasing speakers is to avoid transport and re-selling costs and if possible cabinet making costs.

You can avoid all of this by buying an Australian designed speaker kit and putting it together yourself – this way you save on cabinet making labour, overseas shipping and retail and wholesale margins.

My favourite Australian kit speaker is the LoudSpeakerKit company’s M6 large bookshelf. I have a pair and so do many others I have helped. They are currently $599 a pair. In my listening I haven’t found a pair of made speakers under $2,000+ that sound as good. They are easy to put together and well designed crossovers and enclosure with a very good midrange sound. The Kit people started off in Essendon but then moved to Perth. The have a demo room in Narre Warren as well.

I have found the larger floor standers from the same company not as good in my listening. Too bassy and boomy. The M6 is easy to put together in about 4 hours over two night to allow glue to dry. The kit is precut mdf that slots together well and even includes the glue. MDF is in fact the preferred speaker material due to its density and rigidity. Dan’s Data has a review and pictures of M6s and howto.

The LoudSpeakerKit people also have another cheaper little ripper of a small shielded speaker for the price - the M4 at $99 each. Dan’s Data has a review and pictures of M4s.

There are other Australian kit speakers around.

A well regarded Australian designer seller of ready made speakers is in Melbourne Whatmoughs are out at 1352 Ferntree Gully Road, Scoresby. I think he designs them here and now has them made up overseas. But they have been generally well regarded for many years. The P33 series are well thought of.

I’m biased toward what used to be called the English sound of speakers such as Castle and B&W. The “English sound” s generally considered to be warmer and have good midrange and tight bass. The “American sound” on the other hand can be a bit harsh with louder looser bass and more high end. The Bose Sound on the other hand has managed to combine the worst of all worlds in domestic speakers and systems. Bose car systems however are amongst the best.

A weird and sometimes wonderful audio site is the delightful Italian TNT Audio. Baised toward DIY and with a great section on second hand gear it does however at times tend toward the homeopathic handwaving non evidence based end of audio such as "breaking in" amplifiers, cd players and wires. It's DIY speaker stands are a winner.