Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Early Xmas Acknowledgement

Last night when I was working back late, my iPod played Last Christmas by Wham! on shuffle. My personal rule is that I don't need to acknowledge Xmas until I hear this track by chance. I think this is the earliest ever!! It is not even December yet!

Not that the lack of December has stopped anyone else from bringing Xmas madness to our eyes and ears all month. The Xmas tree in the centre of Ballarat has been up since around Melbourne Cup Day, and I definitely heard hideous carols over the speakers at the supermarket a couple of weeks ago.

However, getting a little closer this week, which may be more acceptable, when I drove home late, late on Sunday night, the lights on the trees and the reindeer and their sleigh had been switched on down Sturt Street, which also included red and green faces on the Town Hall clock.

I had to be careful staking out for these pictures, because these decorations, and also the tree near the Bridge Mall have been recent targets for people setting them on fire, and acts of vandalism such as bauble stealing.

I read news that it's snowing in London, so that's cute!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Brisvegas: Ashes

I picked Melissa up on Friday night from work, and we drove out to the airport for our flight to Brisvegas for the weekend. Following regular, alarmist weather warnings coming over the radio all afternoon, we found that the airport was in a bit of chaos as a result of the thunderstorms - which resulted in a 2 hour delay for us, easily wasted in the Qantas Club.

With all flights seeming to land at the same time just before midnight local time into Brisbane airport, a mammoth line for a taxi greeted us, before we could make our way to check in, and crash for the night.

The next morning, however, we were up early and down to the river to catch the City Cat, to get to the 'Gabba for the day. Too easy. Finding a pub with a BBQ set up for punters on the way to the cricket, we grabbed the perfect breakfast for the day ahead. We met Belinda at the gate, and then found our seats in the front row ready for the days play.

Sitting and soaking in the sun, and the Aussie batting display, Melissa and I popped across the road for cheeky full strength beers at lunch, at the Aussie Nash, with a bunch of the Barmy Army. We were also treated to a cracking partnership by Hussey and Haddin for the day.

Starting to hear of a rumour that there was a Pimm's bar on the other side of the ground, Melissa, Belinda and I went to check it out, to find Clive was spot on. Pimm's, including the added fruit bits and mint leaves, were perfect in the humid Queensland heat.

At the end of play, we went to the Pineapple Hotel for a few drinks, before Melissa and I managed to get back to the river and the City Cat took us back to our hotel. Up again the next morning we did it all again, including the breakfast stop, but for a much less exciting days cricket!

Our weekend of cricket and Summer ended with a few jugs at the German Club, before getting a cab back to the airport for just a 30 minute delay on our flight this time!

Today, being back in the office, the news as it feed through my screen showed that the pattern of good day, rubbish day, good day....continued, with the day, and test, ending with a handshake.

The Train To China

Another massive night, this time after all swearing we would have an early night after the final night in the Ger, put the success of catching our train in jeopardy, but MG somehow got us there in time. Dancing to totally random Mongolian pop and techo music in the bar at the front of our hotel, after being booted out the back door from one of the many Irish bars, we all seemed to get very carried away. Such fun!

A whole lot of napping started out this leg of our train trip from Mongolia to China, before we came to darkness with the timezones and the sheer distance covered. This also meant that the true Gobi Desert passed us by in darkness, which is a shame. The border crossing this time consisted of passport checks, but also a wheel change for the whole train...while we were on it.

Quite a bit of shunting around, and waiting, our carriage was eventually rolled into a shed where we where lifted up, and the wheels below were replaced with a different size, to fit the Chinese rail lines. It was quite bizarre seeing the section of train next to us being raised, or merely being noticeably lower than us when we were raised, with travellers that we had met waving to us from that disconnected part of the train.

A few rounds of vodka shots, our last of the Chinggis batch, saw out Mongolia for us.

Not thinking we were being inconsiderately loud this night, and given the fact that we were being displaced onto a new set of wheels at midnight, and therefore everyone was still up and about for the experience, we were totally bemused by the group of French tourists in our carriage waking at some ungodly hour and singing hymns (or something) at the top of their voices, imitating our group's laughs and voices, before they got off the train a few stops before us. The French are funny buggers, aren't they!

This leg of the trip was actually the least local mingling of the train trip, with large groups around our 2 allocated cabins this time. Nevertheless, we were excited to wake in a new country, ready to explore a new city.

*This post was meant to be published yesterday for NaBloPoMo, but no chance to be anywhere near a computer! NaBloPoMo fail!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mongolia

After our late, late night out watching the World Cup, we had all thought that the early morning hour long bus ride would be a chance to have a nap. Oh, how wrong we were - one of the bumpiest rides of all time had us leaving Ulaanbataar for the countryside, and our destination for the next couple of nights. Passing several large tourist camps almost an hour in, we were hoping that we were not in one of the over commercial.

Vodka Train proved to us, with our small, tucked away camp with just 6 ger tents, that this tour group really was made for the independent traveler with some travel experience criteria. Over the hill, but out of sight was a bigger camp, in which we could access for meals and somewhere to hang out, but our little camp was pretty genuine in that there was no electricity, no running water, and each had a little potbelly stove in the centre, used to heat the tent at night.

Out here in the Mongolian countryside, there was nothing around but vast mountain ranges, and green lush land. This was quite the experience!


One of the highlights was a visit to one of the nearby nomadic family's ger tent, and having the woman of the house serve us foods she had prepared that day, including yogurt. We got to meet her two children during the visit. We had stopped off to buy gifts when we were still in town, and Harris' water spray, which seemed ridiculous to the rest of us, was such a hit with the young boy. Of course, jumping around and playing games with Harris would also be a delight for any 4 year old! He had meet his match!

The morning of the second day, our group went horse riding, out there on the Mongolian plane. Scary, as I don't remember when I had ridden a horse last, these horses kinda know the drill with taking groups, but would still take off at the slightest encouragement. On the race back to the starting point, when each horse just seems to take off independent of anything the rider may do, Jess took a tumble off, and whilst ok, scored some ripper bruising!

Here at the camp, our group got to hang out with the group going the other way, and here we each tried the famed mare's milk. Like fizzy yogurt...ew. This night proved to be quite a big night inside one of the gers, with beers and vodka shots all round. Such fun.

These couple of days out at the ger camp was one of the most amazing, and real experiences I have ever had.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Escape and a Third of MSW Down

I am just about to hit the road to drive my last 2 essays for the year down to the submission box. These are the final assessments of my 2 subjects from this semester, after completing 2 last semester also, doing my MSW part time. Amazing, considering the pop-in-my-head idea this return to study was!

The tunes that have got me through this past month of essay hell have come from a mixtape I received in the mail, as part of a birthday swap through the group, Love Is A Mix Tape. For this swap, I submitted a picture, and was matched with someone who made the mix accordingly. The reply I received stated that my mixer had based her compliation on the idea of Escape, to be listened while working/studying, with no prompts, which is pretty awesome.

Here is the track list:
1. Breeze - Apollo Sunshine
2. Ernie - Fat Freddy's Drop
3. Island In The Sun - Weezer
4. Perfect Day - Lou Reed
5. Hong Kong - Gorillaz
6. Talihina Sky - Kings of Leon
7. King For A Day - Jamiroquai
8. Reminising - Little River Band
9. Paper Planes - M.I.A.
10. Golden Brown - The Strangers
11. I don't know what this track is! No lyrics, so it's not searchable, but works in with the playlist.
12. Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Love it. Some new tracks and artists to me, has worked it's magic.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cracking Start: Ashes

Waking to the belting rain here in Ballarat, I was home this morning to keep chipping away at my final essay for the year, which just happened to coincide with the start of the Ashes series. Having the coverage on in the background in the lead up to the start of play, they re-played the opening ball 4 years ago to the day, which just built the anticipation even more.

The anthem had me focused completely, and seeing Dougie there in the line-up as 12th man, with his hand and his baggy green on his heart reminded me of the essence of the pride and passion of our team. As they showed the team prepare to run out, it felt more exciting than Xmas!

Sitting in front of the telly for the first ball, the excitement of the beginning of the series we have all been talking about had me glued. Third ball, Hilf had the English captain out for a duck. Cracking start!

Deciding to leave the house, knowing that I would not get any essay writing done, and feeling envious of everyone at the 'Gabba, I ran a personal errand and got to my desk at the office just as Watson got the second wicket of the day. Nice.

After a couple a fast hours in the office, watching the score tick over as I worked, I needed to hit the road for an hour long drive to a country town for a worksite review. Rewarded for my concentration as the rain bucketed down in patches through these forest lined country roads, I heard Siddle get the big wickets of Pietersen and Collingwood in consecutive overs.

Finishing one meeting, then another, and all things going well, I was left in a head manager's office while his staff tried to locate him for my next meeting. I tried at this point to check the score, but alas, my new phone is not very compliant. This manager eventually returned, and I made a comment of being occupied trying to check the cricket score. He turned bright red and confessed that he was actually off in the boardroom, and just watched Siddle get a hat trick! I was delighted and jealous all at once!

Getting back to the car after a pretty good meeting, I heard the immediate aftermath of Siddle's 6th for the day. Wow! The hour drive back had debutant Doughty get his 1st and 2nd test match wickets, wrapping up the innings. 774 then played the replay of the hat trick, wicket by wicket. What a day!

Can't wait to get up there and feel part of it for the weekend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top 5: Play Counts This Year

My obsession with play counts continues! Since last year's post, my iTunes play count was refreshed with the transfer to the new laptop, and I think it's interesting that one band still features within my Top 5 bands for the last 12 months, but the rest are all new artists to me during this year. These 5 bands span my 10 most played tracks.

Florence + The Machine takes number 1 spot as most played track, with Howl, but also finds the Drumming Song and Between Two Lungs in the top 10-top 5 artists spread (8 and 9). I know I played this album a lot when I first discovered it, and we played it a lot on the train this year too....but it's dominance in my most played list had made me conscious not to play it as much! Of course, I listen to my iPod on shuffle most of the time, so there's no control there! Love Florence, and I thank Jessie for sending her album over to me as a recommendation from London!

Hush by Angus and Julia Stone is next at 2, being the artist from the previous count, but these tracks from them this year are from the new album. Big Jet Plane (from Down The Way, not Lady Of The Sunshine's version, even though it's on the 'Pod) and the beautiful Santa Monica Dream come in at 4 and 5 respectively.

Have You Fallen Out Of Love? comes climbing into 3rd most played in the last 12 months, and Bats at 7. Love this album by Paul Dempsey.

Another recommendation from Miss Jessie, again sent from London during a USB swap of tracks, is Feist's 1234 at 6. Can't get enough of this one!

Gossip's Your Mangled Heart rounds out the top 10 songs, but top 5 bands - another late discovery for me this year, after the kids were raving about this band last year! The delay a product of not listening to the radio, ha!

This measure of most played appears not to be a very valid measure, however, after checking my profile on last.fm. According to that my top 5 played artists, cumulative, in the last 12 months are: Powderfinger, The Basics, Angus and Julia Stone, The Whitlams, and The Decemberists.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Trans-Mongolian Railway

Back on the train for a couple of days, we rode through more of the Siberian countryside, with villages and towns passing the carriage windows. More vodka, more hanging out in the cabins, more meeting fellow travelers, and catching up with the Spaniards we had meet on the last train. The toughest part of this couple of days was the 8 hour wait at the border between Russia and Mongolia...where nothing happened for 7.5 hours. Then there was train shunting with some of us on the train, and a couple of us watching from the platform.....and then the searches and passport checks by the very serious officials, and we were on our way. We then traveled the 30kms to the next town, inside the border of Mongolia....and waited, and then went through the same checks.

When we reached Ulaanbaatar, we were met by our awesome Vodka Train Honcho, MG. She took us to check in and shower, and then led us through the city to have breakfast and visit the Megjid Janraisig temples. Here we wandered through the complex, with included a walk through one temple in action, with monks chanting and drums sounding. Was surreal!

Catching public buses through the bustling city, we then visited the Zaisan Memorial, which gave us the most amazing view of the sprawling city below us, and the vast expanse to the horizon.









MG then took us to the Mongolian BBQ restaurant for an all-you-can eat, which ended up being a physical challenge for some of the group. Speaking of being uncomfortable, we were later taken to a theatre show of some traditional Mongolian dance, and one very disturbing display by a young female contortionist. Ouch!

The evening consisted of taking in the World Cup, in a massive 'Cup Land' set up in the forecourt of an Irish pub. We managed to have a great night for the 2 matches that didn't matter to us, and met the Vodka Train group who were travelling in the other direction. Then the Aussie game was on, against Germany, and we discovered that half of Mongolia had actually completed their studies in German universities, and thus, had a very loud affinity with the nation. Belinda and I seemed to be the only pair of Aussies in the pub at the start, and as the early hours ticked over, and the score line grew more and more grim, we called it a night.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lake Biakal and Irkutsk

Waking early in the morning on the train, in the middle of Russia, our cabin was soon made aware that Mark was in a panic in the cabin next door, looking for his bag which contained all the important things, wallet, camera, passport. Passport! In Russia! Where you practically have to show documents to go to the bathroom! A sickening feeling seeped into the group, as we searched everywhere in both cabins, with no luck.

Meeting our Honcho on the platform, Costa was about to work the hardest day hanging out with tour groups for Vodka Train ever! After Costa talked to the Provodnitsa , he helped the rest of us register our arrival in that part of the world, and it was decided we would travel by bus to our destination for the next couple of days, while he and Mark dealt with things in town.

The mini-bus took us to Listvyanka, on the banks of Lake Biakal. At the end of the journey there, we were confronted with the large in-land water mass, and snow-capped mountains on it’s far shore. Breathtaking!

Having not had a shower for 4 days, and being cooped up in the confines of the train, the rest of us agreed that whilst it probably wasn’t really (the one at the Moscow hostel may well be, for all time), the shower in our villa in the mountains was the best ever! While wondering whether Mark and Costa were having any luck, and what the options may be, the rest of us went for a wander along the shore of the lake, taking in the crisp, fresh air. Sampling the wares at the little market, we then stopped for a couple of beers along the little bars on the shore.

Initially there were talks that Mark would have to fly back to Moscow to get a replacement passport, and then the idea that he would not be able to fly without sufficient ID implied that a return trip on the train we had all just got off, was on the cards. A very tense afternoon ended with Costa and Mark arriving at our villa, with the bizarre news that his passport had been found with a bunch of others from the train, with an apprehended thief further down the train line. Mark is one lucky Irishman! Costa treated us to a Russian sauna then, and a thankful group dinner allowed the group to debrief on the day.

The following day, Costa took us for a hike up one of the lower mountains, to give us a view of the Lake. A chairlift assisted us for the top portion, where we found the Lake and the mountains creating a postcard in front of us. Some of us ventured for more climbing, and a swim in the ice-cold Lake, while the rest of us returned to the string of beer venders along the shore.

The next day we loaded the mini-bus again, and farewelled the fresh air and view, and returned to the city that we started from, being Irkutsk. Here several of us made our matroyska purchases, before walked around seeing the sights of the city, while marvelling at the cute, cute little Russian houses. This included a tour through the house of The Decembrists, young revolutionary uprisers in their day, which caught my attention in the guide book due to the American band of the same name. Costa assured us that there would be English translations in the house, but really we came out of there non-the-wiser about this infamous group of Russians.


Final drinks at a bar, and then preparations for our next train journey, were our final tasks of this stop in the middle of Siberia, before Costa deposited us into another set of cabins on the Trans-Mongolian Railway.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paparazzo and Phillip Morris

My final 2 MIFF sessions for the year, having missed just 2 scheduled sessions (oh, and the tough-to-get-to ones in the middle of the day on weekdays) for the festival, were both movies Jenny and I had in common. I drove down for both of them, and dinner and drinks to catch up with Jenny, plus Kate for the first.

Adrian Grenier's directoral debut, Teenage Paparrazo was one of them. A doco around the life of 13 year old Austin, who Grenier spotted one day in the throng of lens pointed at him. He meets, follows and joins this kid out on late night stake-outs, following tip offs all over Hollywood. A glimpse into this boy's life, his mother's take on it all, the impact turning the lens on the people in this line of work, and Grenier trying to get a handle on the world's facination with celebrity, to the point that this kid makes a living out of it. A great insight, and a facinating piece of reflection by the actor who plays a movie star!

I Love You Phillip Morris was the final session, where Jenny and I got to enjoy our love of Jim Carrey together. A conman, breaking hearts, Jim's character meets Ewan McGregor's Phillip Morris - a sweet, innocent lad, a destined match...made for jail, as it turns out. Ewan is breathtaking in this, and surely deserving of some award joy, given the portrayal so different from any other role he has played.

*Reviews not as in depth as desired, due to the length of time since viewing!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gig Retrospective Too

Just following on from my first post, these are the rest of the gigs...many repeat performers from the beginning of the year, actually.

Florence and The Machine was back in Australia for a festival after I returned from my trip, and played to enthralled fans at Festival Hall. Given that nothing much will leave the feelings of awe like last time, Flo still had the crowd eating out of her palm, watching every more as she floated and danced across the stage in barefoot. This night we had previews into new material, and the brilliance of the Lungs album. So good!

A trip to St Kilda and the Palais on a school night had Andrea, Dean and I seated for the magical Angus and Julia Stone. Just a dreamy and sweet collection of tracks, with previews of newer material, despite just having an album released. Julia pulled out the cover of You're The One That I Want, which was again haunting and mesmerising. The crowd called out regularly that they wanted to marry either of these siblings, as if it were that simple. Julia made comment that one such proposition to Angus would be interesting, skipping all the meeting and relationship stuff, and just have his babies. Ha! Aren't all ages shows cute....hmm.

Back to the Palais not long after, Jessie and I were treated to the ever talented Sarah Blasko. Mixing up her old with her new tracks, amazing album As Day Follows Night, probably in response to some scathing press reviews about the last Melbourne shows where she opened with just her new album - how dare she showcase her best album yet! It was clear by the level of Sarah's engagement and enthusiasm, that this newest record is her most proudest. A beautiful rendition of The Garden's End. She played Flame Trees, for the last time she said initially, and then after a little mind-blank midway through, suggested Melbourne may get another one down the line.

Katie and I saw Boy & Bear at Karova one rainy October night. Opening the night, Passenger had the early crowd engaged by doing away with the stage and the electrics, and playing a song among us on the floor. An awesome storyteller, this Pom won hearts! The sweet harmonies of the lads who are Boy & Bear is why we were there, and they uplifted our little venue with the souring sounds. Admitting that it was tricky doing a gig off a back of a 5 track EP, they played a number of new tracks interspersed. Such a great talent!

For my birthday, a little crew gathered for dinner at Thai Pavilion last month, before some of us made our way to a packed and sweaty Karova. I got there just as the first act finished, ready for Sparkadia, who really stole the show. Album gems from Postcards were brilliant, with the sound spot on. Alex has the talent to pull you in and take notice, even in this busy, noisy, filled room. With the new track Talk Like I'm Falling Down Stairs a highlight, this gig already rocked. Then the headliners filled the stage, and Little Red showcased their newly released album. Rock It, again, got a massive crowd reaction, as did old favourite Coca Cola to finish the night.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Love Is A Mix Tape

I stumbled upon a Facebook group quite some time ago, through a friend's event, and have since been inspired to make, and introduced to, collections of music - in the form of the old fashioned mix tape. Of course, this is a burnt CD nowadays, but a similar effect.

The group, love is a mix tape has the tagline 'Make a mixtape, send a mixtape, get a mixtape', and the brains behind it proposes a theme for a mixtape swap, collects participants, urging "Doer Daniels" only. You are then provided with a recipient, and set to mix your collection of songs. You send to the address provided, most likely to another land, and then receive an equalled poured over collection to the same theme. Brilliant!

So this is the mix I put together for the V Day Swap, in February this year. Built around the Jeff Buckley number, a bit of unrequited/love lost mix.....

1. Drumming Song, Florence + The Machine
2. Faith, The Harpoons
3. Sundirtwater, The Waifs
4. If I Were You, Kasey Chambers
5. You Were Meant For Me, Jewel
6. Wise Men Say, Anika Moa
7. Slow Dancing In A Burning Room, John Mayer
8. I Know We Could Be So Happy Baby (If We Wanted To Be), Jeff Buckley
9. We Should Be Together Now, Powderfinger
10. Accidental Babies, Damien Rice
11. Learning To Let Go, Max Sharam
12. Can’t Let Go, Mia Dyson (Like A Version cover)
13. Ten Days, Missy Higgins
14. Don’t Miss You At All, Norah Jones
15. Is My Baby Yours? Sarah Blasko
16. Jolene, Dolly Parton
17. I’ll Kill Her, Soko
18. Best Work, The Whitlams
19. All Or Nothing, The Basics

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Top 5: Covers

As I listen to Darren Hanlon do a version of Together In Electric Dreams (oh!) from the latest edition of Triple J's Like a Version, it occurs to me that so much of my music collection features songs covered by other bands. Love them! Another band or artist's take on someone else's track always impresses me!

The newly released He Will Have His Way: Songs of Neil and Tim Finn features some awesome versions, however Boy and Bear's Fall At Your Feet is sublime. The female version of this compilation is also amazing. But this track, with the lad's harmonies....oh!

Powderfinger's version of Portishead's Glory Box, which I found on an album called No Woman's Man. It's amazing!

And also from this album is Nothing Compares To You, by Dan Kelly - ridiculous!!

Ben Harper doing Sexual Healing on the Life From Mars albums is truly awesome.

Flame Trees by the The Cabramatta Sacred Heart School, which is featured on the Little Fish soundtrack is just gorgeous. The kids voices on the verses, the language changes, and then the full choir doing the chorus....so beautiful!

Special mentions go to:
EJ Barnes and Liam Finn doing Neil Young's Old Man for Like a Version.

Angus and Julia Stone doing Tubthumping, and also Julia's version of Your The One That I Want. Oh, actually, these two have also released some B-sides on the Hollywood EP where Angus does lead vocals for Hollywood, and Julia does Just A Boy.....so sweet!

Xanadu on the special Cinema Blasko disk of As Day Follows Night, by Sarah Blasko.

Eddie Vedder doing You've Got To Hide Your Love Away for the I Am Sam soundtrack....so good!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bree's Hens Day

A very large, and fun Saturday this weekend was Bree's Hens Day. I drove through the rain to meet a bus at her place in Heidleberg, where a bunch of us loaded on, and were passed little bottles of champers, as the bus made the long drive to the Mornington Peninsula. Catching up with Miss Bree, and Erin, Alissa, Bec, Lana and Jess was a bit of a bonus treat for me, not getting to see them much since changing offices.

Reaching T'Gallant Winery, we made a dash inside through the pouring rain, to wine tastings of the range, before being seated for lunch. A couple of their wines had market-grabbing names, with Juliet being a hit for our group, although sadly Romeo didn't really capture our attention.

Dips followed by pizzas were the wares, in the Italian inspired surroundings, while the rain kept falling. The gaggle of girls for the day were growing quite rowdy, before returning to the bus to head a touch further down the coast to Portsea.

The Portsea Pub was the final destination of the official day. One of Bree's favourite spots, again spoilt by the deluge of the day. Our late afternoon and night here seemed to be a day of so many parts. Dancing and much silliness was the end result, with a group who will all gather again for the big event in a couple of weeks hanging out together. Loads of fun!

About 11 of us had put in to stay in a house in Sorrento, and whilst I can't tell you much about how we found this street location through the back streets over in the next suburb, I can tell you that the key to the rental didn't work!

Many angry words, plottings to break in, consideration to sleeping in cars, and phone calls later, a local locksmith saved us from shivering our way through the night on the decking. An amazing house, sadly not fully utilised due to the lateness of our eventual habitation.

Such a great weekend, and despite the rain, has set up for a great wedding!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Trans-Siberian Railway

Amazingly, we all made the train the following morning after our big night out. Marina got us and all our gear to the station in time for our early morning departure - ready for 4 days on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Armed with dehydrated foods, other random snacks, some very expensive packets of pistachios, and bottles of vodka, we had no real idea what this journey would be like. Allocated 2 cabins for the 7 of us on our Vodka Train tour, we settled into some patterns fairly easily - a lot of chatter, banter, sharing of stories within our group. Games, tunes, some reading (not much, I think only one of us actually finished a book!), and then, by mid-afternoons....vodka!

Our group, and a group of Spaniards, and another group of Portuguese, were the only non-locals on our carriage. This train carries the Russians from town to town as part of their everyday - and thus, this was real life. Walking from the front of the train where the open space carriages were, I saw families, couples, settling in for the journey to their destinations.

Back on our carriage, Jonesey introduced us to the locals, after initially thinking his attempt at a Russian good morning went unheard. He was invited into a cabin for drinks with a group of Russian strangers next door, including a Russian solider traveling days to see his family in the middle of Russia during his break.

The pace of vodka, beer, vodka, beer soon made this second afternoon on the train turn into one of the best times of the whole trip. The non-verbal/attempted verbal exchanges, the food exchanges, and the general humanity of having drinks with locals and our group in a shared space, was amazing and one of the most unique experiences I can imagine. This night, our little party on our carriage and in our cabins, and the interactions with the locals, was the very essence of this long dreamed trip across Russia.

Jonesy had become an expert in figuring out the timetable, in terms of stops and how long they would be. This allowed us to jump off and wander the platform, and usually buy some random food morsels from the local sellers. Saved us from the options of noodles, or instant mash. Needless to say, I don't think any of us will eat 2-minute noodles again for sometime! The first discovery of the 5 litre, cold bottles of beer sold at some stops was a hit!

With Russian countryside, towns and cities, farm land, and village life passing by our windows, we took it in, we got to know each other in these small living spaces, and figured out how to pass such extended travel time.

We definitely shocked our Provodnitsa on the final night, when she investigated the noise coming from our cabin, only to find 11 people in there. We were playing an international version of celebrity head, sharing around several bottles of the 5lt Bag Bier...and weren't anywhere near as loud as the previous nights!

Our lowest point on the train was probably when the group had studied the timetable, and put together that we were not in fact getting off at our next destination the next day as we had thought, but actually the following morning. But regardless of the no showers, no space, and the random encounters along these 4 days, this experience was one of the best things I have done.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Moscow

Waking in Moscow after the night journey, we were greeted by the beautiful Marina at the train station. Taken back to our best hostel of the trip, Godzillas, we freshened up, before heading out to have breakfast, and then taking to this new city.

We wandered around the city on foot, making our way to the much anticipated Red Square. Was pretty exciting to be walking through the arch of Voskresensky Gate to this iconic sight, not fully knowing what to expect. The resplendent St Basil's, the wall of the Kremlin, and the vast space in front of them creating the square, were so amazing to take in.

The group of us explored the inside of St Basil's, with it's tiny towers and alter spaces, before we wandered past the river to get a look at the Square from the other end. We had lunch in back in the building on the east of the Square, which used to be the Upper Trading Rows, now the over-abundant GUM Department Store.

Marina then took us on the metro, through the crazily ornate and over-the-top stations, to Moscow State University on the Vorobyovy Gory. This building is massive, and is one of Stalin's Seven Sisters of the city - but it is also atop a hill overlooking the city sprawl.

The next day we explored the inside buildings of the Kremlin, which, for a country where religion was removed, has a bucketload of churches! The gold and silver inside these walls are gorgeous (see to the right), but excessive!

We then had Japanese for lunch, and walked through the financial, shopping mall area of the city, before reaching the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Destroyed and replaced by a swimming pool following the fall of the Soviet Union, this beautiful Russian Orthodox Church has been rebuilt since 1990 - and, in fact, as we walked through the lower levels, there were still painters there adding to the murals.

Preparing for our train trip the next day, before getting ready for a big night out, was an adventure itself in the supermarket, navigating between Russian script, random pictures on things, and some of us not paying much attention to prices. Dinner and drinks, Marina and a host of other Vodka Train Honchos joined us, and managed to include a magical walk through Red Square, before we reached an area of pubs and bars.

A massive night out, starting with vodka shots, and then endless dancing with the very enthusiastic Russians. The mainly student population in the pub Belinda and I spent the most time, were so very friendly, and such fun. Dancing to songs we haven't heard out for years, interspersed with random Russian pop, we all had such a great night!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

St Petes

We left Prague, and caught a Russian flight to St Petersburg. Instantly discovering the Russian script and signs, and lack of English a challenge, we figured out a bus to get from the airport to the city...but if it wasn't for a hot Dutch man on that bus who help us find the next steps, I suspect Jess, Belinda and I would still be lost somewhere on the transport system!

After wandering around lost for a bit more from the metro station, we eventually found our hostel, tucked away in courtyard with no markings. Here we discovered that our group as part of Vodka Train had left for a cruise on the river, since of flight was later than the official tour started. We followed the map left by Lera, our Honcho in St Petersburg, but just missed the cruise the rest of the group were on. To fill time until their return, we purchased some beers and nibbles, and park along the river. And this is how our tour group with whom we would be traveling for the next 3 weeks found us - beers in hand, sitting in the gutter, taking in this new city. We set the bar high to start with!

Once the 3 Irishmen and our Pompy ranga Pom were introduced, we then found a pub and had a night of getting to know the group, and asking Lera about her city. Each stop of Vodka Train has a Honcho who is a local who has signed up to oversee the groups time, making sure all the paperwork and tickets are sorted, and pointing us, or leading us, to where we want to go. It also meant that we were taken to local places to eat, which was more affordable, and meant we got to sample the local Russian foods that Lena usually has.

The next day we took a bus out of town, to Peterhof Palace, which is the summer palace. Taking in the gardens, the grand palace buildings, and then abundance of fountains, we also walked along the sea.

Back in the city, via the metro and marveling at the ornate and breathtakingly grand stations, we walked passed the The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, and then went aloft the Colonnade of St Isaac's Cathedral to get a view of the city. Back at ground level, we got to stare up at the Bronze Horseman.

6 of the 7 of us then got all dressed up and went to the ballet - Swan Lake in a very old Russian theatre. Quite a special feat, going to see this in Russia!

The boys feeling like that had had enough culture that evening, convinced us to have beers at the Irish pub across from the ballet, where we each had our first shots of vodka for the trip.

Having enjoyed 2 days of sunshine, and being told that St Petersburg only actually gets 24 days of sun a year, our last day was raining and overcast. Which was the perfect day to spend inside the Hermitage, taking in a vast collection of art, spanning from Russian, to a full scope of European art, Egyptian artifacts, to sculpture. We each spent hours meandering through the 5 buildings of the Winter Palace, of world art. So impressive!

Exploring the river side of the city, we walked over to Peter and Paul's Fortress, before Jess, Belinda and I took the river cruise through the canal and river systems, out in the elements taking in the commentary, before we each graduated inside for the last portion. It was freezing!

The end of the day, Lena managed to get us all to the train station in time to board our first train of our long journey, an overnight to Moscow.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Auckers To See Charlotte

I popped across the ditch for the weekend at the start of October, to see Charlotte. Now, I got a lot of flack for doing this, from the un-traveled. It seems they had never heard of anyone doing this - I had to explain that for anyone who has lived in London, catching a train to Paris for the weekend, or a plane to Barcelona for a couple of nights, or stealing away for a long weekend to Venice was just the London life! It didn't really fly for them, though. Silly them.

Anyway, I ditched work a touch early, got to Tullamarine, parked the car, jabbed myself with celexane to prevent DVT, and 3 hours and a bit later I landed in Auckland! Easy as! Miss Charlotte and Matt met me at the airport, despite the time difference making it very late for them.

The time difference caught up with me the next morning, with an effective wake up at 5am for me, but 8am NZ time....to a glorious, sunshine filled day. We went for a drive to the North of Auckland, to visit the Matakana markets. After sampling a whole heap of yummy wares, we then went to the nearby Brick Bay Winery. Here, the 3 of us walked the Sculpture Trail, which was very cool, despite Matt and my protests at the nature contact, the over-abundance of fresh air, and obscure art!! A bottle of wine to soak in the sunshine, and catch up on the past couple of years, was gorgeous.

Now, due to the inability of Australia to make a decision on anything this year, the afternoon was filled with the necessity of watching the AFL Grand Final Replay, after a draw at the end of the scheduled season. We were directed to The Paddington by an absent Ex-Pat, and here I tried to outline how good our game is, to 2 rugby fans. Not the best game for this!

The next day Charlotte took me out for an awesome brunch at Kokako, before another farmer's market, and a little drive around the bay. We checked out her place of work, and then Matt drove us up to One Tree Hill for a bit of a look over the city. The 3 of us then went to The Chapel for a Sunday session, with a crew joining us, for cider in the sunshine.

Such a great weekend, to mark both our birthdays for the month, and to catch up on Charlotte's new life back home. Was so good to see them both.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lions, Messenger and Wedding Party

My next installments for MIFF were each so varied...

Four Lions takes terrorism and jihads to a comical, scarily realistic level. A film about 4 guys in London who are preparing an attack - the plotting, the preparation, and the bumbling! This movie had the packed cinema laughing out loud almost constantly, with the comedy of errors these wanna-be suicide-bombers commit. A funny look on the very real paranoia that encompasses our world now, with a humanistic view of the other side of the story.

On the middle Saturday morning of the Festival, I went into town to see The Messenger, with Woody Harrelson. A harrowing story about the US Army's delivery of bad news to the families at home. So worth seeing, but leaves you with a fog of reality.

One of the most hyped movies of the festival was The Wedding Party, an Aussie premier. An ensemble cast of Aussie actors, old and upcoming, the collection of subplots lacked a bit of punch for me, and seemed to be just another dyfunctional family story. My highlight was probably hearing 'Nostravia', and the Russian shots of vodka, due to my recent travels!

*Reviews not as in depth as desired, due to the length of time since viewing!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Forest For The Trees

For the past week, this is the view that has been occupying my peripheral vision on both sides for around 12 hours...good, healthy Aussie bush.


Covering an area since Friday for work, from Portland to just north east of Bendigo, and then add the travel to Melbourne and back twice for uni, I have driven some serious Ks! This shot is actually taken around Frog Hollow, between Bendigo and Daylesford. But it could have been taken at so many points along the way, cos this scene appears all up and down sections of these country Victoria roads.

So, while I am spending hours trying to concentrate on staying within the white lines on my side, staying awake and alert, and not too far over the speed limit, I did take the time to marvel at the beauty that this crazy workload and regional coverage exposes me to.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunsets for Powderfinger

The band almost every Aussie of my age range grew up with has called it quits after 20 years of music, and launched into a final set of gigs around the country as a farewell. Having scrambled for tickets to the announced last ever show in Melbourne, and the bizarre choice of last show ever to be in Ballarat, Melissa and I were bemused to see show after show added since then. But alas, we loved our last Powerfinger shows, a band bowing out when they are still very, very good.

The first of the last Melbourne shows was at Rod Laver, and if it wasn't for the footy result the weekend before, Melissa and I would have had tough decisions to make. As it was not to be, we meet at the steps of the tennis centre, with Robbie, Wendy, Lauren and Paul, and enjoyed some pre-gig drinks.

We made it into the arena ready for Jet, who only proved to me that I seriously don't listen to the radio. I think I recognised 2 or 3 songs, and the rest sounded the same to me! The home crowd loved them, though.

Opening with 3 favourites in a row, being Love Your Way, Lost And Running, and then the newer Burn Your Name, the setlist was so full of rock energy from the start, and the crowd were all so pumped, and loving every minute. Working their way through the range of back catalogue, and fresh album, Bernard and the boys put on a top performance.

Surprising the crowd by disappearing from the main stage at one point, to the bizarre video play of some Russian space footage...and then the band appeared at a stage at the back of the tennis court, and played a pub set of Like A Dog and Stumblin', just like their old days of starting out.

Feeling very much like a celebration of their music, rather than a sad farewell, the show rocked, played all the favourites and those gems they play just for a live audience.

The Ballarat gig was, of course, on one of the wettest weekends possible, and while the massive circus tent erected at North Gardens was the perfect shelter, it seems no one thought to deal with the mud underneath. Jessie, Health, Katie and I plotted our way to a spot which seemed the highest and driest, as we watched people try and navigate their way closer. One girl in thongs got stuck in front of us, and simply abandoned her useless footware. Paul Dempsey was the first support, and as soon as he started, just a giant man on the stage with his guitar, it was apparent that regardless of the conditions around us, the sound was spot on. Whilst playing some of his most awesome tracks from his solo album, plus his new one, his MGMT cover of Time To Pretend was such an amazing highlight!

Melissa arrived after a day at the races, and having seen Jet at the last gig, we both decided we would do the group beer run. Back in time for the last couple of songs of the set, before the anticipation under the big top grew electric.

Playing a similar setlist to the one we had seen a month before in Melbourne, they also managed to trek through the mud to a stage in the middle of the circus tent, for their tracks on the smaller stage within the crowd. Finishing with a tent full of voices to My Happiness, Passenger, Pick You Up, which Bernard dedicated to the previous little gigs they have played in the 'Rat, and (Baby I've Got You) On My Mind. These Days, a fitting second encore to this musical journey.

Two very special shows to be part of. This weekend is the band's last shows, in their hometown of Brisbane. A sad time. Thanks for the memories, lads!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Weird Art in Prague

Reading from the Lonely Planet, we discovered that there are a number of weird art installations out and about in the city of Prague, and were fascinated enough to stake them out as much as we could. The work of contemporary artist, David Cerny, the controversial and funny pieces, are easy to track down with a map and the inclination.

Our first piece was Hanging Out, a man hanging from his hand above a street in the New Town, which was pointed out to us on one our our walking tours. After finishing our walking tour on one of our days, we then made our way out to the TV Tower, to check out the crawling Babies all over it. They were cute and disturbing, all at once!



We managed to find the back gate to the German Embassy, practically climbing through fences to get to it, to spot the car on legs, as a symbol of the displaced people who camped on these grounds after the war, seeking asylum.

The Pissing Men in the grounds of the Kafka Museum had us intrigued, as they spelt out infamous Czech sayings! The people-watching around this one was hilarious.

Cerny's Dead Horse is his version of the upright and regal one in Wenceslas Square of triumphant King Wenceslas, tucked away in one of the shopping centres off the Square.

We did walk for an age to find the one at Cerny's studio, being the Futura Gallery, only to find it removed for repairs, or a new installation. The piece features the bottom half of two men, bent into a wall - you can climb up ladders and stick your head up the bums, and view a video of two prominent Czech politicians feeding each other gruel....random!

This guy has recently caused ripples in Europe with an installation depicting each of the EU nations in not the most favourable of lights, and it seems he has new ideas, and new controversies every so often.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Pretty Cute Prague

Breakfast on our Parisian street for our final French morning, we farewelled Jessie, Health, Rooey and Hemsey, before Belinda, Jess and I grabbed our flight to Prague. We found our mansion-size 3-bed "dorm room" at Little Town Hotel in Malastrona, we had our first Czech beers before wandering up to Charles Bridge.

The rain pulled us back to our side of the river, the Castle side, for dinner of goulash, pork knuckle and duck, before finding a little underground basement bar, in an attempt to mix with the locals.

Taking this stop on our big trip pretty easy, we walked across to the Old Town Square the next day, noted the 'something lame' that happens on the hour at the clocktower, according to our researched tips from Dillo, before finding a free walking tour from the Square. Our Czech guide took us across to Prague Castle, telling us about Czech history from occupation to the Velvet Revolution. Walking through the grounds of the Castle, and taking in the massive St Vito Cathedral, we then stopped in various pubs all the way back down the hill to our neighbourhood.

More drinks in our mansion, before we wandered past the John Lennon Wall, then through to under Charles Bridge and along the river.

Starting a bit earlier the next day, we met another walking tour in Old Town Square, and were taken through New Town, past Wenceslas Square, and the Communist Museum (which we later went back to, and discovered more of the awesome sense of humour of the Czechs!). Jana, our guide, told us of her memories of when she was 10 and the times of lining up for bananas.

Through the cute streets, and gorgeous, gothic and baroque buildings, Jana pointed out the first of our weird art spottings, before taking us through the Jewish Quarter and to the statue of Kafka. Here, we went off for lunch, before heading out to Prague 3 for more art, and more pubs with beer.

Staying across the road from St Nicholas Cathedral, we finally popped in the next morning for the 'bloody brilliant' bling inside (another Dillo quote, and recommendation), before more art hunting around the city. We then caught a tram across town, and got up to Letna Gardens, for the beer gardens and pints overlooking Prague.

*Written from notes dated 31/05/2010

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Top 5: Albums This Year

Again, watching the ARIAs (which has been the worst night of Aussie award TV ever, such awkwardness), makes me evaluate the albums that have been filling my ears for the past 12 months. Last year was very much an all Aussie affair for me, whilst this year is a bit more of a mixed bag.

I continue to stand by my call that Florence & The Machine's Lungs is the last album you will ever need to listen to. So, so incredible. Having discovered her this time last year, it dominates my play counts, with tracks like Drumming Song, My Boy Builds Coffins, and Kiss With A Fist.....and then there are the releases from it, which just blow you away! So amazing live, that I have managed to see her twice this year - cos that's how much I have loved this album!!

Canada's Stars and their The Five Ghosts is another of the best for this year. An introduction of electro-pop since their past releases, the building drama of each track sweeps you along. I Died So I Could Haunt You, along with Changes my favourite tracks.

Charles put me on to Broken Bells by Broken Bells, which is just brilliant. A collaboration between Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, and James Mercer, from The Shins. Melodic indie rock - need I say more?

Golden Rule by Powderfinger is one that has grown on me over the year, but the bonus live disc instantly got a high play count on my iPod. The charisma that shines through this live set is buzzing. Makes you feel like you are there, singing along. Then there is the album itself, with the amazing Burn Your Name...an anthem as only the 'finger can produce. Sail The Wildest Stretch, Stand Yourself, and then the single All Of The Dreamers are also standouts.

Paul Dempsey's solo release, Everything Is True, is just such a complete album. Have You Fallen Out Of Love?, so lovely. Actually, could list the complete track list, being the songs I love on this one. So good.

And Down The Way by Angus and Julia Stone, who just performed the most nervous rendition of Big Jet Plane I have ever seen....bless them! And won Best Album tonight. This album has the 2 siblings fleshing out each of their individual styles and songwriting, and then playing their pletharo of instruments Tracks like Santa Monica Dream and And The Boys make you want to lay in a field of daisies! So lovely. And then Draw Your Swords and Yellow Brick Road is like warmed chocolate for your ears! Another band I have seen live twice this year, off the back of this release.

Oops, that 6! Maybe a couple of them don't count, cos they weren't technically released in the last 12 months....

Special mention goes to Feist, The Reminder - sorry, where was I when this was released, under a rock??!! This album is so amazing!

Also add to the list of mentions the album length surprise EP release, All Delighted People, by Sufjan Stevens, and then the 2 Aussie gems from Little Red and HKOK, being Midnight Remember and Escapades respectively.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Gig Retrospective

So with my blog hiatus, I have missed capturing many evenings of live music, and thought I would just do a quick run down...hopefully capturing the highlights that stood out for me...

After the opening train wreck gig for the residency, I saw The Basics the following 2 weeks, as they progressively got their act together. Not their usual selves the first week, but getting better the next, at a gig Charles was in town for. Alas, not the best time to showcase one of my favourite bands! Upon my return from my trip, amazingly, despite the previous performances, they had extended the Tuesday nights at the Northcote through June, and I managed to catch the last one of the 2 month series. No songs from the new album in this show, and a host of covers, the boys made several mentions of perhaps not playing again together for some time to come, and hinted at new Gotye material.

I saw Little Red at the Prince Bandroom, also just after I got back, which was a little preview of the new album. These boys are growing in popularity, with a rowdy and fanatical crowd up the front. This gig showed how mature the second album is, with a more bluesy feel. The new single Rock It, certainly had a beat and key feature that gets into your head and causes involuntary grooving!

The combination of The Holidays and the Hungry Kids Of Hungary on the one bill both previewing new album material, was enough for another drive to Melbourne, to the East Brunswick. The Holidays played entirely new material, which was brave, but showed this album is something to look forward to. Much of the HKOH tracks previewed were ones we had heard before at live gigs, but their popularity is also growing, and suggests this album could be huge!

Little Oh Mercy did a show at the Toff to launch Keith St as a single....teasing with the promise of an album early next year. Mingling old songs with very fresh ones, including an awesome solo track by Eliza, there remained an elephant in the room, being the unexplained absence of Thom.

I picked a jetlagged Melissa up from the airport as a payoff for her coming to see The Whitlams at The Corner with me - win win to her, if you ask me! Playing 2 hours of a full range of their back catalogue, before they said goodbye for an extended break. Tim always comments on loving playing at The Corner, even with the bulk of the crowd seeming to talk all the way through it. Nothing more annoying!

*credit goes to Nicole's blog for jogging my memory for some details here!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Roland Garros

The starting point for my big trip this year was the desire to go to the French Open. In fact, several of us had been talking about it constantly for months (I am looking at you, Rooey!). So as the group grew for this little idea of meeting up with Jessie at Roland Garros, we played on the website for tickets, and booked our two days, almost entirely in French. They are quite particular with names and ID for the tickets, which is quite...well, French, isn't it!

We were up and rode the metro out to the Roland Garros complex for Day 1 (actually techncally Day 2, cos they play some matches on Sunday to get through the matches of Round 1), where we found our first Aussie at play. Here was where being at the French Open really hit me, and it was all I could do to contain the excitement of it all, as we watched Jelana Dokic for a set.

A ground pass for each of the 7 of us, we wondered around the complex, taking it all in. We sat courtside and watched Carson Ball struggle through a couple of sets, before making our way to see Marcos Baghdatis up close on one of the mini-big courts.

Meeting in the middle of the complex for a beer, we discovered that Ball was in the last throws of a 5 set match, and managed to squeeze in to hear (not see!) the last game, before I headed off to further courts to watch Chilian Gonzalos. The bigger group joined up again as we watch Sam Stoser win through the first round (attributing her later success in the tournament to our support!), and watching a bit of the Molik game.

After our very full first day at the tennis, we made our way to the foot of the Eiffel, and took a cruise along the Seine, to take in Paris at night. So pretty!

At it again the next day, but this time we had taken a punt on booking a couple of seats in each of the main courts for the day. Belinda, Jess, and I saw the end of the first men's match on Court Suzanne Lenglen, and then Safina coast along before having a tantrum and finding her older Japanese opponent beating her. We then watched Nadal make easy work of his first match to his eventual tournament win. This was the match the French fans filled the venue for, for the first set and a half....I don't actually know where they were for the rest of the day, apart from clogging every walkway around the courts!

Jessie, Heath, Rhys and Hemant had their seats on Court Philippe Chatrier for the day, but we did manage to do some creative ticket swaps and tag teams, to mean that we each got a set in each of the venues. I joined this court to see the first set of Hewitt, and soak up the French centre court feel, before Rooey and I returned to Suzanne Lenglen for Sharapova.

Hewitt completed match point just as the rains started, and we were all trapped somewhere around the complex as torrential rains hit Paris. Being here for these 2 days was such a great experience, adding to the Grand Slam collection, and taking in some great tennis.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hello Paris! Hello Jessie!

My much anticipated trip of the year arrived through a blur of a final essay, and tidying up a million bits and pieces for work, to be able to leave the country for a month! Clexane injections to prevent coagulation, and a hot and surreal plane change in Doho, and finally I was in Paris!

I made my way to our hostel, where I found Jessie, and Heath, who I hadn't seen since Barbados!

After freshening up, we went downstairs and found a street facing table at a nearby bar, for beers and catching up, where Hemant, Rhys, Belinda, Jess, Tamara, Dillo, and Remy found us. As a big group, we weaved through the streets to find the Latin Quarter for dinner.

The next morning, I went with Hemant to Montmarte, whilst Jessie and Heath went to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Checking out Sacre Coeur, and the little streets overlooking Paris, we the found the Moulin Rouge in the daylight, and wondered down the red light street for a giggle. He-man and I then got the metro to go and meet up with Jessie and Heath, on the grass below the Tower.

Rhys came to join us, before we walked to the Arc de Triomphe, and under the crazy round-a-bout to explore it. Last time I was here, we didn't climb up into the Arc, but Jessie and I were rewarded for our climb by seeing reference to the Aussie version of the Arc, being the one and only Arch of Victory, in Ballarat!

I loved Paris more this time than last time, I think because I wasn't rushing around to see all the sights, so I could just soak it up. Plus the weather was glorious, and so it wasn't the kind of hard work Winter in Europe makes everything!

Back to the hostel, we all got ourselves ready for our exciting dinner date for the evening. Now, the story goes that when Jessie was working in Edinburgh, she met an older gent who said she should come to his place for dinner when she's in Paris. Turns out that gent was Jim Haynes, and he has a dinner at his place most Sunday evenings, with a collection of people from around the world who hear about it through word of month. How amazing it that!

Our large group made it to the address, and whilst we were not meant to be such a group as it's not the flavour of the event, we soon found a spot out in the courtyard, and enjoyed the meal that was put together by a Chef from London.

Several wines into the evening, a few of us set out to embody the spirit of Jim's vision, and mingled with older couples from Boston, a freelance writer from Edinburgh, a German scientist....and 2 sisters from Ballarat, Australia! No kidding, we are everywhere!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Ghost Writer, Clinic, and Dad

I had so much anticipation with the build up for this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, just because there is always such great, fresh films on display, you feel part of this intensely absorbed community who also trek from one session to the next, and it's one of the best things about Melbourne in winter!

The first of my sessions this year was the new Roman Polanski, starring Ewan McGregor - The Ghost Writer. A political thriller about a writer employed to take over as ghost writer for the British PM's memoirs...after the tragic demise of the first one. Ewan is great in this role, and the twists and turns have your gripped. The final scene leaves you stunned!

A later night screening of a new Aussie film, The Clinic, was next on my schedule, and rattled me! Sign of a good film, if you walk out a little shaken! A story about a young pregnant woman who is kidnapped from the hotel she and her husband are staying in, she wakes in an ice bath with a scar across her belly. She soon finds that she is not the only woman in the rundown farm in the middle of nowhere...and soon the purpose of the makeshift clinic is made clear, and the frights begin! My own clinical knowledge had me disappointed with the portrayal of an Autistic man, but for the purposes of the story and the clear need for some assistance for these scared women, this gaff was overshadowed by the blows and the horror. Loved the ending, with a quote within the lasting frames 'Evolution is a bitch!'

Robin Williams in World's Greatest Dad was my next film, and another disturbing tale. This one directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, which may explain the black, black humour. Laugh out loud moments, inappropriate laughs most of the time, and yet a powerful message about acceptance and fitting in. Dad here is a teacher, and calls on Hemingway at one point, and then points about 'although he did try and scratch an itch at the back of his head with a shotgun'.

*Reviews not as in depth as desired, due to the length of time since viewing!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hungry Kids, Basics and Clare

Three gigs in a row, three great Aussie bands, each promoting newly released albums. All good!

Saturday night Katie and I went out to Karova to see the Hungry Kids Of Hungray. It turns out Dean's parents are from the 'Rat, as he referred to it, and has lots of family here - that impressed the local crowd. Playing almost all the tracks from their newly released debut album, they added Arrest This Heart and Old Money from the previous EPs to the set list. Ending with Buddy Holly, a Weezer cover, perhaps as a response to the recent online discussions about their name.

Sunday night I met up with Nicole and Mary at the Northcote Social Club, for the second of 2 shows by The Basics, to launch their live album (Which you can download for free at that link). We made it into the bandroom for the second support of the evening was Georgia Fair, who certainly captured the crowd's attention. Sounds of Angus Stone, some great tracks were displayed, before the boys from The Basics graced the spiderweb draped stage, dressed for the Halloween date. Opening with The No 1 Cause of Death Amoung Youth Today, then U R The 1, before With This Ship, the show was showing signs of being one of the best. The first half of the gig was amazing, with the boys at their best, with banter and harmony. But then perhaps the level of alcohol hit for one of the band, and there was tetchiness, and perhaps some evidence as to basis for the planned extended break coming up for the band. An awesome cover of Roxanne, plus Just Hold On, had Wally showcasing his talents. Tim was also in full flight, with witty comebacks and crazy dance moves. Kris, though, was reminiscent of one May gig. Hopefully, their talk of not playing together again for some time will prove me wrong about them being The Band Who Cried Wolf!

Last night Jessie, Katie and I met in Chinatown for dumplings, before finding our way to the gorgeous Forum, and it's starry roof. Glenn Richards was one of the supports for the night, and despite just releasing his solo album, he was sullen and lacklustre...and didn't grab the crowd with any of his new material. He managed to get some attention by finishing with Augie March's One Crowded Hour. In complete contrast, Clare Bowditch entered the stage, aglow with a beaming, infectious smile. Playing the 80s-pop Casio influenced new tracks, with a sprinkling of the much loved songs of her back catalogue, she chatted and told stories to her adoring audience. The new Prinz Willy was just beautiful. And favourites like Divorcee At 23, Lips Like Oranges, and the amazing You Looked So Good, were so very good. Love her!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Neglected Blog

My last post had me plotting a new and exciting trip - and then nothing! For months...cos I guess I have been caught up in my travels initially, with very limited internet time, and thus blog time, and then getting back from my travels it has been work, work and work, and uni.

But after doing NaBloPoMo for the last 2 years, I have actually been looking forward to this one for about a month, as a solid excuse, and challenge, to get joulet back up and posting.

So busy, busy with work, with a pretty demanding workload, which also means loads of travel between our regional sites. And I am also just starting Week 7 of my 8 week semester of my MSW. Which I am loving, cos I feel like I am actually learning and putting things into my practice when I get back to the office, but it also drains my time, with travel, and guilt of not working on my essays. Or making up my hours at work.

So, let's just say my trip was one of the best things I have ever done. And also since I have been back I have squeezed in as many MIFF sessions as I could, given that I now live 90 minutes travel from Melbourne to get to them, and also been to a handful of awesome gigs.

Heaps to blog about, which should make posting everyday for the month of November easy as! Ha! Plenty of material....let's go!
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