Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Cheer

Ahhhh, the office at Christmas time, is there anything as remarkably cheesy/charming? Kris Kringles (i scored an excellent desk calender filled with useless factoids), morning teas, and a LONG WEEKEND baby! Excitement is something I have no intention of contating right now. Five days of relaxation (even if one of them is the eating/drinking/small-talking-with relatives-you-see-once-a-year marathon that is Christmas day) seems so foreign to me as to be surreal. Not in a Dali-esque, melting clocks kind of way, but a crazy, 'there's no way they'll let me out of here for that long, they must be rebuilding the office in my living room while I sleep' kind of way. Or is that paranoia? Who cares. Seasons Greetings to all who undergo what must seem like some form of unique torture in reading this blog. I'm actually supposed to be writing about the annual trauma that is new years eve (hereafter referred to as NYE).

I will get around to the travails of the aforementioned relatives on Christmas day, but I think I'll save that for after the ordeal is over. Currently, I am faced with the dilemma that is organising/deciding how I will spend the yearly attempted uber party that happens on December 31st, and with whom I will spend it.

I told Nicole that she can choose if she likes, but my girl isn't the most decisive character in the world (bless her soul), so I think it might fall to me.
Unfortunately, some of my friends are talking about going to a pub next Saturday night. This would be a grave error. To spend upwards of $50 to be locked into a sardine tin with women so gorgeous that you feel like a criminal just looking, and blokes with collars so far up around their ears that I feel they are actually some means designed specifically to keep their heads attached, while keeping their designer mullets with the peroxided mohawk thing untouchable and therefore perfectly coiffed and primped (I can't stand the collar up, private school, head-up-their-arse brigade. Wankers), seems just foolish to me. That doesnt even take into account the expense of continuing to drink while surrounded by said denizens of the Melbourne underworld.

Think I'll stay home, drink bloody Lubers (that's bourbon shots for the uninitiated) and watch TV to see how different their respective clocks are by seeing how far apart their celebrations take place. Then again, I'm sure that TV will be filled with many a raised collar too.....

PS - stay tuned for my analysis of the life forms that surface to forage for booze on NYE.

Christmas Cheer

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Freeform Jazz Odyssey

Since 'Spinal Tap', the words Freeform Jazz Odyssey have carried the connotation of incompetence. Derek Smalls' incoherent bass, while hilarious, was indicative of the kind of associations we make with the idea of letting jazz musicians have free rein.
Well, I witnessed what could be termed a freeform jazz oddysey last night at Bennet's Lane Jazz Club in the city, and it was magnificent.
Jazz muso and piano virtuoso Paul Grabowsky has teamed up with the country's best (by a mile) singer, Katie Noonan, to create a double album called 'Before Time Could Change Us', employing lyrics by acclaimed Australian poet Dorothy Porter, and it's beautiful. With a rhythm section that beggars belief (Phil Rex on double bass and Simon Barker on drums) complemented by trumpeter Scott Tinkler and Grabowsky's piano work, the entire 16 songs gel together to form a moving whole.
Porter's libretto charts a lover's journey, from cynicism and self-protection to joyful surrender, then along a rocky course of doubt, disillusionment and, finally, a sense of lost innocence and quiet reflection.
Paul Grabowsky's musical score brilliantly evokes the shifting emotional terrain negotiated by the protagonist, using texture, mood and genre to mirror the lover's inner world.
Occasionally, Grabowsky's arrangements, which tend towards the complex, seem to intentionally contradict each other, sometimes held together only by the dazzlingly fast Rex's bass lines. But this complexity serves as a wonderful counterpoint to the softer, more reflective moments, such as 'If Snakes Could Fly', where Noonan's voice finally gets a chance to reveal itself, sheltered as it was by a wall of sound for much of the performance.

An amazing night out, for sure, and a record that I recommend to any jazz fan.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A cause for national shame

Even though it pains me to pull out one of those ubiquitous 'A Current Affair' - style cliches, I can't think of a better way to describe the events on Sunday in Cronulla. I am not so concerned about the event itself (for those who are unaware, there were ugly scenes which have been described as 'race riots' over the weekend. Whether this is sensationalist journalism or not, the targets of the anger were certainly of Middle Eastern descent), but greater concern hangs over the underlying community feelings behind the mob violence. Like you tell any woman at the pub, for every guy who has the guts to speak to you, there's five who want to, but haven't for whatever reason. The same rationale applies here. The real worry are those who sit in their armchairs at home and watch the news with a sense of quiet satisfaction. The door that was opened by Pauline Hanson in 1996, and kicked off its hinges by Howard in 2001 is now the venue for a gradual outpouring of xenophobic sentiment.
It's the little things - i.e. 'Bloody Asian drivers' or Wog this or Lebbo that. Innocuous as it may seem, it's growing up in a culture that on the surface, tolerates bigotry, that can lead to the grander and more frightening racism we saw yesterday. That is, blaming an entire ethnicity for the actions of a few. Racial stereotyping is nothing new, but the new climate of 'home-grown terrorists' and 'Islamist terrorists' and 'Islamic fundamentalists' boils a complex issue down to racial lines...the very thing that results in unmitigated hatred being unleashed on the innocent.
Something must be done to institue radical social and cultural change at the grass roots level. And it is up to political and cultural leaders to set a better example than obligatory statements of 'disgust' and 'condemnation' that spew forth from PM's and oppostition leaders alike in times like these.
Moves must be made to eradicate the idea that Australians of one colour are any different from Australians of any other colour.
I live in hope that one day, kids will grow up unaware of the original nationality or ethnicity of their next door neighbour.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Australia's Favourite Films

On Sunday night, the ABC ran a programme entitled 'My Favourite Film', which was basically the announcement of the country's 10 favourite flicks, after a 3 month internet and mail and phone poll. The results were in some cases, very surprising.
10. Fight Club
9. Gone with the Wind
8. The Princess Bride
7. Pulp Fiction
6. Star Wars - Episode IV
5. Donnie Darko
4. The Shawshank Redemption
3. Blade Runner
2. Amelie
1. Lord of the Rings (Trilogy)
Excellent films, all of them. But best ever? Absolutely not. And nor should they be. This is the 'favourite' films of the Australian public. This is not the assessment of an assortment of film experts, but the preference of the unwashed masses. I think it is indicative of the ephemeral nature of film that almost all are so recent (Citizen Kane came in at 92). One point that film elitists must come to terms with is that modern films are, in fact, very good. Occasionally.
Peter Carey is one such elitist who can't stop extolling the virtues of every film ever made by a foreigh director. Here is an article he wrote attacking the 'My Favourite Film' process.

Not to say that these aren't great movies - they are - but intelligentsia such as he must accept that films that are American and made in the past 20 years can still be great, and labelling the public (and by virtue of that the ABC) as foolish is ignorant in the extreme.

By the way, if you want to see the full top 100, see the below address:

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Question Time

I read a great article today, by Chris Evans, who is, granted, an opposition senator, in The Age.

Primarily, it's about the government's abuse of it's senate majority. And for a sitting member of the opposition, it's remarkably free of hyperbole. That's refreshing from a politician.
I'm too tired to get genuinely fired up right now, maybe because it's so depressing seeing what's happening. So check out the article and get angry too.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A sad day for Australia

Tomorrow, it may be illegal for me to write this. The Australian government are routinely incompetent, arrogant, unscrupulous rogues who have completely disregarded the well being of the Australian people to further their own self driven, power-hungry ends. Today, the new anti-terror legislation will be passed through parliament fundamentally unopposed, as the government holds a majority in both houses of parliament. Statements that 'can cause hatred or violence towards the sovereign or the government' will become punishable by a maximum of 7 years jail. As will the publication of said statements.
If the AFP can convince a retired judge that my statements could infer an intention to commit a terrorist act, then I can be taken from my home - for two weeks - without trial, unable to make a phone call or see a lawyer, while all who know of my situation are legally bound to remain silent about where I am or what I'm doing.

This is how democracy dies. The rights of the people are slowly eroded under the pretence of serving their best interests. We now live in a world where it is easier than ever to do. Governments can advertise their intentions, promote their ideologies and in short convince the populace that what they are doing is right. What's more, we live in an age of greater political apathy than ever before. While the country is busy watching Australian Idol, their rights are stolen out from under them.

The government can effectively pass any legislation it chooses, and under the new laws will have a means to silence any dissenters or those who choose to promote alternate views. And the people don't care.

The fear of terrorism has created an atmosphere of carte blanche for the Howard government, and they have been caught up in the wave of their own propaganda. There's far too much material for me to try to attack here.
Rest assured I'm angry. And frightened.

Supermarket Rage

Last night I needed to buy food for lunch. After a couple of hours hard labour shifting temporary sports flooring (long story), I was on the way home at about 11.45, thinking 'I'll just grab something for my sandwiches tomorrow and be done with it'. I really ought have known better.
Arriving at Coles on Toorak road at 11.58, I was told in no uncertain terms to find myself another supermarket by a typically slack-jawed, self important knob jockey who clearly gets his kicks from excercising what meagre authority is bestowed on him by the powers that be at Coles Myer. So, rather than kick up a shit, I drove further down Toorak Rd to the Burwood 24hr Coles. I walked in, asking for someone to help out in the deli. 'Sorry, the deli shut at 12'. Sorry?
'The deli's closed'. You mean there's no-one here who can weigh some chicken and wrap it in paper? 'No-one'. What about that guy? 'He can't' Isn't he the duty manager? 'Yes'. And he can't operate a scale? 'No.'
Well, after resigning myself to pre-packaged meat, I returned to the checkouts to find the queue 8 DEEP! At 12.15!!! WHAT KIND OF FUCKING BUSINESS ARE THEY RUNNING HERE??!!
Some ageing, matronly woman behind the counter cruising along at her own pace, while I burn in the eternal fires of hell for all she cares. Clearly in their mad rush to be a safe workplace (trust me I used to work for them), the concept of giving a shit about your customers has gone out the window.
When this wizened old crone decided to call for assistance, another slack jawed, buck-toothed, DUMB-ARSED bloke rocked up, then insisted that even though he knew how to operate a till, had no interest in doing so. You lousy little fucker! I'm tired! I'm bored! And I'm PAYING!!!! Without people like me paying for goods, you won't get paid, so you won't be able to afford the detergent to remove the shit stains from the inside of your pants you dumb punk!
Anyway, I'm about to drop an O-ring, so that'll do for now.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Gender Gap

Well, last night some mates and I played a scratch match against the Melbourne Falcons Women's AVL (Australian Volleyball League) team to help their preparation for the finals this weekend. To see the draw check out this link:
Anyway, during the game I encountered a dilemma. How do you go about playing against girls? Even against really excellent players like these girls, it was a no-win situation for the boys, and I think we pulled through admirably. If we played hard - i.e. to win - we look like big bullies getting a kick out of beating up on girls, if we go soft, we look like we're patronising them becasue they're girls. If we lose, we look like hacks, and if we win, we get no kudos, because 'men are better athletes'. (Even though if you saw me you'd realise how far from athletic I am). The only way out was to just win, while trying hardish and at the same time trying to look like you aren't trying. Luckily enough, that's what happened. Well done to the girls though. If I was half the player they all are I'd be....a much better player.
Gender issues are also favourite talking points of mine, so you'll hear more of this kind of thing in the future.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Top Ten Albums of 2005

As previously mentioned, I am something of a listophile. I will take any subject and spontaneously compile a list of my preferences in order just to satisfy my own stupid urges. So, in the spirit of controversy and provoking debate, here are my top ten records of 2005:

1. Arcade Fire - Funeral

Debut albums don't come much better than this. Dramatic, powerful, the dark subject matter (see the title) actually serves to enhance the quiet triumph of vocalist Win Butler over the grief of losing those close to him. Of the rash of bands emerging recently to cite new wave bands, Arcade Fire is the only one to truly imbue their music with a sense of drama, pathos and genuine importance, rather than dancefloor rock. Majestic.

2. Doves - Some Cities

After the wonderful 'The Last Broadcast of 2002, Doves have come back with a more refined sound, and boy does it work. Drawing on Motown influences to complement the present Mancunian moods and textures, 'Some Cities' hits all the right notes, from the gorgeous pop melody of 'Snowden' to the richly layered rock of 'Sky is Falling' and 'Black and White Town', Doves have created their most soulful, concise and beautiful record yet. Great

3. Little Barrie - We Are Little Barrie

Grooves don't come much groovier than this. Little Barrie, discovered by British underground musician and one hit wonder Edwyn Collins, have, on the back of some exceptional musicianship, created some of funkiest blues heard since 1965. This one is a sleeper, and if you haven't heard of them, go out and have a listen. Your feet will still be tapping next week.

4. Sufjan Stevens - Come On!! Feel the Illinoise!

With ridiculously long song titles, and the ambition to create an album to represent each of America's 50 states, Sufjan Stevens could be accused of being pretentious, but when you make music this good, pretentiousness and self indulgence are very welcome. Beautiful, sweeping song construction, stories told with just the right combination of local knowledge and personal introspection, Illinoise is a masterpiece.

5. Antony and the Johnsons - I am a Bird Now

The voice. My God, the voice! Hearing Antony (a transgender who controversially won the Mercury Award despite living in New York most of his life) sing is one of those moments that will stop you in your tracks, like hearing Jeff Buckley sing for the first time. An androgynous falsetto, Antony's voice swirls around the gorgeous accompaniments he has also provided. This is the album for 2005 that throws the book out the window.

6. Spoon - Gimme Fiction

Intelligent, artful pop music at its absolute finest, Gimme Fiction is brimming with creativity and spark. Dense where 2002's 'Kill the Moonlight' was sparse, Spoon's latest is a rewarding experience, particularly on repeated listenings.

7. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

Bloc Party's debut rings out like a clarion call in the night. Full to the rim with intent and purpose, Silent Alarm marries 80's dance floor beats and staccato guitars with a seriousness and currency that somehow complement each other in a perverse way. The best of the crop of new new-wavers.

8. Sigur Ros - Takk.....

Unbelievably, Sigur Ros have been accused of selling out! This may be because second single 'Hopipolla' has a runtime of less than 5 minutes. However, have Chris Martin sing that song in English and you would have (other than a much weaker song) the best and most wildly creative Coldplay song ever. By a mile. Sigur Ros have abbreviated their approach to song construction without compromising their integrity. If only all bands could sell out and be this unique.

9. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger

What sets Maximo Park apart from the other New Order-inspired young bands at the moment is their attention to melody. In amongst the post-punk beats and thickly accented, somewhat obtuse lyrics, ("I'll do graffiti if you sing to me in French") lie some truly beautiful songs, such as 'The Coast is Always Changing', with it's gorgeous 2 guitars and keys coda through the bridge. The fourth of 5 debut albums on this list.

10. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike!

The Avalnches on crack. The Go! Team's superfluous exclamation mark is the best adjective possible for this eclectic UK group. Combining samples with instrumentation to create a singular musical experience, TLS is the party album of 2006.

Honourable mentions:

Beck - Guerro, Lior - Autumn Flow, The White Stripes - Get behind me Satan, Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft, Hot Hot Heat - Elevator, The Bees - Free the Bees, BRMC - Howl, Ambulance Ltd. - Ambulance Ltd.

Well, there you have it. Feel free to rip my musings to pieces.