Thursday, January 12, 2017

Music Master–Tim O’Brien at Caravan Music Club

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Tim O’Brien live at Caravan Music Club – 11/1/17

Caravan Music Club, out in the wilds of Oakleigh, on the other side of the Yarra, is a fair way from where I live. But it’s such a pleasant venue that the long trek getting there is generally worth the effort.

Such was the case last night, where we saw American master musician Tim O’Brien show off his expertise on guitar, violin and mandolin in a one man show.

Tim O’Brien last toured Australia in 2011, and I had the good fortune to see him perform at the Port Fairy Folk Festival and at the now extinct East Brunswick Club.

As well as being a whiz on various instruments, Tim also has a great singing voice, a warm tenor that suits the kind of music he favours – bluegrass, folk and gospel.

He started his show with one of his own compositions Workin’ a sort of Dylanish monologue detailing various work scenarios. Señor, a Dylan song he recorded on his wonderful Bob Dylan bluegrass tribute album Red On Blonde, followed, and provided an interesting and appropriate segue.

He changed the mood with a traditional English folk ballad Pretty Fair Lady In The Garden, then performed the comical title song from his latest record Pompadour.

Quite a few of the songs on the night were from the Pompadour album.

Tim O’Brien is touring Australia in the company of his partner, Jan Fabricious, whom he invited on stage to sing harmony in the next few songs – Wichita, I Gotta Move, What Happened To Me and Go Down To The Water.

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Jan Fabricious at Caravan Music Club 11/1/17

And so the night progressed, Tim switching from guitar to fiddle to mandolin, singing or playing 22 tunes in his main set.

I was a tad disappointed he didn’t play banjo, but you can’t have everything.

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Tim O’Brien live at Caravan Music Club 11/1/17

Several of the tunes were instrumental, such as traditional fiddle tunes like Ditty Boy Twang, Say Old Man and Kid On The Mountain, but the whole show was varied in terms of musical styles, making it a very enjoyable and engaging concert.

There was a good crowd in attendance, many of my vintage, who all appreciated the rare pleasure of watching Tim O”Brien play his instruments so effortlessly and with masterful skill.

Set List (stolen from the stage)

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Tim O’Brien Set List for 11/1/17

Set List Translated (to the best of my ability)

  1. Workin’
  2. Señor
  3. Pretty Fair Maid In The Garden
  4. Pompadour
  5. Wichita
  6. I Gotta Move
  7. Whatever Happened To Me
  8. Go Down To the Water
  9. You Were On My Mind This Morning
  10. Say Old Man (fiddle tune)
  11. Working On A Building
  12. Ditty Boy Twang
  13. Kid On The Mountain
  14. Not Afraid Of Dying
  15. I’m A Mess For You
  16. Brother Wind
  17. Jack of Diamonds (Drunkard’s Hiccups)/The Crossing
  18. Nellie Kane
  19. The Tulips On the Table
  20. Gentle On My Mind (John Hartford cover by special request)
  21. The Water Is Wise
  22. Look Down That Lonesome Road

Encore

Before This Time Another Year

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Adam Wolfe: Dark Detective

adam wolfe

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of computer games and I generally have one on the go most of the time, to fill in the lazy hours of leisure that is part and parcel with being retired from work.

My preference is for Adventure games, but occasionally I will play hidden object games (HOGS) when I run out of good adventures, or feel like something new.

A great many HOGS are the same old stuff, fantasy or supernatural horror – take your pick - and are generally amusing to play if you like solving puzzles. But it often seems that you’re playing the same game over and over again,  the titles all vanishing from your mind as soon as you finish playing.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a HOG called Adam Wolfe, the brain child of Mad Head Games, and started to play the first episode and was blown away by its originality.

It’s like no other hidden object game I’ve ever played, being more of an action adventure interactive movie that sweeps you into its world from the get go.

The game is set in a dystopian San Francisco and you play Adam Wolfe, paranormal detective, who is seeking his missing younger sister Allie, who disappeared two years before the story opens.

Adam’s search takes him to some dark places and pits him against evil sects and time lords over four episodes. It’s a fast moving game, and very engaging to play.

You are sucked in and become involved in no time flat. There are puzzles to solve and hidden object scenes that integrate smoothly with the story line. You even get to shoot a gun and fight with the baddies every so often – unencountered in other HOGS!

The graphics are beautifully rendered and the sound (an essential component) is suitably edgy and moody. Plot driven, the story is interesting and unpredictable.

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Scene from the game

I’ve played all four episodes and I must say it has been a while since I  enjoyed a game as much, and a HOG at that. I didn’t want it to end and plan to play the game again shortly.

Adam Wolfe is available on Big Fish Games (in two parts) and Steam (episodes 1- 4).

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year at Flemington with Black Caviar’s Daughter

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Oscietra Black Caviar’s first foal

After the tragic end to 2016 with the death of our beloved cat, I needed cheering up, so headed out to Flemington to welcome the New Year and witness Black Caviar’s first foal, Oscietra, have her first start at the race track.

She was set to run in the first race on the program, so I caught the first train to Flemington, along with a good crowd of other racing enthusiasts. Many of course, like me, were only going to see Oscietra.

There was plenty of time to cruise out to the stalls area and a big crowd was gathered outside Oscietra’s stall to get a first look at the star mare’s daughter.

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Crowd outside Oscietra’s stall – there’s even a guy wearing a Black Caviar cap

I managed to wriggle in and got several photos of the filly. The atmosphere was reminiscent of the days when Black Caviar was at the track.

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Oscietra standing calmly in her stall

Oscietra took the attention calmly as if she’d seen it all before, even though it was her first day at the races.

Alas she wasn’t able to emulate her mum with a win, being outgunned by the more experienced filly Limestone, but was far from disgraced running third.

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Oscietra in the mounting yard

Oscietra pinged out of the barriers and led for most of the race down the middle of the big Flemington straight, and was only overtaken by Limestone in the last 200 metres.  Miss Wahoo ran second.

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Limestone overtakes Oscietra close to the finishing line.

It is probably a blessing that Oscietra didn’t win her first race, as expectations will not be as high next time round, where she has the potential to be the star act.

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Limestone returns to scale

There was a larger than usual crowd in attendance for such a low key meeting, and Oscietra’s race was the feature race as far as most were concerned.

I stayed for two more races, the first of these being the  Straight Draw Handicap, run over 2000 metres. Flying Light was the starting favourite and he didn’t disappoint winning by ¾ length from Master Zephyr with Kourkam running third.

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Flying Light wins the Straight Draw Handicap

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Flying Light returns to scale

Race 3 was the Byron Moore Handicap, a race over 1600 metres.  The wonderfully named Crocodile Rock, a Lloyd Williams import from Ireland was the favourite, but he left it too late in his run to overtake eventual winner Gervaise who romped in at good odds.  Stone Warrior ran third.

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Byron Moore Handicap finish – first three across the line – Gervaise, Crocodile Rock, Stone Warrior

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Gervaise returns to scale

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Crocodile Rock returns to scale

As trains were not scheduled to leave Flemington until 5.00pm, I was obliged to make the long tramp to Epsom Road to the tram stop. The journey home took about a hour, the 57 Tram being an old slow Z class vehicle that weaves its way through the north western suburbs to the city.

The autumn racing carnival kicks off in earnest in February, so there’s not long to wait for first class meetings, with various build up races occuring in January.

*********************

It is now a week since Willy’s death and we still miss him, and expect him to appear and demand attention at any moment.

Talya by contrast is a quiter, less demanding  cat, so it’s no wonder she’s now emerging from Willy’s shadow and taking over where he left off.

This morning she waited for me and occupied my lap as Willy used to do. She never got a look in when he was around. She’s asleep on my pillow as I write, another invasion of Willy’s former domain.

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Talya – the Queen of the Universe

And I’m pleased to report that she has finally given up pulling her fur out, so is looking much prettier these days with her fur grown back.

As for the rest of 2017, I’m hoping for small pleasant distractions to offset the gloom of the new world order.

For a start, I have three concerts to attend in the near future, the first being Americana maestro Tim O’Brien at Caravan Music Club next week.

In February I’m going to a Bruce Springsteen concert. I have never had the pleasure of seeing him before and wouldn’t have gone had not Frontier Touring had a Boxing Day sale, where I acquired tickets at a discounted price. 

And I’m keenly looking forward to seeing the Dixie Chicks in April, from second row seats at Rod Laver Arena.

As for books, there’s nothing much that has piqued my interest so far, but I believe that Hilary Mantel’s final book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy will be out later this year.

Cross fingers,  John Crowley’s Little, Big (25th Anniversary Edition)  may be finally published this year.  I’ve expressed this same wish every year since this blog was started, and hope not to write it again in 2018.

John Crowley also has a new book in the offing which is rumoured to be published sometime in 2017 – always something to await with pleasurable anticipation.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Vale Willy, the Wilful One


Willy – 18/1/04 – 26/12/16

This morning we discovered that Willy, our dearly loved cat, had died overnight, most likely in the early morning.

We had spent Christmas Day at my brother’s place in Ocean Grove, but drove back to Melbourne in the late afternoon, anxious about Willy  who had not been looking all that chipper when we set out.

For the past few days he had been spending much of his time under the house and had ignored our cajolments to come out, though  he would eventually emerge, much to our relief.  He had not eaten a solid meal for several days and had refused breakfast Christmas morning.

Fortunately he appeared shortly after we got back from Ocean Grove, but looked very much the worse for wear after the extremely hot day.  He was thirsty and drank quite a bit before slumping under the bed.

One of the saddest things  I have ever witnessed was seeing Willy lying there with his front paws wrapped around the water bowl and his nose in the bowl. He was too weak to stand for long.

We’ve had almost a month of worrying about him and had hated forcing the medicine down his throat every day. Not that it did much good. After an initial hopeful period, it was obvious that the drugs weren’t working. We couldn’t stop giving him the cortisone as it’s a drug that requires a tapering off period. If stopped suddenly it causes all sorts of harm.

We had an appointment to see the vet next Thursday, but yesterday we doubted that Willy would last that long.  As it was Christmas Day our options for helpful advice were non existant.

B was so distressed by Willy’s state that he slept alongside him on the floor of the living room, where Willy had climbed into his cat bed. B missed the moment of death, having come to bed in the early morning, but got up at 5.30 am to discover Willy stretched out dead under the coffee table on the rug.

It’s a mercy really that Willy died in his sleep and spared us the additional agony of euthanisation. But terribly sad all the same.

So we’re tired and emotional today.

The only member of the household who is not in mourning is Talya who will now be the sole cat, a status she prefers.

Willy would have turned 13 years of age on the 18th January, so he had fairly long life in cat terms.

We acquired him on 21 March 2004 from a breeder in Toolern Vale – a wilful fiesty kitten with big bat ears.

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Willy as a kitten at 12 weeks of age

Wild and independent as he was,  he nonetheless was a delightful cat, very smart, and a stunner to look at. He spent much of his kittenhood tearing around the neighbourhood with his female cat friend Pickle and we feared for his safety many times.

In those days  he would retrieve little balls of paper thrown for him, bringing them back to you and dropping them at your feet, though he forgot this trick as he grew older.

He always slept with us under the covers, regarding us as his litter mates no doubt and will be missed all the more.

A creature of habit, he knew our usual procedures by heart, and would always curl up on my lap in the mornings as I read in bed, sitting in expectation in my spot and obligingly moving off to allow me to get in the bed, before climbing on my lap. He hated any disruption of this routine and would be unsettled if it changed.

Being a cat with a strong personality and heaps of attitude, he was not easily ignored. His spirit still floats around the house as I write and I expect to see him appear at my side or walk in front of the computer monitor to attract my attention.

I’m glad his suffering is at an end as it has been a hard month watching over him with faint hope of ever seeing him back to his old wilful self.

He lies in a grave under the back lawn, dug by B this morning. Willy spent his entire life at this place so it’s appropriate that he will stay here forever.

Such was my Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas & A Worried Mind

xmas card
Old Wicked non PC Christmas Card

Where did the year go?

It’s a little over a week until Christmas Day, and I must admit I am not feeling all that merry.

The Cat Politics domicile has a sick cat, whose condition has been ongoing for the past two weeks.

The cat in question is Willy who went off his food at the end of November and refused to eat hardly anything for a couple of days, looking out of sorts and depressed into the bargain.

So off to the Vet we took him to try and discover what the problem was.  We feared it might be kidney failure and were steeling ourselves for the big decision.

A blood and urine test and thorough physical examination proved negative as far as kidney failure or diabetes was concerned, and the Vet couldn’t provide any answers as to why he was off his food, but he did give us a few appetite stimulant tablets to get Willy to eat.

These worked for a few days, but his behaviour was still uncharacteristic and it was obvious that he wasn’t improving, so another vet visit was called for.

We saw a different vet this time and she at least had a theory as to what his problem was. Her opinion was that he had pancreatitis due to his being overweight. He has weighed in, in the past, at over 8 kilograms and is a heavy cat.

She prescribed cortisone to reduce the pancreatic inflammation. Cortisone also acts as an appetite stimulus, though it took some time for it to kick in. For the past week, Willy has eaten well every second day, and sparingly on the other days.  Yesterday was one of his eating days and we were relieved when he showed interest in food this morning and ate a hearty breakfast.

I’m covered in scratches, as his lack of interest in food means that we have to give him the cortisone pill manually, ie shoving it down his throat as he struggles to resist. It’s much easier if you can hide it in food. but alas a cat without appetite has to put up with the stress of force feeding. It also leaves us shaking and stressed out as well.

Willy is showing some improvement, but is not back to his old self yet. He’s slimmer at least, but has given up climbing on the roof, which was one of his favourite places to be a fortnight ago. However, despite his spending most of his time under the house, he still recognises us as his litter mates and on cool nights still climbs into bed with us.

If the vet is right in her diagnosis, pancreatitis is curable in cats, so we  live in hope that Willy will be with us for several more years.

We are taking Willy back to the vet tomorrow for assessment, so cross fingers the prognosis is hopeful.

We’ve hardly dared to be optimistic over the past few weeks, so it has been very much doom and  gloom in our household as we slouch towards the festive season.

Anyway, if there are any blog readers left, I wish you all a happy Christmas and a stress free 2017, despite the new world order.

Friday, November 11, 2016

So Long Leonard

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Leonard Cohen live at Rod Laver Arena –10 February 2009

I heard the news today that the great songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen had died, so here are my memories of the man and his music.

Ironically, two days after a misogynist ladies man won the US Presidential Election, another much gentler, more respectful, ladies man departed this earth.

The mists of  time shroud my memories of when I first heard of Leonard Cohen, but it must have been back in the late 1960s, as I remember I had  copies of his first few albums in my record collection.

He really suited our generation, or those of us who pretended to be soulful and poetic, in between the sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, though in a way his lyrics expressed all that too.

I was lucky enough to see him in concert twice, first  in 1980 at the Melbourne Comedy Theatre, which I thought an hilarious venue for a singer who was known to write “songs to slit your wrists by”.

My memories of the concert are vague, but I remember being surprised at how funny he was in person, and came away from the concert with a very positive impression.

The second concert was at a considerably bigger venue, the Rod Laver Arena in 2009.

I wrote a review of the show on my blog here, so I won’t go into detail except to say it was one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

The new world will not have Leonard Cohen as one of its citizens, and will be the poorer for it, but his memory will live long with those of us who loved his songs and music all those years ago in the old, old world.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Welcome to the New World

Like almost everyone on the planet I took careful notice of the US Election as it unfolded, and was suitably appalled that Donald Trump is to be the new President. In fact I found the result thoroughly depressing and disheartening.

Anyway, life goes on and who knows what the future holds in the new world where the unthinkable has come to pass.

It’s one of those turning points in history, as happened after 9/11, and the world will never be the same again. There will be those born after the turning point who will not even wonder what the world was like before – not much chop to tell the truth.

As there is little the individual can do to change things, one can be thankful  for the small joys of life.

One of them is cats, who couldn’t give toss about the new world order as long they have food to eat, a place to sleep and a human slave to attend to those needs.

Which brings me to the resident cats and their political situation.

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Willy

Actually they are pretty blase with each other these days, though not actually friends.

Talya has been over grooming for some years, that is ripping her fur out, so that great drifts of it are all over the house. Who knows why she does this, but I think originally she started off stressed and the over grooming has become a nervous habit.

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Talya – you can see the fur is thin on her back

We have consulted the Vet several times about this behaviour and tried several “cures”, initially a chinese herbal happy pill, then cortisone tablets. Neither worked.

We now have her on clomicalm, an antidepressant that has certainly affected her behaviour in that she has become less anxious. She’s slightly zoned out, but still has a hearty appetite.

Her relationship with Willy has noticeably improved as stand offs in doorways are less aggressive than they used to be. The cats pass by each other peacefully and neither takes a swipe at the other.

Of course all that may change when she comes off the clomicalm; cross fingers it doesn’t.

The only stress the cats face is other cats invading their territory. Not so much the next door cats, with whom they have a truce, but a black and white cat from somewhere else that has been causing a fracas in the neighbourhood. If there is growling and howling, it is always that cat at the centre of it.

The above two photos were taken with the Nikon camera. I love the way it blurs out the background when you use the zoom lens.

It will be interesting to see how the new world comes to pass with  Donald Trump at the helm of global power.