Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Women of Substance

Forget about men who sing high, last week I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of women of substance: Beth Orton and Sharon Jones with the Dap Kings. If only I had made it to Martha Wainwright – music nerd-dom trifecta.

Let’s start with Beth Orton.

Anticipation is a big part of a gig experience. I’ve been a fan of Beth Orton for a few albums but this was the first time to see her live with the added bonus of the Palais Theatre as venue. Her latest album Comfort of Strangers is her most engaging, the production stripped back to bring weight to her vocals and warmth to her songs that was perhaps lacking in earlier albums. Previous reports had been glowing so the lead up to the gig has been most enjoyable.
Blessed with fourth row tickets, we had a great view of the stage and the lovely Palais Theatre proscenium. The set list didn’t delve too much into her back catalogue though there was an airing of Sweetest Decline and Someone’s Daughter. These sounded refreshed with more simple arrangements than in recorded versions.
The rest of the set was solid: we heard most of Comfort of Strangers and despite spilling forth unformed thoughts, Beth proved to be unassuming and charming in between. It was a fantastic gig and, as we left, the chilly winter wind snap-froze the crowd’s happy reception.
And she doesn’t take herself too seriously either, we all agreed Best Band Teeshirt prize goes to a black Beth Orton tee emblazoned in a RAWK-Metal/This-Is-Spinal-Tap font.
To a woman of a different kind of substance: Sharon Jones.
Sometimes you hear or see something and you know ya gotta have it. One time we walked past a sign saying “Crepes and Coffee $5” - you hafta have that. When I first heard Sharon Jones on PBS, I had to get my mitts on the album.
The anticipation for this gig induced enthusiastic happy dances galore on my part (to the embarrassment of some…I do enjoy happy dances!). Northerly whispers from the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival indicated that this would be an act not to be missed. We caught SJ&DK for their show stealing support slot for the Black Keys as well as an impulse show six days later. Nothing like word of mouth: folks braved Antarctic conditions to queue out the door and round the corner of the Espy for the experience.
There’s no year marked on their second album Naturally so you could be mistaken for thinking this soul/funk music hails from a previous era of music such is the resonance of their sound. However, judging by the crowd’s reaction, these guys are definitely of the moment.

The Dap Kings were put together for Jones by Bosco Mann of Daptone records and they were an awesome support, tight brass section and rhythm section. However, the undeniable star of the show was Jones herself. She exuded an amazing magnetic presence, strutting and dancing her way across the stage. It made me wish for hips with which to swing - the one other band that makes me feel this way being Royal Crown Revue. Audience members were pulled up on stage to join in on the fun as well (ahem, moreso at the Espy), it really was way too much fun. We felt bad for Black Keys to have to follow up such an infectious exuberant performance.

Three sold-out shows in a week? If you missed out this time, make sure you don’t the next.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

chill factor

it's been a good week

perfect start: sharing this delicious creation and the rest of the day with one of my favourite people...

chilly end: at a queenscliff pier watching the storm change the colour and light of the sky...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mario Andretti says

nah, i'm no (mercury) rev head, don't know anything about racing car drivers! However, a wise friend just advised:

If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

art attack!

Our offices at work are separated by a window and sometimes we communicate by writing backwards on the glass a la Amelie. I was reminded of this past-time on Flinders Street where there is a window space which revolves various art pieces. A couple of artists busily transcribing text all over the pane - one writing backwards, the other on the back wall. These seem to be life stories written around and intertwined with one another, and though we didn't read all of them, I quite liked the physical representation of these people's lives - all crossing over and above each other.

Stencil art is so simple, it reminds me of lino cut basics in year 10 art classes. Nice clean lines, one panel of colour and - here's where it differed from el-lame-o teenage lino cuts - an image that can interrupt your travels.
I especially like how it can appropriate both political and cultural icons, obliquely altering meanings found in both.

We found the first one quite striking, not only in its form - fragmented lines as if delivered by a wonky television set; but also in its chilling encapsulation of the war on terror's insistence in generating/ heightening/ maintaining a pervasive fear.

And how about the triangle of American cultural signposts - Elvis, Audrey, the Phantom.

Oh and I really dig the robots.

Seven Worlds Will Collide

Blogs are a strange creature, they seem symptomatic of a culture obsessed with instant i-obsessions. *tonia todmanalert* Craftblogs are a different beast. Click on Loobylu for my favourite example - I have found this subculture of housebound creative bloggers incredibly inspiring.

taichifox was set up firstly for a laugh, gotta participate in the noughties with ya own blog right? It was a kind of secret thrill that this luddite could be cyberkinetic! Even more fantastically, our collective blogs have created a whole 'nother layer of dialogue in our regular bouts of babble and beverages.

The best blogs seem to be those that speak of personal matters and though I'm too boring/too shy/mainly boring to pour much heart here, I did experience the strangest day last week and felt the need to take a self portrait.
Good friends will wonder if some doppelganger has hacked into taichifox:
I Absolutely Abhor photographs.
I ungraciously
.....turn away or
..........cite the Aboriginal notion that cameras steal a bit of your soul or away screaming or
....................pull dumb faces or
.........................take another sip of my beer
Hate it!

So one day last week two things happened:
a) I was accepted to present an oral presentation of my research work at an overseas conference- mega opportunity.This represents a few firsts: first time to speak at a conference. first overseas conference. first time in europe. You can imagine how this collapse of firsts naturally progresses to man panic stations ...NOW!
b) So I trundled along to my favourite bookshop where a question for recommendation, a small conversation and a ripped cover or two later, I am the recipient of a generous gift of a barely out of date 2005 Rough Guide to Europe. What an amazing gesture to a poor student - I will forever patronise this bookshop. I find kindness very touching and so rare.

Astral planes colliding or aligning? I used to think the world turns but everything stays the same. It's only April, but 2006 feels the inverse.

Baked Brown Sugar Custard

Baked Brown Sugar Custard

5 egg yolks
1/3 C brown sugar
2 C milk
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven 160degC

2. Combine egg yolks with brown sugar and whisk
3. Combine milk with vanilla and gently bring to the boil. Remove from heat, cool slightly and gently add to egg/sugar mix, constantly whisking to prevent curdling
4. Split into four ovenproof vessels, place in baking tray and pour boiling water half way up vessels
5. Bake 45-50 minutes at 160degC or until set
6. Cool to room temperature, then cool for two hours in the fridge
Delish with strawberries and icecream

Bit Too Cute

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

One a penny, two a penny

Despite feasting at Yum Cha in the leafy suburbs that morning, I dropped by into Babkas on the weekend to have a taste of their infamous Hot Cross Buns.

A queue of woolly folks packed the small bakery that afternoon. It was one of those gorgeous Melbourne autumn days perfect for strolling, one part warm sunshine and two parts crisp cool air.

Lucky for my sib and dinnermates, I battled my way through the throng to acquire these beauties - in acknowledgement of Easter time of course.

Best enjoyed ripped in half with a dash of salty butter....mmm.

Even Gromit wants one.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Universal Cure

According to a recently forwarded email, relationship problems can be fixed with one all-encompassing, all-smoothing-over solution: C.h.o.c.o.l.a.t.e. This is, hypothetically speaking, assuming that in most cases that the fault is directed towards the male direction (sorry guys, gotta stick with the sisterhood here).

It made me think of my very lovely surprise of a box of Koko Black chocolates. Although I have often purchased these as gifts, it was only last week that I first savoured these delectable morsels. Why have an argument as an excuse to share chocolates, just start at the end point.
Not that I want to lay claim to any Augustus Gloop type fantasies of drowning in the stuff but when visiting Adelaide last year, the immediate priority was to visit the Haighs chocolate factory. As a testament to chocolate's healing powers, everyone working there was Smiling and Happy, like Homer Simpson in Chocolate Land, dancing with the chocolate rabbits and eating chocolate dogs. It was great!
So to celebrate chocolate – placating, guilty pleasure or otherwise, I present to you the Belgian Hot Chocolate from Koko Black. See if it doesn’t make you wanna head over there right now and spoil yourself.
Well, what are you waiting for?