Reservations - Sodastream
Russell Degnan

If I was to make a list of the bands I thought the most under-rated (in Australia at least), then Sodastream may well come at the top of it. If I was to make another list of bands I don't play as often as they deserve, then they would be near the top of that as well. They are just that kind of band: slightly arty and pretentious, slow and rhythmic, with the odd jaunty tune to keep you interested. And really good in a way that reminds me, every time I remember to play them, that I've now got four of their albums on the shelf for good reason.

Originally from Perth, for a long time settled in Melbourne, Sodastream were briefly very popular thanks to a John Peel plug. They have retained some of that popularity overseas, and tour there often; which may explain why they are criminally over-looked in this country. Essentially a two piece, 'extra' band members abound, but the fundamental sound remains that of Karl Smith on guitar and vocals and Pete Cohen on double bass. Comparisons are difficult, but perhaps the closest I can think of is Simon and Garfunkel; that same mix of slightly depressing folk and complex pop, but with the double bass fairly throbbing and humming through every song.

Reservations is not substantially different to their earlier work. The album starts very slow, becomes up-beat, before drifting into slower, more lyrical songs as it progresses. The slow stuff can seem tedious if, like me, you aren't listening to the lyrics and have it as the background to yet another tedious blog post; but for the most part, their songs are self contained, relatively short and reward a close listen. If I have any musical credibility left (and one doubts that I do), scoop up the remaining chips and bet it on this album.

Track Highlights
Twin Lakes - Sure it is unrepresentative, but I'm a pop junky, and this song could get a nursing home of hard of hearing elderly citizens tapping their feet.
Anniversary - A piano piece. Think Nightswimming, but longer, though less annoying.
Michelle's Cabin - A short instrumental song. Essentially a bridge to the second half of the album but pretty for all that.
Firelines - A typically moody Sodastream song, the double bass and guitar combining beautifully.
Reservations - The title track is a little cliched with its harmonica and backing vocals, but it has a nice pop ethic.

Finer Things 29th June, 2006 02:04:45   [#] [4 comments] 

So that`s that then
Russell Degnan

Like a goodly proportion of other people, the sight of a Spanish referee pointing to the Italian penalty spot was enough to make me instantly despondent last night. Since neither a little gallows humour [1], nor a little random destruction [2] made me feel much better, I'll have to settle on dispassionate analysis.

There is an inevitability about Australian losses in these sort of big games. They are preceded by endless comments on how we shouldn't be under-estimated by our superior opponents; then, during the game, Australia plays well to look like getting a win, before, well, not winning, because of a silly tackle, defensive or goal-keeping lapse, dodgy refereeing decision, or spectacular goal; then everybody comes out and says how well we played, and how unexpected it was, and how unlucky we were, and how we've now "proven" we can match it with the world's best.

And it is crap.

SBS is to blame. They love to hark back to the days when noone liked soccer in Australia and persist with some myth that football is a persecuted minority sport, and the national team a bunch of amateur battlers. They aren't, and it isn't. Until a year ago, the national league was little respected, and did not deserve to be; it was run by incompetent petty political hacks. But the national team has drawn big crowds and bigger audiences since the mid-90s, when the combination of wall-to-wall World Cup and European Championship coverage in '94 and '96, and a resurgence in the popularity of English football there and here [3] led to a general (if slightly superficial) interest in the sport.

With the possible exceptions of Bruce Arena and Alvaro Recoba, no-one of any credibility has under-estimated Australia in a decade. Plenty of people thought they'd make the second round. If the analysts were surprised by anything, it was that Australia did it in the haphazard, high-risk manner they did. And that was as much a result of our tendency to give up soft goals, and our inability to convert chances, than any particular attacking flair. It should have been much easier than it was.

To the Italian game then, where several soon to be prevalent myths should be punctured: Italy did not under-estimate Australia, they watched how we played and chose their game plan accordingly; Australia did not "out-play" Italy, the game was close, the result could have gone either way, but possession of the ball and pumping said ball into the box repeatedly should not be confused with the likelihood of the ball hitting the back of the net. Italy were good for the win, and tactically superior for much of the game. Unlike the Croatia game though, and no doubt to the bemusement of all Australia's new fans, this was one for the connoisseur.

The Australian game plan has been the same since Hiddink took over. A 4-5-1 or 3-5-2 depending on circumstances. A high posession game, trying to feed Viduka or cross for the late runs of attacking midfielders. It meant selecting players who were fast and fit over players with better skills -- Wilkshire over Skoko for example. It is effective enough, although Australia -- particularly Kewell and Bresciano -- had been wasteful before this game. Having watched Australia's barn-storming efforts in the group games, Lippi was tactically astute in his efforts to counter it.

To date in this World Cup, the Italians had been more open in play than usual, but they shut down against Australia, and for good reason. By playing deep in midfield they slowed Australia in attack, setting the tempo to suit their style. It also meant that Viduka was generally triple-teamed or more. For all Australia's possession they lost the shot count, and that is significant.

Generally speaking, the game had three phases. For the first thirty minutes Pirlo killed us. Australia played both too deep -- giving Pirlo far too much time on the ball to distribute long balls to his strikers -- and too short -- leaving Toni to take on Moore and Neill one on one. Italy's best chances occured in this period, and only Schwarzer saved Australia from having to come from behind again.

Credit to Hiddink -- though not much, as he'd be a poor manager if he didn't make the change -- the next 45 minutes belonged to Australia. Pirlo was pressured, his distribution became erratic and Australia dominated both possession and had their best chances (albeit wasted by shooting straight at Buffon). Materazzi's dismissal obviously helped. Under normal circumstances the tackle should have been a yellow, not a red, as he wasn't the last defender, and the challenge, while late was not dangerous. But with cards flowing like water from an alpine range in this World Cup, he can have no complaints.

For all that possession though, Australia not only didn't score, they hardly threatened. This again, was a personnel thing. Fast, fit players are great, but we have a history of playing ones who are also rubbish at distribution. None of Chipperfield, Wilkshire, Cullina, or Sterjovski can cross, and it was no surprise that the only real threat was Bresciano (who played an excellent game). As Adam rightly pointed out too, Viduka needs support. He is an excellent player (when fit), holds the ball up well and a good finisher from close range; but Viduka won't drop deep, dodge a defender and crack in a shot from thirty yards. By not playing Aloisi from the start, Hiddink sacrificed a lot of attacking options for patient build-up and control [4].

Ine introduction of Totti changed the game again. Italy started to break in numbers, and for all their vaunted fitness, Australia were stretched several times, became sloppy, and left too much space. Given Australia could still make substitutions, you have to question Hiddink's tactics. If he was waiting for extra time, then Australia shouldn't have been so far up the park; if not, then why leave on tired players?

Finally, the penalty. It was a cynical dive, no question, but I've seen them given often enough, particularly in Serie A. Neill shouldn't have been off his feet; forcing Grosso to pass should have been enough. It sucks to lose that way, but ultimately (and here is my point), Italy played Australia the way they wanted, and won the game.

So I am not happy, not because of the tragedy of it all, but because we shouldn't be happy with anything other than a win. The days are finished when Australia was incapable of getting a result against quality opposition -- even superior opposition which Italy is. A good looking loss is still a loss. Putting the ball into the back of the net more often than your opponents is much more satisfying.

I liked the style Australia played for much of this World Cup, but the results (a win, a draw and 2 losses) were no better than average, if not worse than that. As I put it in an sms after the Brazil game:

Fuck this honourable loss shit. I want to win

[1] I wanted to trip over someone in an exaggerated manner then say "don't mind me, I'm Italian", but decided not to.
[2] As is now traditional, I kicked a rubbish bin. It made a nice sound too.
[3] Australian football, like many things, is very English. Most of the overseas players play there, and for all the 'ethnic' talk, most football supporters here are of English descent as well.
[4] A very Dutch way of doing things, except good Dutch teams [5] always had a Cruyff, Van Basten or Bergkamp to create something from nothing as well.
[5] Ironic too, that after the Netherlands friendly the Dutch were a lovely team and Australia derided as uncultured hatchet men. Yet, four games later the opposite is true.

Idle Summers 28th June, 2006 02:10:57   [#] [4 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CXXVIII, June 2006
Russell Degnan

O'Connell Street and Peel Street. Keen observers will note the Keepers Arms on the right; where strangers come to hug. Taken September 2002

Melbourne Town 26th June, 2006 20:42:00   [#] [0 comments] 

Animation Reality
Russell Degnan

Behind a white framed window, the sky is blue, clear, fresh.
The latch on the window clicks as it releases the creaking window.
The shadow of a bird, fleeing the noise drifts across the room as it flutters away.
Air, carried on light floods the room.

Silence, a few birds in the garden.
In the background a shower runs.
Stairs, a tiled front room.
The shutting of a bright red door and its rattling mail slot.

The morning is bright white.
The towers of the city loom at the end of a straight street.
Measured footsteps.
The speckled shadows of deciduous trees pass by, then fade.

Glass doors open. Escalators go up.
Tickets stubbed.
The dark.

The illuminated crests of other heads poke above the seats.
Food and water is placed beneath the seat.
The horizontal lights dim, the heads disappear, the screen appears.

Blurry images, ten, twenty, a hundred.
Blurry sounds, music, yelling.
Blurry thoughts, a glass breaks, a fish, a line.
The dark.

A single clap. Aborted.
A rustle of paper.
2006 appears. I clap. Applause follows.

Glass doors open.
Outside, it is dark. Silent.
The towers of the city loom high.

Measured footsteps. Louder than before.
A row of red fence posts, identical, but for one; broken.
A small puddle shimmers and reflects a single star.
Water runs down the gutter, then a drain.

Car headlights appoach from a side-street.
An image appears. A head bouncing off a wind-screen, glass cracking.
The light and sound of the car changes as it goes past.

A dull red door. A key in a lock.
It opens.
Fade out.

Passing Fancy 26th June, 2006 20:17:45   [#] [4 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CXXVII, June 2006
Russell Degnan

The city can be very quiet on a cold Sunday. May 2002

Melbourne Town 19th June, 2006 21:03:34   [#] [0 comments] 

Where I`ll Be This Week
Russell Degnan

As I indicated a couple of days ago, it is that time again. Tomorrow, the sixth Melbourne International Animation Festival begins. As usual, it is on at ACMI, down at Federation Square, and you have no excuses for missing it. There will be an excellent mix of techniques, styles, nationalities, genres, and skill sets. However, for those of you who, unlike me, are either not insane enough, or not keen enough, to go to every session I am here to help with what to see.

Because of scheduling conflicts, I will be camping myself in the cosy surrounds of Cinema 1 for the vast majority of the program. If you want to join me, then I'll be happy for the company. Programs I am going to are marked in italics. In a rough order, the highlights for mind will probably be...

International Programs - The international programs are the guts of the festival. They are a mish-mash of films, but if at least a few don't take your fancy then there is no help for you.
1: 20th@6:30pm, 20th@8:30pm
2: 20th@8:15pm, 24th@2:00pm
3: 22nd@6:30pm, 24th@3:30pm
4: 22nd@8:00pm, 25th@2:00pm
5: 23rd@6:30pm, 25th@3:30pm
6: 23rd@8:00pm, 25th@5:00pm
7: 24th@6:00pm, 25th@6:30pm

Student Programs - Last year I was very disappointed not to see the student films, as they are often outstanding, and regularly win awards. This year, there are five -- I recommend program #3 especially -- supplementing the main festival nicely (and the tickets are cheaper too).
1: 21st@6:00pm
2: 22nd@6:00pm
3: 23rd@7:00pm
4: 24th@5:00pm
5: 23rd@6:00pm

Digital Panorama - The session devoted to computer generated films. These can vary in quality, but the best will blow you away. (Also, I will be late to this screening, so if someone is going, save me a seat).

Comic Arts Meets Animation - The one session I really wanted to see but couldn't squeeze in. Great theme though.

Kids Programs - Maybe it is the early morning timeslot, but I always like the kids programs. The tickets are inexpensive, and the films are generally pretty good.
1: 24th@11:00am, 25th@12:00pm
2: 24th@12:30pm, 25th@10:30am

Late Night Bizarre - This promises to be pretty cool. Hopefully so, because it will be the tail end of 12 straight hours of film for me.

NEXUS: Session for the deaf - You might think this an odd choice, but a program of films that work without sound sounds pretty cool.

Best of the Fest - If you can't decide, then this is the easy one to choose. The best-of never matches my expectations, but if you only go to one session, then this is the one.
25th@8:00pm, 25th@10:00pm

There is much more on the website. Most of the other sessions are retrospectives of some description. The two themes are Korean animation and Abstract animation this year. But there is also an Estonian session if you want to completely do your head in, Australian films, and if you haven't seen it: Fritz the Cat on Freaky Friday.

Finer Things 19th June, 2006 18:36:14   [#] [0 comments] 

The Great Grog Blog Mix Tape
Russell Degnan

Thanks to everyone who came. There were twenty four people, five without blogs and the rest below (I hope). My apologies to the people I didn't get a chance to talk to; I hope you had fun. The following will make no sense if you weren't there, not much if you were, and in any case, probably doesn't mean what you think it does. Enjoy

Last Nite - The Strokes
Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols

Beautiful People - Marilyn Manson
I Send a Message - INXS
People Are Strange - The Doors
Just Passing Through - Augie March
Sign Your Name - Terence Trent D'Arby
I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing - Pet Shop Boys

Knowing When to Run - The Delgados
I Will Follow - U2
Into the Dark - Ben Lee
You Could Have it So Much Better - Franz Ferdinand

Turning Japanese - The Vapors
Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong - Radiohead
She Drives Me Crazy - Fine Young Cannibals
Why Don't We Just Call It A Night? - Lazy Susan
Morning Train (9 to 5) - Sheena Easton
World in Motion - New Order

Passing Fancy 17th June, 2006 23:59:22   [#] [19 comments] 

Rhyming History
Russell Degnan

Why June 2005 is just like June 2006, but better?

For not entirely unreasonable reasoms, what I did in June 2005 is remarkably similar to what I have done, and will do in June 2006. Almost like the powers that be have tried to jib me in the new month department, by just providing an old one with a couple of new features. Consider...

June 2005 - There was much talk of transport infrastructure. I complained that creating shopping lists was no way to plan.
June 2006 - There is much talk of transport infrastructure. I complained that creating shopping lists was no way to plan. This time more people commented.

June 2005 - I was very tired, because I kept staying up late to watch a major sporting event on SBS, where Australia hopelessly under-performed.
June 2006 - I am very tired, because I keep staying up late to watch a major sporting event on SBS, where Australia is going better than expected (or perhaps not, we won the Lords' test too).

June 2005 - I posted pictures of Melbourne with strong lines and silhoutted skies; plus a lot of crap.
June 2006 - I posted pictures of Melbourne with strong lines and silhoutted skies; the crap is still to come.

June 2005 - I spent a week in the cinema at the Melbourne International Animation Festival, watching an esoteric international collection of different animation styles. Including abstract ones that put me to sleep.
June 2006 - I will spend a week in the cinema at the Melbourne International Animation Festival, watching an esoteric international collection of different animation styles. I'll probably be able to avoid the abstract animation.

June 2005 - Australia scored three times in a largely meaningless tournament, and lost! Having had several defensive lapses, been lazy in midfield and one paced.
June 2006 - Australia scored three times in a very meaningful tournament, and won! Having had not so many defensive lapses, been not so lazy in midfield and not always entirely one paced.

June 2005 - I went for a long walk along the beach to Brighton one fine Sunday.
June 2006 - I will go for a long walk along the Merri Creek to somewhere (probably Merlynston) if next Sunday is fine.

June 2005 - I had to start writing a thesis length report by the end of the year on how the urban form affects the way transport is used. But had to fit it in amongst other subjects and work.
June 2006 - I have to start writing a thesis by the end of the year on how the urban form affects the way transport is used. This year I have no other subjects to do next semester.

June 2005 - I procrastinated over a lot of assignments, including entirely too much blog writing and reading.
June 2006 - I procrastinated over a lot of assignments, including entirely too much blog writing and reading. (Some things are not better, some things just are).

June 2005 - A Grog Blog was organised, in which many fine people were in attendance.
June 2006 - A Grog Blog has been organised, in which many fine people will be in attendance. This time I am partially responsible...

Clearly some sort of conspiracy.

Passing Fancy 15th June, 2006 08:16:36   [#] [3 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CXXVI, June 2006
Russell Degnan

Not new, old. And I seem to have lost the original...

Melbourne Town 13th June, 2006 14:53:20   [#] [1 comment] 

Yes, this is Planning related
Russell Degnan

[The Scene: A refridgerator store, meaning big and open, with fridges everywhere. In the interests of better comedy you may find it useful to imagine the sales staff as wearing brown suits, and sounding a bit like Eric Idle. Not necessary mind, it is just that seventies clothing and english accents are funnier than nineties suits and smarmy wankers. Where was I? Oh, yeah, a customer walks in...]

SALESMAN #1: Good morning sir.

CUSTOMER: Good morning.

SALESMAN #1: I recommend the R650 for you, definitely the best option for a discerning customer like yourself.

CUSTOMER: Ah, I'm sorry?

SALESMAN #1: Yes sir, I can see you are a smart man sir, interested in the best fridge money can buy, low cost, reliable, safe and energy efficient.

CUSTOMER: Well I guess...

SALESMAN #1: Then the R650 is what you need, a fantastic fridge. The best for you, I can tell. Everything you could want in a fridge sir, everything and more, much better than the others, much better indeed.

CUSTOMER: Oh, well, maybe...

[SALESMAN #2 appears]

SALESMAN #2: Good morning sir, might I recommend the S510 for you sir. A fantastic fridge, the best: low cost, reliable, safe and energy efficient.

CUSTOMER: Wait, he [points at SALESMAN #1] just recommended the R650.

SALESMAN #2: Oh did he, well I wouldn't listen to him sir. The S510 is much cheaper, much better, plus his leaks oil.

SALESMAN #1: [outraged] It does not.

SALESMAN #2: It does too. [to CUSTOMER] You have to out a cup down to collect it, every night, a whole cup.

CUSTOMER: [to SALESMAN #1] Is this true?

SALESMAN #1: Well, it drops a little, but you can pour most of it back into the fridge.

CUSTOMER: Most of it?

SALESMAN #1: Well, there is some you don't want to put back in the fridge, but you pour it on the garden.

SALESMAN #2: You can not! It kills the plants.

SALESMAN #1: I mean, you can use it to grease things, there are always locks in need of a good greasing around my house.

CUSTOMER: Locks? I think you're mad, I don't have enough locks to use a cup of grease every day.

SALESMAN #1: It is not a whole cup! Look, you can just put it somewhere, there is not much oil. Plus, his fridge blows steam all day. Ruins the paint.

SALESMAN #2: It does not! You can't prove that! It could be the water heater, that has lots of steam. Or mist. Lots of mist around these days.

SALESMAN #1: Mist? No mist in my house, or peeling paint, not like yours. Fairly dripping off the walls. [discreetly to CUSTOMER] His whole house is peeling, and his grandma died of pneumonia. All that wet air.

SALESMAN #2: That is not true! She could have got pneumonia anyway. And you can just put the fridge outside.

CUSTOMER: I'm not putting the fridge outside, that's silly.

SALESMAN #2: Oh it is not so bad. At least my fridge doesn't explode.

CUSTOMER: Explode?

SALESMAN #1: My fridge doesn't explode.

SALESMAN #2: It does, just last year, blew up in a house, killed the whole family ...

SALESMAN #1: ... it was only a cat ...

SALESMAN #2: ... oil everywhere, impossible to clean, killed the man next door too.

SALESMAN #1: It did not!

SALESMAN #2: Did too, he died of oil related illnesses

SALESMAN #1: He was hit by a car!

SALESMAN #2: That is an oil related illness.

SALESMAN #1: It wasn't this model, it was one of those imported ones. Much different.

SALESMAN #2: This one blows up too, there was oil all over the door one morning.

CUSTOMER: That doesn't sound like an explosion...

SALESMAN #2: Maybe not, but you can't be too careful with these oil related illnesses.

[SALESMAN #3 appears]

SALESMAN #3: I wouldn't listen to these two sir. What you need is an ice chest.


SALESMAN #3: An ice chest sir. It is the fridge technology of the future: low cost, reliable, safe and energy efficient. And versatile, you can take it camping. You like camping don't you sir?

CUSTOMER: Well yes, but...

SALESMAN #3: See, perfect. Can't take those fridges camping. Too bulky.

CUSTOMER: But I don't want to go camping with it, I want it for my house.

SALESMAN #3: Well nothing beats an ice chest for home usage sir. Easy to use, no electricity, just pop the ice in and you're done.

CUSTOMER: Where do I get the ice?

SALESMAN #3: The what?

CUSTOMER: The ice, for the chest.

SALESMAN #3: Oh that. Well, we expect in the future sir, that ice will be delivered to your door, every day.

CUSTOMER: But what about now.

SALESMAN #3: Well, I take ice out of my freezer.

CUSTOMER: But I don't have a freezer. What do I do then?

SALESMAN #3: Well, you'll need to ask those gentleman [waves at SALESMEN #1 and #2] about freezers, I just sell ice chests. But they are great value sir, much cheaper than a fridge.

CUSTOMER: [looks at ice chest] They aren't very big though.

SALESMAN #3: That doesn't matter sir, you can stack them. [puts another ice chest on top, then another] See, sir, just like a big fridge, tons of space and very cheap.

[SALESMEN #1 and #2 begin to snicker]

CUSTOMER: But if I buy three ice chests and a freezer it is more expensive than a fridge!

SALESMAN #3: Not true sir, not true, the ice chest is your best value for money for your refidgeration needs, and much safer than the others. Plus, [conspiratorial whisper] I think they get paid to sell those fridges.

SALESMEN #1 and #2: [outraged] I heard that, that is not true!

SALESMAN #3: Is too!

SALESMEN #1 and #2: Is not!

SALESMAN #3: Is too!

[SALESMAN #4 appears while SALESMEN #1, #2 and #3 wrangle in the background]

SALESMAN #4: Can I help you sir?

CUSTOMER: Well I hope someone can, all these gentlemen want to do is argue. I am looking for a fridge, and I want it to be low cost, reliable, safe and energy efficient.

SALESMAN #4: Well, don't we all sir. What I really need to know is how big you want it and how much you have to spend. We'll worry about the trade-offs later.

CUSTOMER: Oh, well, I think maybe 500L and about $1000.

SALESMAN #4: We can do that, come this way and I'll show you what we have...

Sterner Matters 9th June, 2006 00:55:01   [#] [5 comments] 

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