peteg's blog

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

I promised Betts a service after getting my provisionals, and so today was the day to head back to Beaconsfield Motorcycle Supermarket and do business with Phil. I think he (or her previous owner) told me that I'd need a new rear tyre, and after 4,000kms certainly an oil change. Phil didn't have the former in stock so I had to wait until Tuesday to pick her up, which was too windy (and I too disorganised), meaning I didn't get her back until Wednesday. Apart from a few days without a motorcycle, the exercise cost me $419: two hours of labour, about $200 for the tyre, and the rest on oil and spark plugs. "Go easy on the corners, slippery when new", he tells me. She certainly feels better at low revs after a tune-up.

I spent the rest of the day at Sydney Uni in Fisher, and later met Dave in Glebe for a coffee. I probably should go back to Motorcycle Accessories Supermarket and see what they have to say about my disintegrating safety gear.

ACO Underground at the Oxford Art Factory

/noise/music | Link

I've been meaning to see Tognetti play his violin for years now. For thirty five bucks I also got to see him play the keyboard ala Warren Ellis, or more accurately, Leonard Cohen. (OK, he didn't actually make a big deal of switching it on.) Shades of Dylan in a park in London in 2004? I guess I can see why Ellis will never play with these guys.

I think Satu Vänskä usually plays second fiddle to Tognetti, but this was certainly her night. She was super-awesomely-excellent on the violin. Her repartee made it clear she was amongst (north shore, Vaucluse) friends. They did two renditions of Reznor's Something I can never have (the latter the entirety of the encore), citing Natural Born Killers, somewhat spartan and cleaned-up where Reznor does fragile violence, which is inward directed and hence somehow OK. Some other songs that I can't name verged on the twee. I had to wonder if we've seen all this before with Fourplay's "infamous" Metallica cover. And that was back when I was a kid. They closed out the main set with some pleasant Vivaldi before an aborted encore and then the reprise.

I got wondering if they should have kept their other night jobs; did almost everyone in the crowd wish they were playing something else, or with their old bands? Guests Jim Moginie (Midnight Oil) and Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes) left me hungry for words with bite.

The warm-up was a poetry-slam over some nice violin work by one of the ACO blokes. They called themselves Marcie.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Early (for me) morning trip to Little Bay with Barb, Alex and Alana. Perfect weather for it. I only got in up to my shins, though after the initial shock wore off I got thinking that a swim may have been possible. Summer has come far too early.

Saigon Street Names

/noise | Link

This Google maps overlay gives an historical sketch for the people the streets are named after. Totally awesome.

/hacking/mac | Link

My MacBook Pro was playing up; maybe an external disk got frisky, maybe some projector somewhere, I don't know. It's working again after four (4!) visits to the Apple Store. First up: Bondi was totally useless. They reinstalled Snow Leopard and sent me on my way. The CBD store decided the DVD drive was busted, but when it came back it was sicker than before, with scanlines on the LCD and a complete refusal to start. They took a week to replace the guts and it has been OK since. All of this was free under AppleCare; that has about six months to run. I'm not very impressed with the working knowledge of the geniuses. I did enjoy being without it for a week though.

For future reference: my retail copy of Snow Leopard is too stale to boot this machine. The grey disks that came with the machine crashed when restoring the Time Machine backup (!). Fortunately an up-to-date Snow Leopard got things back.

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

It took a bit of blood under the bridge for me to face up to the MOST again. Today I prepared by going to Dave's croissant shop in Banksmeadow (pricey but tasty) and eating a couple of bananas, one just before attempting the test at Botany.

Yet again I had Laurie (from Ride It Right), who while entirely capable makes me think it's a one-woman operation. (I've gotten good advice from a variety of people, and would have preferred someone else purely for that reason.) I was five of six, the first of the MOST-only people. Being far less nervous, and much more aware of my speed, I lost only three points: two for going too far on the short stop, and one for failing to do the head check immediately before doing so. I was off like a shot to get my red P plates, which have the same conditions as the learner's, but now I just wait a year to get the open licence.

Laurie was super happy that everyone passed; most impressively, a Thai bloke did it perfectly on his mate's Harley straight after me. (He needed to convert his licence to an Australian one now that he has PR. I later found out that he works at Chao Praya.) There was a nice old Suzuki Betts-equivalent whose rider works at a bar near the Hollywood. An Indian bloke had a scooter, and is looking for IT work.

Blue Jasmine

/noise/movies | Link

My first cheap Tuesday at The Ritz in a long while. Still only $8! ... and only one-third full, with most of the crowd respectfully quiet. Not so many trailers, mostly stills. Some promise in the new movie about Assange; one can hope that Benedict Cumberbatch uses his superpowers to better effect than in the last Trek.

Woody Allen directs Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins (last seen in Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky back in 2008) in what is apparently a retelling of A Streetcar Named Desire. I'll have to go back and find out what Brando did to it. I enjoyed his humour, which mostly came through bluntness and age inappropriateness. Blanchett mentally disintegrates as the movie goes on, and she steals every scene she's in, which suits down-market Hawkins just fine. Baldwin is a bit typecast as a monied-up shyster. Bobby Cannavale lets his inner Billy Zane loose whenever he gets a chance. It's set in San Francisco, but clearly New York is where Allen's heart is.

David Denby reviewed it for the New Yorker, and Dana Stevens for Slate. As Dana notes, the computer bits are archaic; Allen gives Blanchett an iPhone, and surely the MOCs are happy to deliver to those.

MacDonald/Spence/Denley/Altman/Pettigrew @ The People's Republic

/noise/music | Link

A Laura Altman segue from her Alaska Projects gig, pointer from the NOW now. She was playing clarinet as part of an improv five-piece, and it had nothing to do with frogs. I bailed after the first set as I stupidly didn't eat before I went. Nice venue. I'll be back.

Cristoph Ribbat: Flickering Light: a history of neon

/noise/books | Link

Jon pointed this work of cultural criticism out to me. The first chapter is strong, and the references quite rich, but it tails off as it starts to free-associate; sometimes the author has done little more than find the word "neon" in some pop artifact. It is often too broad and does not account for the technology. What was it that Zappa said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture? There are not enough photos. It seems that most artists get their neon fabbed by someone else; that's certainly true of Tracey Emin. Some good pointers: Nelson Algren, Rudi Stern. I fished Sprengnagel's Neon World out of the UNSW Library. I need to read Wolfe's take on Vegas. Ribbat is completely off base with the sound of neon: it's alarms, sax, metal on metal, an improv gig, industrial, early 80s movies, Barry Adamson's Moss Side Story.

A review in Slate.

Netrider Learners' Session

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

The u-turn takes some doing.

Rode out to Homebush once again in some fairly heavy traffic. A beautiful day for doing so. The idea was to get enough practice to pass the MOST (and hence get my Ps) next Wednesday. To that end I did about ten circuits and only fluffed the swerve, and maybe the short-stop, and that was due to trying too hard. Everything else was fine. (Thanks to tunafi2h for the photo.)

When not practicing, I got talking to a Hungarian bloke who's living at Annandale, and doing IT. He'd been to see Félix Lajkó a few times in concert, to my chagrin. Previously he'd been working in Cork, Ireland, where the weather is dire and the pubs violent. He rode a Honda CBF 125, with the same intention I had with Betts, but without the risk of buying something second-hand. I also chatted to Sean from Campbelltown.

Afterwards I tried to buy a hat or something from DFO (Direct Factory Outlet), which is something of a ritzy downmarket Westfield. As Dave observes, it is there that they flog what cannot flog itself in the normal shops. No joy at all.

Synergy Percussion: Check My Machine at 107 Projects, Redfern.

/noise/music | Link

A Bree van Reyk segue from the Ensemble Offspring gig out at Parramatta. Twenty bucks. Bree played most of the gig, with two or three blokes. Also a solo by one of the blokes. Some of it was quite good, other bits twee, like the 8-bit synthesisers / sequencers that put me in mind of the gameboy thing I went to a few months back with Ben. There seemed to be a fair bit of improv. Some of the automation was quite funky: automatic bass drums, and a snare (? - I think). Some ambient-ish stuff. 107 Projects is a nice space.

Thomas Seeley: Honey Bee Democracy

/noise/books | Link

How did Seeley get away without the omnipresent disjunctive subtitle? I paid $AU26.28 to Amazon UK for this in March 2011, back when they had free shipping to Australia. It sat on the shelf for ages, and it has similarly taken me weeks to get around to writing about it. As a result I've read and re-read some sections a few times, and perhaps some of it not at all.

This is an excellent book. Seeley makes it completely clear why people would be passionate about this stuff, and explains the scientific method in a way that should abide with everyone who went to high school (one might hope). As he is a prof writing about his career-long love affair, the story gets eyeglazingly-detailed at some points, and the logic of the experiments sometimes gets lost; but for all that, it is a marvellous read.

It is, of course, difficult to extract lessons for humans from these insects; see, for instance Rob Dunn in Slate. Seeley is careful to limit his opinions to human situations similar enough to the bees, for example by requiring that they share the same goal and are plausibly honest with each other. He is averse to drawing some other conclusions; on p227 (and elsewhere) he empirically observes that only bees that pay (by visiting the proposed nesting site) get to vote, which contravenes notions of universal suffrage but is familiar from history, e.g. the Federalist arguments about balancing democracy against mob rule in the U.S., and the situation in the Australia of the 19th century. The bees' strategy/algorithm requires honest representation and shared objectives/values; as Seeley himself demonstrates through his experiments, the swarm is very easy to manipulate, and so one might conclude that we learn nothing about robust distributed decision making in the presence of distorting factors. I would further claim that the social insects show that there is no wisdom in becoming more specialised. Efficiency yes, wisdom no.

Slate also has some fantastic hi-res photos of bees.

Call Girl

/noise/movies | Link

On Andy's recommendation. In many ways a Swedish movie. It wants to have too much of everything and ends up with an empty fist. Lukas Moodysson this is not, though it evokes the murkier end of the Tillsammans era.


/noise/movies | Link

With Dave at the dear old Verona, 9pm session. $11 for him on my student movie club membership, birthday freebie for me. The attraction was to see what the Korean master auteur Park Chan-Wook could do in English, and I got exactly what I expected: a visual feast with excellent editing. It's well-paced, not too gory (at least not Oldboy gory) and Nicole Kidman does not irritate. Mia Wasikowska works hard in the lead, and Matthew Goode is carving out a niche as a psychotic (c.f. Ozymandias in Watchmen). Park's use of colour is superb: he paints the scenery with blood in a style superior to Tarantino's in Django. The low rating (7) on IMDB just means that the advertising got plenty of people to go in cold.

A. O. Scott, Park prospective at the New York Times. Dana Stevens didn't review it. Anthony Lane's for the New Yorker is behind their paywall, but more-or-less says this is a slavish remake of Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.

Kick Ass 2

/noise/movies | Link

Regretting not seeing Kick Ass in the cinema, I drug Dave along to the 4:50pm session at The Ritz. More violence, less funny (after the first twenty minutes or so) and lacking a climax. Choppy camera work makes me think the actors weren't up to it. Not a completely terrible way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Mohammed Hanif: Our Lady of Alice Bhatti

/noise/books | Link

I could see where Hanif was going with A Case of Exploding Mangoes but not here in his second time around. Alice herself lacks agency: stuff happens to her, and she gets ogled a lot, and so it goes. Parul Sehgal at the New York Times saw more in it than I did.

Dereb the Ambassador at The Basement

/noise/music | Link

"Ethiopian Soul" for $5 on a Wednesday night. With Dave and Dan Ferguson, who both got right into it.

True Confessions

/noise/movies | Link

Robert de Niro, Robert Duvall. An interpolant of The Godfather, Once Upon a Time in America, Tender Mercies. Unfortunately not that great. de Niro is the bent priest trying to straighten, and Duvall is the underloved second son, now a policeman.

Alaska Projects: Musical Alaska #11 — [Volta Collective] time without light

/noise/music | Link

Dave and I got there in time (having been trained by them starting promptly at the last one) to hear the six-voice choir sing Carlo Gesualdo's Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday. The acoustics of the carpark were perfect. Dave reckoned Laura Altman's interspersed compositions reminded him of a frogs' chorus after rain in Bangkok.

Alice Terry (and guitarist friend Dave Rodriguez) at Bohemian Grove

/noise/music | Link

Dave's mate Em was heading out to this gig down near Central, so we went along too, after the gig in Kings Cross, in the spirit of why-not. Dave legged it from the Cross in record time. Em said she'd been to this venue a few times, and caught the performer at 505 last week (?). Smokey vocals for sombre jazzy (or country?) tunes, some covers, some originals. Small crowd. As always, it was someone's living room. $10 donation at the door.