Wednesday, February 27, 2013

20th Wedding Anniversary

Today marks 20 years since the day Helen and I got married. And though there have been a number of bumps and potholes in the road along the way, we seem to have come along at least as well as everyone else so far.

I put some photos up on Facebook from the day this morning, which I will now also publish here.

Helen during the morning hair & make-up sessions. Not that she needed it.

Linda, Helen and Elizabeth, with flower girl Anne

The Bridal Party - Elizabeth, Linda, Chris, Helen, Bill, Jason, Peter and Charlie Dunk

Geoff & Wendy, Helen & Bill, Chris & Chris

(back) Chris, Linda, Bill, Helen, Anne, Chris (front) Phil, Peter

Wendy, Angela, Bill, Helen, Louise, Geoff

Murray & Louise, Bill & Helen, Angela & Tony

Nan & Grandad


Wendy, Wogs, Kay, Bill, Helen, Bernie, Carolyn, Geoff

Jason, Dale, John, Lynette, Courtney, Bill, John, Helen, Peter, Anthony, Roger, Garry, Shane, Michelle, Andrew, Brett

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Soundwave Festival 2013

So today I attended my first Soundwave Festival, and it was the biggest so far and it felt it. Apart from a couple of hiccups, my day went off with barely a hitch, and was more than enjoyable.

My chauffeur for the day Kearo and Jordan showed up at the front door at 8.45am, and we were parked up and heading for the entrance by 10.40am. The walk around ANZ Stadium however is not short (it can be timed at about 16 minutes, as was to be proven later that night), and when we arrived shortly before 11.00am we were surprised to find the gates open, and no lines to get in. The boys told me that last year it took them about an hour to actually get inside, so at least that problem appear to have been rectified.

We had a little walk around to see where everything was located, and even bought the first alcoholic drinks for the day, before heading over to Stage 3 for the first set of the day. Dale met us there, and we finished off our drinks before realising that the first band had actually cancelled three weeks beforehand (their drummer was not touring, the first of many). Once this was discovered, we headed over to the pavillion shed - which really was just an enormoous shed - where Stage 5 was located, to get a look at Fozzy. Though the sound seemed to get a bit lost within the confines of the arena at times, the band gave a great performance, and showed why they are so popular here in Australia.

Fozzy playing "Enemy", Soundwave 2013

From here it was over the main stage in ANZ Stadium, where Anthrax was to play their 45 minute set. Anthrax was also without their drummer, Charlie Benante, who had personal problems in the States, so John Dette was filling the role. As always they were great. It is amazing how good Joey's voice still is after all these years, and the band showed great energy throughout. Finishing with "Madhouse" was just brilliant, but 45 minutes isn't enough. Hopefully they'll tour again soon.

Anthrax Full Set, Soundwave 2013

Tomahawk was the next band on the adjoining stage, a band I knew nothing about. However, once Dale had told me that it was the band fronted by Mike Patton, I was intrigued enough to stay and see what they were like, while Kearo left to find where Jordan had ended up after Fozzy.
I think "eccentric" might be the best term to describe Tomahawk. It was all very experimental and free-form exploration kind of stuff, apart from two songs which hailed back to the best of his Faith No More days which were great. Dale and I both agreed that apart from his great albums with FNM, Mike has probably been involved in half a dozen bands and numerous more albums - and from all of that, you could compile a 'best of' album that would rate with the greats,while the rest is pure garbage. Such is the mark of 'greatness' I guess.

Tomahawk playing "Flashback", Soundwave 2013

At this point I left Dale to head back to Stage 5 to check out Orange Goblin. It was 2.15pm, and I was not to see Dale again, nor Kearo and Jordan until we met up again at the car just before 10.00pm. Until then, I was on my own...

Orange Goblin, back in "The Shed", as I came to dub the Stage 5 pavillion, was great. Sure the band got lost again at certain times - and whether that was the P.A. or the sound engineers or just the venue for the stage itself, I don't really know. What I do know is that the band put on an awesome performance, and the songs were strong and impressive. I have noted that I need to chase up some of their music in the near future.

Orange Goblin playing "The Fog", Soundwave 2013

Between bands I got to catch up woth Holzy, which was good. We got to swap band info, those we'd seen, those we'd heard would be worth seeing, and even some family chat. As I think it has been at least 12 months since we have seen each other, the 15 minutes was too short but fully worthwhile.

Orange Goblin was followed by The Sword. Again the sound wavered between great and average, and I found the first two songs to be average. But, once they warmed up they proved themselves to be better than that - in my opinion, not as good as the previous band, but still above average in this respect.

The Sword playing "Freya", Soundwave 2013

From here I made the trek back to the main stadium, where Stone Sour had hit the stage. I had only recently acquired this band's latest album, House of Gold & Bones Part 1, and while it wasn't exactly my favourite style of rock/metal, there was enough there to suggest I wanted to see them live. And what I saw, for the most part, was good. The rock ballads of course don't sit well with me, but the harder stuff was played well, and Corey Taylor does have a unique voice. Whether I follow up on the band inthe future will perhaps depend on whether or not I run out of oher options to chase.

Stone Sour Full Set, Soundwave 2013

Following this, though, was probably the main reason I was here at Soundwave - the mighty Slayer. Sure, Jeff Hanneman may still be out with his flesh eating virus, and Dave Lombardo looks to have again been cast aside for questioning the band's money management, but still, half of Slayer playing Slayer is still awesome.
What was even better was that, if I had been given the opportunity to choose the 10 or 12 songs of their setlist that I would love to see, they played every single one of them. Awesome serlist, awesome gig. Just awesome.

Slayer Full Set, Soundwave 2013

It was time to leave the comfortable seating arrangement of the main stadium to again head out, this time to Stage 3. It was 5.30pm, and I was not to sit down again until I got into Kearo's car much later that evening. It was to be the death of my failing achilles tendon and ankle, but overall it was worth it.
On Stage 3 it was the turn of Killswitch Engage to play. I had only seen the band once, as second support to Anthrax at the Metro Theatre a decade before, and had been impressed at the time but knew none of the songs. Now I knew their songs, and was looking forward to it immensely. Disappointingly however, the P.A was shocking, so quiet that one could probably talk to the person next to you without even raising their voice. Despite this, the setlist was another where they played almost every song I could have asked for, and the band was in top form.

Killswitch Engage playing "My Curse", Soundwave 2013.

From here, things began to get a little mixed up. I decided to try and get back into the main stadium in preparation for Metallica, for which I had been tossing up all day whether or not to see them or The Offspring, whom I had never seen live. For the first time that day, I had to line up for 15 minutes to get in, at which time I discovered that all of the available seating and standing room was taken. Having walked completely around the stadium in search of a way up to the nosebleed section (which obviously had not yet been opened), I decided to go out again. I had been trying to contact Kearo and Dale by text for an hour with no response, and at that point I decided that The Offspring would be my destination after all.

With two hours to kill, I decided the head back down to the shed, and catch Fucked Up, of whom I knew nothing except some vague recollection of having been played some of their stuff in Bryn Coleman's car one day. And I was not disappointed. They are a Canadian punk band with great musicians and a lead singer who did the whole gig in the crowd, and then went around and high fived  or hugged every person who had been there to watch. His comment, "You are my favourite guys in the world. You could be watching Metalliac or Blink 182, but you're here watching us, and I fucking love you for it!" was well met by the small but enthusiastic crowd. I loved them. No doubt their raw energy would be lost on recorded music, but I'll have to get more of their stuff anyway.

Fucked Up playing "The Other Shoe" live in 2011

Following these guys was Cerebral Ballzy, a New York punk band in the more 'traditional' mold, with songs fast and furious with four chords repeating, all over in two minutes. Like The Sword earlier in the day, it took me a couple of songs to get into them, but once they had warmed up they were also a treat.

Cerebral Ballzy playing "On the Run" live in 2012

I timed my run (as best as I could with no clock, as my phone had died by 8.00pm) as best I could to get the second stadium for The Offspring at 8.45pm. Of course, the bands were running late, and so I had to put up with about 20 minutes of Blink 182 concluding their set. I don't like Blink 182, and their music and popularity was lost on me.
However, when The Offspring started, I'd forgotten how old they had to be, given their start in the business over 20 years ago. But once I'd gotten over this, and their opening song (which was off their latest album, Days Gone By, which I don't know that well) they played some of their great stuff, and they ripped it up. It made me believe I had made the right decision after all in seeing a band I had never seen (and may well never get another chance to see), and given the other two bands I had seen along the way, it made my Soundwave experience much rounder than it would otherwise have been.

The Offspring playing "The Kids Aren't Alright", Soundwave 2013

Soon it was time to meet the Kearin's back at the car (they had been squeezed into the far corners of ANZ Stadiumfor Metallica) and head home from my first - but perhaps not my last - Soundwave Festival.

Metallica Full Show, Soundwave 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

While Mum is Away...

The day was ours with Mum up in Brisbane, but it was always going to be a relaxing one, a day where we could have fun without having to do to much. A sleep-in until 8.30am was just terrific, and a real surprise to me that it was able to be achieved.

After breakfast and morning duties (beds, hair, teeth, clothes on the line), we all went off to Shellahrbour Square - or Stocklands Shellharbour as it is now known - so that Maddi could spend her $20 Sanity voucher that she had won in the Summer Reading Series thorugh the local library. She lucked out, and found two Strawberry Shortcake movies and a Spongebob Squarepants special DVD for just $20. She was so proud as she handed the movies and her card to the sales assistant, who was also suitably impressed and taken with Maddi's demeanour.

Jessie showed she is bit like her Dad, checking out every CD in the shop and yet still unable to determine if she wanted to part from her money. In the end we decided it would be better for her to search iTunes at home and choose the music she wanted that way. As I had forgotten to bring Jessie's epipen with us I didn't want to risk having morning tea out, so went went home via Ashburton Drive shops and bought some afternoon tea and other goodies. Then we headed home where I treated the kids to one of Dad's Super Milkshakes for morning tea.

After a lunch of 2 minute noodles, we all played Uno, which Joshua summarily won fromout of nowhere, at which point he decided  not to risk his crownand went off to his bedroom. The girls and I played another game, which Maddi won, before deciding on a closely fough game of Trouble, which, for a change, I won!

The kids spent the arvo between the TV and their dolls, while Josh had a mid-afternoon snooze.
I switched between some cricket and the races.
The highlight was the return of Black Caviar to the track, and I made sure all the kids were down to watch her race, with varying results.

Thanks to a couple of tips from Josh Elliott, my day of punting went pretty well. I even had the Sydney Quaddie in the bag, until in the last when my selection was beaten by a nostril. 25% of $2500 down the drain by a couple of millimetres. It's a tough game sometimes...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Maddi Takes Off the Training Wheels

Jess and Maddi had been keen for a bike ride for a couple of weeks. The wet weather had put paid to that idea last weekend, but the warm 28 degree day today meant we were right to go.

Well... almost...

Bike tyre pumps are in the top ten of the most aggravating things in the world. We have three of them, and all three are nothing like the ones we had when I was a kid. I know bikes have changed, but I don't remember tyres being so difficult to keep inflated.
Anyway, all three bike's tyres needed inflating. The first pump broke half way through the second tyre on Jessie's bike, basically letting the air out faster than I could pump it in. It got thrown against the wall of the garage with a number of obscenities following it. The second pump did little better, and soon followed it's cohort into the wall. The third, though a little better, had been designed for stroller tyres and not bike tyres, so although it worked to a certain degree it was hard work, and a lot of swearing continued to flow, stuff that the girls probably didn't need to hear, but copped anyway.
To be honest the valves on bike tyres these days just don't cut it as far as I'm concerned. It is almost enough to make you go out and buy an air compressor for home just to do this job. Maybe I'll do just that...

Anyway, 20 minutes later and we were finally off. Maddi had never ridden a bike without training wheels, and had in fact taken to riding her scooter on most of our bike excursions. However, she does take well to my 'forced invitations' for things like this, so she pushed along with her legs dangling and balancing her until we reached the bike track that goes through the Croome Sporting Complex, and then I got her to slowly get herself to push on the pedal and think about her balance. She took to it like a duck to water, and our confident little girl basically just got up and went without incident, and was riding along without any help whatsoever. Great stuff.

It was a warm and draining day, and so the girls decided that a trip to Terry Street shops was in order (as most of our rides end up in that direction). Soon, a Streets "Cyclone" recharged the batteries as only it can.

The long-promised storms finally tried to roll in by 5.30-6.00pm, but despite the angry skies, only 5mm of rain fell over the course of a number of hours, which was most disappointing.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Glorious Controversy of Cricket

It's been a busy and somewhat heated couple of weeks in Australian cricket, what with rotation policies and rain-affected games and blow-ups on and off the field, and Shane Warne re-writing the entire set up of Australian cricket, as well as the naming of the Test squad to tour India at the end of February. In all instances, everything seems to have been blown right out of proportion. In the long run, the only thing that can stop all of this nonsense is Australia winning cricket matches and turning the talk away from these distractions.

The so-called 'rotation policy' argument was and is all just a storm in a teacup. When Australia' squad for the first two ODI's against Sri Lanka was named, it was 'controversial' because the retiring Mike Hussey was not chosen despite being 'available' until the end of the season, Michael Clarke was 'rested' due to his dodgy hamstring (which certainly would not have held up under the scrutiny of ODI games without much needed rest), while Matthew Wade and David Warner were 'rested' in preparation for the long hard slog that both players have ahead of them.
Suddenly, the media felt it right to attack the selections. How dare they not pick Hussey while he was available? How dare they not give the public (read "media" here) the opportunity to see Warner in action? How can they rest our captain and put an 'unknown' in charge of the national team? Despite Australia winning the first game handsomely, then blowing the second game terribly, the accusations remained. The selectors did not help their cause by giving both Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith only one game each before sending them back to their state squads.
However, when, for the final three games, the 'best' team available was selected, they were then summarily thumped in Brisbane before being in an awkward position when the fourth match was abandoned. What did the media say to that? Drop them? Replace them with who? The guys they had just spent columns telling us were not worthy of a place in the team?

It was not the rotation policy that meant that Australia could only draw the ODI series against Sri Lanka 2-2. It was an inability to score runs, and poor bowling in testing conditions. In two matches, Phil Hughes scored centuries, and Australia won both games. In two other games, Mitchell Starc top scored from number nine. Warner and Bailey made one score each. the rest of the batting was basically a shambles, and that had NOTHING to do with a rotation policy. The bowling was generally wayward and too short. Once again in the testing overs, Australia's plan of attack was slow, short deliveries. It is a terrible plan that seems to go wrong far more often than it goes right. In only one game did a bowler try to bowl full sharp yorkers in the final overs, and it was Moises Henriques who showed the full worth of the tactic, taking 3/15 and helping to win the final ODI to square the series. It was the only time it was tried. The bowling plans were poorly thought out and executed, and that had NOTHING to do with the rotation policy.

With the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, the constant injury concerns to Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, and the advanced age of the now-spurned David Hussey, it was inevitable that a large changing of the guard would have to occur in the ODI team especially. It's a pity that the media and the public critics of this season's selections have not taken that into consideration. From my point of view, the tactics have been much more in question than the players selected.

More ammunition was aimed at the selectors over the choosing of the T20 team for two matches against Sri Lanka. On the whole, the team selected carried the best-performed players from the recently completed Big Bash. Those players included Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh, Adam Voges, James Faulkner and Ben Laughlin, all of them at the top of their categories for that tournament. However, the second that any of them failed to live up to that form, they were crucified. Poor old Ben Laughlin failed twice in the final over of both games, faltering under the extreme pressure and probable faulty tactics, and was mercilessly lambasted by all and sundry. And fair enough - it's the national stage, and he was unable to deliver as he would have hoped, but the selectors were rounded on too, despite what appeared on the surface to be a fair enough call in selecting him. Selectors have a habit of being called out for perceived bad decisions, but rarely get the credit for all those selections that work out, for example Phil Hughes in the ODI team this season.
Too much is still made of T20 cricket. It is still hit and miss as to what works. Good cricket is generally rewarded with being caught by a screamer or being smashed over the fence, while poor slogs get edges for six, or half trackers get smashed straight into someone's hands. Twenty20 does not promote technically good cricket, and most games are now being won with just 130 runs in an innings, whereas the promise had been that teams would consistently score over 200. The final word comes from the fact that no one remembers who won a T20 game 24 hours after the match has concluded. If you don't care enough to remember, it can't be good, enthralling cricket.

What the hell is Shane Warne up to? He seems to have lost the plot again, and none of it seems to make a lot of sense.
Firstly he went completely overboard in his confrontation with Marlon Samuels in the Big Bash game between the two Melbourne franchises. You can't grab someone's shirt and pull it (though Samuels did just that to start the whole fracas) and you can't deliberately throw the ball at a player (which Warne denies, but really... it was pretty obvious). For this he was suspended for a game and received a fine. This was probably extreme given similar events in other games around the world, but this is Shane Warne.
Then, in an obvious attempt to stop any chance of he being suspended for the Final of the Big Bash if his team made it (he was on one warning already for slow over rates, and if he received another he, as captain of the team, would miss the following match), James Faulkner was 'named' as captain and went out for the toss. This was obvious, because there was no doubt at all as to who was running the show on the field for the Melbourne Stars, and it wasn't the 'captain' Faulkner. For this he was fined again. This again was probably unfair, as he is just an individual in the team, not the team itself. He again could feel a little hard done by, but the actions themselves should never have taken place.
Then he decided to weigh into the aforementioned 'rotation policy' that has been at the forefront of the news in recent weeks. The media of course would have asked him the question, hoping for just the reply he gave, which then fed their frenzy even longer.

Topping this off, Warne has now decided that Australian Cricket is, for lack of a better term, "up to shit", and that he had the plan that would fix it all, which he began by publishing on his own website.
Where is Australian Cricket At? Part 1
To be fair, Warne was only stating his opinion, and also made reference that "So, to my dream team, I could be completely wrong and barking up the wrong tree", and that these were the people "who I would put in charge of cricket if available and willing". The fact that everything he wrote in regards to selections is just common sense, and no doubt is exactly what the current panel are doing, and that all those people who he named in the other positions are solidly involved in other fields, means that it comes across as nothing more than a publicity stunt. Again, this may not be completely fair, as he obviously has some strong opinions on the way Australian cricket should progress (as we all do). It just seems as though there was not a lot of thought put into this to start with - but that seems to be a common thread throughout Warne's career.

Indian Tour Squad

David Warner
Ed Cowan
Phillip Hughes
Shane Watson
Michael Clarke (capt)
Usman Khawaja
Steven Smith
Matthew Wade (wk)
Glenn Maxwell
Moises Henriques
Mitchell Johnson
James Pattinson
Mitchell Starc
Peter Siddle
Jackson Bird
Xavier Doherty
Nathan Lyon

The naming of the squad for the Test tour of India was preceded by a number of 'leaks', in essence to try and buffer the content when it was finally released in full. To be honest, I was of the opinion that the selectors would take 14 players on tour if they named just one keeper, or 15 if they decided to take a back up for Matthew Wade. The fact that they are in fact taking 17 players for a four Test tour with basically no tour games is extraordinary and unprecedented. It does feel that, in order to justify taking the players that they want to 'develop' for future years, they had to take as many players as they actually have on Australian contracts.
It is a little difficult to comprehend where they will go with this team. My stated disapproval of the continued selection of Shane Watson in his current form and player development is on public record. The selectors will point to Australia's last ill-fated tour of India, when in four innings Watson scored a century, two fiftes and a 30 in his four innings. They will no doubt suggest he is the man to take on the Indian bowlers in their conditions. What the selectors will ignore is two long injury lay-offs in the past two years since then, and a Test batting average under 30 in that time. If the Watson of 2010 was here he would be one of the first chosen. The Watson of 2013 is unfit, has no form and spends more time in the media explaining what he wants to do than he does actually doing it. He will replace Hussey in the team, and on the selectors' heads be it.
With Watson not bowling, this then justifies the selectors decision to find an alternative for the all-rounder's position. They have spent the past month pushing the values of Glenn Maxwell, a player who cannot justify selection as either a batsman or a bowler, but finds himself there as an all-rounder. They desperately want him to develop as a spin bowling batsman, and perhaps in the fullness of time that may occur. But if he is chosen in a Test match with his current statistics, it would be by crystal ball methods only. Moises Henriques is also a bolter, but one who at least has better current statistics with both bat and ball. It would still be a gamble to choose him at 6 or 7 in the Test line-up, but surely less so than that of Maxwell. Steve Smith is the third man in this category, though it is difficult to label him an all-rounder when he has barely bowled in 18 months after choosing to make it as a batsman only (Shane Watson's influence?). His selection is perhaps the most baffling, though as it was leaked to the media a week ago it has obviously been in the selectors minds for some time.
More important for the team was to have two spin bowlers in the squad. England outplayed India just a couple of months ago, thanks mainly to excellent pace bowling from Jimmy Anderson, and the wonderful spin bowling of right arm orthodox Graham Swann and left arm orthodox Monty Panesar. In essence, Australia need the same attack.
Nathan Lyon is the custodian, and is going with little cricket and zero wickets under his belt. The Indian tour will be a real test for him. He has four Tests in spin friendly conditions against batsmen who LIKE those conditions to make a bold statement about his career. In 2010 Nathan Hauritz failed to make any impression through innocuous bowling and strange field placements. In 2008 Jason Krejza took 12 wickets on debut but went the journey in runs conceded. Through a combination of a lack of candidates knocking down the door with bagfuls of wickets in Shield cricket, and a perceived view that he has been the victim of some poor fielding when bowling, Lyon has had an extended run in Test cricket without ever looking like winning a Test through his own bowling. he will go to India, and he will be the number one choice, but he needs to produce something sooner rather than later if he is to retain that position.
The two 'all-rounders' Maxwell and Smith will come into contention if the selectors decide to go with three specialist seam bowlers, as seems likely. However, a second specialist spin bowler was needed on tour, and it had to be a left arm orthodox for Indian conditions. The selectors decided on Xavier Doherty, two 1st class wickets at over 80 runs each in 2012/13, as opposed to Steve O'Keefe, who has 17 wickets at 24 thi season, more than double of any other spinner. I have no brief for O'Keefe over Doherty, and have seen neither bowl in first class cricket this season. But surely statistics don't lie. Doherty has been average in the white ball game this summer, with a couple of break out performances, but nothing spectacular. The dearth of spin rewards in Australia at the moment means there are four spin bowlers in the touring party for India, none of which would be considered a first choice in any other Test team. Troubling times indeed.

The most trouabling part of this for me is what this holds for the tour. By the team chosen, Australia will choose five batsman, a keeper at six who is still struggling to find his best, and five bowlers with a minimium of batting pedigree about them. Scoring 300 in an innings and bowling India out twice looks on the surface to be a very difficult proposition. Maybe we'll all be pleasantly surprised.

Finally - and perhaps most importantly - when will the Channel 9 network rotate James Brayshaw and Michael Slater out of the commentary box? These two are the most painful and annoying pair of commentators currently in operation in the game. They pander, they carry on, they piss in people's pockets, and they show very little understanding for the game for two guys who played at the higher levels.
These two in particular must go. They won't of course, just like Shane Watson is destined to haunt me until he retires (probably to the bloody Channel 9 commentary box). At least for the Indian tour we'll only have Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavaskar, Laxman Shivaramakrishnan, Saurav Ganguly... oh bloody hell...