a little east of reality

Monday, November 27, 2006

australian idol 2006: damien leith

The usually sedate Sydney Opera House surrounds were filled last night by a six thousand strong Idol-mad crowd. 3000 luckier fans were crowded into the concert hall inside. A few stars of previous Idol series performed and then Jess and Damien, who arrived by horse-drawn carriage (it's something different each year), took the long walk up the red carpeted Opera House steps. The whole top twelve sang a gorgeous, haunting version of Coldplay's Fix You.

After recaps and songs from both of the top 2, Damien became the Australian Idol for 2006. He was stunned silent by the announcement. There's been way more hype over Jess and I think he had convinced himself not to hope too hard. It made him that much more emotional when the news finally hit home. It really was a beautiful moment. Even though I voted for Damien, I had decided that I didn't really mind if Jess won, but I must say it was so cool to see him win. It was easy for him to doubt himself along the way: Mark told him at his audition that he was ugly (how rude is that?!) The judges told him to try something new and then when he did told him it was the worst and most bizarre thing they'd ever seen on TV. The magazines made the most of the younger idols and Jess and Dean's faces were everywhere to be seen. There was also a lot of criticism floating around because he is a permanent resident but not a citizen (he plans to become a citizen in 2007 when he's been a resident the required amount of time (his wife is Australian)). For all these reasons, it was nice for him to have that moment when he could stop pinching himself to see if it was all a dream and know that Australia really does want to hear his music.

Jess handled it like a pro, smiling big, congratulating him and even stepping back a little to make sure he had the spotlight. Damien was lovely - he immediately acknowledged Jess, saying:
...this has been the greatest time of my life being in this show and everything that's come my way through this show...

I'm speechless. I should have thought of something to say.

All I can say is first of all to Jessica, she is the most beautiful, the most fabulous singer I've ever come across. I've been saying it all week, if I wasn't in the contest I would have been voting for her. I think she's absolutely amazing, and I really do mean that.
I thought that was very gracious at a moment when he really could have just been basking in his own glory.

Damien Leith: Australian Idol. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. I'm so looking forward to hearing his first album.

Friday, November 24, 2006

dante would feel right at home

It's that time of year again: bushfire season. We've just moved onto level 2 water restrictions in Canberra due to lack of rain, and in the state next door, New South Wales, fire has destroyed over 15,000 hectares of national park in the Blue Mountains and over 21,000 hectares of land in the Hunter Valley. More than 40 fires are still burning. The firefighters have contained some with backburning, but other fires are still out of control. Next week temperatures are expected to hit 40 degrees (celcius) by Thursday , so they want to do as much as possible by the end of the weekend.

In Victoria another 11,000 hectares of scrub has burned. One hundred and sixty fire fighters worked through the night last night to strengthen control lines around that bushfire. About 90 per cent of the fire has been contained, and luckily they’ve avoided it going into an area of pine plantations. Victoria is luckier than NSW. The fire there started on Tuesday (lightning) and is almost completely contained. The NSW fires have been burning for 11 days. It’s a sign of just how big this country is that no-one has died and no houses have burned. Sad though how much wildlife will be lost.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

a movie i won't be seeing

I have an absolute horror of caving. I've been in caves before ~ you know, the big cavernous kind with stalactites hanging from the roof and underground creeks running through them with fish that are blind and stuff like that. No problem. Love them...as long as I'm walking upright and I don't focus too much on the tonnes of dirt and rock above me.

Then there's really truly caving - the kind where you climb down into the earth and scramble down rocks and crawl through claustrophobic spaces, and where extra batteries and a compass might be the difference between getting back to fresh air or not. Me doing this kind of caving?

N.o.t. .a. .s.n.o.w.b.a.l.l.'.s. .c.h.a.n.c.e..i.n. .h.e.l.l.

So forget the fact that after getting trapped underground in an unexplored cave they are going to meet horrible monsters and then discover that maybe the women around them are their real worst enemies ~ I would have had a heart attack long before any of that happened. All I have to do is imagine one thing: coming out of the horror that is a tunnel that narrowed so much that I had to crawl on my belly with my arms stretched out in front of me to make it through, standing up and realising that the only way I can get out...is to do the whole thing over again. When I imagine that scenario [note: the same scenario my spellunking friends refer to as the 'highlight of the trip'] I almost stop breathing.

So no, lest I suffocate on my own stress, no 'Descent' for me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

(not so) scary cornea update

See the last edit for important new information on scary cornea tales.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

word association #198

This week's list from LunaNina:

I say ... and you think ... ?

Teacher :: Curt. Funny, I haven't thought of him for a while but his name came to mind immediately from that prompt. He's an awesome Asian Studies lecturer I had in uni who later became my friend and part-time employer.
Fifty :: centurion (even though a centurion commands 100 men, not 50...)
Crossword :: puzzle
Stuffed :: tired, worn out
Family :: Christmas, probably because I'm going home for it.
Purr :: pleasure, closed eyes
Toad :: of Toad Hall
Cocktail :: party
Insecurity :: fear, nerves
Magical :: stars, depth, awe ('depth' was the word that came to mind, but the picture in my head was the dark of the night sky)

Monday, November 20, 2006

idol top 2

Usually the public gets one day to vote after an Idol show. This time we have a week and the grand final show is a huge event in itself, so I thought I'd throw a little post in now on the top 2 show. They'll both perform next week, but the votes will already be counted when the show goes to air.

Both Jess and Damien shone this week. They have very different styles and I'm all about Damo, but in her own genre Jess is just as good. They both sang three songs, but one more important than the others ~ the winner's single. Both artists prepare (and record) a single written for the occasion. Whoever wins, they release that person's version as their first single. I'm told that the songs were recorded back when Dean was still in, and he recorded a rock version of it. Sadly, of course, we'll never hear it (unless they put it on the DVD...possible. They'd sell a lot more of them if they did.)

Traditionally this song is a sappy power ballad (think If You Believe, Greatest Love of All, My Heart Will Go On) and Night of My Life was no exception. The difference is that, unlike previous years, the contestants were allowed to change the arrangement. Before the song was always identical in order to make the decision to vote one way or another all about the voice. This year they allowed people to audition (and perform in the show) with instruments and welcomed singer/songwriters, who inevitably had a lot more interest in creating their own arrangements. This has carried through to the final, and Jess and Damo's versions of the winner's single are very different. Both of them are completely representative of their trademark styles and are a good indication of what they will probably continue to produce if given a recording contract.

Here are the links for the vids of the other two songs for each of them:
Jess: Impossible/Together Again
Damien: Never Meant to Fail/Waiting on an Angel

I won't be upset if Jess wins, because she's been brilliant and the runner-up usually gets a contract anyway, but my very few votes will be going to Damo. To hear my favourite things about his voice, follow the link for Waiting on an Angel above. The winner's single was okay (his version) but I'd much rather he was releasing the other song next week.

Apart from the recording contract, the winner also gets to drive away this Mazda3 SP23. Well, Damien gets to drive it away if he wins. Jess gets to watch someone else drive it home until she can get herself some driving lessons. She said she's happy to learn in the Mazda. I bet she is, too! Sweet ride. ^_^

Sunday, November 19, 2006

two salad sunday

Agreed to make a salad for the seminary graduation ~ heaven knows why as I'm not involved with seminary at all this year, but anyway. That was ages ago. Last week I agreed to make a salad for this after church thing (the once-a-month Soup Sunday just became Salad Sunday because it's just too hot for soup). Yesterday I suddenly realised they ~ two potato salads ~ were both due today. And the weather was not exactly potato boiling weather.

So, $20 later I had me two potato salads and a whole lotta new free time. Worth every penny.

If we still had pennies.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

bright light! bright light!

Funny how you see things, but don't really take them in. There's a quote on a blog I like that says, " No man sees his shadow who faces the sun." Now while I don't really get what that means, it does have a 'carpe diem' 'only the bold' feel to it, so I like it in spite of my confusion. But today I looked at it after learning about welder's flash, and the first thought that occurred to me was, "of course he doesn't see his shadow. That man doesn't see anything, because he's blind from the glare".

Incidentally, I've been told previously that you should never wear contact lenses near someone welding, because a stray spark to the eye can weld the contact to your eye. A fact you will not discover (it won't hurt) until you remove the contact...with your cornea attached. At my first aid course, however, a guy in the industry claimed that the same thing can happen to a person who gets welder's flash (that is, is only looking at the light). He said that even with protective eyewear, he would not wear contacts around someone welding. Scary. I'd like to know for sure if that's true, but for now I won't be hanging around construction sites with my contacts in.

Edit: I also won't be hanging around any construction sites with my contacts out. That might be more dangerous.

Edit 2: Well, I said I wanted to know if it's true or not, and Jason provided the answer on Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/te...chno/ cornea.asp. I emailed the info to the woman who taught the first aid course, but haven't heard anything back yet.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

word association #197

This little exercise from LunaNina ~ a word association meme that she posts new words for each Sunday. It appeals to me as an exercise as word association reveals more if done over time, so I'll do it until I get bored. Just for credit's sake, I found this through Cheryl's blog Mad Baggage.

I say ... and you think ... ?

Nick :: and Candy (a couple I know)
Focus :: what I'm trying to do more of at work
Police :: car
Miles :: frequent flyer
Earn :: more
Twice :: bitten [I guess that should have been 'shy' (as in 'once bitten, twice shy'), but that's what came to mind.]
Razor :: sharp
Personality :: traits
Dumped :: discarded
Reliable :: car (this word drew a total blank for about 30 seconds...strange.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

idol top 3

Theme: Judge's choice (Dean leaves)

Even if you're really not into the Oz Idol thing, skip to the bottom of this post for two delicious treats I found for you on Youtube this week. Yummy!

This week each contestant chose one song from three suggested by the judges (one from each judge). Damien decided to challenge himself by learning Nessun Dorma, an opera piece in Italian, in one week, and wow ~ he's no Pavarotti, but I had no idea the guy could sing so powerfully. Impressive. Jess went with When You Believe, but wasn't up to her usual game. Dean sang Waiting on the World to Change, and was good without setting anything alight.

Next the three sang a song of their own choice: Damien sang Unchained Melody. It was lovely, but except for the scene in Ghost where it made me cry, I've always found the song a bit over-rated, (something I can never say in front of my Mum and Dad as it's 'their song'. ) Jess did To Sir, With Love, and though she was great I had to wonder at her youth (and ignorance) when she admitted she had no idea what the song was about. Firstly, any idiot can tell what the song is about from the lyrics. Secondly, while she's young enough to have never seen the movie, she's still a performer ~ how do you begin to interpret a song when you have no idea what the lyrics mean? Anyway, she's 17, so whatever... Dean took a risk by singing I'll Be, a song that never got much recognition in Australia, but he had the crowd and the judges in the palm of his hand. It was good to see him back on form, even if the next night the votes decided he was the one leaving. The grand final will be held at the Sydney Opera House next week and we'll see who, Jess or Damien, will take the prize.

And now to dessert. These are two hilarious clips taking the mickey out of Idol. The first is Adam Richard on Spicks and Specks explaining how to win Australian Idol, and then doing an audition piece that incorporates all of his own advice: priceless! The second is a clip from the (usually kind of dumb) comedy show called The Wedge. This guy does a perfect parody of Idol's lamest judge, Mark Holden. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the lucky country

It's no secret that I think our current Prime Minister is bad at his job. His policies have made life in Australia a lot worse than a decade ago...unless of course you are in a certain category of business ownership and then things are dandy. The tax system, education, student unionism, industrial relations law, media ownership laws, indigenous affairs ~ the Howard government has had a negative impact on it all. And let's not even touch on his relationship George W Gump.

The point is that I often feel we are becoming the not-so-lucky country. But last night I had a rather excellent reality check. I was watching TV with the (for a change not so) smarmy toothpick and this ad came on. For those who can't view the youtube video, it's a political ad that basically has John Howard turning into Pinocchio as they discuss one of the core promises he failed to keep. It's pointedly critical and blatantly accuses him of being untrustworthy. This conversation followed:
ST: That is so good!
Me: The ad?
ST: No. It's...you can say this bad things and not get trouble.
Me: You can't criticise your government at all?
ST: No. In my country if someone say this kind of ad, they will get much trouble and arrested. And the company who did the broadcast will be shut down. It's no really democracy.
Me: Yeah we can say pretty much whatever we like about our government. And a lot gets said, especially in the months before an election.
ST: In my country people not vote for new government because they are too scare that there will happen a coup and then we will have war again.
I then taught him the English idiom, "better the devil you know".

Now I've had conversations with him before about Cambodia's government and their tendancy to add exorbidant taxes to any luxury item (cars, computers, etc) in order to raise revenue for themselves. But the corruption of the system is so widespread in Cambodia that it goes far beyond that. I told a friend who works in Immigration about this conversation and she told me that people there are so used to corruption that they have trouble grasping why Immigration cares about verifying their information and it makes the information terribly unreliable. For them it's a money transaction ~ they bribe someone at a government office on their end and that person changes their birth certificate, or falsely verifies in an official statement that the person's father is dead so they can get a certain kind of visa. She said that this is so common that sometimes literally all they have to go on, to know if Cambodians are telling the truth about their circumstances or not, is intuition.

No matter how bad John Howard can be, those ads will run. On election day, if the Liberal Party is ousted, little Johnny Hobbit will gracefully concede, not start a civil war. And even if the whole world knew who wrote this blog in real life, I wouldn't be arrested for the criticisms I make of his government's policies. So yeah, maybe this IS still the lucky country.

Monday, November 06, 2006

idol top 4

Theme: Viewers' choice (Chris leaves)

When it gets down to four people, you lose someone every week who was good enough to win. This week it was Chris. Pity is wasn't at least next week, as his brother Courtney got to the top three in last year's competition and Chris has said previously that Courtney will be unbearable if Chris is voted out any earlier. :)

This week's theme is another Idol first ~ the songs they sang were chosen by the viewers. The songs were:
Jessica ~ Butterfly and Karma.
Chris ~ Something Beautiful and Mean to Me.
Dean ~ Dare You to Move and Savin' Me.
Damien ~ Crying and Hallelujah.
Mostly I thought the choices were excellent, except for Dean being asked to sing a Nickelback song. Though his performance was fine, it was inevitable that he would come out sounding weak compared with Chad Kroeger's growl. I was keen to hear Damien sing Hallelujah, a song perfectly suited to his voice. I actually prefer the arrangement used on the soundtrack of Shrek ~ Rufus Wainwright's poignant, almost painfully beautiful rendition ~ but he was wonderful none the less. The audience and the judges agreed that he had topped the night and he became the first contestant in Idol history to get two consecutive 'touchdowns' from Mark. And while I think both Mark and his touchdowns are lame, Damien did deserve the kudos.

And kudos also to Jess. I've long said that, though her voice is great, she is not very original or interesting. I didn't think she used the stage well, and when she did move around she had no obvious sense of rhythm. I still think she lacks originality (but hey, so do lots of people in the charts), but I have to say that watching her perform Karma I had to eat my words on all other counts. She looked hip, she moved well, owned the stage and worked the cameras like a total pro. We got to see her perform something that wasn't a power ballad and her arrangement was fresh with a notable absence of 'heard it all before' vocal gymnastics. It was the best performance I've ever seen her give.

Next week the judges are choosing the songs and I'm curious to see what they come up with. They are always rambling on about song choice, so they better get it right themselves. :)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

welcome to hollywood, what's your dream?

Quote of the week comes from Andrew (and in fact from last week). After describing a truly amazing live music experience, he gave this summary:
So, yeah. The trip was more than two great concerts; it was, frankly, life-affirming. I almost didn’t go at all: the trip was short, expensive, and foolish, and I had neither the time nor the money. But I learned that if your dreams aren’t ridiculous, then they aren’t dreams at all; they’re just expectations, filled automatically by life’s gears turning. Other people might think that going to Japan for two concerts in three days is ridiculous, but other people can go to Hell. Your dreams are yours and you must protect them, because no one else will do it for you.
Wise. "...they’re just expectations, filled automatically by life’s gears turning" I truly never thought of it that way, but it's true. There are so many things I can achieve in this life just by letting things run their course. But the actual dreams, the things properly defined as dreams, don't happen that way. Because they are in some aspect ridiculous in your current context, they require shifting paradigms, commitment to new experiences and sacrifice in order to gather resources. And I like that the dream he's talking about was not some major feat, years in the making, but simply a one-off experience he really wanted to have. He watched his favourite artist's creative process unfold in front of him ~ something any fan would crave and few will ever have the chance to witness. Wow.

What's your dream right now? Today, on the first day of November (NaNoWriMo month) my desire to write a novel has resurfaced sharply. Luckily (for NNWM purposes) I have a concept for which I've done some character outlines and thinking about plot, but no actual writing. 50,000 words in one month...yeah, I'm thinking that's ridiculous enough.
Some dreams come true, some don't, but don't stop dreamin' . . .