Category: Music

Rectify S4, Undisclosed S2 and Serial S1: Parallels

Ghosts in the Surf 1
I’ve been watching the beautiful TV series Rectify for four seasons now. In Australia it has been programmed late at night on our Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). SBS seems to have extraordinarily good taste in selecting foreign drama series, but they’re not promoted or scheduled that well so many people seem to have no idea about the late-night gems they are missing on this free-to-air service. Fortunately, many such series can also be viewed via SBS On Demand, their wonderful free streaming service.

I’ve really enjoyed Rectify. It progresses at a gentle pace that is very well supported by a strong cast, great acting and writing, brave direction and superb music. The pacing allows us to see the multiple dimensions of the impact of criminal convictions and to see how so many things can change with time. The lack of special effects makes it very very different from most US TV series. I’m not, however, trying to present a review of the series here. Instead I want to just list a series of observations that dawned on me during the wonderful finale to Series 4.

While watching this episode I kept thinking of the many parallels between Rectify and at least two of the crime podcasts I posted about here True Crime Podcasts: Serial S1 (about Adnan Syed and the murder of Hae Min Lee) and Undisclosed S2 (about Joey Watkins and the killing of Isaac Dawkins). Through its key character Daniel and his family, I think that Rectify effectively tells many of the stories about the convictions of both Adnan and Joey that have been covered in so much detail in these podcasts. So here are the parallels that I’ve observed:

  • The many people who become “victims” in these cases and how their own lives are changed (adversely).
  • The sheer incompetence and bias of so many legal authorities and office holders.
  • The fact that “beliefs” can actually change over time as truths are revealed. People can also forgive.
  • The conspiracies of the guilty and the lying of so-called “witnesses”.
  • The eventual acceptance of their fate (if not their guilt) by the convicted and sometimes by their families. In Rectify, Daniel portrays superbly what I’ve gleaned of both Adnan’s and Joey’s attitude from the two podcasts.
  • The patience and determination of the convicted, their families and their legal support teams. The pace of real justice and legal change (like retrials) is very slow.
  • The loyalty and belief in innocence of the families of the convicted and some of their friends.
  • The bitterness of those wedded to their lies or twisted by their own guilt. Is there actually some Karma in this world?
  • The cautious approach to hope by the convicted and their families.

Finally, I would like to add my hope that if Adnan and Joey are innocent, their convictions can be overturned as soon as possible.

True Crime Podcasts

I started again with podcasts because my music collection was starting to bore me and I walk just about everywhere listening to either an iPod or something on my phone. I bought a new Alfa recently and my phone automatically connects via Bluetooth, so I try to keep the latest podcasts ready to go for driving too.

I blame Sarah Koenig and Serial (see below). I just could not get enough of it and I’ve enjoyed both seasons released to date. I’m slightly obsessive-compulsive, so after the second season of Serial I needed to find all the podcasts about Serial and that led me to many other true crime podcasts of a similar ilk.

And so dear reader, here is a listing of those I’d recommend for you. Just you, not that dull bloke sitting behind you in a blue shirt. But first, an unrelated image:
Super Moon 3

These podcasts are all available in iTunes:

Criminal – one of the major crime podcasts that really got it all going and set a bench-mark in production quality. It is hosted by Phoebe Judge and like her colleagues, she has a background in public radio. This podcast tells stories of “people who’ve done wrong, been wronged or gotten caught somewhere in the middle”. I’m really enjoying it and they now have over 50 episodes online.

Up and Vanished – I’m really enjoying this podcast by young documentary film maker Payne Lindsey. The sound editing is superb and I really enjoy his voice. Payne investigates the unsolved disappearance of Tara Grinstead 11 years ago in a small town in Georgia.

… These Are Their Stories: The Law and Order Podcast – this is devoted to that long running TV series and all its spin-offs – Law & Order. It is presented by Rebecca and Kevin from Crime Writers On and they usually have a special guest for each episode which focuses on an episode of either L&A “original recipe” or one of the franchise varieties, like SVU. All of the episodes I’ve listened to so far have been pretty funny and they deal with all kinds of matters like Lenny Briscoe’s best wise-cracks or Olivia’s acting, make-up or hair styles or the various actors that have been featured as guest stars or long running characters. Very entertaining.

Undisclosed – this one can get very detailed and might be best left until you’ve listened to a few of the others, including Serial as that is what inspired this podcast. It investigates wrongful convictions and the US criminal justice system, sometimes finding new evidence that did not make it to court. In Season 1, the focus was on Adnan Syed from Serial Season 1. In Season 2, which I am just starting now, they look into the conviction of Joey Watkins who is serving a life sentence for the killing of Isaac Dawkins in 2000. This case came to them from the Georgia Innocence Project. His conviction does seem to be unfair on the face of it.

Accused – this is a superb podcast on the unsolved killing of Elizabeth Andes in her Ohio apartment in 1978. Police quickly focus their attention on her boyfriend Robert Young and he was coerced into a confession by local police, but he was acquitted at two successive trials, so did they ignore critically important evidence and also ignore other suspects?

Offshore – presented by reporter Jessica Terrell this is another well-produced and thoughtful podcast that investigates injustice and exposes racial tensions in the underbelly of Hawaii. It tells of the tragic killing of Kollin Elderts by off-duty State Department agent Christopher Deedy and also a killing that happened 80 years earlier when another native Hawaiian, Joseph Kahahawai was brutally murdered by a Navy officer, Lt. Thomas Massie and his eccentric mother-in-law.

SBS True Crime Stories (season Three) – this series was inspired by the Deep Water series including a drama, documentary and online investigation of a series of gay-hate murders in and around Sydney in the late 1980s and 1990s. The podcast focuses on Adelaide’s gay-hate murders that stretch back to the 1970s. It is a very disturbing series.

In The Dark – Most of the podcasts in this listing are about unsolved crimes or wrongful convictions. This podcast was to be about an unsolved child abduction, but just before they started the podcast the abductor and murderer turned himself in and confessed that he was guilty of this crime. So the presenter, Madeleine Baran instead focuses on how law enforcement authorities mishandled this case and how that failure in part led to national anxiety about stranger-danger and sex-offender registries. Really well produced and the tragic tale gets you in on so many levels and from very different perspectives – victims, victims’  families, offenders who have done their time, offenders who are never caught, and law enforcement.

Serial – This is the one that started it all for me. It is hosted by the wonderfully unique Sarah Koenig and produced by Sarah and Julie Snyder. It is so good that this podcast has many podcasts about it (such as Crime Writers On and Undisclosed) and its own thread on Reddit. The first series was about the murder of a young woman, Hae Min Lee in Baltimore by her boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who has been in prison ever since and who has just had his conviction vacated as a result of this podcast. The second series was about a US serviceman, Bowe Bergdahl who wandered off-base in Afghanistan only to be captured by the Taliban and held prisoner in terrible conditions for several years. He was eventually released in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, but now faces military charges for desertion and possibly treason. A third series in in the works now. It is one of the most downloaded podcasts ever.

Crime Writers On … – These guys started doing a podcast on the Serial podcast, but now they cover other journalism, crime and crime writing, pop culture (hit shows like The Night Of, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things) and just general junk. They are pretty funny and also review other podcasts, so through them I was encouraged to listen to things like Accused, In The Dark, Phoebe’s Fall, Offshore and Up and Vanished.

Phoebe’s Fall – This is another sad and very brutal tale that I didn’t really want to get hooked on at first. It is well presented and produced and  there is something just not right about the circumstances of her death: managing to get herself into a high-rise garbage chute and then plunge 40 metres, feet first down the chute before progressing through the compactor and then bleeding out.

Bowraville – Dan Box from The Australian newspaper investigates the unsolved murders of three children all killed within five months and all living on the same street. Very good journalism and well produced sound. Didn’t want to get hooked but I did and very quickly.

My sincere thanks to all the people making all these podcasts.


New music from my best friend and ex-partner Ken Spiteri. My fave is Track 2 He Goes – it is instantly likeable, but the whole album is really well made. Both the music and lyrics are great!

30 Day Song Challenge (in one day)

I was late to this. Today I saw Chris Caines tweeting about his songs (he was catching up too) and decided to find the list and join in. So here they all are. I found it on Doctor J’s blog. So here we go, mind the step …

30 Day Song Challenge (2015)
DAY 01:  your favorite song   A Forest (Tree mix), The Cure (from Mixed Up. I’ve seen two of their “last concerts ever”.)
DAY 02:  your least favorite song  Who Are You, The Who (mainly now because of CSI, but I hated it well before they started using it & I refuse to provide a link to it)
DAY 03:  a song that makes you happy  Mack the Knife (live version, Ella Fitzgerald (she forgets some words and improvises)
DAY 04:  a song that makes you sad  re: Stacks, Bon Iver (because I associate it with Dad’s death last year)
DAY 05:  a song that reminds you of someone  And It’s Alright, Peter Broderick (because I had this played at my brother’s funeral. It was very sad.)
DAY 06:  a song that reminds you of home Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes (I don’t know why, but I love the change of time signature that they pull off at about 2:45)
DAY 07:  a song you never tire of hearing  True Faith, New Order (and the iconic music video I linked to broke new ground in 1987 – it is worth a whole blog post I think; or She’s Gone, The Brian Jonestown Massacre – for me this song is almost like tripping, it is all-encompassing and I just dive into it, all 7+ minutes of it)
DAY 08:  a song you know all the words to  Take a Picture, Filter (or Ripe & Ruin, Alt-J)
DAY 09:  a song that makes you want to dance Peter Pan, Jinja Safari (because ugly dancing)
DAY 10:  a song that helps you fall asleep Harry Patch (In Memory Of), Radiohead (it doesn’t send me to sleep, but it is soft and a melancholy)
DAY 11:  a song from your favorite band/artist In Between Days (Shiver Mix), The Cure (from Mixed Up)
DAY 12:  a song from a band/artist you hate  Anything by Justin Bieber (once again, no link)
DAY 13:  a song that is a guilty pleasure  Kids, MGMT (and I really don’t feel that guilty, but it was this or something from Coldplay)
DAY 14:  a song no one would expect you to love Unite Us, Pnau
DAY 15:  a song that could be the theme song to your life Ordinary, Red Riders (I wish they’d not split up, but I was fortunate enough to see their last Sydney show; or You Are A Tourist, Death Cab for Cutie – watch the video, I think it is brilliant!)
DAY 16:  a song you used to love but now hate Jelly Legs, Children Collide (I guess I don’t really hate it, but I do skip if it comes up on the Nano)
DAY 17:  a song you hear often on the radio Time to Wander, Gypsy & The Cat (well, I used to hear it when I was listening to the radio some years ago)
DAY 18:  a song that every bar band should know Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls
DAY 19:  a song that bar bands should stop playing Anything from Hot August Night, Neil Diamond (it could be banned or made illegal, so no link.)
DAY 20:  a song to listen to when you’re angry Johnny Appleseed, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros (calms me down; makes me smile again)
DAY 21:  a song that is best heard live  Go Or Go Ahead, Rufus Wainwright (but I’ve also heard a fab version by Matthew Mitcham in his cabaret show)
DAY 22:  a song you wish you had written A Stillness, The Naked and Famous (I LOVE this song)
DAY 23:  a song you want played at your wedding Intro, M83 Feat. Zola Jesus (from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Disc1)
DAY 24:  your favorite song this time last year We Are Fine, Sharon Van Etten (& I still love it because it is truly beautiful. I first heard it on the US TV series Rectify.)
DAY 25:  a song with utterly mysterious lyrics Moth’s Wings, Passion Pit (I’ve never really tried to understand the lyrics)
DAY 26:  a song that is an “earworm”  Symphonies, Dan Black (in a good way mostly)
DAY 27:  a song you wish you could play/sing  The Shining, Badly Drawn Boy (another very beautiful song first heard on the US series Queer As Folk. They always selected outstanding music to close each episode.)
DAY 28:  a song from your childhood  The Boy With a Moon and Star on his Head, Cat Stevens (I was a big fan)
DAY 29:  a song you want played at your funeral Read My Mind, The Killers (The lyrics are wonderful, especially “The stars are blazin’ like rebel diamonds, cut out of the sun…”)
DAY 30:  a song you discovered this month (during the Challenge)  Love Will Tear Us Apart, Joy Division (well, more rediscovered actually, but I love that someone had it down as a song to be played at a wedding)

Library Chat » Episode 8 – Mal Booth – Culture, Creativity, Play, Meetings

Library Chat » Episode 8 – Mal Booth – Culture, Creativity, Play, Meetings.

This a podcast of an interview that I did with Corin the Librarian (@corinh) in Auckland. It was done a while back and I’ve only just had a listen to it. I’m amazed at how coherent it is. Maybe it is all due to Corin’s editing, or maybe it was someone else impersonating me!

Greetings from Tim Buckley – Review

I enjoyed this film, but it probably isn’t to everyone’s taste, particularly if they are not fans of either Tim or Jeff Buckley and their music. It is set around a tribute concert given in Brooklyn in 1991 for Tim Buckley, about 16 years after his death from an accidental overdose. Tim’s son Jeff Buckley is somewhat reluctantly encouraged to perform some of his father’s music and the experience becomes a bit of a reconciliation for him about his very limited relationship with his father. After my own father’s recent death, I found this part of the film very touching, and probably quite realistic. The event seems to have been the catalyst that convinced Jeff to follow in his father’s footsteps and three years later he recorded the seminal album Grace. Sadly, Jeff too was to die tragically early in a drowning accident less than six years after the tribute concert.

Jeff is played very convincingly by Penn Badgley and Tim is also played very well (in flash-backs) by Ben Rosenfield. Both parts feature a lot of musical performances. I’ve said this about a lot of the films I saw at Sydney Film Festival this year, but Greetings from Tim Buckley was also very well shot. Some of the scenes are really beautiful and the cinematographer seems to have used some very subtle colouring to distinguish the flash-back scenes.

There is one really intriguing scene between Jeff and Gary Lucas (as played by Tony Award winner Frank Wood) in which Jeff first hears the guitar theme from his single “Grace”, played by Gary who says it is a bit like church bells. Jeff then messes around with it and we hear more of the beginnings of that amazing song. This has all now been confirmed in a comment below by Gary himself. He started Grace as his own solo guitar instrumental and you can see and hear it here:

As I said above, it it is unlikely to be a film for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. 4/5

And a sketch of Jeff by me to finish:


Praxis Makes Perfect

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Praxis Makes Perfect, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
This is a set of images from one of the 2013 Vivid Sydney Light installations in Walsh Bay.
I loved it and watched the whole sequence one night snapping as many images as I could. The animations and graphics are brilliant and they are my favourite for 2013 of the whole Light festival, big and small.
I thought this before I found out anything about the work itself and a couple of days later I was amazed to see that the whole piece has been put together by 2nd year animation students from the UTS Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building.
The work was full of content and a fantastic demonstration of visual story-telling. It explores the 12 principles that underpin animation and features the historical figure Mary Reibey, a former convict who went on to become a successful businesswoman in early colonial Sydney.
The beautiful musical piece accompanying this animation was played by Peter Hollo using a cello in some different ways. You can hear it on his blog.
I found out from Damian Gascoigne (who with Deborah Szapiro lectures on this course), that once given the go ahead after pitching a proposal to Vivid, the students had only eight weeks to get it all done.
It was wonderful to see the great work of UTS students and academics being showcased so publicly.

Sketch-notes – Swing is the Soul of the Groove

Dick Rijken keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013

Dick Rijken’s keynote Swing is the Soul of the Groove was one that I arranged, so again, maybe I am biased here, but I loved it. It seemed to me at least that the whole week flowed into his final keynote and he nicely wrapped up many of the main themes. He stressed culture over the vogue words: creativity and innovation. He illustrated his points with visual and musical storytelling and I was in two minds as to whether I should just watch or try to record some thoughts and reminders.

It was fantastic to hear someone of his standing reminding us of the importance of things like ambiguity, not knowing or understanding, romanticism, aestheticism, experimentation and trusting our intuition. All are hard to tie down, to justify or to measure quantitatively, but in the end are they not some of the things that distinguish us from robots or automatons? And certainly I think they are critical to our sector. For too long I think we’ve been obsessed with making things more efficient, more specialised, less connected and easily measured. We need to rediscover the underlying meaning in what we do. As Dick said, an artistic mentality can be very helpful to us in finding that meaning and in truly understanding what we are supposed to be doing.

I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Dick last week and to present a workshop with him last Friday. Not only did I learn a great deal from him, I was stimulated and energised by the many discussions we had.

2011 Music (post 3 of 4)

Grouplove: Never Trust a Happy Song.
Gypsy & The Cat: Gilgamesh.

Jinja Safari (EP).

The Middle East: I want that you are always happy.

The Naked and Famous: Passive Me, Aggressive You.

Grouplove: They play happy music and I always trust happy music. I absolutely love this album and was lucky enough to see them in a smallish Sydney venue live in mid-2011. They’re brilliant, new, original, enjoy playing together and just so enthusiastic about their music. So much energy they just make you want to jump about or thump something in time with their beat! I love the clapping, the guitars, the teeth, the hair, the vocals, the stomping, the screaming and the words. They are like crazy animals released live on stage. It is all good. The first song I heard was Colours and I knew I would love whatever they did. Then I was wild for Naked Kids and soon came Itchin’ On a Photograph and its brilliant video and I especially love Andrew Wessen’s guitar work right at the end of the song. I also love his vocals and ukelele playing on Spun. Love Will Save Your Soul is another powerful song backed by guitar work that I find addictive. Hannah Hooper painted the art work on the album cover. Her vocals are wonderful. They have it. They use it. They do it.
Dancing, California, Rock, Fun, Energy, Pace.

Gypsy & The Cat: Yeah, so they unashamedly echo the soft rock of the 80s like Boston and Toto, but I like this album more than the original tunes that might have inspired them. There are a good number of instantly likeable tunes and the hit tune Time to Wander had a fantastic music video set outside the Tate Modern staring Art Malik that just mesmerised me. I don’t really like Jona Vark, but others like The Piper’s Song, Parallel Universe and Breakaway are great.
80s, Pop, Tate Modern, Dancing.

Jinja Safari (EP): I was really into Peter Pan in late 2010, but I think that I didn’t buy this EP until 2011 and I’m including it in this list because I think the real highlight on the EP is the haunting Stepping Stones. It is a very beautiful song and entirely under-rated. Their music reminds me of Yes. MGMT and Fleet Foxes. An odd mix, I know.
Hippies, Happiness, Dancing, Jumping, Bush.

The Middle East: They are very hard to label but I think they have an alternative folk rock sound not unlike Fleet Foxes for the most part and I like them a lot. It is a pity that this is their second and last album. I was lucky enough to see and hear them perform live at the Metro soon after the release of this album and they’re even better live. Their live performance is much stronger and more energetic than the finessed studio production of this album. I really like Hunger Song and The Land of the Bloody Unknown. I still cannot believe that this band came out of Townsville. Some of their music is truly beautiful.
Bush, Australia, Country, Driving, Sadness.

The Naked and Famous: This is another electro-pop album that I love with many great and varied tracks. It deservedly scored 8/10 from an NME review. They’re from New Zealand and their music is instantly engaging. Young Blood certainly is a highlight and an obvious single, but so too are Punching in  Dream,  Eyes, the fascinating Jilted Lovers and All Of This. On some of those tracks you almost cannot tell it is the same band. I’d love to see them live. For most of their music you just cannot sit still. It just makes you want to get up and start stomping and jumping around.
80s, Pop, Energy, Darkness, Parties.

2011 Music (post 2 of 4)

Cut Copy: Zonoscope.
Death Cab for Cutie: Codes And Keys.
Digitalism: I Love You, Dude.
Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues.
Gotye: Like Drawing Blood.

So, the second post …

Cut Copy: This is nearly a *****. Just off it really. I was lucky enough to see them live in June and I think they’re brilliant. As soon as they started playing nearly everyone at the Sydney Opera House was out of their seats dancing. The album is great, but if I stick strictly with my rating system there are a couple of annoying tracks, so it becomes a ****. I was so glad that they are fantastic live and good entertainers as well as good in the studio. My highlights are Dan Whitford (especially the way he moves on stage), Need You Now and Where I’m Going.  
Dance. Electronics. Design. Escape. Movement.

Death Cab For Cutie: Another good album panned on Pitchfork. I hadn’t really been a fan, but I bought this album for the single You Are a Tourist which I thought had a stunning music video. It was shot live in one take using multiple camera and without any editing or re-takes. I love it. I shoved a few of the tracks onto an iPod that I use when walking, running or at the gym and it has really grown on me as an album. Unobstructed Views is probably too long for release as a single, but I really like the way it gently introduces you to its theme and how Ben Gibbard’s echo-ey vocals come in late. They hold back. It is good.  There is some great guitar band work on many tracks too. There are some parallels with Cut Copy here and I see Cut Copy have remixed the track Doors Unlocked and Open on the remixed EP.
Experience. Guitars. Unique vocals.

Digitalism: Unfairly dismissed as a “rehash” by Pitchfork, this is a good album. If you like Electronica, the album has more than a few tracks that soon grow on you like Circles, Blitz and Stratosphere, but my fave is Two Hearts.
Germany. New media. Youth. Gay.

Fleet Foxes: I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get into Fleet Foxes, but I love them. They remind me of The Middle East, but it should be the reverse. I like Robin Pecknold’s lyrics and his vocals, I like the stomping beat on Battery Kinzle and I like the gentle and the strumming guitar, the harmonies, the fiddle, the mandolin and the lap steel. Helplessness Blues is an instantly loveable track. The composition is genius. The transition in tempo and feeling just after half-way is beautiful and breath-taking. They are another band that remind me of all of the best things about the US. Another really beautiful track is Lorelai and I love the different infectious feel and rhythmic pulse of Great Ocean. They have a big and devoted following, but it seems to me that they play music that they love playing together regardless of what anyone else thinks. And that is a good thing.
The US. Grass. Roots. Country. Life.

Gotye: I have no idea what everyone raves about. It is one for my sister I’m afraid. To me it seems like he is trying to prove how versatile and talented he is in many genres. Maybe he thinks he is another Rufus Wainwright?
Nothing nice springs to mind.