Ashley Zoch

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Dreaming Tree

Today has been hot and surprisingly dry - a lot like a hot Melbourne day. I trekked East past all the Embassies to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Island in the middle of Swan Lake.

I spent most of the day exploring the gardens and taking photos. I started at Swan Lake at the southern tip and worked my way north through waterfalls in the Ginger Garden to Symphony Lake where I snapped some large orange Carp (I'm guessing) that were being fed by some visitors.

A turtle at the Ginger Gardens.

On the path I was stopped by a Buddhist monk who sprang ninja-like from the bushes. He bowed, handed me a prayer-card, lightened me of $10, put a bracelet on my wrist and posed for a quick photo. He pointed to the sky so I think the whole ordeal got me closer to God, but he also motioned to a previous $50 donation and indicated that this would have got me a little closer.

Money Monk.

He showed me a photo of a Monastery that he's apparently building, but the card has a nice rendering of a red sports car on the back, so I'm not sure which I contributed to. I guess I got a bracelet...

Proto-trees in the Evolution Garden.

Further north was the spiraling Evolution Garden showing the history of plantlife on Earth. It was a unique mix of Flintstone like rock structures and weird & wonderful plants. They even managed to have tadpole-like creatures and insects hanging around their 'beginning of Life' Stromatolites (yep, that was on the brochure).

I was swapping between three camera lenses all day and luckily happened to have the telephoto on while I was sitting on the bench at the end of the Evo Garden. A little lizard scampered up and clung to a nearby tree. I managed to get of a few shots without needing to move and scare him off.

A slippery little fellow.

I continued north and tried my hand at some macro shots of flowers. I realised I have no idea how to capture plantlife apart from the the well-worn flower macro. Everything else looks dull and too busy. More research is required.

Genus unknown (to me).

I finished the day off at the Eco Lake which contains both Ecologically and Economically important plants. Rubber trees were key to this region's early economy. I even saw where the first bunch were planted.

A rare shot of the sunburnt author.

I almost finished the day with a great shot of a turtle but I got just a little too close. So much for being slow.

Rain down on Me

It dripped big slow drops of rain for a good part of yesterday, so I spent a few hours wandering around and went to the cinema after lunch. I expected it to be quite a treat as the cinema was new and huge but it was just like any suburban cinema at home. I saw The Island which was a pretty darn good sc-fi blockbuster.

I walked into the cinema three times and was turned away until I realised the box office girl said the time was 1:15 when I asked her, not 1:50. That was enough to make carry a clock with me again.

Thanks to the kind gent who generously provided me with wi-fi at the hotel to write this up at the hotel. Why bring an access-point to a hotel?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Oh Calcutta!

I spent the morning at Sim Lim Square yesterday. It's like a Mecca for men that never grew up - floors and floors of computer gear, electronics and cameras. Sadly the 'low price DVD' stores are long gone, but there was still plenty to see. I spent a couple of hours looking at all the wonderful toys and picked up a Crumpler case for my new PDA.

Shopping at Sim Lim Square.

After a morning's shopping I wandered north from Sim Lim and stopped for a drink at a little café. Drinking water has been my greatest expense so far. I then headed further north to Little India which was great because it's not all polished up like the CBD. I visited the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple just in time to see the daily forehead blessings with Vibhuti (the white ash from burned cow dung) and handfuls of rice being handed out.

Sri Veeramakaliamman temple.

Little India consists of hundreds of open front stores all selling the same bracelets, traditional dresses and $6 jeans. The buildings are old and brightly painted in pastels. The architecture has heaps of character. I had Northern Indian Thali at the Anand Bhavan vegetarian restaurant. It consisted of a few different curries with roti, naan and some rice. I could barely finish half and it was on the snack menu. It cost less than $5 too.

Little India.

Stopped outside here for yet another drink.

A serious drenching of rain came down on the walk home from Little India so I sat on the steps of a closed bar for an hour and watched some local kids play pool on an outdoor table. The iPod is an absolute saviour in such situations. I put on some chilled beats and did just that.

Rain. Lots.

Sharni is teaching some sort of training course with two other E&Y guys - Joseph (from Alabama) and Marco (from Italy). I joined them for dinner and some drinks last night. We ate at a restaurant on the riverfront called Madam Butterflies. It was recommended by the hotel concierge but it was expensive and not much chop. We shared some abalone and duck for starters and chicken, beef and lobster for mains.

After dinner we slipped into a bar called Este for a quick drink (that turned into 4 or 5 slow drinks). It was an odd place. It looked like a strip joint with poles and a catwalk that you walked on from a room with couches through to a band room. The band played some pretty dull pop songs but they were quite competent. Marco suggest something a little more 'rock' during their break and they managed to kick it up a notch in their second set. It turns out Marco played bass in a band in Italy and is quite a rock fan so we spent a good part of the evening comparing notes and drinking the local Tiger beer.

Monday, July 25, 2005


We flew into Changi around 10pm last night. Our arrival at the hotel was quite a surreal experience. It seems Sharni is some sort of VIP there so we were greeted by a young lady as we arrived and shown to the room with no check-in required. Most of the staff greeted us by name as we walked past. It had a very Lost in Translation feel to it and I was most amused.

Sharni at Changi Airport.

I went out for a quick wander down Orchard Rd last night around midnight. My memories from previous visits were pretty vague but I recognised a few locations. There's more 7/11s than I remember.

It's quite mild this morning but still very humid. I plan on spending the day wandering.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Laura / International Karate / The Null Set @ Ding Dong Lounge

Darren, Michael and I went to the Ding Dong Lounge (previously the International Bar, to my surprise) to bathe in newly found favourites Laura. Actually I bathed and the others drank. I also took the opportunity to try some more photography with a newly acquired 50mm f1.8 lens.

Darren & Michael at the Ding Dong Lounge.

Despite the closeness in the photo above and my accidental loving focus of Darren, there is no romance going on (that I am aware of). I'm just not very good at framing without a zoom lens and I made them squeeze in. The drinking straw in the photo does not further this conjecture.

The Null Set.

Sydney's Null Set were interesting to listen to. There were a couple of 'tuning malfunctions' but the performance itself was pretty good. Kate Wilson (drums) looks like someone's little sister and plays furiously.

International Karate.

I thought Darren was a fan of International Karate, but it turns out I was thinking of (fellow video game named) Art of Fighting. IK sit on the more pedestrian 'Explosions in the Sky' side of the post-rock genre. I enjoyed their set, but the other guys didn't have a kind word to say. My only criticism is that they didn't look very "into it". I did like bass player Mark Mascia's "ceiling gazing".


Unfortunately (for single-minded camera-holding me) Laura went for a darkened red-lit stage, so I struggled to photograph them within the limits of my camera setup. They played another intense and mesmeric set backed my some interesting projected visuals (Hebrew-like codes and other Pi-ish imagery). Their live performance is great so I hope they put out a live release of some type in the future. I've had the opportunity to see quite a few local instrumental acts lately and Laura definitely stand out.


I'll put a bunch of photos up in my gallery once I've made some 'cropping' decisions.

Edit : Photos of the gig are here. Minimal cropping due to laziness.


Here's something of interest to fans of hip-hop and Philip Glass (of whom I recently discovered that I know exactly one).

While I'm on the topic, here's something of interest to fans of hip-hop and The Flaming Lips (of whom I recently discovered I know exactly one).

I'm slowly coming around on The Postal Service's "Give Up". I recently saw it described as "Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard singing to his Nintendo". I think that sums it up nicely.

The image of emo kids wistfully singing to their Nintendos amuses me greatly.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Spikes, but no Wires

I thought I'd test out a blog entry using my PDA over WiFi. It appears to work just dandy apart from me being a bit slow pecking away at the on-screen keyboard. At least the predictive dictionary is pretty good.

By way of some minor content, it just became apparent to me how much I've been enjoying Porcupine Tree's Lightbulb Sun album. It's something I've been listening to on and off over the past months and it's really grown on me. I've seen them categorised into the Prog Rock genre and I can see similarities to the likes of Spock's Beard, but they manage to avoid the often accompanying cheesiness. I think most of it's even in Common Time.

I'd better save this before I inadvertently delete the lot.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Community Cup XII

The Sacred Heart Community Cup has become an annual favourite. This year Tayls, Tam and Ethan joined me at the Junction Oval on Sunday 27th June for an afternoon of rock, (surprisingly) sun and some awful (but lovable) footy between the RRR/PBS Megahertz & the Espy Rock Dogs.

Tam, Ethan and Tayls enjoy a beer and a balloon.

I arrived just in time to catch the short-lived re-grouping of Weddings, Parties, Anything. I'm not sure if they reformed just for this event, but they only played one other gig the previous night. The last time I saw them was supporting U2 in October 1989. Tayls is quite a big fan and I enjoyed them a lot. I've been wondering whether their style of traditionally-rooted folk/rock might make a resurgence in the same way bands like Flogging Molly have for Irish folk/punk. I wish it would, because it has a uniquely Australian character to it.

Weddings, Parties, Anything.

The teams jogged onto the field and we decided on our alliances. After some consideration Tayls & Tam went for the dirty Rock Dogs and Ethan and I sided with the beloved Megahertz. I'm not much of a fan of football and this wasn't much of a football match, so I won't go into details. There were the usual scraps and good humoured antics. The Megahertz came back in the final quarter to win by a slight margin. We had the most fun picking out RRR presenters using the Record. RRR Breakfaster Tony Wilson was my pick for best on ground again this year.

Dallas Crane snuck in a few songs at half time. They must surely be the hardest working band in Melbourne. I see their name everywhere but they just don't seem to be able to break away from being a pub band. I've been interested in seeing them for some time and I confirmed that they're too 'straight up rock' for my tastes.

I picked up a Sounds of St. Kilda sampler CD on the way out. It's a pretty mixed bag of musical styles but there's a couple of tracks that aren't bad.

I've posted a few photos here.

Ed Kuepper @ Northcote Social Club

We caught Ed Kuepper (The Saints, Laughing Clowns) at the Northcote Social Club last night. He was joined by drummer Jeffrey Wegener (Laughing Clowns) and newly acquired bass player Peter Oxley (The Sunnyboys) for two sets covering his career and the odd cover.

Ed Kuepper

I'm unacquainted with most of Ed Kuepper's work although I did listen to Honey Steels Gold quite a bit and recognised a couple of his better known tracks. I did enjoy the long stretched out arrangements of most of the songs. He seems very comfortable playing his material. I was surprised to see that Peter Oxley had only played live twice in the last decade. The three of them looked like they had been doing it for some time. Darren, Morgan and Andrew all appeared to know and enjoy most of the set. Clarence (visiting from Malaysia) also joined us and enjoyed a night out even if the music wasn't quite to his liking.

Darren, Andrew, Clarence & Morgan outside the Northcote Social Club

I also took the opportunity to try out some low light photography. The results were a little blurry and don't hold up to Andrew's photos from the previous week. At the least it was a chance to see what it's like photographing live music and I felt pretty comfortable. I'll keep at it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Laura / Grand Salvo / Because of Ghosts / Hamster Machine @ Bar Open

Boy, I'm behind in the blogging...

I dragged Darren along to Bar Open last Thursday (30th June) to see 'post-rock' band Laura, who I heard on RRR's Delivery last week. We also expected Princess 1.5 (who I've been itching to see) and Registered Nurse (who I'm not so hot on). The gig was to launch an exhibition of live music photos by Andrew Watson. We arrived in good time to have a quick look at the photos which were both reasonably priced and quite nice. There was a great shot of Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis and a not as great shot of Mclusky bass player Jon Chapple. If the Mclusky shot was as nice as the Dirty Three one I would have bought it for sure.

The band room has a nice Andy Warhol look to it. A few couches and some makeshift levels for folks (i.e. hipsters) to sit cross-legged on. Hamster Machine was ex-Frente song-writer Tim O'Connor who sang over a backing track. His website describes him as 'Iggy Pop if he were backed by Germans'. This sums him up pretty well. I also don't like Iggy Pop much.

I think Because of Ghosts played next. It certainly wasn't Princess 1.5 as there was no Sarah-Jane Wentzki fronting them. I guess she didn't show so they played as Because of Ghosts instead. They were good but a little bland. I was hoping they would rock out live. They didn't really.

Paddy Mann passed me on the stairs as I nicked down for another round of drinks. I guess Registered Nurse didn't show either because he unpacked his guitar and it seemed that Grand Salvo would be the next artist. Paddy appears to have an issue with being heard. He was just audible the last time we caught him. This time I couldn't hear him at all. People talked over him and he stopped, stood up and walked off. We assumed that he'd given up, but this was just a sound-check.

He went on to play a quiet set that I could just make out over the (reasonably quiet) crowd talking. I can understand that he wants to play quietly in order to create a certain dynamic effect, but as a professional performer he needs be responsible for the quality of the show. We are paying to see him. Why can't he play quietly and have the house PA turned up so we can hear?

Laura started around 11:30pm and (without wanting to blow the ending of this tale) blew me away within seconds. They're a six piece consisting of guitars, keys, cello and drums and could be compared to GY!BE or maybe Explosions in the Sky. Unfortunately I haven't seen those bands live, but I imagine the experience would be quite similar.

Laura frequented the atypical post-rock formula of sparse slow building songs that finish in a crescendo with the whole band as one. They also experimented with vocals screamed through the pickups of a guitar (I thought he was going to play it with his teeth and they nearly lost me) and a song with disheveled drums coming in unexpectedly half way through each verse. I was mesmerised by their performance and I think Darren was as well.

I thought they were unique and interesting enough to seek out both their CDs the following day at Cumbersome Records in Collingwood. After a few listens I've realised that the tracks that didn't work as well live really shine on CD and vice versa.

There's a review and sample track on I agree with their review - Laura's influences are quite apparent, but it's really nice to have a band playing this stuff locally that I can see live. They are my new favourite band.

Short and Sweet

The Atalla brothers and I have kicked off new World of Warcraft characters so that we can play together as a regular group. Our main characters have all ended up at different levels so it's not much fun doing quests together. Someone is always way out of their depth or bored (and not getting any XP). We're playing these new guys exclusively as a group and it's more fun multiplied by ten.

Butchar, Knotbeard and Jakkal warming their bones in Dun Morogh.

Despite much booing and hissing from our Horde guild, we've created these characters as Alliance Dwarves. I believe one of the Atallas was spat on for this choice. We get to see a bit more of the game world and don't have to repeat all the same quests again. We work great as a group. I reckon I could write a thesis on group dynamics, but it all boils down to playing nicely together. It's like a democracy without the bureaucracy. It works very well.

This is definitely the co-operative multiplayer that I've been seeking (Baldur's Gate, Ultima Online, Neverwinter Nights, Diablo) for some time. I guess an online role-playing game has been designed to cope with groups playing together. World of Warcraft handles it very well. There's room for innovation, but it's a really good base. Playing in a fixed group makes the leveling a secondary goal because everyone is moving along at the same pace. It removes the pain of grinding through levels to keep up which is the main gripe of most any MMORPG.

My only concern so far is the advancement in professions (such as blacksmithing or herbalism) as these require individuals to divert from the group. I'm not sure whether we'll pursue them separately or while playing with the group. It could become a chore for the group to wait for frequent mining expeditions but it might also mean level disparity if we go it alone. Maybe we'll just ignore it altogether.

Wow. That last paragraph sounded like a self help book. I think it's time to go to bed.

Camera Obscura

I've been considering a new camera for some years now. I bit the bullet a few weeks back and purchased a Canon 350D digital SLR with 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses. Despite a few concerns about size and weight, I'm very pleased with the purchase. Of course this might change in twelve months after I've lugged it around Europe. I've been out on a few expeditions to learn how everything works, so here are the fruits of my labours so far.

These first two are from an early morning trek around the south end of Melbourne.

Melbourne Skyline
The Melbourne skyline from the Swan St. Bridge. Melbourne

The Shrine of remembrance. Melbourne.

These two are from an early morning visit to Luna Park to take some 'standards' of a Melbourne icon. The second shot is my favourite so far.

Luna Park
Entrance to Luna Park. St. Kilda, Melbourne.

Park Closed
Luna Park After Hours. St. Kilda, Melbourne

These two are shot with the telephoto lens to capture some fast moving action and try out a Bokeh portrait.

Footy Fight
Brawl at the Megahertz vs Rock Dogs footy match. St. Kilda, Melbourne.

Tayls at the Megahertz vs Rock Dogs footy match. St. Kilda, Melbourne.

Finally the requisite pet shot.

Sharni's dog Hamish.