November 29, 2008

Liam Finn - Paradiso kleine zaal, 28 November

The second show of the week, and the closer to a mostly great month of live music... A dedicated audience was in attendance to see Liam Finn, whose debut album I've recommended here before. I did catch a bit of the opener, Sarah Blasko, who has an lovely voice and played a solo acoustic set. Then things got a bit louder when Liam Finn came out, joined by EJ Barnes, who also played with him (and opened for him) when I saw him live in Melbourne. The style of playing echoed Andrew Bird's show, since they also used loops of music to build up a lot more sound than you'd normally get from only two people. He played much of his album, with an improvised song thrown in that he seemed quite pleased with. He really gave it his all onstage, jumping around, hammering at the drums, and yet he was so down to earth and sweet once the music stopped. It was a great show, and I told y'all to be there, so if you weren't, you only have yourself to blame.

Andrew Bird - De Duif, 25 November

Tuesday was either the 3rd or 4th time I've seen Andrew Bird live and it was a brilliant show. To begin with, it was in a unique location, in a church on the Prinsengracht. Most of the audience was seated and the people I was with managed to grab some of the last free chairs. It may be old-fart syndrome talking, but I enjoyed sitting during this concert, concentrating on watching Andrew Bird build layers and layers of song all alone. The church was a bit chilly, but it had a warm echo that added to the sound. Andrew Bird said a couple of times that he very much enjoyed being able to perform there. During Tables and Chairs he tried to get the audience to sing the violin part, but we were a bit shy. He wanted to fill the hall with the sound of voices, to use it as it should be used, but he said maybe we thought it was too reverent of a place to be loud in.

He played many new songs from his album, Noble Beast, that will be out in January. It seemed to me that he played more songs from Mysterious Production of Eggs than Armchair Apocrypha, and then there were a couple of covers, including Giant of Illinois by the Handsome Family. There was also a wonderful song (a cover?) where the violin sounded less orchestral and more like an Appalachian folk song. Perhaps predictably, though I certainly look forward to it, he played Why? He even addressed the fact that he always plays it, saying he was trying to ween himself from it, but he keeps coming back to it because it sets him straight. I don't think any performance can quite match the first time I saw him play it, but I still very much enjoyed it.

The naming of things

Today, just over three years since I got my first tattoo, I finally thought of a name for her. I had thought of various names before, but none were right. Then this one occurred to me and it seemed so obvious I don't know how I didn't think of it sooner. I was happy to finally find the right one.

So, Monday is December? Really? How the hell'd that happen?

November 23, 2008

My 5-year plan

To borrow the idea from E...

I definitely need to start looking into what I want to do in the coming 2-3 years and stop just talking about it. All I know right now is that I desperately want to go back to Australia, to Melbourne, to live there more permanently. I've spoken about leaving Holland for years, almost as long as I've lived here, but I never was sure of where to go. Now I know very well where I want to be and I hope I can get there. I'm determined to get there.

The main problem, I think, is that I don't have very specific skills. I mean, it's good that I have a university degree and am a native English speaker, but my degree, and my subsequent job experience, is rather vague and hard to sell as particularly worthy of a skilled-worker visa. I've taken the points test to see if I could get a visa now and I fall short of the required number of points.

So, I am considering going back to school to study something more specific. The first idea I had is to become a librarian, preferably a university/research librarian. Natasja suggested museum curation to me, another area that would be interesting, and both are professions with a higher number of points for getting the visa. I'm quite conflicted though about studying again. One moment it all sounds so exciting and I have many areas open to me that I could go for, but then I panic about the money it would take and wonder whether I want to be a student again.

I'm not even sure which country I'd go to school in. Holland might be easier because I already live here. The US would be easier in terms of not needing a visa to study there, but it would be more expensive. (Though, dang, the price difference at a Dutch university for EU nationals versus non-EU nationals is huge: at the University of Leiden it was something like 2000 eur versus 13,000 eur. And I don't know if my permanent residency counts for anything.) Or I could study in Australia, already get to live there, and then hope to get employment there after school.

Hm, it seems like the study-in-Australia option is actually the best because they don't recgonize study done outside of Australia as valid for getting the visa. So if I studied in Holland or the US, I would then have to do a year of work to meet the work experience requirement, which means longer before trying to go to Australia.

Another option I've been thinking of would be to go back to the US for a couple of years and get work experience in an area that would qualify me for going to Australia. Or an idea some people have mentioned is to see what my company could do for me regarding connecting me with a job in an office in Australia. Unfortunately, most of their offices are in the Sydney area, though if I had to, I would settle for Sydney. ;)

For the next year, at least, I'm not going anywhere since I hardly have any savings. So 2009 will be spent saving and mulling and planning. And dreaming. Lots of dreaming.


Yesterday I was cruelly woken up at about 8:30 by the workers who have been fixing up stuff on the house I live in. I was afraid they'd work on Saturday... Fortunately they are taking Sunday off. They were doing work yesterday at the front of the house, on the walkway to the front door, so right next to my room. It looks like they might be raising the path to be level with the sidewalk. They have only just begun, it looks like they have another 2-3 days of work. I hope during the week I'm out of the house before they start on the sawing and jackhammering that they were doing yesterday at about 8:30/9 in the morning. It's such a mess out there too, they had the front door off its hinges (it's back now) and there's bags of sand and concrete, and piles of tiles... I'll be glad for it to be over.

I ended up going to two different parties on Saturday afternoon and evening. First, I went to a colleague's house in Rijswijk for a little get together. It was a really nice, relaxed time, and she fed us well. Actually I ate a bit too much before I needed to leave to go back to Den Haag for a curry cook-off with an expat group. I pretty much knew no one there, and there were a lot of people there, at least 20, so I met quite a few new people. There happened to be quite a few Americans there, more than I'm used to being around, and there was a lot of talk about Thanksgiving and arguments about what belongs in a Thanksgiving dinner and what doesn't. The curries were quite good, though I missed out on a couple. I did manage to grab a piece of chocolate cake, after which I felt like my stomach was about to burst. It was a good time though and I hope to make it out to more of their events.

November 16, 2008

For the best

My dad is older than most of my friends' dads. He's just old, period. We're talking fought-in-World-War-II, older-than-my-maternal-grandpa old. For me it's just a fact of life. But, especially in the past few years, its downsides have shown, namely that my dad has developed Alzheimer's and it's grown steadily worse. It began as just short-term memory problems, but in the past year or two, he's become more agitated and aggressive, which stems from not understanding where he is and why he's there. Sometime last year he started hitchhiking occasionally, trying to get "home" though that's where he was. When I visited Oregon in September, my mom gave me a second key to the house because they'd put another lock on the door to try and keep him from being able to leave, though she said it didn't really work. I felt really helpless, but I was also frustrated that my dad wasn't even on any meds yet to try and keep at least the aggression and wandering in check. Also, it was obvious that it was getting harder and harder for my mom to take of him, even with my brother helping a bit, and they looked into care facilities for him. When I was visiting, my mom told me that apparently my dad couldn't go into a facility because he could still take reasonable care of himself, like get dressed and bathe and such. Never mind the hitchhiking and that he had once hit my mom out of frustration and that he was prone to public outbursts and that he kept my mom awake all night as he paced around the house.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I found out from my brother that my dad would finally be put into a care home because he had fallen twice, once while trying to hitchhike again. So this week, after stints in the hospital and another care facility, my dad was moved to a place that specializes in Alzheimer's patients. I talked to my mom a couple of weekends ago about how it was going, and I think she's relieved and so much less stressed out now that she doesn't have to take care of my dad. The news about my dad going into a home didn't make me feel as relieved as I thought it would though. I suddenly was worried about my mom being on her own and not keeping herself busy. But being stressed out about my dad is not a healthy way to keep busy either.

So, moving onto less heavy things to talk about... First of all, a link to something from De Volkskrant about the coffee snobbishness of Melbourne and how you can't go into a cafe and ask for just a coffee (sorry, most of it's in Dutch...). I definitely felt like I was missing out on something there because I'm not a coffee drinker.

Thanks to Natasja and her van, I finally have an oven! I feel like my apartment is now truly complete. I haven't hooked it up yet, but I plan to make some brownies tomorrow, in Elton's honor, since the oven made many a pan of brownies back in the day. After that, there is so much I want to make, I don't know where to begin...

My work had their yearly charity book sale on Thursday. People donate books (and CDs and DVDs) they don't want and then they are sold for very cheap, with the money going to a good cause. I came away with 7 books for 4 euros. And this sale came through for me where Powell's -- Powell's -- couldn't. See, when I went home in September, I wanted to grab the Patrick White books I had from the college course on him that I took. Don't worry if you don't know the name; I didn't before I took that class, but he was an Australian author and that class sparked my desire to go to Australia. So I was interested in rereading the novels I had. I apparently had forgotten that I sold them to Powell's on my previous trip to the States, so they were gone. I went to Powell's to see what replacements I could get, but they didn't have the book I really wanted to reread, Voss, so I ended up not getting any Patrick White books. Then at the sale this week, there was a copy of Voss! How insane. And I found two other White novels, one of which I'd read for the class and quite liked. It was awesome. I also bought a cookbook, a novel that sounded interesting, a little book with a short story I read in college, and another book that takes place in Australia. A pretty good haul.

November 5, 2008

What a feeling

I looked back at what I had written 4 years ago when Bush was re-elected. America was also apologizing to the world. Now, we all seem united in happiness, relief, and hope. Kenya is celebrating Obama as their son and declared a public holiday. Black Brits were speaking on the BBC about how this made them feel like anything was possible, even in their own country. It's wonderful to feel inspired by my home country for the first time since I've lived in Europe.

I've spent the day in a haze of reading postings on blogs, chatting with co-workers, and trying to focus occasionally on work. If it weren't for being dead tired (I didn't get much sleep last night) and feeling like a cold's coming on, I'd be a totally happy bunny. As it is, things are pretty damn good.

The black spot on the day is the anti-gay marriage measures that passed, especially the one in California. It shows how far America still has to go with regards to that issue. But I can believe more easily that it will happen; it may take quite a bit more time still, but I believe that one day denying gays the right to marriage will be seen in the same way as we think now about black segregation in the 50s and 60s.

November 3, 2008

Damien Jurado

I had a great evening Saturday night seeing Damien Jurado at Paradiso, with E who knew him back in the day in Seattle. E and I first went to dinner at Getto, which was an awesome place with an American/international sort of menu. I was planning to try one of their burgers, but then I spotted the special, which was grilled kangaroo with mashed sweet potatoes. It was delicious.

And the Damien Jurado show was amazing. The audience as well, everyone was quiet from the moment he and his band members, Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad, came onto the stage. It was so quiet you could hear the floor creak when people shifted weight. And at the end of every song people would wait and wait until the last notes died out before beginning to clap. It was unbelievable how attentive everyone was.

Damien mostly played songs from his new album, which I enjoyed more this time than when I saw him in Seattle since I know the album now. There were a couple of older songs as well, from albums I don't have, but the songs, Ohio and Lose My Head, really stuck with me. Ohio in particular really caught me and I think it was after it that Damien said "It's weird. Sometimes my own songs make me sad." Another part of the set that was memorable was the intense Gasoline Drinks slowly leading into Go First, one of my favourite songs from the new album.

I smiled when the first song of the encore was Hoquiam, a song I've had stuck in my head lately, and one I like quite a lot. Then Damien played two songs on his own, starting with a cover of a song that had a folk sound to it. I recorded the end of it, realizing it was about sailing to Australia. I think it should be my theme song for when I go there. I put up the video of the song.

After the show E caught up with Damien and we found out that the next night he'd be playing at a venue in Leiden. E told him I live there and got him to write my name down to put me on the guest list. Thus I saw him two nights in a row and went to my first show in Leiden.

Sunday night, when I got to the ticket desk at the venue, QBus, I said I was on the guest list and the guy was all "Ah, you're the one person on the guest list!" Heh. The audience in Leiden was small, but not tiny, and they were just as quiet and into it as in Amsterdam. Unfortunately the band seemed less engaged and perhaps tired, so the show was not as good as the one at Paradiso, but I still enjoyed hearing them play.

Photos from both shows (and the cat living at Getto) begin here.

November 1, 2008


I found this wonderful video via Carrie Brownstein's NPR blog, of two Swedish sisters covering a Fleet Foxes song out in the forest. As one commenter said, " Maybe if we all went off into the woods and played music together, we could have universal health care too..."I love the 70's vibe of the two.