Archive for March, 2019

Mar 10 2019

Firefighters’ planned bush burns

HUNTER bushfire fighters are working seven days a week to reduce massive fuel loads created by a record warm winter.

Rural Fire Service and the National Parks and Wildlife Service personnel have already burnt large tracts of bushland near homes over the past month that would have the potential to turn into an inferno if left unchecked.

‘‘It’s a cliche but it’s true, when the grass is growing quickly in people’s backyards, the native grasses are growing just as quickly out in the scrub,’’ Rural Fire Service Lower Hunter fire control officer Jayson McKellar said.

The Rural Fire Service conducted a hazard reduction burn on a five-hectare area of bush at Mount Faulk Road, Cooranbong last night (Tues Sept 3).

A National Parks and Wildlife spokesman said about 5500 hectares, or 70 per cent, of the annual target had been hazard reduced in the Hunter since July 1, 2013.

‘‘Our burns are also guided by the fire management plans for each reserve, such as Barrington Tops National Park and Myall Lakes National Park,’’ he said.

‘‘We will take any safe opportunity that arises following rain to restart the burning program.’’

Bureau of Meteorology statistics show Australians have experienced the hottest 12 months on record, with a host of historical highs toppled.

The average temperature was 22.9C from September 2012 to August this year – 1.11C above the 1961-1990 average.

January 7 has now taken top position as the hottest summer day on record.

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

NSW Rural Fire Service conducting a hazard reduction at Mount Faulk Road Cooranbong. Picture Peter Stoop

Mar 10 2019

Anti-Murdoch ad banned from television

Australia’s commercial TV networks have banned an advertisement that criticises the anti-Labor coverage of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers.

Channels Seven and Ten refused to air the ad commissioned by GetUp, while Nine screened it over four days in Brisbane – then cancelled it after blaming a “coding error”.

GetUp says it will report all three networks to the competition watchdog for alleged “misuse of market power”.

The group has accused the broadcasters of censorship to avoid displeasing Murdoch and his company, News Corp. It intends to lodge a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, claiming the networks have breached rules by refusing to supply their services.

In the banned advertisement, a man is seen scooping up dog faeces with a copy of News Corp’s Courier Mail.

The man tells viewers: “It was great when you could pick up a paper and get, well, news. Recently, the Courier Mail and the Daily Tele have been using their front pages to run a political campaign instead.”

The man says it is “fair enough” for Murdoch to hold a personal opinion about Prime Minister Kevin Rudd but adds: “Political bias presented as news is misleading crap”.

In an email to GetUp, a Seven sales executive said the network had “decided to make a stand” against the “distasteful” and “potentially offensive” ad.

A Seven spokesman told Fairfax Media: “We can choose whether to run a television commercial or accept a booking. We chose not to.”

Network Ten has refused to comment but is aware of the complaint made against them.

A Nine spokeswoman said the ad “was never supposed to run … there was an error in coding and the wrong ad went to air”. She would not specify why Nine cancelled it but said the station would charge GetUp only for the ads that had aired.

Fairfax Media rejected the video as a paid advertisement for its Age and Sydney Morning Herald websites but confirmed it had no issue with showing it in a news story.

Darren Goodsir, editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, said: “I felt that The Sydney Morning Herald should continue to focus on its own independent editorial attributes rather than take money from a lobby group to attack another news publisher.

“I think we are better off promoting our own values during this election campaign: that Fairfax is the home for independent and balanced political journalism.”

GetUp’s national director Sam McLean is now calling on the group’s members to phone and email the television stations in protest.

“This is censorship, pure and simple,” he said. “Channel Seven says it’s about taste but I don’t buy that for a second. Channel Ten told us they don’t want to criticise another media network – but this is about Rupert’s son Lachlan being [chairman] of Channel Ten. And Channel Nine’s response about the coding error is interesting but the real question is why they’re refusing to play the ad, which they’re not answering.”

Last year, all three networks banned a GetUp ad that criticised the gambling interests of major sponsors Coles and Woolworths.

In February, independent senator Nick Xenophon proposed a law to prevent TV stations rejecting political advertisements they don’t like.

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Mar 10 2019

Fifty Shades filmmakers won’t be slaves to schlock

People of Earth. The revolution has not come, the barbarians are not at the gate, this is not the first sign of the apocalypse.

Yes Fifty Shades of Grey is on its way to being a movie, with the announcement of a director and two stars. It is going to be made. You can’t stop it. But now is not the time to forswear cinema-going for the rest of your life.

In fact, there is just a chance that Fifty Shades of Grey the movie might be, if not objectively good, then at least a whole lot better than the book.

Let’s set the context. When it comes to Fifty Shades of Grey, don’t think about erotic fiction and BDSM. Think rather of Harry Potter and Twilight.

The former made it acceptable for adults to read children’s fantasy. The latter introduced the young adult genre to the mainstream. In doing so they both spawned commercial empires and, more to the point, mega movie franchises that set financial records, launched careers and forever altered the conventions of film title punctuation (thank you The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I).

Crucially, unlike book series that did well in their genre’s demographic, but not outside of it – Percy Jackson, Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments – these series enticed fans and non-fans to the cinema in equal measure.

That is what Fifty Shades of Grey wants to do. Lure the 70 million readers (based on reported sales) to buy a ticket, whether it is out of fealty, pride, defiance or curiosity. Lure everyone else to follow suit, if only to find out what all the fuss is about.

Yes, there may also be a desire to tell E.L. James’ story, but in this particular relationship, commercial enterprise is the dominant, artistic endeavour the submissive.

Yet, it is the story at the heart of this book, paired with its R-rated action, that may just result in good filmmaking. The makers won’t have any choice; this material won’t work as a film as it stands.

Fifty Shades of Grey has more in common with Twilight than just a huge fan base. It is common knowledge that it started as a fleshed-out (in more ways than one) piece of fan fiction that was originally written with the title Master of the Universe, featuring Bella, Edward and other Twilight characters.

More to the point, in the same way that Twilight is a teen romance with the supernatural layered over it, Fifty Shades of Grey is also a teen romance. A young adult story laced with super-adult erotica.

It is not, as radio sound bites and dinner party conversation would have us all believe, just a series of sexual romps starring whips and leather. That comes later in the series. The only scene of extreme BDSM (bondage and discipline, Sadism and Masochism) in the first story occurs at the end.

Until then it is a story of an innocent girl’s quest to form a relationship with an emotionally damaged not-much-older man. His story of sexual awakening as a teen is crucial. Her’s takes place here, alongside more discussion of contracts than you’d find in a second-year law class.

Yes, there is sex in it. Plenty. But there is also a lot of angst, obsession and frustration. The sort of first-adult-relationship tale that we know far, far too well.

The Twilight films didn’t have a problem with this. They embraced it. Stephenie Meyer as author happily defanged vampires, rendering them into glittery, mysterious sighs on legs. Werewolves are noble savages with limited wardrobe budgets. Angst was everything.

So the films just projected the teen hormone-laced story onto the screen, and the movies suffered for it. No adaptation required. Scene for scene. Sigh for sigh. Twilight the book was Twilight the script. Fans embraced the familiar. Non-fans cringed at it all.

E.L. James went the other way. Her hero, Christian Grey, has a fortune, a shadowy past and a wardrobe not only filled with clothing but also outfits whose accessories he purchases in hardware stores such as the one in which our innocent heroine Anastasia earns her pocket money.

So director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel can’t just offer this up as it stands (or kneels submissively). The teen core and adult exterior will require extensive adaptation. That’s good news. That’s where good cinema comes from.

It’s also risky, and that’s where the directorial and acting decisions make sense, despite some fans’ outcries.

Charlie Hunnam is not just the star of Pacific Rim and Sons of Anarchy, he also played Nathan the teen boy love interest in the original Queer as Folk. He has already shown and done it all on screen, at a far younger age.

Dakota Johnson is the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, who was Miss Golden Globe in 2006 (an odd pageant-like title for celebrity children associated with the awards) and whose celebrity lifestyle has taken in everything from modelling to rehab.

They’re under the direction of Taylor-Johnson, who married the star of her only feature film, Nowhere Boy, when she was 42 and he was 19.

This is a team that will take risks on screen. This is a film that isn’t going to shy away from the controversial.

They are also all skilled. Hunnam and Johnson are both promising actors. Nowhere Boy was a great piece of direction, elegantly portraying John Lennon’s own teen angst. That partly explains how Taylor-Johnson got the gig ahead of a list of names that supposedly included Angelina Jolie, Steven Soderbergh, Joe Wright and Gus Van Sant.

Best of all, the words themselves will go. James’ writing style is of a quality that prompted Salman Rushdie to suggest that “Fifty Shades of Grey makes Twilight look like War and Peace”.

The sentences that first told this story will, it is hoped, be “adapted” in the way agent orange adapts a herb garden.

Taylor-Johnson is the right gardener for the job. She has beaten colon cancer and breast cancer. She has posed nude with her now husband.

“I took on cancer like I take on everything: like a mission and a job to accomplish,” she told Harper’s Bazaar once.

She won’t shy away from embracing the subject matter, nor ruthless change.

It’s unlikely Universal Pictures or the producers will complain. They purchased the name and the audience.

What about the sex? Many have suggested that the scenes in the book can’t be shown in a film. Or if they are, they will lose their essence.

Well, mainstream cinema is hardly having its chastity belt unlocked for the very first time.

In 1992, Basic Instinct turned the sex up to 11 on a noir plot and spawned a body of duplicates, including Madonna’s Body of Evidence, but also such films as Disclosure, Showgirls, Sliver and Striptease. These are the films people are thinking of and, perhaps rightly, pointing at as examples of trashing the story for skin.

That’s just one style though. Big-name directors have had extreme sex scenes in films ranging from Mulholland Drive to Antichrist, with a detour for a Last Tango in Paris before taking in nearly any film Pedro Almodovar has made.

Sexual practices themselves have been the focus of many a film. Eyes Wide Shut, Shame, Crash, Secretary and the Australian film Sleeping Beauty have been critically admired while exploring various aspects of the topic. Boogie Nights went one step further and made a “bright shining star” of Mark Wahlberg while making a film about making pornography and it certainly didn’t leave much to the imagination.

More recently on television, HBO has given us the term “sexposition” as such shows as True Blood, Sex and the City and Game of Thrones took advantage of their cable channel home to see just how much they could get away with.

Sex is not new to cinema. Sex is not inherently cheap or sensational in cinema. Sex on screen requires a deft touch.

So does teen angst. If that isn’t handled well it is an act of sadism in itself.

To combine both on screen will require a lot of adaptation. Risk taking. Change.

All good things in a movie.

Over to you, Sam.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.

Mar 10 2019

Camberwell lives in mine shadow 

CAMBERWELL farmer Wendy Bowman took Land and Environment Court Justice Nicola Pain to the rear of her ‘‘little oasis’’ to show two rows of solar panels on her house roof.

She also showed the judge, lawyers and Ashton Coal employees the amount of thick grey dust that had settled on them, and the cleaner she used to wipe them down.

‘‘I’ve had those panels up there for about 18 months, and I’ve been receiving money for the power I’ve been returning to the grid,’’ Mrs Bowman, 79, said.

Her first cheque was for more than $1200. The second, a few months later, was for $1100. The next was about $900. The most recent cheque was for $760.

‘‘The rate has remained the same, but the amount of dust that’s settled on the panels has reduced the light that’s able to get in to them.’’

Mrs Bowman’s farm is one of a number listed for voluntary acquisition, because of anticipated severe dust and noise impacts, if the Ashton south-east open-cut mine goes ahead. Mrs Bowman has vowed not to sell.

Not far away Alistair Bowman (a distant relation) owns a dairy farm which is not listed for voluntary acquisition but which will be only 500 metres from the mine.

‘‘I’m outside the Ashton lease, which finishes at my boundary on three sides,’’ the 79-year-old said.

His dairy manager has already given notice he will leave the farm if the mine is approved.

‘‘I told the judge what the manager told me: you can’t run a dairy farm that close to an open-cut mine,’’ Mr Bowman said.

‘‘We already have problems from Ravensworth North, which is probably three kilometres away. When there’s a big blast a fellow comes over and sits in my house with a vibration meter.’’

On Friday the court will hear evidence from experts about the health and agricultural impacts of the mine proposal.

Wendy Bowman at her Camberwell property. Picture Dean Osland

Mar 10 2019

Peter Collier jeered as unions rally in Perth against education cuts

WA education minister Peter Collier faced a hostile reception in Perth. Photo: Michael Hopkin Hundreds of education staff protest outside parliament but Education Minister stays firm on cuts. Photo: Michael Hopkin

WA education minister Peter Collier has endured a torrid afternoon after fronting two mass protests against his plan to cut 500 public education jobs.

A lunchtime rally organised by United Voice was followed by a demonstration by the State School Teachers’ Union, with the total attendance estimated at more than 1,500.

The job cuts will remove 350 part-time education assistants from classrooms, and around 150 administrative workers from regional centres that offer financial and curriculum assistance to schools.

Mr Collier was jeered as he spoke to the union members on the steps of Parliament House, with heckles of “shame” and “liar”.

He announced the job losses two weeks ago, four days after pledging not to make cuts to education.

Mr Collier, a former teacher, denied that he had lost touch with classrooms.

“I will always do what I possibly can to have a better education system in Western Australia. I do feel that the current system in flawed and the changes we’re making will ensure that it is a better system,” he said.

Mr Collier insisted that, with a turnover rate of about 500 education assistants each year in WA, all of those who have lost their jobs will be able to find work within the sector next year.

He said no child with a disability would be left without access to an education assistant, and that it was wrong that people were attempting to make “political mileage” out of the job losses.

Federal education minister Bill Shorten also addressed the crowds, saying the cuts were typical of conservative governments.

Mr Shorten urged voters nationwide to turn their backs on the Liberal Party, in light of Tony Abbott’s expressed admiration for Premier Colin Barnett’s governing style.

“This really highlights what is at risk on Saturday in the federal election. Do not let Tony Abbott do to schools in Australia what Colin Barnett is already doing to schools in Western Australia,” Mr Shorten said.

“That’s like saying ‘I’m OK with Dr Evil because I’m happy with Mini-Me’.”

Mr Barnett has repeatedly refused to sign the federal government’s Better Schools funding package, which would give WA’s public schools a $920 million boost.

Mr Abbott has pledged to honour the deals for the first four years, and has said the funding will stay on the table without any strings attached.

But Mr Shorten said Mr Abbott’s policy “will let the Barnett government keep taking money out the back door as Tony Abbott brings in new money in the front door”.

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