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Comments Off on Swimming: Ash Delaney reunites with Grant Hackett for the world champs in Kazan

Swimming: Ash Delaney reunites with Grant Hackett for the world champs in Kazan

Swimming: Ash Delaney reunites with Grant Hackett for the world champs in Kazan

Role reversal: Ashley Delaney, a backstroker now also swimming freestyle. Photo: Simon Scluter.When Ashley Delaney made his first major national team, as a backstroker at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, team captain Grant Hackett was among the earliest to applaud. Yet although Hackett knew Delaney’s name, his time, and something of his joy, the veteran could not have imagined back then that, almost a decade later, both would be relay swimmers bound for next week’s world championships in Kazan, Russia.
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Delaney, reinvented as a versatile freestyler, is a member of a 4 x 100 metre squad missing injured superstar James Magnussen. Hackett, reborn as a mature-aged 4 x 200 metre swimmer after a seven-year retirement and some well-publicised personal difficulties, will be the oldest team member in Russia, with 100-metre breaststroke defending champion Christian Sprenger the middle peg between 35-year-old Hackett and Delaney, 29.

“I still look at him in awe,” says Delaney of the elder statesman. “He’s just a great guy, and a great swimmer. Now that he’s back on the team we’ve had chats and stuff, and it’s just been good to talk to him. He’s just got so much experience and respect around the team and he’s a good leader for the swimming team, as well.”

Delaney, as another of its senior citizens, is also in a different, happier, place these days. At this stage of the last Olympic cycle, the Beijing silver medallist was growing closer to needing a change after almost five years at the AIS; keen to return home to his family and friends in Melbourne.

The problem, as he now sees it, was in the timing. He returned late in 2011, leaving himself little chance to adjust to a new training regime before the 2012 Olympic trials. The cost was immense, with a shattered Delaney missing his first team since that 2006 debut. It was a difficult period for the swimming nut and aspiring coach/swim school owner, who nevertheless did his best to train through the London Games. “There was just a few times where I was …,” he trails off. When you didn’t have it in you? “Yeah.”

At that stage, Rio seemed even further away than the 13,214km Delaney still hopes to travel to a second Olympics next year. “Even some of my family of members asked ‘oh, do you think maybe that’s enough’?” he recalls, along with his reply that while his motivation remained intact, so did his ambitions to swim on. At the world championships in Barcelona the following year, Delaney won a silver medal in the medley relay, and swam a personal best en route to sixth in the 100 backstroke final. “So I knew that I still had my best swims in me.”

What came as a surprise, though, was the role Delaney’s freestyle would play. He had swum “a little bit of it” along the way, but never at nationals. Until last year, when the result for the long-time VIS scholarship-holder was an encouraging ninth. “So then this year I thought I might take it serious and try and sneak in for that relay, which I did, which was a little bit of a blessing in disguise, because my backstroke was a little bit off at that meet.”

Now, he wishes he had broadened his focus earlier in a career that has nevertheless brought a silver medal as a heat swimmer in the medley relay in Beijing Olympics, four medals – including three gold – at the Delhi Commonwealth Games, multiple national records and one Commonwealth mark.

“Definitely regretting that a little bit,” he laughs. “But in saying that it’s given me a little bit more excitement to my swimming, it’s given me something fresh to focus on. After doing the same thing year in, year out, racing the same races, to flip over onto my front has been something fresh. I was still motivated with my backstroke, but it’s sort of given me that little bit of a spark that I can actually do both strokes and be competitive as well.”

He hopes to make a second Olympic team in both disciplines next year, when Hackett will be the oldest, Sprenger next, and Delaney third in the seniority race if all goes to plan for the trio in Rio. ” It’s sort of tough, because people ask me about my age … (but) Geoff Huegill swam his best times at 32, 33, when he came back after he’d had a lot of time out of the water,” says the Sale-raised, Hawthorn-based swimmer.

“So I think if the motivation’s there and you’re doing the right training then you can still get the best out of yourself later on in life. And I started being serious about swimming quite late, at around 15, 16. You’ve got some kids who burn out around 18, 19, because they were winning age nationals from when they were 10. I only ever got a bronze medal at age nationals at age 18, so I feel like I’ve been hungry for a long time, and I still am.”

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Comments Off on Wickers’ finals hopes hurt further by Crows

Wickers’ finals hopes hurt further by Crows

Wickers’ finals hopes hurt further by Crows

HARD FOUGHT: Jake Hart (Beaufort), Michael Griffin (Creswick) and Brendan Foster (Beaufort) battle for the ball on Saturday. Pictures: Kate Healy.BEAUFORT ‘S five-goals-to-none second half sank Creswick on Saturday.
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A slender three-point margin at half time blew out to a 34-point Crows victory in front of adisbelieving Wickers crowd at Doug Lindsay Reserve.

Creswick matched Beaufort quarter by quarter until half time and the Crows only managed slenderleads because of the home side’sinaccurate kicking.

The Wickers coped well in the muddy conditions for most of the first half, before losing the plot in a scorelessthird term.

The return of ruckman Josh McDermott tothe Graintech Crows’ line-up was evident. It freed Jake Garvey andJarrod Trigg, who had juggled McDermott’s spot the week before.

McDermott was one of four changes to the team before the clash. Branden Sternberg, Brendan

Foster and Mike Cachia replaced Michael Foster, Rohan Brown, James Blackburn and Zach Lockie.

But nothing comes without cost – especially winning.

Skipper Damien Day may be out for the rest ofthe season with a compound fracture to a finger and goal-sneak Jack Duke was hampered with anankle problem.

Duke kicked a spectacular goal off the ground in a rolling wrestling matchduringthebreakaway third term.

Kyle Orr kicked three majors for the Crows and combined with Brendan Foster in aslick play that snagged a great goal in thefirst term.

Foster also got on the scoreboard, along with Levi Cox, Lee Marshall, Joe Mason, Lachie Pfeifer,Aaron Bones and Jake Hart.

Best players for the Crows included Zac Marrow, Steven Lodge and Sternberg.

Joel Berry and Brennan Deppeler were among the bestfor Creswick. Others included Joel Antonio, LukeRobertson and Alex Code.

Beaufort coach Dale Power celebrated the win after a string of close losses to Gordon, Buninyong and Hepburn in recent weeks.

“It’s been tight, frustrating. But we have to play four competitive quarters every week because wedon’t have the scoring capacities to do otherwise. A couple of losses lately could have gone eitherway,” he said.

“That’s footy. We have to roll with the punches.”

Creswick coach Damian Lubeek blamed the loss –which leaves the team 10 points adrift of the Central Highlands Football League top eight with four games to play–on a mental fade-out by his players.

“After the game I told the group I don’t have the answer. The fitness work they’ve been doing isfantastic. The training is really good. It was just above the shoulderstoday. That’s a real disappointingthing,” Lubeek said.

Tim Rieniets

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Comments Off on Magpies begin to fly with successive wins

Magpies begin to fly with successive wins

Magpies begin to fly with successive wins

YOU BEAUTY: Clunes’ Jesse Baird celebrates a goal during Saturday’s 16-point victory over Rokewood-Corindhap. Picture: Kate Healy.
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CLUNEShas managed consecutive wins for the first time this season, after grindingout a 16-point victory over Rokewood-Corindhap.

In an intriguing affair between two inexperienced outfits, the Magpieseventually wore down their opponents to break away in the final term.

Until then, there was little between the two sides.

An even opening quarter saw Clunes lead by a solitary goal at the first change, whichwas reduced to just four points by half time.

Little changed in the third term, as the Magpies once again entered the final breakwith a six-point buffer.

Grasshoppers’ forward Aaron Clarke kicked truly in the opening minutes of the finalquarter to put his side in front, but Clunes quickly replied with a centre clearanceand goal.

From then on, the Magpies dominated.

In a game that was remarkably low-scoring until three quarter time, thingsquickly opened up for Clunes.

Suddenly it was able to find space in the forward line and hit the scoreboard, withJayden Hind (four goals) and Jesse Baird (three) proving a force in attack.

Joint-coach Jason Hill said his young side was able to find another gear in the last quarter.

“We carried the ball and broke the lines,” Hill said.

“At times we caught (the Grasshoppers) flat-footed on the rebound and I think that’swhere the difference was.

“We encouraged our quick runners and ball-users at three quarter time to tackle,tuck the ball under their wing and go with it.”

It was another missed opportunity for Rokewood-Corindhap, which performed wellin the midfield, but struggled to capitalise on its good work with scores.

Too often the Grasshoppers missed easy shots on goal or failed to hit targets in theirforward 50m.

Coach Michael Hynes described the result as “frustrating”.

“Our inability to use the football costs us week in, week out,” Hynes said.

“We continually don’t take our opportunities in the forward line and turn the footyover. Our last month of footy has been really good, and our contested footy, but wecontinually cough the ball up and don’t kick goals when we’re having easy set shots.

“It’s very disappointing and frustrating.”

Forward Cauis Barrenger was excellent for the Emerald Grain Grasshoppers, kicking three goals,while the performance of Jake Weston was also a highlight.

For the Magpies,utility Nick Hind showcased his class,as did Josh Lee.

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Comments Off on Bombers beat Burras, burst into top four

Bombers beat Burras, burst into top four

Bombers beat Burras, burst into top four

BUNINYONGstamped itself as a genuinepremiership contender with a sensational 25-point victory over Hepburn on Saturday.
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A fluctuating contest emerged as an array of goals werescored between the twoteams.

During the opening quarter, Buninyong looked impressive as itkicked six consecutive majors, only to see a more determined Hepburn utilise a home ground advantage to score sevenunanswered goalsduring the second term and lead by seven points at half time.

The Bombers launched into action from the opening ball-upof the second half, kicking allfive goals of the third quarter to regain the lead, before an all-out defensive blitzresulted in a goalless last term.

Sam Turner was a key forward target for the Bombers, bootingthree goals, while the defensivecombination of Adam Scott and Justin Orwin held off any incoming pressure.

Buninyong joint-coach Jarrod Morgan said he was pleased with the performance and will nowfocus on the remaining four rounds of the home and away season.

“Definitely for three quarters we played the style of footy we need to play to keep onchallenging the best sides,” Morgan said.

“We had one average quarter, but apart from that itwas pretty good.

“We had a good chat at half time and told a few guys the way it had to be, because we werereally poor in that second quarter and probably got a bit ahead of ourselves.”

The victory has helpedthe Bombers climb into thetop four, while the Burras have fallen to fifthplace on the ladder with afinals series approaching.

Hepburn coach Clive Raak said there was a feeling of disappointment among the playinggroup, which was led by captain Alan Ware.

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Comments Off on Bureaucrats tell Sydney bar the Spooning Goats that its name is ‘inappropriate’

Bureaucrats tell Sydney bar the Spooning Goats that its name is ‘inappropriate’

Bureaucrats tell Sydney bar the Spooning Goats that its name is ‘inappropriate’

Display cases add to the bar’s eclectic and friendly vibe. Photo: Christopher Pearce The case of “Spooning Goats” highlights the arbitrary powers of the NSW liquor authority: barman Jason Newton. Photo: Christopher Pearce
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The city’s liquor licensing bureaucrats have deemed the pub name “inappropriate” or “objectionable”. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The Ducks Nuts. The Stuffed Beaver. The Darlinghurst “Lick-Her” store. Dirty Dick’s. The Spooning Goats. The Bearded Tit.

Single entendres abound in the state’s bar and pub scene. But see if you can guess which of the names above state government authorities deemed beyond the pale.

A Sydney barman has for years been battling the city’s liquor licensing bureaucrats who have deemed the name of his establishment “inappropriate” or “objectionable”.

The case of “Spooning Goats” highlights, he says, the arbitrary powers of the NSW liquor authority.

Jason Newton first tried to register his York Street small bar under the offending name three years ago.

But the state government’s liquor regulators stopped him from using it. Under section 95 of the Liquor Act authorities do not need to justify any decision to prohibit the use of a name.

Plainclothes agents from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority have twice visited the bar to make sure he wasn’t secretly using the offensive words.

(“Spooning” for the uninitiated refers to a hug where two bodies interlock like utensils in a drawer.)

But Mr Newtown says the name is actually a nonsensical mash-up of a family joke about his late grandmother’s collection of decorative spoons and the zany badges he gave to customers as a marketing gimmick.

Mr Newton, says he is trying to create an eclectic and unpretentious aesthetic, with an extensive collection of Star Wars memorabilia, ’70s décor, his grandmother’s spoons and the novelty badgemaker.

“We were shooting around business names,” he said. “I had on an [I heart goats badge] and it just stuck from there.”

But the rationale did not pass muster with the state government bureaucrats, who deemed the name was “inappropriate”.

One of the novelty badges was seized by an agent from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, who, Mr Newton said, after making ostensibly casual conversation flashed his own badge and began inspecting the bar.

“‘You’re going to have to take that sign down’,” Mr Newton recalls the agent saying, of an ‘I love goats’ poster.

Mr Newton says he instead uses the name “The SG”.

But he’s not giving up his fight.

Next month he will make a third application to use “Spooning Goats”, he says, with a 1600-signature petition from patrons who say the name is not offensive.

“It’s impacting on our business,” he said.  “We did all our social media and marketing before [the application was denied] so everyone asks: ‘Is this spooning goats’?”

Besides, Mr Newton argues that there are plenty of ruder names authorities have let through.

There’s the Stuffed Beaver Canadian restaurant in Bondi.

Darlinghurst has its famous bottle shop with a “Lick-Her” sign out front while the Slip Inn was not too suggestive for Royalty (commoner Mary Donaldson met husband Prince Frederik of Denmark there).

There’s also pubs whose names could be interpreted as rude by a bureaucrat determined to take offence, such as The Bull and Bush in Baulkham Hills and Dirty Dick’s Theatre Restaurant at Rydalmere.

Redfern’s Bearded Tit is named for a bird but does have crocheted penises in its windows. But the owners there appear to have skirted the attention of authorities by registering as “The Bearded Titan”.

“I imagine if you get them on a bad day they might say no,” Mr Newton said.

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority declined to say why the name was deemed objectionable.

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Comments Off on Migrant worker lured to Australia, held captive in restaurant for 16 months

Migrant worker lured to Australia, held captive in restaurant for 16 months

Migrant worker lured to Australia, held captive in restaurant for 16 months

A man trafficked from India under a sham 457 visa arrangement was held in conditions “akin to slavery” for 16 months, a Sydney court has heard.
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Dulo Ram lived, ate and slept in the kitchen of Mand’s Indian Restaurant in Eastwood, NSW, working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, enslaved by the restaurant’s owner Divye Trivedi.

Mr Ram was consistently abused, both physically and mentally, his young family the target of Trivedi’s regular threats.

Trivedi was the first person in NSW history to be tried and convicted of exploiting someone for forced labour.

David Hillard, Pro Bono Partner at Clayton Utz and the lawyer who took on the civil case for Mr Ram’s unpaid wages, said the victim was controlled through intimidation and threats, forced to work and treated as property.

“Like many victims of slavery, Mr Ram was brought to Australia by a person whom he thought he could trust. Instead he was severely exploited and forced to work 12 hour days,” he said.

“He slept on a mattress in the kitchen and sometimes was forced to bathe in the sink.”

Mr Ram was held in servitude unless or until he could pay the money he owed to Trivedi, the man who controlled him.

“Slavery is a symptom of poverty. Mr Ram was poor, illiterate and from a rural area in India. The combination of those factors made him vulnerable to exploitation,” Mr Hillard said.

“The shocking thing that hits home is that this is happening under our noses in suburban Sydney. Slavery is alive and well in 21st-century Australia.”

Mr Ram met his captor at Sydney airport where he was taken to the restaurant that would effectively become his prison.

He began work the next day after Trivedi took possession of Mr Ram’s passport, telling him he could not leave Australia unless he repaid the $7000 to cover the cost of bringing him to the country.

Mr Ram was functionally illiterate, spoke little English and knew no one in the Australian community.

However, after 16 months of forced labour, Mr Ram escaped with the help of a fellow employee and alerted the Australian Federal Police.

“There was a grotesque abuse of the 457 visa program [and the] obvious purpose of Mr Ram being trafficked to Australia under the visa programme was for his exploitation in breach of Australian law,” Justice Rolf Driver ruled in March.

When the restaurant was visited by officials from the Department of Immigration, it was “fobbed off with lies and fabricated documents”.

“[The employer] built a facade upon sham documents, to deceive the Department of Immigration and the ATO and attempted to deceive this court, in an effort to create the illusion that there was an employment arrangement in accordance with Australian law,” Justice Driver wrote.

In late March, Mr Trivedi and his company were forced to pay $125,431 for wages, superannuation and annual leave for the 16 months Mr Ram was kept in forced labour. A further $60,607 in interest on the judgment sum was also awarded.

Pro Bono partner at Clayton Utz David Hillard said the case shed light on the horrific conditions in which foreign workers have been held in Australia.

“We have acted for dozens of people who have experienced unspeakable treatment and indignities at the hands of traffickers, who have forced them into acts of slave labour or sexual servitude as ‘repayment’ of trafficking debts. This is happening right now, under our noses.”

Earlier this year, 457 visas came under fire after slave-like conditions were uncovered on farms supplying Australia’s most profitable supermarkets.

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Comments Off on Shane Bourne promises to add sparkle to Dancing with the Stars

Shane Bourne promises to add sparkle to Dancing with the Stars

Shane Bourne promises to add sparkle to Dancing with the Stars

Shane Bourne sees Dancing with the Stars as the closest thing Australia has to a variety show.  Photo: Channel SevenThe thrill of danger, the potential for surprise, the risk that anything could happen – that’s what’s missing from Australian television at the moment and that’s what Shane Bourne hopes to bring back when he becomes co-host of Dancing with the Stars tonight.
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Bourne grew up watching Graham Kennedy and performing on Hey Hey It’s Saturday. He loves the adrenaline of live TV. As much as he has enjoyed the opportunity to display his acting skills in dramas such as Tricky Business and City Homicide, and his hosting skills in recorded comedies such as Thank God You’re Here, he can’t wait to bounce on stage at 7pm. He wants to feel nervous again.

“I remember when I did the final reunion of Hey Hey It’s Saturday. I was a little bit apprehensive, because I was rusty,” Bourne says. “As soon as I got into the studio, heard the band warming up, the audience being cranked up, I completely relaxed. I know that sounds weird, but it’s like, `We’re all in this together. Let’s enjoy it.’ There’s a sense of celebration because it’s not being controlled. Nobody can say: `Take two. Let’s do that again.’

“Dancing with the Stars is the closest thing to a variety show we’ve got. It’s got a 16-piece band. It’s got performers, even if dancing may not be their greatest strength. There’s a leap of faith there. They go: `I could make an idiot of myself here, but I’m going to have a bit of fun.’

“If you look at a lot of the reality shows, they’ve become very sophisticated at editing it into a story, creating conflict or characters or whatever, after the fact. You can’t do that here. That’s what appeals to me, being an old-school TV watcher. I like to see it happen before my eyes.”

Bourne admires the way Sonia Kruger took risks when she hosted Dancing with the Stars, getting into trouble for pretending that Brynne Edelsten had brought along her father (it was her husband) and for saying that a costume had been made by “a sweatshop of illegal immigrants”. He says it’s conceivable that “you may hear the odd absurdist remark leave my lips”.

Hopefully, Bourne’s edginess will make up for the apparent blandness of this year’s contestants: former My Kitchen Rules contestant Ash Pollard, model Samantha Harris, Paralympian Kelly Cartwright, TV presenters Emma Freedman and Larry Emdur, former rugby league player Mat Rogers, footballer Jude Bolton (with his wife, Lynette), singer John Paul Young, diver Matthew Mitcham, and former The Bachelor star Tim Robards.

Bourne takes a couple of seconds to agree with my assertion that there’s a kitsch quality to Dancing with the Stars, which makes it an obvious target for satire, and then launches into a reminiscence. “Possibly, possibly. It’s got that element of sequins and spray tan that, when I step back from it, is kind of where I started. The first gigs I ever did were in a strip show in Melbourne at the George Hotel. It was called My Bare Lady.

“This was 1972. I’d come from a theatrical family. I went down there and said, `I’m a comedian.’ There was an act called Jeanette Pleasure. A glorious looking woman. She had a Miss Muffet costume. She only took her top off, but when she exited, she was completely backless.

“There was The Mighty Atom. She would come out of a wigwam, dressed as an Indian squaw. I remember being behind the curtain carrying her snakes in a kind of laundry basket with a lid. There was an act that came out of the US, called Alexandra the Great 48. She was red hot, used to do 20 minutes of stand-up. They were feral blokes, and she would have them in the palm of her hand.

“For me, that was the fast track. Who wants to go to NIDA for three years, or study the piano for 10 years? The fast track was to go through the fire of failure and humiliation.”

Bourne promises he won’t put the would-be dancers through that kind of fire, unless he judges they can take it. “The viewers want to know who these people are. Before it starts, I’ll try to get a sense of the people who are in need of a little bit of an arm to lean on, and the others who might grab the mic and do a diatribe. I’ve worked with John Paul Young over the years. I’m sure something will occur, with his carefree attitude. He’s up for it.”

Is it possible Bourne might go too far?

“You’ve got to be pushing it a bit or it’s not funny. If you’re going to play it safe, safe, safe, there’s no possibility of a moment. I think within the framework, there’s room for going too far. Watch out for that.”

Dancing With the Stars starts on Sunday, July 19, at 7pm on Channel Seven.Somewhere nice, or at least new

If you’ve watched any commercial television in recent weeks, you’ve been unable to avoid learning that both Channel Seven and Channel Nine will soon launch game shows about people trying to start their own restaurants.

Seven’s is called Restaurant Revolution, and is a remake of My Restaurant Rules, which was a mildly successful format in 2005 and 2006. Nine’s is called The Hot Plate, and is a spoiler designed to cut the ratings of Restaurant Revolution in the same way that Reno Rumble cut the ratings of House Rules. These are the major differences between the shows:

The Hot Plate uses restaurants that already exist, while Restaurant Revolution takes place in pop-ups inside shipping containers in five capital cities.

The Hot Plate has already been filmed, while the filming of Restaurant Revolution has only just begun.

The Hot Plate contestants were judged by each other and a panel that included Sydney restaurateur Guillaume Brahimi​, Melbourne restaurateur Scott Pickett and London food critic Tom Parker Bowles, whose mother, the Duchess of Cornwall, may one day become Princess Consort.

The Restaurant Revolution contestants will be judged by each other, the public (as measured by profitability), and a panel including restaurateur Neil Perry and critic John Lethlean​, who is disliked by Restaurant Revolution host Jock Zonfrillo​, an Adelaide chef.

The Hot Plate restaurants in Sydney are Rocksalt, 1/72 Allison Crescent, Menai, and Chez Pascal, 440 Rocky Point Road, Sans Souci. You can go and eat there, but you’ll have no chance of being on telly because filming is over.

The Restaurant Revolution pop-up in Sydney is called Somewhere Nice (a name not popular with the judging panel), and it’s in Centenary Square, Church Street, Parramatta. You can’t book and it’s BYO.

This column went to the opening night of Somewhere Nice last Sunday, and watched 22-year-old chef Dom Aboud​ and his team prepare a modern Australian meal that included braised mushrooms with raw egg yolk, baked salmon on noodles with pickled carrot, and panna cotta on a soil of chocolate and chilli.

Camera crews and producers provided a floor show by hovering over the tables, asking customers to critique the presentation, the taste and the service, and to record commentaries in a diary room confessional. If that sounds like your idea of a fun meal, or you want a chance to be on telly, you can queue for lunch at Somewhere Nice between Wednesday and Sunday, or for dinner between Wednesday and Saturday.   Restaurant Revolution and The Hot Plate are expected to start in the last week of July.The superlative Sarah

Fans of Game of Thrones, who hope that Daenerys Targaryen​ will soon replace Cersei Lannister​ as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, might see positive symbolism in the way Emilia Clarke has replaced Lena Headey in the role of Sarah Connor, but if they go to see Clarke in the movie Terminator Genisys​, they are unlikely to think she offers any competition to Headey in the acting department.

Headey dominated one of the greatest science-fiction series ever made, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Only 31 episodes were made, and the show was abruptly cancelled by the United States’ Fox network in 2009. Now Terminator fans, disappointed by the latest movie, have started a petition to persuade Netflix to make new chronicles, in the same way that Netflix brought back Arrested Development after it was cancelled. If Netflix agrees, it will have the problem of extracting Headey from Game of Thrones, but given the writers’ habit of killing off vital characters without warning, that may not be difficult. If you want to sign the petition, see savethescc南京夜网.   The Sarah Connor Chronicles can be bought on DVD or iTunes.

For more, see smh南京夜网419论坛/entertainment/blog/the-tribal-mind.

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Comments Off on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas: a mega pleasure cruise

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas: a mega pleasure cruise

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas: a mega pleasure cruise

Inside staterooms have a view of the tree-festooned Central Park. Photo: Royal CaribbeanWhen I step into the massive sparkling inner cavity of Oasis of the Seas, with passengers streaming in behind me like a department store sales crowd, I’m pretty sure I’ve blown it. I’m out of step with the pumping welcome music and one sweeping scan of the fluorescent-lit shops and low-lit bars confirms I’m on one of those floating nightclubs.
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A  seven-day sail on the world’s largest cruise ship was  a moment of wild misjudgment. Like the time I bought a pair of gold patent leather Cuban-heeled cowboy boots and thought I’d change my whole wardrobe to suit them and wear them absolutely everywhere. Then didn’t.

I’m relieved to reach my cabin where I bury myself in exhaustive research of the complimentary room service and attain near-perfect recall of the ship stats that rotate on my in-room screen: seven  distinct neighbourhoods; 16 passenger decks; 25 dining options; 362 metres bow to stern; 1300 seats in Opal Theatre; 2394 crew; 5400 guests at double occupancy; 6360 passengers at capacity; 12,000 live trees and plants. But eventually I need some fresh air.

I can also tell that my stateroom attendant, Anthony from Antigua, is itching to freshen things up.

We’re no longer attached to Fort Lauderdale and passengers have settled in and spread out so, even at capacity, the earlier congestion has dissipated. People are  sipping cocktails in the leafy open-air Central Park. Up on deck they’re in hot tubs or stretched out on deckchairs, riding surf simulators and lined up for table tennis. A bright-shirted steel band play to a small group of all ages dancing in the breeze.

Everyone seems very competent at relaxing.

The daily schedule in my hand lists an overwhelming 50 activities for just this afternoon and evening, so I focus on practicalities and go to Studio B to book my seven free stage shows. I pass the time in line asking people why they choose to cruise, careful to keep the judgment from my voice.

“My family does this every year,” says a woman from Atlanta. “There are 30 of us.” The oldest is her mother, 92 and in a wheelchair, and the youngest is her nine-year-old son. She says the kids love wandering around together so much that her son just requested a midnight curfew and her 13-year-old daughter asked for 4am. Then she re-enacts her wide-eyed head-rolling “no”.

A couple from Florida on the brink of retirement love cruising because “everything’s organised for you and it’s a great way to travel without breaking the bank”. In the evenings they like the Schooner Bar because “it’s quiet”.

Some Canadians tell me they’re on Oasis for a second consecutive week after a Bahamas trip fell through. “And it’s a pretty cheap week for accommodation and food,” they say, “especially after the return cruisers’ discount”.

Interacting make me feel more connected to my new surroundings, and standing in line makes me hungry.

“My time dining”, included in my ticket, means I can turn up for a three-course dinner between 5.30 and 9.30. Alternatively, I could go up to Windjammer that evening for an all-you-can-eat “seafood extravaganza” or to one of the specialty restaurants for a little extra cost.

It’s a formal attire night so I grumble into a frock and head towards the dining room. A girl of about 10, sitting with friends on the stairs, calls: “I love your dress and your shoes.”

I tell the staff I’m travelling by myself but don’t love dinners alone and they fill my table with some British people who have a toilet paper distribution business and a woman from Michigan who works for a company that manufactures body bags.

The food’s great, the wait staff are wonderful and I’m  now addicted to blind dining.

After dinner, there’s live music everywhere. Piano in the Schooner Bar, Latino music for the dancers in Boleros and “Sunday Morning” floats from On Air. I slip in to see the performance then realise it’s karaoke, but not the type I’m used to. People can really sing, and the crowd are as encouraging as a supportive family.

I get chatting to a couple from New York state who are about my age. The guy is “a carp” and looks and sounds like one from a movie. They both bear hug me goodbye when I have to go and we make a date to meet again.

In the adults-only comedy club, downstairs, the NYC comedienne’s act is so verbally outrageous I cry with laughter. So does the guy beside me, who’s from Portland and holidaying with extended family. We go to Rising Tide Bar afterwards and talk motorcycle travel, music and food until I can’t keep my eyes open any more.

When I get back to my cabin there’s a towel bird hanging from the ceiling wearing my sunglasses.

I flop onto the couch and gaze out of my huge porthole at the moonlight reflected on the sea and think about how much fun I’ve just had without even trying. I also think about how harshly I’ve judged mega-ship cruising and cruisers up until tonight and the negative cliches of uninformed friends and family I’d carried on board with me today. Then Oasis gently rocks me to sleep.

The next morning a senior crew member Alejandra, from Mexico, shows me around.

Oasis of the Seas got a dry dock refresh late last year and she explains that Royal Caribbean is always developing “new sections and new activities to meet expectations”. The ship has never had a Deck 13. The spa now has its own cafe. The underutilised library will soon be another restaurant (though three people are in there reading intently as though in silent protest). This ship also has a lot of first-at-seas: levitating bar, ice rink, amphitheatre, full-sized carousel.

“People generally come here in the spirit of having fun,” says Alejandra, and I nod. “You have to be a bitter person not to like this ship,” she adds as though seeing into my soul.

This Western Caribbean cruise stops for a full day in three places: Labadee, Haiti, for a beach-centric shore break; Falmouth, Jamaica, where I visit the birth and resting place of Bob Marley; and Cozumel, Mexico, where I walk the coast for kilometres.

The evening we leave Jamaica I have such fabulous dinner conversation with a family from Washington DC, who’ve lived in Belgium and have a lovely unaffected teenage daughter who laughs haw haw haw with a mouth full of braces, I forget to ask why they’re cruising. Then I’m so excited to bump into them the next day, I forget again.

It’s probably similar reasons to other passengers though: to relax in a safe environment, get some sun, see a few different countries, meet new people, have some independence from your travelling companions, not deal with luggage every day, and pay one price to be fed and entertained for a week.

The majority of passengers are from America – a country of extraordinary diversity – and this crew represents 75 nationalities, so there are all sorts of different people to meet. A real sense of solidarity develops as the days go by and countless new friendships form around me, along with my own. I start to feel as though I’m part of a small town (one with amazing facilities) but, because most of the population are newcomers, the culture is  highly inclusive. I naturally gravitate towards interesting people and areas of the ship I prefer, develop a vague routine and have some new experiences. Just like travelling anywhere.

I had a blast on the world’s biggest cruise ship and I’m only slightly ashamed to admit it.





Qantas flies daily from Sydney to Fort Lauderdale (via Dallas) and Melbourne to Fort Lauderdale (via Los Angeles). Phone 131313, see qantas南京夜网419论坛.


Oasis of the Seas sails seven-night Western Caribbean cruises every fortnight departing Fort Lauderdale (Florida, United States) year around. Staterooms cost from $1449 a person twin share.

The writer was a guest of Royal Caribbean.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments Off on The new crisis in American acting

The new crisis in American acting

The new crisis in American acting

Marlon Brando’s role in On the Waterfront changed the face of American acting. Photo: Supplied More Big Picture ColumnsMovie session timesMovie session times
Nanjing Night Net

How much is a one-way ticket to Palookaville? That’s what Brando said he got instead of a shot at the title in On the Waterfront, the film that changed American acting.

I was thinking about Brando this week because there has been much talk of a crisis in American acting. Michael Douglas gave an interview in which he said there was “a little crisis going on amongst our young actors”. They were losing all the best parts to their British counterparts. He broadened this later to include the Australians flooding in and taking all the sexy masculine roles. “The issue I hear from casting agents is that young American actors now are very self-conscious of their image. So rather than playing truthful and themselves – it might be because of so much cable, so much internet – they are almost kind of capturing an image of what they think they should be, rather than playing it.”

He was talking about women as well as men. “I think a lot of that has to do with how London works … You can jump fairly easily from television to movies to theatre. And also, as young British actors, they know American films are still your worldwide platform, that they have to learn an American accent. So it’s relatively effortless for them. And then they happen to be pretty well-trained, disciplined actors, not concerned about their images as to just playing the role and the part.”

Reading between the lines, he’s saying young American actors are brats who’d rather take selfies than throw themselves deeply into a role. It doesn’t take a minute to list the many young actors who could prove him wrong – Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ezra Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt – but Douglas may still have a point.  How long since an American actor showed you something that made you think, wow, just WOW? Me neither.

It’s true that casting directors are choosing Brits and Australians over Americans – especially in big superhero roles. Christian Bale as Batman, Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man (although he’s a dual citizen), Henry Cavill as Superman, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. These are all capable actors, but that’s not necessarily what’s getting them the jobs. John Papsidera, casting director on The Dark Knight Rises, told Vulture a few years ago that American leading men are no longer manly.”You look at the list of American leading men, and in their  20s and 30s, they’re very boylike … Take Jesse Eisenberg: I put him in Zombieland, but he’s not going to play Superman. He’s much closer to what Dustin Hoffman turned into than John Wayne or Steve McQueen. It’s hard to find movie stars that live up to the needs of the story. Leo [DiCaprio] is growing into it, but for a long time, he seemed young and boylike … You need to find guys who carry that heroic-ness with them.”

Which brings me to Dustin Hoffman, speaking recently to Elvis Mitchell on his radio show The Treatment, broadcast out of KCRW in Santa Monica, California. The show is recorded in a studio in the basement of what used to be Santa Monica City College – a place that kids who flunked high school went to improve their grades to get into college. Hoffman, a terrible student, went there in 1956. He wanted to be a jazz pianist rather than an actor, but he took an acting class because it was worth three points, and they never flunked anyone. “It was kinda like gym,” Hoffman says. Nevertheless, it sparked something that was fed by what he was seeing in American actors of the era – particularly Brando and James Dean. Leading men had been pretty and two-dimensional in the ’50s.  Brando was “an extraordinary looking man, and yet his characters were not two-dimensional, because they were full of vulnerability”.

‘It was a new kind of acting,” Hoffman says. “He was doing something, and I thought my friends Duvall and Hackman tilted the axis of acting, in that you saw their bone marrow. It was further than just ordinary vulnerability, deeper than that. It’s hard to explain … I think James Dean worshipped Brando. It was at that time where we were seeing change. The American hero was not going to be John Wayne forever.’

You see the contradiction here. Are we to assume that Brando’s breakthrough, opening the emotional door, leads to this parade of milksops and metrosexuals?  Is it true that American actors have forgotten how to be masculine – everyone except Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington? And what does that say about we subjects of Her Majesty? Are Australians getting these great jobs because the casting agents think we can still go the biff? All aboard the 5.38 from Marrickville to Burbank, not stopping at Palookaville.

I don’t really buy it. I think it’s true that the best British and Australian actors come with a strong work ethic. When you’ve graduated from the grindhouse of Summer Bay, you know how to hit your mark and work long hours. And in both countries, the teaching of acting has a long and honourable tradition, with government support. Geoffrey Rush has said that government-supported theatre and acting schools were crucial in producing the generation of Australians now dominating Hollywood. If actors are cattle, as Hitchcock famously said, that support helped to make them export quality.

Twitter: @ptbyrnes

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments Off on Freedom Stories, A Family Affair, Women He’s Undressed, and Magic Mike XXL

Freedom Stories, A Family Affair, Women He’s Undressed, and Magic Mike XXL

Freedom Stories, A Family Affair, Women He’s Undressed, and Magic Mike XXL

Costume designer Orry-Kelly is played by Darren Gilshenan in Women He’s Undressed. Photo: Supplied Joe Manganiello (left) and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL.
Nanjing Night Net



PG, 100 minutes. Opens Thursday, Cinema Nova

Not only timely in its depiction of how a previous generation of refugees have productively fitted into Australian society, but also fascinating for how it draws out – or even inspires – undercurrents of unease, this deceptively complex documentary by Steve Thomas deliberately sets out to introduce people previously dehumanised by both rhetoric and forced detention. “He’s a pretty good mechanic,” says a customer of Mustafa, an Afghani who fled the Taliban as a 10-year-old and spent three years on Nauru, and the film shows everyday interaction as a means of emphasising the social contribution; the folksiness of the filmmaking has a point. Thomas has long covered this field, and in revisiting former subjects he sometimes triggers difficult memories, but it’s intriguing to hear how different generations remember the dangerous trek to safety in Australia, and now interact. Freedom, for them, is not an abstract: “Anything could happen,” remembers Shafiq, an Afghani who journeyed here by boat, “but I was really happy.” CM



G, 88 minutes. Australian Cinema for the Moving Image, until Tuesday 28 July

“Music gives us life,” notes a matriarch in this documentary, which criss-crosses the binding of family and home to capture the past and present of acclaimed Cretan musician George Xylouris​, who has alternated between Greece and Melbourne. Angeliki Aristomenopoulou​’s film celebrates that quote, capturing a clan whose legacy stretches back to mountain shepherds, but while it doesn’t directly question the participants it subtly draws out the stresses and responsibility that comes with talent. George’s adult sons and teenage daughter with his Australian-born wife Shelagh (a wry, composed presence) carry on both his name and Cretan music, and for the youngest, Apollonia, there’s a definite pressure. “I don’t want to disappoint him,” she says of her dad, whose optimism and inclusiveness is counterpointed by his own father, Psarantonis​, an intense presence and gifted musician whose grandchildren must become his fellow players. The cultural observation is rich, but the family dynamic is a fascinating crucible. CM



PG, 99 minutes. Now playing

Orry-Kelly, who collected three Oscars, was openly gay, consistently outspoken and often ornery in his determination that his talent not be short-changed. It’s a big life with a wealth of alluring subplots and director Gillian Armstrong has done some inspired detective work stitching it together in this documentary biopic. SH



MA, 115 minutes. Now playing

Sequels are not usually subtle, but the second time around rarely comes with as much dedication to pleasing the audience as the follow-up to the 2012 tale of Channing Tatum’s male stripper does. It’s sometimes inspired and occasionally daft, and it fixes a few Hollywood wrongs while inspiring abdominal muscle envy among male viewers. CM

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.