Thursday, February 25, 2010

Red Cross café needs new home

NEWS

Closure of City Hall for major structural repairs means the popular Red Cross night café for homeless young people is looking for a new home.
Currently housed in the basement of City Hall, the café has put out a call to business and property owners in the CBD for a new space, preferably close to the Queen Street mall.
In its ninth year of operation, the cafe rovides a range of essential services to homeless and vulnerable young people in the inner city and offers a safe space where vulnerable young people can escape the streets for at least a few hours three days a week.
Red Cross executive director Greg Goebel says most young people who hit the streets for the first time end up in the CBD and the Queen Street mall.
"We want to keep the Night Café program as close as possible to this hotspot so that we can make contact with these young people early on and get them off the streets before they get stuck."
Red Cross Group Manager Community Services Matthew Cox says the night café was first developed in response to the large number of homeless young people congregating in the CBD and King George Square.
"These young people were accessing the free food vans alongside large groups of older homeless people," Mr Cox said. "It was decided that a specific space just for young people aged 25 years and under would be a safer and more effective way to engage with this particular target group."
Supported by Brisbane City Council and a range of corporate sponsors, the night café provides free meals, hot showers, health and hygiene products, blankets, clothing, activities and connections to other services three times per week. It is open on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7pm to 9pm and on Sunday afternoons from 3pm to 6pm.
The night café needs a safe, well-lit, open space that can seat up to 60 guests, has a kitchen and serving area for reheating meals that are cooked off-site, showers, toilets and adequate storage for blankets, clothing and other supplies.
If any group or business has or knows of a space in the CBD which may be suitable for the Night Café program, please contact Red Cross Night Café Youth Wellbeing and Homelessness Project Officer Kathy Dytor, on 3367 7455 or email kdytor@redcross.org.au.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Downs and ups of the newspaper trade

MEDIA ... with LOUIS JARNT

Ever since tapping out his first story on an upright Remington as a cadet reporter on the now-defunct Betoota Bugle, LOUIS JARNT has had ink running through his veins. Since then his scoops and post-lunch exploits have acquired legendary status up and down the length of Fleet Street (Burpengary). A passionate advocate of free speech and free tickets to whatever new movie, stage show or other event is hitting town, he continues to keep an eye on the mainstream media for readers of The Independent.


Whenever you go down, what automatically goes up?

That’ll be enough out of you, sir! This is a serious media analysis section, not some flippant sex questionnaire.
We are, or course, referring to newspaper circulations and readership.
Whenever a paper’s circulation goes down - or should that read each time a paper’s circulation invariably goes down? - somehow miraculously for the paper and its advertisers, readership goes up.
Well, not always but close enough to being a universal truth.
Doubt this? The latest Audit Bureau of Circulation figures for the final quarter of 2009 had The Courier-Mail doing what it does best – haemorrhaging sales in the one part of the country that everyone seems to be coming to to live, namely south-east Queensland.
The figures showed the Monday to Friday circulation of Brisbane’s only mass-media daily was 211,230, a slump of almost 2 per cent in the quarter. Big brother, the Saturday edition, fared even worse, recording sales of 288,924 in the same period, a drop of 2.4 per cent.
Awful news for advertisers hit with the Courier’s hefty ad rates perhaps but was management worried? Of course not - there’s always the Roy Morgan Research readership figures to trumpet soon after.
Strength in readership, the paper’s headline declared on cue and on page 7 on February 19, a week after the bad circulation news broke.
It reported the joyous news that readership on Saturdays over much the same period (September to December for that audit) rose by 30,000, an increase of 3.7 per cent.
See what we meant above?
You sell 2.4 per cent less, and rather amazingly 3.7 per cent more read you! How this works is anyone’s guess but one thing is clear: if the Courier didn’t print at all, their readership figures could be astronomical!
And in the clever use of words that the Courier seems so very good at when putting the best possible light on all things them, the Monday to Friday readership was “stable”.
“Stable” probably means it went down a little. If it had gone up - as these things normally do - presumably it was by such a piddly amount that even the Courier couldn't think of words to give it a positive gloss.
That’s the other basic tenant of such figures. Avoid running bad figures if you possibly can. Put the best possible light on the ones you do.
Not that it matters a great deal. When the paper puts up its rates come July 1, who can disgruntled advertisers turn to?
By the way and just purely for interest, The Independent in March 2008 reported on a big drop of 5.27 per cent in the sales of the Saturday edition of the Courier in the last quarter of 2007.
The circulation two years ago was 305,215 – more than 16,000 than it is now.
To be fair to The Courier-Mail - and we always are – there was a different way of measuring such things back then. There was also a slightly stronger south-easterly breeze about in that quarter, from memory. And the summer whiting that recreational anglers were catching down by the bay were on average a few centimetres larger then they are now.
So as you can see, nothing is quite as big as it used to be way back when, and I’m sure The Courier-Mail takes some comfort from that. As they do from those readership figures that constantly spiral upwards, regardless of dwindling circulations.




One explanation for the Courier's rising readership

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lord Mayor is 'meter-mad' - Hinchliffe

NEWS

City Hall is making so much money out of its massive parking meter rollout that it can’t be bothered policing the inner-city's two-hour limit on Saturdays, the local Labor councillor claims.

Cr David Hinchliffe (Central Ward) flippantly told The Independent: “2P or not 2P...that is the question!”
Cr Hinchliffe said council had admitted in correspondence to Valley businessman Greg Riley to not policing the 2P parking restrictions in city streets on Saturday mornings when the 2P applies.
A council memo sent to Mr Riley and shown to The Independent reveals “We currently do not enforce the Central Traffic Area 2P on weekends”.
This is despite the 2P remaining in force on Saturday mornings from 7am to 12 noon, Cr Hinchliffe says.
Mr Riley has been engaged in a running battle with council, with emails flying back and forth as he has tried to get council to police the two-hour limit in the Valley heart. He and other local business people have submitted a petition calling for the two-hour limit to apply on both Saturday and Sunday to help traders out.
He says Valley traders are missing out on important custom because on-street carspaces are taken up with people parking all day.
“Some of the stallholders in Brunswick St mall park on the street early on Saturdays and stay there the whole day, depriving customers and visitors from using the space,” Mr Riley said.
Cr Hinchliffe said he suspected the council wanted to maximise revenue from parking meters.
“Council makes a lot more out of parking meters than it does out of policing the 2P zones.
“The Lord Mayor expects to make an additional $6 million a year from the extra parking meters he is installing.
“I believe the council doesn't enforce the 2P because it takes time and it generates little revenue. Meters make money - lots of it.
"It hardly surprises that the Lord Mayor would like to make more money and that’s why parking meters are a better revenue-raising option for him than the traditional 2P. That's why he doesn't bother with patrolling on Saturday mornings when the 2P is still in force.
"By not enforcing the 2P, he expects businesses will be more accepting when his money-hungry meters are eventually installed.
“If the question is '2P or not 2P?', then I think the Mayor has made his mind up on that one -- he's meter mad," Cr Hinchliffe said.

• A response from the Lord Mayor will be uploaded as soon as it is received.

Helping hand for home renters

NEWS

Residents in central Brisbane who are trying to rent a home in the private rental market are being given a helping hand thanks to a Queensland Government initiative.

Member for Brisbane Central, Grace Grace, (pictured) has announced a new service – Rent Connect – to help people find suitable housing in the competitive private rental market in the local area was up and running.
Ms Grace said Rent Connect gave people tips and advice on how to find a property in the first place, how to prepare an application, how to secure a lease and how to start a tenancy.
Eligible clients would also be able to access interest free bond loans and two weeks worth of rent in certain circumstances, she said.
"Successful trials of Rent Connect have been held in Rockhampton and Caboolture where more than 300 people were helped into the private market," Ms Grace said.
"It worked so well there, we decided to bring it to the Central Brisbane region.”
Ms Grace said people could experience problems renting a home for any number of reasons.
"For instance, they may be able to afford the rent, but are knocked back by landlords because they’ve got a large family," she said.
"Others may not have a rental history and that makes it tricky for them to prove they can be good tenants.
"Young people in particular can find it hard to rent for the first time.
"There’s a big demand for private rental housing and there’s a lot of competition out there.”
Ms Grace said a dedicated Rent Connect officer would work one-on-one with people out of the Housing Services Office at 505 St Pauls Terrace in Fortitude Valley to help them find a home that suits their needs.
"It’s about reaching out to people who need a helping hand to get into the private rental market," she said.

People can contact the Rent Connect officer, Leanne Francis, by phoning 3872 0320.

Jube has the blues again!

My shout .... with Ivor Thurston



My goodness me, where does the best part of two decades go? I refer, of course, to the 18th annual Brisbane Blues Festival that takes place at the Jubilee Hotel at 470St Pauls Terrace on Saturday March 13.

Readers might not think it to look at me, but of all music genres, blues gets into this writer's sole more than most. Both soles actually, because if anyone had seen me at the event at the same venue last year, the old hushpuppies were well and truly tapping away midway through the event and halfway through my third Pimms dakota. What can I say? Sometimes I just let my hairs down.
The event is the brain child of a very good friend of mine, Rob Hudson, who as it also turns out is a really nice chap even though he hails originally from the United States west coast. Hey, dude!
Rob has put on another cracker lineup for the event, and the artists include fellow Yank, New Jersy born Doc Span, pictured above.
Rob tells me that from his days of working in Chicago's Cook County Jail, sometimes in the same section that once housed Al Capone and John Derringer to his learning of the trade in clubs around the globe, Doc Span is the real deal. His authenticity is born of hard work and a musically open mind and he will bring that real presence to the Brisbane Blues Festival stage. Joining him on the day will be long-time musical partner Ross Williams. What a shameless plug but there you go.
The line-up will also include The Trophy Brides Jimi Beavis & the 385s, Asa Broomhall (solo), Doug Wilshire & the Tailspinners, Bluesville Station, The Mojo Webb Band and The Hipshooters. Doors will open at 3pm with the first band from 4pm.
Tickets will be available at the door on the day and all-day admission is only $20. More info at: www.brisbanebluesfestival.com




Ric's revival revs up!


Look, they both remain very close friends of mine, so I hope former owner Steve Fitzgerald will not be too upset when I say what a bang-up job Les Pullos has done since he took over those famous Valley mall venues, Fat Boys and Ric's.

Especially with what Les is doing to one of my favourite watering holes, the first-floor bar at Ric's. The exact number of nights I've enjoyed there in the company of Mr Fitzgerald have been blurred somewhat by the passing of time and one too many PDs, but it's a grand place to stand out on the little balcony and observe the heaving masses from a safe distance.

As part of the Ric's revival, Les has taken away the little bar that soaked up too much space, and rebuit a proper, plumbed bar at the back where an office used to be.
With the help of Shaun Costa from Valley-based interior designers, Urban Interiors, the revamped bar will also boast new flooring and wall coverings, a new sound system, new light fittings and a complete makeover of the toilets.
And just this morning, Les proudly showed off the wallpaper designs that will soon grace both levels at Ric's - and they come from the creative mind of the Oscar-award winning Catherine Martin, Baz Luhrmann's better half.
Good news for patrons is that the top bar remains open for business while the renovations take place. The work is expected to be finished by the end of March. If Les has a little bit of an opening party - and he does like a party - I'm bound to see you there!


Air guitar championships loom

I mean, really, have you heard of anything more ridiculous! The Jubilee Hotel in St Pauls Terrace in the Valley is hosting the Queensland Air Guitar finals on March 27 and the pub's marketing guru Lizzie Crowe is calling on would-be contestants to tease their hair, get into those extra tight jeans and practice the moves.

Registration is at 7pm on the night for an 8pm start, with limited places available. The winner will travel to Canberra to compete in the Australian final, with the major prize being a trip to Finland to compete in the world Air Guitar Finals with a $20,000 prize pool.
Look, I really have no objection to silly young things getting on stage and gyratting around pretending to play famous riffs, but can you just imagine the embarrassment if half way through a routine, one or more of their air guitar strings broke!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chinatown mall opened at long last!





Photos: John Garozzo

NEWS

The Chinatown Mall redevelopment was officially opened on Sunday – but while the dancing lions and fireworks did their best to ward off any evil spirits, they could not totally dispel the bitterness still felt by local traders who have seen their incomes slashed by the much-delayed and much-maligned project.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman’s (pictured below left) announcement that outdoor dining fees would be waived for the next 12 months met with a lukewarm reaction from restaurant owners and a scathing “does nothing for us” comment from one of the non-food retailers fronting the mall.
Tom Tran of the Green Tea Restaurant when told by The Independent that his outdoor dining fese would be waived said: “This is the first time I’ve heard of it. It would have been nice to have been told.”
Mr Tran, who spends between $3000 and $4000 annually on outdoor dining fees, added: “That won’t be nearly enough [to cover losses over many months] but what can you do? They were never going to offer any compensation.” Mr Tran did applaud the Lord Mayor’s announcement that council would foster outdoor cooking in the new mall.
“We would love to do more outdoor cooking. If you go to places like Singapore you see a lot of street vendors,” Mr Tran said “The sights and sounds of outdoor cooking would be great for the mall. “If they relax the council’s current rules, I will take this as far as I can.”
Further down the revamped mall, Nelson Long at the Mandarin Palace said word of a fees waiver – he pays about $2000 a year – was also news to him. “That is good news. We appreciate that. And now we can hopefully recoup some of our loses and restore our profitability.” Asked if the gesture was sufficient enough compensation, Mr Long said: “It’s not nearly enough but it’s better than nothing.”
He also welcomed council’s relaxation of outdoor cooking rules. But he was critical of the short celebrations for the start of the Chinese New Year of the metal Tiger.
“We suffered for a long time and then we had good business for three days but it’s way too short.”
He also called on the council to spend more money on entertainment in, and promotion of, the new mall to get people to come and enjoy it. The owners of Happy High Herbs used the weekend of the mall’s relaunch to again criticise the lack of any form of compensation from City Hall.
Monique and Mark Gregory in an open email to nearby traders and the media said mud had been thrown at their store windows during recent construction work but the council had not even offered a professional window clean.
They also claimed that the disruptions local businesses had put up with over the past year would not have been inflicted on city traders.
“Would this happen in Queen Street Mall to the traders there?? No! So please help to ensure that the community is aware of all the mistreatment of traders in this mall over the past year and also any guidance to a small business as to what action we can take to legally get a fair compensation (professionally cleaned windows is a good start!)” They also criticised the time the mall revamp took, and the frenzied surge in the number of workers on the site recently.
“The number of persons working on the mall over the past three weeks has been approximately 30 to 40, an increase from six to eight actual workers on some days, with some days no works at all. Why were the 30 to 40 persons not started after concerns were raised last August?
“We have watched major developments around the Valley go up (complete) in this year and still the mall is not done?” The Gregorys told The Independent this week: “[Waiving] the outdoor dining fees does nothing for us and we would have preferred an across-the-board reduction on our rates to help us. “ Also, we’d like an indication of future marketing and activity programs to spread the word of its completion and stimulate trade so that some of the ‘for lease’ signs start coming down around the Valley.”
Both sides of City Hall also used the reopening weekend to bicker over the project’s cost. The Labor Opposition said the mall could have cost $12 million or rmore, but Lord Mayor Newman said the price would be close to the original estimate of $8 million although final figures would not be available for several months.
At Sunday’s reopening, Mr Newman also pledged $150,000 of ratepayers’ money towards the establishment of a Chinese Museum of Queensland, with the proviso that the museum must be nearby to Chinatown Mall.

TCB loss to leave 'black hole'


NEWS

The impending loss of 300 workers from the TCB building will leave a big black hole in the Fortitude Valley economy, City Council Opposition Leader Shane Sutton believes.

“At the same time Cr Newman is opening the new Chinatown Mall and speaking about the economic importance of the Valley, he is moving 300 employees of Queensland Urban Utilities (the new water entity presently wholly-owned by BCC), out of the area,” she said.
“Moving 300 staff out of the TCB building will be a big black hole in the Valley daytime economy.”
Councillor Sutton said the Valley Chamber of Commerce was concerned the move would cripple the precinct and have a huge economic impact on local businesses, who have been suffering as a result of the mall upgrade.
She said the redevelopment of the Chinatown Mall had been an absolute nightmare for local business and residents.
“The mall was originally supposed to be open in August 2009, then October, then December.
“Some traders have lost tens of thousands of dollars in business because of this work and these lengthy delays in completion without any compensation from council.”

Open letter to Telstra CEO David Thodey


Brisbane scribe CAROL CAMPBELL thinks this public missive might be the only way to finally conclude a long-running row with Telstra. Her experience is also very illuminating for anyone who has a fight with the Telco. The main things to learn? Record every conversation, every name on the end of the line, every frustrating step of the way ... and most importantly, know your rights. You might just get some compensation for your travails – double in her case whether she wanted it or not.


Dear David

I see by reading today’s paper that Telstra is in some trouble, with your first-half net profit dropping by 3.3 per cent, followed by a whopping 5 per cent plunge in share prices. The blame, apparently, lies largely with the public’s move away from fixed home phone lines, opting instead to use only their mobiles. However, Telstra has some deeper internal problems affecting profit margins that perhaps you and your shareholders should be made aware of.
You see, I have a credit of $4865.81 with Telstra, which has been sitting in my account for the past 12 months. All very well, you might think, but it’s not mine. It belongs to your company, or at least to your shareholders. I was given the cheque in lieu of the credit more than a year ago – and it was well spent on a trip to Vietnam soon after. What to do? It might be best if you become involved and ensure the funds wind up where they rightfully belong.
I know I could have tried asking staff to sort it all out earlier, but I don’t suppose you have ever had to phone Telstra, David? It can be an absolute nightmare. Ask anyone on the street. And if the error wasn’t picked up by your auditors, what’s to stop an unscrupulous staff member from transferring those funds out of the company altogether?

How did all this come about, you might ask. Well, read on to see how our national telco – your company – did its best to lower any profits it might have accrued last financial year. I applied to have the phone connected in October 2007. My property is quite close to the post office in the small seaside village of Brunswick Heads, in northern New South Wales.
The technician arrived a few weeks later to do the necessary wiring but the only pit the cable had to come from was in someone else’s backyard. Now what! Mid-December I received a phone call on my mobile from Telstra to advise that it was no longer company policy to dig in anyone’s backyard. More cabling would have to be laid. It would now be a Telstra project and be delayed by two months.
Fair enough, I thought, but I wrote the date in my diary when I could expect some action. And I also wrote down the dates and the conversations I had had up to that point – just in case things went pear-shaped. Good move in hindsight. I started phoning Telstra at the end of February, David, to find out what was happening to my connection. I hadn’t seen any action – no digging, no trucks, nothing that resembled anything to do with a phone connection. I left messages, I spoke to different people, I was transferred to various departments, I was promised return calls. Nothing. I started to phone daily.
What on earth was the problem? Why wouldn’t anyone talk to me? A workmate heard me complaining and suggested I contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
First a quick look at the Telstra website to read its customer service guarantee: new connection anywhere in Australia within 20 working days (equivalent to 1 month) after request - (www.telstra.com.au/abouttelstra/commitments/docs/csg_standard.doc). But what now if they hadn’t complied?
After the initial five working days of delay, you may be entitled to receive a CSG payment of $48.40 per additional working day of delay. I did a quick calculation. I requested the service mid-October. It was now mid-March – well beyond the 20-working-day guarantee and the bastards wouldn’t even talk to me. Time to call in the big guns. I emailed the ombudsman’s office (www.tio.com.au) with a summary of my complaint. They didn’t take long to get back to me and said they would be happy to take up my case. And they were particularly pleased to receive the pages of notes I had made, detailing the results of each phone call with Telstra – who I’d spoken to, what was said etc. (These pages continued to grow in the ensuing months after more calls and promises)
First a phone call from my newly appointed Telstra case manager, trying to smooth the waters; then denial of fault, blaming me for not advising the contractor when I was available; then blaming the contractor, denying Telstra was at fault; then the offer of an unsatisfactory mobile service; then several promises of ever-extending connection dates.
Eventually, the phone was hooked up mid-September 2008. The next week I switched to another provider but the matter didn’t end there. There was still the matter of compensation, and the TIO had fought long and hard to ensure I was paid what was owed to me after nearly a year’s wait for connection. Finally I received a statement saying I was $4865.81 in credit, the amount I was promised in compensation costs.
But I wanted the cash. I wasn’t with Telstra And I’d have to make a hell of a lot of phone calls to spend that sort of money. More calls to the TIO. At last, in mid-January 2009, I received the cheque for the full amount - $4865.81 - and rushed to bank it straight away, and make my booking for Vietnam.
Two weeks later, however, I received another statement saying I was $4865.81 in credit. Three months later, another similar statement. Doesn’t anyone talk to each other in Telstra? Oh well, I thought, the auditors will surely pick up the error at the end of the financial year. I went overseas and could not believe, on my return, that I still had a $4865.81 credit, and I still have as at January 2010.
I am keen to have this matter resolved but you can see my concern, David. Can you guarantee that this credit will be rightfully returned to where it belongs?
By the way, it seems this is not an isolated incident. Someone recently told me they were not billed by Telstra for a more than a year, despite repeated requests. They got sick of asking for a bill, so had a year of free service. Private enterprise would go broke doing business like that.

Carol Campbell, Brunswick Heads

Book set to make history




Step aside Steele Rudd. Decades before you penned On Our Selection in the dying days of the Nineteenth Century, a fellow Queenslander wrote a novel of life in those hard times – and we’ll soon get a chance to see if it’s any good.


And thanks to some ancestral sleuthing work by a descendent many generations removed, that work – Tom Hurstbourne or a Squatter's Life written by John Clavering Wood (1837-1910) will finally be launched later this month – a hundred years after the author’s death.
But for the dogged detective work of Newstead residents, Gloria Grant and Gerard Benjamin (authors of Reflections on New Farm), this precious Queensland heirloom might have been lost to oblivion.
Where did they find the manuscript? Well, that’s a story all of its own but here's a hint: J.C. Wood was Gerard's great-great-grandfather. Gerald uncovered the unpublished Queensland manuscript dating from 1865, and Gloria took up the painstaking task of unravelling and recording the faded manuscript.
Retired High Court Justice and author, Ian Callinan will deliver his own verdict in the matter of Tom Hurstbourne when he launches the book of Hurstbourne’s exploits at the Mercy Heritage Centre, All Hallows' School on February 28.
The event is being hosted by the Brisbane History Group. After the launch, high tea will be served, followed by tours of the Heritage Centre and a seminar exploring the novel’s literary and historical virtues. For details about the launch, please phone 3351 6371 or e-mail: bhg@brisbanehistory.asn.au. All are welcome but an RSVP is essential.
So, is it a gripping drama of an early settler’s life. A man’s brave battle with the elements? A bodice ripper even? Gerard and Gloria think you should read it and make up your own mind.
The softback edition is available locally at Mary Ryan's Bookstore and New Farm Editions, both at Merthyr Village, New Farm. The hardback edition is available online from www.boolarongpress.com.au.


Above: Gloria Grant and Gerard Benjamin of Newstead discovered a long-lost manuscript of a Queensland novel, dating from 1865 and written by John Clavering Wood (top of article).

Take a bow wow, QTC



THEATRE .... with Lynette Shannahan

The Little Dog Laughed By Douglas Carter Beane
Directed by Michael Gow Q
ueensland Theatre Company Cremorne Theatre, QPAC Until March 13
Ticketing 1800355 528


Last Saturday night the Cremorne Theatre was buzzing with patrons eager to see the opening play for QTC's 2010 season. Theatre-starved over the annual holiday break, they filled the Cremorne and what followed over the next few hours was a clever and deeply witty expose of show business life illuminated by a harsh and somewhat 'camp' spotlight.
Playwright and author Douglas Cater Bean is a veteran of successful Broadway musical and theatre productions and no doubt has encountered his share of celebrity behavior. His focus is the human person beneath the celebrity who is always sought but never completely captured by the paparazzi or the unrelenting tabloid press. The Little Dog Laughed gives the audience an insider perspective to the demands of fame and the incessant maintenance of the “illusion” that the business of celebrity conceals.
The mask is lifted and we are presented with four dynamic personalities busy being 'themselves'.
Celebrity deal broker Diane (Caroline Kennison) is the arbiter of all that is appropriate and 'good for business'. Her client Mitchell (Tom O'Sullivan) is indulging his “slight case of homosexuality” with Alex (Nick Cook), a handsome hustler who is also in a relationship with Ellen (Melanie Zanetti).
Competing goals aside, all four become meshed in each other’s lives with hilarious and unexpected results.
The entire play is set in a New York hotel room with ancillary performance spaces suggested by placement of the actors and an elevated platform office for Diane. The American accents were a surprise at first but superbly performed thanks to voice/accent consultant Melissa Agnew. Michael Gow's direction is brilliant as always.
There were adult themes and even two naked men kissing, but this is 2010 and Brisbane is very grown up isn't it? Was this risky, difficult theatre? Absolutely not! Just another wonderful theatre experience that I know QTC can deliver.

Shedding light on a shady street




It’s one of Brisbane’s prettiest streets and later this month you’ll have a chance to find out how it came about. The New Farm and Districts Historical Society at its monthly meeting on Saturday afternoon, February 27, will have as its theme “…all about Abbott Street”, one of New Farm’s delightful suburban treasures”.


Brisbane architect Robert Riddell will head up a team of eminent presenters to discuss all of the interesting aspects of this New Farm gem.
These will include the historical, the architectural, the horticultural, the societal and the communal nuances that this address has given to us all over a very long time
The meeting takes place at 2pm on Saturday February 27 at the Merthyr Road Uniting Church Hall. The society says it will be a very stimulating and interesting meeting, and all are welcome to attend.

Brisbane tops for investment: poll

Brisbane has the best property investment opportunities in Australia, according to a poll released by PRDnationwide.

Forty-five per cent of respondents said Brisbane has the best investment opportunities, while Sydney accounts for 25 per cent. PRDnationwide research director Aaron Maskrey (pictured) said Melbourne followed closely with 17 per cent of respondents choosing it as the investment hotspot.
All other capital cities scored very low – Adelaide 5 per cent, Hobart 4 per cent, Canberra 2 per cent, and Perth and Darwin both only getting 1 per cent of the votes. The survey of property investors around the country considered both houses and apartments. Mr Maskrey agreed with the results that Brisbane was a good choice, having been through the bottom of the property cycle, it was on its way up.
“With a massive population growth, the Brisbane rental market will tighten and experience its first real growth in price for the past couple years, as demand surges ahead,” he said.
Mr Maskrey said he believes Sydney has great capital growth prospects, combined with increasing rental rates – proving to be very attractive to investors. The research director was not surprised Darwin, Perth and Adelaide rated poorly by investors.
“None of these cities have reached the bottom of the market yet, and investors aren’t going to jump in while prices could still go down,” he said.
Mr Maskrey said Hobart should be higher up on investors’ lists. “For comfortable long-term capital gains Hobart is a sure safe bet,” he said. Mr Maskrey believes that Victoria is the state which is furthest away from the bottom of the property cycle and is set to experience solid gains in capital growth.

Valley at the crossroads

FROM MY CORNER .... With Ann Brunswick
Seeing I have a certain expertise about such things, I believe I am quite entitled to make the following plea: can’t the relevant authorities do something about the intersection at Brunswick and Ann streets in the Valley.

Having experienced that corner from both sides – as a motorist and then a local businessperson plying one’s trade - it’s a corner almost possible to navigate safely, especially when those tens of thousands of sweet young things have made their way into the entertainment precinct.
As a motorist in my trusty LandRover Recovery, I’ve found it almost impossible to turn left from Brunswick Street onto Ann on the busy nights because the drongo line of inebriated revellers never seems to stop., and here’s my suggestion as to how to fix things.
Change the lights pattern to the same as the other end of the mall: i.e. a criss-cross flow of pedestrians in both directions at the same time for a reasonable amount of time, and then a stern “No Walk” sign while first one, and then the other, direction of traffic is allowed to proceed.
Yes, I can hear what you’re thinking. The young kids who are bullet-proof and unkillable don’t obey the signs any way! Still, it’s just an idea, and I wonder if the traffic-light experts somewhere in our transport bureaucracy have at the very least thought about trying it for a while?

***

Your favourite columnist’s trusty LandRover was up on blocks the other day, so I was forced to take a train to visit a client on the northside. After our transaction had been competed, I returned to Toombul railway station, only to note on a faded information sheet right next to the steps leading down to platform level that the next train inbound was “express from Bowen Hills to Central”.

Of all the inbound services shown Monday to Friday, a number were so designated, including the one due in a few minutes. The next service after that was some time away so I made my way over to the ticket window. I told the earnest young woman behind the window of what the sign said, adding my tuppence worth that I’d never heard of any trains that stopped at Toombul not stopping at such an important railway station as the Valley as well.
“No, dear, it stops at the Valley,” she smiled. “They all do.” “But your sign says....” I stopped and decided, why bother. It’s like talking to a window counter. I took a chance and grabbed that train, and sure enough, it kindly dropped me off at the Valley. Thinking about it afterwards, I suddenly realised that maybe that sign was there from when the Valley station was being revamped: when each half of the station was closed for six months - a time when there definitely were a number of services that were express from Bowen Hills to Central.
Why, then, do they still have the bloody sign right there beside the steps down to the station. Do they like confusing people? Don’t answer that!

***

Now that our new $8 million plus plus Chinatown Mall has been officially opened, I thought I might just share with you a little experience I had there a few months back.

After the entire mall had been blocked off for months, the council made quite a deal out of the fact that a midway pedestrian crossover point had been reopened. Good idea, your Ann thought. Welcome news too for restaurant owners midway along the mall, because up to then it was a long and hot walk to get to their venues so many people didn’t bother trying.
So on this particular day, your Ann followed the pedestrian arrow signs and entered this newly opened walkway. A few seconds later, she was surrounded by heavy machinery doing work on the grand arch overhead. Beyond these machines, the other side of the pathway was sensibly sealed off.
I made my way back to the other side, warned off another pedestrian who had just entered the passageway as I had done, and found a workman inspecting some recently laid tiles nearby. When I explained that I had gotten half way across the mall only to find it blocked, he said that was because they didn’t want the public to get too close to the heavy machinery I had just encountered.
In the sweetest voice I could muster – and you will have to take my word for it, dear readers, that I didn’t lace it with the slightest hint of sarcasm – that, yes, I agreed with him, but wouldn’t it be a good idea then for both sides of the walkway to be sealed off, so any conflict of interest between m-ann and machinery could be avoided.
Making no effort to get up and act on my sensible suggestion to close the walkway off, he continued to inspect his tiles and offered, in a fairly abrupt manner, the immortal words: “Give us a break here. We’re dong this for you!”
Six months late, mind, but can I now belatedly offer this worker my very sincerest of thanks for his attitude that day and everything he and his fellow workers did to ... I mean.... for us over this long and frustrating building process.
In some places in the world, entire skyscrapers were probably built from scratch in the time it took to revamp this funny little mall cum carpark entrance.

Garrett safely insulated from getting the sack

POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

Tony Abbott was Health Minister for three years, and over that period he was warned constantly of the deficiencies of the public hospital system. If warnings from the health officials were not enough, there were almost daily stories in the media of endless waits and intolerable crowding in emergency departments, women being forced to give birth in toilets, patients being sent home to die because there was nor room in the wards.

The minister was told that massive reforms and huge injections of money were needed; but Abbott's response, or that of his government, was to float the idea of a commonwealth takeover and then abandon it, and to actually reduce commonwealth funding as a proportion of the total. And people died - lots of them. So should Abbott have been sacked? Does he have blood on his hands?
Did John Howard fail the people of Australia by failing to dismiss him? Well, yes, if you apply the same logic as Abbott is now seeking to apply to Peter Garrett. There is no doubt that the insulation plan was something of a shemozzle. I
t was basically a good idea, but rushing it out on a massive scale as part of the economic stimulus package meant that there was not, and could not be, adequate preparation and supervision.
Inevitably the smarties and the shonks clambered on board and there was a lot of rorting and a lot of corners cut that should not have been. But it was hardly Garrett's responsibility to check every job in person.
The laws in every state and territory demand that employers provide a safe workplace for their employees, but Garrett was not the employer; the blame for the faulty installations and for the deaths of the employees goes directly to the installers who ignored established safety standards.
Many of them should not have been in the industry at all, they were blow-ins and fly-by-nighters attracted by the flood of work generated by the government rebate, but again, it is hardly reasonable to blame Garrett, or even his department, for not weeding them out; the industry sets its own standards and when the law is broken the states have the task of policing it.
In hindsight, it can be said that Garrett might have reacted more quickly when the cracks started to appear; but the people who were truly negligent and incompetent were greedy bastards who sent young men into the ceiling without taking proper precautions or giving them sufficient training.
For Abbott to blame Garrett is sheer opportunism, And in any case, for a member of John Howard's last government to invoke the Westminster convention and the doctrine of ministerial responsibility at all is the sheerest hypocrisy.

***
The first fortnight of the parliamentary session ended as it should have started, with Rudd's annual report on closing the gap between indigenous Australians and the rest, and it was grim reading. There has been progress, but it has been pitifully slow and at least some of it seems due to more accurate data-gathering rather than real improvement.

It is still possible that the government will meet its ambitious targets, but with statistics like the one that shows only two new houses have been completed in the Northern Territory in the last two years, quite a few fingers will need to be pulled out. The promise of an extra $90 million for pre- and post-natal health care may help, but the problems seem go deeper than money.
Some Aboriginal leaders think reinstating the Racial Discrimination Act, suspended by John Howard for his Northern Territory intervention, is vital; others argue that the intervention has already been watered down too far. The political debate among indigenous Australians is a good thing in itself, and a sign that they see themselves as part of the wider society.
And there are other reasons to hope the despondency of the Howard years is at last starting to lift. The Rugby League at the weekend was an unqualified success. The inspiration came from Preston Campbell, a Kamilaroi man from Tingha who is now the brilliant fullback for the Titans, who had a vision of an indigenous team to showcase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stars of the game.
An enthusiastic and well-mounted campaign brought the League, the media and the federal government on Board, and on Saturday Rudd and several of his ministers were at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast to see Campbell’s Indigenous All Stars win a thriller against the NRL All Stars led by Kangaroo captain Darren Lockyer.
Rudd said it was all about indigenous pride, and he was right. But all Australians should be proud that we are at last back on track for true reconciliation. There is a lot to do, but at least there is now genuine goodwill and a measure of empathy on both sides of politics. In this area at least we can report genuine progress.

***

And the most extraordinary news of the week came out of the Federal Court, where the Australian Wheat Board is being sued by a number of its shareholders for failing to disclose the payments it made during what became known as the "wheat for weapons affair."

For months before the Royal Commission conducted by Terence Cole, AWB officials insisted that they had no idea the money they were paying to a Jordanian Trucking Company was in fact going straight to Iraq, in contravention of United nations sanctions. But the AWB's outline of submissions filed in the Federal Court case admits that it knew the fees were to be remitted by Alia to the Iraqi State Company for Water Transport. In spite of the recommendations of the Cole Commission, none of the AWB officials who appeared before it have ever faced prosecution. Now it appears that a few of them should be hauled back before the court to explain why they should not be charged with perjury, if nothing else.

Bridges very good as Bad

MOVIES ... with Tim Milfull




Crazy Heart (M)
Director: Scott Cooper
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall
Rating: 3.5/5
111-minutes, now screening


In the opening scenes of Scott Cooper’s debut feature film, Crazy Heart, it’s immediately obvious that Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is at the nadir of a successful career.

He drives a battered pickup truck – Bess – swills whisky straight from a bottle, stands outside his latest gig at a remote bowling alley belt and pants zipper undone, and pours the sickening yellow results of long-haul, toilet-break free driving from a large orange juice bottle onto the bitumen of the car park. M
ention of former protégé-turned-superstar, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) is inevitably by the roadies inside, prompts Blake rapidly to change the subject. When Bad steps up to the microphone, however – adoring crowd before him, and just as star-struck backing band behind – it quickly becomes obvious why the ageing country and western star’s lights haven’t quite dimmed.
He holds the entire room in thrall, even as he slips outside mid-song to heave his guts – and sunglasses – into a garbage bin.
Later, in an interview with much younger reporter, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Bad is surprised to recognise feelings of desire that go far beyond those towards his normally fading groupies.
But any relationship with Jean comes only with the caveats of Bad’s alcoholism and other demons. First-time director, Cooper, manages to elicit some stand-out performance from his cast – from Gyllenhaal’s understandably overcautious single-mum, and Robert Duvall’s stoic, sober best mate, to the simply marvellous, gravel-throated Bridges as Blake, offering grittier echoes of his earlier, more mellow role as The Dude in The Big Lebowski.
Oh, and there are some excellent songs from Bridges and Farrell to spice up this very good film.




War saga packs a mighty blast


The Hurt Locker (MA15+)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
Rating: 4/5
131-minutes, now screening


Kathryn Bigelow – often touted as the ex-wife of uber-blockbuster James Cameron – has established a reputation in her own right as a no-nonsense director of mostly testosterone-charged film and television – from tense war thrillers (K19: the Widowmaker) and episodes of Homicide: Life on the Streets, to the pinnacle of Hollywood neo-masculinity, Point Break.

So it’s not surprising that Bigelow’s most recent outing, The Hurt Locker, examines the limits or lack thereof in the ability of men to rein in their confidence and cockiness. The metaphorical realm suggested in the title is where unfortunates are sent in the event of an explosion, and in the lives of US Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit members, such big bangs are just another part of everyday life.
When unit leader Thompson (Guy Pearce in an unfortunately brief performance) is sent permanently to the Hurt Locker, the careful Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and fatalistic Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) initially are ruffled when their new leader arrives, cocksure and dangerously reckless.
Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is less foolhardy than fearless, to the point of unnecessarily risking the lives his charges. Roaming the streets of Baghdad (with the outskirts of Jordan standing in for the real thing), Bigelow’s film slowly reveals the everyday routine of one of the world’s most dangerous occupations: locating and diffusing improvised explosive devices, all the while remaining wary of a population in which hostiles are virtually imperceptible but frighteningly real.
An exhausting, sometimes bleak experience, this is harrowing filmmaking; and with all concerned delivering superb performances, The Hurt Locker offers a very legitimate threat to ex-hubby’s Avatar in the Oscars stakes.

Troubled times still producing some fine drops



WINE .... with David Bray

The wine industry may be – make that is definitely – in trouble but by gee it is making some ripper wines. Too many vines, changing drinkers’ preferences and some very ordinary weather have not slowed the development of quality, interesting and usually nicely priced wine.

Look here at some of the whites, recently arrived in time for the last (we hope) of our sub-tropical summer. And see some of the interesting people who make them Here, for example are the 2009 vintage of the Wine by Brad semillon sauvignon blanc and an addition to the range, Wine by Brad rosé.
Two seriously good wines that are still a lot of fun. Winemaker Brad Wehr started working in the Western Australian wine industry (Leeuwin Estate and Xanadu) when its youthfulness gave it a feeling of freedom, innovation and fun. In his words, all anyone wanted to do was surf and make “hot wines”. During his career, the calibre of the wines being produced by Margaret River heralded a change and the region became more serious in its approach. Brad wanted to balance this serious quality with the unpretentious sense of fun that wine can deliver, so he left the big wineries behind and created Wine by Brad.
The Wine by Brad labels (based on Lichtenstein pop art from the 60s) convey the brand’s sense of fun and attitude, and the wines inside are good examples of their regional styles… The fruit for the semillon comes out of southern and central Margaret River vineyards.
Brad: “2009 was almost the perfect vintage so we chose fruit from southern vineyards to highlight the aromatics, and offer a fresh, citrus-based style – crisp and lively, yet richly textured.” The new 2009 rosé was made from Margaret River cabernet:
“We’ve deliberately gone for the savoury and dry style of rosé to ensure it is complementary to food. Cabernet made as rosé gives you the ability to highlight the flavours without overpowering the food. Of course you can still sit and quaff it on the front porch too.” Each of these two retails at $17 max.

Big jump eastwards to Orange, where the region’s founding winemaker, Bloodwood have released the 2009 Bloodwood chardonnay. This comes from the region’s oldest chardonnay vines, planted in 1983.
“These vines were propagated from a mother-vine plantation of the original small berried Penfolds P58 clone,” explained Bloodwood owner and winemaker, Stephen Doyle. “This is a very low yielding clone and one highly suited to marginal cooler climates.”
“The challenge with chardonnay in a soft and sunny growing area like Orange is to express the inherent crispness and minerality of this classic variety by being sensitive in the vineyard and gentle in the winery” “The 2009 vintage is a lovely bright, fresh style that reminds us of our 1992 chardonnay which is still drinking beautifully."
This wine was then cool fermented in stainless steel with 30 percent matured for a few months in old Saury French oak hogsheads. There was no acid addition or malolactic fermentation, ensuring that the focus of the wine is on freshness and its quality cool climate fruit. Likely price around $25.

***

Now to one of my favourite districts, Mudgee, where Optimiste is producing a great range of hand-crafted wines.
Optimiste has come a long way since owners and vignerons the Dadd family first planted their vines on the hills just south of Mudgee over 10 years ago and is launching a fresh set of varietals, the first of which to arrive is the 2009 Optimiste Pinot Gris (pictured above), soon to be followed by a semillon and a tempranillo.
The Optimiste Estate grown pinot gris grapes were selectively hand harvested in the cool mornings when fully ripe to ensure maximum flavour and mouthfeel. A portion was also fermented in aged French oak to emphasis the full, rich pinot gris style, with complex sweet spices. It is a ripper wine, drinking very nicely now, hefts 13.5 percent alcohol and will cost you around $20. *** Reckon you know your champagnes? How about Armand de Brignac? It has been named as the best, number one, top of the lot. Apparently late last year some of the world’s leading wine critics and sommeliers ran a serious blind tasting of more than 1000 brands.
The results have been published in Fine Champagne magazine, said to be the only international publication devoted to champagne and a renowned authority on the industry. The top 10included many classic names with the surprise first place going to Armand de Brignac Brut Gold. Its recipe is fairly conservative at 40 per cent chardonnay, 40 per cent pinot noir, and 20 per ent pinot meunier.
The magazine described it as complex and full-bodied, with light floral notes, a racy fruit character, with subtle brioche accents, and a long creamy finish. There’s a bit of presentation here, too. The fizzy stuff comes in a stunning gold bottle originally developed by Cattier for the Andre Courreges fashion house. Labels are made of pewter, polished and applied by hand. You can snap up a bottle for just $495 from Brisbane experts at www.champagnegallery.com.au .

Chinatown Mall Opening Celebrations

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Star signs ... with Horace Cope

AQUARIUS (Jan 21 to Feb 19)
You reckon the Oscars ceremony on TV has always been far too long and boring enough, without presenters now having twice as many "best picture" nominations to announce and show scenes from.

PISCES (Feb 20 to Mar 20)
You wonder aloud if you're the only person in the world not currently reading one of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy.

ARIES (Mar 21 to Apr 20)
Having foolishly thought that your family loved you, you are still brooding months later over their Xmas gift to you: the complete DVD set of the Saw movie franchise.

TAURUS (Apr 21 to May 20)
You cleverly trademark the phrases "Five-5" and "Two-2" just in case that's the future of international cricket.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 21)
You're still waiting for a response from the International Cricket Council to your written suggestion that the best way to safeguard the future of Test cricket is to make it tipsy-run.

CANCER (June 22 to July 23)
Gosh, you're happy that the footie season is just around the corner. No, you really are. Can hardly wait. It's going to be grate.

LEO (July 24 to Aug 23)
You wonder how many Grammy awards Taylor Swift could have won if her music was any good.

VIRGO (Aug 24 to Sept 23)
Or if she could sing, for that matter.

LIBRA (Sept 24 to Oct 23)
You wonder if you're the only person around who thinks that car insurance ad on TV where the bloke sings "what about me?" makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

SCORPIO (Oct 24 to Nov 22)
Vowing to devote more time each weekend to keeping up with local, interstate and world news, you cancel your subscription to The Sunday Mail.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 23 to Dec 22)
You rewrite your will after your family presents you with DVDs of the two Saw movies made since Christmas.

CAPRICORN (Dec 23 to Jan 20)
You find yourself visiting luxury-car showrooms after convincing your family that there'll be no Ekka this year because the entire RNA showgrounds have been sold off for residential development.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Schools chalk up one for urban renewal


By Susannah Thomsett


Inner-city schools might finally be enjoying the flow-on benefits of the urban renewal of recent decades but it remains a very slow process, an Independent investigation suggests.

First-year and overall enrolment figures for state and private schools suggest families are now being attracted more and more to renewal hotspots such as Bowen Hills, Newstead and Teneriffe, the Valley and Spring Hill. Y
et despite continuing population growth – Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows an increase of more than 2000 people in each of five inner Brisbane suburbs, including Fortitude Valley, Spring Hill and Newstead between 1996 and 2006 – families with young children are still a minority in Brisbane’s inner suburbs.
Nick Gallen, principal of Holy Spirit New Farm, says the suburb appears to be attracting plenty of families with young children.
“We have a number of people trying to get into our school this year, especially for our prep services … unfortunately, we can’t take them all and we have to turn some people away,” Mr Gallen said.
“They are all local New Farm families, or moving into the area. I would say seven to 10 years ago there were fewer families, but from the inquiries we get that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer,” Mr Gallen said.
“I would feel that over the last 10 years New Farm has become much more family friendly. People come here for a reason, not just passing through. As long as it remains affordable, we’ll see more families moving in.”
Nearby New Farm State School is experiencing a similar growth: it had a total enrolment of some 280 children last year; this year, it has 75 new prep kids alone.
Many of the residential projects built over recent years in that and adjoining suburbs have attracted predominately single renters without children but PRDnationwide New Farm principal Adam Gray says that trend may now be slowly changing, with more owner-occupiers taking up residence.
“We have noticed over the past few years that we are getting more owner occupiers than in the past. I think the world has realised that we live in a little slice of heaven."
Of New Farm School’s first-year intake, he said: “Perhaps the families are starting to target New Farm a bit more.”
But he admits it’s a slow process, as there “are not too many families that move into our area apart from perhaps the house”.
“The apartments make up around 85 per cent of the dwellings and these are mostly rented. They are occupied by professionals and students and DINKS."
In 2009 the ABS found that New Farm was the most densely populated suburb in Brisbane at 5 700 people.
According to Fortitude Valley State School principal Matt Taylor, inner city schools experience high student turnover as families arrive in Brisbane, find their feet and move to suburbs further out.
“The pattern in the past is that up to 10 per cent of our enrolments are from people just turning up out of nowhere in the first week,” Mr Taylor said.
“One reason that the inner city schools receive these children is because … the inner city is better set up for new arrivals.”
The last census supports Mr Taylor's comments, showing that 88 per cent of Fortitude Valley residents are between 18 and 64 years old, 55 per cent of residents are renting their homes, and the average household has 1.8 people.
Fortitude Valley’s population has more than trebled over the last 13 years, but Fortitude Valley State School itself has remained small at under 60 students.




Big prep intake ... New Farm State School



Long wait for mall almost over


Come here, Tiger!


It wasn’t anywhere near finished the last time City Council opened the Chinatown Mall to the public in mid December, but we’ll soon all get another chance to see just how much more has been done over the past seven weeks.

The $8 million mall makeover is officially opened on Chinese New Year’s Day – Sunday February 14 and it will be a great opportunity to see just how “open” it really will be. A lot can be done in a few days, but on Monday the mall remained a virtual no-go zone.
While the cladding on the grand arch was almost finished, the modern entrance on the mall’s Ann Street side looked far from complete, as did the water feature on the mall’s northern side, and many of the other smaller features that will eventually adorn the new look mall.
City Council has an extensive program of events to celebrate the Chinese New Year, with activities planned from Friday February 12 to Sunday February 14 (see program below). 2010 is the Year of the Metal Tiger, which according to the Chinese zodiac runs from February 14 until February 2 next year. The tiger is the sign of courage in the Chinese zodiac and is revered for warding off the three main disasters of household life: fire; ghosts and thieves.
On the downside, the Year of the Tiger is traditionally linked to social upheaval and massive changes …so if you believe in astrology, be prepared for an unpredictable year ahead. Being flexible and courageous are the key tips for thriving in the Year of the Tiger.
Chinese New Year is a 15-day celebration beginning on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, which is a lunar based calendar.
Chinese New Year begins with the new moon and ends when the moon is full, 15 days later. The Chinese phrase for celebrating Chinese New Year, “Guo Nian”, means “the passing of the beast”.
In Chinese mythology, a Nian is a beast that lives under the sea or in the mountains. Once each spring, or around Chinese New Year, it comes out of hiding to attack people, especially children.
Fortunately, the Nian is sensitive to loud noises and afraid of the colour red, so, to drive it away, the Chinese have traditions of decorating things in red, exploding firecrackers and performing a lion dance.
Brisbane will be celebrating Chinese New Year with lots of colour, noise and excitement.

•Information above and below gratefully compiled from material on ourbrisbane.com





Free events in Chinatown Mall

Friday February 12


• 6.30pm - Lion Dance by Khuan Yee Lion Dance Association
• 7.15pm - Traditional Cantonese Opera by Multi Arts Association
• 8.15pm - Erhu Performance (Chinese Fiddle) by Mr. Yabin Huang
• 9pm - Chinese Folk Songs & Provincial Dancing by soprano, Ms. Hong Yan
• 9.30pm - Happy New Year Kung Kei Fat Choi

New Year’s Eve Saturday February 13

• 12pm - Lion Dance & Chinese Martial Arts Display by International Wu Shu Academy
• 1pm - Songs by New Farm State Primary School
• 1.30pm - Taiku Drumming
• 2.30pm - Modern Dance by Che Jazz Dancing Centre
• 3.30pm - Chinese Folk Songs & Provincial Dancing by Soprano, Ms. Hong Yan
• 4.15pm - Chinese Pop Band
• 5pm - Chinese Folk Songs, Tenor & Soprano Mr. Hai Chun Jiang and Ms. Dong Liu
• 5.45pm - Lion Dance & Martial Arts Display by Hok Chung Wu Shu Centre
• 6.30pm - Lucky Fire Crackers with the God of Wealth Happy New Year & Kung Hei Fat Choi

New Years Day Sunday Feb 14

• 11am - Chinese Folk Songs and Chinese Harp by Ms. Lilly Chang & Ms. Sonia Li
• 12pm - Opening Lion Dance by Lam Tu Luen Kung Fu School
• 12.15pm - Chinatown Mall Re-launch Ceremony
• 12.45pm - Performance of the 'Fable of the Carp'
• 1.15pm - Lion Dance (on Poles)
• 1.30pm - Lucky Fire Crackers with the God of Wealth
• 2pm - Ms. Anna Chau Chinese Folk Songs & Face Changing Spectacular
• 2.30pm - Performance of the 'Fable of the Carp'
• 3.15pm - Chinese Pop Band
• 4pm - Chinese Folk Songs by soprano, Ms. Wu Bing • 5pm - Chinese Dance by Queensland World Dance Academy
• 6pm - Dragon Dance by Lam Tu Luan Kung Fu and Dragon Dance School
• 6.45pm - Lucky Fire Crackers with the God of Wealth
• 7pm - Happy New Year and Kung Hei Fat Choi

Other activities

Throughout the weekend of February 12-14, there is a Chinese Spring Festival Bazaar, 10am to 6pm daily, free activities, workshops and demonstrations from midday to 3pm each day, including childrens face painting, make your own fortune cookies, make your own Red Packets, Chinese calligraphy, paper cutting and brush painting, and art of tea ceremony.

It's official - Teneriffe now a suburb!



Local pollies Grace Grace and David Hinchliffe celebrate Teneriffe's elevation to suburb status

The Brisbane neighbourhood of Teneriffe will officially be granted suburb status this month following extensive public consultation by the State Government, Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said.

Since 1975, the southern area of the suburb of Newstead has been known as Teneriffe. “Although the area has had a long and unique history since the 1820s, the neighbourhood of Teneriffe was not defined by boundaries,” Mr Robertson said.
“This has often been the cause of confusion and problems for the efficient delivery of emergency and other community services in the area.”
The Member for Brisbane Central Grace Grace said the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) had conducted a public consultation to change the status of Teneriffe after a group of concerned residents lodged a submission requesting that the locality should be granted suburb status.
DERM administers the Place Names Act 1994 that controls the naming of localities and suburbs in local government areas.
“Today, all localities are required to have clearly defined boundaries to ensure computer addressing systems have accurate information," Ms Grace said.
“This is essential, particularly for Australia Post, police and community safety in general; a correct address could save a life,” she said.
The new boundaries of Teneriffe had been developed from feedback obtained from the public through public meetings facilitated by local elected representatives. The boundary of Teneriffe had been aligned with the centre line of Wyandra Street and Doggett Street between Commercial Road and Chester Street. From Chester Street, the boundary continued south-east along the existing boundaries of Fortitude Valley and New Farm to Merthyr Road and the Brisbane River.
The new suburb of Teneriffe also includes properties along the southern side of Chester Street and properties in Beeston Street and Kingsholme Street. The change means that the boundaries in Newstead will also change.
The boundaries of Teneriffe are shown on Queensland place name map QPN1120 and the amended boundaries of Newstead are shown on Queensland place name map QPN1132.

Copies of these maps can be purchased from the business centre at the Landcentre, Department of Environment and Resource Management, corner Main and Vulture Streets, Woolloongabba.

Home buying a couple thing: survey


A poll released this week by PRDnationwide shows buying property is a joint decision in 65 per cent of households. Nineteen per cent of respondents said it was the male who made property purchasing decisions, while women account for a close to 16 per cent.

PRDnationwide research director Aaron Maskrey (pictured) said the results were not surprising.
“Choosing what property to buy is a big life decision and it’s much less likely to be left in the hands of one person,” he said. “Therefore real estate agents spend a lot of time trying to attract both partners.
“Since the emergence of online real estate listings – shopping for property has penetrated into people’s daily life,” he added.
PRDnationwide New Farm director Adam Gray said in his experience, the women have the final say when it comes to buying the dream home.
“When purchasing a home to live in, the man may think he has a say in it, but it is the woman who gives the final go ahead,” he said.
“Basically if she doesn’t want it – it will not get purchased. Mr Gray said investment property purchases were a bit different. “As it tends to be more of a financial decision rather than an emotional decision – the person who brings in the most income tends to get more involved,” he said.
The study also investigated what motivated people’s decision to buy an apartment.
Mr Maskrey said nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) felt proximity to the CBD was the most important factor. This was followed by waterfront locality (24 per cent) and outlook (23 per cent).
Surprisingly open green space wasn’t high on buyers’ lists with only 7 per cent considering that important. And least of all was historical significance (2 per cent).

Valley day economy makes a move




A Fortitude Valley Valley trader who recently slammed the area’s day economy as “virtually non-existent” has had a change of heart after better-than-expected January sales.


Joseph Origliasso, pictured above, who runs the budget fashion outlet, nvy, in McWhirters, said this week the end of January 2010 has seen a surge in the daytime economy in the immediate Brunswick street mall area of Fortitude Valley.
While a few large retail outlets have moved on from the Valley, Mr Origliassso said he had been receiving lots of inquiries from what he calls “Micro Merchants’ – small businesses looking to establish themselves in the vibrant hub of the Brunswick street mall of Fortitude Valley.
“I am not a real estate agent but people are coming into my shop and making enquiries about small retail spaces for rent in this area almost daily,” Mr Origliasso said.
“I have had a number of offers to either rent or sell my shop from interested potential new businesses into the area. Unfortunately this high-volume traffic area near the Brunswich Street mall is unable to meet the demand for small retail spaces to accommodate all the new micro merchants demands but the good news is that they will spread further out in to the valley area.
“Takings at the end of January are back and are better than this time last year.
“The daytime economy is back with a surge because of new back packer travellers and overseas students replacing our lost workers. So my forecast of more shops closing in the Valley may have been premature if the customer surge continues. Tourist and students spend regularly and in their local area which is all good news for us retailers.
“All in all it’s a good result for Fortitude Valley, although traders will be experiencing a change in spending a patterns and customer traffic flow. Shoppers are coming out later in the day and into the evening and I can see the Fortitude Valley Brunswick Street area, shopping hours change to a 10am to 10pm time slot to accommodate the new customers, now shopping in the Valley.” The Valley was experiencing customer flow patterns that were normally reserved for international tourist destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore, he said.
“The Valley will be the first area in Brisbane to enjoy this shopping trend change because of its multi cultural flavour and appeal. More micro merchants into the area will provide the assorted appeal and vibe that backpackers and international students are accustomed to and expect. “Our challenge is to meet and provide the goods and services on a daily basis that our new and existing customers expect,” Mr Origliasso said.
“It’s all good news and exciting stuff for the Brunswick Street mall area of Fortitude Valley.”

Beware the million-dollar lemon



Homebuyers have been warned to be on the lookout for million dollar lemons – especially as only about one in 10 people have a pre-purchase property inspection.

Million dollar homes, which have become more common in Australia as property prices skyrocket, can have faults, Archicentre, the building advisory service of the Australian Institute of Architects says. An Archicentre inspector checking the condition of the roof and guttering on a property for sale. Archicentre, the largest supplier of pre-purchase property inspections and design reports said nine out of 10 people take the lemon gamble and do not have a pre-purchase property inspection on the home they buy, which is often their largest financial commitment.
Angus Kell, Archicentre Queensland spokesperson said with property prices and interest rates on the rise, and power and water prices expected to double in the next two to three years, buying a million dollar lemon has become financially riskier than ever.
“In reality people spend more time and money checking out a $10,000 car to be roadworthy than an average home costing between $500,000 to over a million dollars.”
Mr Kell said that million dollar homes used to be a rarity, however, in today’s property market they are common.
Archicentre pre-purchase property inspection report statistics show that over 35 per cent of more than 120,000 homes inspected over the past decade have defects, many of which are expensive to fix.
“What this means is when people purchase a home and are faced with hefty unplanned repair or maintenance bills, they are dramatically at risk of over-capitalising and if not well planned and managed the purchase of the home ultimately can turn into a loss.
“People have usually borrowed to the limit and if expensive repairs are needed this is normally added to the loan increasing the long term debt and limiting financial return."
Mr. Kell said that at the very minimum, prospective buyers should undertake their own comprehensive inspection and could download a free do it yourself inspection checklist from the Archicentre website at

www.archicentre.com.au/survival_kit/diy_checklist2008.pdf “At least with a written property report you can assess what the real costs are and whether you are in any danger of being faced with an excessive repair or renovation bill whilst battling to pay your mortgage.
“It is too late once you have signed on the dotted line and it is important to have the inspection done before signing the contract, or in today's buyer market sign the contract subject to the inspection reports outcome.”
Archicentre’s national pre-purchase home inspection statistics reveals all homes inspected had a range of faults including illegal building, rising damp, roof faults, faulty electrical wiring and cracking.

A road trip like no other




The Road (MA15+)
Director: John Hillcoat
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall
Rating: 5/5
112-minutes, now screening


Lovers of literature are bound to be familiar with US author, Cormac McCarthy for works like All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men, but the wider community really came to know of the writer when the Coen brothers adapted the latter title into an award-winning film.

Since their success – and in some instances, long before – filmmakers from independents to the big studios have scrambled to option other titles. In the case of McCarthy’s slight novel The Road, Australian director, John Hillcoat stepped in early to express interest in an adaptation. Hillcoat had form with bleak, disturbing films like Ghosts... of the Civil Dead and the Australian western, The Proposition, and evidently impressed McCarthy with his vision of what The Road could look like on screen.
The resultant film – faithfully scripted by Joe Penhall – is stark, upsetting, and ultimately beautiful. Briefly, the film tells of the relationship between a man and his son in the first decade after the world has been devastated by an unknown catastrophe. Food is scarce, the environment in ruins, and the population of the United States now miniscule, with tribes of cannibals and slave traders roaming the land.
The Man (Viggo Mortensen) has sustained the Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) for several years since the fall of civilisation and the loss of the Woman (Charlize Theron). The pair travels through a gloomy grey landscape sustaining each other with the thin hope that relief lies somewhere to the east, and in a stubborn desire to “keep the flame alive” and force the triumph of good.
Theirs is a harrowing, astonishing journey with a surprisingly hopeful ending – be sure to stay through the credits and listen to the accompanying soundscape. Next, we have to wait until 2011 to see what director Todd Field will do with McCarthy’s even more gruesome Blood Meridian.


A precious life that’s rather special



Precious (MA15+)
Director: Lee Daniels
Stars: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey
Rating: 3.5/5
110-minutes, screening from tomorrow (Thur, February 4)


Perhaps this is a cumbersome title, but Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is executive produced by one Oprah Winfrey, so it would be terrible to miss out on potential audience members by just using one word, especially when the original title, Push could have been confused with last year’s psychic , Hong Kong-based action thriller of the same name.

Sapphire’s novel garnered a huge readership – and Oprah’s patronage – so the film was always going to be an interesting (and precarious) project. The eponymous Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is a morbidly obese teenage mother struggling to complete her secondary education.
Challenges present themselves on all sides: the conventional schooling system is reluctant to cater to a sixteen-year-old with one child and another on the way; Precious’s psychotic mother, Mary (Mo’Nique) sees her daughter and granddaughter as nothing more than carriages in a gold-plated gravy train; and her absent father only returns when he is horny and sober enough to rape his daughter.
Add to this bullying at school, in the streets near home, and at the hands of her vicious mother, and Precious lives an extraordinarily difficult life.
When her principal recommends relocating to a more specialised schooling environment, Precious initially is reticent; but her new teacher, Blu Rain (Paula Patton), along with a sassy and eclectic group of students, offer new hope.
Like The Road, Precious is a harrowing experience, but in the hands of director, Lee Daniels and screenwriter, Geoffrey Fletcher, the story is a really an old style fairy-tale wrought beautifully in a contemporary context.

THE BINGE - on DVD


Something for everyone

Lake Mungo (M) now available through Madman Entertainment
Departures (M) available February 17 through Madman Entertainment
Bronson (MA15+) available February 10 through Madman Entertainment
Haeundae (M) available February 10 through Madman Entertainment


Mystery, drama, psychosis, and devastation this issue, drawn from such diverse locales as Australia, Japan, England and Korea. Lake Mungo, from Australian director, Joel Anderson is a compelling faux-documentary about a missing teenager who gradually becomes the focus of a much larger mystery, and shows great promise on the part of the director, who very skilfully ratchets up the tension in his story. Thousands of kilometres away in Japan, a young cellist responds to the dissolution of his orchestra by packing up his house and wife to return to the village of his childhood. There, as they struggle to reconstruct their lives, Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) discovers a strange new career path paving the way for recently departed souls. Departures is a beautifully rendered love story-cum-transformative journey, and well deserved its multiple awards.
In Bronson, Danish director, Nicholas Winding Refn – who made the stunning Pusher trilogy – adapts the true story of a lunatic prisoner who terrorised the British justice system. Michael Peterson – aka Charles Bronson – reinvents himself as a version of his hero and spends much of the next four decades in gaol gradually scaling up his outrageous behaviour.
And if disaster flicks are your thing, you can’t go past the latest blockbuster from Korea. Haeundae – directed by Jegyun Yun – sets a number of precarious relationships flailing amid the impending doom of a massive tsunami that threatens to devastate the eponymous city, and features some pretty impressive special effects (below).

When things are crook, settle for quality

Things are crook in the Australia wine industry. Bad for many grape growers and processors, but probably very good indeed for wine-drinkers. How crook? Over-supply is so bad the industry has rip out 35,000 hectares to balance things up, according to one of the major producers. Peter Lehmann Wines managing director Doug Lehmann reckons things are the worst they have been in 15 years with our vineyards likely to turn out more than two million tonnes but only 1.5 million tonnes likely to be sold.

To compound the crookness, Lehmann told shareholders New Zealand sauvignon blanc is “having a deleterious impact on the volume and value of all Australian white wines”. Which reminds me. Did you see the finance page report that French winemaker Lacheteau has been labeling its sauvignon blanc (probably from the Loire Valley) as Kiwi Cuvee? And is not allowed to do so any more after the New Zealand winegrowers took it to the law.
Anyway Peter Lehmann Wines, which the Swiss company Hess Group bought in 2004, saw its profits fall seriously last year, as did other big Australian winemakers including De Bortoli, d’Arenberg and Casella. Other sources estimate that there is right now a surplus of about 100 million cases out there and that this is likely to increase by 40 per cent as the strong Aussie dollar makes it even harder to sell in the USA and UK.
In the long run, this is not good for us as well as the winemakers Right now, think a bit about paying a sensible price for some seriously good wines. Such as: BlackJack. Love their slogan/motto/whatever: BlackJack is red. In fact it is good red, and interesting. Good enough to win serious awards very recently in Australia and London.
At the Le Concours des Vins du Victoria event, presented by the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Blackjack won a gold medal for their 2007 Blackjack Shiraz and a silver medal for the 2007 Blackjack Cabernet Merlot. Le Concours des Vins du Victoria is a unique wine competition in Australia in that it involves a panel of French wine experts and commentators judging Victorian wines. At the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2009 in London, the winery won two silver medals across a wide international field.
The 2005 Blackjack Shiraz won Best in Class and the other silver went to the 2005 Blackjack Block 6. And adding to these the 2007 Blackjack Block 6 just won a silver medal and a place in the Top 50 for the second year in a row at the Visy 2009 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge. Blackjack Vineyards is in the Harcourt Valley in the Bendigo Wine Region. Winemakers Ken Pollock and Ian McKenzie (one a pharmacist, the other a teacher) planted the vineyard in 1988. They released their first wine in 1994 and have won a reputation for fine, generous reds.
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The most recent arrivals are: BlackJack 2007 Block 6 shiraz, from vines planted in 1998, and “one of our most difficult vintages to date, with frost and drought combining to reduce production to below half the normal crop level".
Put it away for a while if you can, otherwise enjoy a ripe and generous red. Recommended retail price $35.

BlackJack 2007 shiraz from the original 1988 plantings, obviously same vintage problems. The makers say “the soft, generous fruit flavours build on the palate to a powerful crescendo of firm, ripe tannins of substantial length”. $35

Blackjack 2007 cabernet merlot from 1989 cabernet (90 per cent) plantings, a rather more elegant and slightly less alcoholic offering. $25

And BlackJack 2007 Chortle’s Edge shiraz, from district vineyards, generous and a very pleasant not quite so serious wine that will show you the classic Bendigo shiraz characteristics. $18-$20.

You may well feel that those prices are a bit higher than you are used to paying. If so, (a) give yourself a treat and (b) give a thought to the future of the Australian wine industry. Buy some delicious wine with a well respected label upon it. And enjoy it.

Tunnel vision from my favourite council



Toowong overpass ... future uncertain

FROM MY CORNER .... with Ann Brunswick

Does anyone share my concern about the ongoing speculation over the future of the recently completed pedestrian and bicycle overpass crossing the western freeway near the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens?

It seems the $10 million structure built by the state government could be in the way of the entrance to a new (yet another) road tunnel planned by the Brisbane City Council. The overpass was announced in May 2006 as a $4 million project but its cost had more than doubled by the time it opened in March last year.
If that were not bad enough, there has since been a lot of chatter about its very existence. Apparently there is serious consideration being given to demolishing the bridge to accommodate the tunnel entrance. Member for Mt Coot-tha, Andrew Fraser, who now happens to be state Treasurer, said at the time the bridge project was announced that he had “lobbied hard” for the project that was “a victory for the local community”.
Well, it’s not so clear to me that bulldozing the structure would be a victory for anyone, especially not taxpayers. Isn’t there somebody at the state government or BCC who can stand up and say the bridge will stay? Mr Fraser perhaps? Our Lord Mayor?
If not, then maybe one of them should explain how they plan to recoup the $10 million they plan to waste and where the next $10 million for a replacement bridge will come from. Each year a lot of small community groups, sporting clubs, and other not-for-profits apply for grants of just a few thousand dollars to buy new equipment, renovate their premises, or undertake some other project that is relatively small but significant to them.
Even at $5,000 per grant, the $10 million spent on a bridge that may disappear would have helped out 2,000 organisations across our state. Unfortunately that’s the real cost of this prime example of financial and planning incompetence.
***

The saga of the overpass leads me to another gripe about bureaucrats wasting the money you and I pay in taxes and rates.

It would be good to know what genius in the Brisbane City Council agreed to install plastic parking bumpers at a near-city park. Bumpers are a common sight in most large car parks. They are usually made from concrete and are pre-cast so they can be bolted to the ground in such a way to prevent vehicles hitting a wall, fence or another vehicle. Well imagine my surprise to come upon a raft of plastic bumpers in a BCC park.
Unfortunately as my snaps show all too clearly, some of them have already started to do what any sensible person would expect plastic to do when it is exposed to the sun and comes into contact with a vehicle wheel with around one tonne of weight behind it. That’s right, they have started to crack.
Gee, what dill in the BCC didn’t see that as a possibility? Please, could somebody in the BCC get in touch and let me know that the plastic bumpers were a gift from some manufacturer, that they were installed free of charge as a trial maybe?
As a ratepayer, the alternative that my rates are paying the wages of someone who actively fostered this stupidity is too horrible to contemplate.






Holes in the argument ... plastic parking bumpers