Monday, November 21, 2011

Council mute on Walton's deadline


NEWS

Brisbane City Council has sidestepped questions on how long the owners of the eyesore Walton’s building in Fortitude Valley will be given to rectify 65 defects outlined in a show-cause notice issued late last month – or what action council intends to take if such a deadline passes without substantial remedial work being undertaken.


The Independent put both questions to Lord Mayor Graham Quirk but he ignored them, only answering two others relating to two major safety concerns facing Valley pedestrians that were not addressed by the show-cause notice. This paper had asked why similar action had not been taken against the owners of the Happy Valley building adjacent to Walton’s over the often-stationary escalators that service Wickham Street, or the disgraceful state of the walkway through Walton’s to Valley Metro which The Independent understands is that property owner’s legal responsibility as well.

In his response, the Lord Mayor said council had also recently identified a number of issues with the Happy Valley building (including those identified by this newspaper) and was “currently pursuing them with the owners”. “I’ve made it very clear both publicly and privately that the appearance of Valley buildings must kept to an acceptable standard and I will be using everything in my power to make that happen,” Cr Quirk said.
Some of the defects covered in the show-cause notice might be remedied by a team of handymen over a solid weekend but others – such as painting the building externally, replacing boarded windows with glass, reinstating facades “to original condition” and repairing walls with dry-rot or termite damage could take hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Vision improves in CBD


NEWS

Brisbane City’s biggest eyesore is to be turned into the city’s tallest building after council recently approved developer Billbergia’s application for a 90-storey hotel and residential building and a 34-storey commercial building in the CBD.


The two-tower project will be built on the old Vision site between Mary and Margaret streets, which has remained an eight-storey hole in the ground since its previous owners went into receivership in 2009. Both sides of City Council endorsed the project – known as 111+222 – with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk calling it “another major step in the city’s economic recovery after the global financial crisis and January's devastating flood”.
“For the last few years the Vision site has been an ugly reminder of how just how gloomy things were for Brisbane during the global financial crisis,” Cr Quirk said. “However with more and more projects like this one now getting under way it sends a strong message to the rest of Australia, and indeed the world, that Brisbane is back in business.
“The economic benefits of major projects like this one also flow all the way through to the kitchen table as they mean hundreds of new jobs for local residents and more business for our local companies."
The 90-storey main tower will house a luxury 380 room five-star international hotel and 800 one, two and three bedroom apartments and penthouses. The development will also have about 1000 car parks spread across eight underground levels. Cr Quirk said he was particularly excited by the prospect of a new hotel on the site, given the major shortage of quality accommodation in the city in recent years.
“I want to attract more big events and business to town as part of my focus on boosting economic development in this city – but you can’t do that without quality accommodation which is why this project is so important,” Cr Quirk said.
“Up until recent weeks we’ve seen hotel construction sit stagnant in Brisbane for over a decade, and while projects such as this are a start, I want to make Brisbane the number-one choice for new developments.”

Much-needed help for homeless

NEWS

Brisbane City Council reached out to more than 1000 homeless people when it hosted its 12th Homeless Connect event at the RNA Showgrounds recently. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the important bi-annual event continued to help homeless people and people at risk of homelessness in Brisbane access vital support services.


“This is Council’s 11th Homeless Connect event and it continues to link people facing homelessness with vital support services to help get them back on their feet,” Cr Quirk said.
“It’s a positive way to show homeless people that there are many council programs and community organisations in Brisbane ready to help them find housing, take care of their health and find jobs.
“I’m also pleased to have Salvation Army on board to assist with collecting the generous donations of food, clothing, blankets and toiletries provided by the public over the past few months.”
The Lord Mayor said participants were offered free meals, canned goods, clothing, blankets and toiletries, as well as access to medical and optical care, accommodation referral advice, employment information and haircuts. “More than 200 volunteers assisted guests with 31 doctor’s appointments, 36 optical appointments, 15 immunisations and 18 homeopathy sessions,” Cr Quirk said.

• For further information about Homeless Connect, visit www.brisbane.qld.qov.au or phone council on 3403 8888.

Exhibition gets inside an age-old problem


ON SHOW

Time is running out to see Prisoners of Age, a series of photographs and interviews with elderly inmates and corrections personnel conducted in prisons both in the United States and Canada from 1996 to 2004.

Presented by Brisbane Powerhouse and Ron Levine Photography, Prisoners of Age presents the stories of some of the most marginalised members of our society in their own words, revealing much of themselves. What we as a society decide to do about them reveals just as much of ourselves, say the people behind the project. And it’s their ambition to persuade a younger audience to avoid making the same mistakes that doomed so many of these inmates.
More than two million North Americans are now behind bars, an estimated 35 percent of them edging far past middle age.
The project has been exhibited at Alcatraz Penitentiary [2001 & 2006], The National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, [2002] the Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, [2002]. The Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin [2004], the Cirque du Soleil Headquarters in Montreal [2006] and Freemantle Prison [2010].
It runs at the Brisbane Powerhouse, New Farm only until Monday 21 November.

Show cause but to what real effect?


OUR SAY

There’s no doubt that the eyesore that is the Walton’s building stops some people from coming to the Valley. If its owners are made to fix the 65 problems identified in a recent City Council show-cause notice to the building’s owners, then that will go some of the way to improving the precinct’s tarnished image.


But this newspaper notes that the two main risks to the health and safety of people venturing into the precinct – the shoddy public passageway through the Walton’s building from Valley Metro towards Wickham Street, and the often-stalled escalators down to that street, are not covered by the show-cause notice.
And while council is acting tough by apparently having talks with the owners of the building that once housed the Chinese Club, that those owners have not been given show-cause notices of their own beggars belief, especially now that Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has discovered after all he has the powers to force action on owners who are happy tolandbank their properties for as long as it takes to get the prices they want.
The walkway with the missing tiles and often dirty floors and the seldom start-often stopped escalators are disgraceful states of affairs that have been the subject of condemnation in this newspaper for many, many months.
And sorry for this awful pun, but we reckon the people legally responsible for both won’t have a leg to stand on when someone takes a fall over the missing tiles in the walkway, or badly injures or even kills themselves taking a tumble down the stationary escaltors.
If the building owner’s insurers wanted to absolve themselves of any responsibility to honour coverage of any public liability claim, then we’d gladly go to bat for them big time. Happy to give them all the clippings. The attempts to fix a handful of broken tiles some momths ago – and only after immense pressure from council staff, local pollies and this newspaper – were laughable in the extreme. A
nd if those dodgy escalators are so badly built or poorly installed that both up and down sections can’t be run at the same time, then someone must be made to fix the problem immediately. The Indie over months has observed the aged and the infirm trying to use those stalled escalators. It’s a near impossible chore for some.
This paper once observed a man walk up to the escalators one weekday at 12.15pm – both steps were stalled – and insert the key to start the up escalator. From this, we can only assume there was absolutely nothing wrong with the mechanism of the escalators – or indeed if they had been broken they had been fixed long before. If someone was just saving on power, then they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
The Indie is also entitled to ask what happened in just a few short weeks for City Council to decide it had the powers to force action on the owners of Walton’s. Just a month ago, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk used the pages of this newspaper to declare that council laws simply did not exist to take action against recalcitrant owners. He declared a stern talking to would hopefully do the trick – but he’d enact laws if necessary.
We share local councillor David Hinchliffe’s bewilderment that the strong action that he and many others have called for over many months has now only just been taken.
And a show-cause notice, while commendable, is just the beginning. It’s who wins in the end that counts for the people of Fortitude Valley.

Prague hits right notes, time after time



TRAVEL ... with DAVID BRAY

No matter what the people of Salzburg, Vienna or Dresden tell you, it’s Prague that seems to have given Mozart his most deserved recognition during his short, sometimes troubled and brilliantly unmatched creative life.


Prague is a city of survivors, its history defined by invasion, cruelty and revolution. But it is also a music-lover’s dream destination. Not only for the kind of music your reporter likes, but also what he would, in his elitist way, describe as “popular”.
Night after night when we were there the big squares and main street intersections were as tightly jammed as Lang Park or the Gabba on big-match day, with scores of thousands rocking to live bands, big screens, huge amplification and swamping booze. (The Czechs are the biggest beer drinkers in the world, followed by the Irish. Forget Australia.)
But back to W.A. Mozart, hero to millions of the world’s music-lovers and to cinemagoers who enjoyed Amadeus, a good deal of which was made here in Prague by the expat Czech Milos Foreman. The composer’s work is everywhere, from nightly marionette performances of Don Giovanni in at least two theatres (of which we enjoyed one, where this great opera was treated as comedy) to music-making of the highest quality in Betramka, a museum in suburban Prague, easily reached by tram.
The house was built in a vineyard around 1700. It features a two-winged staircase. In 1787 it was the summer residence of a Mr and Mrs Dusek and those stairs were climbed by Mozart who had come to Prague to rehearse his new opera. It opened very successfully on October 29 and while still at Bertramka Mozart composed the concert aria “Bella mi fiamma, addio” for his hostess. In 1956 a permanent exposition devoted to Mozart and the Duseks opened at Betramka. Well worth a visit.
We went for a 5pm concert on a glorious May evening by violinist Ivan Zenaty and pianist Katarina Zenata. Blackbirds sang so enthusiastically that Mr Zenaty had to close the doors. I think Mozart might well have agreed with our opinion that the outstanding piece played was “Spiegel im Spiegel’’ by the contemporary composer Arvo Part.
Actually, we were in town for Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle, four nights of pretty heavy stuff, done here for the first time in Prague at the Narodni Divadlo, the National Theatre – and to a very high standard, as good as any we have seen around the weird and wonderful world of Wagnerian opera.
Such is the level of music appreciation in this city that we were also able, at tourist-short notice, to hear Bach’s St John Passion with the Prague Virtuosi directed by Peter Schreier at the acoustically and visually superb Rudolfinum and the Dresden Staatskapelle conducted by Yakov Kreizberg in the Smetana Hall of the Municipal building.
In fact there are more concerts in churches and halls than even the most devoted music-lover could possibly have time to hear, some of them no doubt of lesser standards than the above starred events of the Prague Festival. Among the many things worth seeing is to be found on the first floor above a McDonald’s on Na Prikope.
Up a carpeted marble staircase, turn not right (to a casino) but left, to the Museum of Communism. Here are the facts and artefacts of daily life, politics, history, sport, economics, education, the arts, media propaganda, the People’s militias, the army and the dreaded secret police apparatus, a vivid account of Communism in Czechoslovakia and in Prague in particular.
One more thing: On the walk home from the National Theatre to the Elite hotel on Ostrovni we were able to call in at the Dog’s Bollocks. Noisy, smokey, good beer and edible tucker – e.g. sausages, bread and mustard, quiet a useable name and enthusiastically reviewed as recently as August, 2011.

GETTING THERE

Plenty of scheduled flights from Brisbane, some more direct than others. Suggest you check just how long your trip would be. Cheapest at time of writing was around $1500 return, on China Southern, which changes at Guangzho and Amsterdam. Emirates and Finnair come in at the cheaper end, too. Worth talking to a travel agent. Plenty of tourist advice at www.pragueexperience.com among many others.

Preston Peak worth a visit

WINE ... with David Bray

Ashley Smith and Kym Thumpkin are successful dentists, international class small-boat sailors and have built from scratch a thriving winery-tourism business. Their professional practice is in Toowoomba, the Preston Peak cellar door complex is 10 minutes out of town and their various Flying 15 class boats have been raced impressively around the country and overseas.


One of them did extraordinarily well in the 2006 UK Nationals. They called her Clapped Out Old Toy Boy and raced under the burgee of the Tin Can Bay Club. Closer to home, there appears to have been a Fully Active Board doing great things. (Come on, sailor, get back to the wine stuff. Ed.)

One more thing: The couple put considerable effort and capital into a wine centre at Southbank, right near the beach. It was a pleasant, tasteful and very worthwhile enterprise, and years ahead of its time. Didn’t last all that long. But to the present and the wines of Preston Peak. The Toowoomba part of the operation is a tourist-focused cellar door (some 20,000 visitors a year), and good for functions of up to 150 people.
There are some vines there, but most of the grape-growing happens at the Devil’s Elbow vineyard at Wyberba in the Granite Belt: shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, white muscat, petit verdot and pinot noir. The fruit is processed in a modern winery at Devil’s Elbow.
The winery began its work in 1994 and now turns out 3500 cases of wine a year. It was awarded a four-and-a-half star rating in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion 2010, with the 2006 Reserve shiraz scoring five stars and 94 points. The 2008 Reserve Shiraz has since been awarded in the Top 5 Australian and New Zealand Shiraz in Winestate Magazine’s Wine of the Year Awards (November 2010).
All up, over the years, the winery has scored more than 200 awards and recommendations throughout its range of wines. Preston Peak Wines produces a range of red. white, sparkling and fortified wines in three product ranges: the Reserve – premium wines with cellaring potential, the Leaf Series – fruit- driven wines suitable for drinking now, and the recently expanded Wildflower range which offers a reasonably priced range of easy-drinking table wines including merlot, shiraz, blanc and a picnic-style red.
All three ranges are now being made by several specialist wine makers, including Mark Ravenscroft, Peter Scudamore-Smith, Mike Hayes and Peter Stark. Three samples, all very fine examples of interesting white wines: 2010 pinot gris brings tastes of peach and lime boosted by wild yeast ferment and four months in new French oak.
The makers suggest it would go well with Asian dishes, particularly Thai and “would be beautiful with salmon or ocean trout”.
2010 viognier will give you peach and citrus with a touch of ginger later, again wild yeast ferment. “Perfect with seared chicken fillets with rocket and pine nuts or strong fish like salmon”.
And a new look at an old charmer, 2010 gew├╝rztraminer, which we are assured has aromas of Turkish delight and fresh lychee, tastes of rich citrus and melon and is a very versatile food wine …. Asian dishes, particularly Thai.
Each has a retail price of $28, though PP wine club members get them for $23.30. Right on the edge of the Range escarpment, Preston Peak has a spectacular view of the vineyards, Lockyer Valley and Table Top Mountain. It is open Wednesday to Friday from 11am to 3pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Closed public holidays. Well worth a visit.

***


Still in the rugby capital of the world, here’s one from Queensland biggest wine-maker, Sirromet 2011 Vineyard Selection verdelho. It is a well-made, excellent wine, the work of Adam Chapman, working with fruit from Sirromet’s 150 hectares of cool climate high altitude vineyards at Ballandean on the Granite Belt.

It was made at Mount Cotton, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and you will find it at several big liquor outlets as well as at the Mount Cotton cellar door and on line at www.sirromet.com.

From the left, Gillard marches to Uncle Sam’s beat

POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

The political transformation, or at least tergiversation, of Julia Gillard in now complete. From being an avowed lefty, the chair of the Socialist Forum at Melbourne University, she has morphed into the most pro-American Australian Prime Minister since .... well, since the last one.


And he, of course, was the most pro-American Australian Prime Minister since ... well, since the one before. In fact it is hard to think of any Australian Prime Minister who has had serious doubts about the relationship with out great and powerful friend. A couple, notably Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, have made tentative noises about taking a more independent line, but in general our national leaders have approached their counterparts in Washington on their knees, dutifully accepting whatever role POTUS (the President of the United States) sees fit to assign them.
Harold Holt boasted that he was “All the way with LBJ”, while John Gorton assured his host that “We’ll go a-waltzing Matilda with you”. And of course John Howard embraced his appointment as deputy sheriff. Even opposition leaders succumb; Mark Latham, having derided his Liberal opponents as “a conga line of suckholes” while on the back bench, recanted by holding a press conference in front of an American flag when he thought he had a chance at election.
Most of the time such sycophancy is embarrassing but relatively harmless; since World War II Australia has received few if any tangible benefits from the arrangement (precisely what value our “information sharing” with Washington has been remains undefined) but has suffered little actual damage. We have been willing, even enthusiastic participants in America's military adventures, most notably in Vietnam and Iraq, but have escaped the obloquy and censure directed at America itself; basically we have been forgiven on the grounds of that even if were wrong (and we were), we erred through a misguided sense of loyalty rather than evil intent.
Gillard has not questioned that loyalty; indeed, she is signing up to an increased American military presence in Australia. Given that we already host what are euphemistically called “joint facilities” run by the Americans and for the Americans as key elements in their intelligence gathering and communication networks, this may appear no more than a natural extension of policies which have been in place for many years. But there is a qualitative difference.
The purpose of the earlier installations was a general one: the enhancement of American military power, certainly, but with no specific target in mind. The new build up of forces in the Pacific has a single and clearly defined purpose: to counter and contain what is seen as the threat of Chinese dominance in the area. John Howard used to say that we did not have to choose between our history and our geography, by which he meant that we could maintain our European identity while developing as a middle-sized Asian economic power.
This was pretty naïve even in the last century; there were times when our ability to straddle the barbed wire fence was severely tested. We have been, and still are, shut out of some of the innermost councils of our neighbours simply because we are not seen as a fully committed partner in the region. And now, as the rivalry between the United States and China is set to become the determining geo-political influence of out time, the necessity for choice is becoming more urgent.
Gillard, in what sounds depressingly like a reprise of the Howard position, says that there is nothing to stop us being both an ally of America and a friend of China. Well, actually there are two things that may stop us: America and China.
Fortunately both countries are currently controlled by relatively benign administrations, but this need not always be the case. A seriously belligerent regime in either Beijing or Washington could raise the temperature considerably. The prospect of any direct military conflict between the two is, of course, remote; but this does not mean that there will not be misunderstandings, tensions and even the occasional skirmish.
Taiwan remains a potential flashpoint; North Korea is a serious worry; India and China have never really settled their border differences. Any of them, or something completely unexpected, could trigger a stand off between the two great powers.
In any circumstances it would be hard for Australia to stay neutral. But as an ally – Gillard’s word – with the ability to deploy American troops from Australian bases, neutrality would not be an available option. Like it or not, we would be part of the action. And one of the first things we would be required to do is to stop trading with China, at least in strategic materials such as iron ore, coal and gas.
So phut goes the trade balance and probably the entire economy with it. This is the downside of Gillard’s position. The upside? Well, perhaps more security for Australia, but security from whom? From China, presumably. So we are not really treating China as a friend after all, but as a potential enemy. This is the only sensible interpretation of allowing Australia to be used as a forward base for a contingency operation aimed at China.
And it is one that Beijing is unlikely to miss. Thus Australia, however keen it portrays itself to continue the trading relationship, will be seen as potentially unreliable, subject always to the larger context in which it has involved itself. There is a Kikuyu proverb: when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
True enough, and if the grass just happens to be in the way. there’s not a lot the grass can do to help itself. But it at least has the sense not to ask one of the elephants to make it part of the battleground.
Perhaps the time will come when we really do have to make the big choice, and when we do both history and self-interest suggest that, for the next decade at least, it will probably be for America. But to pre-empt it as Gillard has done looks less like statesmanship than subservience.

Less spin and more substance, perhaps?

FROM MY CORNER .. with Ann Brunswick


Many respected and influential media organisation, such as The Indie, regularly complain about the “spin” politicians put on the facts in an effort to ensure stories are published that cast them, their party or government in a favourable light. But is the practice confined only to our pollies? Of course not.


Take for instance a story that appeared recently in our own dearly beloved morning tabloid, Rupert Murdoch’s The Courier-Mail and other News Limited publications. The story centred on the fact that some federal MPs who were critical of the industrial relations tactics employed by Qantas had also previously accepted gifts and hospitality from the airline. The article cited seating upgrades, wine, tickets to AFL games, and even laptop computers.
The thrust of the story seemed to be that the MPs in question were hypocrites by accepting the airline’s give-aways, and then turning around and bagging it. But to my mind the story simply proved that those MPs who had legally accepted and declared gifts from the airline had not been influenced by such goodies.
Surely if the offering and receipt of freebies was a key point, then the real story would have been about those MPs who accepted them and stayed silent about Qantas or lauded their behaviour. Yet The Courier-Mail chose to “spin” the facts in the opposite direction.
All the pollies listed happened to be Labor or Greens MPs. But any suggestion that the story was yet another example of pro-Coalition bias within the News Limited stable is a discussion for another time and column. Now as readers would know, since the days of the Wright brothers, no journo anywhere on the planet has ever sought or accepted any such freebies even if offered. So the reporter was on safe ground in putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard on the subject.
Surely if the basis of the story was to expose hypocrisy, then it could have been written and published only by a media organisation that had never itself fallen victim to such corporate entreaties.

***

Speaking of The Courier-Mail, those of you among its ever-dwindling readership base may have noticed the series of “red tape” and extra costs imposed on small business in our state.


Certainly there is room for all governments to cut the cost of doing business, and certainly we do seem to have a lot of public servants whose productivity does, shall we say, offer room for improvement. But big business itself can help those in small business too, not just leave it to governments.
For instance, maybe major metropolitan newspapers should tie their ad rates to circulation figures. If that had happened, then in the past few years small business operators would have seen the cost of advertising their goods and services in The Courier-Mail drop considerably. Instead, rates invariably go up each year across the entire Murdoch stable.
I also recall that some years ago TheIndie ran a yarn on the inflated rates applied to adverts The Courier-Mail runs for a specific class of legal business –licensed brothels. The exact figures escape me, but at that stage legal brothels were charged well above standard rates for their classified ads and with little justification. Now there’s something The Courier-Mail itself could do itself to cut “red tape” and business costs.

***

Without wanting this column to harp on the foibles of the media, an article in the Gold Coast Bulletin caught my eye the other day. It was a story trumpeting the planned opening of a new Aldi supermarket at Runaway Bay.

Now you may or may not realise, but Aldi is a European company. In fact it is headquartered in a particular European nation, namely Germany. So my questions is whether the opening paragraph of the Bully's story should have been tweaked ever so slightly. It ran as: “German supermarket giant Aldi has opened a new battlefield in the battle for supermarket supremacy in Runaway Bay.”
Is it just me being over-sensitive, as is my wont, or do the words “German” and “battlefield” suggest some sort of national stereotype, given the events in Europe in the first half of last century?

Death of Doomadgee continues to divide



FILMS ... with Tim Milfull

The Tall Man
(M)
Rating: 4/5
80-minutes, screening from 17 November


Bound to polarise audiences with its controversial examination of the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee on Queensland’s Palm Island in 2004, writer-director Tony Krawitz’s adaptation of Chloe Hooper’s award-winning book The Tall Man will surprise some viewers.

The film recently screened to sold-out audiences at the Brisbane International Film Festival, and rekindled debate about an issue that divided many Queenslanders. Krawitz and his producer Darren Dale – who also produced the fine documentary series First Australians – initially agonised over the format of their adaptation before deciding to allow the facts, along with the people involved, to help audiences themselves to make up their own minds about what happened in 2004.
While Cameron Doomadgee’s voice is understandably absent in the film’s story, and Senior Sergeant Christopher Hurley declined to be interviewed by either Hooper or the filmmakers, the documentary uses the considerable research and eventual findings of three coronial inquiries – featuring the recorded testimony of Hurley himself – to illuminate what happened in that small corridor in an isolated police station in one of the most troubled communities in Australia.
Krawitz and Dale further enlighten their audience with frank testimonials from Cameron Doomadgee’s family and friends, and reveal through interviews with the Queensland Police Union—and the rather unlikely source of Indigenous activist, Murandoo Yanner—that in the years leading to his posting on Palm Island, the Senior Sergeant had an exemplary record working closely within remote indigenous communities.
Ultimately, there is only one living person who really knows what happened in that police station in 2004, but for the rest of a community searching for answers and healing, Chloe Hooper’s excellent book and Tony Krawitz’s sensitive adaptation offer one step closer to understanding.



Amateurs meld powerful, engaging yarn

The Orator (PG)
Rating: 4/5
106-minutes, screening from 17 November

Billed as the world’s first Samoan feature film, writer-director, Tusi Tamasese’s beautiful story The Orator had its Australian premiere in front of sold-out audiences at the Brisbane International Film Festival.


Deliberately set away from the idyllic beaches of Samoa, Tamasese’s story easily could have occurred any time in the last few hundred yeas (if not for the occasional appearance of a 4WD!) The Orator relates the experiences of a taciturn, thirtysomething small person struggling to maintain some dignity in the face of bigotry and intolerance in a small village.
Each morning, Saili (Fa’afiaula Sagote) heads off to tend the graves of his parents after his nightly role guarding the local grocery store. But bullying taro farmers are encroaching on the gravesite with their crops, and rather forcefully insist that Saili relocate his parents closer to his home, which has its own share of problems. Saili’s wife, Vaaiga (Tausili Pushparaj) is under pressure from her estranged family to return to her former village after a lifetime in banishment for a youthful indiscretion, while her daughter Litia (Salamasina Mataia) seems determined to repeat the “sins” of her mother.
When circumstances reach a tipping point, Saili finds himself pressured to assume the traditional mantle of an orator to defend the honour of his family and his village.
Working with a predominantly non-professional cast, Tamasese has created a powerful, engaging story that asks its audience to work with the director to find an understanding of traditional Samoan ritual.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of The Orator, apart from the gorgeous cinematography and sound design, is the subtly dignified performance of Fa’afiaula Sagote, who prior to meeting Tamasese had never acted or performed before.

THE BINGE

Hola Mexico Film Festival screening from 1-4 December at Tribal Theatre
Burning Man (MA15+) screening from 17 November
Outrage (MA15+) now available through Madman
The Trip (MA15+) now available through Madman


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but at the moment I’m nearly “filmed” out after watching a hundred or so films over the last few months in preparation for BIFF, and previewing many more for a series of other festivals visiting Brisbane.

I’ve mentioned the Brazil Film Festival – which runs from 16-20 November at Palace Cinemas – and now is a good time to point out the Hola Mexico Film Festival, which opens at Tribal Theatre on 1 December.
Recently, I had the pleasure of conducting a Q&A with Australian writer-director Jonathan Teplitzky (Better than Sex and Getting’ Square) about his striking new film Burning Man starring Matthew Goode (A Single Man) and Bojana Novakovic.
It features some remarkable performances and absolutely beautiful imagery and sound design, and I’m loathe to say anymore for fear of spoiling a carefully crafted story of redemption. Trust me, this film deserves recognition at the highest levels.
While we’re speaking of well-made cinema, Outrage is Japanese director Takeshi Kitano’s latest film, and as usual, the master hasn’t strayed far from the subject of gangsters. This story of a yakuza under-boss caught up in internecine battle between two gangs counterpoints shocking violence with some very funny situations involving extortion.
And for a remedy to all the drama and violence of Burning Man and Outrage, DVD lovers might consider Steven Soderbergh’s contemplative comedy, The Trip, which reunites Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing slightly exaggerated versions of themselves, as they negotiate the wilds of England’s Lakes Region on a tour of its great restaurants. Featuring some hilarious conversations and angst, this filmic adaptation of the TV series of the same name is well worth a look.

• For information about the Brazil Film Festival and the Hola Mexico Film Festival, visit brazilfilmfestival.com.au and holamexicoff.com/australia

Edgerton's career far from on the ropes


FILMS ... with Tim Milfull

Warrior (M)
Rating: 4/5
140-minutes, screening from 27 October


Adding to the spate of martial arts films that have emerged over recent years — think The Wrestler and The Fighter — director Gavin O’Connor successfully brings cage fighting to mainstream audiences with Warrior.

In the process he helps add another string to the bow of Australian actor Joel Edgerton, who is going from strength to strength in Hollywood after his co-lead in the forgettable pre-make of The Thing.
Edgerton plays physics teacher, Brendan Conlon, whose dire financial circumstances dictate that he seriously consider a return to the bad old days of fighting in alleys and parking lots to make enough money to keep his family off the poverty line.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Conlon’s estranged, recovering alcoholic father, Paddy (Nick Nolte) returns from an AA meeting to find his long-lost son Tommy (Tom Hardy) glowering on the front porch. He has returned to the origin of all of his angst, where the booze-filled nightmares of his father destroyed their family.
In the face of overwhelming challenges, both young men have come to realise that the demons of their youth may just hold at least some answers to the problems of their present.
Using the back-drop and hype of an international search for the toughest cage fighter, Warrior skilfully manipulates the politics of masculinity, fatherhood, and fraternity. Drawing on all of the tropes of famous boxing films like Raging Bull and Rocky, O’Connor masterfully puts Edgerton and Hardy through some excruciating paces; but their excellent performances are overshadowed by that of Nolte, who should garner accolades for his meltdown late in the film.



Scariness is catching

Contagion (M
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rating: 4/5
106-minutes, now screening

There was a minor kerfuffle in the film industry a few months ago when rumours started running around that Steven Soderbergh (Oceans 11, Traffic) was considering retirement from making movies.

The gossip sprang from a chat between Soderbergh and Matt Damon, who were on the publicity trail for their new film, Contagion. The truth of the matter is that Soderbergh was actually a little miffed about Damon passing on a confidence that turned out to be a fantasy. Yes, the director was thinking about taking a break, but only for six months or so: to do some painting, of all things.
Given the harrowing content of Contagion, we can’t really blame Soderbergh for wanting some time off, especially since he’s also one of Hollywood’s busiest filmmakers.
Sitting in a huge cinema out at Chermside, my sister and I watched this daunting film about infectious disease, and endured an almost continuous cringe as we listened to various members of the audience hack, cough and harrumph while they were watching. Contagion begins with what must be the shortest performance of Gwyneth Paltrow’s career, as the actor sniffles towards a series of violent seizures and a gruesome death as her husband, Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) watches on helplessly.
Far south in Atlanta, Centre for Disease Control officials, Dr Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishburne) and Dr Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) make grim preparations for a possible pandemic after hearing of a number of deaths that might be linked with that of Emhoff’s wife. And on the west coast, conspiracy theorist, Alex Krumweide (Jude Law) prattles about the looming disaster, while World Health Organisation investigator, Dr Leonora Orantes races to Hong Kong to try and find Patient One.
Much like the autopsy unfolding at the beginning of the film, Soderbergh and long-time collaborator and screenwriter, Scott Burns undertake a very methodological examination of a pandemic, which accompanied by a compelling and hypnotic score from Cliff Martinez, makes Contagion very frightening viewing.

The Binge

Mythbusters
(Season 6) (PG) now available through Magna Home Entertainment
Jucy (M) screening at Indooroopilly Megaplex from 3 November
TT3D: Closer to the Edge (M) now screening
Japan Film Festival screening from 1-4 November at the Schonell
Brisbane International Film Festival screening from 1-13 November


Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage have become something of an institution since their spectacular attempt in 2003 to debunk an urban myth about a jet-assisted Chevy. In the latest season of Mythbusters to be released on DVD, the boys find some excellent reasons to blow things up, while their faithful acolytes, Kari, Tori and Grant find new uses for phone books and gaffer tape—strangely addictive, G-rated viewing (as long as you resist the urge to “try these at home”).

Speaking of home, Jucy will finally get a limited theatrical season in Brisbane. Set locally, and starring Cindy Nelson and Francesca Gasteen as best friends who end up at odds with each other, Louise Alston’s second Brisbane-based film is a lot of fun.
And also in a very limited season, TT3D: Closer to the Edge is a documentary about one of the world’s most dangerous motorcycle races. Set on the Isle of Man, and filmed in gut-churning 3D, this film features some astonishing footage and the fearless Guy Martin, one of the more eccentric characters I’ve encountered.
Just some time for some festival news… The Japan Film Festival visits Brisbane in early November with a very small, but engaging programme featuring anime (Arietty), science-fiction (Space Battleship Yamato), documentary (Yamakoshi: The Recovery of a Tiny Japanese Village), and drama (Railways).
And finally, a little bird told me that the Mystery Movie screening as part of FantasticFest@BIFF at Tribal Theatre on 5 November should not be missed. Despite threats of grievous bodily harm, the little bird wouldn’t give up the title of the film, so I’m looking forward to its introduction by special guest Lars Nilsen from the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas.

For more information about the programs at the Japan Film Festival and BIFF, please visit http://15th.japanesefilmfestival.net and http://biff.com.au

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cyclists face uphill battle



NEWS

Residents of New Farm and neighbouring suburbs wanting to access the city by bike now face an even bigger uphill battle following the loss of RiverWalk in January's floods.


They had relied on the walkway under the Story Bridge to get to the CBD but that has now been closed off due to the risk of falling rocks. And their plight may be prolonged by a stoush over who should make it safe.
Local Councillor David Hinchliffe (Central Ward) says the Medina Hotel and Brisbane City Council have closed the walkway “for maintenance”, forcing cyclists to carry their bikes up stairs. And he’s hopping mad over it.
“No one in council had the courtesy to let me know or to put up signs explaining in detail why.
“I’ve found out from the Medina Hotel management that the bikeway construction was threatened by the movement of a rock wall which sits both underneath and next to the walkway.
“There is a large 250kg rock leaning towards the walkway and I’m told the rocks beneath the suspended walkway are also loose.
“When the movement in the wall became apparent to media, they consulted with their engineers who strongly advised the site be enclosed immediately and council agreement with the closure was sought and obtained.
“Apparently there is a dispute between Medina and council over responsibility for the walkway. At the moment it is on Medina's property and was constructed as a condition of approval approximately 13 years ago for use as a publicly accessible walkway. Medina wish to hand all responsibility and liability to council and council is apparently resisting that.
“I urge council and Medina to sort this out for the sake of all those who use it, particularly cyclists who now have literally an uphill battle to get into the city.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good at disasters? Then your help is needed

NEWS

Reckon you’re pretty adept when it comes to disasters? Not starting them. We mean dealing with them once they occur?


City councillor David Hinchliffe (Central Ward) says that as the storm and potential flood season approaches, thoughts do turn naturally to disasters such as those last summer, so so he has called for those people who are interested in helping out in emergency situations to contact his office.
“I am compiling a contact list of all key agencies and individuals in the local area so that we can hit the ground running in local emergencies.
“The key disaster agencies of course are State, District and Local Disaster Centres. However what we learned from the Januay floods was the real need to communicate decisions made at those levels with key hasgroups and individuals in the suburbs.
“Some of the most effective local agents in January were local churches, neighbourhood centres, local electricians and even real estate agents.
“Police, ambulance firefighters, council staff etc all have a defined job to do. That job is made easier if we have locals who can communicate local need back to these centres and from these centres to residents and businesses in the local area.
“If people feel they have something to contribute I'd appreciate it if they could contact my office so we can maintain up to date contact lists."
Those wanted to help should phone 3403 0254 or email central.ward@ecn.net.au.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hypocrite claim draws fire


NEWS

An LNP candidate has labelled inner-Brisbane Labor politicians hypocrites over their opposition to drug injecting rooms for Fortitude Valley – but they in turn have accused him of being “hopelessly misguided or deliberately misleading” and “shooting himself in the foot” over the issue.


Candidate for the state seat of Brisbane Central Robert Cavallucci contacted The Independent after our recent front-page story (above) in which the current member for the seat Grace Grace, local Central Ward councillor David Hinchliffe and Labor candidate for Central Ward at the next municipal poll Paul Crowther jointly opposed calls for drug injecting rooms in the Valley.
Mr Cavallucci told this paper: “You may want to ask Grace Grace MP and Cr Hinchliffe for comment on why recent approval was given without comment or opposition by them to an needle exchange/injecting room on Brooks St, Bowen Hills. This is located in the middle of a massive ULDA residential area as well as being proximal to the $2.6 billion RNA development. Being a State Government ULDA zone, approvals do not require the typical level of public consultation and BCC scrutiny on planning outcomes and it is clear that the those party to the ALP joint statement opposing the facility have behaved in a most hypocritical way in this regard.
“I have attached the DA in question and you can clearly see its purpose. The point is simple, why overwhelmingly oppose an injecting room in the Valley and not mention or oppose one that will be constructed only a few hundred meters away?
“This is yet another example of tricky politics from Grace Grace and the Labor Party. Whether it’s injection rooms, or asset sales, Grace Grace and Labor will say anything to get elected.”
But Cr Hinchliffe said Mr Cavallucci simply had his facts wrong. The Bowen Hills centre was the new home for QuIHN Ltd, Queensland Injector's Health Network, and it would not have injecting rooms.
“There is no injecting room for unlawful drugs anywhere in Queensland,” Cr Hinchliffe said. “That would be illegal.
“This is scare-mongering at its worst. There is no injecting room. Poor Rob is either hopelessly misguided or deliberately misleading. Neither is a quality you want in an elected representative.
“There are dozens of needle exchanges all over Brisbane and hundreds across Australia. The use of needle exchanges to reduce AIDS infection through shared needles has bi-partisan support.”
Ms Grace supported Cr Hinchliffe’s comments, adding that QuIHN Ltd would move to the Bowen Hills premises by the end of October after being faced with an uncertain tenancy in Fortitude Valley.
Paul Crowther told The Independent: “Robert is wrong and is misleading the public. He should check his ammunition before firing off his shots – otherwise he will shoot himself in the foot and that's exactly what has happened.
“A needle exchange is quite different to an injecting room and I remain opposed to any injecting room in Brisbane. He should check his facts or shut his mouth to avoid making embarrassing mistakes like this one.”

Burgermen bow to ‘needle’ points

NEWS

The owners of two burger outlets who had planned to letterbox 20,000 promotional pens that resemble a blood-filled drug syringe have abandoned the idea in the face of growing criticism.


Burger Urge has outlets in New Farm and West End, and co-owner Sean Carthew has advised a shelter close to the New Farm store that helps recovering drug addicts that the pens would now only be handed out to customers who asked for them instore. The promotion gimmick received bad publicity in the mainstream media, and got a far-from favourable mention in a recent screening of popular ABC TV marketing analysis show, Gruen Planet.
The pens, with the words “taste addiction” on them, aim to promote the mini chain’s new menu that features the likes of “lamb phetamine”, “beef injection” and “chick fix”.
139 Club general manager Rod Kelly, a reformed intravenous drug user, had fought hard against the promotion, calling on the community to stop this “irresponsible business owner from placing our children in imminent danger of drugs, addiction and dirty needles”.
In an electronic email sent out earlier this month seeking petition signatures, Mr Kelly wrote: “These syringe pens will find their way to your homes; your children’s pencil cases, your child’s mouths and your children’s school playgrounds. Your children will become desensitised to holding and playing with needles (remember the old fag lolly we all pretended to smoke). Next time they see a dirty needle in a park or on the street they will mistake it for a pen and play with it, put it in their little mouths and guess what? Catch hepatitis C or worse!”
But in an email to Mr Kelly last week Mr Carthew said the plan to letterbox the pens in late October had been scrapped after a series of talks with the club.
“We will continue to use the pens in our store promotions but this will be in a controlled manner and there will be guidelines placed on how they are distributed. Customers will need to request a pen if they are to receive one and they will not be distributed to minors,” he wrote.
“These measures [will ensure] that people do not receive the pen unless they first request one. Secondly, they will not be distributed to children or minors or any other person that may be adversely or detrimentally affected.”
Mr Kelly said Burger Urge was demonstrating community responsibility and a community conscience by allowing adults/parents to determine whether the pen has a place in their home.
“This new promotional direction will also protect the rehabilitated drug user, by giving them a choice, whether or not to come in contact with this trigger-inducing syringe pen.” The 139 Club praised Burger Urge “for the way they have listened and responded to the protest from the community and taken action to ensure that the health, safety and wellbeing of our community is as much of a priority as is, their desire to increase their business”.
In his email to the club, Mr Carthew wrote: “We never honestly thought that a biro-pen resembling a syringe would be of detriment to recovering drug addicts and we never expected parents of children to take issue with it. Syringes are used for a myriad of medical reasons other than to shoot up illegal drugs and we didn’t think that children would be detrimentally affected by receiving them. Everyone we spoke to responded well to the promotion and we didn’t receive any objections from our sample audience or existing customer base.
“Notwithstanding, we have taken on board your concerns and the concerns of others put forward in the past two weeks. While we personally don’t have any problem with the pens, we have never been intravenous drug users so we can never claim to see things from your perspective.
"We accept that the pen may offend some people in the community and we would like to reiterate our intent was never to offend or advocate drug use in any way.”

Job losses in store with online trend


NEWS

His loyal staff have nicknamed him the Doc Father. At work they affectionately call him Dad. Yet Valley businessman Barry Toombes’ days as a much-loved employer may be numbered as his Ann Street shoe store battles the growing trend towards online sales.


Shoes have been sold from his store for over a century, and Barry has retailed new shoes there and repaired old ones since he bought Downes Reliable Shoes in 1985. But the 64-year-old now admits that his days in the trade might be numbered – condemned to follow the trend of nearby fashion, book and music shops that have closed in recent times – but he issues a strong warning to those who think there’s no reason to mourn the loss of yet another old-fashioned retail outlet.
“In five years time if this trend [to online buying] grows, unemployment in Australia is going to go sky high,” said Barry, who says he has seen his sales dip by up to $10,000 a month over the past year as on-line sales eat into his earnings.
And his store manager Leah Fischle chimes in: “And there won’t be kids having jobs after school either.”
If you think Barry is upset about what is happening to a business he has devoted decades to, Leah and his other staffer Chloe are close to ropeable, especially store manager Leah. The cusswords fly as she talks about the unfair advantage of online selling sites including the store’s own wholesale suppliers of their Doc Marten and Blundstone products, and the air just gets a little bluer when she talks about the plugs given by Channel 9’s A Current Affair to an online shoestore that she says is part-owned by Nine Entertainment.
You quickly get the impression, though, that Leah and Chloe are far more concerned for their boss than their own jobs down the track. “Barry is a great employer,” Leah says. “He pays us above the award and really looks after us. Yet he hasn’t made a fortune. In fact we’re going to struggle to give him a pension-sized income when he retires. It makes us sad that after being so generous to the community, now it looks like he won’t get back what he has given over the years.”
Barry says that his wholesale suppliers have offered to provide footwear at lower prices to help him compete with online sites, but with rented premises and two fulltime staff wages to pay this was not a realistic solution.
“We’re expected to put our prices down to compete online but we can’t put our costs down. Rent goes up all the time.”
“They [the federal government] needs to do something about putting a tax on online buying to bring it back a level playing field.”
Leah reckons the number of customers who now come into the store just to get the right shoe or boot size before walking out and buying online is close to 10 per cent. “It’s offensive,” she says.
“They use our expertise and experience and abuse our time.” Leah admits that rightly or wrongly the competition from online sales has giving some retailers a bad name – and some bad habits.
“Online buying has polarised people,” she says. “While some people conscientiously support “honest” business in Australia that promote good service and professionalism, there are other people who perhaps have been jaded by the large department stores. And that is as offensive to retailers that genuinely care about their customers.”
But she does see some light at the end of the tunnel. She says the online threat should make retailers lift their game, and that would see a return to supporting traditional shop outlets that provide good customer service.
“If we can last that long,” Barry adds.

War of words as cycle scheme turns one


NEWS

Pointscoring across the City Council political divide marked the recent first birthday of the much-maligned CityCycle bike hire scheme. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said that given time, the scheme would prove a success – and revenue neutral – while and the man who wants his job calls it “a complete waste of ratepayers’ money” and has vowed to rein it in.


Cr Quirk argues that the scheme is not fully rolled out, meaning it has not reached a level playing field on which to judge it. It had also been a tough first year with one of the wettest summers in the state’s history and the January floods knocking out stations and RiverWalk, but he was more interested in finding solutions than things to blame.
“CityCycle is about offering people another form of public transport in a bid to reduce traffic congestion on our inner-city roads and while it hasn’t got off to a flying start, 80,000 trips in the first year is nothing to be scoffed at,” Cr Quirk said.
“It’s no secret that something needed to be done to make CityCycle more accessible and we’ve delivered a package of changes that seems to have given the scheme a spark, particularly with daily subscriptions quadrupling since, but it’s still early days. “Let’s not forget a scheme of this size is a first for Brisbane, let alone Australia, and I think CityCycle will grow with pedestrian movements in the CBD set to increase by about 33 per cent over the next 20 years.”
Cr Quirk said to put the total cost of the scheme in context it was equivalent to about one-third of a single road intersection upgrade and he expected it would become cost-neutral over time.
Ray Smith says the scheme’s “continued failure is nothing to celebrate”. “CityCycle is costing ratepayers tens of thousands of dollars every week while the vast majority of bicycles are left unused.
“Anyone with a shred of common sense can see this scheme has been a complete waste of ratepayers’ money,” Mr Smith said. “This scheme was supposed to pay for itself but it’s now costing ratepayers over $2.4 million per year, just to have bikes sitting on the side of the road gathering rust and dust.
“The CEO of CityCycle operator JC Decaux is on record saying the scheme will need 15,000 to 20,000 full-time subscribers in the first two years for it to be successful, but council isn’t even coming close to meeting those targets.
“In his September 2011 Living in Brisbane newsletter, the Lord Mayor admitted there were currently just 1950 annual subscribers to the scheme. “Since day one, this scheme has been plagued by safety concerns, cost blowouts, poor subscription rates and a shoddy implementation.
“The fact that this scheme has needed a full overhaul less than 12 months after opening is a clear admission of failure. “If I am elected as Lord Mayor, I’ll sit down with JC Decaux to stop the waste and renegotiate this contract, because it’s clearly not working under the current arrangements,” Mr Smith said.

I’ll wield stick if need be, says Lord Mayor


NEWS

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is confident that “steely” discussions with the owners of some of Fortitude Valley’s eyesore buildings will bear fruit soon. But he is warning that he’ll force action – with fresh legislation if need be – to make recalcitrant owners bring their buildings up to a suitable standard – both inside and out.


Cr Quirk said that while he acknowledged Walton’s (pictured) and other buildings had been an issue for about 20 years, he was determined as the new Lord Mayor to change that. “My preference is to sit down with the owners of the buildings and see if we can come to a resolution before slapping a new law on them,” Cr Quirk said.
“But I’ve also made it clear during these meetings that if they don’t lift their game then I won’t hesitate to go down that path.”
Cr Quirk said city council was currently investigating ways it could deal with the Walton’s issue under public-safety legislation.
“If people don’t make a choice to lift the standard of the presentation of their properties as they now are I will change the law and force that upon them because the Valley has got to have a future. It’s only going to have a future if it’s presented in a better way.
“There’s been a twenty-year fight going on with a couple of the land owners in Fortitude Valley. I am about to resurrect those fights”. “I have already met with the owners of Walton’s in very recent days and I intend to be meeting with other landholders there. And I believe they have to lift their game.
"There is no question about that if the Valley is going to have a strong future it needs land owners who are prepared to meet their civic responsibilities and at least have a minimum standard of presentation of their buildings. I’m determined to achieve that outcome. I don’t have law on my side but as a civic leader I am going to pursue whatever lever I have available to me to make sure that we get those improvements.
“I think what we’ve seen is the degradation of buildings to a point where they are visually unattractive – completely unattractive. And we need to make sure that they at least take some civic pride in those buildings. We are going to be playing our part in making sure that we upgrade our own services in the Valley but it needs to be a joint effort. And again I say we do not have currently the powers to do this but if it means that I have to change the local law in the Valley to get the outcome that is exactly what I’ll be doing.
“We have had some fairly serious meetings already. We are going to be saying all the things that need to be said to make sure that the property owners understand that we are serious about a lift in the presentation of the Valley. If it’s going to have a future, it’s got to have an improved amenity outcome and that’s certainly what I’m out to achieve.
LNP candidate for the state seat of Brisbane Central Robert Cavallucci says the degraded state of the Valley and the general safety of its patrons, both entertainment and commercial, were one of the highest priorities in the electorate. “I completely support the Lord Mayor’s position and if elected as the State Member for Brisbane Central would fight for this desired outcome.
“I have spent a significant amount of time over the last few months meeting and talking with a large number of Valley stakeholders including property owners, commercial property agents, bar and nightclub owners, shopping boutique owners and local residents to obtain their view and thoughts on what we can do to return the Valley to its glory days. I look forward to continuing these discussion with other stakeholders during my campaign and continuing the process of applying pressure to improve the amenity of the Valley.”

•For a history of the Walton’s building saga, go to: waltons.wikia.com

Can you help? Sure can!


NEWS

If you think you’re going through hard times at the moment, spare a thought for our city’s homeless or troubled youth. Their plight is on the increase, if referrals to the Fortitude Valley-based Brisbane Youth Service are any indication.


“The number of people seeking access to our services has increased by 15 per cent over the last year,” says BYS fundraising and marketing manager Richard Langford. “It’s placing extra pressure on the resources of BYS so anything people can do to alleviate young people’s plights is greatly appreciated.” A
nd right now, there are two ways to help BYS in its work – one that gives immediate relief and one more long term but just as worthy. Each year, BYS as part of Anti-Poverty Week runs its Do the Can-Can project and there’s still time to donate much-needed foodstuffs and other household items before the handout to youth in need on Monday, 24 October.
p to that Monday the service will accept non-perishable tinned or packaged items, as well as baby goods and toiletries to the centre at 78 Berwick Street, Valley. And donations toward the service’s ongoing work can be made by ringing 3252 3750 or going online to www.brisyouth.org and follow the fundraising link.
Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) is a community-based organisation that works with homeless or at-risk young people aged 12-25 years. Now in its 34rd year, BYS has provided long-term assistance to help young people understand their situation and make more positive choices. Its comprehensive services range across several levels of immediacy and intensity from basic needs such as food and showers through to intensive personal support.
The BYS consists of volunteers, specialised youth workers, doctors, nurses and mental health workers among others who assist homeless and at-risk youth in any way, shape or form.


ABOVE: Carrying the can for compassion ... Brisbane Youth Service social media coodinator Angela Wijangco and fundraising and marketing manager Richard Langford.

Where am I?



Our last one proved too hard for many, so here’s an easy one. Tell us where this is for a chance to win a $60 food and drink voucher at the Brunswick Hotel, New Farm.

Email editor@theindependent.com.au to reach us no later than 5pm on Friday 28 October 2011. Or drop us the answer in the post by the same deadline to PO Box 476 Valley Q 4006. Please include a mailing address. All correct entries will go into the barrel for the chance to win the voucher to enjoy some tucker and a glass of something lovely at the Brunnie.

***

Winner of our recent Where am I? was Helen Cook of New Farm who cleverly looked up and spotted the graffiti high above the shoddy Walton’s building in Fortitude Valley.

A bad marketing idea all round

OUR SAY

The adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity will surely be put to the test over Burger Urge’s “taste addiction” promotion campaign. A photo and some pars in the mainstream media, a mention on ABC’s popular Gruen Planet – indeed, the coverage in this edition of The Independent – would on the surface seem like rolled-gold exposure that would take a lot of money to buy.


But the publicity has been far from favourable and time will tell whether the company’s two outlets get a sales boost from a promotion campaign involving what looks like a used drugs syringe and words clearly associated with drug addiction. The campaign against the promotion by the 139 Club was understandable and laudable – The Independent is not so sure about the outcome and the apparent backdown by the owners of Burger Urge.
The 139 Club is claiming a victory of sorts in that the 20,000 pens will not now be letterboxed. And for sure, far fewer impressionable children or recovering drug addicts will see the pens if they are now only handed out at the outlets to customers who ask for them.
But these pens do end up in homes and if just one child’s health is endangered – or one former addict lured back to their deadly habit – by this thoughtless piece of gimmickry then surely that will be one to many. These pens probably cost a lot of money to produce and maybe the Burger Urge people simply could not let go of the marketing concept behind them.
But The Independent believes there was only one suitable course of action if Burger Urge really wanted to show its bona fides as a community-minded company. Once it became aware of the very sensible arguments put forward by the 139 Club and others as to the dangers posed by this poorly considered promotion, it should have been axed entirely.

Enough talk already!

After many years of inaction, some “steely” discussions are not going to force recalcitrant property owners to clean up some of the Valley’s more notable eyesores. That’s the view this paper put to Lord Mayor Graham Quirk in a preamble to some follow-up questions to a media release from him on the issue.


It’s time to stop talking and take action. Cr Quirk appears to fit into the category of pollies who believe that no council legislation currently exists that can force owners to clean up their buildings – both outside and inside. Others argue that existing legislation is poorly worded, with a misplaced comma or some such nonsense.
One pollie and one potential pollie – Grace Grace and Paul Crowther – believe there are laws on the books at present that can be used as a bloody big stick on these owners who clearly have little time for the Valley. We agree with them. Make these owners pay up.
As this paper has stated before, perhaps when faced with such outlays, some of these owners who are simply landbanking while awaiting the price they demand might just be made to settle for something less – and in which case we will all be well rid of them and the Valley can move forward.

Music and murder on the menu

THEATRE

A sure-fire hit featuring 30 sure-fire hits! – that’s the boast from Stage Door Dinner Theatre about its next production Rock n Roll Inferno that plays up at Bowen Hills from 22 October to 24 December.


Damien Lee and his merry band ramp up the jukebox full of classic rock ‘n’ roll that pays homage to the hits of the biggest names of the 50s, including Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Dianna Ross and the Supremes, Connie Francis and Chuck Berry, Through the performance of their songs, and multi-media presentation, the audience will be transported back to the 1950s where they will relive the music, the stars and the era. So pull on the bobby socks with a musical that will burn the floor and leave you wanting more the theatre blurb says. A fantastic idea for Christmas Party bookings and social clubs, it says – and who are we to disagree!

• Bookings to the theatre on 3216 1115.

***

Across town – across the river in fact – Centenary Theatre Group is asking the question: “In Casablanca, can anyone get away with murder?”

Red, White & Boogie
is set in Tanajablanca, a mythical city somewhere between Tangiers and Casablanca, and the story takes place in the foyer of a seedy hotel where a group of shipwrecked survivors are holed up, and an international financier ends up shot, strangled and stabbed.
All of the occupants are horrified, but none of them want the police involved so they decide to sell the body in the Casbah. They wrap the body in bandages to disguise it and throw it out the window for Ali to collect – but the body disappears!
It’s directed by Steve Pearton and features Helene Holland, Andrew Wallace, Jan Lord, Samantha McLaughlin and Joshua Bevan The season runs at the Chelmer Community Centre on the corner of Queenscroft and Halsbury streets, Chelmer from 5 to 26 November – Friday & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm. There’s a licensed bar with plenty of free street parking

• Phone 0435 591 720 to book.

Ambos need crash course in manners

FROM MY CORNER .. with Ann Brunswick

Far be it from me to be critical of the fine men and women who serve in the Queensland Ambulance Service. But this column has from time to time had cause to get a tad grumpy with those who wear the .., er, ... whatever that funny bluish greeny colour of their uniforms is called.


Most particularly it has fallen to me to wag a finger at QAS staff who have been spied by your very own alltime favourite columnist sipping coffee while their vehicle is parked in a clearway just a few metres away.
Well, the other day an ambulance screamed to a halt with siren wailing and lights flashing outside the Queensland Rail building in Edward Street just before 5pm.
The peak-hour traffic parted to allow it free passage, and the ambulance driver thoughtfully puled off the street and onto the footpath where he parked the vehicle and kept its lights flashing.
That is thoughtful, was my initial thought, because otherwise if he had parked on the street the ambulance would have been blocking a bus lane. Not the done thing at peak hour, or other times really.
The vehicle was at that stage actually straddling the entrance and exit lanes of the car park under the QR building.
Well, surely the driver will back the vehicle up or run it a little way forward to unblock the driveway, I thought. But, no. All at once the three-person QAS team leapt from their vehicle, leaving it straddling the driveway.
Sure enough, a few minutes after they had disappeared into the railway station to tend their patient, one car and then another emerged from behind a roller door and under a boom gate from the QR car park only to be confronted with an ambulance blocking the driveway.
The first car was a four-wheel-drive and made a daring manoeuvre by mounting the concrete island in the driveway and squeezing around the back of the ambulance by using the car park’s entry lane.
From my vantage it seemed the driver of the car just squeezed through too. The second car gave up and reversed back into the car park.
Soon a building security man emerged and solved the problem by opening the boom gate and roller door of the car park’s entry driveway, enabling vehicles to exist.
No sooner had a few done so than one of the ambos returned to the vehicle and, with assistance from the security guard, backed it up just a few metres, thereby solving the problem.
Now no doubt tho three ambos had bigger things on their mind when attending an emergency call. But surely they would have known they were blocking a driveway.
If they didn’t then maybe eyesight tests are in order.
Not much harm was done in this instance, but if the emergency had been of another, more serious kind, and the car park was needed to be evacuated, then other problems would have arisen.
As stated at the start of this item, our boys and girls in bluey green put in some hard yards. But they don’t have to make life harder for others, surely.

***

Those who controls our state and local roads are a special breed. For some time now it has been my belief that any mayor, minister or premier who is presented with a plan by their traffic engineers is likely to be on safe ground if they do exactly the opposite of what the planners recommend.
It is often very simple things that tend to annoy me and raise questions of why they were allowed to happen in the first place.

Take for instance speed limit signs. For some time now a 40kph limit has been signposted in the stretch of Gregory Terrace that runs between the two halves of the RNA Show grounds.
At the weekend extra signs were posted to take account of the temporary taxi ranks installed for the Octoberfest celebrations at the grounds and another large expo of some description.
But the odd thing was that in parts one side of the street was signed as a maximum 60kph and the other side of the very same stretch had a 40kph limit.
Our local police would surely not be too happy with that situation, given it would make it near impossible to enforce either speed limit.

***
The “dirt files” saga that engulfed the LNP in recent times has certainly spawned a lot of media coverage, not least in The Courier-Mail, the august paper of record that saw fit to publish them exclusively and in great detail.

It did seem a bit odd to me that the same newspaper which in the past has been known to thunder about the need for higher standards in our political classes, and to bemoan muckraking, chose to devote huge chunks of its print edition to retailing what had been lambasted in its own editorial column as “mud most foul”.
Surely our city’s major Murdoch media organisation would not be motivated by a desire to boost the flagging circulation of its hard-copy version by publishing the files and limiting that publication to its print edition that punters actually need to pay for? Surely not. That would be just a hypocritical and cynical approach to take, wouldn’t it?
That would be the type of tactic used by disreputable Murdoch rags such as the now defunct News of the World. Wouldn't it?
By late last week the story had swung to suggestions that the LNP had dirt files on its own MPs and ex-MPs.
When reading one of the online stories on that aspect I began to see some sense in the LNP having them.
This line on www.news.com.au reflecting a comment by state treasurer Andrew Fraser seemed to suggest a possible motive for the LNP compiling the files: He suggested the files were used to “bring to heel” rouge MPs including Michael Johnson and Aidan McLindon.
Can’t have anyone with that type of predilection in a butch outfit like the LNP, can we?

Passing a law’s one thing: now for the taxing bit

POLITICS ... with Mungo MacCallum

So, amid cheers and jeers and tears and sneers the Clean Energy Australia legislation is finally through the House of Representatives, on its way to a rubber stamp from the Senate. It is a genuine achievement – almost a deliverance. But it’s also the easy bit.


The scenes at Parliament House last week were rather reminiscent of the climax of the 1998 Constitutional Convention, when John Howard announced that the proposal to make Australia a republic would be put to a referendum – a clear case of premature elation. Malcolm Turnbull and his acolytes celebrated what they imagined was a great victory, before waking up to realise that they had been stuck with an unsaleable proposition in what proved to be an unwinnable fight.
And so it may yet prove for Julia Gillard and Labor. Their belief, which in fact is no more than a hope, is that everything will go smoothly; in July next year the arrangements will slide into place and that it will be full steam ahead from there – or full wind power, or full solar power, but at least it will be ahead.
Tony Abbott’s apocalyptic prophecies of doom and gloom will be revealed as baseless, and the compensation packages will bring the voters flooding back to the ALP weeping with gratitude. Well, it could happen; but the political climate will have to undergo truly radical change if it is to be so. For starters, the disenchantment among the voters is not driven entirely by fear and loathing of the carbon tax, although that has been a powerful catalyst, ruthlessly exploited by Abbott.
A significant portion of the electorate has clearly turned off the Gillard government altogether; nothing it now says or does will bring all of those lost voters back. Whether there are enough of them to put the next election beyond Labor’s reach is another question, they constitute a formidable handicap before the race has even started. Second, the prospect of the new tax being implemented without problems, glitches, hiccups, stuff ups and outright disasters seems remote.
Not only does Labor’s record in carrying out its programs inspire little confidence, but the new tax and its infrastructure involve complexities and vulnerabilities that make it uncommonly difficult. There will, of course, be unforseen consequences. But some of the more foreseeable ones include the boundaries: just who pays and how much? And who gets compensated and how much?
There are, inevitably, margins and cut-off points, and those who miss out on what they imagine is their due can be guaranteed to wail like banshees. Then there is the general atmosphere.
The world economy is, to put it mildly, volatile, and some of the volatility is bound to filter through to Australia. And Abbott and his media pack can be relied on to blame the carbon tax for everything – absolutely everything. Every job lost, every reduced profit, every movement of the CPI or of interest rates, indeed every set back of every kind will be the fault of Gillard and her capitulation to the civilisation-wrecking Greens.
And this points up another hurdle: Gillard is yet to persuade the public that she is really, truly committed to the policy. She had to contend with the memory, not only of her pre-election promise that it wouldn’t happen, but of her part in persuading Kevin Rudd to shelve his own plans for action on climate change in 2010. Circumstances, she says, have changed; sure, but the change the punters see is that she was forced to adopt the tax by Bob Brown’s mob as the price of forming government. She must now claim it as her own. Wayne Swan insists that it is Labor to the bootstraps (whatever they are – come on, Wayne, that was Bob Menzies’s line half a century ago) but with Brown triumphantly claiming the credit, his audience will be hard to convince.
And Gillard’s problems are compounded by the terrible shemozzle over asylum seekers. Once again the government has been forced to adopt a policy it publicly disparaged: onshore processing. Never mind the fact that this is the most sensible and humane policy, in place throughout the developed world, sanctioned by international law and practice and, according to the polls, favoured by a majority of Australians, Gillard and her government determinedly rejected it and fought to a dishonourable defeat against the very idea of it.
Now she must implement it and, presumably, defend it. Not only will it be a ghastly distraction and a permanent reminder of the government’s administrative and political incompetence, it will detract further from Gillard’s already suspect credibility.
This is not a promising base from which to launch a campaign to sell a carbon tax, a policy already unpopular with a majority of the population and opposed by some very powerful and not always scrupulous interests. The attempt would be risky even under normal conditions; with minority government facing uncertain economic conditions and a host of other controversial to deal with it looks positively foolhardy.
If Gillard were playing chess the move would be marked as bold but unsound. But she isn’t; she’s playing the great game of politics, where the stakes are high – in the case of climate change quite literally world changing. The carbon tax is not the ideal policy, but it unquestionably a big step in the right direction.
Gillard deserves credit for her guts and perseverance in the face of some of the most vicious and dishonest opposition and abuse any Prime Minister has had to contend with.
If fortune truly favours the brave, she will eventually reap the rewards. But this was the easy bit: she only had to convince three independent members of parliament to back her. Now she needs to convince the best part of 13 million voters. Good luck.

Smith refinds his touch


FILM ... with Tim Milfull

Red State (MA15+)
Director: Kevin Smith
Stars: Michael Parks, John Goodman
Rating: 4.5/5
110-minutes, screening from 13 October

New Jersey-based writer-director Kevin Smith has a very solid reputation for slacker comedies like Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy, and the clever and iconoclastic excoriation of Catholicism in Dogma.


Last year, however, he almost ruined everything with a film whose title says it all: Cop Out. With his new film Red State, the director in some ways returns to his form of almost a decade ago, and in many, many other ways moves into new and very exciting territory.
Treading similar ground as Dogma, Red State takes us into the world of extreme fundamentalist Christianity, where the believers relish the thought of the End Times, and have no problem proselytising a message so toxic that even Neo-Nazis regard them as too Far Right.
These fanatics – and Smith doesn’t shy away from the similarity between his froot-loops and those in the reality of the Westboro Baptist Church – regularly picket the funerals of gay people and soldiers who have been killed in action, the latter because they served a government that “permits” homosexuality.
Through a nightmarish turn of events, three overly horny teenagers become tangled up in the affairs of the Five Point Church and its obviously insane pastor, Abin Cooper (Michael Parks).
Within hours, Cooper and his congregation are the focus of a showdown that threatens to outrank the tragedy wrought by David Koresh in Waco, Texas. On the other side of the compound wall outside the church, reluctant ATF agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) struggles to control a situation he knows will end in bloodshed.
Smith skilfully manipulates our sympathies in Red State, shifting the focus of the story from one protagonist to the next, and constantly keeping us on the back foot, unnerved and horrified at what is unfolding. If this is the direction he’s heading in from here on in, I’ll be one very satisfied fan.



It’s an Oz feast at this year’s BIFF

BIFF 2011

Screening from 1 to 13 November
Various venues


At the time of writing this, my deadline looms, and the official launch of the Brisbane Film Festival is only hours away. Even though I’m on the programming panel for the festival, I haven’t been allowed to see the actual programme yet; but I think it’s a good idea to let you know that by the time you’re reading this, the festival’s schedule will be online in all its glory.

There’s a lot happening this year across several venues – from screenings at the State Library, Palace Barracks and Centro, and for the last time, at Tribal Theatres, which will finally close its doors for good not long after the festival winds up. There will be 50 Australian premieres at BIFF this year, including David Cronenberg’s controversial film about psychotherapy, A Dangerous Method, starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen.
Fans of the band, Kings of Leon will be excited to hear that a documentary – Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon – will be screening at the festival, and I’m sure there’ll be some sort of tie-in with their actual performance in Brisbane during November.
And there’s been a lot of talk about Pedro Almodovar’s new film, The Skin I Live In (pictured above), starring one of his long-term collaborators, Antonio Banderas. Some critics have described this as his best film yet, and this will be a perfect closing-night film for the festival.
I’ll have much more to say about the festival in the next issue of The Indie. In the meantime, check out the detailed festival program online (and start buying tickets!) at www.biff.com.au



THE BINGE
Alfred Hitchcock: A Retrospective screening at GoMA from 7 October to 27 November
Oceans (G) available from 20 October through Hopscotch
The Dead (M) available from 20 October through Hopscotch
Zombie Transfusion (MA15+) now available through Pinnacle Films

There’s a lot happening over the next six or seven weeks in terms of cinema in Brisbane, with BIFF just around the corner, the Japan Film Festival visiting town in early November, the Hola Mexican Film Festival starting in the first week of December, and, courtesy of the Australian Cinematheque at GoMA, almost two months of glorious suspense with their programme, Alfred Hitchcock: A Retrospective.


Screening every existing film he ever made, and featuring all of the episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that he actually directed, this is a comprehensive collection of work by one of history’s most prolific directors, and offers cinephiles and fans alike a rare chance to see Hitchcock’s amazing talent on the big screen.
For more details about the retrospective—and some very tempting live events featuring cocktails, nibblies, and live entertainment, visit http://qag.qld.gov.au/cinematheque/current/alfred_hitchcock
Regular readers will be familiar with my penchant for the undead – not vampires, for gawd’s sakes: zombies – so I keep a keen eye out for new productions about the lurchers and ragers. The Dead, directed by Howard and Jonathan Ford takes a new look at the reanimated, setting their story in darkest Africa only hours after a plague has marooned a US flight engineer thousands of miles from home. It's is worth a look.
Not so impressive is Zombie Transfusion by Steven C. Miller, which pitches some witless teenagers against the slavering hordes. Finally, those looking for something calming amidst the undead storms should watch the French documentary, Oceans, which features some simply staggering imagery.