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Playing with a little flex appeal

Magic is overstating it a bit. Unless, perhaps, you're in a drunken hen's-night mood, in which case the copious displays of male flesh might prove sufficiently diverting in and of themselves. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
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Magic Mike is the latest film directed by the impressively eclectic Steven Soderbergh, whose career has encompassed everything from comedy to drama to biographical movies (he also did his own editing and cinematography under pseudonyms). Written by Reid Carolin, it is apparently based, to some extent, on star Channing Tatum's own experiences working as a male ''exotic dancer'' and the scenes in which he and his colleagues strut their stuff are certainly atmospheric and impressively choreographed if, ultimately, a little repetitive. It's the offstage drama that is a bit disappointing and the film doesn't have enough going on to justify its length.

Mike works by day in construction in Tampa, Florida and, as a self-styled entrepreneur, has other concerns going, including a car-detailing business (of which we see little).

He seems like a decent enough guy with hopes of pursuing his dream, designing custom-made furniture (but is having trouble getting a bank loan).

A few nights a week, however, he shows another side of himself at the strip club Xquisite, joining other buff, bronzed and oiled men who perform on stage for the titillation of the ladies (and the cash said ladies stuff in their g-strings). One night, Mike brings along a young building-site colleague, 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer), and the club boss, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) sees potential. ''The Kid'', as Adam is dubbed, is thrust on stage and, despite his initial awkwardness, is a hit with the ladies.

Mike means well and promises Adam's protective sister Brooke (Cody Horn) he will look after the young man but - no surprise here - Adam soon gets caught up in some of the temptations of the business, which doesn't do much for the interest Mike and Brooke slowly develop in each other.

And ''slowly'' is the keyword. With fairly familiar themes of innocence corrupted and good intentions thwarted, Magic Mike is played out far too ponderously for its own good. Soderbergh spends a lot of time playing with filters and camera angles ensuring the movie has some visual pizzazz, especially in the club scenes. But not enough attention is paid to keeping the story and characters compelling. Boogie Nights, which dealt with some similar ideas, does a far better job.

Still, Tatum is likeable in his regular-guy way, Pettyfer is sympathetic even as his character spirals downward and McConaughey's blend of narcissism, charm and sleaze works well. Horn is low-key to the point of dreariness.

If only Magic Mike had been as lean as its characters' stomachs, rather than as puffed-up as their muscles.

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Writers, please take note

There are times when only a notebook and pencil will do.ONE of the most important projects we are engaged in at the Bleeding Edge Institute for Preserving the Past is the maintenance of the ability of the human hand to form meaningful shapes, using unfashionable implements called ''pens'' and ''pencils''.
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This skill, which is known as ''writing'' - in our opinion a much warmer word than, say, ''texting'' or ''typing'' - was long considered, with ''reading'', an essential element in one's education, vital for the transmission and preservation of knowledge and the literary arts.

Alas, the pen, for so long considered a superior weapon to the sword, has proved to be little match for the keyboard and other electronic recording devices. The beauty of copperplate script, and indeed the very idea of penmanship, survives only among determined hobbyists. The modern hand seems to have suffered from sheer lack of exercise.

It tends to cramp after producing a few paragraphs of comparatively crude and not terribly clear shapes.

The situation is even worse when it comes to shorthand writing. The classic form of the phonetic symbols, developed by Sir Isaac Pitman and refined over more than a century, have all but disappeared, along with the concept of taking dictation.

It might have been expected to survive among journalists, who are forced to record what others tell them.

But a profession that once demanded the study of Pitman's New Era, or its slightly slower relative, Pitman 2000, these days seems happy enough with Teeline, which is simpler to learn but less capable of recording verbatim transcripts of the spoken word. And there is little in Teeline to delight the eye.

There is little logic in this. Relatively few people can type quickly enough to take adequate notes, while recordings have serious limitations.

There are far too many situations when the best choice is a pen or pencil and a notebook.

Given that, and given the modern hand is so easily fatigued by the demands of forming words, the economy of shorthand surely ought to make it even more popular than in the past.

Indeed, Sir Isaac first developed the system as a medium for the recording of personal notes and it won immediate popularity for precisely that purpose.

Ironically, Pitman's - in particular New Era - and the fountain pens and pencils of manual writing have a great friend in another form of modern technology, the internet, thanks to an English woman named Beryl Pratt.

Beryl's Long Live Pitman's Shorthand! website (bit.ly/MmNYsu) and its associated blog are more than a showcase for the efficiency and sheer delight of Pitman's system; they are an indispensable aid for students.

A highly proficient shorthand typist with considerable artistic skill, Beryl was determined to do her bit in ensuring the system she learnt as a young woman survived. The site includes PDFs for ''origami'' booklets of the ''short forms'' (which allow common words to be written with a stroke, curve or circle or two), self-printed practice pads and dictionaries of the most used words in English with shorthand forms. She even offers a shorthand calendar.

On the blog she provides passages for revision, with her bewitching shorthand ''translations''.

If you are a lover of practical writing implements, her recommendations for fountain pens are also worth reading. She uses Noodler's ''flex'' pens, which can be ordered from the Goulet Pen Company (gouletpens南京夜网).

She designs her pages with Serif PagePlus X4. She uses Serif MoviePlus to produce YouTube videos of shorthand writing demos (bit.ly/SUQslg).

She says the idea that New Era shorthand is more difficult to learn is absurd. ''I am sometimes amused, but more often dismayed, by the comments I see that shorthand is difficult and takes a long time to learn,'' she says.

''It has been taught over the past century to countless office workers as the 'easy' option for those not gifted academically, i.e. leaving school at 16 or earlier.''

The main difficulty these days is that, generally, one has to learn online or by correspondence. Swinburne offers a course in Pitman 2000 but for New Era you'll have to check out Brisbane-based Tanya Battel's correspondence course (eliteeas南京夜网.au). Customers for her 22-week course include cadet journalists at The West Australian.

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The harmony of digital music

Orchestre Nouveau conductor Zach Tay leafs through a score of a Haydn horn concerto obtained through the Internet Music Score Library Project.MUSIC is conveyed to us in lots of ways in a digital world, but for the musicians it all begins with the little black dots on paper. Music has a pulse of its own, and these dots and squiggles are moving through their own graceful and melodic revolution.
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Singer-songwriter Missy Higgins is part of the revolution, releasing her new album simultaneously on CD, iTunes and as printed sheet music through publisher Hal Leonard. Meantime, British singer-songwriter Adele, who as a hit-maker trumped the US and European song-production factories that churn out material for Katy Perry, Beyonce, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson and their ilk to win several Grammy awards with her own booming love songs, is perhaps the most downloaded singer-songwriter of the year - for her sheet music, as well as her recordings.

A century ago and through the early decades of the 20th century, hit charts did not mean just record sales or radio airplay. Home entertainment was big business, and the backbone was the home piano - or organ, or even the guitar.

Before records and, later, cassette tapes and CDs dominated the scene, music stores employed music ''pluggers'' to play and sing the latest offerings from the big US sheet-music publishers based in lower Manhattan, in a district known as Tin Pan Alley, to win over potential buyers. The Judy Garland movie In the Good Old Summertime is the perfect evocation of those days.

Music stores were not the only sales point. In the US and Australia, too, the big sheet-music publishers such as Chappell and Alberts would employ pianists and singers to go to ballrooms, hotels and anywhere music was played to plug the latest songs, building up sales in the days when just about every home created music of some sort.

This was also a time when every choir, ballet school or dance academy would employ pianists to accompany the dancers as they learnt their steps or performed. Recorded music all but wiped out this group of performers and their demand for sheet music, but professional ballet and opera companies and producers of Broadway-style musicals still rely on those little black notes and the remarkable people who can decipher them.

So while sheet music might no longer be the dominant force it was, much live music-making is still dependent on the printed page. However, delivery methods are changing and the internet is supplementing those traditional music publishers and stores.

There are dozens of online sheet-music suppliers, most based in the US, as the sheet-music publishing industry was from the 1890s.

One company leading the way is OnlineSheetMusic南京夜网 from the US, with its affiliate program for retailers, Sheet Music Now. OnlineSheetMusic and Sheet Music Now have a library of about 140,000 digital sheet-music titles available for instant downloading and printing. Songs for every genre and instrument are available.

This was the first company to launch a worldwide interactive sheet-music system, and its director, Hal Morton, boasts that its launch, in 1997, was five years before iTunes revolutionised recorded-music sales online.

But forget Tin Pan Alley. Control of print music shifted long ago from New York to California, and OnlineSheetMusic is headquartered in Los Altos about 14 kilometres from Cupertino, where Apple is based.

Visiting the website is a fascinating experience. Piano-vocal-chords arrangements sell for $US4.95 ($4.80) and lead sheets for $US1.95. I visited the site to familiarise myself and found it a breeze to download and print a piece of music using their free sample offerings, choosing a composition by recent Medal of Freedom winner Bob Dylan.

I took an amateur's viewing. Actual buyers of a product can use either ''Instant Print'' for a complete piece of sheet music or download the Online Sheet Music Viewer, which allows you to transpose certain pieces by key, instrument, clef or interval, and print from there. That's everything a professional would need.

And in the digital world, what are the big sellers? The results are surprising, with British sensation Adele rubbing shoulders with Leonard Cohen and Irving Berlin - and with a surprising predominance of religious-themed songs, reflecting American obsessions.

That is the commercial face of downloading. But there are other sites whose creators believe in the freedom of music. Young Harvard Law School student and composer Edward Guo is working assiduously to bring the world of classical music to the masses through his Canadian-based Internet Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), which you can reach via the website imslp南京夜网.

His project is making more than 100,000 scores available, from Wagner to Stravinsky, and the service is proving a boon to many, especially to members of amateur orchestras. There have been some legal issues with copyright holders, though being based in Canada, where copyright lasts only 50 years instead of our 70, does give him some protection. The site has closed three times because of legal issues, but has arisen each time: a musical phoenix. Guo says the world of music must come to terms with technological change.

Here in Melbourne, Zach Tay, director and conductor of local orchestra Orchestre Nouveau, found out a couple of months ago just how useful IMSLP was, when he found there were no sources for an arrangement he needed of the Haydn Horn Concerto No. 1 in D for horn, strings and two oboes.

He checked out IMSLP, where he finds most of the scores for non-copyright concert music, but there was nothing there. So he posted a notice on a web forum hosted by IMSLP. Within two days he had a response from a musician who had the physical printed score. Showing true musician's camaraderie, this musician transcribed to his computer all the parts from the score and sent them in PDF form to Tay. Concert saved, courtesy of IMSLP.

''That's what musicians do for each other,'' Tay says. ''We couldn't pay for that sort of effort.''

The online experience is leaving some room for the retailer. Many buyers of sheet music make their purchase after visiting a dedicated music store or instrument showroom, and here the burgeoning internet business lets stores create an account and instantly buy and print sheet music on customer demand.

Sheet Music Now lets music stores have access to 140,000 titles ready for instant sale, without the need for inventory or even sheet-music racks.

Diligent scourers of the web can find free and often illegal download sites for sheet music, or even digital files to output not onto paper but to computer tablets . But the legal publishers aren't overly worried by the piracy, which they see as analogous to the old ''fake'' sheets of popular songs that used to be circulated in loose-leaf books for musicians to improvise around.

Online Sheet Music says that while a digital version of sheet music might be useful for someone such as a school's bandleader who has to travel a circuit, most professionals want to stick to the conventional paper product, even if it becomes increasingly digitally delivered. Musicians will always want to scribble and annotate on that paper. And the digital retailer has found that people who illegally download a single song become prime candidates for the legal purchase of a complete printed songbook.

Renowned french horn virtuoso Barry Tuckwell is technologically alert, but simply cannot imagine doing without old-fashioned paper as he teaches and takes part in international masterclasses and seminars. He agrees that while the revolution is here, past practices can't be dropped easily.

This is the sort of digital revolution that enriches the future while respecting the heritage of the past.

Would that all the digital revolutions we're living through be so harmonious.

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

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Marilyn’s mysterious last days

IN THE strange, lost days before her death, Marilyn Monroe remained mostly indoors digesting good news, bad news and large quantities of chemicals. The good news was that her career appeared to be back on song, with a satisfying deal to make two new pictures for 20th Century Fox. The bad news was that she was struggling more than ever with the depression, bordering upon despair, that had brought her to a state of wretched dependency.
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In the 50 years since that night, Monroe has ascended to a state beyond myth, beyond rhetoric, beyond celebrity itself.

Monroe found it easier to stay inside her modest, Spanish-style bungalow, conveniently sited for visits from her Los Angeles psychotherapist, Ralph Greenson, and her friend the raffish English actor Peter Lawford.

In the early hours of August 5, 1962, Greenson, whose other clients included Frank Sinatra and Vivien Leigh, arrived at the house, summoned by an anxious call from Monroe's housekeeper. When no one answered the door, he peered through the French windows and saw the actress's naked body on the bed. She was 36.

Already the most written about woman in history, she is the subject of several new books being rolled out for the 50th anniversary, and the Monroe industry grows with every year. Jamie Salter, head of Authentic Brands Group, which acquired the rights to Monroe's image last year for an undisclosed sum, calls her "the most iconic personality on Earth".

Yet for all the chronicling and investigation, no entirely convincing account of her death has been established. Admittedly, a life as chaotic as hers was unlikely to have a tidy conclusion, yet every credible theory put forward to explain it - including the favoured one of an accidental overdose - is riddled with questions, doubts and contradictions.

The countdown to her death began in late July, when Monroe set off for Nevada gambling resort Lake Tahoe with Lawford and his wife, Pat - the sophisticated, movie-struck younger sister of President John F. Kennedy - on Sinatra's private jet.

Neither Monroe nor the Lawfords particularly wanted to go. Monroe was facing a career crisis having just been fired from the production of Fox's Something's Got to Give on the grounds of her chronic unreliability. Even a house-party invitation from US attorney-general Robert Kennedy, with whom she was rumoured to be having an affair, was rejected on June 13, with an enigmatic note reading: "Dear Attorney General, I would have been delighted to have accepted your invitation … unfortunately, I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights of the few remaining earthbound stars. After all, all we demanded was the right to twinkle."

Lawford, though, was reluctant to turn down Sinatra. The Rat Packers, once close, had drifted, and Lawford saw the trip as a chance to mend fences. Sinatra was his hero and, to some extent, his meal ticket. "If Frank wants us there we have to go," he told his wife. She reluctantly agreed - as long as their friend Monroe came too.

Sinatra was a lot keener to see Monroe than he was the Lawfords. The pair had had an affair the previous year and, although Sinatra had realised there was no future in it, he remained, like almost every other man who had been part of her private world, more than a little in love with her. The reports he had heard of her life disintegrating worried him. He wanted to know more. And, if possible, to help.

Instead of a mercy mission, this last weekend in the actress's life would be the one that pushed her over the edge.

The plane touched down on Saturday, July 28, and that afternoon Monroe went to the Cal Neva Lodge, a ritzy gambling and entertainment joint, co-owned by Sinatra.

Accounts of her condition differ. Singer Buddy Greco remembered: "When she arrived you'd never believe that she had a care in the world. I was sitting with Frank and Peter Lawford outside Frank's bungalow when a limousine pulls up and this gorgeous woman in dark glasses steps out. She's all dressed in green. I thought: 'My god, what a beautiful woman. No taste in clothes, but a beautiful woman.' ''

Others recall it differently. "When Frank saw her he was pretty shocked," says Joe Langford, Sinatra's Tahoe security aide. "As soon as he had got her settled in he was on the phone with her psychiatrist and started in on the guy, 'What the hell kind of treatment are you giving her? She's a mess. What is she paying you for?' ''

What no one disputes is that by showtime that evening, Monroe was in a state. Witnesses describe her as angry, confused and clearly under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As tended to happen, everybody wanted to meet her, to share her magic and, as also tended to happen, Monroe couldn't cope with it.

By now Sinatra was alarmed. According to witnesses he feared she might die at Cal Neva. The embarrassment would be too much. "Get her out of here," he ordered. So they did. On the Sunday night, Monroe returned alone to her bungalow in Brentwood. As far as is known, she did not leave it again.

Yet the next few days brought a stream of encouraging news. On August 1, Fox rescinded her sacking from Something's Got to Give. To complete the studio's capitulation, it agreed to replace the director, George Cukor, who had found Monroe impossible to work with - the last straw was her leaving the set to sing ''Happy birthday, Mr President'' at John Kennedy's 45th birthday - and offered her a contract for two further movies worth $US1 million.

Two days later, Life magazine published a long, sympathetic interview, pulsing with Monroe's wit and core intelligence, and conveying the sense of a woman who had triumphed over a lifetime of bad breaks and a heartless Hollywood.

"I never quite understood it, this sex symbol," she mused. "I always thought symbols were those things you clash together!

''That's the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing. But if I'm going to be a symbol of something, I'd rather have it sex than some other things they've got symbols of! These girls who try to be me, I guess the studios put them up to it, or they get the ideas themselves. But gee, they haven't got it. You can make a lot of gags about it, like they haven't got the foreground or else they haven't the background. But I mean the middle, where you live."

One of the very last people to see her alive was Lawford, a hard-drinking charmer who had turned his back on the English upper classes to become a Hollywood actor. The much talked about relationship between the pair was almost certainly platonic. At least, his wife seemed to have no worries about it, saying that Lawford saw Monroe as more of a helpless child than a temptress.

August 4, the last full day of Monroe's life, is almost impossible to decipher. Dozens of people have either claimed or been alleged to have visited her bungalow. Among them are Bobby Kennedy, mob boss Sam Giancana and various FBI men who were investigating her relationships with politicians and organised crime.

One person who was definitely there was Eunice Murray, her housekeeper, but Murray's accounts of what happened are so varied and contradictory as to be near-meaningless. Almost certainly there was a visit from psychotherapist Greenson.

About midnight, Murray, who had been installed by Greenson as Monroe's helper and confidant on the, as it turned out, untrue basis that she had a degree in psychiatric nursing, saw a light under Monroe's bedroom door. She says she knocked to check that all was well, and upon receiving no answer called Greenson. He arrived within half an hour and, after seeing the body on the bed, broke in through the French windows.

The conspiracy theories have been raging ever since, implicating the Kennedys, Lawford, the Mafia, the studio honchos, the Sinatra set and the FBI. All have been aided by the absence of medical proof of the cause of death.

The autopsy was, to put it mildly, cursory. Few proper tests were done, basic records were not kept and vital organs were destroyed. Such evidence as remains suggests that Monroe's body contained large doses of barbiturates and sleeping tablets. If she was not murdered, the only credible alternatives are suicide or accident.

The case for the first is weakened because she was clearly looking forward to getting back to her movie, and the positive tone of her magazine interview suggested that whatever the ups and downs of her life, she had no intention of ending it. Tape recordings she made for Greenson - now lost but substantially transcribed by John Miner, a district attorney who investigated her death - are surprisingly upbeat and suggest she felt the therapy was working.

A further piece of evidence is a cheque she wrote the day before her death, for a chest of drawers. While people contemplating suicide will sometimes make extravagant, last-minute purchases, psychiatrists say this one, for a mundane piece of furniture costing $228, more likely suggests she saw life continuing in an everyday fashion.

Which leaves an accident as the most likely possibility. Yet even this explanation isn't without its problems. Monroe, however prone to pill-popping, had a good idea of what was too much, and if in doubt had plenty of expert medical advice to draw on.

Half a century later, the fascination lives on. At Crypt 33 in the Westwood Memorial Park, the flowers are piling up, and visitors drawn from all over the world by the approaching anniversary leave notes and cards of fondness and regret.

Monroe was the child of a brief, unhappy relationship, shunted around foster homes, ignored, abused and seemingly destined for a life of ordinariness until, one day, while at work in a factory, she was spotted by a photographer who said: "You're beautiful."

It is doubtful that the myth would have endured had she lived on, found the right man, had children, landed those late-career character parts as someone's grandmother and still been with us at the age of 86. Long gone, she may be, but she retains the "right to twinkle".

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Pies: We don’t fear tank probe

COLLINGWOOD president Eddie McGuire says the Magpies would have nothing to hide if an AFL investigation into whether Melbourne tanked spread to other clubs.
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The Demons could know as early as today whether they will have a case to answer after Brock McLean, who sparked the re-opening of an investigation into the Demons' controversial 2009 season, was interviewed by the AFL's integrity department yesterday. The AFL would not comment last night.

If McLean was able to substantiate his allegations that Melbourne's priority was not to win games late in the '09 season, and the directive came from club powerbrokers above coach Dean Bailey, then it's likely those people would be investigated.

Bailey was interviewed and cleared of any wrongdoing last year.

Carlton coach Brett Ratten yesterday revealed he had been interviewed twice by the AFL over tanking rumours, and cleared.

It has long been speculated the Blues lost matches late in the '07 season in order to secure Matthew Kreuzer in the national draft.

If an AFL probe is widened, it could include other clubs. In 2005, the Magpies put players into surgery early and lost their last eight games, allowing them to draft Scott Pendlebury and Dale Thomas.

McGuire said the Magpies had not been interviewed about their actions that season and said the club had nothing to fear. ''I don't think we had much in our control that year. We had injuries left, right and centre,'' he said.

''Why would there be anything to hide? Our seasons are all on record, they are all there. It's a bit staggering this has come on the back of Brock McLean, when we had an investigation and quotes [last year] from Dean Bailey. I don't know what they [the AFL] are hoping to achieve from this.

''It apparently didn't happen, they had their investigation; move on. I would have thought the next thing we should be looking at is fixing up the match review [panel] and the score review system going into the finals.''

Former Carlton assistant coach

Tony Liberatore said in 2008 the Blues had tanked late in the '07 campaign, but recanted that allegation when interviewed by the AFL.

Ratten said he had no concerns about being interviewed by the AFL over the allegations. ''They've investigated Melbourne, they've investigated us,'' he said.

''I got investigated twice in regards to this so I've gone through that procedure and the AFL have ticked it off. They've done their findings behind the scenes and everything's clear. If the AFL want to speak to anyone at any time, they've got the right to. They are the chief of the game … and they can call on any person at any time.

''They interview you for a reason, whether it's a rumour, or something's there or someone said something. I didn't find it offensive at all.''

It's understood West Coast was not interviewed about its dismal 2010 when it finished last and was the subject of speculation it had tanked. The Eagles rebounded last year and finished fourth.

McLean revealed this week he had quit the Demons after the '09 season because the club's philosophy had not sat well with him. The Demons lost six of their final seven games and secured coveted youngsters Tom Scully and Jack Trengove in the national draft.

''They don't call it tanking - we would call it experimenting, or whatever it was. It just went against everything I was taught as a kid, taught as a footballer and as a person,'' McLean said.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has maintained tanking does not exist.

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Fumbles put AFL bosses firmly in spotlight

TOMORROW night's blockbuster between Hawthorn and Geelong should be a beauty. And it certainly can't come quickly enough for the AFL, which needs a win far more desperately than either the Cats or Hawks.
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This has been a pretty ordinary little period for league football on several levels, but more specifically the way it is being administered, with this week's re-emergence of the tanking issue just the latest thorny problem to confront the league.

The cumulative bottom line is a football public whose faith in the powers-that-be to oversee the game has been eroded to depths as low as I can remember, at least since the mid-1990s, when the AFL was attempting to merge several clubs out of existence.

There's the tanking controversy that refuses to die. There's continued griping about the various contradictions and the inconsistency of the judicial arm of the game through the match review panel and tribunal.

There's a video referral system for disputed goal-umpiring decisions, which remains clunky, and for which the technology remains inadequate despite it first having been mooted about 18 months before it was introduced. There's increasing grumbles about the injury rate and scepticism about the AFL's methodology in attempting to reduce it, even the veracity of the figures which claim it is, in fact, on the decline.

There's continued and more vociferous complaints about the uneven fixture and the advantages handed those who get to play the competition weaklings twice, plus real concerns from the clubs about the length of the season, the toll taken on players and the quality of the spectacle they're providing.

On that purely aesthetic level, there are a couple of new teams getting ritually smashed, with the prospect of a lot more floggings to come.

And underpinning all the discontent, a deeply rooted cynicism about the AFL administration's capacity to put things right, which - going back to the clumsy handling of the affair involving AFL community engagement manager Jason Mifsud at the start of the season - subsequent events have only enshrined.

The fact the guffawing continues at the league's vigorous denials that tanking has ever taken place shows the stock the public puts in the league's fairly rudimentary ''investigation'' last year when departing Melbourne coach Dean Bailey alluded to the practice. And the decision to investigate further after the Brock McLean revelations seems only to confirm the inadequacy of those initial interrogations.

Match review panel findings are now known as a form of football ''chooklotto'', the head apparently sacrosanct in cases like Jack Ziebell's, not so in this week's deliberations on Scott Thompson.

We've had legislation on the run via the slide tackle controversy, a virtual admission on the tanking front that the AFL hasn't asked enough questions, and, on the lack of competitiveness of Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney, acting chief executive Gillon McLachlan conceding, ''I think we probably underestimated the amount of pain''.

All that doesn't engender confidence they're getting anything much right of late. And one thing the AFL bosses really wouldn't want to underestimate right now is the extent to which they're on the nose with their football public.

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Harvey stays at top of game

Booming... Brent Harvey, 34, and in career-best form.NORTH Melbourne's Brent Harvey is defying his veteran status and continuing to be a matchwinner for the club, and Roos great Glenn Archer believes he can keep it up for a few years to come.
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Since 2005, the 34-year-old has averaged 22 disposals and two goals a game. This year, he stepped that up, kicking 25.5 - the third most goals for the club - with a career-high scoring accuracy of 83 per cent.

''I was thinking to myself, 34, maybe he is coming towards the end, which I have never thought about 'Boomer','' Archer said. ''But he's quickly changed my mind in the past 10 weeks. He's been unbelievable.

''He's one of those guys whose consistency has been amazing. You can't keep him down for too long.''

Andrew Swallow, 25, replaced Harvey - the only Roo from North's 1999 premiership team still playing AFL after Geelong's Cameron Mooney retired last year - as captain in February. But it wasn't a signal the veteran was nearing the scrap heap.

He revealed he had always told coach Brad Scott he would like to play at least one year without being captain, and Scott was happy to support that wish.

But with the Roos looking to make the finals for the first time since 2008, when they fell by 35 points to Sydney in the elimination final, Archer believes there is more than just one more year left in his former teammate's career.

''He'll definitely play next year, and even if he does slow down a little bit the year after, you could always use him as a sub. He'd be a pretty handy sub to come on halfway through the third quarter.''

Archer attributed Harvey's longevity to hard work and good preparation - a combination that he had followed diligently throughout his career.

''He's always been the same, his preparation has always been as good as anyone's at the club, if not better. He sort of set the standard in the late '90s in how to prepare for footy, and I reckon having those good habits as a young kid - and they've just got better as he has got older - has held him in good stead.

''When someone sets the standard like that, they force you to start doing the same sort of things.''

And it seems that North's emerging midfield brigade, including Liam Anthony, Sam Gibson, with Swallow at the helm, has adopted that hardened discipline, which has further lengthened Harvey's career and turned around the Roos' patchy start to the year.

''What helps … is the young midfielders coming through,'' Archer said. ''When you're 34-35, you need to rely a bit on your team to play well as well. It's been great that they have stepped up and helped him out.

''There was a four-week period there that was probably the worst football I have seen them play. And then they have gone from that to the best football I've seen them play. It's been amazing and a credit to them to be able to turn it around quickly.

''When you are playing that poor, some teams turn it around for a week or so then they'll go back to where they were. But they have been able to turn it around and sustain it.''

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High life in the NBN fast lane

NBN seeks verdict on 'wall warts'
Nanjing Night Net

BRUNSWICK in Victoria is no Silicon Valley. Couches and bikes nestle on cobweb-covered verandahs, a bearded twentysomething ambles over the fracturing concrete with his laundry basket, and the tram hums along Sydney Road.

But one year after the national broadband network went live in this hipster hamlet, some locals are starting to upgrade their internet connection, and with it their income.

''We are looking at new cars,'' said David Kofoed, 32, who works from an office at an old hat factory in Victoria Street with business partner Sam Dawe, 32. They call themselves NBN consultants, guiding business and local government through new applications made possible by download speeds of up to 100 megabits a second.

''A year and half ago we were looking at making wages. Now in this financial year it's possible we could see a tenfold increase in revenue,'' said Mr Kofoed. ''It's a very, very exciting time for us. We are on the verge of expanding exponentially.''

They moved in just before the square of 2600 households wedged between Lygon Street and Sydney Road went live last August. It was one of five first-release sites in Australia for the $35.7 billion project (plus about $14 billion going to Telstra) to connect 93 per cent of premises with high-speed fibre-optic cable over the next 10 years. The other 7 per cent will be reached by fixed wireless and satellite.

Mr Dawe and Mr Kofoed began by backing up companies' data in 24 hours that would have taken 150 days on the old copper network. Then they sold video conferencing technology to doctors as the government provided funding for more consultations to be done remotely.

''There are over 20,000 GPs in Australia and each one of those GPs can receive funding from the government for their first Telehealth consultation,'' Mr Kofoed said. ''So there's a huge market.''

The pair heard reports of doctors conducting one-off consultations to receive the $4800 incentive, but Mr Dawe said the government now requires doctors to conduct at least 10 consultations before receiving the full payment.

Mr Dawe and Mr Kofoed now consult on other NBN aspects, such as how people can work from home, saving transport and childcare costs.

This whirlwind year has left them NBN evangelicals. ''It reminds me of when the postmaster-general had the crazy idea of getting everybody's house connected to the copper network,'' Mr Kofoed said. ''I mean, how decadent is that, to have a phone in your house?''

The duo's vim has drawn others to the area. Downstairs, Australia's first NBN internet cafe, Hungry Birds, hosts geeks doing speed tests on their laptops. Art dealer Nick Kreisler live-streams gallery openings next door to promote his web-based business.

So far, so great - just don't mention the hours of illegal film, TV and music being downloaded each evening in these quiet suburban streets.

Caitlin, 26, lives nearby with her boyfriend, Rob, 31. Since getting the NBN they only have to wait 15 minutes rather than an hour to download a film.

''Freaks and Geeks and Game of Thrones, we just downloaded the whole thing and watched it,'' Caitlin said. ''We went through The Sopranos a few months ago. I don't know how I feel about it. It's just so common and so acceptable now that your conscience is removed. Everyone is doing it.''

The NBN is also essential for Rob's business, writing music with a friend outside the NBN area. "We've had clients and they've said, 'OK, you've got an hour', and we've had to fix this track up and then upload it to them. We've had to drive over here to do it, because it's going to take half an hour, an hour at his place because he's got the slowest internet ever."

NBN Co will sell service providers network access at a wholesale price of $24 a month for five years, after which the price will rise at no more than half the inflation rate. How internet companies package their service is up to them.

Rob and Caitlin settled on an $80 monthly plan with a 200-gigabyte quota for downloads, which they have only exceeded once.

They could have got a better deal with a smaller operator (500 gigabytes for $60 a month) but said this offered less flexibility and customer service.

NBN Co's chief technology officer, Gary McLaren, said this was evidence the competitive model for service providers was working. ''That is part of what we expected to happen with some innovating more than others, some probably coming through and being more cost-effective than others,'' he said.

Take-up in the area has been modest, but Mr McLaren said it was early days. ''It is over 15 per cent take-up and this is before we've done any work migrating customers from the copper network,'' he said. ''So these are really good numbers for what we see as an initial stage of a rollout."

One reason given for the slow take-up rate is the high number of rental properties in the area.

Art dealer Mr Kreisler has another theory: ''It's traditionally a working area, so the older people could be less educated,'' he said. ''There are a lot of junkies around here. Even the educated people I talk to are not that interested. They are older intellectual people rather than older tech-boffin people."

Seeing is believing, however, for Methiye Nuka, 71. She helped translate when four members of her Turkish women's group visited Brunswick Neighbourhood House for a computer training course as part of the federally funded Digital Hubs program.

One woman watched a doctor explain her back condition on Turkish TV, others hunted for their home towns on Google Earth, and Ms Nuka headed for YouTube.

"I'm watching Justin Bieber," she said. "He's a handsome boy. The girls are crazy about him. He has a nice voice, he is young, clever, a millionaire."

It was difficult to tell how much of the group's enthusiasm was thanks to the NBN and how much was the inevitable thrill of discovering the internet. But according to assistant manager Anoop Nair, speed matters. ''If it was slow internet, they would look at it and say, 'I give up,' '' Mr Nair said. ''As people get older their patience levels go down.''

Another deterrent is cost. None of the Turkish women had a computer at home.

In response Mr Dawe and Mr Kofoed are working on computers costing less than $50 where processing is done on servers based back at their office. Users will only need a palm-sized device to connect their mouse, keyboard and monitor to the NBN.

And the network is still capable of going 10 times faster with the flick of a switch from NBN Co.

''We are just not releasing it until we've got enough capacity in the back of our network to make sure we don't overload it," Mr McLaren said.

Meanwhile, back at computer class Galsen Gencen, 73, had her hands full. The headset mouthpiece poked her eye, each click of the mouse caused the cursor to splay upwards, and finding the cross to close a browser window resembled threading a needle.

Then her screen went white save for a paragraph of jargon. Ms Gencen leaned back in her chair, and threw up her hands.

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

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Actor stars from go to whoa

DEBORAH Mailman marks the beginning and the end of this year's Melbourne International Film Festival. She is one of the stars of The Sapphires, the movie that opens the festival tonight, and she's also in the closing-night feature, Mental, the reunion of the Muriel's Wedding team of Toni Collette and director P. J. Hogan.
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The Sapphires, based on a true story, is set in the 1960s. It is about four indigenous women who formed a singing group and found their way to Vietnam, performing for the troops.

It was originally a play written by Tony Briggs, who based his story on his mother's experiences. Mailman was in the first stage production in 2004, although she played a different role. On stage, she was Cynthia, the most irrepressible of the four; in the film she's Gail, the eldest, who watches protectively over the others.

Wayne Blair, the movie's director, also goes back to the beginning of The Sapphires; he played opposite Mailman in the stage show.

''It was one of the most challenging productions I'd ever done,'' she recalls. ''But every night, without fail, there was such a buzz when we came off.''

For the film, the cast and crew headed to Vietnam. ''It was wonderful we were able to go there. We had so many different locations. It's a period drama; we were going from country Victoria to Saigon - it's a huge challenge.'' It was, she says, a tight budget. ''But what's great about Australian crews and creatives is that they know how to work that way.''

The Sapphires had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, in an out of-competition screening, an experience whose significance Mailman says she didn't fully understand until she returned home.

The Sapphires is one of nine films eligible for The Age Critics Award, judged by Age reviewers, which goes to the best Australian feature in the festival.

The Age is a festival sponsor.

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Can the Hawks end the hoodoo?

Geelong players celebrate after edging out Hawthorn in another classic earlier this year.1. Is Hawthorn better without Buddy?
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Ridiculous, I know, but a question worth asking at least.

If Lance Franklin's primary role is to score and create scoring opportunities, then consider the past three games that he has missed with his dodgy hamstring.

Against the Bulldogs, Hawthorn kicked a healthy 17 goals, against Collingwood 21 and against Essendon 27. Jack Gunston has relished the extra freedom and responsibility, kicking four, three and three. Pinch-hitters Jordan Lewis (five against Collingwood) and Luke Hodge (five against Essendon) have helped fill the breach.

All three games provided thumping wins and Hawthorn is far less predictable to opponents without Franklin.

At the end of which you have to say that yes, you'd want him to play, but no, it's not a disaster for Hawthorn if he doesn't.

2. Is the MCG coach's box safe?

If coach Alastair Clarkson is demolishing walls when Hawthorn is playing like it has in the past two months, what happens if Geelong gets up tomorrow night?

At that rate Clarkson might be in the market for a sponsor. We can see it now: Clarkson's Anger, brought to you by Knock 'Em Down Demolitions. Cue Clarko punching the wall, and Clarko berating a turnover-prone Hawk (might be hard to find that footage, the way his team kicks the football).

But seriously, which decent coach did not operate on a little bit of fear? Even mild-mannered Paul Roos had the capacity for a sharply delivered spray, and Mick Malthouse and Leigh Matthews could stare a man down at 10 metres. Footy would be less interesting without the Clarksons of the game.

3. Does the streak matter?

Geelong has won the past eight of these encounters since the amazing 2008 grand final. It is a matter of record that then coach Mark ''Bomber'' Thompson implored his players to seek revenge after that shock defeat and they have carried out his wishes even in his absence.

But here is the thing: Hawthorn will have - at our best estimate - only nine players from the 2008 grand final in its team tomorrow night. Hawthorn has rebuilt its list; so has Geelong.

Hawthorn was using a grid defence then that was designed to counter Geelong's quick, corridor ball movement, a tactic that seems ancient now. Geelong has changed too, as forward presses gave the Cats problems and forced them to be more careful with the football.

If you look at Geelong's record since the start of 2007, you can only admire what Hawthorn did that day in conquering the favourite, conceding behinds to slow the game down. As a coaching feat, it is one of the best ever.

4. Which duel is pivotal?

Geelong needs someone, say Taylor Hunt, to step on the supply line usually filled by Sam Mitchell's dinky handballs and chip kicks, but possibly more important is the Hawks' ability to contain Tom Hawkins. Josh Gibson shapes as the guy.

Some of this depends on whether James Podsiadly plays, but the most likely scenario with Hawkins in good form is for Gibson, Hawthorn's best tall defender, to take the Tomahawk.

Hawkins has become the Frankenstein that Geelong had been waiting for, a monster in a pack-marking situation, excellent in wet conditions and a contender for All-Australian honours. Gibson has sensational closing speed and a lethal spoiling fist.

5. How many shots left in the locker?

Geelong has pride. The core of the current group first contended in 2005, when Nick Davis broke their hearts in Sydney. With the exception of 2006, they've been thereabouts ever since. Gravity, the salary cap and the draft ought to have sent the Cats down by now, but they refuse to accept these realities.

Geelong just keeps bobbing up behind its veteran players - Corey Enright, James Kelly, Jimmy Bartel, Paul Chapman, Joel Corey, Matthew Scarlett, Steve Johnson - and the men who have followed, Joel Selwood, Harry Taylor, Hawkins.

It is a culture that makes a nonsense of this week's discussion on tanking. Geelong does not know the meaning of tanking. If the Cats are going down, then it'll be with a hell of a struggle.

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