Monthly Archives: April 2019

New look, same great TV coverage

What excites you about TV? Maybe it’s Walter White (Bryan Cranston) or Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) behaving badly on Breaking Bad and Girls. Or Don Draper (Jon Hamm) brooding on Mad Men.
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Maybe it’s Tony Jones grilling a guest on Lateline or velvet-voiced Dennis Cometti calling an AFL game. What about Scandinavian crime thrillers, Israeli dramas and English cooking shows? What about a newcomer who sends the judges on The Voice spinning in their chairs, or a culinary triumph on My Kitchen Rules?

Television offers a smorgasbord of riches and, in terms of flexibility and variety, there’s never been a better time to view. What was once a limited diet provided by a handful of mainstream channels has grown into a feast. You can watch on a super-sized screen in the lounge room, a phone on the tram, a computer at your desk or a tablet in a cafe tuned to a catch-up website.

However you choose to watch, if you choose well, the experience can be rewarding. That’s where we come in. At the Green Guide, we know there’s a lot to love about TV. And, yes, there’s also shabby stuff that deserves to be rubbished. We can do that too.

For decades, the Green Guide has been an institution at The Age and in Melbourne. It’s celebrated accomplishments in TV and radio, criticised the duds, profiled those who make a difference and analysed industry trends.

The new-look Green Guide will continue to provide the features that readers value: a lively Letters page, a Livewire section looking at the latest in entertainment technology, the Hindsight column, radio and sports columns on alternate weeks, and radio listings.

There’s also the country’s best viewing guide with previews from our experienced team, authoritative film reviews and pay TV highlights.

We don’t always agree about what we like, and you might not always agree with us. But we do know this: when TV is good, it can be great. And that keeps us all coming back for more.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Narratives share the indigenous story

For a television show to clock up 10 years on air is no mean feat. For an indigenous current affairs program plagued by budget cuts, network management shuffles and a prevailing misconception that viewers aren’t all that interested, a decade on air is cause for celebration.
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As SBS’s Living Black celebrates its milestone with a prime-time slot on indigenous network NITV, its face and founder, Karla Grant, reflects on a decade of stories that would otherwise have remained untold.

”It’s been quite a journey,” Grant says from the SBS studios in Sydney. ”When we started, there was no program like ours on television, so we were trying to cover everything – news, art, sport, music, everything under the sun to do with indigenous people and indigenous life and issues. We started doing mini-documentaries and over the years we’ve evolved into a harder-edged current affairs program.”

The 2004 move from SBS’s now-defunct local productions department to news and current affairs was the beginning of a new era for Living Black, and saved it from the axe.

”I really had to fight for the survival of the show,” Grant says. ”I entered into talks with the then head of news and current affairs at SBS, Phil Martin, and I’m forever grateful to him for getting behind me.”

Adopting video-journalism at a time when the only other Australian current affairs show to do so was Dateline, Living Black reporters were able to work within budget restraints and tread softly in media-shy communities.

”We’ve built up a pretty good reputation over the past 10 years,” she says. ”People know we’re not going to just breeze in and breeze out and have no respect. That’s been part of the problem in the past and it still exists. A lot of commercial stations and people from print go into remote communities and they leave a sour taste.”

With family members spread across the Northern Territory and the Tiwi Islands, Grant is welcomed into communities that are often closed to other reporters. Of course, with such privilege comes responsibility.

”I love getting out on location and meeting people at the grassroots,” she says. ”You learn so much and you meet some really lovely people … The show has an important role to play in our society in creating an awareness and understanding of indigenous issues and culture, especially as we head towards constitutional recognition.”

Grant wishes more Australians could see for themselves the plight of Aboriginal people in remote areas.

”When I visit a community and I see 20 people living in a house, I think, ‘What on earth is going on?’ All this money is put into indigenous housing yet we’re seeing people living in overcrowded situations that breed arguments, violence and drinking.

”Then there’s no work in the town, so there’s no employment or education opportunities for these people. It’s a vicious cycle, and that makes me angry. People shouldn’t be living like that in this day and age.”

That it has taken until 2012 for Australians to have a free-to-air indigenous TV network is a matter that still confounds Grant.

”There hasn’t been that commitment from governments in the past to fund a channel like NITV,” she says. ”You don’t see a lot of indigenous stories on mainstream networks because programmers think they don’t rate. There’s been a hesitation to take a chance, but in fact people are interested in indigenous stories – they want to know more.”

Living Black returns on Tuesday, March 12, at 7.30pm on NITV, and is repeated on SBS One at 2.30pm on Fridays and 4.30pm on Sundays.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Inquiry finds flaws in legend of Simpson

An official inquiry has punctured the most popular legend of the Gallipoli campaign by declaring Simpson – the man with the donkey – was not exceptionally brave.
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A Defence Department committee last week found there were no grounds to justify the demand of a long-running public campaign that John Simpson Kirkpatrick be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

But the committee went further to rule that the British-born private was no more gallant than scores of other stretcher-bearers who transported wounded soldiers in the first weeks after the Gallipoli landing in April 1915.

“The tribunal found that Simpson’s initiative and bravery were representative of all other stretcher-bearers of the 3rd Field Ambulance,” the report said.

Simpson – who enlisted under his middle name to hide the fact that he was a deserter from the merchant navy – spent several weeks ferrying wounded soldiers on a stray donkey before he was killed on May 19.

His story captured the imagination of war correspondents and the Australian public, which came to regard his selfless bravery as exemplifying the Anzac spirit. His deeds have since been celebrated in a series of books, films and plays.

But a year-long inquiry by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal heard detailed evidence it was impossible for Simpson to have rescued the more than 300 wounded soldiers whose lives he is widely credited with saving.

Instead, it was estimated he ferried fewer than half that number before his death, all of them lightly wounded and none with life-threatening injuries.

The tribunal was told that there was no evidence in military archives to support the popular belief that Simpson had repeatedly ventured into no-man’s land under Turkish fire to rescue badly wounded soldiers.

One submission detailed how several witnesses whose vivid accounts of Simpson’s bravery have reinforced the legend of the man with the donkey were not even at Gallipoli at the time.

The tribunal ruled Simpson’s bravery had been “appropriately recognised” by a Mentioned-in-Dispatches award made to him and seven other members of the 3rd Field Ambulance in early May 1915. It concluded there were no grounds for him to receive a VC or any other gallantry medal.

Tribunal chairman Alan Rose told a news conference last week that Simpson was “a curiosity” who, having chosen a donkey as his method of transport, was “largely only able to bring lightly wounded men” down from the front lines to the beach at Anzac Cove.

“The judgment by his peers, by his commanders at the time, was that he had displayed considerable bravery but that it didn’t reach the very high levels either for the award of a second or third-level award – a Distinguished Conduct Medal or a Military Medal – much less a Victoria Cross,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Officials broke rules on Zygier as case was flicked to ASIO

Two of Australia’s highest ranking foreign affairs officials knew of the jailing of Melbourne man Ben Zygier – dubbed ”Prisoner X” – in Israel but left his consular care in the hands of spy agency ASIO in clear breach of the department’s own rules.
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An internal investigation by the Department of Foreign Affairs revealed on Wednesday that Dennis Richardson, then head of the department, and then first assistant secretary Greg Moriarty, were briefed by ASIO of Mr Zygier’s arrest on February 24, 2010, but failed to directly inform their then minister, Stephen Smith, or Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

”I don’t think that’s satisfactory. I don’t think it’s remotely satisfactory,” Senator Carr said of Mr Zygier’s welfare being left to ASIO.

The reliance on ASIO to handle the case came despite the agency’s deeply strained relations with Israeli counterpart Mossad – for whom Mr Zygier was working – at the time.

Fairfax Media understands that ASIO and Mossad had a deal not to use each other’s nationals as spies but that the Israelis broke the agreement by recruiting Mr Zygier and at least two other dual citizens. Relations had also plummeted because of Israel’s use of forged Australian passports in the assassination in Dubai of Hamas commander Mahmoud al Mabhouh.

Mr Zygier reportedly killed

himself in December 2010 in Israel’s high-security Ayalon prison, where he was being held in extraordinary secrecy on charges he broke Israeli national security laws.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who ordered the investigation after news of the Prisoner X case broke, admitted that DFAT had been wrong to rely on ASIO, which was in turn accepting the assurances of the Israeli government that Mr Zygier was being well-treated.

While Mr Zygier had 50 visits from his family in prison, and had regular access to his lawyer, DFAT ”did not follow up on the assurances received about Mr Zygier”, other than a brief inquiry by Mr Moriarty, the report states.

Mr Moriarty told the inquiry that Mr Zygier’s dual nationality was ”one, but not the sole, factor in the decision not to make diplomatic inquiries on his behalf”.

Australia’s embassy regulations make clear that the government offers dual nationals such as Mr Zygier the same level of protection as anyone else, stating that ”consular officials are charged with protecting Australians even if they hold another nationality”.

Mr Richardson, a former ASIO director-general who is now head of the Defence Department, declined to comment on Wednesday. Mr Moriarty, who is now ambassador to Indonesia, could not be reached for comment.

The investigation report also raises questions about who in the office of the then prime minister, Mr Rudd, as well Mr Smith’s office, knew of the Zygier case. Both said on Wednesday they had ”no recollection” of being briefed, though the investigation states ASIO informed Mr Rudd’s office and that Mr Smith’s chief of staff, Frances Adamson, who is now ambassador to China, was briefed by Mr Moriarty.

Senator Carr said he accepted the report’s recommendations that there be a clearer set of protocols as to which branch of government would be responsible for helping Australians in such cases in future.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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A lack of clarity of vision

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W e’ve been living with a full install of Windows 8 for three weeks, running on our oldish NEC laptop. There is good news and you know what else. The good news is that 8 has breathed new life into the NEC. It is now up and running in seconds, rather than minutes. If we had a new ultrabook equipped with a solid-state drive, we imagine there would be no lag between pushing the On button and being able to get to work.

All the standard photo-editing programs also run faster, but in appearance and use they are no different from Windows 7 or Vista. There are no native Windows 8 versions of Photoshop, Lightroom or the freebie IrfanView.

This means it is like working in two operating systems simultaneously. One is the new-look ”Modern” Windows interface and the other is the old-style desktop. Microsoft’s attempt to create an interface that functions across all devices – laptops, tablets, phones and desktops – doesn’t really work. But Microsoft is to be thanked for treating customers with respect. We don’t need to buy software for the new operating system.

But that is where the good news ends. Image file handling is a big disappointment. Windows Photo Gallery is supposed to be a match for Apple’s iPhoto but it falls down at the first hurdle. You can’t open a RAW file in Photo Gallery without converting it to JPEG. On a Mac, RAW files are displayed in Preview and iPhoto, can be opened in iPhoto, and after editing can be saved in the original format.

The photo-viewing app in 8 doesn’t even show a thumbnail of a RAW file. And right-clicking on a thumbnail in the photo viewer doesn’t lead to any useful options, such as the elementary choice to open the file in Photo Gallery.

Photo Gallery itself is no match for iPhoto. It conforms to the overly automated conventions of the Modern user interface. There is an editing module with a reasonable degree of user control but the assumption is you can’t be bothered with that – just press Auto-Fix and hope for the best.

So, iPhoto looks and works like a photo-editing program for grown-ups.

The one thing about Windows 8 that is superior to the Apple alternative is no thanks to Microsoft. IrfanView is a free image-viewing file that beats the Mac’s Preview in every way. Unfortunately, there is no Mac version of IrfanView but XnView is almost as good.

Windows Photo Gallery seems to assume a user who is not a serious photographer and thinks shooting RAW means doing it in the nude; their ambition stops at Facebook or Twitter; iPhoto assumes a serious user who wants the on-the-go convenience of a friendly, well-featured photo editor to use as a quick Photoshop alternative. Apple’s way is better.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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