Archive for July 2019

The greatest show in rock n’ roll

“It’s like a fairytale,” rasps Keith Richards when asked to describe his five decades as a Rolling Stone. Not the kind of fairytale used to soothe troubled infants, perhaps. But the story of the Stones is as fantastical and familiar as any good fable.
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And it’s true – well, most of it. Richards made up the stories about having his blood changed in a Swiss clinic and snorting his father’s ashes; Marianne Faithfull and the Mars bar is a myth. But the tale of the English blues fans who survived drug addiction, arrests, defections and deaths to become the World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band is one of pop culture’s most cherished narratives.

Pity the filmmaker who has to find something new to say about the Stones. Or, rather, don’t, because Brett Morgen was thrilled to get the gig. When Mick Jagger asked the 44-year-old American to make a documentary to mark the band’s 50th anniversary, he jumped at the chance.

“Mick … wanted to do something cinematic, that felt like a movie,” says Morgen, who premiered Crossfire Hurricane at the London Film Festival in October. “I decided to focus on the transition from scruffy anti-heroes to rock royalty.”

The film begins in 1962, the year the Stones formed, and ends it 1981 when their US tour grossed a staggering $US50 million. Unlike previous documentaries – 25×5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones (1989), for example – the band members don’t appear on camera. Their voices, recorded during 80 hours of one-on-one interviews, comment directly and indirectly on footage culled from every known archival source.

“It was a collective decision not to film the band members,” Morgen says. “I don’t like talking heads myself. They’re great for broadcast journalism but deadly in a cinema. And Mick said he didn’t want the film to be a bunch of old guys sitting in armchairs talking about the past.”

The Stones sound mostly the way they’ve always sounded. Richards is the unrepentant outlaw; Charlie Watts the reticent, uninterested loner. It’s left to Jagger to provide a few surprises – for example, the depth of his feeling about the death of founding member Brian Jones. Drug addiction left Jones incapable of contributing to the music and, in 1969, Jagger and Richards kicked him out of the group. Three weeks later Jones was found drowned in the pool of his country house.

“Brian is still a very charged subject,” Morgen says. “They all have a very different relationship to him and it’s changed since his death. I think Mick feels a lot of regret nowadays. Now he’s a grandfather and nearly 70, he realises they were just kids back then and didn’t know any better. They all did drugs, but Brian was someone who should never have taken them. Mick said to me several times that if he’d had the knowledge he had today, he would have sent Brian to rehab – or the whole band to rehab.”

Once the film was given the go-ahead, Morgen and his team gained access to every piece of film relating to the band. They compiled 1000 hours of footage, some of which had not been seen by the public. There were 40 hours of outtakes from Cocksucker Blues, the notorious feature about the 1972 US tour, as well as unused sequences shot on a short Irish tour in 1965.

“One of my great finds was some home movies the Stones shot during the 1973 Australian tour,” Morgen says. “It was shot by Mick and he’d pass the camera to Keith and the roadies.” That footage, including shaky images of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, is used in a segment discussing the departure of guitarist Mick Taylor in 1974. It is underscored by the band’s ragged ballad Angie.

“One of the interesting things that came through is that none of the guys had any idea why he [Taylor] left. And this is 35 years later. Keith couldn’t remember, Jagger thought it was a stupid decision and Charlie thought it was because he wanted a solo career. Mick Taylor explains it best. He says he was falling into heroin addiction and wanted to protect himself and his family from that scene.”

Some reviews of Crossfire Hurricane have criticised the documentary, claiming it simply recycles old footage and fails to say anything new. Morgen says “about 40 per cent” of the footage is previously unseen and, in any case, such criticisms miss the point. “When you make a film like this, you take all this material and appropriate it and make something new,” he says. “It’s postmodern film making in a way …”

His take on the band’s story is also contemporary. “The narrative I locked onto was the one about role playing – we all have roles to play and sometimes that role can destroy you,” he says. “These guys were cast to play the bad boys, but they were really quite innocent at first. Their hair was probably an eighth of an inch longer than the Beatles. But after Redlands [a drug raid on Richards’s country house in 1967] things started to get serious and dark. The band turned against the press. At that point they put on a black hat and played that role of the bad guys to the hilt. They are almost devoured by the roles they were playing. But the moment Keith kicks his habit, the story resolves itself … they become respectable.”

Morgen’s decision to end the film in 1981 – he says the Stones would have preferred the documentary to cover a broader period – seems to support the idea the band were a spent force after the release of Tattoo You. The director demurs. “They had a 20-year run in terms of creating incredible original material – that’s more than just about any artist that has walked this planet,” he says. ”And while their musical output might have become more sparse, they certainly fulfilled their destiny as the greatest show in rock’n’roll.”

Crossfire Hurricane

ABC2, Sunday, 8.30pm

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

Protection not the answer for car industry: Coalition

The opposition has stepped up its attacks on taxpayer-funded subsidies for the domestic car industry, saying today’s sackings by Ford show the handouts do not work.
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The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said on Friday that the Coalition supported a ”viable” motor industry but he said the government’s policy of subsidies ”have let a lot of people down”.

”I hope that future government policies can be much more efficient,” he said.

Ford in Victoria received a $103 million assistance package from the state and federal governments and its US parent company in January this year.

The federal government’s contribution was $34 million and the state government was believed to have invested about $19 million.

But it is axing 212 jobs at Victoria’s Geelong and Broadmeadows plants due to a slump in large car sales and a production reduction.

The shadow industry minister, Sophie Mirabella, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised Ford would create 300 jobs in return for the $34 million.

“Julia Gillard has broken her promise to create 300 new jobs and broken her election promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Labor has systematically dismantled business confidence and the economic stability that Australia used to enjoy,” she said.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has long opposed such industry assistance and declared on Friday morning that ”protection is not the answer”.

”People are not buying Australian-made cars because they don’t want to buy Australian-made cars, and the cars are not meeting their demands as consumers,” he told the Seven Network.

”The government gave $34 million to Ford in January this year, the prime minister said this is going to create an extra 300 jobs, (now) 340 jobs have gone.”

He says it is up to auto manufacturers to create cars Australian consumers want.

”Any time we go down this protection route, we lose out,” he said.

”The bottom line is we need an efficient car, we need cars that Australians want, and then the motor vehicle industry will survive.”

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union says only 33 per cent of Australian governments’ fleets are from Australian car makers, compared with 66 per cent a decade ago.

The Coalition is yet to unveil its car industry policy but the Industry Minster, Greg Combet, said it would be a ”job wrecker”.

”The manufacturing industry is undergoing significant change, particularly as a result of the high value of the Australian dollar, but Labor is committed to working with the auto sector to ensure it has a strong future,” he said.

Dave Smith from the AMWU said that Mr Hockey’s comments scream of someone out of touch with working people.

”Australians love the quality cars we produce. They may not suit former investment bankers who would only feel comfortable in something from Germany – but for many of us, driving a locally made Ford, Holden or Toyota is a matter of pride,” he said.

”But as a former investment banker, we would expect Mr Hockey to have some idea of how market forces work. If Mr Hockey had such knowledge, he may be aware that the decrease in car sales is clearly a result of the GFC, the high Australian dollar and the tariffs imposed on our cars  – not Australians’ love for our locally produced cars.

”Mr Hockey’s side of politics intends to kill the car industry by cutting half a billion dollars in support. That will result in thousands of job losses and ruin the skills and innovation that feed our manufacturing  industry.”

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

Porn film industry threatens to quit LA

Producers claim Measure B will make it too expensive to make adult films in Los Angeles.Los Angeles has been fighting a tide of big-budget movie and television productions quitting the county.
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Now it may face the emigration of another home-grown industry – adult entertainment.

That’s the spectre raised by some of the hundreds of pornography producers in LA after voters approved Measure B, which requires performers to wear condoms and establishes a permission system for adult entertainment shoots.

The law was advocated by AIDS activists who said it would protect performers from disease.

But the measure has been widely panned in the industry, which says mandatory actor testing for HIV is effective and that the law’s real agenda is to put them out of business.

Although it is unclear how the permit system will work, officials estimate it will cost $300,000 a year to enforce. Industry executives and producers contend that will saddle them with high permit fees and force them to create entertainment for which there is no demand.

“People who enjoy adult films do not want to watch actors using condoms – period. So there’s no market for it,” said industry veteran Larry Flynt, whose Hustler publishing and adult video empire is based in Beverly Hills. “We won’t be doing anything in Los Angeles.”

Flynt said he was already planning to shift more production to Mexico, Arizona and Hawaii. Smaller companies may follow.

“The bill will make it too complicated and too expensive to shoot in LA,” said director-producer Glenn King, owner of MeanBitch Productions. “We’re a small business just like anyone else. If we can’t exist under this new law, we’ll have to look at other options.”

Some porn producers have already threatened to move from the San Fernando Valley to other counties in California, or Las Vegas, Miami or even Budapest in Hungary, Europe’s porn production hub.

“These companies are not going to take a chance of losing sales for the sake of complying with Measure B, so they will undoubtedly up and leave,” said Alec Helmy, the president and publisher of XBiz, a trade publication for the industry. “There’s no shortage of locations when it comes to shooting porn. It doesn’t take a lot of equipment and it’s not like shooting Jurassic Park.”

Christian Mann, the general manager of Evil Angel Video, a distributor of adult entertainment, predicted “a lot of the content we distribute will be shot in Europe or outside of Los Angeles”.

Steve Orenstein, the president of Wicked Pictures, whose company has long required performers to use condoms, said Measure B put a further squeeze on a struggling industry.

“They are going to potentially charge thousands of dollars per shoot so they can manage what we’ve already been doing for 14 years,” he said. “This is a bad time to be doing this.”

Adult entertainment boomed after the advent of home video in the 1980s. A decade ago, economists estimated the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley generated 10,000 to 20,000 jobs annually and had $US4 billion in annual sales.

But declining DVD sales and the availability of free porn on the internet have hammered the local industry. The number of producers in LA has fallen to about 300, from 500 at its peak in 2005, Helmy said.

Although porn production accounts for less than 5 per cent of all film permits in the county, the industry is an important player in the local entertainment economy.

About 5000 adult films are shot in Los Angeles County each year in warehouses and private homes, according to industry estimates. FilmLA, a non-profit group that handles film permits for the city and the county, issues about 500 permits a year for adult entertainment shoots.

“I don’t know how many of the companies will leave but there would be an impact for the region if the adult film industry were to truly pack up and leave California,” said the president of FilmLA, Paul Audley.

The films mostly fly under the radar but occasionally cause a backlash. In 2006, residents of a neighbourhood in Encino complained to officials about an onslaught of porn filming, including during the Easter holiday.

The Free Speech Coalition, the adult film lobbying group that has threatened to file a legal challenge against Measure B, estimates its industry generates about $US1 billion a year in economic benefits to Los Angeles County and employs about 10,000 people. Among them are make-up artists, hair stylists, audio engineers, lighting technicians and other crew members, many of whom moonlight on porn shows to supplement their income from conventional film shoots.

“What’s kept the adult industry at the technical level it’s at is the fact that we’ve got access to all these people who are working on these big pictures,” said Jimmy Broadway, owner of Severe Society Films in LA. “They’re going to have to find other work, or be willing to travel.”


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

Global drug survey to rank Australian use

Party drugs … Australian drug use will be rated in a global survey.Drug and alcohol treatments are on the rise in Australia, new research shows, but little real-time information is available about how, why and what drugs mainstream Australia is using.
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Fairfax Media is partnering with the Global Drugs Survey, created by Adam Winstock, a Consultant Addiction Psychiatrist and researcher based in London, to help create the largest and most up-to-date snapshot of drug and alcohol use in Australia, and how we compare with the rest of the world.

Dr Winstock said last year’s survey, which 15,000 people filled out globally, including 500 from Australia, showed that, for many, drug use was characterised by confusion and dishonesty.

“People are appalling at knowing how their drug use compares to other people,” he said. “My favourite statistic from last year was 20 per cent of people who were alcohol dependent using the World Health Organisation screening tool thought their drinking was average or less than average.”

Nearly 40 per cent of people who had been asked about their drug use by their GP either lied and said they never used drugs, or downplayed their use. About 22 per cent of alcohol drinkers did the same.

The survey is being launched in Australia today, but will also be run in the US, in partnership with NBC, and in the UK, with The Guardian, Mixmag and the Gay Times.

Dr Winstock said he created the project to capture a broader snapshot of drug use than is usually available.

“Most governments are interested in drug use patterns among the sickest and most disadvantaged,” he said. “But that represents a fraction of the people who use drugs”.

Results of the survey have been published in the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and Addiction, and have helped produce a project called the drugs meter, where people can find out how their drug use compares to others.

Research released today shows drug and alcohol treatments have increased in Australia over the past year, with alcohol the drug most likely to get people into trouble.

Almost half the drug treatment episodes in 2010 to 2011 were for alcohol problems, according to data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

There were about 150,500 treatment sessions in that time, up from about 145,600 the year before.

You can take part of the global drugs survey over the next month on this website.

The Australian results will be published exclusively by Fairfax early in 2013.

The survey will ask a range of questions about your use of specific drugs, what happens if you are caught with them, new drug trends and the consequences of your drug use.

It will also ask about the short- and long-term benefits and harms of different drugs.

For example, last year, participants said cannabis had the most short-term psychological benefits, while alcohol had the most short-term social benefits. Alcohol was voted most harmful when it came to short-term physical, psychological and social effects.

Drugs covered by the survey include cocaine, ecstasy, cannabis, ketamine, mephedrone, alcohol, tobacco, “legal highs” and prescription medicines such as temazepam and opioid painkillers.

The survey is anonymous and secure, and takes about 20 to 25 minutes to complete.

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

Mercedes-Benz new model onslaught

Mercedes Benz Mercedes Benz
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Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz is set to unleash its biggest model onslaught in recent history over the next 18 months, with at least seven new models due by mid-2014.

The new model ambush kicks off in December with the hot new B-Class, the B250, which is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 155kW and 350Nm, and can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.8 seconds – quicker than a VW Golf GTI.

The C-Class range will see the addition of the C250 Sport in December, and will be available in all body styles. It has been tuned by Mercedes-Benz performance arm AMG, and gets unique wheels, a body kit, sports suspension and a retuned computer for better performance.

The CLS Shooting Brake hits showrooms in February. Essentially a station-wagon version of the swoopy CLS four-door coupe, the new Shooting Brake will be offered in a range of trim levels, but all will come with a standard AMG styling package including a body kit and AMG wheels. The Shooting Brake versions will cost about $10,000 more than their equivalent sedan variants.

Included in that is the CLS250 CDI, a cheaper diesel variant which will be priced at about $110,000 for the sedan model – a hefty discount off the next-cheapest version, the CLS350 (priced at $159,200).

Possibly the most important Mercedes-Benz model in recent years – the new A-Class, arrives in March. There will be three variants, including two petrols and a diesel from launch. Pricing starts at $35,600.

The hotly anticipated AMG version, the A45 AMG, arrives in August, packing a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with about 250kW of power and 400Nm of torque – it’s likely to push the price towards $70,000.

Mercedes-Benz Australia corporate communications manager Jerry Stamoulis says Australia will get the new A45 AMG just a few weeks after its global launch, and that could mean some problems with supply in the initial phases of its rollout.

The company expects the arrival of the AMG A-Class to increase overall AMG sales by 50 per cent. In 2012, AMG sales have jumped by about 30 per cent, with the C-Class models up by 80 per cent. Stamoulis says the performance arm “is the big success story this year”.

At the other end of the size scale is the new GL seven-seat SUV. It goes on sale in April, and Mercedes-Benz is promising even more standard gear but with a similar price to the current version. Expect it to be close to the current price of $119,270 plus on-road costs for the base-model GL350 diesel.

The facelifted E-Class sedan and wagon go on sale in June. Expect similar engines and more technology, possibly including a few innovations trickling down from the new S-Class.

The E-Class Cabriolet and Coupe will arrive in September alongside the new AMG E-Class model. The company is being secretive about what the new E63 will offer that’ll make it significantly different to the current model, so stay tuned for more.

Mercedes-Benz’s technological tour-de-force, the S-Class, will arrive in November. Laden with several new safety technologies and boasting refined styling and lots of luxury, the new model will wave the flag at the top of the luxury car maker’s lineup.

Last of all for 2013 will be the new CLA. The small four-door sedan – which has been labelled the “mini CLS” by some – will give Benz a stylish new player in the market to sit above the A-Class hatchback.

It may be small in theory, but the new CLA will actually be bigger than the current-generation C-Class at 4.63 metres long (the C is 4.59m).

On the topic of the C-Class, its replacement will land in Australia in 2014. Exact timing isn’t yet confirmed, but the new model is expected to grow significantly compared to the current version, with length tipped to jump by 10 centimetres and width by about 4.3cm

Rumours persist of a new convertible version of the C-Class, which could make its world debut some time in 2014.

While nothing has been confirmed, spokesman Jerry Stamoulis says Mercedes-Benz Australia would be keen to get any new C-Class convertible model.

“The C-Class is so strong for us, we’ll take anything they make,” he says.

The timeline: New Mercedes-Benz models due soon

December 2012 – B250 hatch and C250 Sport in all body shapes.

February 2013 – Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake and CLS250 CDI

March 2013 – Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatch

April 2013 – Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV

June 2013 – Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan and wagon

August 2013 – Mercedes-Benz A-Class A45 AMG

September 2013 – Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe, cabriolet and AMG variants

November 2013 – Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine

December 2013 – Mercedes-Benz CLA small sedan

Mid-2014 – All-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Late-2014 – Mercedes-Benz C-Class cabriolet

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