Game of Thrones’ The Mountain and the Viper recap: You can hear the screams from China

Grey Worm gets his perve on in Game of Thrones S4 E8. The Viper and the Mountain do battle.
Shanghai night field

Comment: GoT shocker pushes fans to limitJB recap: The danger of crushes

Spoiler alert

You are a mean-spirited man, George R. R. Martin.

A vicious, callous, spiteful, petty, manipulative, vindictive, insensitive, possibly deranged, definitely homicidal piece of work.

You don’t just “kill your darlings”, oh no, you stick your thumbs in their precious peepers and make their heads explode like ripe pimples YOU BASTARD.

Oh, it’s all my fault of course. My naivety, beaten and blunted time after time but still there, still holding on.

For example, I’m in China at the moment and responded to a conversation about a “dog market” with a chirpy “Oh, how lovely, that must be where everyone goes to buy new pets!” and then had to have it explained to me that no, that is not what happens at the dog market, so maybe don’t eat that “beef”.

I was going to theme this episode “Well, Everything Is Just F—ed Again” because well, everything is just f—ed again, but then a cooler head prevailed and I realised this episode was all about “The Truth”: searching for it, never finding it, finding it surrounded by lies, uncovering it, discovering its cost.

Also, because the truth is George R. R. Martin has a stupid face and HBO has a stupider face.

Warning: STANDARD WARNING… but change last line to “… or we’ll have your head popped like a water balloon.”

Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper” aka “The Pillar and the Stones”

Let’s start with probably the only nice part of this episode – the blossoming romance between Missandei and Grey Worm.

In an altogether too-brief bathing scene, Grey Worm spies his lovely linguistics teacher as nude as a water nymph, the morning sunbeams bouncing off her smooth skin like so many pepped-up ravers. In what can only be described as a shocking move for Game of Thrones, Missandei then exhibits actual physical modesty, covering her body and prompting Grey Worm to slither under the water.

Danaerys doesn’t think it means anything; after all, the Unsullied are lacking in certain attributes that are generally involved in taking a romance to the next level. But Missandei is adamant there’s an attraction, which leads into a fascinating discussion about exactly what is involved in the creation of a eunuch.

Dany’s euphemism of “The Pillar and the Stones” was genius, and certainly better than any of the GoT-themed ones I could come up with: the Three-Headed Dragon; the Khal and Khalasar; The Wall and Watchtowers; Varys’ Lament.

Missandei tells Grey Worm she is sorry for what he suffered as a child, but Grey Worm replies that if he hadn’t, the course of events that led him to meeting her wouldn’t have been put in motion. Awww. When I finally write my Game of Thrones stand-up routine I’ll probably put in a line at this point about “Well, all men get emasculated in a relationship anyway, he’s just got it out of the way early, AM I RIGHT FELLAS?” but then I’d have to become a stand-up comedian and I just don’t think I have enough self-hatred for that.

Besides, I heard that if you cut a worm in half it grows back, so maybe that’s what could be going on there.

Meanwhile Dany’s comfortable queenly Meereenly life is shaken by the revelation that Ser Jorah Mormont began his time with her as a spy for Robert Baratheon. There was some argy-bargy over the royal pardon clearing him of his past wrongdoings as a slave trader; it was dated years earlier and Ser Jorah doesn’t claim it as a forgery, but he does believe it’s a Lannister plot. Is that what Tywin meant in episode seven when he said some battles need to be fought with quills and letters?

The result is that for the first time, Dany, so often found staring up into Ser Jorah’s eyes in gratitude for his wisdom, refuses to look directly at him. For him, it was the truth but his truth has now changed; he loves her unabashedly and has been loyal to her ever since her dragons hatched. But for Dany it’s the opposite; built on lies, their relationship can contain no truth.

She gives him the royal GTFO, banishing him from Meereen and her service. What’s to become of Jorah? Back to King’s Landing as Dany says, or some other purpose?

The Wildlings have a purpose: kill, kill and kill again. In the latest of the border raids, the Molestown prostitutes receive quite the skewering, and not of the sort they were expecting.

Only Gilly picks up on what’s going on – despite her confined existence at Craster’s Keep, she’s obviously picked up enough about Wildling warriors to know all hell is about to break loose. She grabs baby Sam and hides, but his cries draw the attention of Ygritte, terrifyingly beautiful in full avenging angel mode.

She discovers Gilly hiding, but the truth is not even she can kill a mother and babe in cold blood. Her one line of dialogue – “Shhh!” – is crucial plot-wise. Her mercy will get back to Jon Snow, and it will further complicate their relationship at a time when Jon needs to be able to kill any Wildling that crosses his path (or so I hope).

this pic now makes sense pic.twitter上海后花园m/D03QXJO0bE— Ygritte (@Ygritte_Wildlin) June 2, 2014

Sam Tarly is devastated by the thought that the Wildlings murdered Gilly and Sam; his Black Brothers try to reassure him that if anyone could survive it would be her. It’s a nice platitude, and they seem to even believe it.

J-Sno and company are drowning their sorrows, not shirtless in a steambath, but with alcohol. Pffft. That’s not going to help the senses when Mance Raydar strikes, but sometimes the pain of the truth needs dulling. How will 102 Night’s Watchmen hold back the wildling tide?

Theon/Reek’s time to shine has arrived, as Ramsay Snow has him pretend to be Theon again to go and claim Moat Cailin for House Bolton from the Iron Islanders who’ve been holding it for months.

The Kraken Kommander in charge of the besieged castle retains some pride, literally spitting blood at the idea of surrendering. Theon/Reek/Theon is on the verge of cracking up when the Kraken’s head is cracked open, and his troops pledge to give up the castle in exchange for their lives.

But Ramsay Snow is as morally bankrupt as an adulterous cane toad who’s quitting a lucrative high finance career to go into politics. He has them all flayed, then trots off to present his Daddy with the prize.

Roose Bolton, looking more grizzled with every episode, points out that with Bran Stark likely dead, the huge expanse of the North is now his. He then bestows legitimacy on his bastard son, christening him Ramsay Bolton. I know it had been coming, but it still pained me to see it. That cruel, twisted beast getting rewards for inflicting such pain and terror.

The whole host marches on, towards another castle in the distance – Winterfell? It looked like it, and it would make sense for Roose Bolton to claim the seat of the warden of the North but it looked a lot less smoke-and-fire damaged than last we saw it.

To the Eyrie, where Petyr Baelish (boo! hiss!) is explaining Lady Lysa’s death away to a panel of Vale nobles as a suicide. He’s not completely convincing, mainly because no matter what he does, everything about him is skin-crawlingly creepy.

Sansa is called before the panel to testify, and the whole process is like watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. She tells the truth about her captivity in King’s Landing, her treatment at the hands of the Lannisters, her liberation at Littlefinger’s hands and attracting the sudden hatred of her aunt.

And it’s only because the truth of what happened to her is so horrific, so unrefutable, that she can begin weaving in lies, filter them through her tears, where they wash out as truths. Baelish only kissed her on the cheek; Lysa stepped through the Moon Door herself. All lies; yet all utterly compelling truth.

In a satisfying yet vaguely discomforting role reversal, Sansa puts herself in charge of Baelish’s fate for the first time. Those eyes, looking at him, dropped the biggest truthbomb of all – “You now owe me, bitch” – it was beautifully played.

When Littlefinger questioned Sansa as to why she helped him, her slow, deliberate answers lead him to the realisation that her survival instinct has been so battle-hardened it has now become self-interest. “Better to gamble on the man you know than the strangers you don’t”, a strategem she could have picked up from Littlefinger’s own “How to Be a Creepy Machiavellian Bastard” handbook.

Robin Arryn is packing it at the idea of being packed off to learn how to become a proper lord, but Baelish insists it’s what he needs. And sure, I don’t like violence against children, but I also can’t get too much of a rage on for the inevitable well-placed knife that’s surely bound for young Robin’s throat.

The lords have also been spurred into action – for too long the Vale itself has been cocooned, but with the right leadership it could blossom. It’s frankly a giant metaphor, which can only mean one thing: the rise of Sansa Stark, Uber-Bad-Ass-Take-No-Prisoners Lady of the Vale.

Sansa is now a true player in the Game of Thrones pic.twitter上海后花园m/BbNhcfTdzv— Tyrion Lannister (@GoT_Tyrion) June 2, 2014

Speaking of metaphors, Tyrion spends his last moments before the trial by combat indulging in one of his own.

He and Jaime reminisce about their cousin Orson, left mentally disabled by a childhood accident, who spent his days crushing beetles in the garden. Tyrion tells his brother about his incessant quest to understand why Orson needed to smash so many tiny creatures, what the point was of all that destruction.

Of course the point is there is no point. It’s no accident Orson chose beetles – a creature of which there is an endless supply, and therefore has no value. The families of Westeros, the armies of men, they all bully and crush and pound and destroy and keep doing it until they themselves are kicked to death by a mule.

Tyrion is about to find out if he’s the crusher or the crushee.

Yes, it’s time for The Big Fight, the one that’s been coming ever since Oberyn Martell pitched his tent in a King’s Landing whoredello.

The Prince of Dorne was confident enough, snogging his paramour Ellaria with vigour, swigging wine and dismissing Tyrion’s concerns that his light leather garments weren’t quite armour-y enough.

“Today is not the day I die,” he says.

As an aside – was that Oberyn’s favoured brothel boy polishing his, um, spear? And would it be possible that this expert in poisons would have dipped the, um, tip, in something deadly? It would give him certainty that the Mountain would die no matter what happened to him.

“Today is not the day I die.” https://t上海后花园/bCcbtuJAgD#TheMountainAndTheViper#OberynMartell#RedViper#[email protected]— Game Of Thrones (@GameOfThrones) June 2, 2014

The fight itself was an exercise in the sublime versus the ridiculous: Oberyn with his balletic leaps and pirouettes, his sunspear turning steel circles in the glinting sunlight; while the Mountain clanked and clanged like a metal Golem.

Martell’s speed and agility give him the upper hand, and his repeated mantra about his beloved sister Elia -“You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children” – gives a sense of righteousness to the whole proceedings.

There are grins of relief all around as Oberyn strikes a near-fatal blow. It seems like finally a good guy, a character just new this season but so awesome we feel like we’ve known him a lifetime, has finally achieved the just revenge we all desperately want.

BUT NO.

“You can’t die yet, you must confess”. No, no, Inigo Montoya, you know the Mountain is guilty. Just finish him. You don’t need a confession, you just need his blood.

“Who gave you the order?” he cries, distracting himself and pointing at Tywin Lannister, who remains stone-faced in his chair.

It’s fatal.

The Mountain sweeps Oberyn’s feet out from under him, knocks his teeth out in a shower of blood and pins him to the ground. The Mountain may be dying but he is still strong enough to dispatch Oberyn in the same unimaginably sickening way he murdered Elia – popping his eyeballs with his thumbs and then squeezing the brains from his head.

My screams of despair and disbelief were pretty much the same as Ellaria’s – I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. Oberyn was a hero, and heroes don’t die in one-on-one challenges with thoroughly evil villains.

But this is Game of Thrones, and heroes are flawed. Oberyn’s flaw was to put so much store in the confession he forgot that this was not the day he was to die. And thus it became so.

And then, as a final insult, Tywin rises to pass the sentence of death on Tyrion, who has never looked more shocked.

Next week is the notorious episode nine, when traditionally Bad Things Happen. But how do they top this? If Oberyn was the character to kill this season, then surely that’s done now? I mean, you can’t kill Tyrion… can you?

Yay! Best Moments

Arya bursting out laughing after finally arriving at the Eyrie, only to be told her Aunt Lysa – who was going to pay for her freedom – had died just three days before. The girl really knows the right way to really freak out a bunch of soldier lackeys. It was a beautiful release, as Arya revelled in not only the irony of the situation, but the way in which it utterly messed up her captor the Hound’s plans.

Please, please, PLEASE let Arya and Sansa reunite next episode. PLEASE. I need something beautiful to happen, and given that Jon Snow still refuses to get his abs out then it must be the sisters doing it for themselves.

Zing! Best Lines

“Come Reek – I’ll be needing a bath.” Ramsay Snow celebrates his promotion with some wet work.

Oberyn: “Size does not matter when you are flat on your back.”

Tyrion: “Thank the Gods.”

Ewww, gross

While I am delighted that Sansa is finally becoming the Uber Bad Ass I always knew her to be, the sight of her in one of Angelina Jolie’s Maleficient costumes gave me the willies.

Boo, sucks

My name is Natalie Bochenski. You killed my Inigo Montoya, George R.R. Martin. Prepare to die.*

*Not really, that’s a bit over dramatic, but I am still very very cranky.

Continue reading

No joke: Satirical Colbert Report more informative than actual news, study finds

Stephen Colbert has proven more informative than the news, a US university has found. Trevor Potter explaining how to set up a Super PAC on The Colbert Report.
Shanghai night field

Satirical news program The Colbert Report did a better job of teaching viewers about the role of money in politics than actual news, a university study has found.

Researchers discovered that viewers who watched host Stephen Colbert set up a Super PAC (Political Action Committee) during the last election were better informed about campaign financing than viewers of dedicated news channels and programs.

The study – conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenburg Public Policy Centre – tested the audiences of Colbert’s popular Comedy Central show against those of network news bulletins; cable news channels such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox; and talk radio and newspapers.

It found The Colbert Report served as “an extended civics lesson”, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In 2011, Colbert decided to explore the murky world of campaign finance regulation by setting up his own Super PAC called “Amercians for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”. He also created a shell corporation to accept anonymous donations.

Colbert made the segment a running feature, inviting former Federal Election Commission chairman Trevor Potter to explain the workings of his entities to viewers.

At one point, the pair discovered Colbert could receive funds anonymously from anyone via his shell corporation, transfer the money to his Super PAC – then legally claim the shell corporation had made the donation.

“What’s the difference between that and money laundering?” Colbert asked Potter.

“It’s hard to say,” Potter replied.

The study’s lead author, Bruce W Hardy said, there are two reasons why “Colbert did better than any other news source at teaching”.

“First was the narrative structure,” Hardy said in a statement. “He walked us through creating a Super PAC and every episode was a continuation of that story. And second was the use of humour and satire.”

Colbert Report audiences increased their knowledge of political funding at a quicker rate than audiences of other media. They were also more confident that they were well-informed.

The study notes that while it may be difficult for some news outlets to replicate Colbert’s tactics, they can adopt his broader approach to better engage their audiences.

“If other shows can effectively present complex issues using a humorous narrative, viewers may become better informed about the issues and more engaged in the political process,” the authors argue.

During the 2004 US presidential elections, The Colbert Report’s Comedy Central counterpart The Daily Show, hosted by Jon Stewart, attracted more viewers aged 18 to 34 than Nightline, Meet the Press and all the network news broadcasts. But Stewart rejects the notion that viewers rely on him for news, even if they find his program informative.

“Our show would not be valuable to people who didn’t understand the news because it would not make sense,” he has said. “If we were your only source of news, you would just watch our show and think, ‘I don’t know what’s happening’.”

Stewart said that his young viewers, living in an “age of osmosis”, get their news from many different sources.

The Colbert Report will finish at the end of this year, with Colbert due to succeed David Letterman as the host of The Late Show on CBS.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly has predicted that conservatives won’t watch Colbert on CBS because he has alienated them by satirising the right.

O’Reilly claimed that Stewart, in contrast, “mocks both sides, even though he is a communist sympathiser”.

Colbert’s on-air persona is inspired partly by O’Reilly himself.

Australia and its politicians have received occasional scrutiny from programs such as The Daily Show. A segment by Daily Show correspondent John Oliver, about the success of Australia’s gun control laws, won an Emmy last year.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott was roasted on Oliver’s new program Last Week Tonight.

The Daily Show airs 6.30pm weeknights on Foxtel’s Comedy Channel. The Colbert Report follows at 7pm. 

[email protected]上海后花园m.au

Continue reading

Clive Palmer blows himself to smithereens with spiteful attack on Peta Credlin

Clive Palmer deserved to be called out for his attack on Peta Credlin. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Clive Palmer
Shanghai night field

Clive Palmer

Clive Palmer has been called out for his sexist attack on Peta Credlin. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Palmer under fire over remarks about CredlinJames Massola: Palmer’s comments have embarrassed only himself

It is tempting, from time to time, to imagine Clive Palmer becoming so puffed up with self-importance that, like an over-inflated balloon at a party or Monty Python’s corpulent Mr Creosote taking the last dinner mint, he explodes, leaving nothing but the slightest evidence that he existed.

Palmer blew into Canberra with all the makings of a merry prankster, sent to entertain us and to fill the void left by the disappearance from politics of characters who could grab and hold the public imagination.

Why, here was a fellow who broke the mould, who spouted the very last thought that came into his head, even if that turned out to be the direct opposite of the thought before that, who turned up to Parliament House in an old Rolls Royce designed to ferry royalty and when it broke down, rolled up in a brand new Bentley (and on Monday, squeezed himself into a Mercedes gull-wing sports car).

He snoozed through question time when he felt like attending and merrily caused the Prime Minister sleepless nights with threats to detonate the budget. Amusing old Clive.

A mere chance meeting between Clive and Malcolm Turnbull over slow-cooked duck and caramelised banana split with coconut ice-cream evolved, among fantasists across the land, into the makings of a leadership crisis.

Palmer, however, will struggle for dinner companions from now on, for he turns out to be what we all should have suspected.

He’s a buffoon.

How else might we explain a parliamentarian who attacks a woman for wanting a baby; a woman, moreover, who has revealed the pain of discovering that it might be beyond her destiny and who has reached for the hope of IVF, so far unsuccessful.

We don’t need to explain it, or to add to the discomfort of Peta Credlin, even if she is more capable than most of looking after herself. As the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and in a long career in the political firmament she’s seen and survived plenty of tough days and handed out some hard treatment herself to those around her.

But Palmer deserved to be called out for his accusation that Tony Abbott’s government designed its paid parental scheme ”just so that the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff can receive a massive benefit when she gets pregnant”.

What a spiteful, ill-informed (Abbott himself has been talking and writing about his paid parental scheme for years before Ms Credlin became his chief of staff) and plain sexist attack it was, masquerading up as policy debate.

And Palmer knew it, as his following sly comment about Ms Credlin’s alleged role in formulating government policy made clear.

”She’s the top enchilada. She’s the top dog – oh, I shouldn’t say that. She’s the boss. She’s chief of staff. She’s the top person.”

”Top dog – oh, I shouldn’t say that.” Charming.

And then, trying desperately to rescue his position, Clive had the nerve to tweet ”..I’ve not intended to personally attack Peta Credlin in my PPL criticisms. However, no key position in government should escape scrutiny.”

Party’s over. Clive Palmer is a hot-air balloon.

And he’s popped. Blown himself to smithereens.

Follow us on Twitter

Continue reading

Cambodia releases more details on asylum seeker deal with Australia

Phnom Penh: Cambodia has revealed its authorities will investigate the backgrounds of refugees Australia plans to send to the impoverished nation and will insist they must sign consent forms.
Shanghai night field

The country’s foreign minister, Hor Namhong, has also confirmed to Fairfax Media that those who come to settle in Cambodia must be approved as genuine refugees under the 1951 Convention on refugees.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has meanwhile indicated progress in talks with Cambodia at a party room meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, saying: “The discussions are going well but we have not yet reached an agreement.”

In the same meeting Foreign Affairs minister Julie Bishop said Cambodia was an “aspirational nation “that was determined elevate itself from poverty.

Refugee advocates predict many of the about 1000 people Australia has slated initially to be sent to Cambodia from the tiny Pacific Island of Nauru will refuse to settle in South-East Asia country, raising doubts about the effectiveness of the controversial agreement.

Asked whether the refugees would be forced if they refuse to come to Cambodia, Mr Hor Namhong said “the express consent of the individual refugee must be respected”.

“Refugees must fill up consent forms including the personal data forms (and) submit them to the Cambodian competent officials for examination before resettlement,” he said.

It was not immediately clear how Cambodia would conduct the background checks on refugees from Nauru.

An asylum seeker on Nauru said earlier this month that refugees on the island will not agree to travel to Cambodia, one of world’s poorest nations where strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled with a iron-first for decades.

“People come to get protection from Australia . . . why would they go to Camboda?” said the man who was in Australia for medical treatment.

“It’s not a developed country. It is poor. It cannot look after refugees.”

Mr Hor Namhong said talks with Australia were in the “final stage” after authorities in Phnom Penh sent the Abbott government a draft of the agreement.

He said a memorandum of understanding and operational guidelines would be put in place but declined to give details.

“The refugees’ permanent and voluntary resettlement in Cambodia is fundamentally undertaken on the humanitarian spirit,” Mr Hor Namhong said.

Asked whether a greater presence of international agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would be required in Cambodia, Mr Hor Namhong said “the presence and support by any humanitarian organisation or agency such as the UNHCR is welcome and appreciated”.

The UNHCR has only a two-person office in the country where some of its leaders, including Mr Hun Sen, were themselves refugees who fled the ranks of the murderous Khmer Rouge rule in the mid-1970s.

The Australian government has not made public any details about the plan that has prompted a storm of criticism from Cambodian and international human rights groups, non-government organisations and Cambodia’s opposition parties.

The refugees will be expected to assimilate into a society where 40 per cent of people live in poverty.

They will have no rights to be transferred to another country.

Virak Ou, chairman of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, earlier this month accused Australia of irresponsibly exporting its own problem.

“We mistreated our own people and have failed to protect the human rights of our own people . . . we don’t have the capacity or the will,” he said.

“There’s no reason for Australia to believe that Cambodia will protect the rights of refugees, which to me is very irresponsible of Australia.”

Cambodia’s opposition Sam Rainsy described the deal as a “disgrace”, saying Australian money would be diverted into the pockets of Cambodia’s corrupt leaders.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemned the agreement, saying Cambodia was a vulnerable nation still recovering for years of civil war and was unable to provide for its own people.

However, the UN’s deputy high commissioner for human rights, Flavia Pansieri, said the UN would be willing to provide “support to ensure that standards are met”.

Of 68 asylum seekers or refugees already living in Cambodia most are desperate to be relocated to another country, welfare groups say.

They have not being given work permits so they cannot work officially and they cannot open bank accounts or send money overseas, meaning laws and regulations will have to be changed to give greater rights to any refugees arriving under the Australian agreement.

With Sarah Whyte

Follow us on Twitter

Continue reading

Leo Seemanpillai took his own life as he gave up hope of refuge

Remembrance: Leo’s Australian ”mum” Cathie Bond (centre), Sue Longmore and Veronika Quinton. Photo: Justin McManusLeo Seemanpillai met his new ”mum”, Cathie Bond, almost a year ago on a cold night in Geelong.
Shanghai night field

Cathie, a retired art teacher and volunteer, was handing out ”welcome packs” to new asylum seekers, distributing food and toiletries, undies and socks, ”to give them some dignity”.

Leo was her helper at each house, unloading the car and interpreting. The 29-year-old had been on the Bellarine Peninsula for a few months and although barely settled in his new life, he wanted to help others. Cathie drove him home.

”On the way there – and this was typical of Leo – he rings ahead to his friends, ‘Get the tea ready, get the biscuits out!’,” Cathie said.

They didn’t stop talking until Leo took his life last weekend, pouring petrol over his body and setting himself on fire. He was taken to hospital on Saturday night and died Sunday morning with burns to 90 per cent of his body.

”Sometimes he would need to talk about his worries,” Cathie said, ”and we would go and sit in the park down at Eastern Beach and watch the ships go by.”

Cathie would translate his letters from Department of Immigration. (The seal never failed to ”terrorise” his heart.)

She did her best to assuage his fear and panic at the thought of being sent home. She took him to doctors and counsellors. Their friendship went both ways.

”He was such a caring, gentle person,” Cathie said. ”The first question he would always ask me is, ‘Mum, have you had lunch? Have you eaten?’ He was fastidious, and he always wanted to clean my car.”

Cathie came to know his story through delicately managed conversations. Strangers often bluntly ask asylum seekers to tell their story, but she knew not to barge into his biography uninvited.

Leo was born in the north-east of Sri Lanka in the midst of a civil war. His family were farmers. During the worst of the bombings, his father wrapped baby Leo in banana leaves and hid him in the jungle.

The family fled to India when Leo was around five, to a refugee camp in Tamil Nadu. It was a way of life he described as ”always cold, always hungry”.

He was there for more than 20 years.

He visited Sri Lanka once to see family, but was imprisoned and tortured for a short time before returning to the camp. He went home once more, but only to board a boat for the Cocos Islands, then Indonesia and finally to Darwin.

Four months of detention followed, and then resettlement in suburban Belmont.

Leo quickly joined the Tamil community, and although raised Catholic he developed deep friendships in the Lutheran and Baptist churches in Grovedale.

On a bridging visa and allowed to work, he found a part-time job two days a week at an asphalting company, cleaning greasy trucks.

He volunteered in an aged care home. He gave blood regularly. He sent money every month to an orphanage in the Indian refugee camp where his parents remain.

But in recent weeks Leo learnt that two men in a very similar situation had been taken back into detention. He also knew that more than 1000 Tamils have been returned to Sri Lanka, where they face persecution. And he was aware of the Sydney man who self-immolated in April.

”Such is the terror of being sent back,” said Cathie. ”They know they will be picked up within days. They’re totally vulnerable.”

Leo was an organ donor, and in his death he has given one lung and one eye, his kidneys and liver, to Australians who need them. More than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil on Sunday night at the Uniting Church in Queenscliff.

Cathie is now taking care of the friends Leo lived with in Newtown. They are too afraid to speak.

”People can cope with many things that are painful,” said Veronika Quinton, who also knew Leo. ”But if you take away their hope, you virtually wipe their soul.”

A memorial service will be held for Leo Seemanpillai at St Mary of the Angels in Yarra Street, Geelong, on Thursday.

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue上海后花园.au

Continue reading

No expense spared reaps its reward

6 Myee Avenue, Strathfield, sold for $2,760,000 – $260,000 over reserve. Photo: Supplied 19 Orchard Road, Chatswood sold for $2,222,000. The reserve was $1,750,000. Photo: Supplied
Shanghai night field

21 The Boulevard, Sans Souci sold for $3,430,000. Photo: Supplied

20 Gregory Street, South Coogee sold for the first time in 58 years for $2,150,000. Photo: Supplied

It was certainly a May Super Saturday for the vendors of 6 Myee Avenue, Strathfield, selling their European-inspired masterpiece for $2,760,000 – $260,000 over reserve.

As the autumn auction season closed on Saturday, it was the second-busiest auction day of the year with 900 Sydney homes listed to go under the hammer. With 568 of the results in by Saturday evening, the Fairfax-owned Australian Property Monitors reported the clearance rate was 78.9 per cent. The highest price paid was $3.85 million for a home at 35 Bonnefin Road, Hunters Hill through BresicWhitney Hunters Hill office. The biggest price paid for an apartment was $2.95 million for an apartment at 5/45 Wolseley Road, Point Piper through Century 21 Coyle & Everett. 

Back to the Myee Avenue, Strathfield auction, in 2011, owner-builders Richard and Rachelle Nader purchased a small red-brick house on the 765-square-metre site for $1.3 million. In the past 12 months, they have demolished it and rebuilt an architecturally designed five-bedroom mansion.

Leaving no expense spared, everything was designer to the point that all their luxurious finishes were handcrafted and flown in from around the globe. Even the toilet has a chandelier.

The grand residence has four bathrooms, marble floors, a French-inspired kitchen, three-metre-high ceilings, a grand staircase, an in-ground pool and a detached summer house with a built-in barbecue kitchen.

The couple said they were a little unsure of how things would turn out on the day but were happy with the result.

”It’s been a really quick turnaround in building this house; we’ve loved living here, it’s a great family home to entertain in,” Mrs Nader said.

”We don’t have far to move. We have another, more luxurious project we are working on right across the road, which we plan to sell in a year’s time.

”After that, we have our biggest project yet, a 1200-square-metre, heritage-listed home around the corner.”

In front of the crowd of 150 with 12 registered bidders, all local professionals, Ricky Briggs from Cooley Auctions took an opening offer of $2.2 million. After a 20-minute intense bidding war between four parties, it was sold.

Strathfield Partners agent Norman So said he knew it would get a fantastic result because he had 120 groups inspect and issued 20 contracts.

”We have a great stock shortage in Strathfield and a high level of demand. That’s why the prices are still high,” Mr So said.

”I expected the property market to plateau out but this has been a great testing ground showing that Strathfield is still strong and prices are still increasing.”

In north Sydney, the 892-square-metre Federation home at 19 Orchard Road, Chatswood sold for $2,222,000. The reserve was $1,750,000. There were 190 group inspections, 35 contracts issued and 15 registrations. The owner of the four-bedroom home sold a similar property two doors up at number 17 earlier in the day for $2,220,000.

In the south, a five-bedroom mansion with indoor-outdoor pool at 21 The Boulevarde, Sans Souci sold for $3,430,000. The house on 993 square metres of land smashed the St George non-waterfront record by $300,000. There were six registrations.

In the east, 20 Gregory Street, South Coogee was sold for the first time in 58 years for $2,150,000. There were five registrations. The house sits on a 746-square-metre block with sweeping ocean views with scope to rebuild.

Continue reading

Frisoli murder house sells for $200,000 above reserve

17 Goodsir Street Rozelle 17 Goodsir Street Rozelle, scene of the Frisoli murders.
Shanghai night field

The lounge room at 17 Goodsir Street, Rozelle. The house sold for $2,265,000, more than $200,000 above its reserve.

The Rozelle house that was the scene of a double murder five years ago has sold for $2,265,000, more than $200,000 above its reserve.

The strong result was a case of the freestanding property’s generous size and a good renovation triumphing over its tragic history.

The former home of the Frisoli brothers, who were murdered in the lounge room in 2009, was purchased by a Byron Bay buyer.

It was one of almost 900 auctions on Saturday, the second biggest auction day of the year so far, and concluding the autumn selling season before next week’s long weekend.

The successful sale may force agents to rethink the impact that material fact laws have on a property’s value, given the Rozelle house sold for a price comparable with similar properties nearby, despite its gruesome history.

In 2009, property developer Albert Frisoli and his brother Mario Frisoli were found stabbed to death in the house’s lounge room by a former business associate of Albert’s, Giuseppe Di Cianni.

Before Di Cianni was sentenced to 30 years in jail last September, the Supreme Court heard he had dressed up in women’s clothes and entered the Frisoli brothers’ home. He first stabbed Mario to death, then waited two hours for Albert Frisoli to return before killing him, too.

Of the 10 groups who showed an active interest in the property at 17 Goodsir Street, three walked away from the sale once they heard about its history – but seven were undeterred by its past, according to agent Adrian Oddi of BresicWhitney.

Six contracts were issued and there were three registered bidders.

There was a strong turnout of inquisitive neighbours and a few local agents at the on-site auction, held at the rear of the property, well away from the front lounge room where the murders took place.

After a slow start and an opening bid of $1.9 million, it took auctioneer Gavin Croft a few minutes to extract a counter bid; this kicked off the competition among the three active bidders, taking the result well past the $2.05 million reserve.

The Byron Bay buyer was on the phone and represented at the auction by a BresicWhitney agent.

”In the end, the open auction format reassured all the buyers that there were other parties interested in the property for its own sake, and that gave them all the confidence to bid competitively for it,” Mr Oddi said.

The house, with four bedrooms, separate living areas and a self-contained studio at the back, would have been marketed at $2.2 million-plus if had not been the scene of the murders.

It was sold by Albert’s children, his de facto partner, Natasha Kourea, and Mario’s daughters.

Earlier this week Mario’s daughters, Shannon and Erica, said: ”In spite of the … tragedy that occurred at Goodsir Street, we still hold some very happy and memorable moments there.

”The home was full of fun and laughter, and pranks and games, and meals and discussions, and just normal family stuff, and we hope that whoever is lucky enough to secure the home – that it will give them lots of happy memories.”

In keeping with decade-old material fact law, all prospective buyers of the Rozelle house were told about its history once they showed interest and, in this case, details were also included on the contract of sale.

The material fact legislation was introduced a decade ago after the 2001 murders by Sef Gonzales of his family in their North Ryde home, and the subsequent sale of that house to a buyer who wasn’t aware of the property’s history.

That buyer only became aware they had bought the house where Gonzales committed the murders after they paid the $80,000 deposit. That deposit was later refunded and the property sold the following year to informed buyers for $720,000.

In 2012, the North Epping house where Lian Bin ”Robert” Xie is accused of allegedly murdering five members of the Lin family in 2009 sold for $766,000, well down on the advertised guide of $900,000 plus leading up to its March auction.

Continue reading

Shares drop as RBA keeps rates on hold

Shares suffered their biggest fall in nearly a month as the Reserve Bank of Australia elected to hold the official cash rate at its record low 2.5 per cent for a tenth month, as was widely expected.
Shanghai night field

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index each lost 0.7 per cent on Tuesday to 5479.7 and 5460.5, respectively. Following the rates announcement the market was pricing the chances of a rate hike in the next 12 months at 20 per cent, compared to a zero chance a day earlier.

Local shares started to tumble minutes after trading began having taken a soft lead from offshore. Shares on Wall Street and around Europe were broadly flat on Monday night, while London’s FTSE added a modest 0.3 per cent, amid expectations the European Central Bank will act to increase stimulus when it meets on Thursday.

The ASX continued to decline in the afternoon despite Asian sharemarkets providing more support. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Japan’s Nikkei were each trading about 0.7 per cent higher when the Australian market closed.

“We are likely to see a cap on the local market around current levels until a catalyst for company earnings comes along,” Morgans stockbroker Stephen Pill said.

“A major theme at the moment is the reaction to last month’s federal budget, with consumer confidence slumping and a number of cyclical stocks, such as ALS Ltd, issuing profit warnings.”

In an accompanying statement to the rates decision, RBA board members upgraded their global growth outlook while welcoming slower house price growth domestically. The RBA also noted the dollar remains high by historical standards, “particularly given a decline in commodity prices”.

In another departure from previous statements the RBA noted that, “volatility in many financial prices is currently unusually low”.

In other local economic news, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the current account deficit almost halved in the March quarter, boosted by record shipments of iron ore and coal.

In China, new data indicated the economy improved in May. China’s official non-manufacturing sector purchasing managers index showed rose to 55.5 in May from 54.8 in April, while the final reading of the HSBC/Markit manufacturing PMI for May rose to 49.4, lower than a preliminary reading of 49.7 but up from 48.1 in April.

Resources giant BHP Billiton lost 0.5 per cent to $36.40 after the company announced plans to slash 500 jobs in New South Wales’ Illawarra region as the company scales back coal mining operations amid a weak commodity price, while the head of its US shale gas operations said cost controls are working.

Main rival Rio Tinto gained 0.7 per cent to $59.65 as the spot price for iron ore, landed in China, edged up 0.3 per cent to $US92.10 a tonne.

Late on Tuesday, June 20 was set as the new meeting date for Westfield Retail Trust shareholders to vote on a controversial restructure with the larger affiliated Westfield Retail Group. Shares in both stocks declined.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation each lost 0.4 per cent to $81.90 and $34.45 respectively, while ANZ Banking Group was unchanged at $33.71. National Australia Bank fell 0.7 per cent to $33.64 as it apologised for a glitch and launched a zero interest credit card promotion in a bid to win new customers.

Retail was the was the worst-performing sector, down 1.6 per cent as an ABS report showed retail sales grew 0.2 per cent in April, missing expectations for a 0.3 per cent increase. Woolworths lost 1.1 per cent to $37.55, while Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, shed 1.3 per cent to $42.98.

Telstra Corporation fell 0.6 per cent to $5.36. Credit Suisse analyst Fraser McLeish

cut his recommendation from “outperform” to “neutral” noting the company’s mobile growth is at risk from price moves by main rival Optus. SingTel-Optus fell 1.2 per cent to $3.31 as it announced plans to boost its 4G coverage and spend more on advertising.

AGL Energy added 0.5 per cent to $15.48 following the release of a report from Australia’s chief scientist that paves the way to the end of moratoriums on fracking in many states, with “strict controls”.

Credit agency Veda Group was the worst-performing stock in the ASX 200, down 5.7 per cent to $2.15.

Rare earths miner Lynas was the best-performing stock in the ASX 200, jumping 9.7 per cent to 17¢.

Building materials supplier CSR, owner of Gyprock, fell 4¢ to $3.34 as it traded without the rights to a 5¢ per share final dividend.

Standards publisher SAI Global lost 1.7 per cent to $5.11 amid speculation Pacific Equity Partners may pull its $1 billion takeover bid after the company said it would open its online data room to other bidders.

Local shares started to tumble minutes after trading began having taken a soft lead from offshore.

Continue reading

Capitals chase Kristen Veal and Carley Mijovic to join Lauren Jackson, Abby Bishop and Stephanie Talbot

The Canberra Capitals will ramp up their bid to build a championship-winning roster as they close in on veteran Kristen Veal and rising star Carley Mijovic.
Shanghai night field

With Abby Bishop signing a new deal on Wednesday and Stephanie Talbot committing to two years with the Capitals, Canberra coach Carrie Graf is starting to build around superstar Lauren Jackson in the hope of transforming the club back into title contenders.

Veal is close to a signing deal to return to Canberra more than a decade after teaming up with Jackson for the Capitals’ first title in 1999, Mijovic has been offered a new contract and Jess Bibby and Carly Wilson are expected to recommit.

Jackson’s comeback Australian season was the big lure for gun recruit and WNBA draftee Stephanie Talbot.

As revealed last month, former Adelaide Lightning forward Talbot has signed a two-year deal to boost her Australian Opals hopes and play alongside Jackson.

“Everyone’s excited about Lauren coming back and the potential of Abby,” Graf said.

“It’s coming together slowly. Other clubs got a jump on us, but we’re coming together and it was just a matter of sorting out things with the University of Canberra and then moving forward.”

The University of Canberra has taken over the Capitals’ WNBL licence from Basketball ACT and the team will be run from the Bruce campus when training begins later this year.

Talbot is the first recruit to take advantage of the education-sport package deal on offer.

The 19-year-old will live on campus at the university and juggle her basketball duties with a coaching science degree.

Talbot has been living in Canberra for three years as part of her previous Australian Institute of Sport scholarship.

She played with the Lightning last season and the former rookie of the year is determined to make her move to Canberra a good one.

The former junior Australian netball representative has set herself a goal of chasing her Opals dreams.

“It’s going to be interesting living with uni students, but I’m used to it and I’ve had to pull myself out of things in the past to focus on sport,” Talbot said.

“It’s going to be great to work with Lauren and learn off her, I’m really looking forward to that.

“I go back to netball now and it’s boring … Hopefully this year we can make finals with the Capitals and get into it.”

Talbot was drafted at pick No.33 by the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA.

It means the Mercury owns the rights to Talbot for at least the next three years, but she won’t go to the US until both parties believe she’s ready to challenge herself overseas.

“It’s definitely exciting, I knew it was a possibility but I never thought it would happen,” Talbot said.

Graf said Talbot’s defensive tenacity set her apart from other rising stars in Australian women’s basketball.

“When you ask a 19-year-old what their strength is and they say defence … that’s what I love,” Graf said.

“She’s a great athlete, gritty, tough and can rebound at both ends. She prides herself on defence, she’s going to have a battle and that’s what makes her different.”

Continue reading

Fresh flavours in Hamilton line-up

OLD HANDS: Fortunate Son owners Andrew Clifton-Smith and Liz Peate. Picture: Simone De PeakHAMILTON’S Beaumont Street has long been a mecca for wining and dining and two new establishments will only add to its appeal. Though the venues are new, the faces behind them bring plenty of hospitality experience to the table.
Shanghai night field

A team drawing on experience from Bacchus and Three Bean, Fortunate Son Public Bar & Dining has opened at 131 Beaumont Street with Andrew Clifton-Smith and Liz Peate at the helm, while long-time hospitality pair Janet and Leo Della Grotta are behind Max’s Restaurant & Bar at 37 Beaumont Street.

Just across the road from the much-lauded Three Bean Espresso, Fortunate Son Public Bar & Dining opened quietly earlier this year.

At first they focused on day trade, offering coffee – using Pablo & Rusty’s coffee and a specialist coffee grinder (MAHLKONIG EK43, for the serious coffee lovers out there) – and a bite to eat, but this week Fortunate Son throws open its doors for evening trade.

Behind Fortunate Son is Andrew Clifton-Smith, the former sommelier and general manager at hatted Bacchus restaurant which closed last year. He may also be familiar to Novocastrians through time spent at Peaberrys, Longbench and Reserve Wine Bar. His partner Liz Peate – often found behind the Fortunate Son coffee machine or bar – was formerly the host of nearby Three Bean Espresso and is studying at the University of Newcastle.

Clifton-Smith told GT they had always contemplated opening their own restaurant and bar, considering sites in Newcastle and even a move south to Sydney. But when the Beaumont Street space under the Boulevard on Beaumont became available, the duo saw its potential and the opportunity to offer something different in Hamilton.

“The aim is to offer something that has been missing from Beaumont Street for a while,” Clifton-Smith said.

“There is a lot happening at the top of town [Newcastle CBD], but I think Beaumont Street is ready to have somewhere to have a good drink.”

Fortunate Son is open from 6.30am for the early risers with cracking coffee and breakfast, flowing into lunch – complete with daytime cocktails – then on to bar snacks from noon. From 6pm, it’s time for head chef Jeremy Salmon, also from Bacchus, to shine. His menu features a spread of smoked, cured, grilled and braised meats, as well as delicious vegetarian options. Think dishes such as ham hock, seared scallop, peas and potato crisp; house black sausage with carrot “brioche”, caramelised onion and quince; beef short rib, chipotle potato, preserved celery and cider-braised pork ribs, brassica greens, black-eyed peas and spoonbread.

Bar snacks (available from noon) include the intriguing jalapeno hush puppies with avocado cream; sake pickled vegetables; chicken liver parfait, fruit and crispbread; and smoked ham terrine, mustard and pickles.

“We wanted to create a casual space where you can come for a good glass of wine, gin or a beer and then move on to food,” Clifton-Smith said. “Somewhere you don’t have to book and plan ahead.”

Already boasting a “great little after-work crowd”, Fortunate Son is the perfect pit-stop for an afternoon drink or aperitif, especially when golden light streams through the street-front windows.

Clifton-Smith and Peate were attracted to the romantic, European idea of Beaumont Street as a cosmopolitan drinking and dining offering.

“I think [Fortunate Son] is definitely filling a void, people can pop in and have a drink before going to dinner, or after work,” he said, adding that the dining and drinking offers steps into a niche vacated by the likes of Bistro Tartine, which used to occupy a site within a stone’s throw of Beaumont Street.

As co-owners, Clifton-Smith and Peate take a hands-on approach to the business, perhaps most of all in their wine and spirit offering.

“It’s definitely stuff I like to drink, especially gins and whiskies which are something a little different to the norm, some rarer, high quality tasty numbers,” Clifton-Smith said.

The wine list – his pride and joy – features new and exciting labels from Australia and France and reflects the sommelier’s interest in organic and biodynamic vineyards.

“I wanted everything on there to be something I’ve had a personal reaction to and I want to be able to keep bringing in new items.”

AT THE former Gourmet Goose site, Max’s Restaurant & Bar has opened with Janet and Leo Della Grotta at the helm.

The couple are well-known to Newcastle diners, having previously being involved in Cafe de Beaumont, Antonio’s, Giannotti’s and Cibo. They still run nearby Pronto Pasta, with plans in the works for the Beaumont Street site. Leo Della Grotta is also well-known as a real estate agent.

Leo told GT that prior to Max’s opening, the couple had resolved not to become involved in further hospitality ventures, but were lured back when the prime site at 37 Beaumont Street became available.

“It was a no-brainer, it is the ultimate venue as far as I’m concerned,” Della Grotta said.

“A major part of Beaumont Street is its outside dining; this has on-street dining, inside dining but it also has a massive courtyard. You can change the dynamics of the place by focusing on one of those three . . . Those three areas increase our scope immeasurably.”

He said the three spaces offered different feels and dining options at different times of the day, from intimate gatherings of family and friends – or even a private wedding – in the tiled courtyard complete with fountains, to more formal business meetings in the restaurant or even a casual drink and a bite to eat relaxing on the lounges at the front of the establishment, taking in the stylish bar with mood-enhancing LED lights. There’s even street dining or, for those keen for an espresso while soaking up the hustle and bustle of Hamilton, bi-fold doors that create a flow from the street into the restaurant and bar.

The venue is a true chameleon.

“We’re not held back to one particular style,” Della Grotta said.

“You want it to be a restaurant? Come in. You want it to be a cafe? Come in. You want to sit down and have a tete-a-tete? Come in.”

As they have in their cafes and restaurants in the past, they’ve created a welcoming space.

“Above all else, customers want to feel at home,” Della Grotta said.

“The most important thing to Janet and myself in these businesses is that people feel at home and feel comfortable . . . they can feel comfortable at coffee, they can have a meal and some alcohol, they can have a big party of some friends, they can have an intimate twosome.”

In news which is sure to please fans of Janet’s food, she’s back in the kitchen at Max’s as executive chef, playing to her strengths in Italian cuisine.

There’s house-baked fruit bread with rhubarb butter, favourites such as pancakes and eggs benedict as well as dishes which push the boundaries such as haloumi, lemon, baby spinach and broad beans on toasted sourdough drizzled with balsamic and olive oil.

Lunch dishes include soup, pasta, salads and more, in addition to a selection of bruschetta.

Dishes that showcase Janet’s skill for Italian cuisine include white anchovy fillets with roma tomato and aged balsamic; sweet pear and prosciutto; and sopressa salami with cucumber and capsicum salsa.

Max’s dinner offering ranges from scallopini veal with broad beans, peas, leeks and potato to Atlantic salmon with slow-roasted roma tomatoes served with fennel citrus insalate, in addition to a selection of salads and sides.

The wine list draws on famous wine regions including the Hunter Valley, Riverina, Victoria’s King Valley, WA’s Margaret River, New Zealand’s Marlborough and Nelson regions and more.

Coffee is from Sydney-based roaster Get Shorty.

Fortunate Son is at 131 Beaumont Street, Hamilton. It is open Monday and Tuesday, 6.30am to 5pm; Wednesday and Thursday, 6.30am to 11pm; Friday and Saturday, 6.30am to midnight; Sunday, 7.30am to 3pm. Call 49610512. Visit fortunateson上海后花园m.au or visit Fortunate-Son on Facebook.

Max’s Restaurant & Bar winter opening hours: Sunday to Tuesday, 7am to 4pm, (private functions available at night), Wednesday to Saturday, 7am to late. Call 49691777. Visit facebook上海后花园m/maxsrestaurantandbar.

Continue reading