Feature: Mario Bianco

Posted: November 28, 2010 by Jason Rushton in social

Mario Bianco is a young father from Concord with a six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.

The last time there was a big push to legalise euthanasia in Australia in the late 1990s, Mario was outraged. He was quoted in the media, he lobbied politicians and he was outspoken in his local community.

But as a second great push for the legalisation of Euthanasia returns to our federal parliament in 2010, Mario lies in a permanent vegetative state in his family’s lounge room.

His wife Loredana cares for him full-time. On the family’s back-verandah in Concord last week, she shared some of her experiences with Jason Rushton, while Mario sat near by enjoying the afternoon sunshine.

Mario Bianco by Jaserius


For $12 a head, I didn’t expect to get pre-dinner entertainment in the form of a violin virtuoso. But on this particular Saturday night, I did.

I’m a regular at Chinese Noodle House in Haymarket but have never been on a Saturday night. And although the place is the kind of dingy haunt for students and those on a similarly tight budget, that night it resembled more an exclusive club for Sydney’s it crowd. We waited in line for almost half an hour.

Now the service here is nothing short of lacking. A menu is violently thrust in your hand as you perch yourself on a rickety stool outside, waiting for a table, your order taken before you’ve even time to turn the page – I assume in an effort to increase efficiency and turnover. But the soothing sound of strings as the owner moves about the crowd, wooing them with his violin, makes the waiting experience somewhat more bearable.

Once inside, the waitresses make a mad scramble to find somewhere to wedge you in. I don’t advise bringing more than a party of four to this joint – unless, of course, you’re willing to dine facing the old man next to you. Those shaky stools reappear and a table that should really seat two is magically transformed into a four-seater.

But what this place lacks in service and décor, it makes up for in food. Our usual fallback is the boiled pork and chive dumplings ($8.50 for 16) but we limit ourselves tonight to a half serve ($4.50). And there’s a reason we keep coming back just for these: the dough casing is satisfyingly soft and starchy, the filling meaty but not overwhelmingly so, heady with garlic and ginger, and flecked with bright green chives.

Pork & Chive Dumplings.

We also order a half serve of steamed pork buns ($4.50), a regular sight on most Chinese menus. But these aren’t the usual buns made with sugary white fluffy dough and barbecued pork – instead the outside is thinner, less sweet, and the inside the same as the dumplings. They’re tasty but I secretly crave the almost cake-like nature of the old favourite.

Pork Buns.

Hot shredded potato ($9.80) is the next dish to appear, fifteen minutes after the arrival of the buns. That’s the other thing – don’t expect everyone’s meals to come at once. But it was well worth the wait, as this was my favourite dish of the night. Julienned strips of potato are flash fried (I assume, as the potato is only just cooked) in a hot mix of chilli, garlic and shallots. For a giant plate of potato, it doesn’t feel heavy or dull. Although I do advise keeping the complementary green tea close by – the chilli is mouth-numbingly hot and is enough to keep our table silent for a good ten minutes as we gulp down the tea and desperately beg for more.

Hot Shredded Potato.

To round off our feast, we order the peanut chicken ($13.80). For some inexplicable reason, I expect a Chinese take on satay chicken but what we get is far from. The thick, sweet, bordering on cloying, soy sauce that drenches the bite-sized pieces of chicken is almost enough to satisfy our need for dessert. But it’s salvaged by the fresh pieces of green and red capsicum and hidden nuggets of peanut gold. Anything with that much sweetness is usually fine by me, but I can’t help but want a bowl of plain rice to tone it down.

Peanut Chicken.

The bill comes to $36, which confuses us. My maths skills are poor but my mental calculator tells me it should be $4 less than that. We decide not to make a scene – the line has swelled even more and the waitresses are getting increasingly frantic. And anyway, who are we to complain about a measly few dollars for such good food?

Radio News: Students still not interested in cooking

Posted: November 1, 2010 by Gemma Kaczerepa in culture
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Radio news – students not attracted to cooking by gemk

News: Trashcan Dreams

Posted: October 31, 2010 by genevieverosen in culture, entertainment
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Performance Space at Carriage Works is hosting Sarah Goffman’s newest installation exhibition, Trashcan Dreams. Genevieve Rosen reports.

Review: Love Sick

Posted: October 31, 2010 by genevieverosen in culture, entertainment
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The Stills Gallery in Paddington is currently hosting an exhibition entitled Love Sick. Using mediums such as film stills, short clips and digital imaging, romantic narratives are dismantled and re-inscribed as young, female artists are given the opportunity to (re)write their own love stories.

While the works by Mai Yamashite and Naoto Kobayashi, Emma Thomson and Lilly McElroy initially seem hugely dissimilar, they are all conceptually intertwined: ‘normal’ romantically themed scenes slowly turn from everyday to uncanny. Love Sick sardonically portrays fractured fairytales, cracked couples and the monotony of monogamy. Yet it is such blatancy that makes this show exhilarating.

One of the most striking works in the exhibition is Mai Yamashita and Naoto Kobayashi’s film Candy. Two performers vigorously lick a comically oversized piece of candy, shrinking it to its normal size. This becomes a sad yet equally playful message on the nature of long-term relationships – how does such heartfelt dedication descend into mediocrity and disappointment?  The film leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and like a sour goodbye kiss, you intricately analyse it’s meaning.

Emma Thomson’s photographic series, The Homemakers, is the perfect distraction. Capturing disenchantment and detachment, Thomson evokes the frightening realism of young love as she creates windows into forgotten moments rife with unspoken emotions. The Homemakers exposes the audience to ‘everyone else’s’ dirty laundry – His drinking/ her neuroticism. Her promiscuity/ his laziness. His negligence/ her narcissism. Such realism is confronting, but also makes you feel smug. “Ha! We don’t have that problem!” you think, as you move onto Lilly McElroy’s photographic work-in-progress I Throw Myself at Men. The smugness quickly dissolves.

In this self-deprecating performance, McElroy assumes the clichéic desperate-for-love woman. The stills blur the boundaries between pathetic and predatory as McElroy ridicules the culture of feminine desperation. The stills initially appear to resemble scenes from blockbuster romances, however the seedy backdrops of a grimy bars quickly eradicate any possibility that this could be a proposal or reunion scene. And, while McElroy’s flight into men’s arms is coupled with expressions of lust and glee, the scowl on each of her male counterpart’s faces say it all: Lay off, sister.

The virtue of the exhibition lies in its depiction of true-to-life relationships. Naïve, unsuspecting males become victim to manipulative females desperate to live out their own romantic fantasies. The shamelessness, the awkwardness and the recurrent allusions to discontentment give the show integrity as hopes for utopian love stories descend into horrific sagas. The convergence between performance and stills is outstanding in that it confuses truth with fiction while conveying that imagery can be as elusive as love.

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Feature: The best journalism of 2010

Posted: October 30, 2010 by Jason Rushton in culture
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The finalists for this year’s Walkley awards have pushed the boundaries of technology, taboos and tenacity.

122 finalists have been whittled out from more than 1300 entrants, contending across 34 categories for Australia’s most prized media accolade.

The winners will be announced this December.

Jason Rushton was there last week for the nominations in the courtyard of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance in Redfern. With a glass of red
in one hand and a microphone in the other, he caught up with some of the finalists, after they were announced by Peter Charlie and Karla Grant.

Walkley Finalists Push Technology, Taboos and Tenacity by Jaserius

Opinion: The hypocritical world of sports!

Posted: October 30, 2010 by Sara Vincent in culture
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If you read my description in the “ABOUT” section of this site you must be asking yourself: How can a Brazilian woman possibly pass opinion on Rugby and gambling if neither are appreciated in Brazil? But, if you were just drawn by the headline keep reading to understand the journey that made me believe hypocrisy and sport walk together in Australia.

It is easy to see Australia’s love of sport when you turn the TV on at the weekend and all you can see on free to air channels is: AFL, league, union, cricket, horse racing, car racing, golf or some form of Games.  In terms of numbers, recent research done by the ABS found that “Over two-fifths of the Australian population aged 15 years and over (44% or 7.1 million) reported they had attended at least one sporting event during the past 12 months”. My concern though is not with the amount of sports content on Television or with the high number of sport fanatics in Australia, but with the amount of gambling advertisements fans are exposed to when watching their favourite game.

At the beginning of October I watched the Rugby League Grand Final between the Roosters and St George. Five minutes into the game and the TAB sport’s logo appears with a phone number to call, then commentators show the betting odds for the game. During a break, more gambling adverts showing two guys watching the races on TV, being portrayed as winners, another few minutes and a VB logo appears on the screen.

In total there were five gambling adverts and two VB adverts. Almost every ten minutes of the game, the fans who were watching it on TV were shown a gambling or a VB ad. For people who are constantly exposed to it, eight times in 80 minutes might not seem like a lot. But if you are part of the millions of Australians who constantly enjoy watching sports, the amount of people exposed to gambling and alcohol is humongous.

My personal contact with gambling in Australia takes me back to 2005, my first year here. I was in Business College when I met a Korean girl called Lucy. She received money from her parents every six months to pay for her college, and had never been a gambling person before, but since she started living in Australia, she developed a taste for the thrill of betting. In the second semester of 2005, after receiving her dad’s money she went “partying” with friends a few times at star city, and these few casino trips cost her 10 thousand dollars of her college money.

But my continual contact with the world of gambling and sports came when I got a job at a very Aussie pub in Pyrmont, with clients that are on and off heavy punters or ‘retired’ horse racing bookies. I say retired because they go up and down the pubs every single day with the horse racing newspaper section meticulously analysing it, and making notes as if Horse racing is rocket science and not pure Luck. There are also the young rugby league fans who would watch the game, and gamble all throughout it.

I have to say however, that things got more personal when I married a person who works at star city casino. So, the experience of seeing good people gambling away their wages, getting enraged and outraged, borrowing their friend’s money and losing that too got even closer. To me that was incomprehensible. How could something that can potentially destroy your life like gambling be seen by my husband, his friends and probably many people in Australia as a normal and an ‘easy’ money making path?

You can say that drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, junk food if consumed indiscriminately are potentially life threatening. I couldn’t agree more. And that’s why in 1994 the Winfield cup was over, because cigarettes and sports don’t go together. It seems though that even if there’s an estimated 290,000 problem gamblers around Australia and 2 million feel the social and financial impacts of problem gambling, the gaming industry financing sports is more important. This might be because in Australia, gambling is big business having a $18.1 billion expenditure according to a 2008 report released by the Australasian gaming council.

But the most alarming issue is the influence that the over exposure to gambling adverts is said to have for those constantly exposed to it. A study from the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviours found that 42% of youth, report that gambling advertisements make them want to try gambling and 61% imagine or dream about what they could buy with their winnings.

A Policy recommendation to minimize the harm of the Impact of gambling advertisements and marketing on children and adolescents released by the School of Psychology of the University of Sydney , states that : “ The effect of sports sponsorship on children is demonstrated by findings that different cigarette brands were most popular with children aged 12 to 14 in each of the three Australian states surveyed. In each state, children preferred the brand that sponsored their state’s major league football competition”.

Nevertheless, alcohol brands sponsoring sports is the only issue in the spotlight, with National preventative Health Task Force recommending last year, the ban on alcohol sponsoring sports. This year WA health groups and doctors are also getting behind the ban. Rosanna Capolingua, a chairwoman of the State Government’s health promotion arm, Healthway said in an interview for the west Australian that Healthway thinks it is time to look at sponsorship and do what was done with tobacco, and wind back the marketing power of the alcohol industry. However, there’s no sign of even a debate in regards to banning alcohol brands sponsoring sports.

In Australia each state regulates gambling advertising by adopting different regulatory bodies and Legislatory Acts to follow. There’s no regulation in regards to gambling companies advertising on sporting events. As a result the gaming industry continues to sponsor sports and benefit from advertising their product through them.

So, the hypocrisy in the world of sports lies in the lack of Legislation, and the fact that there are no plans for a national debate on why gambling sponsoring sports remains legal, while Tobacco companies were demonized and cigarettes reduced to an evil substance and activity. Likewise problem gambling is a serious issue, and gambling advertising needs to be regulated in order to protect sport’s fans, as well as recovering gambling addicts from being overexposed to gambling content while watching sports.


Feature: Rallying for a cause is out of fashion in Australia

Posted: October 30, 2010 by Sara Vincent in culture

Stop the war coalition, an anti – war group that has been lobbying against the war of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003, is not being able to mobilise large crowds to their anti – war protests. This is despite the fact that most Australians oppose Australia’s involvement in the Afghanistan war. Nine years after the invasion of Afghanistan, it seems that the anti war fervor has died down, on the streets at least. Sara Vincent investigates the reasons why that is.

Feature: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

Posted: October 30, 2010 by carlaefstratiou in Uncategorized

In a world where signs of feminism are fading, Carla Efstratiou peels back the sartorial layers, literally, to discover new ways women are proclaiming their power and gaining control.

Whoever said 21st Century feminism is dead hasn’t been laid in a while. Look under the structured business suit of any seemingly normal woman and there you will see a silent but immensely powerful statement.

Verb: Vajazzling.


Meaning: A bejazzled vagina.

When anonymous blogger, 26 year old Robin Walters, a.k.a Robin Sparkles decided to take the plunge and pay to have Swarovski crystals affixed in a heart shape to her vagina, she didn’t know what to expect. At first she saw the experience as a little bit of fun and a great dinner party anecdote. By the end of the ordeal, nay, adventure she felt empowered, in control and the host of a party in her pants.

A self-confessed attention seeker, Robin loves telling people what she’s hiding underneath her clothes.

“Oh the reactions I get when I tell people I’ve been vajazzled are hilarious, especially from older colleagues. Everyone is so shocked because I work in a very ‘normal’ corporate job, wearing a suit and dealing with very wealthy clients all day, people just don’t expect it….which is the best part.”

The first question Robin is often asked after “Vajazzling?! What is that?!” is, “What on earth would possess you to do that to yourself?”

Robin contrives an almost choreographed laugh, “Yeah I get that question almost daily. I guess I just wanted to prove to everyone, including myself, that body enhancements, whether it be vajazzling or plastic surgery aren’t only for porn stars or insecure teenagers. I think the more mainstream this stuff becomes the more tolerant society will be towards change and different lifestyle choices.

I also felt like I needed to do something completely different, something to shock my boyfriend to spice up our love life.”

For those of you who are still scratching your heads wondering how this is even possible, Robin provides a step-by-step account;

“After my Brazilian bikini wax, Alicia affixed the flair right above my vagina. It came in temporary tattoo form, which Alicia placed on me after first rinsing the area with rubbing alcohol. She used a tongue depressor to push down on the crystals (that hurt) and then I was all set.”

Putting her new, er, accessories to the test later that night, Robin discovered, amongst some itchiness, a whole new side of herself.

“I met up with my boyfriend later in the night and he was bursting to see the new addition. I was so happy with the results so we got straight to it. Seeing his face was priceless, it was a cross between shock and delight, absolutely fantastic.

I felt immediately dominant; my boy was totally and utterly under my control, not sure if it was because he was still in shock or because he just loved it so much, but his eyes followed me like a lost puppy. I was so amazed because like most guys, my boyfriend is a manly man whose pride is always at the top of his mind. I can’t believe how quickly this little show of artistry turned the power tables.

It was great to be in complete control for once, now I know why guys love it so much. Having someone completely at your service, per se, is just an adrenalin rush; an experience I would have never had if it weren’t for the diamantes!”

As a vajazzling convert, Robin now has it done on various special occasions.

“After the overwhelmingly positive response I got from my boyfriend and the power it has to take my sex life to that next level, I get it done a few times a year, on special occasions like my birthday or Valentine’s day. The novelty never wears off, my friends love seeing the new patterns and colours I get everytime. It’s all a bit of fun, so why not.”

Now that you’re up to speed on vajazzling, let me introduce you to some of her friends.

In addition to jewels, the humble vagina can now receive a facelift, restoring that youthful pink glow using ‘The New Pink Button.’ Butt cracks are also included in the below the belt makeover, with the invention of jeweled butt crack covers, and don’t forget the icing on the cake, ‘clitter.’ If all that seems too…. temporary, tattooists have extended their repertoire’s to include ‘vatoos’ for real thrill seekers.

While vaginal embellishment may seem like an activity women in fifteen-inch plastic platforms with a penchant for nipple tassles and poles secured to bar tops would dapple in, it’s bursting into the mainstream and gaining worldwide acclaim from everyone from housewives to lawyers.

Sophie McCombs, a beautician from Ciao Bella Salon in Sydney’s CBD is on the vajazzling front line, manicuring the private parts of all sorts of Sydney women everyday.

“With something as unique as vajazzling, you’d think the only people who were willing to try it would be porn stars. I’m constantly surprised by how many completely normal looking women come in to have the treatment done in their lunch break.

“When I speak to my clients, a lot of them have very influential jobs; lawyers, people in finance, teachers, doctors, there’s no limit to who can be vajazzled. It becomes especially popular around special occasions like Valentine’s Day and wedding seasons.

“I think it’s become so popular because women just want to feel good about themselves. They want to go into the weekend after a long and stressful week feeling confident and sexy, and this is a way they can achieve that,” she said.

Clem Bastow, an editor of the feminist blog, The Dawn Chorus sees this new wave of vaginal embellishment as so much more than just cosmetic.

“Just as women took control of their bodies during the feminist movement of the 1960s by letting their hair grow, often to the point of unruly, modern women are now taking control of their bodies by stripping back.

“The methods may be different but the triumph of women gaining independence and control over their bodies is the same,” she said.

Unlike the masses of rioting hippies and screeching voice of Germaine Greer that stereotyped the women’s movement in decades past, this revolution is silent and doesn’t stop peak hour traffic. Successful and driven working women not looking to draw attention, just to do what they want, when they want. The revolutions accessibility and potential to infiltrate the popular mainstream makes it a real force for change in today’s society.

With every revolution comes opponents and it’s not surprising that many don’t agree with vaginal embellishing. Andrew Sempell of Sydney’s St. James church views any form of invasive body procedure, including piercings, tattoos and vajazzling, as culturally damaging.

“I find it difficult to get too excited about vaginal embellishing. This issue is more a moral and cultural one than a theological one.

“When invading the body with foreign objects, people must realise the consequences of their actions. They are not perceived the same by society and could begin to attract unfavorable attention, which could have a damaging effect.

“Some cultures encourage tattoos or piercings for religious reasons, however beyond this, I don’t see the need for corruption of the natural body, particularly if it has social repercussions. I have great hope for the future of young people, as I have worked closely with them, encouraging them to accept and love their bodies,” he said.

As well as being culturally damaging, some feel vaginal embellishing encourages objectification of women by placing too much emphasis on the importance of aesthetics in all areas of women’s lives.

These claims hold even more weight when statistics from the Australian Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders revealed that 94% of teenage and university aged women were unhappy with their weight. Furthermore, a Mission Australia survey of 50,000 under 25s last week found that body image is the number one concern for young Australian’s.

Clinical psychologist, Sally McDougal has worked with many young people with body confidence issues and says societal pressures of aesthetic ‘perfection’ are creating a dangerous culture.

“The social pressures are definitely more of a risk factor to younger people these days. The constant focus on image in advertising not only in print, but also TV, radio, and particularly these days, the Internet has created an image of perfection, which is both unavoidable and unattainable. That combination is dangerous for impressionable young men and women,” she said.

In addition to body image issues, some believe mainstream vaginal embellishment encourages and normalizes the premature sexualisation of girls.

A Shine South Australia survey revealed that over 60% of year 12 women and 30% of year 10 women were sexually active in 2010.

Prolific women’s issue’s author Melinda Tankard-Reist attributes the early sexual activities of young people to what she calls the “pornification” of youth culture, which she suggests will have detrimental effects on young girls’ body image in the future.

“Their boyfriends are putting pressure on them to have the pre-pubescent porn star look.

“They’ve come to despise their natural bodies,” she said.

Mary Chan, a Sydney women’s group leader has also noticed a trend in just how young women start to care about their sexual appeal to men but believes education and stigma shouldn’t stifle inevitable societal change.

“Even my teens and their friends are getting brazillianed- not amazing when the local beautician has “student specials” on brazilians. They all seem to start trimming the edges at about 13 or 14 years old- ah well that’s progress. It makes me laugh that their “human & social development” text at school goes on and on about how bad waxing your pubes is when they’re all doing it.”

For those who argue that vaginal embellishment aims to please the desires of males and therefore leads to increased objectification of women, Sean Gorp, a 25-year-old real estate agent from Sydney disagrees.

“Yes, I have come face to face with vajazzling and it was pretty insane.

“It was actually pretty intimidating, she definitely had a lot more confidence and was quite dominating,” he said.

Whether vaginal embellishment is empowering, objectifying, beautiful or tacky, one thing is for certain; having a disco ball crotch is a choice which all women have the freedom to make. That power remains long after the crystals fall off.