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MVP race will go down to wire

The apocryphal story of China’s Chairman Mao Zedong on his deathbed in 1976 being asked about the long-term effects of the 18th-century French Revolution and replying, “Too early to tell.” sums up this season’s NBA Most Valuable Player race – and indeed, quite probably the race for the next few years – quite nicely.
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And make no mistake; it is indeed a race, albeit with just two protagonists.

On one hand you have LeBron James, the putative Dauphin of the NBA; in the other, Oklahoma City’s enfant prodige Kevin Durant and MVP la course en tete.

It is testament to James’s understated brilliance that Commissioner David Stern will not be handing over the Maurice Podoloff trophy to Durant at half-time of the All-Star game this week; such has been the Thunder star’s dominance thus far.

On pace for an historic season, the word most associated with Durant this season has been, as the French in their world-weary way would say, inhumain.

For those unfamiliar, Durant is knocking on the door – some might say breaking it down with explosives – of a very exclusive club.

There are just five members of the 50/40/90 club – averaging 50% FG, 40% 3FG, 90% FT and meeting league minimum requirements – in NBA history: Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash (four times) and Dirk Nowitzki.

Durant is presently averaging 29.6 points per game while hitting 51.7% from the floor, 41.7% from international waters and 91.2% from the charity stripe, all while providing nightly highlights of jaw-dropping athleticism.

And while his rebounding and assist numbers – 7.4 and 4.4 respectively – are perfectly respectable, they pale into comparison with the genie athletique of Miami’s own Sun King.

We take James for granted these days, his season averages of 26.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game barely cause a ripple, such has his expansive repertoire become almost passé.

In any other season, from any other player, those kinds of numbers would be drawing rave reviews from coast to coast and on a global scale.

He’s on track for career highs in rebounds and assists, and although his scoring remains on pace to be his lowest since his rookie campaign of 2003-04, his field goal and three-point percentages are also at career-best levels.

But perhaps what is more impressive is that he’s doing it an efficient level not seen since his sophomore season in Cleveland, with a USG% rate of 30 and a turnover rate of 11.6, way down on last year’s 13.3.

The stellar duo has left all pretenders to the throne in their wake. New York’s Carmelo Anthony has – for the most part – harnessed his amazing talents this year and will finish either third or fourth in the race, depending on how you view Chris Paul’s tremendous impact on the previously moribund Los Angeles Clippers.

But all that is secondary to the battle between James and Durant. One chasing the opening chapter of a long-term supremacy, the other’s quiet brilliance ensuring the league’s le roi regnant has not yet been usurped.

In the end, it will be up to Durant to storm his own private Bastille and deliver the coup d’état. There is time enough.

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

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STABLE TALK: Black Caviar shows class

WOW is the only word that aptly sums up Black Caviar’s exhibition gallop at Caulfield on Saturday.
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Sure, she looked great and ran a slick time, but is her crowd-pulling power waning?

It seems Caulfield officials were disappointed with the 6000 attracted to the course on Saturday.

But she did clear out the bars and betting ring when she paraded.

What she did in her hitout should ensure that on Saturday week when she resumes in the Lightning Stakes at Flemington the crowds will flock back to see her.

She was on every TV news bulletin on Saturday night and she led the newspaper racing sections yesterday.

For all the ability she has, Black Caviar has to be remembered for being the greatest advertising that racing has and will attract for many years to come.

■ The Kris Lees pair of Gold Epona and Whitlam, which won at Rosehill on Saturday, are heading for a brief R&R session.

They are going to Lees’s spelling and pre-training property near Cessnock, Ellalong Farm, today for a week.

‘‘Both will go to the farm for a week and spend plenty of time on the water walker,’’ Lees said.

‘‘I’ve found that horses do so well using the water walker midway through a preparation. It really freshens them up.’’

Gold Epona made the transition from winning at Wyong to the city by scoring over 1200 metres.

Whitlam was highly impressive in winning his second consecutive Saturday city race in the 1100m sprint.

They continue Lees’s incredible winning run.

‘‘Gold Epona just continues to improve and another one of these restricted races is not beyond her,’’ Lees said.

Whitlam, a cast-off from Darley, stormed home off a fast pace to win easily.

‘‘He was much calmer yesterday and raced really well,’’ Lees said yesterday. ‘‘He could go onto bigger things.’’

■ The runaway win of Diamond Drille over 1400m at Rosehill only shows how quickly horses can improve.

At her first start Diamond Drille was far from impressive in just winning a maiden at Gosford.

She was easily beaten in town at her next start, but on Saturday looked like an A-grader in the making.

The owners of Diamond Drille might have thought they had done their purchase price of $200,000 cold judging on her Gosford run.

But now it looks like they will get their money back with interest as she races her way through the grades.

Diamond Drille, which has a terrific female line, will then also be worth plenty in the breeding barn.

■ No, this isn’t a gee up.

The security guard in charge of Black Caviar on Saturday was Grant Frankel.

■ The first foal of former smart Newcastle mare Ugly Betty was the highest-priced youngster at the Karaka yearling sales in New Zealand on Friday.

The colt by group1 Oakleigh Plate winner Swiss Ace was sold for $NZ150,000 ($121,000). The winning bid came from a New Zealand trainer, but the colt will be raced by a businessman who has extensive interests on the Central Coast and Newcastle and is well known in racing.

He must have been very keen to buy the colt, which was the centre of a bidding war.

Ugly Betty was bought by Newcastle trainer Kris Lees at a Scone sale for $9000.

She went on to win five races and was stakes-placed, giving her black type, and earned $170,000 in prizemoney.

She was raced by a syndicate from Channel 7 and thus the name Ugly Betty, which was a hit show on that network at the time.

■ Some jockeys declared Rosehill on Saturday the heaviest surface they have ridden on.

It was safe, but only one favourite won, and many heavily backed commodities were beaten out of sight.

Most punters left the course hoping they had enough petrol in the car to get them home.

But at least the meeting went ahead.

■ Newcastle’s newest staying star Award Season had a big day on Saturday.

He left his Broadmeadow stables in the morning and travelled to Sydney with stablemates racing at Rosehill.

But instead of racing he went to the stables of Tim Martin at Rosehill.

He stayed there for the day and at 7pm a transporter picked him up and he headed to Mornington in Victoria.

He will be stabled there until he races in the $350,000 Mornington Cup over 2400m on Wednesday week.

‘‘I wanted him to think he was just having a normal trip to the races,’’ trainer Kris Lees said.

‘‘He travelled to Sydney like it was just another day out.’’

Lees worked Award Season the Melbourne way of going on the course proper at Broadmeadow on Friday.

‘‘He has raced the Melbourne way overseas and handled it well here at Broadmeadow,’’ he said.

The horses that fought out the Mornington Cup lead-up race at Flemington on Saturday did not look as good as Award Season did in his 2400m and 1900m wins in Sydney recently.

■ The jury is still out on whether youngster Aussies Love Sport will live up to his big reputation or simply be another money muncher.

At Rosehill on Saturday Aussies Love Sport was having his second race-day start and was favourite again.

Again he got beat.

He missed the start but stormed home for fourth in the 1200m race for two-year-olds.

The effort will probably get plenty of punters in again for his next start.

He did enough to say he still could make it, but he is hard to back again.

It may be best to wait until he wins a 1600m maiden at Broadmeadow as a mature three-year-old and then follow him.

■ Gosford’s in-form galloper Frozen Rope suffered a mild bout of colic last week that stopped him racing on Saturday at Rosehill.

The Adam Duggan-trained galloper had to be treated and was then scratched from the 2000m handicap.

The horse quickly recovered and worked impressively on the course proper at Gosford on Saturday morning.

It was bad luck for connections as Frozen Rope is a mudlark and would have loved the big wet in Sydney.

Frozen Rope may run in a 1600m open in Sydney on Saturday.

Also spotted working on the course proper at Gosford on Saturday morning was Grant Allard’s impressive two-year-old Napayshini.

The colt stormed home from last to finish second to All The Talk on debut at Warwick Farm on December 1.

Allard is aiming the son of Ready’s Image at the Golden Slipper.

■ New Taree course manager Scott Olson doesn’t have time for an easy entry into his new job. Olson, the former Wyong course manager, starts at Taree today.

He has to get ready for a meeting at Taree tomorrow.

■ Memo to the board of directors of the Newcastle Jockey Club: Stable Talk does not have a spy among the ranks, as was debated heatedly at the latest board meeting.

No, the duty-free Hong Kong-bought recorder taped under the huge mahogany desk that is the centrepiece of the plush committee room at the Broadmeadow bunker does the trick.

So calm down, boys.

Black Caviar during her exhibition gallop at Caulfied on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

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LETTER: Short Takes

It is incomprehensible to me how anyone could prefer Tony Abbott slashing the Schoolkids Bonus for families in favour of scrapping the minerals resource rent tax on wealthy companies. As a former high-school principal and teacher for over 36 years, I know how invaluable the allowance of $410 for each primary-school child and $820 for high-school students is to families. In addition, the Schoolkids Bonus provides a great boost to the local economy.
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Barbara Whitcher, Stockton

Brilliant move by the PM to name the election date so far out. Almost stateswoman-like. Every day from now until the election, the PM can call on Tony Abbott to come out with his policies, which he certainly won’t do because (a) he currently probably doesn’t have any ready, and (b) if he does so now, the government can change their policy to match or better the Coalition’s. But PM, please don’t insult our intelligence by suggesting that you named the date so far out for altruistic reasons. You called it purely for political gain. Just be happy to have a win.

Mike Sargent, Raymond Terrace

After the fight, Tony Mundine showed what a sportsman he is by leaving the ring without shaking the hand of the deserved victor. Hopefully this will be the last we see of him.

David Reynolds, Lakelands

Why are so many remakes of successful films being made when people who saw the originals are still alive and able to make comparisons? Baz Luhrmann’s remake of The Great Gatsby comes to mind. Here in Australia we have our own Gatsby, the late Gordon Barton, whose real-life story is much more interesting than an American character of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s creation.

June Porter, Warners Bay

What part of ‘‘pick up your own dog’s poo’’ do some dog owners not understand? Are they just lazy, or are they the same people who park in disability parking zones without a disability sticker on their car and still talk and text on mobile phones while driving? Heavy fines should apply to these offenders, who obviously do not respect the rights of others.

Denise Trummel, Mayfield

I remember the ‘‘good old days’’ when most people were gainfully employed. One could safely ask of someone whom you met what they did for a living. Of course this was before businesses were forced offshore and a time when people were considered. I doubt whether these halcyon days will return. At least I have the memories.

Daphne Hughes, Kahibah

Congratulations to all those young people who have resisted the trend for tattoos. Your unblemished bodies are much more beautiful now and you will be more attractive as you age.

Janet Stephenson, Wallsend

Negotiation breakdown with Jobe Wheelhouse not a good advertisement 2 parents considering signing little Johnny in the emerging Jets program. A pathway 4 local juniors 2 become Jets has suffered a few potholes.

Rocco De Grandis, Cameron Park

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LETTER: Thriving habitat a loss for all

I AGREE with Nina Horvath (Letters 31/1), the sight of a stinking industrial bog in place of Kooragang’s important and once beautiful natural wetland habitat is sad.
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My wife is a wildlife carer and has to deal with the consequences suffered by these poor birds born into such an awful environment.

Nobody on behalf of the state government or mining companies involved appears to be ashamed – quite the contrary. They are working together to further expand this mess with a possible T4, along with the continued expansion of already overwhelming open-cut mining activities.

Our health, the health of water birds and other wildlife these wetlands are supposed to support, along with our air and water quality, sadly come second to the profits, ongoing employment and state government royalty revenue mining expansion brings.

Convoluted, ridiculous statements from the Environmental Protection Authority with regard to the wind being the cause, and the difficulty of absolutely ascertaining the origins and chemical composition of this dusty mess, confirm this.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for a change of approach (though filtering the air I breathe may be necessary soon).

Change would take vision, ethics, talent and political risk not suited to favourable economic outcomes in the current political cycle.

Paul Buckman,Belmont North

**FLOCKS of black swans, their young families and many species of migratory birds inhabited acres of Kooragong Wetlands beside the road for all to see.

Their replacement by dark mounds of coal is lamented by Nina Horvath (Letters 31/1).

It won’t be long before that memory is erased forever in our minds, and the glorious image of this wildlife paradise relegated to a picture book on the old days of Newcastle.

Today’s young will never have experienced this marvellous sight but may wonder why, in such a bleak landscape, the road should ever have been called Cormorant Drive.

It takes no time at all to forget that these little pearls ever existed and that the desolation was not always thus.

This is why we, as a community, must oppose the drear financial pragmatism that is always ready to absorb public recreational parkland.

A living example is in the struggle by the Friends of King Edward Park to stop the King Edward Park Headland Reserve from turning into a car park and function centre for invited guests.

The Kooragang site was probably doomed because it wasn’t ours, but the Headland Reserve is ours, and should be kept natural for the enjoyment of all people.

Kim Ostinga, Newcastle

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TOPICS: Sashay with pride

BLESSING IN DISGUISE: Olivia Bourrillon has no regrets about being rejected from modelling. Picture: Ryan OslandWHEN Olivia Bourrillon tried out to be a model, they told her she looked too Indian.
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Now she holds titles in two overseas pageants. Let’s start with the rejection.

‘‘This agency turned me down for being too Indian-looking,’’ Olivia, 19, from Hamilton, said simply.

She’s Indian on her dad’s side, and Italian on her mum’s.

‘‘They said there’s not much of a market for that.’’

After the shock of being told her ethnicity wouldn’t sell things, Olivia got annoyed. Then she got going.

She applied for the UK-based Face of Europe pageant, and was picked to represent Italy. Out of 81 contestants, Olivia came second in the senior category.

She entered and won Miss India Australia, which we can’t imagine being easy, and then flew overseas for the first time, alone, to contest the Miss India Worldwide competition.

This extravaganza was held in Suriname, a tiny South American country north of Brazil. Olivia came second runner-up.

With her Miss India title about to expire, Olivia’s glad she was rejected from modelling. She got a new lease on her heritage out of it, not to mention an armful of pageant sashes.

‘‘It gave me some drive,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m glad they said that.’’

Celtic five-piece claim to steal U2’s thunder

HERE at Topics, we love a bit of confidence.

There’s no shortage of the stuff swirling through the change room of Celtic Thunder, the adult contemporary Irish five-piece that played the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Friday night.

Check out their promotional spiel.

‘‘Having sold out venues across the country earlier this year, the world’s most popular Irish band Celtic Thunder have announced they will be returning to the Newcastle Entertainment Centre,’’ it gushed, adorably.

Stop the tape. Rewind. World’s most popular Irish band?

We have a teensy suspicion that U2 might have something to say about that. And Van Morrison. And the Cranberries.

Like we said – confidence.

Hot waterbest forjellyfishstings

HAVE you been stung by a bluebottle? Then stop reading this and put hot water on it.

Are you back? Did you use water that was hotter than 40 degrees? Good.

Nobody knew that was the way to deal with a bluebottle sting until an award-winning study was carried out on Newcastle beaches. That’s right. Our town gave the world the bluebottle cure.

Calvary Mater clinical toxicologist Dr Geoff Isbister headed up the research, which took place on Nobbys and Dixon Park beaches and was finalised in 2006.

Dr Isbister’s team observed 96 sting victims over 15 months, and found hot water to be far more effective at relieving pain than the old method of applying an ice pack.

‘‘The venom is made of proteins and, if you heat them up, you destroy them,’’ Dr Isbister told Topics.

You could make a case for every beach to be equipped with hot water taps.

Until that happens, remember: if the water’s hot, a cure you’ve got. If you’re using ice, the pain will last twice … as long. Oh come on.

MURPHY’S TALE: Irish musicians Celtic Thunder do not hold back in their publicity material.

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OBITUARY: ‘Grandii’ had passion for people

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Born: June 14, 1949

Died: January 10, 2013

CHRISTINE Tynan will be remembered as a proud mother and ‘‘Grandii’’ – a devoted and beloved wife and the life of any party.

Mrs Tynan was born in 1949 to Mayfield parents George and Kathleen Player.

She was one of the pair’s two daughters and has maintained a strong bond with sister Carol tempered by an incident in their youth.

During a battle over an old-fashioned lawn clipper, Mrs Tynan refused to move her hand despite threats her sister would cut off a finger with the implement unless it was moved.

But both stuck to their guns, leaving Mrs Tynan with a temporarily shortened finger and a story that lasted a lifetime.

Particularly fond of her father, a Changi survivor and competitive cyclist, Mrs Tynan treasured a bicycle he built for her from timber.

She also maintained a close bond with her mother, who she visited throughout her later years in a Newcastle nursing home.

During those visits, as she did her mother’s hair and make-up, Mrs Tynan would also befriend other residents within the home. These relationships were borne out of her genuine interest and care for the welfare of others.

‘‘That was true to mum’s character – if someone would sit still long enough she could start a conversation and know their life story in five minutes,’’ son Scott said.

Christine loved to listen to the stories of others rather than speak about herself. She felt it was impolite to speak about herself and that the best way to get to know someone is to listen and engage them in conversation.

A love of ice-skating eventually united Mrs Tynan with her husband Dennis, the first of many passions the pair would share in 44 years together.

They met at the Newcastle West rink in 1966 as Mrs Tynan visited with friends and where Mr Tynan was an instructor and ice hockey player.

The pair, who also shared a lifelong love of motorsports and cars, married two years later.

Mrs Tynan raced lap sprints in her youth, but both pushed their love of motorsports to the backburner as they began a family, raising children Scott and Nicole.

Replacing their high-octane passion, which they maintained at a simmer, allowed them to create a childhood both their children remember as among the best days of their lives.

The family spent weekends at Fingal Bay as well as travelling to Queensland’s Gold Coast and the Snowy Mountains each year alongside countless other camping trips.

A house-proud family woman, Mrs Tynan would meticulously build a table setting for each Christmas to a theme she selected in January.

The elaborate table settings became a highlight in more than 30 years of Christmas celebrations at her North Lambton home, with her grandchildren looking forward to those displays as much as their presents.

But while she was a tireless host, Mrs Tynan preferred to play that role to mark someone else’s honour than mark her own occasions, including birthdays.

As her children grew and brought grandchildren into her life, Mrs Tynan maintained a close relationship in spite of distance.

She spoke with Scott in Queensland regularly while her relationship with Nicole was akin to being best friends.

After their children flew the nest in the late 1980s, Mrs Tynan found an avenue to indulge her passion for people that has left her and Mr Tynan with a broad network of friends.

As Mr Tynan took up a committee position with the MG Car Club Newcastle, she supported him and became an unofficial social co-ordinator for the club’s regular gatherings.

Mr Tynan said it was during those years that his wife, also known to many as ‘‘The Princess’’, thrived in the spotlight

She developed lasting bonds as she cooked for and entertained hundreds, he said.

‘‘As long as she had lots of people around her and family she was happy,’’ Mr Tynan said of his wife. ‘‘She was just a lovely person who loved people.’’

During her later years Mrs Tynan and her husband travelled extensively, visiting destinations including America, Europe and Asia. But regular family picnics at Lake Macquarie, as well as frequent jaunts to Sydney for shopping and people-watching, remained among her favourite holiday spots.

Mrs Tynan also chose a unique title for herself as she became a doting grandmother, going by Grandii and insisting it was spelled with two i’s.

She died on January 10 this year, less than a fortnight after Mr Tynan suffered a heart attack during a trip to Sydney.

She is survived by her husband Dennis, children Scott and Nicole and grandchildren Zach, Sophie, Sarah, James and Ruby.

Christine Tynan is fondly remembered as a vibrant, family woman who focused on bringing fun to everyone.

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Ending our love affair with cultural Casanovas

WHEN Andrew Smiler told his friends he was writing a book on young male sexuality, he got the same jokey response, again and again. ”Really, there’s a book in that? You really need more than a couple of pages?”
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Yeah. Because guys are just interested in one thing, right?

The mind of a young man is a private cinema endlessly screening American Pie, Superbad and Porky’s reruns to an audience of a dominant, throbbing id, which shouts in the voice of Russell Brand, ”WE’VE GOT TO GET LAID!”

In the ’80s, it was dubbed the Casanova Complex, after the 18th century adventurer, author and libertine who shocked Italy with his boasts of bedding 132 women. But if you listen to popular culture, or canvass the opinions of the masses, then men like Shane Warne, Tiger Woods or Charlie Sheen aren’t deviant, sex-addicted outliers. They’re typical men, behaving how young men are expected to behave, as society winks to itself and sighs, ”Well, boys will be boys”.

But hold on a second.

What if this is not true? What if young man as sex-crazed emotional retard is not only an unhealthy stereotype that damages boys and misleads young women, but one that doesn’t match how the vast majority of young men really think or feel?

Professor Smiler, from the psychology department of Wake Forest University in North Carolina, says we need to challenge Casanova.

”[The Casanova stereotype] lives in the culture, it shows up a lot in the popular media, it even shows up a lot in sex-ed curricula,” Smiler says.

”It’s only about 40 years ago that we started to think of that version of male sexuality as the typical version. Even into the 1960s and early 1970s when people talked about male sexuality, they mostly talked about boys or young men being in charge of their hormones, able to control themselves and really wanting to find a ”nice” girl or the ”right” girl.

”Then over the last 30-40 years we’ve really changed our conception, and now we talk about boys being driven by their hormones, or boys and men as being evolutionarily intent on spreading their seed widely.

”In the mass media we now have all of these examples of promiscuous guys that we hold up and make the star of TV or a movie, whereas 40 years ago they were always a bad example.”

In modern comedies like Two and a Half Men, it is the Casanova character who usually gets the best lines, is more often proved right after the plots have played out, and typically has the stronger support of the laugh track. The type traces back to Hawkeye in M*A*S*H, or the Fonz in Happy Days.

It’s not just the media reinforcing the message. Before becoming a developmental psychology academic, Smiler was a family therapist in the Philadelphia area working with male teenagers. Often when the boys were ”acting out”, both they and the parents would make a comment like ”well, guys are just like that” or ”that’s just what guys do”.

When he moved into academia, he realised there was a disconnect between what the experts know about male sexuality – from years of research and surveys – and what the rest of the population believe about it.

This is why he felt the need to write a book (Challenging Casanova, published last month in the US) for the general public. ”The folks that do research on sexual behaviour … have always known that boys and young men really don’t quite fit the stereotype,” he says. ”That knowledge hasn’t made it out into the wider culture.”

So what does the science say?

Smiler reports in his book that about 15 per cent of young men – or about one guy in seven – has more than two sexual partners in any given year. Over a longer period the numbers fall even lower: barely 5 per cent of guys have more than two partners per year for three years in a row.

These are hardly Casanova-level conquests. In survey after survey, it turns out that most guys, whether they are 15 or 50, have only a small number of sexual partners.

Only a tiny minority are the ”players” who boast Wilt Chamberlain-level bed-hopping. Errol Flynn’s swordplay is the exception, not the rule.

Another study of university undergraduates found three-quarters of the guys would prefer dating – with its higher levels of commitment and emotional closeness – to the sexual excitement of ”hooking up”. When asked what they wanted from a relationship, sex was not top of the list – instead they looked for qualities like companionship, support, intimacy, and passion. They wanted a partner who was funny, nice, confident and decisive – not the passive victim of the pick-up artist handbooks.

Then there’s the International Sexuality Description Project, a massive survey run across 62 countries by 118 researchers, which quizzed young men and women about their sex lives, opinions and desires.

One of the most hotly debated survey questions asked ”ideally, how many different sex partners would you like to have?” over a series of different time frames, from one month to the rest of their lives.

The study found that, on average, young men would ideally like nearly two partners in the next month, while women wanted nearly one partner in the next month.

This pattern has been found in survey after survey, and was used to back a theory that men have evolved to instinctively want to ”spread their seed”, to give their DNA a better chance in the Darwinian fight for genetic immortality. The man-animal – a compulsive Casanova.

Not so fast, says Smiler. Look more closely at the figures.

”Approximately one guy in four (25 per cent) said he wanted two or more partners in the next month,” he writes in Challenging Casanova. ”That means the majority – 75 per cent – want one or zero partners in the next month.

”Shouldn’t we take that majority as telling us about the average or typical guy? If guys are biologically programmed to want multiple partners, why is it that these guys – undergraduate men who are at or near their physical and sexual peak, who are rarely married, who mostly live away from their parents in dormitories, and who are usually surrounded by lots of unmarried, healthy women – overwhelmingly say they’re looking for only one partner when completing anonymous surveys?”

There’s plenty of other evidence that young men are becoming more, rather than less, emotionally mature – and less, rather than more, sexually promiscuous.

Earlier this year, sociologist Amy Schalet wrote in The New York Times that the ”sluts and studs” labels were losing their power. In the past two decades, the proportion of American adolescents in their mid-teens claiming sexual experience has decreased, and for boys the decline has been especially steep. Today, though more than half of unmarried 18 and 19-year-olds have had sex, fewer than 30 per cent of 15-to-17-year-old boys and girls have, down from 50 per cent of boys and 37 per cent of girls in 1988.

Theories abound. One is that sex-ed has succeeded in scaring boys about the chances of becoming a teen dad, or getting an STD. Another is the global economic downturn has made young people more pessimistic about the future, and scared of the financial consequences of having a family.

But Schalet said fear was probably not the only reason for gender convergence. She pointed to a series of surveys and interviews by sociologists, reported in 2006, that found teenage boys to be just as emotionally invested in their romantic relationships as girls.

”Such romanticism has largely flown under the radar of American popular culture,” she wrote. ”Yet the most recent research … indicates that relationships matter to boys more often than we think.” For example, one survey found that of young males between 15 and 19 who had not yet had sex, more said it was because they ”hadn’t met the right person” than reasons of religion or morality.

”Boys have long been under pressure to shed the ‘stigma of virginity’,” Schalet said. ”But maybe more American boys are now waiting because they have gained cultural leeway to choose a first time that feels emotionally right.”

Of course, even the modern young male is no saint. The long-standing rule that men are more likely to cheat on their partners than are women seems to still hold. Men have, on average, a higher sex drive.

But ”dating” seems to have fundamentally changed from the rigid, socially defined process it used to be.

”Part of the shift is that most teenage boys and young men today have female friends, and have always had female friends,” Smiler says. ”We have lots more hanging out in mixed sex groups than we used to before. So instead of going on a first date or a second date with somebody, you just ‘hang out’.

”It’s ‘let’s hang out and have coffee’, ‘let’s hang out and watch a movie’. But that hanging out often replicates what might have happened as, say, a first or second date 30 years ago.”

This partly explains the so-called ”hook-up culture” that has some cultural commentators convinced that universities have turned into unbridled sex romps.

The alternative explanation is that men and women spend more time together socially, so the lines between a date and a casual hook-up have blurred. Smiler says that, in the face of all this evidence, we need to re-educate ourselves and our children.

There is no one description of male sexuality. There are romantic men, emo men, religious men, and they want different kinds of sexual relationships with different kinds of partners. And, yes, some want lots of sex with multiple partners.

”The Casanovas do exist,” says Smiler. ”But they’re the minority. Most guys are not out there trying to sleep with hundreds, or scores, or even dozens of women. Most guys really are choosing to have sex with people they know and people that they are often in some kind of relationship with.”

One of the big problems with the current situation, he says, is that young men feel pressure to behave in ways that they don’t really want to – and the behaviour they are being encouraged into is risky. But it is also about simply acknowledging the truth.

”[The Casanova Complex] gives guys a message that they can’t really be their authentic selves,” says Smiler.

”It also produces a problem for girls, because we tell them that all guys just want sex, they’re not interested in relationships. And from there, OK, so if you’re a 13-year-old girl and you’re trying to get your first boyfriend and you don’t have a lot of experience, maybe what you need to do is ‘sext’ him a half-naked picture of yourself, because what you’ve always heard is that guys are only interested in girls for sex.

”So we present the guys with an incorrect version of what most guys are like and it distorts how they behave, and we present girls with that same bad information and it distorts how they behave.”

Smiler wants changes to sex education curriculums, and to Hollywood scripts. He wants us to raise boys who know it’s OK to want sex in the context of a relationship, rather than just for its own sake. He wants conversations, not just about the importance of using a condom, but about the difference between being a ”friend with benefits” and a girlfriend or boyfriend.

”We really leave them to sort it out by themselves,” he says. ”There’s no other part of their life where we just give them some information and leave them to figure it out.

”We routinely ask our teenagers, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ We have that conversation again and again. So why we don’t have those kinds of conversations about what it means to be sexual is kind of beyond me.”

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

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GALLERY: Social Spy

A number of exhibitions opened at Watt Space, Newcastle, on Thursday night including Zoe Roxburgh’s Glow, Shana Denis’ Once More With Feeling, Kate Burton’s Art Forms, Avoid Black: Textile Art Exhibition by Michaela Swan, and Paper and Stone by Anna Mackintosh. The exhibitions continue until February 17.
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Fans of those lads from Ireland, Celtic Thunder, packed Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Friday night. The group wowed the crowd with a journey through traditional Irish music, to classic lover songs and contemporary Irish melodies.

Rosé wine was celebrated at the Rosé Revolution event hosted by McLeish Estate Wines at Fox Bar, Maitland, on Thursday. The event included rosé tasting and marked the release of McLeish Estate 2012 Dwyer Rosé.

Helen Callaghan and Theo Bullock, of North Lambton, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Kenny Fryer, of Cooks Hill, and Joan McGee, of Sydney, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Bernadette and Bridget McEvoy, of Gunnedah, and Patrick McEvoy, of Waratah, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Katherine Williams, of Islington, Tom Wickert, of Merewether, Ley Hall, of Kotara, and Shana Dennis, of Waratah, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Mark Gibson, of Jesmond, and Jonathan Hardy, of Islington, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Kate Burton, of Belmont, Jane Watson, of Belmont South, and Saul Weedon, of Belmont North, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Mick and Crystal Wilson, of Wallsend, and Claudette Hall, of Kotara, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Kate Ross, of Maryville, Zoe Roxburgh, of Mayfield, and Nikki Pitkethley, of Marrickville, at Watt Space Exhibitions. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Graeme and Kathy Dunn, both of Goulburn, at Celtic Thunder. Picture: Simone De Peak

Helen Young and Audrey Fox, both of Anna Bay, at Celtic Thunder. Picture: Simone De Peak

Michelle Watt, of Chittaway Bay, Joy Gowen, of Tumbi Umbi, Val Lanham, of Davistown, and Corinne Gowen, of Tumbi Umbi, at Celtic Thunder. Picture: Simone De Peak

Damien Atkins, of Islington, Tamera Fisher, of Wallsend and Erin Morrison, of Birmingham Gardens, at Celtic Thunder. Picture: Simone De Peak

Sandra and Phil Morris, both of Maryland, at Celtic Thunder. Picture: Simone De Peak

Jacqui Napadowski, Jess McLeish and Adelina Young, of Pokolbin, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

Marcus Bridges, of Bolwarra, and Peter Windred, of Briar Ridge, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

Stuart Hamilton, of Ashtonfield, and Brett Woodward, of Pokolbin, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

Catherine Jacka, of Rutherford, Erin Saxby, of Bolwarra Heights, and Natasha Kiem, of Tanilba Bay, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

Alexa and Yvette Cavanagh, both of Lorn, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

Maryanne McLeish and Nikki Vassar, both of Pokolbin, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

Tony and Pam Campbell, both of Pokolbin, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

Tobi Cornwell, of Bondi, with Guy and Wendy Cornwell, both of Pokolbin, at Rose Revolution. Picture: Dean Osland

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Cool spell soon to be broken

Sydney may have shivered through its coolest February weekend in 19 years but it won’t be long before the mercury jumps back above normal for this time of year.
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The city’s February’s average maximum is 25.8 degrees and while temperatures over the weekend were only a couple of degrees below that mark, rain and winds made conditions feel much cooler.

The weekend was also the city’s coldest in three months. Warmer conditions, though, will build up through the week, said Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist with Weatherzone.

Saturday may see Sydney’s “best chance” of temperatures above 35 degrees, with more scorching weather set for western suburbs and inland towns, he said.

A hot air mass moving in from central Australia will push temperatures in places such as Bourke in the state’s north-west close to or above 40 degrees late in the week.

Fire dangers will again rise this week but are unlikely to reach the extremes of January because of the absence of strong winds, said Jane Golding, a forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology. “It’s not looking particularly bad.”

The mixed start of February comes after Australia in January posted its hottest ever month in more than a century of records.

“The recent heat was notable for the extent, with records set in every state and territory, and the nationally averaged daily temperature rose to levels never previously observed, and did this for an extended period,” the weather bureau said in an update to its special climate statement on the heatwave.

“A total of 44 stations with 30 years or more of data have set all-time record high maximum temperatures during this event, with a further 15 setting January records,” the bureau said.

“Some stations exceeded their previous records on multiple occasions; for example, Giles surpassed its previous record (44.8 degrees) on three separate occasions during the event, peaking at 45.7 degrees 16 January.”

Beyond this week, more heat can be expected with weather models point to a hotter spell by mid- to late-February, Weatherzone’s Dr Dutschke said.

Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne could all see temperatures of 40 degrees from that second heatwave, he said.


In the coming week, a build-up of moisture levels will see also thunderstorms bring “a fair bit of rainfall” to large regions of southern Queensland and northern NSW, Dr Dutschke said.

“It will affect some flooded areas,” he said, adding that the risk of lightning may cause concern to some areas, particulary in the north-western parts of NSW.

Meanwhile, communities along the eastern seaboard continued to mop up after major floods from the remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, particularly in the Queensland towns of Bundaberg and Rockhampton.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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

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HUNTER HERO: Joan Harman

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SWANSEA resident Joan Harman has dedicated more than half her life to others and believes that if you are a part of a community and can help, you should.

After more than 50 years of volunteer work, Mrs Harman – who turns 80 this year – was awarded a NSW Government Community Service Award on January 22.

The modest recipient was shocked when she was unknowingly led to what she believed to be a meet-and-greet with state member for Swansea Gary Edwards and Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello.

Instead of morning tea, she was taken to an awards luncheon and was completely surprised when she was called on stage.

‘‘I was absolutely staggered,’’ Mrs Harman said.

‘‘I never knew anything I’ve done all my life would warrant any recognition.

‘‘It was the first time in my long life that I was speechless.

‘‘But it was so exciting to be recognised.’’

Mrs Harman’s sense of community involvement began with the opening of the Blacksmiths Public School in the 1960s.

‘‘We were so grateful to have a school but at first there was nothing in it,’’ Mrs Harman said.

‘‘We were dedicated.

‘‘I was so proud to be given life membership.’’

Her work with the school P&C sparked a passion that has continued throughout her life.

‘‘I could do it [volunteer] and enjoyed it so I thought I would continue with it,’’ Mrs Harman said.

‘‘I like to be involved with the community.

‘‘I have lived here [in Swansea] all my life and if I can help, I will.’’

Although Mrs Harman has volunteered with several other organisations, one has stayed close to heart for decades.

For 43 years, Mrs Harman has passionately given her time to the Caves Beach VIEW Club, a network of ladies who do charity work for The Smith Family.

Voice, Interests and Education of Women was established in 1960 for women who were prohibited from joining other groups, such as Lions and Rotary, to network together.

Today the group runs charity and fund-raising events for the Smith Family initiative and supports almost 1000 disadvantaged children across Australia.

‘‘It [the VIEW Club] is the love of my life,’’ Mrs Harman said.

‘‘It has been a long achievement and ambition of mine.’’

The women of the club have become a part of Mrs Harman’s close group of friends.

‘‘Those ladies are the fabric of my life,’’ Mrs Harman said.

She believes they may be the ones responsible for the surprise award she received.

‘‘All of them knew all about it afterwards,’’ she laughed.

‘‘But my friends were so delighted for me.’’

Mrs Harman is also involved in the voluntary work of her husband, who is the president of the Amputee Club.

‘‘He has always been a great support to me and to the work I do, so I try to support him in the same manner,’’ she said. ‘‘I help out anyway there that I can.’’

Mrs Harman has also volunteered for the Belmont Hospital Auxiliary and Tuesday Club.

Joan Harman is modest about her volunteer works. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

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