McGregor v Mayweather: why it will be Farce of the Century II

Roll up! Roll up! Roll up!

Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor!

The Ultimate Fight in Las Vegas!

Mayweather, the undefeated boxing champion to beat ’em all, v the Irish UFC fighter McGregor who has beaten them all up in his own sport – and now needs someone bigger to work over!

Not just a battle between fighters, but between sports! Not just the 39-year-old Old Bull v the 28-year-old Young Bull, but Ye Olde Pugilistic Art v Street Thuggery pretending to a respectability it does not remotely possess.

Friends, it is tabloid heaven, and it broke in the Irish Sun on Monday, instantly generating headlines around the world.

“Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather,” the paper quoted a source close to the Irishman, “have agreed a deal to fight and have both settled on their respective fees. The contract hasn’t officially been signed yet because of a third party hold-up but all the details have all been agreed on. The fight could even be announced within two weeks.”

And yes, of course, Mayweather, has since downplayed the report with some quotes of his own, but, happily, I speak fluent boxer and can translate:

“There seems,” Mayweather said, “to be several rumours floating around media recently however, let the record show, there hasn’t been any deals made in regards to a fight between myself and any other fighters.” (Translation: Like the Irish Sun says, I have not yet actually put pen to paper to sign the contract. What I’d actually like, first, is to squeeze a few more million dollars out of the promoters. They’re currently talking $100 million for each of us, but I want more. My name is bigger than his.)

“I am happily retired and enjoying life at this time. (Look, I think even my supporters are laughing hard at that one. In the history of the world no one with my record just says ‘I’ve had enough’ and walks away. We will always come back for more, and I will, too. I just want to squeeze a few more million out of them, did I mention?)

“If any changes are to come, be sure that I will be the first to let the world know.” (“Come on, gimme a few more million! You can see the publicity even this report is generating, you must KNOW that this thing will turn over a billion dollars!”)

For his part, McGregor has already waxed lyrical on his chances. “I’ve got the reach. I’ve got youth. I’ve got the confidence. I’ve got the unpredictable style. You can’t prepare for a style like me. Why conquer one world when you can conquer two? So I’m going to go conquer two worlds.” (Translation: “$100 million? That’ll do me!”)

In sum, my pound to your peanut says it will happen. And my pound to your peanut farm says it will be a farce.

Older readers will remember that in 1976, the great Muhammad Ali took on the world’s wrestling champion, Antonio Inoki, in Tokyo, in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century”, before a global audience of 1.4 billion.

It was actually the Farce of the Century. What we saw, instead of a genuine contest, was Muhammad standing over the poor bastard who refused to stand and kept kicking him in the leg.

“The celebrated ‘Bout of the Century’ turned out to be the rip-off of the century,” the Japan Times noted the next day. “The 15-round contest was pretty much a bore from start to finish. Ending in a draw, it proved once again that when an apple fights an orange, the results can only be a fruit salad.”

Ditto this.

For, what rules could they come up with to make it an actual contest?

On one side you have boxing, based on Marquis of Queensbury rules, which, from 1865, maintains that, “you must not fight simply to win; no holds barred is not the way; you must win by the rules.” Those rules are very explicit and based on the notion that boxing is an art, that rules are followed by gentlemen and that thugs need not apply to win in their thuggish ways.

And on the other side you have UFC – much more lethal and multifaceted than mere kickboxing – which says, broadly, that “the only rule is are that there are no rules, and anything goes!”

In pure fighting terms, it is putting a boxer with a hammer, up against a UFC fighter with a hammer, a chainsaw, a grappling hook, a knife and the sledgehammer that is his foot flying at his opponent’s head.

How do you make that an even contest?

You don’t. You just make it appear an even contest in some contrived manner, you sell the rights, sell the tickets and make hundreds of millions of dollars as the suckers pour in.

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” the great H.L. Mencken once wrote, and this, friends, will prove to be the second-greatest example of that, after the ascension of President Donald Trump. But it runs it close … which is saying something.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

VIDEO: Alex Lahey is cracking the whip for her debut album

ON A ROLL: Alex Lahey is expanding her horizons in the UK supporting her childhood idols Tegan and Sara.ANYONE who has learnt to play guitar remembers the joy of finally making the strings produce the sound of a recognisable song. Like solving amagical puzzle.

The first songs indie songwriter Alex Lahey taught herself wereTegan andSara’s Nineteen and Call It Off from the Canadian duo’s 2007 album The Con.

It’s fitting that the same act which played a pivotal rolein Lahey’s earlymusical development, are also helpingthe 24-year-old Melbournian take hernext major step in the industry.

Lahey is in Englandon her first international tour supporting Tegan and Sara.

“It’s definitely the biggest opportunity given to me so far and I am so grateful to Tegan and Sara for it,” Lahey tells Weekender from her London motel room.“This is the first time I’ve ever toured overseas and to be doing it under the wing of two of the most respected artists in the world is truly humbling.”

It was actually Lahey’s deep respect for Tegan and Sara’s music thathelpedher land the support tour, which passes through venues like London’s Roundhouse and Manchester’s Albert Hall.

“When I was at SplendourI just went up to them and said, ‘thank you for giving me the songs that helped me develop into my own artist’,” she says.“To even have the opportunity to express my gratitude to them like that was such an honour.”

Alex Lahey – Wes AndersonThe hype surrounding Lahey has been building over the past year. Her debut EP B-Grade University and its singles Let’s Go Out and You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me are Triple J favourites andLahey’s melodic tunes and wittyobservational lyrics have led to comparisons with Courtney Barnett.

Expectations are high Lahey will deliver with herdebut album. The record is currently in production and is being produced by Holy Holy guitarist Oscar Dawson.

“The record is coming along swimmingly, thus far,” Lahey says.“We tracked the beds for seven of the songs on it last week before I flew to the UK, and will we keep working on those and some other songs I’ve written for the next couple of months until it’s all done and dusted. Making a first album is a very daunting, yet exciting task, and having someone like Oscar working on my first record with me makes it all the more special for me.”

Just like B-Grade University, Lahey’s album will cover a widerange oftopics. Everything from getting dumped toaccepting her brother’s friendship and telling off people for texting while driving.

Alex LaheyB-Grade Uni EP with any sort of plan for how it would turn out and I’m taking that attitude into this album too, in a way,” she says.“I think the record will show some development and potentially more cohesion in the arrangements of the songs, but at the end of the day, I only ever write about things that I’ve experienced personally, so that common thread will still be there.”

Following the overseas tour, Lahey is heading back to the Hunter for the Hard Grime festival at Maitland Gaol. On her last trip to Newcastle she played a wild free show at the Sydney Junction Hotel.

“The show was awesome, not only because of the energy in the room, but also because of the genuine gratitude from everyone who came along,” she says.“It just goes to show that touring isn’t just about hitting up capital cities.”

Catch Alex Lahey alongside The Gooch Palms, Luca Brasi and Nicole Millarat Hard Grime on March 4.

Lane Cove, North Sydney councils reconsider fight against mergers as five stand firm

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing on Tuesday that the government would proceed with the five merger proposal across Sydney. Photo: Louise KennerleyNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian may have resolved the uncertainty in regional councils, but in Sydney the limbo continues as mayors expressed disappointment and frustration over the government’s decision to continue the city mergers.

Promising to “end the uncertainty”, Ms Berejiklian announced on Tuesday the government would abandon its proposed mergers of regional councils, which had been delayed by legal action.

But she recommitted to proceeding with the five pending Sydney mergers, which councils have also fought through the courts.

“Profound disappointment sums it up,” said Hunters Hill mayor Richard Quinn, who accused the government of prioritising a development agenda over local representation.

“Ms Berejiklian hasn’t ended uncertainty at all. What certainty has come is that the whole motive is housing and development issues. It’s about ensuring there is more and more development in Sydney.”

Justifying her decision on Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian said the benefits of the city mergers far outweighed those in the bush, and were necessary to address the city’s housing affordability crisis and improve development approval times.

“It is really important for us if we care about housing affordability, if we care about planning and infrastructure, to go and proceed with these reforms.”

While some mayors have reaffirmed their council’s resolve to continue their legal challenges, others are reassessing the futility of the fight, given the government’s renewed determination, amid mounting costs to ratepayers.

Mayors from Hunters Hill, Strathfield, Ku-ring-gai, Mosman and Woollahra all confirmed their councils would not abandon their legal challenges.

However, Lane Cove and North Sydney councils will vote to decide whether to maintain their appeals at council meetings on Monday.

In North Sydney, where residents will soon go to the polls for the North Shore byelection, mayor Jilly Gibson said she was now “very despondent” about the council’s legal challenge, but acknowledged some of her fellow councillors did not share her view.

“The courts can’t save North Sydney council. Only the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, can. There was one opportunity for our council to be saved and that was when Mike Baird stepped down and Gladys Berejiklian stood up.

“We’ll really have to seek some advice and make a very carefully considered decision about whether or not we proceed.”

However, deputy mayor Melissa Clare rejected Cr Gibson’s position as a “minority view” and said she was confident a motion to continue the legal fight would easily win the support of the other councillors at Monday’s meeting.

Lane Cove mayor Deborah Hutchens was also circumspect about the council’s ongoing attempt to fight the merger with Ryde and Hunters Hill councils.

“I’ve got very mixed feelings today, following what happened yesterday,” she said. “Is it worth pushing through. Is it worth fighting?”

However, in Mosman Council, opposition to the proposed merger with North Sydney and Willoughby councils remains unequivocal, Mayor Peter Abelson said.

“In Mosman Council, every single council resolution on whether to take legal action has been unanimous. There is complete solidarity we should be taking these steps.”

The legal challenges will also add to the uncertainty over when council elections can be held.

On Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian said she wanted all pending councils to hold elections by March 2018.

But the appeals for Mosman, North Sydney and Lane Cove are set down for April, with a judgment expected to delay any decision by weeks or even months, leaving a small window to achieve Ms Berejiklian’s timeline.

“The whole thing gets very messy. To claim uncertainty is finished is a big claim,” Cr Abelson said.

Aggrieved mayors also took aim at the Premier’s concession that a “one-size-fits-all approach for NSW” was the wrong approach, and one which had failed to appreciate the differences between the city and country.

Ku-ring-gai mayor Jennifer Anderson said a similar blanket rule had been applied to the city councils.

“Clearly, a one-size-fits-all model across Sydney is equally problematic in our case,” Cr Anderson said, noting that the council had no intention of abandoning its Supreme Court Appeal which begins on Thursday.

She said the proposed merger with Hornsby would force together “quite different communities of interest”, with Hornsby Shire “largely rural and river land” whereas Ku-ring-gai is an urban area with strong links to the city.

Tanna’s director knows a backlash against Donald Trump could rule out Oscar win

Island bliss: Bentley Dean films Tanna on a Vanuatu volcano. Photo: PHILIPPE PENEL Tribal unity: Martin Butler and Bentley Dean with members of the Yakal tribe (from left) Peter Kowia, Lingai Kowia and Caha Toata.

Beginnings: Bentley Dean (bottom left) when he started making films with The Race Around The World team in 1997. Photo: Peter Rae

Less than two weeks before the Academy Awards, Australian filmmaker Bentley Dean is wandering around the city looking for a pair of black shoes.

One of the two directors of Tanna, the country’s first nomination for best foreign-language film, already has a good suit from the world premiere at the Venice Film Festival but shoes are proving tricky. “I need help,” he says. “Got any recommendations?”

Dean, who made the touching Vanuatu island romance with Martin Butler, reckons he’s solved another Oscars fashion dilemma. “Instead of a bow tie, I’m thinking of wearing pig’s tusks,” he says.

The filmmakers, who leave for Los Angeles on Saturday, had to miss last week’s Oscar nominees lunch for financial reasons. “It was a little bit too extravagant for us to go there,” Dean says.

But they have big plans for the awards. Just as at the Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival, they will be joined by members of Vanuatu’s Yakel community wearing their tribal dress – feathered head-dresses with grass skirts for women and penis sheaths for men.

“They’re of course keen to wear their traditional dress on the red carpet and the people at the academy have said ‘yes, by all means’,” Dean says. Living in a village without electricity let alone a cinema or television, they won’t know most of the famous faces around them. Dean thinks there’s a chance they might fall asleep if they ceremony gets dull.

There is just one Hollywood star who might ring a bell. The villagers know that Mungau Dain, who stars in Tanna, was once described on the island as “Vanuatu’s Prat Pitt”.

While Tanna had only a small Australian cinema season and has been out on DVD and digital release for a year, the Oscar nomination has triggered new interest in a film shot for just $1 million, including a limited re-release.

“It’s amazing what the Oscar trademark does to a film,” Dean says. “All of a sudden our sales agent says there’s been interest from all over the world. He reckons he’ll sell it to almost every territory, including the ones that have been dithering.”

Considering how Tanna was made, it is remarkable that it has become one of a record 14 Australian nominations at the Oscars on February 27.

Dean and Butler collaborated with the roughly 200 members of one of the South Pacific’s last traditional tribes, who live by the same beliefs and customs they have followed for centuries. They don’t have electricity for their huts, which meant the filmmakers had to import a solar panel to charge their batteries, and they still hunt with bows and arrows.

Because the tribe had never seen a feature film before, Dean and Butler showed them the Aboriginal drama Ten Canoes so they could get a sense of how to bring one of their own stories to the screen. They decided to dramatise a controversial real-life romance that took place in the 1980s, with the cast speaking the tribal language Nauvhal.

During filming, the filmmakers hosted movie nights for the villagers that included their own documentaries and Star Wars. “The most popular was the series of David Attenborough’s Life On Earth,” Dean says. “They just loved it, seeing all of these incredible animals that they’d never seen before.”

If getting to the Oscars was way beyond expectations, the two directors are well aware that a Hollywood backlash against President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban affecting seven predominantly Muslim nations could mean Tanna has no chance of winning.

“Hollywood does like a cause,” Dean says. “Politics may enter into the decision-making and that’s not such a bad thing. The odds of us winning are very, very low.”

With Oscars voting underway, there has been speculation that academy members could protest about Trump’s immigration policies by voting for two other nominees – Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, given the Iranian director is boycotting the Oscars in protest at the ban, or Hannes Holm’s A Man Called Ove, a Swedish film about a cranky old bigot who is upset when an Iranian woman moves next door.

But Dean, who considers Germany’s critically acclaimed Toni Erdmann another leading contender, believes there are good reasons that members should vote for Tanna.

“I think it exemplifies what the category of foreign-language film is all about, which is essentially to celebrate film in all its forms, wherever it comes from – not just English language,” he says. “In Tanna, you’ve got people who started out in this process not even having seen cinema before – let alone participated or acted in it – and here they are being considered one of the five best foreign-language films of the year and they’re in Hollywood.

“It sums up what’s magic and what’s transformative and what’s brilliant about cinema, in particular world cinema. I haven’t seen the other films but I can’t think of a better example than Tanna that captures the spirit of this category.”

While three Yakel villagers are going to the Oscars – cultural director J.J. Nako and cast members Lingai Kowia and his daughter Selin – Dean says it has sadly proven too difficult for Butler to be joined by his journalist wife Liz Jackson, who revealed her struggle with a form of Parkinson’s disease on Four Corners late last year.

“We knew that we’d have an excellent time and we’d learn a lot [making Tanna] but it’s gone beyond our wildest dreams to end up with a good film and for it to be appreciated with the highest accolades you can get,” Dean says. “To be nominated for an Academy Award is pretty damn good.”Perkins to appear at Jasper Jones sessions

Director Rachel Perkins, author Craig Silvey and a revolving cast of actors are appearing at a batch of Q&A sessions around the country to launch Jasper Jones in coming weeks.

In Sydney, they are at no less than four cinemas next Monday – the Chauvel (with Dan Wyllie), Cremorne Orpheum (with Wyllie and Hugo Weaving), Dendy Newtown (with Weaving, Angourie Rice and Aaron McGrath) and Event Cinemas George Street (with an introduction rather than a Q&A with Weaving, Rice and McGrath).

Opening soon: Aaron McGrath and Levi Miller in Jasper Jones

In Melbourne, there are two sessions next Wednesday – Cinema Nova and Sun Theatre, Yarraville (both with Hugo Weaving and Dan Wyllie). And two sessions the next night – Palace Como and Rivoli Cinemas (both with Wyllie and Angourie Rice).

Perkins has adapted Silvey’s popular novel for the drama, which centres on a bookish 14-year-old (played by Levi Miller from Red Dog: True Blue) and a mixed-race outcast (McGrath) whose lives in a West Australian town are changed by a mystery. It opens on March 2.The Dressmaker and Down Under filmmakers develop follow-ups

New films from the directors of The Dressmaker, Down Under and Jasper Jones are among a slate of new films to get development funding from Screen Australia.

The Dressmaker’s Jocelyn Moorhouse is working on The Variations, a drama about “one of the most potent love triangles in music history” centring on legendary 19th century musicians Clara Schumann, her husband Robert and Johannes Brahms.

Working on a love triangle centring on famous classical musicians: Jocelyn Moorhouse.

Down Under’s Abe Forsythe is developing Little Monsters, a comic horror film “dedicated to all the kindergarten teachers out there who motivate our children to learn, instil them with confidence and stop them from being devoured by zombies”.

And Jasper Jones’ Rachel Perkins is working again with writer Craig Silvey on The Prospector, a western crime mystery about a woman who risks everything to find her missing husband during the West Australian gold rush. Also funded is an adaptation of Leah Purcell’s acclaimed play The Drover’s Wife, which re-imagines Henry Lawson’s classic short story.

Twitter @gmaddox

Parent group that ousted scripture from schools in Victoria to fight for ban on NSW Special Religious Education

Robyn Bernstein, with her sons Ed and Kai Hall, questions why Special Religious Education should be held in class time. Photo: Steven SiewertA parent group that successfully ousted church-run classes from public school class time in Victoria has turned its focus to NSW, but this time they are campaigning to get religion off public school premises altogether.

The Fairness in Religion in Schools group claimed victory in Victoria in 2015 when the state’s Minister for Education James Merlino announced that Special Religious Instruction was to be pushed out of school hours from 2016 and treated as an after-school elective.

It was replaced with an in-school class about the major religions, secular humanism and ethics, taught by class teachers.

Now the group is targeting NSW, where Special Religious Education (SRE) is delivered in class time by religious groups unless parents opt their child out.

Catherine Walsh from the Fairness in Religion in Schools group, a mother of three children at inner west Sydney high schools, said she was shocked when she found out SRE classes were not run or regulated by the Department of Education, despite their presence in the enrolment paperwork.

She accused the department of negligently suspending its duty of care for children during the time they spend in SRE.

“I believe that any program which requires the suspension of the department’s own policy and curriculum should not operate in public schools. To do so is to risk children’s protection and the department’s duty of care,” Ms Walsh said.

Ms Walsh alleges SRE is in breach of the department’s Controversial Issues in Schools policy which prevents teachers or visitors from using schools to recruit students into partisan groups, among other things.

A spokesman for the department said religious education was part of the Education Act and said the policy did not apply to SRE teachers.

He also said the department kept no central record on the number of students or schools that participated in SRE; and confirmed it did not authorise or oversee the material taught. Religious providers authorise their own content and self-certify once a year that they are teaching with appropriate materials.

“The department takes its duty of care to students seriously,” he said.

Robyn Bernstein, who has a child at Sydney Secondary College, said she objected to religious groups of any persuasion having influence over public school curriculum and timetables and access to students.

“Why should SRE be in class time?” she said. “There are hundreds of kids who participate in the school’s extra-curricular music and sports programs, which stay well clear of school hours.”

FIRIS is also concerned by a 2016 Queensland government review of the “Connect” materials used by several Christian faith groups to teach SRE, which found it contained inappropriate material that should be removed, “including content that may encourage undesirable child safe behaviours, such as the keeping and intentional hiding of secrets and the formation of ‘special friendships’ with adults.”

The Anglican Diocese is one of the largest providers of Christian SRE, and the Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, is responsible for authorising Anglican SRE content in NSW including “Connect”.

He confirmed the “Connect” material had been changed as recommended across all states after the Queensland review, and defended the importance of SRE in public schools, saying religious education taught by a person of faith was a key part of helping children understand religion.

“We’re in a multi-religious country and atheism is a very small part,” he said.

“We don’t proselytise in religious education. That’s the accusation but that is not true. We present a history of the Bible, which is a very significant literary document in our culture.

“For the vast majority of parents who want their children in SRE it gives them the opportunity to have a broader education.”

FIRIS describes itself a grassroots parents group, with 3000 Facebook followers. It argues that education about religion in public schools should instead be delivered by department teachers using materials developed by the department.

On February 8 it launched a modest crowdfunding campaign to fund brochures and outdoor banners, which was more than 50 per cent subscribed two days later.

The FIRIS group has been given a boost in its NSW campaign by inner west parents displeased by the expansion of SRE into the inner city Sydney Secondary College for the first time this year; and a contentious change of timetable that put SRE in the middle of the day at Fort Street in Petersham last year.

Fairfax Media has spoken to parents at both schools who are irritated about the timetable change apparently forced by SRE.

Hilary Bell, who has two children at Fort Street and is not connected with FIRIS, said she was told by the SRE provider in a phone call last year that there were eight students enrolled, out of a school population of 900.

Under department policy, students not enrolled in SRE can not have any other classes while SRE is on. This meant hundreds of Fort Street students were wasting time while just eight received SRE classes. (Enrolment may have increased this year.)

“They’re sitting there doing nothing. They’re supposed to be studying. Whenever you bring this up, people just shrug and say it’s the law, what can we do? I believe the law should change,” Ms Bell said.

SRE is a politically contentious area of education policy.

Under former education minister Adrian Piccoli the department’s primary school enrolment form was changed, so that parents marking a religion on the enrolment form would have their children automatically enrolled into SRE, without any advice being given about the alternative secular ethics program available in some schools.

In high school, where there is no ethics option, parents must pro-actively opt out of SRE if they don’t want their children to participate.

Then premier Mike Baird was forced to deny there had been a deal on the enrolment form changes done with the Christian Democrat MLC Reverend Fred Nile to secure passage of government legislation in the upper house.