Category Archives: Profiles – Men.

Alan Jones

Alan Jones, the Grand Inquisitor of Radio Talkback, is now in a firestorm of his own making. His loathsome comments about the death of the Prime Minister’s father, John Gillard, have blown up in his face with a number of key advertisers now deserting his top-rating breakfast show and a growing social media backlash showing no signs of abating. Jones has been here before: the infamous London toilet incident in 1988, the Cash for Comments scandal a decade later, his inflammatory remarks during the Cronulla riots, in fact a lifetime of controversy and divisiveness. In 1998 I wrote an article for Good Weekend on the broadcaster called, appropriately: `Who’s Afraid of Alan Jones?’ The answer: A lot of people. This article was later re-published in my book “The Whites of their Eyes.”

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Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine

“I know more than any scientist in my inner heart … I know everything about the universe and how it works. I can answer any question about any mystery in the world, any mystery in the universe.”

– Serge Benhayon’s message for the “New Era”, January 1, 2012.

A few years before Serge Benhayon realised he was the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci, he was a junior tennis coach on the north coast of NSW. What prompted Italy’s greatest Renaissance painter and polymath to reappear in the lush hills of Alstonville to teach tennis 480 years after his death is a mystery, even to Benhayon.

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Paul Kelly’s “Stories of Me” – a new documentary

Paul KellyA three year project documenting the life and musical career of Paul Kelly has now been completed. On Saturday, August 4, the film had its premier at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It will have one-off screenings in all Australian capital cities during October/November (for tickets, dates and to view the trailer click here )

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Mark Carnegie “Bear In The Boardroom.”

Mark Carnegie is not your normal investment banker. Call him a capitalist with a conscience. Read about him in tomorrow’s Good Weekend.

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How To Live In The Now: Eckhart Tolle

Okay, I’ve joined the new social media. My Facebook is up and running. Twitter is tweeting. My blog is blogging. My smart phone is smarting. The old telephone keeps ringing. The fax has stopped working but the email inbox is a tidal wave that King Canute can’t stop. It reminds me of why I was drawn to Eckhart Tolle, and why I should come back to him.

How To Live In The Now - Eckhart Tolle by David LeserHere’s an admission. I take Eckhart Tolle to bed with me every night. I share him with others, of course, but he’s the constant companion. He’s the one that’s always there. Sometimes when I don’t sleep I turn to him for comfort or advice. At other times, deep in the grip of some dreamstate, I feel him guarding the night like my own personal shepherd.

We’ve never met in person – although that’s about to change – but I can honestly say I love him. I love what he has to say and how he says it in those German-laced dulcet tones of his. Yes, he’s even on my ipod favourites playlist! And I’m happy to say my wife fully understands our relationship. She’s an admirer too, although hers is not as deep a bond as mine. Call it a case of “each according to their needs.”

A few years ago I foisted him on my unsuspecting, but surprisingly receptive, 80 year-old father, then onto my brother and sister who’d actually seen the light months earlier. Last year my 19 year-old daughter took him with her all through Europe. She says he’s now become her friend too.

I know what you might be thinking. That we’ve all stumbled badly, lost our moorings and joined some wild-eyed religious cult. In fact the opposite is true. We’ve found … let me speak for myself  … I’ve found something deep inside myself that has always been there. It just needed a perfect stranger, a pixie of a man with shining eyes, to point the way.

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Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

The Canadian teenage superstar has just turned 18 and the Justin Juggernaut continues. David Leser recalls the Bieber tour Down Under and his awakening to Bieber Fever.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never by David Leser

Photo by Pacific Coast News

The tender hearts of Australia’s female youth are probably still palpitating, but now that he has departed our shores it might be a good time to get some perspective on the phenomenon that is Justin Bieber.

Never mind if there are those of you who’ve only just heard of him – I, too, was living under a rock marked `Paleolithic’ until recently – this is the 17 year-old from Stratford, Canada, who, is now re-defining fame and the history of pop culture.

Consider this: Nine million albums sold worldwide in his first year as a professional performer; earnings of over $100 million in 12 months; one billion viewers on YouTube, 9 million Twitter followers, nearly 17 million Facebook friends, a best-selling book, a 3-D movie about himself, two performances at the White House, appearances on Oprah, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and a host of others, sell-out tours across America, Europe and Australia. And all this before the singer with the Cupid smile can vote or drink in his own hometown.

Think Frank Sinatra in 1942 when he nearly caused the walls of the Paramount Theatre in New York to cave in, such was the commotion from his teenage fans. Think Elvis Presley in 1956 after he sparked near riots with his smouldering good looks and voice, not to mention his on-stage gyrations. Think the Beatles who, during the 1960s, triggered a worldwide hysteria that was to become forever known as “Beatlemania.”

Yes, think all the pop acts of contempory history that have caused the tweeny thermometer to sizzle and melt – Old Blue Eyes, The King, the Fab Four, the Monkees, David Cassidy, Michael Jackson, the Backstreet Boys (for a moment anyway) – and Justin Bieber is now a glittering star in the same firmament. Only he’s done it faster.

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Julian Assange: The Most Wanted Man In The World

As Julian Assange awaits a British Supreme Court challenge to his extradition to Sweden this story looks at the early life of a computer wizard who became one of the most wanted men in the world.

Nearly two decades ago in the hills outside Melbourne Julian Assange would go to sleep in the early hours of the morning dreaming of police raids. He would hear footsteps on the driveway gravel, see shadowy figures hovering near his house, and imagine armed police bursting through his backdoor at dawn.

Julian Assange: The Most Wanted Man In The World

Photograph: Carmen Valino

He was often paranoid and exhausted, mainly because he’d been up all night hacking his way into Australian and overseas computers. His lack of sleep compounded his paranoia. He believed the police were watching him, tapping his phone and about to raid his house.

He was dead right about that.

In late October 1991, this 20 year-old computer wizard was a key member of an elite underground movement in Melbourne known as International Subversives, arguably the most sophisticated hacking group on the planet.

Comprising three brilliant, obsessive young men from dysfunctional family backgrounds – they met initially on computer bulletin board systems, not in person – the group had managed to break into some of the most secure networks in the world, including NASA, the Naval Surface Warfare Centre in Virginia and the Pentagon itself.

We know this because Julian Assange was to tell us himself six years later in a book called Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, published to great international acclaim in 1997. Written by Australian post-graduate student, Suelette Dreyfus, with Assange’s close co-operation, Underground lifted the lid on the exploits of this rogue sub-culture operating out of Australia’s second largest city.

Their maxim was: “Don’t damage computer systems you break into (including crashing them); don’t change the information in those systems (except for altering logs to cover your tracks); and share information.”

The book, in part a ghost-written autobiography of Assange’s early life, never actually revealed the names of the Melbourne hackers, but rather online nicknames such as Phoenix, Electron, Prime Suspect, Trax and Mendax.

Court documents and biographical details on the Wikileaks website would later show that Mendax was none other than Julian Assange. He’d chosen his moniker from Horace’s splendide mendax, meaning “nobly untruthful.”

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Heath Ledger

Two years after Heath Ledger scandalised sections of middle America with his near-miraculous performance as a gay cowboy, he would light up the screen with another tour de force, this time as the lovelorn, heroin-soaked poet, Dan, in the Australian cult movie, Candy.

Little known outside Australia, this film was based on a loosely autobiographical book of the same name written by Australian author, Luke Davies. In the film Ledger somehow managed to find his way inside the twisted, twilight world of the drug addict.

"Heath Ledger"

I pull the syringe from her arm and drop it on the table and hold my thumb down over the tiny hole I’ve made. I release the tie with my other hand. Candy looks down at her arm like a child who’s relieved that the innoculation is over. Then she says, mmmm, and her facial muscles relax and she lies back on the bed and says, that is heaps better. Heaps better. Fuck oh God. Fuck fuck fuck. This is the best. Oh God, this is awesome.

This was – as the New York Times commented of Ledger’s role – acting of the first order. “Ledger looks and plays the part of the scheming user exceptionally well. He’s deep in the character’s skin right from the start.”

Ledger and his co-star, Abbie Cornish – who recently appeared opposite Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age – had received their tutoring from an expert, a heroin addict belonging to a Sydney group called “Proud Users.”

“Abbie and Heath got lots of lessons with a prosthetic arm on how to inject,” the film’s producer, Margaret Fink told Vanity Fair. “They had instructions from an expert … and Heath was as convincing as one could have been.”

In the wake of Ledger’s death last week in a New York apartment, it is tempting to now speculate that Ledger simply took his heroin classes too seriously. One Australian tabloid newspaper asserted as much by reporting that Ledger had spent several days at a drug rehabilitation facility battling an addiction to heroin following his separation last year from American actress, Michelle Williams.

At the time of writing there was no way of confirming this. What could be confirmed was that Heath Ledger’s death had shattered his family and closest friends, as well as the proud and close-knit Australian film industry.

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HEALING HEART – The Story of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

*Originally featured in Good Weekend, 14 May 2011.

Two years ago, Izzeldin Abuelaish lost three beloved daughters in an Israeli tank attack, yet the famed Palestinian doctor refuses to let hate fill his soul. he explains why to David Leser.   

“My God, my God. They killed my daughters. Shlomi, I wanted to save them, but they are dead. They were hit in the head. They died on the spot. Allah, what have we done to them? Oh God.”

These were the words of Palestinian doctor, Izzeldin Abuelaish, as he spoke to Israeli television journalist Shlomi Eldar from the ruins of his home in the Gaza Strip on January 16, 2009. More than words really, an animal cry from the depths of a father’s heart.

The war in Gaza, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead” had entered its twentieth day when Dr Abuelaish used what was left of his fading mobile phone battery to make his call.

No reporter, Israeli or otherwise, had been allowed into the heavily populated Palestinian territory since the beginning of the war, and, for many journalists, this refugee doctor’s eyewitness account had become crucial to their understanding of what was happening.

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