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Wintry weather hits Bendigo and central Victoria in first days of spring

The calendar might say that spring has arrived but the weather tells a different story, with central Victoria infor awet and chilly week.
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Damaging winds are forecast for parts of the region over the weekend, which will also herald the return of showers that look set to continue for several days.

Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Chris Godfred said cloud would begin increasing from the west from Saturday, along with isolated showers that would move eastwards across the state.

Mr Godfred said winds would increase ahead of a cold front that would sweep across Victoria on Sunday, with elevated areas most at risk of damaging gusts.

A severe weather warning has been issued for damaging northerly winds across parts of the Central and North Central forecast districts, which covers such towns asMaryborough and Castlemaine.

The severe weather warning area, highlighted in yellow. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology

The BOM expectswinds averaging 60 to 70 km/h with peak gusts of up to 100 km/h will develop in these areas during Saturday afternoon and evening.

Mr Godfred said temperatures would begin to drop on Sunday.

“The main effect of this cold outbreak’s going to be during Monday and Tuesday, with the probably the core of the coldest air moving over central Victoria late Monday to Tuesday morning,” he said.

He said this meant there could be more snow on the way for the region andtowns such as Macedon and Trentham could be in for a fall or two on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Bendigo is expected to reach a top of 15 degrees on Saturday, with a medium chance of showers in the morning and afternoon.

Similar conditions are forecast across the region, with Maryborough forecast to reach 15 degrees, Castlemaine 14 degrees, Kyneton 13 degrees and Echuca 17.

The weather will be much the same on Father’s Day, but on Monday daytime temperatures will plummet.

A top of just 11 degrees is forecast for Bendigo on Monday and Tuesday.

The days not looking likely to warm up by the end of the working week, with Thursday expected to be the warmest with a forecast maximum of 13 degrees.

Auctions proving balance of power shifting from sellers to buyers

There was secrecy in the air at the auction of a modest freestanding cottage in North Sydney on Saturday – even after the property successfully sold for a handsome $2.6 million.
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The early morning auction was one of the first homes to go under the hammer this weekend, kicking off Sydney’s spring selling season.

There were 649 properties listed to go under the hammer on Saturday. By evening, Domain Group reported a clearance rate of 67 per cent from 438 reported auctions. It was a marked drop compared to the same weekend last year, when Sydney recorded a 76 per cent clearance rate.

The North Sydney home last sold in 2010 for $1.742 million.

The seller – a local investor – was not on site for the 9am auction, while the buyer, in his 40s, declined to be interviewed after the hammer fell.

Selling agent Tom Scarpignato, from Belle Property Neutral Bay, said the seller did not want his employer to know about his sideline in property investment, and that the buyer was a “private individual”.

The auction took place on the upper level, on a large timber deck with a leafy outlook that had been touted as a major selling point during the campaign.

Other appealing features in the compact three-bedroom home included secure off-street parking and a whole-floor parents’ retreat with ensuite on the lower level.

The four bidders did not seem phased by the motorway noise that was clearly audible from the deck, quickly bringing the price up from the opening bid of $2.2 million to $2.5 million.

At this point, two bidders retired, leaving the eventual winner to battle it out with a young couple. ‘Market has lost its energy’: Sydney enters spring with whimper’Stop pretending’ everyone will own a home, experts say

“We had two local up-sizers and two down-sizers, one local and one from the Hills District,” said Scarpignato.

According to the agent, that mix of prospective buyers is typical of North Sydney, which often flies under the radar of North Shore investors.

“It really is varied around here,” Scarpignato said. “The up-sizers are people who are coming from nearby apartments who want a bit more space or a back yard but still want the convenience of being so close to the city and to the North Sydney CBD.

“Then you’ve got the down-sizers who have come from big blocks of land on the Upper North Shore – Chatswood, Epping and the Hills District – in search of convenience and a slightly smaller block.”

Scarpignato said that, until recently, many prospective North Shore buyers were unaware that North Sydney even had houses, assuming the suburb was comprised solely of apartment blocks and commercial buildings.

But as value became harder to find in Sydney in recent years, North Sydney’s profile grew.

“Houses rarely come up in North Sydney, which I think is why they’re so well contested when they do become available,” he added.

According to 11 Doris Street’s auctioneer, Andrew Robinson, who auctions property across the North Shore region, North Sydney is holding up well amid a broader market slow-down. “The Lower North Shore has delivered some strong results recently, particularly in North Sydney,” he said.

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson agreed, but said the Lower North Shore felt less hot than it did in 2016.

“It’s still a very strong market,” he said. “It’s now the best-performing market in Sydney. But I don’t think it’s as crazy any more.”

Dr Wilson noted that, although 11 Doris Street sold for $400,000 above the opening bid, the reserve price on the house was actually $2.5 million.

He said the balance of power between sellers and buyers is shifting. “It’s certainly a much more balanced market.”

But he said the Lower North Shore will continue to be a relatively good performer compared with other parts of Sydney.

“The Eastern Suburbs and the Lower North were a little late coming to the party when the boom began and they’ve been making up for lost time over the past year or so,” he said. “Particularly this year.”

This weekend marked the start of the spring selling season, which experts predict will be more subdued, pricing-wise, than last year’s energetic spring.

But volumes this weekend were high, with 715 scheduled auctions, compared with 637 at the same time last year.

“I was fully booked today with 12 auctions,” said Robinson. “I’m busier than I’ve ever been before. Stock levels have certainly increased – there’s no doubt about that.”

Robinson says agents were generally pleased with the day’s trading. “The results today have been relatively strong,” he said. “We’re certainly not seeing the out-of-line results that we were seeing six or nine months ago, but it’s still strong.”

He added: “Quality properties are still selling very very well, there’s no question about that.”

And he revealed that prospective buyers should prepare for significant variety this season. “I’m fully booked up until the end of October. There’s going to be a lot of stock on the market.”

Blade Runner 2049 leaves star Ryan Gosling struggling for answers

Location: Korda Studios outside Budapest, Water Tank. Time: 2049, Night. Main cast on set: Ryan Gosling as Officer K of the Los Angeles Police Department; Sylvia Hoeks, evil henchwoman. Warning to all cast and crew: there are journalists on set.
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A scene from Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Alcon Entertainment

The newBlade Runner, possibly the most feverishly anticipated film ever, is 65 days into shooting. Another reporter and I have slipped out of the tent where we are supposed to be watching proceedings on a viewing monitor to stand out in the cold on the edge of the tank and watch the real thing happening. It’s so vast, so dark, so wet: actually, it’s thrilling. The local Hungarian publicity assistants come out every couple of minutes and ask us would we not like to come back into the tent rather than stand here in a couple of centimetres of water. No, we wouldn’t.

Here’s what we can see. There is a car “crashed” on a sea-wall constructed on the edge of a tank big enough to look like the sea, with three rigs under the water surface creating waves, two cranes on dry land that can swing the car around and a vast scaffold rising out of the water with wings like a crop-duster that intermittently sprays rainstorms over two people grappling on the levee. Roger Deakins, the director of photography and an acknowledged genius, has lit the scene apparently only from within the car and a semi-circle of strip lights at ground level, which means that the pugilists move in and out of visibility, one moment in a blare of yellow light and the next plunged into the black.

Ryan Gosling as K in Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Stephen Vaughan.

We can only just make them out, to be honest; we’re a good hundred metres away. As far as I can tell, there are stunt doubles who do the real fighting and roll into the water. Then they move off and Ryan Gosling, face bloodied, swaps feinting blows with newcomer Hoeks, whose strength and impeccably coiffed hair recommend her as a replicant. Filming this fight, we are told, will take three nights.

It must be getting cold up there; between takes, Gosling throws himself down on the cement and does some speedy push-ups while Hoeks trots with the briskness of a harness racer, ponytail swinging. Another wave, generated by a contraption of rotating buckets that could have been designed by Heath Robinson, surges over the car. Whoosh! The next level of wrangler comes and tells us we should go back to the tent right now. We won’t and we don’t. This is the newBlade Runner. We’re not missing this.

Ridley Scott’sBlade Runner, released in 1982, now ranks alongside Stanley Kubrick’s2001as one of the two greatest science fiction films of all time. Opening with a sweeping shot across a glinting, glassy cityscape dominated by a vast advertising screen, fireballs of filth pumping through a fug of pollution and a crowd of doomed, desperate and deformed people scurrying around hundreds of metres below, it remains an unmatched vision of a near-future hell.

From left, Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling on set. Photo: Stephen Vaughan

The story was simple enough. World-weary policeman Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, pursues four “replicants” or humanoid robots that have gone rogue and returned from the space station where they are mechanical slaves to Earth, home of their original manufacturer, to demand longer, human-style lives. All replicants are retired after four years; they come with a selection of supplied memories and if they function for too long, they can also develop independent feelings. The escaped four want freedom. Deckard’s job is to “retire” – read “murder” – them.

Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novelDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the film raised intricate questions about identity, memory and mortality: whether, for example, we are all just the sum of our pasts. It is hard to believe now thatBlade Runnerwas initially a critical failure that also did badly at the box office, given that we have been chewing over it in all its official versions – there have been five – ever since.

Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Denis Villeneuve on set. Photo: Kata Vermes

The big question that has preoccupied the fanboys is whether Deckard himself is a replicant. It is this question that invests the current film with such urgency: surely, finally, this question will be answered. Ridley Scott, who directed the original and returns as executive producer this time around, said from the beginning that Deckard obviously was a Nexus 6, something he maintains to this day; Ford has always insisted he’s human; Hampton Fancher, the original scriptwriter and co-writer of the new film, has hinted that he might be a replicant after all.

Comic-Con’s kids and all their cohorts clearly need to know. But in what is surely a unique convergence of interests, the same issue is central for the numerous academics – not just film theorists, but philosophy and political science boffins – who have madeBlade Runnerthe subject of endless critical thought. Because if the faltering, conflicted Deckard is not human, what does human mean?

We have no idea what the story in the new film will be. The trailers released since the set visit a year ago have given some hints. On set, we visit a bleak prairie house that the trailer reveals is a refuge from the authorities for a character played by Dave Bautista. The trailer also features Robin Wright as a government authority figure, saying (tantalisingly, given our current real-world situation) that “the world is built on a wall that separates kind – tell either side there’s no wall and you’ve bought a war”.

Jared Leto is the bad guy: a replicant manufacturer who declares that every great society required a slave class. It’s not a great deal to go on. On set, the producers hold a press conference at which nobody can reveal anything. “You’ll have to excuse me, we’ve been sworn to secrecy for years,” says Gosling, stumped by a “how’s it going?” question. “I have no idea how to approach not talking about it.”

At least there are fewer night shoots this time around, says Ford. “Of the 50-day shooting schedule on the original film, 35 were nights,” he says. “Which is a brutal regimen.” Ford’s fury at the end of that 1982 shoot has passed into legend, along with his terse dismissal of the film itself – “It’s a film about whether you can have a meaningful relationship with your toaster” – but he’s here anyway, playing Deckard 35 years on.

Robin Wright and Sylvia Hoeks in Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Stephen Vaughan

“Ridley and I have long since made our peace with each other,” he says gruffly. “Whatever the circumstances were during the original film, I have great respect for Ridley and admiration for his work.” Ridley Scott is not here, but his name is over everything: the script for which he is credited as story developer, the producer credits, people’s minds. We are all replicants here, holding on to a firmly implanted photographic memory.

When Alcon Films producers Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson bought the rights to make aBlade Runnersequel in 2010, they imagined that Scott would direct it himself. “The first thing we did was call Ridley,” says Kosove. “He wanted to be involved.Blade Runnerwas never intended to be a one-off, but because of the contentious nature of the first production between Ridley and the financiers, nobody was talking to anyone.” Scott’sBlade Runnerwent way over time and over budget by a then-stupendous $30 million, after which the studio re-cut the film, added a new, upbeat ending and insisted Ford record a voice-over, which he did through twice-gritted teeth. “The acrimony was so great. It was like the Middle East,” says Kosove.

Alcon’s initial proposal was to make a prequel that would show the apocalypse that resulted inBlade Runner’s despoiled world. “But Ridley and Hampton got into a room and started rehashing ideas and came up with this amazing central concept hinted at in the first film, something nobody has ever talked about,” says Kosove. “It was like discovering a key to a bank vault; we’re very fortunate to have found the key that would bring them back together.” Scott was busy withPrometheus, however, so he couldn’t direct. The job passed to Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve, whose earlier films includeEnemy, Sicarioand last year’s sci-fi revelation,Arrival.

Where Scott is abrasive, Villeneuve is emollient, a mix of Gallic charm and Canadian niceness. “Denis is a very different kind of director from … what was his name?… Ridley,” growls Ford. “He is very direct and straightforward with the actors on the set. He either deeply, deeply loves something or thinks it is dog pooand it becomes almost immediately clear. I have had a wonderful time working with him.”

Villeneuve is too busy to do an interview, we are told, but he makes a point of leaving his impossibly complicated fight sequence to have a word. Recognising me from a recent interview, he gives my arm a companionable squeeze. That’s it, I think: permission to stand here and get as wet as I want.

A dystopian vision in brown defines Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Alcon Entertainment

Villeneuve’s line is that this is an indie film with a non-indie budget. “This is a very special set – I’ve never had this amount of toys. It’s like Christmas,” he says. The firstBlade Runner, he has said on more than one occasion, was the film that made him want to be a director in the first place. So is he feeling a certain pressure?

“I had pressure earlier in the process, when I agreed to do it. Then I met Ridley Scott and I met Hampton Fancher, who gave me a lot of advice and comforted me a lot. But the pressure I cannot think about, because I would just run and hide under my bed.”

The originalBlade Runnerwas set in 2019. The glass towers and legions of indigent street dwellers imagined by Fancher, designer Syd Mead and effects whiz Douglas Trumbull – the two design giants of the pre-CGI era – have come to pass, even if we have yet to deal with flying cars or “skin-job” robots. Technology in their own business moved on, however, in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Villeneuve is keen to keep to the spirit of the original by creating most of his effects in the camera.

The dominant palette is decidedly brown. “We worked with colour a lot, even though it seems there is no colour,” says costume designer Renee April. “One thing Denis and Roger have done is make this dystopia, which is horrible, then make it look beautiful. It took a while to find cohesion, because the costumes had to go with the set, the lighting, the feeling of it – how sad or dirty or crazy it would be. Finally, we made a ton of big overcoats.”

Props master Douglas Harlocker shows us around a collection of guns and the so-called “memory maker”, a device that looks like a steampunk camera lens. A dog-like construction of scrap iron with a head like a scanner is apparently designed to sniff out replicants. Whoops, we’re not supposed to know that. “Our inspiration comes largely from the director’s cut, but also from other versions of the firstBlade Runner,” Harlocker says. “And from things they had in their heads but never used.”

In designer Dennis Gassner’s office, we are surrounded by drawings and photographs of cities in fog. “I asked Denis ‘can you give me one or two words?’ and he said ‘I like chaos. We live in chaos today and we have to deal with it’,” says Gassner. There will also be extensive use of models. “To have something to light is incredibly helpful,” he says. “I love miniatures. I used miniatures to build the whole of New York City inThe Hudsucker Proxy. It’s interesting what sci-fi is going back to. It’s all about tone.”

We live in a cinematic age dominated by action films and, more particularly, by superhero action films: a long way, in other words, from Ridley Scott’sBlade Runnerwith its ambiguities, moral twists and bottomless philosophical potholes. The trailers released so far by Warner Bros begin with Ryan Gosling pointing his futuristic revolver at us, followed by a lot of fighting.Blade Runner 2049has to offer something more complicated than bad guys smashing through a skyscraper window, however, if it is to do anything like justice to the original. Denis Villeneuve can do that. He doesn’t have final cut, but surely nobody would try to dilute or tamper withBlade Runneragain. They have to deliver something extraordinary. And this time, we’ll be ready for it.

Blade Runner 2049opens on October 5.

Deaths in Tasmanian nursing home after an influenza outbreak

A number of elderly people have died in a North-West nursing homeduring an influenza outbreak, director of public healthDr Mark Veitch has confirmed.
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He said it was a “sad event”for the families affected, but could occur among frail people during an influenza season.

“Elderly people are susceptible to influenza, particularly if they have chronic medical conditions.,” he said.

“For this reason, Public Health Services wrote to all nursing homes in Tasmania earlier this year reminding them to prepare for the influenza season, recommending vaccination of residents and staff and reminding them of the national influenza outbreak guidelines.”

He said the nursing home –reported to bethe Strathdevon aged care facility in Latrobe, near Devonport –advised Public Health Services of this outbreak.

“Advice and support was provided in accordance with national guidelines,”Dr Veitch said.

“The influenzaseason in Tasmania this year has been moderately severe. Tasmanians are reminded to stay away from schools, work and health and aged care facilities if they are unwell.”

There had been more than 1500 confirmed influenza cases in Tasmania so far this year.

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According to the Pharmacy Guild of ’s Tasmanian president John Dowling this year’s flu seasonhas been a “severe” one, as a particularly virulent strain of the virus continues to tighten its grip on the nation.

He claimed that the strain of the flu virus currently causing problems was potent enough that it could still affect people who are immunised.

Breen’s 5km journey to kickstart sprint queen’s comeback

Sport100m runner Melissa Breen at the AIS track in Canberra.Photo: Rohan ThomsonThe Canberra Times.1 April 2015 Sport100m runner Melissa Breen at the AIS track in Canberra.Photo: Rohan ThomsonThe Canberra Times.1 April 2015
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Parking, start times, road closures: everything you need to know for The Canberra Times fun run

‘s fastest woman wants to break her own national record, but sprint queen Melissa Breen will be unusually slow when she races on Sunday.

Breen will walk the five kilometre Canberra Times fun run to raise awareness for the Heart Foundation more than a year after her dad, Mike, had a heart attack.

She will walk as part of her active recovery as she continues a five-month training plan of 12 sessions per week, edging closer to a 100 metre sprint return in the coming months.

The two-time Olympian has set her sights on the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and her first competition races in the United States next year.

But the motivation driving her racing comeback is the goal of beating her personal best time of 11.11 seconds after he broke a 20-year-old n record three years ago.

“I really just want to run fast, that’s all it comes down to,” Breen said.

“Breaking that record again and getting as close as I can to getting under 11 seconds is what drives me every day.

“I know it’s hard to run that fast – no one did it in 20 years. It requires something special but I’m working hard every day to get back to that and be a bit better. That’s my driving force.”

Breen will be part of the thousands competing on Sunday morning for the annual fun run event.

She has teamed up with the ‘Heart Racers’ program and will walk five kilometres, giving her plenty of time to reflect on the reason she’s doing the fun run.

Mike Breen thought he had hard burn last year and drove himself to the emergency department the following mornings. Doctors told him he had a heart attack and there was a 90 per cent blockage.

“Dad won’t be doing the fun run, but it’s a cause close to my heart,” Breen said.

“We’ll catch up for our regular Sunday night dinner afterwards … family is a big part of my life and they’ve given me so much support to chase my goals.”

Breen hasn’t raced at competition events since the start of the year, but is expected to make her comeback in October or November.

She has one eye on making the Commonwealth Games final on the Gold Coast before testing herself in the US for the first time in her career.

“I didn’t think I’d have a chance to race at a home Commonwealth Games, so to be chasing that is something words can’t describe,” Breen said.

“I’ve always wanted to compete in America as well, so we haven’t locked in any plans yet but because of the Commonwealth Games timing, it opens up the rest of the year.

“It’s been a big training block, but I am fit and the body is handling it so I’m getting that itch back to race again.”

It is hoped The Canberra Times will raise $125,000 for more than 250 charities. There will be 14 kilometre, 10 kilometre and 5 kilometre races, with all events finishing at Rond Terrace.

CANBERRA TIMES FUN RUN

How to get there

The 14km and 10km start lines are on Yamba Drive near Launceston Street, while the 5km starts on King George Terrace in front of Old Parliament House. But all events end up at the finish line on Rond Terrace along Lake Burley Griffin.

Those in the 5km event can jump on the shuttle bus from Rond Terraces, Commonwealth Park. If you’re sticking it out for the 14km and 10km, head to Parkes Place West in Parkes to catch your bus.

Buses run from 10am until noon. Don’t worry – there will also be shuttle buses operating from the finish line to take you back after putting in the hard yards.

Where to drop your gear

If you’re in the 5km run, head to gear collection at the event village on Rond Terrace. Just make sure you’re back at that line on King George Terrace before your 9:30am start.

Those taking on the 14km or 10km runs can drop their things off between 7:15am and 8:10am at the finish area on Rond Terraces.

It’s recommended runners arrive at the start area at least 30 minutes before the starting gun goes off.

Where to park

For the 5km race, head to the National Library car park, or the Treasure building. There are also open car parks at the John Gordon building and Parkes Place West.

Those heading out for the 14km or 10km should head to the Hellenic Club for spots.

Or, if you’re looking to tuck into some food at the event village, try Anzac Park east or at the CIT car park.

What the weather will be doing

After a low of four, Sunday is warming up to a blustery 19 degrees. But, expect a few showers to cap off the day.

There’s a 70 per cent chance of a downpour during the evening. Of course, many runners will be safe and warm in the pub by then!

Which roads will be closed

For those driving rather than running, expect a few detours throughout the first half of the day. Areas affected include Parkes, Phillip, Curtin, Yarralumla and Capital Hill.

From 6am until 1 pm, there will be closures on the northbound lanes of Kings Avenue and Wendouree Drive between Constitution Avenue and Kings Avenue.

Road closures for the 2017 Canberra Times Fun Run. Photo: Canberra Times Fun Run

From 6am until noon, the following road closures will be in place:

Yamba Drive, northbound lanes between Kitchener Street and Yarra Glen Yarra Glen, northbound lanes Yarra Glen, southbound lanes between Carruthers Street and Melrose Drive Melrose Drive, between Theodore Drive and Yarra Glen Launceston Street, between Easty Street and Yamba Drive Adelaide Avenue, northbound lanes State Circle, northbound lanes Parliament Drive, at the entrance to State Circle and Commonwealth Avenue Federation Mall, between Queen Victoria Crescent and Parliament Drive Walpole Crescent, between Queen Victoria Terrace and King George Terrace Queen Victoria Terrace, between Walpole Street and Langton Crescent Langton Crescent, between King George Terrace and Queen Victoria Terrace King George Terrace, between Langton Crescent and Kings Avenue.

Intersections impacted by these closures include:

Yarra Glen with Caruthers Street and Cotter Road Wisdom Street with Yamba Drive Adelaide Avenue with Novar Street, Hopetoun Circuit and Empire Circuit State Circle with Perth Avenue, Rhodes Place, Flynn Drive, Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue Kings Avenue with Walpole Crescent, King George Terrace, King Edward Terrace, National Circuit, Macquarie Street, Blackall Street and Bowman Drive.

Barriers as well as warning and diversion signs will be in place.

For information on changes to Transport Canberra bus routes visit www.transport.act.gov.au.