Ahad, 26 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Heart risks lower in men who get enough vitamin D-study

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 08:43 PM PDT

NEW YORK, June 27 - (Reuters Life!) - Men who consume the recommended amount of vitamin D are somewhat less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those with low vitamin D, according to a U.S. study.

The study, which followed nearly 119,000 adults for two decades and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that men who got at least 600 IU of vitamin D per day, the current recommended amount, were 16 percent less likely to develop heart problems or stroke than men who got less than 100 IUD per day.

A picture illustration of an empty chicken egg shell next to the raw egg white and yolk, taken in Berlin January 4, 2011. (REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski)

But there was no such pattern among women, wrote lead research Qi Sun at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"These observations suggest that a higher intake of vitamin D is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in men but not in women," Sun wrote.

But Sun and the other authors said the findings don't yet prove that vitamin D, which is found in fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil, deserves the credit for the lower risk found in men.

"The evidence is not strong enough yet to make solid recommendations," Sun added.

The current study was observational, based on data from two long-term projects that have followed two large groups of U.S. health professionals since the 1980s: the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Out of 45,000 men, there were about 5,000 new cases of cardiovascular disease over the study period, marked by a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death.

It's not clear why the finding in men wasn't matched by a similar pattern in women, but Sun said one possibility is that women may have less active vitamin D circulating in the blood.

Vitamin D is also stored in fat, and women typically have a higher percentage of body fat than men do.

But more research is needed, Sun said, adding that more answers are expected from an ongoing randomized trial evaluating whether a high dose of vitamin D (2,000 IU per day) can cut the risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. SOURCE: http://bit.ly/irO9Xe

(Reporting by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Bombs kill 25 at Nigerian drinking spot - sources

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 08:12 PM PDT

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected members of a radical Islamist sect threw bombs at a drinking spot in Nigeria's northeastern town of Maiduguri on Sunday, killing around 25 people, witnesses and military sources said.

The attackers -- who the military said were suspected members of the Boko Haram sect -- threw three sets of explosives from the back of motorbikes at around 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) and appeared to be targeting police officers, witnesses said.

"Around 25 people have been killed in a multiple bomb blast in the Dala ward of Maiduguri," a military official said, asking not to be named.

The National Emergency Management Agency said it was working with other rescue teams to evacuate the injured but gave no further details.

Insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria has rapidly replaced militant attacks on oil infrastructure hundreds of kilometres away in the southern Niger Delta as the main security threat in Africa's most populous nation in recent months.

Boko Haram, which says it wants a wider application of strict sharia Islamic law in Nigeria, claimed responsibility for a bomb blast 10 days ago outside the national police headquarters in the capital Abuja.

The sect has been responsible for almost daily killings and attacks on police and government buildings in and around Maiduguri, which lies near Nigeria's remote northeastern borders with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

Boko Haram's former leader, self-proclaimed Islamic scholar Mohammed Yusuf, was shot dead in police custody during a 2009 uprising in which hundreds were killed. His mosque was destroyed with tanks and the security forces claimed a decisive victory.

But low-level guerrilla attacks on police stations and assassinations, including of traditional leaders and moderate Islamic clerics, intensified in the second half of last year.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who was sworn in for his first full term in office a month ago, has voiced support for dialogue with Boko Haram.

But the group has an ill-defined command structure, a variety of people claiming to speak on its behalf, and an unknown number of followers. Some security analysts say its supporters number in the thousands.

West African Islam is overwhelmingly moderate and the sect's ideology is not widely supported by Nigeria's Muslim population, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, but poverty and unemployment have helped it build a cult-like following.

(For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://af.reuters.com/ )

(Writing by Nick Tattersall; editing by Andrew Roche)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Sixty pct of Japan voters want PM out by Aug - survey

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 08:12 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sixty percent of Japanese voters want Prime Minister Naoto Kan to resign by the end of August, a survey showed on Monday, the latest sign of mounting pressure on the unpopular leader to keep a pledge to quit as Japan struggles with a nuclear crisis.

A political stalemate over Kan's departure risks slowing efforts to recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima plant, and could delay steps to tackle structural problems including massive public debt.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends the Lower House special committee on reconstruction from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Tokyo June 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Kan, under fire for his response to the quake, pledged this month to step down to quell a rebellion in his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and survive a no-confidence vote, but the premier -- Japan's fifth in five years -- has declined to say when he will go.

The survey by the Nikkei business daily showed 42 percent want Kan to resign as soon as possible -- twice the figure in a May poll. Another 18 percent think he should quit by the end of August, when the current session of parliament concludes.

Kan has said he wants to stay on at least long enough to enact a bill enabling the government to issue bonds to fund about 40 percent of a $1 trillion budget for the year from April 1, a small extra budget to help with recovery from the tsunami, and measures to promote renewable energy sources.

Opposition parties, which control parliament's upper house and can block bills other than treaties and budgets, look set to help pass the small extra budget.

But they want changes to the ruling DPJ's spending plans in return for backing the bond issuance bill and are cautious about the renewable energy bill, which businesses fear will raise electricity costs.

Kan's critics in the Democrats, including some former backers, are also growing increasingly restive.

Six party executives including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada agreed in a meeting on Sunday that Kan should resign during the current parliament session, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.

But it was not clear how they intended to force Kan to do this if he wants to stay on.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Joseph Radford)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Seven-match hockey test in Spain gets underway

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 05:53 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: After four days of training, the national team will finally start their seven-match test in Spain with the first game at Real Polo Club in Barcelona today.

National coach Tai Beng Hai (pic) said in a telephone interview yesterday that the first three matches will be against club sides.

"So far we have just been training since our arrival here in Barcelona on Wednesday. We are giving the players a half-day break today and from tomorrow they go into match mode," said Beng Hai.

The team started their tour of Europe with two matches against the Dutch national team in Amsterdam last weekend. They lost 1-5 and 1-9.

Besides the three matches with the club sides, the team have lined up two games against the Spanish juniors and two against their senior squad.

The second match tomorrow will be against Athletic Terassa HC followed by the game against Club Egara the next day.

They have a break on Thursday and then play the Spain's juniors on July 2 and 4. There will be a break on July 5 and they end the tour with matches against the Spanish national team on July 6 and 7.

They return home on July 9.

Beng Hai said that the players are all in good condition and there are no injuries.

"Most of the matches are at night except for the first one. Our aim is to work on our combinations and also to minimise the errors.

"The younger players are beginning to understand out playing style but we will have a better idea when they get onto the pitch. They need to play under pressure and that is when we can see their true worth.

"Our objective will be to give all the players a chance to get a game and play as much as they can on the tour. We have also been working on our fitness as well," he said.

The tour is part of the national team's preparation for the Olympic qualifiers next year. For this year their two major assignments will be the inaugural Champions Trophy in September where the top six Asian teams will be in action and the FIH Champions Challenge I in South Africa in November.

Beng Hai said that the Champions Challenge I will be good indicator of their strength and current form.

"These teams are all of high standard and any one of them could make the top-12 list. So the Champions Challenge will give a good idea where we stand. Among the teams playing are New Zealand, Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Belgium, Japan and Poland.

"It is a strong field and a number of these teams will also feature in the qualifiers while some would have qualified from their continental championships," he said.

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Norizman rides his way back onto the winner’s rostrum

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 05:52 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Norizman Ismail proved that his first victory of the season in the last leg at Putrajaya was no fluke as once again he set the pace to win the fifth leg of the Petronas AAM Malaysian Cub Prix Championship at Teluk Intan yesterday.

The Harian Metro TEQ SCK Honda Racing rider completed the 14-lap CP130 race with a total time of 13:33.186 while Petronas Syntium Moto Yamaha AHM's Mohd Ramdan Mohd Rosli had to settle for second place (13:35.854). Norizman's team-mate, Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman took third spot.

Meanwhile, defending champion Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah (Petronas Syntium Moto Yamaha Raceline) who is making a comeback after missing the first four legs due to his participation in the Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) could only finish fourth.

"Actually I didn't push all out during this morning's qualifying sessions because I wanted to find out who were my main contenders," said Norizman who start from second on the grid.

"Hafizh who had dominated during practice and qualifying was the one to beat but I was confident of winning because I have studied his strengths and weaknesses. Besides it was my experience which pulled me through on race day."

"Nevertheless it was still a very challenging race and I went all out for it. My initial target was only to finish within the top three but I'm really glad to have beaten Hafizh and secured back-to-back victories," said the 26-year-old Norizman.

With the win, Norizman extended his lead in the championship standings to 79 points – 27 ahead of second placed Ahmad Fazli Sham (Penzoil Fastrac Racing) who has 52 points while Mohd Affendi Rosli (Harian Metro TEQ SCK Honda Racing) is third with 51 points.

The championship will resume with the sixth leg at Alor Setar, Kedah from July 22-23.



Leading finishers: 1. Norizman Ismail (Harian Metro TEQ SCK Honda Racing) 13:33.186, 2. Mohd Ramdan Mohd Rosli (PETRONAS Syntium Moto Yamaha AHM) 13:35.854, 3. Azlan Shah Kamaruzman (Harian Metor TEQ SCK Honda Racing) 13:42.589, 4. Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah (PETRONAS Syntium Moto Yamaha Raceline) 13:47.091, 5. Mohd Iskandar Raduan (PETRONAS Syntium Moto Yamaha Raceline) 13:47.747. Leading overall standings: 1. Norizman 79 pts, 2. Ahmad Fazli Sham (Pennzoil Fastrac Racing) 52, 3. Mohd Affendi Rosli (Harian Metro TEQ SCK Honda Racing) 51, 4. Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi (Pachie Yuzy Honda Racing) 47, 5. Mohd Ramdan Mohd Rosli (PETRONAS Syntium Moto Yamaha AHM) 45.


Leading finishers: 1. Ahmad Abdul Kadir (APIDO Yamaha Boon Kui Racing) 11:45.784, 2. Shahril Izzuwan Mohd Noor (PETRONAS Syntium Moto Yamaha AHM) 11:47.712, 3. Mohd Rozaliman Zakaria (ZAR Racing Motorsports) 11:47.911, 4. Mohd Emir Firdaus Hasan (MSeki Liberty Honda Racing) 11:53.585, 5. Mohd Rozaiman Mohd Said (Motul Yamaha YY Pang Racing) 11:54.084. Leading overall standings: 1. Shahril Izzuwan 81, 2. Zaidy Mohd Zaifaizal (Motul Yamaha YY Pang) 76, 3. Mohd Emir 54, 4. Mohd Adli Salihin (Motul Yamaha YY Pang) 54, 5. Mohd Rozaliman Zakaria 51.


Leading finishers: 1. Zulsyafiz Rosli (MOS Malaysia Racing) 9:59.966, 2. Mohd Khairul Adli Azhar (Suzuki Fortyone Racing) 10:00.078, 3. Mohd Adib Rosley (Motul Yamaha YY Pang) 10:02.195, 4. Mohd Amin Mohd Azahar (MOS Malaysia Racing) 10:02.774, 5. Mohd Solehin Mohd Sukor (Honda Promax X-Dot Racing) 10:12.242. Leading overall standings: 1. Zulsyafiz 89, 2. Mohd Hafiza Rofa (Faito YSP Racing) 75, 3. Nurahmad Fariznazreen (Motul Yamaha YY Pang) 59, 4. Mohd Adib 56, 5. Mohd Khairul 20.

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Joy for Shahrul as he bounces back from last year’s heartbreak

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 05:51 PM PDT

RAUB: Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin of Terengganu Pro-Asia Cycling made up for his disappointment of a second place finish in the national cycling championships last year by winning this year, thus earning him the black and white tiger-striped champion's jersey for the next calendar year.

The jersey, awarded to the national champions every year, will be worn by the winner in all road cycling competitions except for time trial events. The previous holder of the jersey was Mohd Adiq Husainie Othman of Drapac Professional.

In the 176km race yesterday, the main bunch controlled the pace for most of the time to neutralise any attacks from the other riders.

However, with undulating terrain towards the end of the race, the bunch soon spread out and Shahrul, together with Mohd Zamri Salleh, Ahmad Fallanie Ali and Mohd Nor Rizuan Zainal decided to break away near the 140km mark.

The break paid off as all three, except for Rizuan who suffered cramps with just 20km to go, finished on the podium with Zamri second and Fallanie finishing third.

"The bunch was spread out due to the terrain and it is impossible for sprinters to nail the race today. We decided to give it a go and I managed to fend off Zamri and Fallanie to win," said Shahrul.

He said that if the bunch had stayed together, he would play his part to put team-mate Anuar Manan in a position for the sprint finish.

"I knew that Anuar and the bunch couldn't catch up with us as we hold about 1:30 advantage at the front. That's why I decided to go with them (Zamri and Fallanie)," said Shahrul.

In the women's event, Kimbeley Yap won the 84km race to snatch the champion's jersey from Mariana Mohamad yesterday.

Masziyaton Mohd Radzi of Kedah finished second while Mariana was third.

Kimbeley, the 2005 Manila SEA Games triathlon gold medallist, was in the breakaway group with Masziyaton and Mariana after the 35km mark.

"There was a big hill ahead of us so the three of us worked together until it was close to the finish line. Just 300m towards the end, I decided to push it a little bit harder and when I saw there were no wheels close to me at the finish line, I knew I have nailed it," said Kimbeley.


Men: 1. Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin (Terengganu Pro-Asia) 4'18:47; 2. Mohd Zamri Salleh (A. Forces) 4'18:48; 3. Ahmad Fallanie Ali (DBKL) 4'18:51;4. Sayuti Zahit (Utem) 4'20:08; 5. Mohd Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi (Police) 4'20:09; 6. Nur Amirul Fakharuddin Mazuki (Terengganu Pro-Asia); 7. Mohd Rauf Nur Misbah (Sel) same time; 8. Amir Mustafa Rusli (Police) 4'20:12; 9. Mohd Harrif Salleh (Terengganu Pro-Asia) 4'21:17; 10. Amiruddin Jamaluddin (Utem) same time.

Women: 1. Kimbeley Yap (Swk) 2'41:59; 2. Masziyaton Mohd Radzi (Ked);3. Mariana Mohamad (Sel) same time; 4. Ju Pha Somnet (Nat. back-up) 2'46:06; 5. Mardiana Mohd Radzi (Ked); 6. Suryani Mohamad (Ter); 7. Zahraa Anuawar (Ter); 8. Noor Azian Maslin Sazali (Nat. back-up) all same time; 9. Zanariah Ismail (Joh) 2'48:21; 10. Nurul Syuhada Zainal (Ter) 2'58:33.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Obama's signature: Is it real or is it autopenned?

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 05:52 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]WASHINGTON: It's the open secret that nobody in government wants to talk about: That cherished presidential signature that's tucked away in a scrapbook or framed for all to see might never have passed under the president's hand.

Central bankers advise investors to expect less

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 05:50 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]BASEL, Switzerland: Investors should prepare themselves for smaller profit margins as banks stash away more capital to avoid another global financial crisis, the world's major central bankers cautioned Sunday.

Home Depot accused of violating Buy American Act

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 05:48 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]SAN FRANCISCO: The photograph on Home Depot's website shows a line of smiling soldiers unloading a truck stacked with power tools and other company wares.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

The great gender divide on reading habits

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 02:54 AM PDT

But what do men and women read? And how much do they read? A recent reading survey throws up some interesting results about gender differences when it comes to reading.

WOMEN cook, women clean, women look after the children and women read. Men bring back the dough and have no time for luxuries like reading.

"Of course I like to read, but I'm a very busy person," says the man, "I don't have time to read!"

We have surely left such static and archaic gender roles behind, haven't we? But then, there's the little survey we carried out recently.... According to that, and numerous other studies all over the world, gender differences in the reading habits of men and women still prevail.

First up, do women really read more than men? Well, this isn't a scientific result, we have to say, but it's telling that out of about 200 respondents of our The Reason Why survey, a whopping 74% were female. At the very least, it suggests that women are more keen to share their reading likes and dislikes with us. Or maybe they just enjoy doing surveys more than men.

Is it true that women tend to be more avid readers who do not put down a book until they are done with the last page? A study conducted in Britain last year suggests that this is the case, with twice more men saying that they never get around to finishing a book.

Asking around, we discovered that this might not necessarily be a result of men's supposedly short attention spans; as some pointed out, it could be that men gravitate towards the kind of books that do not require a cover-to-cover read, or perhaps they are just quicker to declare a book unworthy of their time and ditch it.

Thirty ringgit for two miserable chapters might not go down well with the fairer sex but maybe to some men, not finishing a book is a trivial matter, one not worth losing sleep over.

And, presumably, it does not make them feel inadequate to have entire bookshelves of unfinished books at home like some people we know....

But if women really read more, then why are there more men writing book reviews? Last year, men accounted for more than 80% of the reviewers in the prestigious New York Review Of Books and about 60% of the reviewers in The New York Times' Book Review section.

Interestingly, there are also more books by male authors than female authors that have been reviewed although it is difficult to determine if there are just more male authors in general.

In an article in Britain's The Guardian newspaper earlier this year, Times Literary Supplement editor Peter Stothard commented that while women are big readers, they are also heavy readers of the kind of fiction that is not likely to be reviewed, such as genre fiction.

Girls only?

When it comes to fiction, the gender gap is at its widest. Studies carried out in the United States, Canada and Britain consistently find that women read more fiction than men.

Their results suggest that men account for only about 20% of the fiction market. However, it is widely accepted that men dominate the non-fiction department.

Donald Kee, chief operating officer of MPH Bookstores, says that holders of the chain's membership cards are more or less balanced across both sexes even though women do tend to buy more fiction titles than men.

Could it be that fiction is a feminine thing? After all, women are said to be more in tune with emotions than men, who are supposedly more visually oriented.

Psychologists claim that women are generally more empathetic than men, which might be one reason why works of fiction seem more appealing to them, as they require the reader to empathise with the characters.

As one of our previous surveys (the Bookcrush Survey) revealed, women seem to have the capacity to identify with fictitious characters and even fall head-over-heels in love with them!

In The Reason Why survey, the highest percentage of women, about 20%, said they look for the thrill of a fantasy story in a book. It is interesting to note that these respondents who chose fantasy as their favourite genre were mainly in their 20s and 30s. This is true for both genders. However, only three male respondents, around 5% of the men, said that books from the fantasy genre top their list of books to read.

"From my personal experience dealing with adolescents and young adults, males do seem to become less interested in fantasy stories at an earlier age compared to females. But they do tend to maintain an interest in sci-fi longer than females," says Prof Dr Ray Wilks, head of psychology at International Medical University.

It seems that boys tend to identify more with male characters but girls are not so particular about the gender of the lead character in the book and have no problems rooting for a male character as they would a female.

Maybe if there were more Edwina Cullens instead of Edward Cullens, the male legion might be tempted to hold on to their fantasy books just a while longer.

Buying for the family

Do women really read more or do they just seem to read more because they read more often or more visibly? Are women expected to be more bookish than men? Or are there just more works of fiction that cater specifically to women?

Kinokuniya's merchandising department assistant manager Seto Kit Sau points out that in children's publishing, boys have been always treated as the more reluctant readers.

"It is more difficult to get boys interested in books when there are so many other things they like to do, like computer games. Girls tend to be more voracious readers and it is easier to get them to read lighter stuff. Boys read fiction too, but there are often specific kinds of books that are popular with them, like ghost stories and comics," she says.

But once the kids grow up and start heading for the young adult section, the differences tend to blur, although Seto says that there is still more fiction published for females in this department.

"Many guys at that age will have moved on to non-fiction and adult fiction. I'm not saying that women are not interested in informative reading, which is what non-fiction is, but we do see more guys who are.

"It's quite obvious that they are interested in facts and information, and if they are interested in a particular topic, then they will want to read up on everything they can get their hands on about it," she says.

Kee says that he has noticed that there are usually more women than men in the bookstore. He says if really more women than men read, it could have something to do with the different ways boys and girls are brought up.

"Many parents want both their sons and daughters to read, but there are also many who tend to allow the boys to play more (and read less). They might want to sit down and spend a quiet afternoon reading with their girls but they tell the boys to run outside and play," he says.

Women also end up buying more books in the bookstore but he is not convinced that it is because they read more.

"It could be because women are not just buying for themselves; they are also buying for family, friends and their children. Women are a key proposition for us because it is a wider market in terms of getting them to buy things as opposed to men. But at the end of the day, I think it is quite consistent across the board in retailing, and not just books, that women are the main target. Books just happen to go in the same direction," he says.

And even if women are buying more books, it doesn't mean that men are not reading. They are just reading differently.

"Men know what they want and they will go for it. Women will try many different things. They will not mind spending RM100 on five books whereas a man will not mind spending more than that on just one book because he needs it for his hobby," Seto says, adding that a fact that cannot be denied is that there are certain genres which are almost exclusively more for women, like romance and chick lit.

"But both men and women read things like adventure, mystery and thrillers. People used to say that men don't read anything but comics, but now even women are really into comics too. You can imagine a woman reading (the tales of high seas adventures by English historical novelist) Bernard Cornwell but you probably couldn't imagine a man reading Joanna Trollope (who writes about modern middle-class life). He might have to wrap it in brown paper if he does," she says, laughing.

World of my own

Our surveys reveal that everyone picks up a book for a different reason. Some read to escape the monotony of life, some read to get ahead, and some read just because it is the only thing they know how to do.

It was very interesting to note that there were distinct differences in how the two genders answered this survey question: why do you read?

Most of the women decided that life was on an all-time low (they chose the "Life sucks. Books help me to escape it just for a while," option) and reading offered an alternate world, a sense of escapism, obviously.

Almost a third of the female respondents chose this answer and formed the majority. (However, we noted that a few women wanted to make it clear that their lives do not suck, but they enjoy being transported into the world of books anyway.)

Many women chose to expand on why they read. Good plots, favourite writer, catchy synopsis and title, good reviews and attractive book covers prove to be popular among the women when making book choices. There's also the purposeful: "I seek comfort in books", "I want to immerse myself in another world" and "I read to not think".

And, of course, the melodramatic amused us quite a bit when we were going through the results, "Books are like my air, books are my life" and "I will die without books and I will leave a ton of books behind when I die".

According to the results of our survey, women seem to be not as taken with the specialised sections in the bookstore as the men, with sports topping the genre of books that they do not read at around 30%.

Self-help is apparently the bane of the lives of 14% of the women and the rest gave varied answers (gossip magazines, celebrity memoirs, coffee table books, political books and diet books).

I want to be smart

Boys will be boys, indeed. In our survey, the most popular reason for a man to pick up a book was none other than "I want to be smarter than everyone else". About 40% of them chose this, compared to just 15% of the women.

Putting aside the ego trip, this fits in with the idea that many males are knowledge-driven and know exactly what they are looking for even before heading to the bookstore or opening a book.

"The male reader tends to be more focused on his need to obtain certain information related to issues or matters they are facing. For example, I notice that it is quite common to find more male customers gathering in the area where technical books are displayed in bookstores," says Dr Ng Lee Luan, a Language and Linguistics lecturer in Universiti Malaya.

About 30% of the men who answered our survey said they spend the most time reading self-help books (although 18% say that they will never touch this genre). Books on philosophy, travel and crime/horror thrillers seem to go down well with them too.

Nature versus nurture

Are men's heartstrings harder to tug, then? Among the men who answered our survey, more than half say they dislike romance and chick lit. But is this because they are really tough and gruff by nature or because society expects men to not swoon over love stories?

Dr Wilks points out that much of our behaviour is acquired through learning and conditioning. It is the differential conditioning that results in males and females being very different from each other.

"This conditioning extends to the way we dress, what we become interested in, what we drink, our level of 'appropriate aggression', the jobs we end up doing and, I am sure, the types of books we read.

"Males are generally conditioned to be tough, macho and interested in 'typically male' things. Females, on the other hand, tend to be conditioned to be more feminine and interested in 'typically female' things. This conditioning is initially done by our parents, then our adolescent peers, then by the media – who portray rather sexist roles," he says.

Dr Ng adds, "Females are known to be more relationship-oriented than males, thus this particular genre (romance and chick lit) enables them to feed their interest in this area. Males may not even perceive this as something worthwhile to spend time on".

Dr Wilks shares a story about young parents: "They were determined that they would not gender stereotype their baby boy so for his third birthday they gave him a doll, thinking this would show that males and females can learn to behave in similar ways.

"The parents were delighted to see their little boy's eyes light up when he saw the doll. They were soon dismayed, however, when their son took the doll to a corner of the room and was soon heard saying 'brrrmmmmm, brrrmmmmm' as he pushed the doll along the floor like a car!

"I guess this just goes to show that while much of our behaviour is learned through conditioning, we may be genetically predisposed to behave in certain ways."

So do men end up liking computer books and women insist on being whisked into happily-ever- after tales? Going by the results of our survey, it seems that not everything is so black and white.

Admittedly, although many women seem inclined to read fantasy more than anything else, no more than 10% said they like romance and chick lit titles. And almost a third actually insisted they will not read anything from this genre!

Our survey also reflected how widely women read: Almost equal numbers of women said they read self-help, philosophy, romance and chick lit (about 10% for each category), and the rest of them gave very varied answers, saying that they look for murder stories, intrigue, action, fast-paced thrillers, courtroom drama, inspirational stories, real life experiences, advice, politics and world affairs.

One woman offered that she looks for "literary novels written from the first person point of view" and another says, "I look for love and wisdom".

At the end of the day, maybe it's not that men read less; perhaps it's just that they read a narrower range of books.

"Out of 50 titles we offer easily 35-40 will be something that women will pick up. Women tend to be more holistic in their book choices while men are purpose-driven and go straight to the point. They focus on the one segment they are interested in and they expect to get results from what they read," Kee offers.

And much like the women, the men who are into fiction do know exactly what they are looking for: powerful methods of description, excellent story-telling, humour and heart, crime, horror and travel.

One gentleman's prerequisite to picking up a book is that it has to give him an adrenaline rush!

Interestingly, there is one answer in our survey that transcended gender: many men and women said that they can't sleep without reading a couple of pages from a book first. Either many Malaysians have problems sleeping or many have embraced reading as a bedtime ritual! We suspect that the truth is probably a bit of both.

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More than child’s play

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 01:49 AM PDT

Two individuals have come up with a novel idea to get children interested in art.

PABLO Picasso once said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

The relationship between children and art is a mysterious one. It is the child-like amazement of seeing something extraordinary that enables the younger generation to view art without skepticism, criticism and presumptions.

The main stumbling block is building an interest from a young age, so they can view a painting as a painting and not as a commercial object or a fixture in a gallery.

Two individuals who have taken the lead in paving the way are actor and educator Jo Kukathas and arts consultant Rahel Joseph. In seeking a new avenue to educate and open the eyes of children to the wonders of art, this dynamic duo has written The Malaysian Art Book For Children.

Joseph feels a book like this is needed for art, especially local art, to be more accessible to children.

"I used to work in Petronas Gallery and education was under my portfolio. We used to have schoolkids coming in and I wanted to give the teachers and children some tools to respond to the artworks in the gallery. Sometimes they would look at a painting and wonder what it was about.

"It is very different in other countries where there is so much information at any museum or exhibition. I've had this idea for a while but only started the whole process last year," she says.

Joseph needed to find a suitable companion whom she could work well with and immediately turned to Kukathas, one of the founding directors of Instant Café Theatre Company.

"We have worked together on a number of projects. Jo has been a teacher for seven years and has held many creative workshops with children and educators. She writes in a very imaginative way and I felt that she saw things in a very unique manner that would be great for the book," says Joseph.

"I think we share a similar passion for visual artists in Malaysia," Kukathas adds. "We feel that these artists deserve to have their works out there and the children could really learn something from them."

Writing any book is a difficult task, but compiling one that involves scanning through countless artworks required a lot more patience than they expected. But the rewards of seeing a child's fascination or hearing positive feedback from their peers has made it a worthwhile journey.

Joseph recalls that "selecting the artworks took us quite a while. It's not just artwork; it's also what to write about."

"We used Rahel's nephew as a sounding board, just to get to know what is interesting on an instinctive basis. We needed a fresh eye. The designer of the book said his children were very interested when they saw what he was doing," Kukathas says.

"What we found is that adults actually like the book as well and they even do exercises with it. A friend said he stayed up all night trying to spot certain things. Even as we grow up, we all still have a child-like side to our nature."

The book – a plethora of colours, shapes and textures – makes turning every page a new adventure. It covers a range of subjects, such as patriotism, endangered animals, cultural diversity and even the violence of war.

"We wanted a variety of mediums. We have paintings, sculptures, installations, conceptual art and even photography. This is to show children that modern art can be so many different things," says Joseph.

"We are using art as a medium and all these Malaysian artists are talking about history, identity and culture. In the charcoal painting Badak by Ahmad Zakii Anwar, the fading colours of the rhinoceros symbolise their dwindling numbers on our planet," Kukathas says.

The challenge of producing a book for children that would also appeal to adults had them constantly pausing to check if certain words were too basic, and certain works, too simplistic.

"One of the photos is from an exhibition of just clothes hanging on washing lines by Ahmad Fuad Osman. He is better known for his paintings but we found this exhibition interesting.

"All the schoolkids who visited the gallery were fascinated because it looks like something out of their backyard. To them, the question was, 'How are clothes on a line considered art?'

"In a way, the clothes are similar to a family portrait whereby each piece of clothing symbolises a different individual and how he could possibly be like. Basically, we are asking the kids questions to let them think by themselves," Joseph explains.

Kukathas adds: "We also give them activities in the book such as asking them to take a photograph of their own washing line and letting them decide what makes it art, or not. It could be that because they took the photograph themselves, they might feel it is art. So it's about them discovering things on their own. We are just giving them the platform to do so," says Kukathas.

The pair hopes the book will be a useful tool in teaching basic art forms to children and also a medium which can push the boundaries of contemporary art.

"The main thing the book is trying to say is, 'look, and look again'. Not look because we have to find the right answer, but for the pleasure of just looking at something," Kukathas says.

"My father always said: 'It's very important to be a bum'. Then your imagination can really open up. If you go into it thinking, 'Oh I really have to find this', that will really kill the creativity."

The Malaysian Art Book For Children is supported by the Khazanah Heritage and Art Initiative, and was launched at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday. It is available at Kinokuniya Bookstores at Suria KLCC and all MPH outlets.

Proceeds from its sale will be used to help fund national programmes related to arts and culture organised by Pintar (Promoting Intelligence, Nurturing Talent and Advocating Responsibility) foundation.

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The Free World: Feelings into words

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 01:48 AM PDT

This is a book that was written for those who love to read.

LIKE countless travellers from around the world and for over a century, Alec Krasnasky and his family are in transit in Rome. But unlike most travellers, the Krasnaskys will not be returning home, have no idea how many days, weeks, months or years they will be stuck there nor what their final destination will be.

It is near impossible to imagine what it is like to have no country, to put ourselves in the shoes of the tens of thousands of refugees who have either abandoned or been abandoned by their country. David Bezmozgis brings us very close to this experience through members of the Krasnasky family, Latvians who have become disillusioned with the Soviet Union and, along with many of their country folk in the 1970s, leave.

They are Jews, but to most of them Judaism is more of a culture than a religion, something that unites them with other Soviet refugees and creates instantaneous comradeship and familiarity in a strange land.

If you are new to Bezmozgis' writing, The Free World gives you immediate insight into why he has been called one of today's most promising young writers. Last year, he made it onto The New Yorker's list of "20 under 40" – a list of America's top 20 writers under the age of 40.

From the first page, his prose wraps itself around you. You get little sense of Rome itself; Bezmozgis' real talent lies in his characters. You hear their voices and inhabit their feelings.

The Free World primarily follows Alec, his wife Polina, and his father, Samuil. Alec is the most carefree of the group, the one for whom the transition is easiest. Polina is there with her husband but has left her family behind and misses them terribly, especially her beloved younger sister whom she will likely never see again. The letters they write are sent to other addresses and names are made up and hard to trace. Just in case.

This is the world the Krasnaskys have left.

In many ways, the most interesting character is Samuil, a thoroughly unlikable character who feels betrayed by the communist party he served so loyally and radiates prickly bitterness over what has happened. He treats his family members with naked contempt and is unrepentant of his behaviour, whether in the present or in the past when he was responsible for the misery of countless victims of the party's iron fist.

Yet, dislikeable as he is, Bezmozgis captures through Samuil the great frustration of a once important man who is now simply old. Finding no pleasure in the present, he spends his days thinking about the past, hungering for it, yearning to spend one more day in it.

The person he loved most, his brother, died young and Samuil ponders the tragedy of people like his brother, whose lives are too short, and the tragedy of people like himself, whose lives are too long.

Bezmozgis' characters do turn philosophical. Now that she is connected to nothing as solid as a family, community or country, Polina is coming to terms with her own insignificance. It does not matter how loved or popular you are at any point in your life, in the end you are left feeling that "you have passed through life like a knife through smoke. That almost nothing has adhered to you."

The way Bezmosgis writes dialogue is disconcerting in the beginning because he uses no quotation marks. However, you quickly get used to and enjoy the smoother flow of conversation.

Wry humour is a uniting cultural mechanism; gallows humour and quick, witty bickering identifies ties between people. This is a conversation Polina hears between a couple at the shop where she works. They were looking for a brown suede blazer and have found it. It starts with the wife, talking to her husband in the third person as if beseeching to a higher being.

His whole life he's had one dream.

A brown suede blazer.

That's it, now he can die.

If I die, bury me in it.

And so they wait as the months pass, held back primarily by Samuil, whose frail health makes it difficult for them to be accepted into another country. Will it be the United States? Canada? Australia?

There is the new Israel but most of the Krasnaskys, Alec in particular, see no point in fleeing their difficult country to end up in one equally difficult and far more dangerous.

Lyova, who gives Alec and Polina a place to live in Rome, tried living in Israel but found it unbearable and is now back in Italy waiting for yet another country. He was sick of their propaganda and constant self-congratulation; it reminded him too much of the Soviet Union, he says. "I'm not looking for perfection. So far I've been a citizen of two utopias. Now I have modest expectations. Basically, I want the country with the fewest parades."

The Free World is a lovely book, one written for people who love to read. The voices Bezmozgis creates brim with a culture that was still fresh enough out of the old country to remain strong and, with them, he puts universal feelings into words.

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Civil servants urged to avoid illegal rally

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 05:31 AM PDT

Published: Sunday June 26, 2011 MYT 8:31:00 PM

KULIM: Cuepacs president Datuk Omar Osman has urged civil servants not to be involved in the illegal rally on July 9.

He reminded 1.2mil civil servants that they were bound by 'Aku Janji' signed when they joined the service and it prohibited them from joining such activities.

"Cuepacs will not defend those arrested as they know the risks. We advise them to comply with 'Aku Janji'," he said at a gathering of Kulim district civil servants at Dewan Bandaran here Sunday.

In another development, Omar said the issue regarding the apppointment of the director-general of Public Works Department (PWD) should not be politicised.

He said the five employees unions met him Saturday saying that they intend to meet with the Chief Secretary to the Government and Public Works Minister.

The issue arose when Datuk Seri Judin Abdul Karim rejected the post of CEO of Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) while Datuk Mohd Noor Yaacob was already appointed to take over from him as Publics Works Department director-general. - Bernama

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S’gor govt will not bear legal cost for those detained at rally: MB

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 04:40 AM PDT

Published: Sunday June 26, 2011 MYT 7:40:00 PM

SHAH ALAM: Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said the Selangor government will not bear the legal cost of those who may be detained at the proposed illegal rally on July 9.

"We can't make promises of assistance for fear that we may not be able to deliver them," he told reporters after opening Selangor Book Fair 2011 at Shah Alam Convention Centre here on Sunday.

Khalid, however, said that the Selangor government was might assist them in other ways. - Bernama

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Police: PSM activists trying to rekindle communist ideology

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 04:10 AM PDT

KEPALA BATAS: The group of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) activists detained at Sungai Dua toll plaza here Saturday are using the July 9 illegal rally to rekindle the communist ideology, said Penang deputy police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Jaafar.

He said that the 30 activists led by Sungai Siput Member of Parliament Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj had distributed flyers deemed to be a threat to national security.

"They were carrrying items inciting the people to hate the government. This is serious and can threaten national security," he told reporters here on Sunday.

Police also seized various items associated with the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) ideology from the activists travelling from Sungai Petani, Kedah to Penang.

"They include flyers and t-shirts with Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin and Suriani Abdullah - all connected to MCP - written on them."

Rahim said the 31 people, aged 18 to 64 years, were remanded to facilitate investigation into the case.

The remand order was issued pursuant to Section 122 of Penal Code for waging war on Yang diPertuan Agong.

Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur, police detained on Sunday eight men, who were wearing yellow t-shirts with 'Bersih 2.0' written in Jawi at Taman Kosas, Ampang.

Ampang Jaya Police Chief ACP Amiruddin Jamaluddin said all eight were detained for wearing yellow t-shirts with 'Bersih 2.0' written on it, reflecting their support for the July 9, illegal rally.

"They were also found to have disrupted public order while riding on their motorcycles in the area. It was the reason for their arrest," he told Bernama on Sunday.

They were detained at 11am in front of the Taman Kosas mosque and taken to the Ampang police station.

They would be released after their statements were recorded, he said. - Bernama

More in The Star on Monday

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Tse: Problems in marriage with fellow actor Cheung

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 01:54 AM PDT

HONG KONG (AP): Hong Kong actor Nicholas Tse has confirmed marital problems with his wife, fellow entertainer Cecilia Cheung, after weeks of speculation in the Chinese media.

News of the troubled marriage surfaced after Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported last month that Cheung had reconciled with Canadian-Chinese singer Edison Chen. Chen fell from grace after racy photos of him and eight female stars, including Cheung, were leaked onto the Internet in 2008.

Tse said at a news conference in Beijing on Sunday that his marriage "had certain problems."

The couple have two toddler sons, Lucas and Quintus.

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Bruce Lee museum proposal shelved in Hong Kong

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 01:38 AM PDT

HONG KONG (AP): Efforts to build a Bruce Lee museum in the late kung fu movie star's hometown of Hong Kong have been stalled again.

Fans have been calling for an official tribute to the screen icon for years. Their hopes appeared to be answered two years ago when the Hong Kong government and the owner of Lee's former home reached an agreement to convert the property - a two-story house currently used as an hourly love motel - into a museum.

But the Hong Kong government said Sunday that negotiations with the owner, businessman Yu Pang-lin, have broken down.

"Despite our efforts, we are unable to reach a consensus with the property owner over the scope of the restoration," the government said in a statement.

The statement did not elaborate.

An operator who answered the phone at Yu's offices in the southern Chinese city Shenzhen on Sunday said that his staff wasn't in.

Wong Yiu-keung, president of the Hong Kong Bruce Lee Club, said Yu made unreasonable demands, such as wanting to set up his own offices in the museum.

"Mr. Yu made such a high-profile gesture by donating the property, and yet we now realize those are not his intentions. We are very disappointed. I don't understand why he backtracked," Wong told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Bruce Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, who was also involved in the project, didn't immediately respond to an email sent to a publicist for the Bruce Lee Foundation seeking comment. Shannon Lee had also been raising funds for a museum in Seattle, where her father studied and taught martial arts.

The Hong Kong government said the Lee artifacts it had collected for the planned museum will be used for an exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum that is expected to launch in late 2012.

Lee became a source of Chinese pride by portraying characters who defended the Chinese and the working class from oppressors in films like "Return of the Dragon." He died in Hong Kong in 1973 at age 32 from swelling of the brain.

The late actor has been honored with a statue on Hong Kong's Avenue of Stars, a waterfront promenade featuring the hand prints of the southern Chinese territory's noted actors.

News of the shelved museum plans was first reported by the South China Morning Post on Sunday.

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Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz date, marry quietly

Posted: 25 Jun 2011 09:59 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, who play husband and wife in an upcoming film, have taken the roles to heart.

Robin Baun of Slate PR, which represents Craig, said Saturday that the actor and Weisz have married. She did not offer any details.

The British actors had been quietly dating.

Craig is the latest James Bond and will star in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Weisz won an Academy Award for "The Constant Gardener" and starred in "The Mummy."

The pair costar as a married couple in the unreleased film "Dream House."

The 43-year-old Craig had a longtime girlfriend, Satsuki Mitchell, and has a daughter from a previous relationship. The 41-year-old Weisz was in a relationship with director Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), with whom she has a son.

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Art auction records outstanding sales

Posted: 26 Jun 2011 02:13 AM PDT

Institutional buyers push up prices at art auction.

AS expected, Art Auction Malaysia 2011 last Sunday recorded outstanding sales figures and set new national records for many local artists, especially Abdul Latiff Mohidin and Chang Fee Ming.

At the hammered price of RM520,000, Latiff's well-publicised Pago-Pago Forms – the top pick of the 104 lots – drew loud applause from the packed room of well over 200 people at the White Box, MAP@Publika, in Kuala Lumpur.

The 1968 oil on canvas (88x68.8cm) attracted furious bidding among a dozen parties, with a starting price of RM250,000. But that soon dwindled to a handful of tenacious bidders when it went over the RM390,000 mark. This seems to be the threshold figure that separates most individual collectors from institutional buyers and those with staying power.

It was a nail-biting finish when the figure crossed the half-a-million-ringgit mark, and then hit the final price – a record for the artist in any sale.

It is widely believed that a Malaysian public institution bought the art work.

Apparently, another public institution from Singapore also bought other works at the auction via the telephone. This development will likely fuel future sales but, as expected, representatives of Henry Butcher Art Auctioneers declined comment.

Earlier, Chang Fee Ming's 1996 Rezeki had set collectors' and artists' pulses racing when – halfway through the auction – it sold for RM120,000, an astonishing price for a medium-sized (56cmx76cm) watercolour work.

Another achievement was the high prices set by two oil paintings by the late Datuk M. Hoessein Enas. Silat (1991; 76x102cm) and Morning Mist 5 (1992; 121x90cm) – both considered by top artists and collectors to be less accomplished in composition and execution than Hoessein's best works – fetched RM115,000 and RM180,000, respectively.

The estimates were RM90,000 to RM130,000 for the latter. In fact, the Malay gentleman who won the battle for this provocative painting of a sarong-clad Malay girl with armpit hair, was focused only on buying Morning Mist 5. After he won the bid, he jumped out of his seat and walked to end of the room to kiss a Datin friend goodbye on both cheeks.

Other remarkable prices achieved at the second Henry Butcher art auction included:

* RM155,000 for Datuk Chuah Thean Teng's Feeding Durian (1988; 90x87cm, batik). The top estimate was RM120,000.

* RM40,000 for Tan Choon Ghee's Harbour Scene (1962; 20x29cm, watercolour on rice paper). Top estimate: RM5,000

* RM36,000 for Abdullah Ariff's Marketplace (circa 1955; 37x55cm, watercolour on paper). Top estimate: RM30,000.

For many who gathered at the auction but did not bid, their focus was probably the prices achieved by contemporary works, especially by the "stars" of the art scene.

While Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal's 1985 Gunung Ledang Series (Cherryvale) achieved RM170,000, his current prices for major works now sell for over RM200,000 privately. This sale concluded the auction.

Generally, the prices set at this year's auction for the majority of the works are more realistic and believable, unlike those set last year. Many of the works sold then were considered of minor importance by serious art collectors.

Surprisingly, Datuk Ibrahim Hussein's acrylic painting, Rise Above It (2008; 81x81cm) failed to attract any bid, even with a starting price of RM120,000 – RM30,000 below the low estimate. The late artist's Sweet Dream (1973; 62x100cm) attracted one bid at RM170,000. It was below the reserved price and the bid was rejected.

However, four of his minor works from 1975 – Spaces And Forms I, II, II and IV – sold between RM10,500 and RM18,000 each.

Major works by Ibrahim, considered one of Malaysia's most iconic artists, have been privately transacted at over RM1mil each. In fact, at last year's inaugural Henry Butcher auction, his The Dream (1969) fetched a national record price of RM500,500, inclusive of the 10% buyer's premium.

Among other well-known local artists whose major works did not attract any bids were Jalaini "Jai" Abu Hassan, Awang Damit Ahmad, Cheah Yew Saik, Juhari Said, Hamir Soib, Anuar Rashid and Fatimah Chik.

But Jai's minor works sold between RM9,500 and RM16,000, while Hamir's joint work with Indonesian artist Yaksa Agus Widodo sold for RM4,000.

Hotly contested by the bidders were minor works by Ahmad Zakii Anwar, the darling of top art collectors, pioneer artist Khaw Sia, and the late watercolourist Tan Choon Ghee. The winning bids drew applause.

Kudos to Henry Butcher and the people at White Box. Except for minor problems, like seating arrangements, the four-hour event was relatively well organised.

Although certain guests complained about British auctioneer John Rounce's pronunciation of the artists' names – Chuah Siew Teng became Chuah Thean Teng, and Shanmughalingam's name was mangled – he showed a sense of humour in handling the plodding moments when phone bidders could not make up their minds.

Officially, the auction netted total sales of RM3,147,710, including the 10% buyer's premium. On average, most of the works sold ranged from RM4,000 to about RM30,000 each. Last year, sales totalled RM1.6mil (including the 10% premium and post-auction sales), with 51 of the 62 works sold during the August event.

This time round, 12 of the 104 lots were initially unsold. But the auction house included the subsequent sale of works by Cheah Yew Saik (Glorious Morning II, RM22,000), Hamir Soib (Breathing Hole, RM17,000), Eston Tan (Music Of The Night, RM11,000) and Ibrahim Hussein (Sweet Dream, RM192,500) in the tally.

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