Selasa, 11 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Prominent monk freed in Myanmar prisoner amnesty

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 09:31 PM PDT

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's government freed a prominent Buddhist monk leader who led 2007 street protests on Wednesday in an amnesty for thousands of prisoners that is expected to include large numbers of political detainees.

The United States, Europe and Australia have said freeing an estimated 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar is crucial for considering lifting sanctions that have crippled the pariah state and, over years, driven it closer to China.

The monk, Shin Gambira, was a leader of the All-Burmese Monks Alliance which played a prominent role in street marches in 2007 that were violently suppressed by the then-military junta. He was 27-years old when he was sentenced in 2007 to 68 years in prison.

Local activist sources said he was released from Kalay Prison, one of many prisoners in the reclusive country where political activists and politicians have been held.

"So far, as we have checked, there are eight political prisoners including Shin Gambira among 400 prisoners released from Kalay today. Our friends have gone to pick them up," activist lawyer Aye Myint told Reuters by telephone.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun. Writing by Jason Szep. Editing by Alan Raybould)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Iran complains of U.S. "warmongering" in letter to UN chief

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 09:00 PM PDT

Manssor Arbabsiar is shown in this courtroom sketch during an appearance in a Manhattan courtroom in New York, New York on October 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg)

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran's U.N. ambassador on Tuesday voiced outrage and complained of politically motivated "warmongering" by the United States after Washington accused two Iranians of planning to assassinate Saudi Arabia's U.S. envoy.

"The Iranian nation seeks a world free from terrorism and considers the current U.S. warmongering and propaganda machine against Iran as a threat not just against itself but to the peace and stability in the Persian Gulf region," Iranian U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Christopher Wilson)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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U.S. open to Afghan peace deal including Haqqani

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 09:00 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday signalled the United States remains open to exploring a peace deal including the Haqqani network, the militant group that U.S. officials blame for a campaign of high-profile violence that could jeopardize Washington's plans for withdrawing smoothly from Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responds to questions during an interview with Reuters correspondents at the State Department in Washington DC October 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

"Where we are right now is that we view the Haqqanis and other of their ilk as, you know, being adversaries and being very dangerous to Americans, Afghans and coalition members inside Afghanistan, but we are not shutting the door on trying to determine whether there is some path forward," Clinton said when asked whether she believed members of the Haqqani network might reconcile with the Afghan government.

"It's too soon to tell whether any of these groups or any individuals within them are serious," she said in an interview with Reuters.

Inclusion of the Haqqani network in a hoped-for peace deal -- now a chief objective in the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy after a decade of war -- is a controversial idea in Washington.

Officials blame the group for last month's attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and a truck bombing that injured scores of American soldiers.

The State Department is facing heat from Capitol Hill for refraining, at least so far, from officially designating the Haqqani group, which U.S. officials say is based in western Pakistan, as a terrorist organization.

The White House has backed away from assertions from Admiral Mike Mullen, who was the top U.S. military officer until he retired last month, that Pakistani intelligence supported the Haqqani network in the Sept. 13 embassy attack.

But President Barack Obama and others have put their sometimes-ally Pakistan on notice that it must crack down on militants or risk severing a key relationship.

According to media reports, U.S. officials have held meetings with Haqqani network representatives as part of their efforts -- which have not yet yielded any visible results -- to strike a peace deal, but the State Department declines to discuss details of the reconciliation process.

In recent months reconciliation has become a more prominent feature of Obama's Afghan strategy even as U.S. and NATO soldiers continued to battle the Taliban and Haqqani militants in Afghanistan's volatile south and east.

Earlier this year, Clinton advanced a peace deal as a key plank of regional policy for the first time, saying Washington would support a settlement between the Afghan government and those militant groups that meet certain requirements, including renouncing violence and supporting the Afghan constitution.


Despite the conciliatory signals, Clinton said the United States would stick to its military campaign that the White House hopes will make militants more likely to enter serious negotiations.

"Now, it is also true that we are still trying to kill and capture or neutralize them (the Haqqani network)," Clinton said. "And they are still trying to, you know, kill as many Americans, Afghans and coalition members as they can."

"In many instances where there is an ongoing conflict, you are fighting and looking to talk," Clinton said. "And then eventually maybe you are fighting and talking. And then maybe you've got a cease-fire. And then maybe you are just talking."

It is unclear how quickly a peace deal could be had, as it remains unclear how military commanders can achieve and defend security improvements as the foreign force in Afghanistan gradually grows smaller.

While parts of the Taliban's southern heartland are safer than they were, Obama will be withdrawing the extra troops he sent to Afghanistan in 2010 just as commanders' focus turns to the rugged eastern regions where the Haqqani group are believed to operate.

Clinton did not directly address the question of designating the Haqqani network as a 'foreign terrorist organization,' but suggested the United States would want to keep its options open as it seeks peace in a region known for historic merry-go-round of political and military alliances.

"It's always difficult in this stage of a conflict, as you think through what is the resolution you are seeking and how do you best obtain it, to really know where you'll be in two months, four months, six months," Clinton said.

"We are going to support the Afghans and they want to continue to see whether there is any way forward or whether you can see some of the groups or their leaders willing to break with others."

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Andrew Quinn; Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Warren Strobel and Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

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The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

Hollywood Fest To Honor Sly Stallone

Posted: 14 Oct 2010 02:43 AM PDT

Sylvester Stallone will receive a career achievement award this month at the Hollywood Film Festival.

Stallone will be feted 20 October at the 14th annual fest's awards gala in Beverly Hills.

The event will also pay tribute to Morgan Freeman and business partner Lori McCreary of digital entertainment company Revelations Entertainment for their technological innovations. Director Tom Hooper will be honored with a helming award.

Hooper's The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth, is considered a leading awards contender. Stallone's most recent film is his acting/directing venture The Expendables.

(Hollywood Reporter)

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'Die Hard' Director Gets Jail Term

Posted: 14 Oct 2010 02:43 AM PDT

Die Hard director John McTiernan was sentenced to one year in prison this week for perjury and lying to officials in a wiretapping case involving a former private investigator who represented many Hollywood stars.

McTiernan, 59, was also fined US$100,000 at the conclusion of the long-running case which stemmed from him hiring convicted sleuth Anthony Pellicano to wiretap a film producer after they both worked on the 2002 movie Rollerball.

McTiernan initially lied to the FBI about his involvement with Pellicano, pleaded guilty in 2006, and then asked to withdraw his guilty plea saying he had received poor legal advice.

In 2009, he was indicted by a grand jury and pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements and one count of perjury.

"The defendant doesn't think the law applies to him, and the court has no reason to believe he will not violate the law again when it suits him," U.S. District judge Dale S. Fischer said before sentencing McTiernan.

Pellicano was convicted of racketeering, conspiracy and wiretapping in 2008 and is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence.

McTiernan, whose other movies include The Hunt For Red October and the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, did not address the court at the sentencing hearing.


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Asian Stars Head To Busan Film Fest

Posted: 14 Oct 2010 02:43 AM PDT

Chinese actor Shawn Dou, left, director Zhang Yimou, center, and actress Zhou Dongyu pose during the opening ceremony of the 15th Pusan International Film Festival in Busan, South Korea

Stars from Hollywood, Bollywood and China gathered with film-makers and fans Thursday for the launch of Asia's most prestigious film festival in the South Korean port city of Busan.

The 15th Pusan International Film Festival kicked off with an outdoor screening of Chinese's director Zhang Yimou's Under The Hawthorn Tree at the Haeundae Yachting Centre, with thousands of screaming fans lining up to welcome South Korean heartthrobs such as Won Bin and Lee Yo-Won.

Attention also focused on international stars Kim Yun-Jin, star of the hit TV series Lost, Japanese starlet Yu Aoi and Chinese star Tang Wei.

A few hundred lucky fans were able to pick up tickets to the screening and they roared their approval when the event was officially opened with fireworks by its founder and outgoing festival director Kim Dong-Ho.

From next year the festival will move to the US$133-million purpose-built Dureraum, or Busan Cinema Centre, and Kim took time to thank the fans who had made the festival "so special."

"It is an event for the people and for the benefit of Asian cinema," he said.

The opening ceremony began with a touching musical tribute to Kim, played to screen shots of the history of the festival.

Outside the event, American-based star Kim said she had been dazzled by the attention and the spirit of the South Korean fans. "It's remarkable," she said as she waited to walk the red carpet. "It's just so exciting to be here and it looks like being a wonderful night."

Acclaimed director Zhang, known both for blockbusters such as Hero and House Of Flying Daggers as well as being the man behind the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said he was honoured to have his film selected to open the event.

"I have been to Busan before," the director said. "It is a wonderful festival that does a lot to introduce Asian films to fans. It is the largest and greatest festival in Asia and I am proud to be here. It is a great honour."

Zhang's Not One Less was screened as the closing film at the festival's 1999 edition and the director revealed the attention it received had helped introduce his work to the world outside his homeland. "It is a festival that gives filmmakers opportunities," he said.

Under The Hawthorn Tree, Zhang's touching drama following a love affair set against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution and starring Shawn Dou and Zhou Dongyu, was the first of 308 films to be screen at the festival, 103 of them world premieres.

Hollywood heavyweights Oliver Stone and Willem Dafoe were scheduled to arrive in town for the festival, along with Bollywood golden couple Aishwarya Rai and her husband Abhishek Bachchan, and French actress Juliette Binoche.

The festival's main award, called New Currents, offers two first prizes of US$30,000 to first or second-time Asian directors.

There are 13 films from across the region vying for the award, which will be announced on 15 October. The festival will close on that day with the screening of a project driven by festival director Kim as a tribute to Busan.

Camellia tells three separate stories set in the city and directed by Thailand's Wisit Sasanatieng, Isao Yukisada of Japan and South Korea's Jang Jun-Hwan.


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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

The Switch

Posted: 14 Oct 2010 02:40 AM PDT

Starring: Jason bateman, Victor Pagan, Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis

If someone were to tell you that this is a Jennifer Aniston movie, don't believe a word they say. Sure Jenny was in this movie but this is a Jason Bateman vehicle.

In fact you could slot any actress in the role of Kassie Larson and it wouldn't make a difference. Yes, Jennifer Aniston's role was that forgettable.

Don't ask me why almost every movie website or article on The Switch starts of with : An unmarried 40-year-old woman decides to get pregnant using a sperm donor and gets her best friend to help her weed out potential baby daddies.

The movie actually revolves around Wally Mars, a neurotic insecure man who comes to realize that he's in love with his best friend, Kassie. When Kassie announces she needs Wally to help her get pregnant, he's hopeful she feels the same way about him, but his hopes are dashed when she tells him she needs him to help her find the perfect baby daddy.

Weeks later during a "insemination party" Wally, in a drugged-up drunken stupor accidentally spills the donated sperm. In a state of panic, he fills the cup with his "little guys" without Kassie's knowledge. In fact, Wally can't remember the episode either.

Passing The Torch: "Let me tell you. I was a child actor. Hollywood isn't all it's cracked up to be. Have a fall-back plan, kid!"

The plot of this romantic-comedy is nothing to shout about and it's so predictable you probably know the ending 10 minutes into the movie. So why would you see The Switch? Two words – Jason Bateman.

Wally Mars is a boring, non-athletic and sometimes annoying guy, but with Bateman at the helm, Wally is a charming, witty guy who just makes you want to take him home.

Bateman is fantastic in this movie. His handling of the character allows you to forget that he's playing a role and you find that there's a connection between the audience and Wally. When he's frustrated about not being able to tell Kassie the truth, you feel it. When he puts his son to bed knowing that the little boy is longing for a family, you feel Wally's pain. To get the audience to feel that, you have to be a terrific actor and Bateman is just that.

With fellow actor, Jeff Goldblum, the two make this a worthwhile watch. The other reason to watch the movie is for child actor Thomas Robinson. This eight-year-old kid will simply melt your heart with his puppy-eyed looks and he'll leave you in awe with his acting skills. I have to say, Robinson could put a number of adult actors to shame.

The Switch isn't a bad movie, but it's not great either. You'll chuckle at certain parts of the movie and maybe even let out a laugh, but don't expect to be rolling around on the ground laughing. For that, catch The Other Guys.

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Posted: 14 Oct 2010 02:40 AM PDT

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Robert Paterson, Jose Luis Garcia Perez, Samantha Mathis

Rodrigo Cortes has a lot of cojones. After all it's almost revolutionary to make a movie like Buried, that has no action nor is it in 3D and expect any box office return. Although small-budget Buried will most certainly be buried under the mountain of action-packed movies releasing this week, the movie does have its intriguing moments and dare I say it's one of the most interesting indie releases this year.

Buried stars Ryan Reynolds and a coffin with a cameo appearance by a snake. Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American truck driver working as a contractor in Iraq. The movie begins with Conroy finding himself stuck in a average size coffin buried somewhere in Iraq.

Alone In The Dark: What's the point of having a phone if no one is going to give me a straight answer! Will I get an Oscar for this?!

All Conroy has with him is a handphone, a lighter, a flickering flashlight, a pen knife, a small flask and a couple of light sticks. Realizing he has only a couple of hours of air left in his tomb, Conroy tries desperately to get in touch with someone of authority.

Superstar Reynolds does a great job in this movie in which he headlines it with no co-star to play against. Envision a one-man show but shot entirely in a six-by-two coffin. As Conroy goes through the various levels of panic and even the thought of suicide, the audience is dragged along for the ride. When Conroy gets frustrated at being passed around from one operator to the next, you almost want to yell in frustration too.

Chris Sparling, who wrote the screenplay had the creative task of occupying Conroy's time in his coffin. I think the best part of the movie and the one that really gets you shaking your head in disbelieve is when Conroy talks to his employer. The conversation between the two will almost make your blood boil. The message that Sparling sends about civilians working in Iraq and the sometimes lack of security provided to these people is powerful but not overplayed. It's subtle enough that it makes an impact.

If you're looking for an action drama, this isn't the movie for you, although you will find your heart racing when the movie reaches it's finale. But if you're looking for something that's different, that's creative and intriguing, Buried should tweak your fancy.

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The Other Guys

Posted: 14 Oct 2010 02:40 AM PDT

Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson

The Other Guys starts off on a manic note, as hotshot NYPD cops Highsmith and Danson (Jackson and Johnson) pursue some ganja-smoking Rasta guys through city streets, causing millions of dollars of property damage just to nail them for a misdemeanor.

In a wry shucking of cop-movie stereotypes, they are hailed as heroes instead of getting the typical obscenity-laden reprimand.

To their buddies in the precinct, too, they're heroes - all except for frustrated cop Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg), who resents the opportunities thrown their way while he's being punished endlessly for a "rookie mistake".

DRIVE HARD: 'Look at you, Mr Big Bad Ricky Bobby ... and you can't even outrace a couple of NY street punks!'

To make things worse for Hoitz, he's partnered with forensic accountant Allen Gamble (Ferrell), whom he doesn't even regard as a real cop.

Their big chance to shine comes when Highsmith and Danson are, um, indisposed and a potentially huge financial scandal looms. Er, come again? Financial scandal? Exsqueeze me? Yes, you heard that right.

It's quite apparent from the way The Other Guys is set up, and from the somewhat eye-opening statistics that show up over the end credits about white-collar crime and corporate greed, that this movie's heart is with the millions of people hurt by the financial turmoil, recklessness and manipulation of recent years.

And if, amidst all the wild car chases and flying bullets, you get the impression that white-collar criminals are no less deserving of the Lethal Weapon treatment than human traffickers, cocaine smugglers and counterfeiters, well ... perhaps they are at that, because the damage they do wreaks havoc on ordinary decent folks' lives on SO many levels.

The film is certainly not subtle about how society's perspective on "wrongdoing" used to be pretty narrow before the Madoffs and AIG bailouts and Lehman Brothers bankruptcies of the world wrecked the party for so many.

In contrasting the adulation heaped upon Danson and Highsmith for wrecking half the city in pursuit of a few pot-heads, with the apathy or derision towards any probe of crooks in suits filching billions from naive and gullible innocents, well, I guess The Other Guys, and co-writer/director Adam McKay (Talladega Nights), do deserve a salute of sorts.

Yes, from the cynical manner in which Highsmith and Madison embrace their celebrity to the cavalier attitude of the movie's financial manipulator villains to the barely contained rage that makes Hoitz seem twice as large than he really is, The Other Guys has the makings of a really funny, really biting piece of entertainment.

ALL A-FLUTTER: 'Darn it! We're 82 storeys up! Which idiot opened a window?'

Oddly enough, it is funnyman Ferrell who proves to be the weakest link where the film's comedy is concerned. His character is made needlessly complicated to the point that most attempts at humour centred on Gamble (as opposed to the throwaway moments when people react to his oddness) come across either forced ... or dead on arrival.

Example: a rather crass sequence where Gamble and his wife Sheila (Mendes) exchange dirty talk through his mother-in-law is just protracted and unfunny. Guys, you should've realised it wasn't working after the old lady came back from her first "mission".

Where Ferrell's character is just too unfocused, Wahlberg takes the seemingly one-note Hoitz and turns him into a magnetic parody of the actor's angry and hostile cop role in The Departed, only this time fleshed out with a funny backstory.

So watch it for Wahlberg, for a pretty funny Keaton as the duo's TLC-quoting captain, the Jackson-Johnson combo ... and watch Ferrell for a reminder that he used to be funnier without having to try so hard.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Fashion lifeline by Joe Zee

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 12:42 AM PDT

Style guru Joe Zee helps struggling designers refocus and build up viable businesses in the new reality fashion series.

ALL On The Line (AOTL) is the Kitchen Nightmares of fashion. Much like the latter, in which celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay spends every week trying to revive failing restaurant businesses, AOTL host Joe Zee guides struggling designers to refocus their creativity into career-making hits.

But expect none of Ramsay's showy brutality from Zee, who is a noted fashion guru and the creative director for Elle magazine. In place of frying (and flying) pans, Kitchen's fashion counterpart features the immaculate and articulate Zee in a crisp, fitted suit on almost every occasion.

And unlike Ramsay's fiery tendency to whip up a storm, Zee radiates finesse and sensibility while attempting to add some styling pizzazz into fashion flip-flops.

The comely 42-year-old, who has appeared in reality TV shows like The City and Stylista, takes audiences through the intricacies of the fashion business, from the designing process to making smart business decisions.

In the pilot, he helps a husband-and-wife team make an impression with their flailing collection in an already saturated market.

The New York Times calls Zee "fashion's approachable ambassador". Indeed, Zee is known for his affable demeanour. Here, he assumes the role of a supportive mentor rather than the quintessential fashion slave-driver.

His unconventionally mild approach stems from his struggles in the industry, he says. "When I first started interning in this industry, I worked with people that were horrible, absolutely terrible," he tells The New York Times.

"I thought, when I become a boss, I'm never going to be that person where people are going to work for me out of fear.

"I'll roll up my sleeves and pick up a trunk, and I'll roll it down the hall with my assistant."

That said, Zee reduces an aspiring Indonesian designer to tears when he demands that she speak up about her brand despite her limited command of the English language.

Even a more experienced designer like Kara Janx, who appeared on the second season of Project Runway, isn't spared from the brunt of Zee's blatancy when her line faces a moment of crisis. Juggling the roles of business consultant-cum-shrink, he helps Janx revamp her stalled collections so they may be picked up by departmental store buyers.

It's not a drama-free spree, but Zee does get his points across, even if they get in the way of the designers' egos. It's a feat that the charming host manages to pull off by striking a rare, delicate balance between churning constructive criticism and empathising with his subjects while he attempts to rescue their careers.

I particularly like how Zee takes the time and trouble to talk to the everyday man and woman in the street, or at the gym to find out about the kind of outfits they want to wear. Not all of us can pull off that bizarre, barely-there look that runway models can, after all.

The Hong Kong-born designer, who first stepped into the industry at age 22, also speaks fluent sarcasm. "This looks like cocktail on a budget – when you're on a budget, you don't go for cocktail," he says as he addresses a rather shabby-looking party dress in one episode.

Most notably, AOTL encourages aspiring designers to push the boundaries of fashion and to dare attempt greater things. Even for someone who has never been particularly geared towards reality shows of this nature, I've not been bored thus far.

Sure enough, AOTL has already been picked up for a second season in the United States after the season's finale in May. The second cycle will debut in November.

After all, what's not to like about a good underdog story with laugh-out-loud witticisms and beautiful models to boot?

All On The Line airs over Li (Astro Ch 706) on Sunday (10pm), Monday (1am, 8am), Tuesday (3am, 9pm), Wednesday (1am), Thursday (3am), Friday (9pm) and Saturday (1am).

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Rosie's viewers top Oprah on OWN TV launch

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 05:29 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters): Rosie O'Donnell beat talk show queen Oprah Winfrey on Winfrey's OWN channel, according to viewership figures on Tuesday, as the fledgling cable network launched its new fall season to mixed reviews.

The debut on Monday of "The Rosie Show' - a mixture of chat with first guest Russell Brand, games and music - was seen by 497,000 viewers on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

But thousands of viewers turned channels when it came to Winfrey's new show "Oprah's Lifeclass" - in which she shares insights, lessons and old clips from 25 years of "The Oprah Winfrey Show". Ratings data showed 330,000 Americans watched that show's debut.

Both new series also were aired across five other cable channels operated by OWN's partner, Discovery Communications Inc , reaching a combined total audience of 1.5 million and 1.2 million, respectively.

OWN said audiences for each show were up more than 200 percent from those tuning in a year ago to the Discovery Health network, which OWN has now replaced.

But the numbers were far below the audiences that both O'Donnell and Winfrey, regarded as the most influential woman on U.S. television, used to draw on network television. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" had a regular audience of about 6.4 million U.S. viewers before it ended in May.

OWN president Erik Logan said that the new fall season was "off to an encouraging start. This is the next right step as we continue to build the network."

The two new programs kicked off the second season of OWN after its launch in January 2011 as lifestyle, female-oriented cable channel.

But early audiences soon began changing channels and by July, Winfrey announced she would takeover as CEO of OWN in a bid to refocus the channel's direction and put more of herself on screen.

O'Donnell's new daily evening show marks the return to the TV talk format of the controversial comedian after her Emmy-winning program of the 1990s and a brief stint as co-host on "The View".

But some reviews were as lukewarm as the ratings. The Hollywood Reporter said the show was "ramshackle" and "a little crazy" but called it interesting to watch.

Variety called it "curiously flat and understated", while the Los Angeles Times said "The Rosie Show" had a "not-bad, pretty good, kinda funny, sort of smart debut."

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Four new faces to bring a fresh look to Asia’s first HD lifestyle TV channel

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 05:07 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: To work with Li (short for Life Inspired) channel is a dream come true for Indonesian Hannah Al Rashid.

"I hope that people will recognise Indonesia more as a lifestyle heaven and a place people identify with good food, good lifestyle and good entertainment," said Hannah, 25, at a chic event held at a hotel here to unveil the channel's new faces in conjunction with its first anniversary in Malaysia.

Besides Hannah, the others revealed were Jason Godfrey from Hong Kong, Angelique Teo from Singapore and David Yee from Malaysia, each to promote events and trends in their respective countries.

Li (on Astro B.yond Ch 706) – Asia's first HD lifestyle TV channel – features five pillars of living – food, home, wellness, travel and style.

The four new faces will host Li's two-minute vignettes called the "Link", which provides exclusive insight about trends across the Asian continent.

Li TV Asia general manager Anne Chan said the aim was to provide a more diversified range of lifestyle programmes.

She said: "The unique personalities of our lifestyle ambassadors will offer viewers the best of Asian lifestyles.

"As Asians are getting more sophisticated, it is important to cover events happening in the region.

"These four hosts will bring the best of Asian living to viewers with discerning needs."

Also present were Star Publications (M) Bhd executive deputy chairman Datuk Vincent Lee, group managing director and chief executive officer Ho Kay Tat, Astro chief operating officer Henry Tan and Astro VP content management group Agnes Rozario.

Star Publications acquired a 51% stake in LI TV Holdings Ltd in July.

"Li has a group of talented people and I am confident that they will make the channel a recognised brand. The Star's investment in Li is to add more media platforms into the group's portfolio," Lee said.

Li is available over 12 pay-TV platforms in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan with viewership of three million.

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

China bubble concerns spread

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 05:56 PM PDT

BEIJING: Concerns over a bubble in China's residential property market are spreading to the commercial real-estate sector at a time when developers are upping their exposure, and the country's insurance industry is poised to invest huge sums into the space.

While commercial prices are steady and insurance companies are watching and waiting, residential property developers have increased investments in the office sector after Chinese government measures were instituted to cool home prices.

Shimao Property, Country Garden, China Resources Land and Poly have been increasing their investments in commercial property. Smaller developers such as SinoOcean Land and Gemdale are increasing commercial exposure, too.

Commercial real-estate investment in China will exceed one trillion yuan (US$157bil) this year, up from 740 billion yuan in 2010, as developers have shifted away from the housing market, the target of nearly two years of government measures to cool the sector.

The investment frenzy into commercial property has also been fuelled by expectations of a potentially huge demand from China's insurers, which won approval late last year to invest up to 10% of their assets in real estate, most of which was aimed at commercial properties.

But even before any major investment from insurance companies, prices of office space and shopping malls have jumped and rental yields have slipped due to speculative buying, fuelling concerns of a bubble forming across the industry.

"The low investment yield does give us some concern that prices probably have gone up a lot and we need to see the income growth before we can see values going higher," said Michael Klibaner, head of China research for property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle.

Insurers, including China Life, Ping An, China Pacific and Goldman Sachs backed Taikang Life, have 500 billion yuan available to invest in property, based on the industry's total assets of about five trillion yuan.

That's enough to buy all top-grade office buildings in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, analysts say.

But only a fraction of the 500 billion yuan has been invested so far, as insurers keep a tight grasp on their money, given the concerns surrounding the sector.

Annual gross rental yields on commercial properties in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have fallen to 46% from around 10% several years ago.

Commercial properties in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are now generating annual gross rental returns that are below China's official one-year lending rate of 6.56%. That means if investors borrow and plough that money into commercial property, they stand to lose because the returns won't even cover the borrowing cost.

Last month, China's banking regulator urged banks to strictly monitor risks when they provide loans to commercial property projects and set a higher criteria for approving such loans than for home mortgages.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) currently requires insurers to submit all property transactions for its approval as it works on more detailed investment rules.

"The risk is a bit high if insurers invest in the real-estate market now. There are good reasons for CIRC to hold back the issuance of its final guidelines," said Chen Hongxia, an analyst at Oriental Securities in Shanghai.

Faced with mounting pressure to meet their long-term liabilities amid a rapidly ageing population, insurers had spent years lobbying Beijing to lift the property investment ban.

Domestic investors are largely restricted from buying properties abroad due to China's closed capital account, forcing them to look for investment opportunities within the country.

Investment in commercial property is encouraged by China's vow to boost domestic consumption as part of its economic rebalancing.

Shirley Xiao, senior vice-president of top Chinese developer China Vanke, described the commercial property rush as irrational.

Many developers lacked the financial backing and human resources needed to run office properties and malls, and China's urbanisation was far from over, boding well for the residential sector over the long term, she said. "We don't think there is logic behind this."

A glut of commercial property was already plaguing cities such as Chengdu, Shenyang and Tianjin, analysts said. - Reuters

Shopping malls are being built across the country, with some boasting floor areas of more than several hundred thousand sq m.

The rationale behind building more malls: China has much less retail space per capita than Europe and the United States. Retail space per capita in China is less than 0.5 sq m, compared with about one sq m in Europe and 23 sq m in the United States.

But some analysts say this comparison is misleading, given the sheer size of China's population.

In some major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, retail space per capita is already nearing or surpassing the European and US levels.

Only large developers with easy access to bank credit and strong state parent backing, such as China Resources Land, would be successful in running large malls when there was a glut, analysts said.

It is more risky for smaller developers such as SinoOcean Land and Gemdale to expand aggressively in commercial property, which requires more expertise and is more capital intensive and time consuming.

And as more people shop online, it is getting increasingly challenging to run a shopping mall and make it appealing to merchants, consumers and investors.

"I think it will be a golden decade for the consumer Whether it will be a golden decade for developers remains to be seen," said James Hawkey, executive director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield in China. - Reuters

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Thailand to cut corporate tax

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 05:53 PM PDT

Wednesday October 12, 2011

BANGKOK: Thailand's cabinet has approved corporate tax cuts starting from next year, according to Deputy Finance Minister Boonsong Teriyaphirom.

Corporate tax would be cut to 23% from 30% in 2012, then to 20% in 2013, Boonsong said in a statement after a weekly cabinet meeting yesterday.

The tax cuts were promised by the Puea Thai party, which now leads the government. Reuters

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Budget measures to help enhance government delivery system

Posted: 11 Oct 2011 05:50 PM PDT

AS the implementation of Government Transformation Programme gains momentum, I noted in the just unveiled Budget 2012 several transformational proposals to our tax administration system.

l Compensation for late refund

For years, taxpayers have grumbled about penalties of 15% imposed on late payment of taxes that are not matched by any compensation when tax refunds are delayed. Finally, the Government has committed to accord some compensation to taxpayers for late refunds of tax overpaid.

With effect from year of assessment 2013, 2% compensation is to be paid on a daily basis starting from the first day after 90 days from the e-filing deadline or 120 days for manual filing.

The 2% interest compensation appears low compared with the prevailing borrowing rates of 5% to 8% businesses usually incur. New Zealand offers a more generous compensation benchmarked to bank loan interest rates and is chargeable from the day after the filing deadline.

In any case, this compensation will provide the tax administration with a measure of their efficiency. However, this proposal is a double-edged sword as any tax over-refunded due to an incorrect return may be subject to 10% penalty.

Time bar

The six-year time bar for raising additional assessment will be shortened to five years from year of assessment 2013. It can be painful to retrieve old records and to provide explanations regarding transactions that took place years ago. This prolongs the tax audit procedure, contributing to inefficiency of both the taxpayer and the tax authority.

Shortening the time bar would create a sense of urgency on the part of the authority to carry out tax audits. In spite of the shorter time bar, the taxpayer has to keep records for seven years.

If the timeframe for record-keeping can be correspondingly shortened, it will further reduce the cost of doing business. Singapore, for instance, has a four-year time bar and a five-year record-keeping regime.

Mobile e-filing and pre-filling

E-filing will soon be extended to submissions from mobile devices. This may especially appeal to the younger generation and the highly mobile taxpayers. Pre-filling some information in the tax return by the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) will ease the tax filing process, but the employer is burdened with extra responsibility of providing the authorities with their employees' tax information.

Pertinent tax information like total income, Employees Providend Fund (EPF) contributions and monthly tax deductions are currently available in the EA form prepared by employers. Perhaps the said form can be enhanced and linked to the IRB's IT platform. This will further promote a paperless and environment-friendly economy.

The above measures would contribute considerably towards enhancing the government delivery system and augur well for the nation's competitiveness, which has risen five rungs to 21st in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index ranking 2011.

  • Yee Wing Peng is Deloitte Malaysia country tax leader.
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    The Star Online: Sports

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    Teen Ramdan sets high target in Zhuhai

    Posted: 11 Oct 2011 04:36 PM PDT

    PETALING JAYA: Teenage Malaysian Underbone 115cc rider Mohd Ramdan Mohd Rosli has high expectations ahead of the fifth leg of the Petronas Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) at the Zhuhai International Circuit in China this weekend.

    The 15-year-old Ramdan is all fired up following third and second placings in Round 3 (India) and Round 4 (Japan) respectively.

    The Petronas Syntium Moto Yamaha AHM Racing rider is in eighth spot in the championship standings with 49 points. And he is hoping to maintain his good form as he sets his sights on finishing third this season.

    Indonesian youngster Rafid Topan of Yamaha CKJ TJM Racing tops the standings with 161 points, followed by defending champion and compatriot Hadi Wijaya (Kawasaki NHK Rextor MTR Manual Tech) with 146 points. Ramdan's team-mate – Shahril Izzuwan Mohd Noor (76pts) – is third.

    "The championship has reached a critical stage, with two more rounds and four more races to go. Every rider will become more aggressive in order to pick up maximum points," said Ramdan.

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    CIMB Asia Pacific Classic to boast formidable field

    Posted: 11 Oct 2011 04:36 PM PDT

    PETALING JAYA: The CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia, to be staged at The Mines Resort and Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 27-30, will boast a formidable field – with a combined 114 US PGA Tour victories between them, including five major championship winners.

    Making his debut in the US$6.1mil PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament and a welcome return to Malaysia is World Golf Hall of Famer and former world No. 1 Vijay Singh of Fiji.

    A three-time major champion (1998, 2003 PGA Championship and 2000 Masters), Vijay will be joined by two-time major winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina (2007 US Open and 2009 Masters), and Americans Stewart Cink (2009 British Open), Lucas Glover (2009 US Open) and David Duval (2001 British Open).

    Duval, also a former world No. 1 and one of only five PGA Tour players to shoot a 59 in an official round – en route to the 1999 Humana Challenge title in La Quinta, California – has shown resurgent form that has taken him on the up this season.

    Australian Stuart Appleby, who shot a 59 in the final round of the 2010 Greenbrier Classic and went on to win it, is the most recent PGA Tour player to have registered a sub-60 score. He too will be in Kuala Lumpur for the showdown. But these champions are not the only ones who will be eager to get their hands on the US$1.3mil winner's cheque – the biggest in South-East Asia.

    There are 11 players in the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia field who have won 12 PGA Tour titles this season. As such, any one of these players – Brendan Steele, Brandt Snedeker, Jonathan Byrd, Jhonattan Vegas, Mark Wilson (2), Fredrik Jacobson, Rory Sabbatini, Glover, Chris Kirk, Scott Stallings and D. A. Points – could leave Kuala Lumpur with the trophy in tow.

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    Rise of rookie Khairul augurs well for archery

    Posted: 11 Oct 2011 04:35 PM PDT

    PETALING JAYA: A new archery star has emerged in Khairul Anuar Mohd and it augurs well for the Malaysian team as they eye breakthrough outings in the Asian Championships and SEA Games.

    National team rookie archer Khairul proved that his surprise World Cup final appearance in Shanghai last month was no fluke when he snatched a bronze medal in the individual recurve event at the London Archery Classic Olympic test event on Monday.

    The 20-year-old Khairul defeated Ukrainian Dmytro Hrachov in the playoff for the bronze medal to cement his reputation as one of the emerging talents with less than a year to go before the London Olympics begin.

    The Ukrainian, who won a team bronze medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, had been in top form and even won a bronze medal at the World Cup Final in Istanbul before flying to London.

    In the bronze medal match, Khairul was 4-0 ahead before his Ukrainian rival made an effort to come back.

    Although Hrachov fought back to 3-5, Khairul eventualy prevailed 6-4.

    American hot-shot Brady Ellison had earlier stopped Khairul's gallant run with a 6-2 win in the semi-finals.

    In the other semi-final, former world champion Im Dong-hyun of South Korea, who suffers from poor eyesight, romped to a 7-1 win over Hrachov.

    Ellison, with two World Cup victories in his bag, underlined his intention to stop South Korean Olympic dominance in archery by beating Dong-hyun 6-2 in the final.

    Khairul reached the last four after beating Japan's Furukawa Takaharu 6-2 while another Malaysian youngster Haziq Kamaruddin's campaign was halted by Ellison (2-6).

    Khairul and Haziq had advanced to the quarter-finals with wins over Mexicans Luis Eduardo Sanchez (7-1) and Pedro Vivas Alcala (7-3).

    National No. 1 Cheng Chu Sian was unlucky to be pitted against Dong-hyun in the last 16, losing 2-6 to the South Korean.

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    The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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    'The Thing' returns to movie theatres

    Posted: 11 Oct 2011 07:36 AM PDT

    LOS ANGELES: It's been 60 years since alien thriller movie "The Thing From Another World" hit theatres at the height of Cold War paranoia and half that long since horror director John Carpenter revisited its themes in "The Thing."

    On Friday, a new "The Thing" is back in movie theatres, hungrier than ever, in a version being billed as a prequel to Carpenter's examination of fear that is centered on an alien from another world who is discovered by scientists on Antarctica.

    Dutch director Matthijs van Heijningen makes his feature film debut with the new movie that has 27 year-old Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") playing paleontologist Kate Lloyd, who is hired as part of a mysterious scientific expedition and ends up battling the alien.

    Australian actor Joel Edgerton ("Animal Kingdom") co-stars as a veteran helicopter pilot who services the remote Antarctica base where a Norwegian team of scientists has stumbled across the alien and its spaceship buried in the ice.

    Van Heijningen said he is a fan of both earlier "Thing" films, but he sees his version as "very logically tied-in to the events of...the Carpenter movie." Yet, the new version exhibits a 2011 sensibility with its international cast and female character leading the charge to kill the alien.

    "Surrounded by all these older men and isolated on this base, maybe she already feels uncomfortable - a bit of an outcast. My reference for envisioning her was actually Jane Goodall. For me, she's the ultimate female scientist," van Heijningen said.

    Van Heijningen cites the famed British anthropologist as an inspiration, but his character Kate Lloyd seems more akin to the "Alien's" Ripley, the woman portrayed by Sigourney Weaver who battles the otherworldly creature in that 1979 film.

    "She's very smart, but she's very young and inexperienced, and she gets invited to join this expedition because they (the male scientists) think they can easily control her. That's how she starts out," Winstead said of her character.

    "But when the very bad things start to happen, she's the one who starts kicking butt and really figuring out what they have to do in order to survive. Not the men," she said.

    The best horror films are both timeless, yet very much of their time. "The Thing From Another World" (1951) is seen as reflecting America's paranoia about communism, and Carpenter's "The Thing" (1982) has been viewed as a thinly veiled parable about the horrors of AIDS.

    This new "Thing" could be viewed as a commentary on the present-day threat from the global war on terror, its makers said, but Van Heijningen was quick to add that he didn't set out to comment on modern times.

    "It's first and foremost a horror film about an alien. But you can definitely make the parallel in the sense that we have terrorists among us, pretending to be good neighbors, while they have a very different, hidden agenda."

    Winstead agrees there is a timely subtext to "The Thing" dealing with trusting, or not, acquaintances and others But she added that the horror genre allows people to share their fright, perhaps even laugh at it, then shrug it off.

    "It's a way of living vicariously through terrifying events, and the audience comes through it unscathed. That's what this film does. You live through all the rising tension and paranoia, and then you get to walk away."

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    Asia Pacific screen awards nominees announced

    Posted: 10 Oct 2011 09:39 PM PDT

    The Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) announced that 37 films from 19 countries and areas have been nominated in this year's Asia pacific Screen Awards, the region's highest accolade in film.

    The announcement was made by APSA's International Jury President, Nasun Shi.

    Films from the Islamic Republic of Iran, People's Republic of China, Turkey and India will vie for the Best Feature Film Awards. The nominees are: Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (A Separation) from the Islamic Republic of Iran; Rang zidan fei (Let The Bullets Fly) – People's Republic of China; Be Omid E Didar (Goodbye) – Islamic Republic of Iran; Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da (Once upon A Time In Anatolia) – Tukey, Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Band Baaja Baaraat (Wedding Planners) from India.

    A total of 240 films were entered in this year's competition. Thirty-seven have received nominations for the 2011 awards, with winners to be announced at the ceremony on 24 November in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

    Winners in the 5th APSA will be determined by an international jury headed by leading Hong Kong film producer Nansun Shi. Films are judged on cinematic excellence and the way in which they attest to their cultural origins.

    Apart from the major awards to be presented in November, two additional awards for outstanding achievement will also be included. They are the International Federation of Film Producers Associations Awards that is given for outstanding achievement in film in the Asia-Pacific region; and the UNESCO Awards for outstanding contributions to the promotion and preservation of cultural diversity through film.

    The full list of the 2011 nominees is available here.

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    Win What's Your Number? Merchandise

    Posted: 09 Oct 2011 08:23 PM PDT

    Ally Darling is an offbeat young woman who hasn't really been lucky in the love department. Now, looking past the 20 men she has had a relationship with, she's beginning to think maybe one of them could be Mr. Right. Can she find true love? Is he really out there? She's willing to find out and she's bringing her womanizing neighbour, Colin, along for the ride.

    Catch this hilarious comedy in cinemas this month. In the meantime, and 20th Century Fox are giving away What's Your Number? merchandise. To win some goodies answer these questions:

    1. Name the actress who plays Ally Darling and the actor who plays her neighbour, Colin.

    2. With how many men has Ally had a relationship with?

    Email your answers with your details (name, address, IC number and contact number) to by 12 October 2011. Title the subject WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER?

    We have acrylic coasters, t-shirts, notebooks, magnetic poetry sheets and double movie passes to give away.

    Rules & Regulations

    1. The contest is open to all Malaysian residents residing in Malaysia only.

    2. To qualify for a prize, contestants must include relevant personal details (full name, address, new IC number , contact number).

    3. Contestants may only submit one entry each. Multiple entries will be disqualified.

    4. One prize is allowed per contestant only.

    5. Prizes are not exchangeable for cash and the organizer reserves the right to exchange the prize with that of a similar value without prior notice.

    6. Staff of The Star Publications (Malaysia) Berhad, sponsors and their immediate families are not allowed to participate.

    7. Judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entertained.

    8. Judges will be from The Star Online.

    9. For enquiries, please e-mail

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    The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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    Golden Baobab Prize

    Posted: 11 Oct 2011 02:50 AM PDT

    Inspired by her own search for identity, a young woman establishes a literary prize to encourage stories about young lives in her part of the world.

    AFRICAN children have something in common with Malaysian children – they have limited choice when it comes to books that reflect their lives.

    Although the continent has produced many great novelists – three Nobel Prize for Literature winners, for instance: Wole Soyinka (1986), Nadine Gordimer (1991), and J.M. Coetzee (2003) – who have achieved international recognition through powerful accounts of life in the various African nations they hail from, there are no African children's authors of similar stature.

    Deborah Ahenkorah, 24, co-founder and executive director of the Golden Baobab Prize, grew up in Ghana reading Nancy Drew, the Famous Five and The Babysitters Club books.

    She says in an e-mail interview: "I didn't really realise the absence of African stories in my reading diet until I went to college in the United States on scholarship and I realised that I couldn't answer any questions on Africa because I didn't know Africa. I wanted to talk about America and Europe all the time, I knew those places ... through my books."

    *Full story in The Star today

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    A constant delight

    Posted: 09 Oct 2011 01:45 AM PDT

    There are many things to admire about this novel, not the least the fact that the author simply writes extremely well.

    By Nightfall

    Author: Michael Cunningham

    Publisher: Fourth Estate, 238 pages

    BEAUTY is nothing but the beginning of terror" wrote Rainer Maria Rilke, and they are the words that Michael Cunningham chooses to place at the very beginning of his latest novel, By Nightfall. Some pages later, he presents us with one of the book's most powerful images: the book's protagonist, art dealer Peter Harris, has gone to New York's famed Metropolitan Museum of Art with a rival but friendly gallery owner to see Damien Hirst's infamous 14-foot shark pickled in formaldehyde.

    Peter's friend Bette stands against the glass case, in a literal sense just "an old woman looking into the mouth of a dead shark". But Bette has cancer and the shark has a sort of transcendent horror and beauty as she gazes past its lethal serrated teeth and into its mouth "which takes on the shade of the solution's blue, grayed and deepened, as it recedes into the shark's own inner darkness"

    Bette is a woman on the cusp of death, the shark in formaldehyde challenges conventional preconceptions of art gallery beauty, there is the terror of death for Bette and "It's something...," she says and, "It's an impressive gesture", says Peter, neither able to name what moves them but both aware that the strange beauty and the terror give a depth of meaning to their presence. He takes her hand in silent acknowledgement that this is some sort of farewell.

    Cunningham is by no means the first author to have explored the destructive power of beauty and By Nightfall contains many references to Thomas Mann, whose Death In Venice is the story of an older man destroyed by his love for a physically perfect boy. In one sense, By Nightfall is a reworking of that story.

    Peter is a reasonably successful New York art dealer, not in the top rank but successful enough to finance a loft in SoHo and the trappings of yuppiedom. His marriage is stable if unexciting and he is locked in the kind of middle-aged angst that is the curse of successful stagnation. Enter Mizzy, his wife's feckless brother. Beautiful, carefree, wandering and lost, Mizzy challenges all that Peter had thought he knew about himself, including his sexuality. Confronted by such beauty, Peter rapidly discovers the terror of his own existence.

    There are many things to admire about this novel. Cunningham writes extremely well – the dialogue is as sharp, concise and pithy as the city in which the book is set. He is also very good on relationships. The core triangle of Peter, his wife and Mizzy is explored in agonising detail although the focus is always on Peter, the extent of his self-analysis ringing true in the land of counselling and psychotherapy.

    But to give the impression that By Nightfall is simply a book about a midlife crisis would, I think, be highly misleading. Cunningham is interested in bigger things and the art world is core to the concerns of the book.

    Peter is perpetually in search of the elusive great artist to represent, an idealist reluctant to come to terms with the view of his gallery assistant that they are simply buyers and sellers of art, players in a global business. Peter's belief remains intact, that "a real work of art ... should radiate such authority, such bizarre but confident beauty (or unbeauty) that it cannot be undone".

    When Bette decides to close her gallery to enjoy a bucolic existence before death, she hands Peter one of her clients, Groff, an accomplished craftsmen who makes traditional-looking urns that, on closer inspection, reveal the profanities and obscenities that he has meticulously wrought on their surface. Beauty or ugliness? Or both?

    In another striking image, Peter exhibits an artist whose canvasses are carefully wrapped and varnished, the elaborate packaging hinting at something of value beneath but never revealing it. When the exhibition is taken down, the wrapping of one exhibit is torn, disclosing only an amateurish daub. The wrapping hides only an absence of talent and honesty.

    But perhaps my favourite artist in the book is the fictional (as far as I know) Victoria Hwang who takes videos and photographs of ordinary people in the street – a middle-aged woman searching for change for a parking meter, a young woman emerging from a bakery with a little white bag in her hand – blows them up large and turns them into superheroes of the hour complete with merchandising T-shirts, action figures, lunch boxes and Halloween costumes, all exhibited to the loud strains of the opening of Beethoven's Ninth.

    The interplay of Peter's personal and professional life allows Cunningham the opportunity to explore ideas about beauty and art, their importance and the effect they have on us. And if there are no neat solutions, that is only to be expected.

    I found By Nightfall gripping and thought-provoking, and Cunningham's writing was a constant delight. Even if the art world is not your scene, there is more than enough in his treatment of the central and fringe relationships to make this a stimulating and enjoyable read.

    Cunningham also wrote the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Hours, which was made into an Oscar-winning movie of the same name in 2002 starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.

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    Books we can relate to

    Posted: 09 Oct 2011 01:45 AM PDT

    STILL looking in vain for high-quality picture books with Malaysian content? There are a handful out there, but until more titles hit the stores, books with Asian content are an alternative to those featuring a predominantly white cast of characters, and American or European settings.

    Rather than recommend individual titles, here are three publishers responsible for bringing some brilliant Asian content for children to the world.

    Enchanted Lion ( – This family-owned, New York-based publisher has been around for just eight years but has an exceptionally interesting list comprising picture books, and non-fiction titles.

    On their website, the publishers declare that "books help children to cross all kinds of boundaries and borders long before they begin to grasp the world through actual travel and experience. We thus take as our task that of connecting young readers to the wonderfully diverse modes of expression that exist in the world, so that in the end they will feel that the whole world – with all of its wonderful, surprising and very real similarities and differences – is their home."

    Among the books with Asian content published by Enchanted Lion are Little Eagle and Me And Mao by Chen Jiang Hong, an award-winning Chinese author and illustrator who now lives in Paris.

    To order the books, click on the titles and you'll be directed to Amazon.

    Lee & Low Books ( – Another family-owned company, Lee & Low was founded in 1991 with the intention of meeting the "need for stories that children of colour can identify with and that all children can enjoy."

    This publisher actually makes a special point to work with non-Caucasian writers and illustrators.

    Lee & Low have four imprints, each specialising in different types of books, including books created specially for classroom use.

    On the website, you can search for books under the "Asian & Asian American Interest" section. Here, there are books set in Cambodia, India, Japan, China and many other Asian countries as well as Asian communities, or simply featuring Asian characters.

    You can order books directly through the website.

    Kane Miller Children's Books ( – Kane Miller's tagline is "Award-winning children's books from around the world" and you can search the website according to country. Asian countries on the list are China, India, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, and you may recognise some of the authors and illustrators published by this publisher.

    Taro Gomi's hilariously matter-of-fact Everyone Poops is one of their most popular titles, and the understated On My Way To Buy Eggs by Chih-Yuan Chen is one of my all-time favourite picture books.

    To order go to

    Daphne Lee reads to wonder and wander, be amazed and amused, horrified and heartened and inspired and comforted. She wishes more people will try it too. Send e-mails to the above address and check out her blog at

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