Ahad, 30 Oktober 2011

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Flying high

Posted: 31 Oct 2011 12:22 AM PDT

The anime, Lastexile – Fam, The Silver Wing, promises aerial battles, great animation and an exciting storyline.

ANIME fans will remember Lastexile, the groundbreaking 2003 animated TV series by Japanese anime studio Gonzo which featured awesome aerial fights between space ships.

Its sequel, Lastexile – Fam, The Silver Wing, promises new flying machines, magnificent air battles and powerful armies, all in the rich and memorable Lastexile universe.

The Silver Wing revolves around 15-year-old pilot Fam Fan Fan, a member of the Sky Pirates who uses a compact "Vespa" flying machine to hunt for battleships that they can resell.

Trouble arrives when the Ades Federation declares war on the Turan Kingdom. Fam and her best friend Giselle end up being caught in the middle of the conflict. But they may actually profit from this misfortune.

The two girls manage to strike a deal with the Turan Kingdom to save the nation's princesses from the Ades Federation in exchange for Turan's flagship.

Lastexile – Fam, The Silver Wing is the fifth and latest anime TV series "simulcast" (simultaneous broadcast) by Animax in the last two years. (When anime are "simulcast", they are usually broadcast in the same week of the shows' premieres in Japan. This is significant as it often takes months or even years for an anime to be released outside Japan.)

In 2009, Animax aired Tears To Tiara, making it the first TV network in the world to air an anime TV series the same day as Japan. The network followed this with three other anime series – Inuyasha: The Final Act (2009), Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2010) and Maid Sama! (2010).

"Anime simulcasts are still such a rarity in television due to the huge investments, the large amount of preparations required for broadcast, as well as the great trust needed by business partners in Japan," said Ricky Ow, general manager and senior vice president, Networks, Asia, Sony Pictures Television.

"I feel that the reason we are able to realise the dream of having a simulcast is because anime fans all over the world are taking an interest in the new series and are looking forward to it," said The Silver Wing producer Hiroyuki Birukawa in an e-mail.

The Silver Wing marks Gonzo's 20th anniversary, and Gonzo has reunited key crew members of the first Lastexile to produce the anime.

Koichi Chigira (Full Metal Panic! and The Tower Of Druaga series) returns to direct, while artist and designer Range Murata (Blue Submarine No.6 and Shangri-La) and Makoto Kobayashi (Mobile Suit Gundam Z, Samurai 7) returned to recreate the anime's unique visual style.

After working on Lastexile, Birukawa and Chigira began talking about making a sequel. In fact, Chigira had already conceptualised a story for the proposed series.

"Three years after that, director Chigira, producers at anime studio Gozo and I met up on some days each month to discuss the content of the new anime series. And that went on for about two years before we went into full-scale production sometime in the beginning of 2009," Birukawa said.

He said that The Silver Wing will have a completely new story with new characters, so fans can enjoy the anime whether they have watched the previous series or not.

"In fact, for those who have watched the previous series, apart from familiar characters appearing, there will also be some scenes here and there that will make them grin, so I am sure fans will enjoy the show," he said.

Popular Lastexile characters like Dio and Tatiana will make an appearance in The Silver Wing, he added.

In the first anime, the characters had left the world known as Prester to return to their mother planet. In The Silver Wing, the story takes place on that mother planet.

Birukawa describes Fam Fan Fan as a simple, innocent girl who is also a naturally talented van-ship pilot. Her friend Giselle is calm and composed compared to the reckless Fam, and she provides steady support to Fam. There is also Millia, princess of the Turan Kingdom. She is strong-willed and immensely determined.

Birukawa said that the story and characters evolved as they created the anime.

"For example, the protagonist was initially male, but because his personality and actions became so similar to Claus', protagonist of the first Lastexile series, we thought, 'Let's change him into a female then!'," he said.

Like in the first Lastexile series, Makoto Kobayashi is in charge of the vessel designs.

"The designs brilliantly depict an even more life-like texture as well as the weight of the metal build of the craft. From the gigantic battleship to the small van-ship known as the Vespa, the designs are very elaborate up to the minutest details," Birukawa said.

Fans can expect the "exhilarating feeling of flying in the sky" when these ships take to the air, he added.

While there have been advancements in 3D CG technology, it is the "artistic passion" of the staff that he finds commendable.

"Like in the previous Lastexile series, as well as this upcoming series, I feel the use of new animation capabilities is reflected in the deeper layout and the invigorating movements in the show," Birukawa concluded.

n Lastexile – Fam, The Silver Wing, airs on Saturdays at 8pm on Animax (Astro Ch 715). For details visit www.animax-asia.com/shows/lastexile.

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Canada upset Argentina to win inaugural Pan-Am rugby title

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 06:12 PM PDT

GUADALAJARA, Mexico (Reuters): Two interception tries from Conor Trainor spurred Canada to a 26-24 upset victory over Argentina in the gold medal match in the inaugural rugby sevens tournament at the Pan-American Games on Sunday.

The two-point winning margin ultimately derived from Nathan Hirayama's fine conversion kick from the left touchline after Canada's first try but it was Trainor's successful forays into the Argentina backline that kept his team in the match.

"This time last year he was on the fringe of going to the World Cup and he's just come back from the World Cup (where he) scored two tries against New Zealand. Now he's got a gold medal here," Canada coach Geraint John said of Trainor after the medal ceremony.

"He's a very instinctive player ... Sometimes as a coach we tell them not to do it because it can put us out of our structure, but it worked," John added.

The curly-haired, 21-year-old Trainor said: "I'm sure the coaches were pretty unhappy while I was running but I'm sure their hearts lifted when they saw me catch the ball and go in."

Rugby, which has also been played at the Commonwealth Games, will return to the Olympic Games in the sevens format at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The United States, last winners of the Olympic gold medal in rugby in Paris in 1924, were third at the Pan-American Games after beating Uruguay 21-17 for the bronze medal.

In the gold medal final, favourites Argentina went ahead with a converted try under the posts by Gabriel Azcarate with John Moonlight touching down in the left corner in a Canadian breakaway and Hirayama converting to put the teams level at 7-7.

Francisco Cuneo crossed to give Argentina a 12-7 lead at the interval but Moonlight scored his second try soon after the restart and Trainor's first intercept gave Canada the lead for the first time.

Replacement Ramiro Moyano scored under the posts at the other end and Gonzalo Gutierrez converted to put Argentina level again at 19-19.

But Trainor, who scored his two tries against eventual champions New Zealand in a pool match at the World Cup, made another interception when Argentina lost possession in a tackle.

Hirayama's conversion gave them a seven-point cushion going into the final seconds.

Argentina kept the ball in play after the siren and replacement Joaquin Luccheti went over for their last, potentially match-saving try but Gutierrez failed to slot in the conversion from out on the left where Hirayama had been successful earlier.

"In the last couple of years we've been losing games we were in the other team with by two, three points, often that came down to a conversion so we've worked on it a bit," an elated Hirayama said.

Argentina's coach Nicolas Fernandez Lobbe, middle brother of Pumas Ignacio and Juan Martin, said his team had lost because of their own mistakes.

"We had two errors, two interceptions in moments when we had got on top. I think that affected us, but we played badly, I think we lost it," Fernandez Lobbe told Reuters.

Asked if Argentina's game was easy to read, he said: "That's how to play sevens, especially a final when there's a lot of fatigue, you have to focus more on the system.

"In fact, (Hirayama's first) conversion, which scraped over 'asking for permission', cost us the match."

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World No. 1 Chong Wei rakes in another title in France

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 04:42 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei will return home from Europe with a very big smile today.

Top seed Chong Wei disposed of Kenichi Tago 21-16, 21-11 in the men's singles final of the French Open in Paris yesterday – extending his unbeaten run against the Japanese – to nick an amazing seventh title of the year.

The Malaysian has won all his seven previous matches against Kenichi.

It was also Chong Wei's 11th individual tournament and 11th final appearance this year – a record that will be quite impossible for others to emulate.

A day earlier, Chong Wei had shown more fire in his game to overcome a psychological barrier against China's rising star Chen Long.

Having lost twice to Chen Long in the finals of the Japan and Denmark Opens, Chong Wei turned the tables on the 22-year-old with a well-deserved 23-21, 17-21, 21-15 win.

National coach Tey Seu Bock commended Chong Wei for making a quick rebound after the disappointment in Denmark just a week ago.

"His most significant win was over Chen Long (in the semi-finals). He is certainly a strong-willed player," said Seu Bock in a telephone interview yesterday.

"He lost a lot of energy against Chen Long but yet, today, he was able to return to court and play his game against Tago.

"Yes, there were moments when he made some uncharacteristic mistakes but he quickly made up for it."

Seu Bock said that Chong Wei was almost back at his best after a demoralising loss to Lin Dan in the final of the Word Championships in Wembley in August.

"I think his confidence is almost 80% back. He has been struggling to get his game going after the defeat at the world meet," said Seu Bock.

"It is not easy to reach the final of every tournament. Expectations are high on him and he has to deliver all the time.

"That could be mentally tiring but he has defied all the odds and I have nothing but respect for him."

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Kvitova downs Azarenka to win the US$1.75mil jackpot

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 07:08 PM PDT

ISTANBUL: Petra Kvitova provided further proof that she is the rising force in women's tennis when she beat Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to win the WTA Championships yesterday.

The 21-year-old Czech, who shot to fame by winning Wimbledon this year, produced a display of power and skill to finally overpower the gritty Azarenka and claim the US$1.75mil jackpot after remaining undefeated at the year-ending event which featured the world's top eight women tennis players.

Victory also confirmed Kvitova at a career-high second in the WTA rankings after ending 2010 in 34th spot and she will enter the new year with No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in her sights.       

Left-handed Kvitova's free-flowing game took her into a 5-0 lead in the opening set inside the Sinan Erdem Dome but she lost the next five games as the errors began to stack up.       

She finally edged the opening set on a fifth set point but Azarenka, who could also have taken the number two ranking with victory, refused to be cowed by her opponent's superior firepower and kept her nose front to win the second set.       

Azarenka had three break points at the start of the third set but could not convert any of them and it was to prove a pivotal moment as Kvitova regained control to take the title on her debut at the showpiece tournament.

VIENNA: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bounced back from a set behind and a service break down to beat Juan Martin del Potro for the first time and win the Vienna ATP tournament yesterday.

The Frenchman's 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 win also kept him on course for a place in the season-ending World Tour Finals in London next month, moving him to seventh place in the 2011 rankings ahead of Mardy Fish.

Top-seeded Tsonga crashed 25 aces on his way to a first win in four meetings over the former US Open champion, who has been fighting his way back to form after being plagued by a wrist injury last year.

"That was really tough," said Tsonga. "Juan Martin played very well.

"I lost a little motivation after losing the first set but fortunately I got it back quickly."

Neither player managed to break serve in the first set and, having fought back from a break point down in the tiebreak, Tsonga then served a double fault to hand Del Potro the opportunity.

The Argentine duly took it when Tsonga over-hit a forehand.

Del Potro appeared to be heading for a win when he broke in the third game of the second set, but Tsonga replied in the next game in what appeared to be the turning point of the match.

The Frenchman broke again in the sixth game when, having missed one break point, he was handed another by a Del Potro double fault and gleefully seized it with a stunning forehand drive down the line.

In the third set, the 26-year-old served nine aces and broke in the seventh game to claim his second ATP title of the year following his win in Metz. — Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

UK house prices fall faster, demand dips

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 05:58 PM PDT

LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) The fall in house prices in England and Wales accelerated in October as consumers become increasingly worried about the outlook for the economy and shy away from buying homes, property data firm Hometrack said.

Average prices dipped 0.2 percent on the month compared to falls of 0.1 percent in each of the five preceding months, Hometrack said. House prices were 2.8 percent below the October 2010 level.

"Growing consumer concern over the outlook for the economy is beginning to impact directly on house prices," Hometrack Director of Research Richard Donnell said in a statement.

As in previous releases, the survey showed large regional differences, although prices stalled even in London after rising for seven months in a row.

"The evidence is clear that buyers are drifting away from the market in the face of weak consumer confidence and concerns over the prospects for the economy and their household finances," Donnell said.

Hometrack said that while demand eased, supply had grown by 11 percent over the past six months.

"The balance between supply and demand is clearly shifting and points to an acceleration in price falls in the coming months," Donnell said.

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apan Azumi to take firm steps on foreign exchangeas necessary

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 05:55 PM PDT

Published: Monday October 31, 2011 MYT 8:56:00 AM

TOKYO, Oct 31 (Reuters) Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi said on Monday that he would take firm measures on foreign exchange as necessary but added that he saw no specific reason behind the yen's record high against the dollar earlier in the day.

He told reporters recent currency moves were speculative and did not reflect the real economy.

The dollar touched a record low of 75.31 yen earlier on Monday.

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UK's PM warns against talking down global economy

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 05:53 PM PDT

Published: Monday October 31, 2011 MYT 8:54:00 AM

LONDON, Oct 31 (Reuters) British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged colleagues, at home and abroad, to avoid talking down domestic and global economic prospects.

Writing in the Financial Times newspaper on Monday, Cameron said pessimism and fear can become selffulfilling prophecies in global markets.

"At the G20 I'll be making the argument that inwardlooking, beggarmyneighbour policies benefit no one," he said.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

When fact and fiction intersect

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 12:15 AM PDT

Mr Fox
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Publisher: Riverhead Books,
336 pages

SEVERAL years ago, I wrote a teen romance in which the protagonist falls in love with a violin-playing rock star named Tristan. I imagined him so vividly that it was quite natural for me to love him as much as my heroine did.

While writing the book, I had long conversations with Tristan, and when I described his pursuit of the girl, I became quite giddy, as if I myself was being pursued: when he touched her, I actually felt his fingers on my skin.

Does that sound mad? Well, I have always wondered if writers of fiction are a little schizophrenic, and just fortunate to have a socially acceptable way of expressing the different personalities that possess us, the different voices that speak to us.

If this is the case, then perhaps the characters we create are parts of ourselves, and putting them on the page is a way of exerting control over our impulses and desires.

The problem is that our characters are not biddable. They have minds and feelings of their own. They challenge us and they rebel: Tristan was wooing a 14-year-old girl – jailbait! I was appalled, but there was no talking him out of it.

In Helen Oyeyemi's Mr Fox, St John Fox is a novelist whose muse, Mary Foxe, is a figment of his imagination … until she arrives at his home one day. Why did Fox create her in the first place? Perhaps his wife, Daphne, proved uninspiring.

Referring to her placid nature, Fox says: "She doesn't complain about anything I do; she is physically unable to. That's because I fixed her early. I told her in heartfelt tones that one of the reasons I love her is because she never complains. So now of course she doesn't dare complain."

Later, when Daphne suspects he is having an affair and wrecks his study, Mr Fox admits that he likes her more for being capable of such violence.

But before that, there is Mary Foxe, a manifestation of a need so great that it is made flesh. However, the exact shape of Fox's need is mystifying. When Mary arrives at his home only to accuse him of murder. Apparently, Mr Fox kills off all his female characters.

If Mary is his muse, does she inspire these creative impulses of his? And, if Mary is imaginary, does this trend in Fox's fiction reveal his own latent distrust of women and his need to control or subdue, even silence them? (See the way he "fixed" Daphne.)

The book's title, after all, refers to the fairytale in which a debonair gentleman systematically woos, weds and murders a series of young woman. His latest conquest, Lady Mary, discovers that her fiancĂ© is a mass murderer and, being far from the retiring sort, in fact a bit of a melodramatist, she reveals the truth at their wedding breakfast and he is cut into a thousand pieces by her brothers. If only justice were always so swift … and colourful.

Mary Foxe's accusation is not followed by the bloody dissection of St John Fox's body, but by a series of stories in which Fox struggles violently with his muse, and with himself – Mary Foxe is determined to teach her creator a lesson, or die in the attempt. Perhaps what is really happening is that Fox realises he is getting into a creative rut.

Old habits, however, die hard and there are many ways to skin a cat. You can stop someone's voice as easily by burning a manuscript as by slitting a throat. You can write yourself out of a rut or you can write yourself even deeper into it.

Death in some form or other is always present in St John Fox's stories – heads roll and hopes are destroyed; loneliness kills, and suspicion breaks the strongest of spirits. What is Fox afraid of? "Women" seems too obvious an answer except that it didn't occur to me while I was reading the book, but only just now when writing this review.

Every now and then, the stories stop and we are with the Foxes again, but the line between fact and fiction continues to blur as he begins to mistake his stories for episodes from his own life, and Daphne becomes increasingly convinced that Mary Foxe is a real woman.

There is a school of thought that says biography, autobiography and memoir cannot be classified as non-fiction because personal experience, perspective and memory work together to create an unreliable narrative. There is also a school of thought that says there is no such thing as pure fiction, that all stories are based on, derived from, and inspired by real experiences, people and places, and so, are all true stories.

Mr Fox is about the space where fact and fiction intersect. To my mind, it is a magical space where mere words are shaped by the sensibilities of author and reader alike, and transformed by strange alchemy into instruments of change. It is also a dangerous space, where long-buried truths may be unearthed, and illusions shattered.

Good stories challenge us, the way Mary Foxe, the faithful muse, challenges Mr Fox. They awaken our sympathies, make us pause and consider, reveal our innermost desires and fears. If we let them, they create self-awareness – a most valuable, powerful and terrifying gift.

Helen Oyeyemi's words do all this, working slowly and subtly through stories that shine with the seemingly simple and magical poetry of fairytales and spells. The pictures they conjure are beautiful but often have glossy facades that expose a rotten, rotting reality – rich fertiliser for the mind and spirit. Food for thought, manna for the soul.

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It’s the place to be

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 11:55 PM PDT

A travel writer finds a destination with a difference when he attends this year's Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Indonesia.

UBUD, Bali's cultural and spiritual heart, has long attracted artists and creative types to its laidback atmosphere, lush green hills and a vibe far removed from the hedonistic beach resorts of Kuta. Consequently it seems a perfect fit for the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival which celebrates literature from across the world, and brings together international bestselling authors alongside local writers and performers.

Although I am an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction I have never before attended a literary festival. However, I was drawn to this one as much by its setting in Ubud as by the names of the writers in attendance.

Always welcoming to creative types, the restaurants, palaces and galleries of Ubud were transformed over five days earlier this month into venues for workshops, seminars, talks and literary lunches with the writers.

This year's festival, the eight, had the theme "cultivate the land within" and those in attendance included big names such as D.B.C. Pierre and Alexander McCall Smith.

Before the opening ceremony I get a chance to speak to the festival's organiser, Janet DeNeefe, who says that she had been inspired to hold the festival after the tragedy of the Bali bombing in 2002. When I ask what makes this festival different from others around the world she replies: "There is something about the spectacular venues, friendly people, the community of Ubud, cosy village feel and non-commercial, laid-back aspect of the festival that makes it so appealing to so many.

"There are many opportunities to rub shoulders with the authors and the writers, and for them, it is a great chance to get up-close and personal with their readers. There is nothing corporate about this event and it has all the charm and feel-good factor that Ubud offers."

I am looking forward to experiencing this Ubud "feel-good factor" and things get off to a good start when I attended the opening ceremony in the Royal Palace. Balinese dancers and traditional music mark this out as a very different experience compared to what I've heard festivals in Europe are like.

For the duration of the festival, there is a relaxed air about the town even as thousands of literary fans and creative types descend upon Ubud. With the event being confined to a few venues in the centre of town it was easy to bump into famous writers as they stroll down the street or have a coffee – there is certainly no elitism surrounding this event.

This year drew 135 writers from 27 countries, spread out over 183 panels and workshops with 37 special events. With so much on offer, there is bound to be something to pique my interest, I think – but I have to say, it is very easy to be taken over by the laid-back atmosphere and spend time people watching instead! I do though manage to catch quite a few of the events, and one of the most interesting is a session with the British/Irish/Australian author, D.B.C. Pierre, who won the Booker Prize in 2003 for Vernon God Little.

The venue is the Neka Art museum and its spacious interior set against the back-drop of the Ubud hills is a fitting stage for what proves to be an engaging and lively discussion.

Living up to his image as the bad boy of literature, Pierre shares anecdotes about his wild youth in Mexico with the enraptured audience; he also gives hope to technophobes everywhere when he says that he can only type with one finger!

The festival gets bigger every year, and this year's attracted upwards of 20,000 visitors from around the world. For those who love literature and being around like-minded individuals, this friendly, accessible event is the place to be every October.

For more information, go to www.ubudwritersfestival.com.

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Party with the printed word

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 11:50 PM PDT

IF you're reading this, chances are you're a book-lover and have been to at least one warehouse sale. A book carnival, however, is a different thing altogether, a rare and marvellous event not often organised by local bookstores.

We're already looking forward to this one even though it's still a ways off in December: The MPH Carnival, set to be held from Dec 8 to 12 at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

It's billed as the first time the long-standing book company is holding such an event, and we hear they are just as excited as we are about it.

There will, of course, be discounts on books and magazines but, this being a carnival, there will also be games, and activities and goodies, oh my!

Also on the cards is an appearance by Tun Dr Mahathir to launch the e-book version of his bestselling memoirs, A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs Of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. There will be other authors appearing as well, along with talks on business strategies and winning leadership.

Keep an eye on these pages for more details we get closer to the date. We heard, for instance, that there's a chance to win some sweet prizes when you visit, even a car. More on this and other goodies next week.

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The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Okay for undergrads to hold peaceful demos

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 08:43 AM PDT

Published: Sunday October 30, 2011 MYT 7:03:00 PM
Updated: Sunday October 30, 2011 MYT 7:04:16 PM

SHAH ALAM: It is all right for university students to hold peaceful demonstrations, said Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin.

He said there were many ways in which students could "channel their message" to the university management, adding that demos were one of them.

"We need to give some space to students to voice their views. If they want to show their stand on some issues. It is okay," he told reporters when asked about the rise in student activism recently.

However, Khaled said some politicians could take advantage of the demonstrations to champion their cause, and there were also cases when outsiders joined in the campus protests.

"Demonstrating is only one way of making a stand,'' he said at the launch of the Malaysia Polytechnic Entrepreneurs Centre at the Sultan Salahuddin Aziz Shah Polytechnic here Sunday.

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Malaysia's 'global movement of the moderates' included in Commonwealth communique

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 07:40 AM PDT

PERTH: Malaysia's initiative to promote the "global movement of the moderates" has been included in the Commonwealth communique issued by the leaders at the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting here.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he was pleased to see Malaysia's initiative being accepted and made part of the communique.

"Basically, people support the idea of the global movement of the moderates.

"It is now up to us to crystalise it in terms of activities and programmes that can further strengthen the concept as well as the principles and values associated with the movement," the Prime Minister said at the conclusion of the three-day CHOGM 2011 on Sunday.

Among the contents of the communique, which was issued at the end of the meeting, was that the member countries would maintain their commitment to a stable and secure national and international environment.

They would help improve international security by embracing moderation as an important value to overcome all forms of extremism, as called for in the "global movement of the moderates".

Najib first unveiled the initiative at the United Nations general assembly last year and again when he met African leaders at the Langkawi International Dialogue in June.

The concept envisions a scenario where ordinary people of all races, religions and political persuasions are prepared to stand up to extremists and defend the values they believe in.

The 17-point joint statement also saw heads of governments agreeing to reform the Commonwealth to make it more effective through the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) and consider recommendations made by the Eminent Persons Group.

Najib said Malaysia would host a major international seminar in Kuala Lumpur in January to further explain the concept and its principles.

The Prime Minister said there were plans to form an institution that would conduct research on programmes that could be held to further promote the movement.

On the meeting, Najib said it was a fruitful one as the leaders were committed towards reforms and tackling global issues.

"The desire for change is there. The spirit of Commonwealth is alive and the desire to make the grouping more relevant is also quite evident among members.

"But the biggest challenge is the how' part. The challenge is how committed we are in terms of execution and the ability to provide resources," he added.

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Tsu Koon denies he will take on Guan Eng in general election

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 03:25 AM PDT

Published: Sunday October 30, 2011 MYT 6:24:00 PM
Updated: Sunday October 30, 2011 MYT 6:25:22 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon dismissed a blog report that he is prepared to take on Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in the next general election.

He said the blogger had not interviewed him at all.

"Several blogs have written all kinds of things about me. My press secretary has dismissed them. I was not interviewed by any blogger, so how can they quote me as having said that," he told reporters after officiating at the Gerakan Deepavali open house at Menara PGRM in Cheras.

About 3,000 people attended the open house. Also present was Gerakan vice-president and Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohilan Pillay. Bernama

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

From the heart

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 11:12 PM PDT

Meet a man who's bringing affordable, original artwork to the doorstep of local art enthusiasts and collectors.

IT is like a mirror held up to your soul. A good piece of art has to speak to you. It's like there's an umbilical cord between you and the painting, you know?"

Well, I might not, but he clearly does. After all, Michael Chin has been nurturing a love for art even before he could write.

"It was paintbrushes and watercolours for me, even before I ever held a pencil in my hand. It's a funny thing that I'm not an artist, because my soul is one," he says.

Chin, who is a senior art consultant and the founder of the Malaysian Art Centre, was all hearty laughter and affability during a chat last week at the new and very small – about 10sq m – Malaysian Art Centre outlet at KL CityWalk, the first pedestrian strip mall located in the heart of the city. Still, they managed to fit more than 30 artworks into that space.

Chin relates that the gallery's first exhibition in the early 1990s – which was really three exhibitions running concurrently at Atria Shopping Centre in Damansara Jaya, Selangor; Lot 10 Shopping Centre and Mid Point Shopping Complex in Cheras, both in Kuala Lumpur – was a dream come true.

"Though I must say that it's something that I can't imagine doing now. It wasn't easy pulling off a one-man show," says Chin, who hails from Bukit Mertajam, Penang.

He explains that he had to look for exhibition space, transport 50 paintings to and from the locations, and put them up each morning himself.

"I transported all the artwork in my car. I had to drive with my seat pushed almost right up to the front, it was that full. After putting the paintings up in the morning, I would then have to take them down each night. You know what I prayed for every day? That the big paintings would sell first not because they would sell for more, but just because they were so heavy to carry up and down each day!" he recalls with a chuckle.

He also helped with the framing of the art pieces, staying up into the wee hours of the night to cut wood. He recalls aching all over the next day.

The first artwork he sold at the exhibition was a small one, modestly priced at RM140.

"I still remember selling this first painting. Man, was I elated. Those were what the early days were like. But I never thought of it as a hardship back then. It was my passion and I followed my heart in doing this," the father of three says, adding that he has worked only about five years in his life.

Hang on a minute. This 49-year-old man has been running several art galleries and outlets since he was in his early 30s, yet he says he's worked only five years in his life?

Chin grins. "No, really. What I'm doing now doesn't feel like work to me even though I do it seven days a week. What I did after my studies, now that was work. I've always had an interest in art, but what parent would want their son to be an artist? No, I had to get a decent degree, so I went into business administration," says the eldest and only son of two children.

Chin graduated from a Canadian university and then got a job in the marketing department of a construction and materials company. Sometime during his five-year working stint, his path crossed with that of an artist from mainland China. The artist was running out of time – his visa was about to expire, he had to return home, and he still had many paintings to sell.

"I took pity on him and bought all his paintings. Then I stuffed the roll of paintings in the back of my cupboard," Chin relates.

The paintings sat there for a year before his calling came knocking on the door, and he decided to set up an art gallery.

"I knew in my heart that one day I would use these paintings. I wanted to set up a gallery because I felt there was a vacuum in the art industry; that there were many people like me – people who like original art, but cannot afford to buy it," he says.

His reason for setting up the gallery was three-fold. First of all, he wanted to bring affordable, original artwork to the doorstep of art enthusiasts and collectors. Secondly, to provide a platform for artists to exhibit and promote their works. And thirdly, to groom the artists.

And here's where the more serious, practical side of Chin emerges: "We give the artists input on how to make their works more marketable. Not to change their style, of course, but just to offer advice on how to sustain themselves as professional artists. You have to respect the market in order to sustain yourself – to be able to buy paint, buy canvas, pay your rent ... basically to be able to make a living through your art."

When he resigned from his day job to set up the gallery, everyone thought he was crazy.

"They said to me, 'you have a decent job and you are leaving it to go into art? Are you nuts?'"

At the end of the day, his mother was the one who gave him her full support. "She was the only one who believed in me and supported me. The rest of the world thought I was mad. She even travelled from Penang to come to my first exhibition," he says.

Today, Chin runs four Malaysian Art Centre galleries and outlets in the Klang Valley (KL CityWalk in Kuala Lumpur, The Strand and 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor), including a frame shop called The Framers at Jaya33 in Petaling Jaya. The galleries represent about 50 artists.

Chin divides his time between these four locations, and often heads to the main gallery at The Strand to rearrange the art pieces on display. It's almost a habit, one that he finds therapeutic.

"I feel miserable if I don't go to the gallery. Plus, moving the paintings around never fails in cheering me up when I'm upset over something!" he says, laughing.

The gallery started with Chinese artists, but those days are long gone. Now almost all the artists represented are Malaysian.

"In the 1990s, Chinese paintings were very popular. But now they come by the truckload and it's hard to sell original art this way. The Chinese artists produce multiple copies of the same original artwork. The Malaysian market is much too small for this. Collectors don't like to see the same paintings on the walls of another collector," he says.

Eighteen years ago, Chin took a chance, a leap of faith, and it paid off. He considers himself lucky that he is making a living out of his passion. And he would like to encourage others to do the same.

"Follow your dream. You have got to live your life once, at the very least. You have been living so many other people's lives, what about living yours for once," he urges.

Heed these words, they come from hard-won experience, indeed.

For more information on the Malaysian Art Centre, call 03-6142 9633 or 012-393 7893.

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Turner Prize moves house

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 11:08 PM PDT

IN the absence of any big shocks at this year's Turner Prize exhibition, organisers hope the quality of the works on display will be enough to generate headlines and positive buzz for the show.

The annual British award is one of the contemporary art world's most recognisable and controversial, and on occasion sparks heated public debate about what constitutes art.

It has been dismissed as "The Prize for the Emperor's New Clothes", and previous winners include Martin Creed, whose exhibit in 2001 was an empty room with lights going on and off. Three years earlier, Chris Ofili triumphed with paintings propped up on elephant dung.

But the Turner has also helped cement the careers of some of Britain's leading contemporary artists, including Damien Hirst, who won in 1995, Steve McQueen (1999) and Antony Gormley (1994).

This year, the nominated artists are Karla Black, Martin Boyce, Hilary Lloyd and George Shaw, and their works are on display at the Baltic gallery in Gateshead, northern England, until Jan 8.

It is only the second time in its 27-year history that the Turner Prize exhibition has been held outside London, and the first time at a gallery not belonging to the Tate stable of galleries (which includes the world-renowned Tate Modern).

Scottish-born Black's exhibit is entered via see-through cellophane "curtains" hanging from the ceiling by tape and daubed in paint. Two large mounds of paper coloured in powdered paint fill the room inside, with the powder spread over the floor reminding visitors of the fragility and transience of the art. One of the paper structures allows the public to pass behind it and walk "into" a work of art.

Shaw, the only painter among the nominees, has produced a series of identically-sized landscapes that draw on his memories of the drab housing estate in the West Midlands where he grew up. His "deadpan realism" is designed to communicate how time changes our perceptions of a place that was once our home.

Boyce's installations recall stage sets or stills from a movie, and his Turner Prize exhibit features paper leaves on the floor, leaf-like metal shapes hanging from the ceiling and a garbage can like those used in Britain's public parks.

And Lloyd's room of video works deliberately draws the viewer's gaze to the technology she uses as well as the images they project. Floor 2011, for instance, is made up of close-up images of a section of wooden floor from three projectors hanging at waist height, so to get too close would mean to destroy the image.

Organisers hope the move to Gateshead will draw new crowds to the Turner Prize show, which attracted just 51,000 people in 2010 compared with a record 133,000 in 1999.

The award winner, announced on Dec 5, receives a cheque for £25,000 (RM126,500) as well as the priceless publicity that goes with it. The other nominees each receive £5,000 (RM25,300). – Reuters

The Turner Prize preview exhibition will continue until Jan 8 at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead, Britain). The centre is open daily from 10am to 6pm except on Tuesdays, when it is open from 10.30am to 6pm; admission is free. For details, visit balticmill.com. For more information on the Turner Prize: tate.org.uk/britain/turnerprize.

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Food for your macula

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 05:12 PM PDT

Making a small change to your diet might help slow down the advent of blindness caused by age-related macular degeneration.

AGE-RELATED macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people aged above 60 years in the developed world.

AMD gradually affects central vision and the macula, which is the most sensitive part of the retina.

There are two forms of AMD: wet and dry.

Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels tend to be very fragile, and often leak blood and fluid.

With wet AMD, loss of central vision can occur quickly. Wet AMD is also known as advanced AMD and is a cause of severe blindness in our senior population.

Dry AMD occurs when the light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, gradually blurring central vision in the affected eye.

As dry AMD gets worse, you may see a blurred spot in the centre of your vision. Over time, as less of the macula functions, central vision is gradually lost in the affected eye.

Patients with dry AMD are at higher risk of getting wet AMD. The three major risk factors for developing AMD are: age, family history of AMD, and smoking.

There are now effective treatments available for wet AMD with injections of anti-VEGF antibody drugs into the eye.

In Malaysia, however, patients often present late to their ophthalmologists, and their visual recovery is limited, even with treatment.

There is no treatment available for dry AMD.

There is a huge interest in looking at ways to prevent AMD in the general public and delay progression of disease in AMD patients.

Diet and nutrient supplementation especially have been the focus of intense research in the past 10 years.

Looking at supplements

The Age Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS) was a landmark trial done in the United States and completed in 2006.

It looked at the effect of nutrient supplementation in preventing and delaying progression of AMD in over 4,000 patients.

The exact contents of the supplements were 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta-carotene (equivalent to 25,000 IU of vitamin A), 80 mg of zinc as zinc oxide, and two mg of copper as cupric oxide.

The study found that patients at high risk of developing wet AMD benefited from taking these supplements as it reduced their risk of getting the condition, compared to patients who did not take the supplements.

Patients at high risk of developing wet AMD were those with intermediate or advanced dry AMD, or those who already had wet AMD in one eye.

An eye doctor will be able to tell you what stage of dry AMD you have and whether or not you will need to take these supplements.

We should be cautious in supplementing our diets with the nutrients and doses used in the AREDS as many older people take prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, and herbal medicines.

High dose nutrients can interfere with medications and interact with other nutrients to decrease their absorption into the body.

For example, the zinc concentration in the AREDS formulation is at a very high dose and could cause copper deficiency anaemia. To prevent this, copper was added to the AREDS formulation.

People who are being treated for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, should not take high dose nutrients without consulting their doctors.

Self-medication with high doses of vitamins and minerals is not recommended!

The results of the AREDS raised many more questions, like whether zinc and beta-carotene can be eliminated from the formulation as both these supplements can have side-effects.

Many people were also interested in looking at the possible beneficial effect of adding dietary carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids to the formulation.

As such, AREDS 2 was started in 2008, and will hopefully refine the findings of the original study by adding the above supplements to the study formulation.

The main objective is to determine if these nutrients will decrease a person's risk of progression to advanced AMD. Previous observational studies have suggested that these nutrients may protect vision.

The results of the study are expected to be released in 2013.

More on diet

Carotenoids are the natural pigments that give colour to egg yolks, tomatoes, green leaves, fruits, and flowers. They cannot be made internally in the body, and therefore, must be obtained from the diet.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are members of the carotenoid family. Beta-carotene is another type of carotenoid.

They serve as light-gathering pigments and protect against the toxic effects of ultra-violet radiation and oxygen. They also appear to protect humans against phototoxic damage.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the macula, as well as the lens of our eye.

When taking orally, lutein and zeaxanthin are far more effective in penetrating the retina than beta-carotene.

However, AREDS did not include them and used beta-carotene, because lutein and zeaxanthin were not commercially available 10 years ago.

Another interesting finding of the AREDS involved the diet of the participants.

The participants were given either a placebo or the actual supplements, had their eyes checked annually, and were also required to inform investigators about their diet.

In terms of eating oily fish (rich in omega-3 oils), the effect on the progression of early AMD was found to vary depending on what supplements the participants were taking.

The researchers found that consuming higher levels of oily fish was associated with a reduced risk of progression of early AMD in people taking the placebo, but there was no significant effect of eating more oily fish on the progression of early AMD when participants used the supplements.

They also found that eating a low glycaemic index (GI) diet reduced the risk of progressing to advanced AMD, regardless of what supplements were being taken. Low GI foods release their sugars into the blood more slowly than foods with a high GI.

So, there is clearly a complex interaction between diet and supplements in the prevention of AMD.

My opinion on this is that a low GI diet with two to three servings of oily fish a week can help prevent AMD, and is probably more useful than taking supplements alone.

I apologize for the excessive medical jargon used today, but I wanted to share these key findings of this very important study with you.

Prevention of AMD is a complex area, and I don't believe that taking supplements alone will help.

Apart from the supplements I have mentioned earlier, there are many other supplements that are commercially available that claim to prevent AMD like bilberry, gingko, acai berry, turmeric, selenium, and bioflavinoids.

It is very difficult to assess these claims, and currently, the most convincing evidence still comes from the AREDS, which found that high dose antioxidants and zinc supplementation reduced the risk of developing wet AMD in patients who already had dry AMD.

Please also bear in mind that the AREDS was done on a predominantly white North American population, and their findings cannot be directly extrapolated to our Asian population.

As a general guide to AMD prevention, here are my top five tips:

1. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables like spinach, carrots, broccoli, guava and papaya. Choose different coloured fruits/vegetables to ensure you get a good variety of nutrients.

2. Eat oily fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel or sardines at least twice a week.

3. Exercise regularly.

4. Avoid a high fat diet.

5. Avoid smoking.

> Dr Fong Choong Sian is a consultant ophthalmologist while Goo Chui Hoong is a consultant dietitian. They are publishing a book on eye health and diet next year. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Here is a recipe you can try to apply some of the dietary principles:

Vietnamese spring roll

This is my version of Vietnamese spring roll.

I have substituted brown rice vermicelli for the normal rice vermicelli to take advantage of its lower glycaemic index.

These spring rolls are packed with fresh salads and herbs to give it a lovely fresh taste and to retain most of its antioxidants.

You can substitute the vegetables with your favourite ones. Try shredded guava, blanched choy sum or shredded courgettes!

Prawns are a source of omega-3 fatty acid and zinc. Alternatively, you could use smoked salmon or canned tuna in place of prawns.

Serves four

Preparation & cooking time: 35 minutes


300 g prawns

100 g (1 cup) brown rice vermicelli, soaked in water for 20 minutes

40 g (8 sheets) rice paper

80 g (8) fresh lettuce leaves, washed and drained dry

100 g (1 cup) bean sprouts, blanched in boiling water

110 g (1) carrot, shredded

20 g (½ cup) mint leaves

20 g (½ cup) coriander leaves

20 g (2) spring onion, cut into slivers

Nuoc Cham sauce:

4 tablespoons (tbsp) fresh lime juice

4 tbsp fish sauce

4 tbsp water

2 teaspoons sugar

10 g (2 cloves) garlic, minced

10 g (2) birds eye chilli, minced


First, devein the prawns. With the shell intact, hold the prawn backside up. Run your knife down the length of the prawn to expose the vein. Use your finger or the tip of your knife to remove the vein. Repeat until all the prawns are deveined.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the deveined prawns for 1-2 minutes, or until it floats to the top. Drain the prawns from the pot and leave to cool.

Peel off the shell and slice the cooked prawns in half. Peeling the prawn shells is left until after the prawns are cooked to prevent them from shrinking too much.

Bring the water to boil. Boil the rice vermicelli for 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.

Dip the rice paper in a large bowl of warm water. It will become soft and pliable.

Place the rice paper on a flat area and line with a lettuce leaf. Scoop a tablespoon each of rice vermicelli, sprouts, carrots, coriander, mint leaves, spring onion and prawn halves onto it.

Roll the rice paper and fold over the ends to seal in the filling. Cover with a damp cloth and continue to make the rest of the rice paper rolls.

Nuoc Cham sauce:

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together.

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A little pick-me-up

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 05:10 PM PDT

Giving your mind and body a small treat every day will only help improve your quality of life.

AS WOMEN, we've got a lot in our lives to deal with. Whether at home or at work, we're often the problem-solvers and decision-makers, putting other people's concerns ahead of ours.

At the end of the day, when we're at home, we're too exhausted to do anything but crash on the bed and fall asleep.

If you keep going on like this without a break, you will eventually burn out, and experience mental and emotional distress, as well as physical symptoms.

Every so often, it is important to do something to indulge and pamper yourself. It gives you emotional and mental relief, and sometimes, even physical relaxation as well.

In other words, you need to do something that is good for your body, mind and soul.

Indulgence is not necessarily about doing something that is bad for you – you can indulge yourself in healthy and meaningful ways too.

Here are a few ways to treat yourself, without costing too much or taking up a lot of time in your busy schedule.

Laugh at something funny

When was the last time you had a good, hearty belly laugh?

It was probably too long ago for you to remember. What with having to deal with naughty kids, cranky colleagues, difficult customers and a dozen other problems, who has time to laugh?

You should make time, though.

Laughing is the best way to release all the stress that has built up inside you. It even strengthens your immune system, improves blood flow, stabilises blood pressure and keeps blood glucose levels down.

The easiest way to get a good laugh is to watch a funny movie. Pick something that will not only make you smile or chuckle, but laugh out loud.

Have a cuppa

Much has been said about tea's healthful, antioxidant properties. So start channelling those benefits into your "me-time" by taking a break with a cup of tea.

Studies show that people who drink four cups of black tea a day for six weeks release fewer stress hormones after a difficult task, compared to those who drank a caffeinated fruit drink.

Green tea is also a good choice, if you want some variety.

Go dark

After all the years of secretly eating chocolate, we have finally been told that chocolate is good for us... but only dark chocolate.

While being low in sugar and fat, dark chocolate is also a good source of flavonoids. These are compounds found in plants, which are believed to have strong health properties.

Some of the health benefits associated with flavonoid-rich foods are: reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, cancer and other chronic diseases.

Now, this is not a license for you to eat loads of chocolates every day. Have only a little piece a day, and truly savour it as it melts in your mouth.

Get a massage and manicure

These aren't just for the rich and famous, but for any woman who works herself to the bone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We submit our bodies to a great physical toll, whether we are doing housework and manual labour, or sitting hunched in front of a computer all day long.

A manicure, pedicure and massage all offer one great benefit – human touch, which has been shown to reduce stress and boost self-confidence.

A massage releases endorphins in the body, which lowers anxiety and increases your immunity.

Many reflexology places offer simple back, neck, shoulder or foot massages at affordable prices. You can also get a chair massage at some malls or office buildings.

Be intimate

If you have a significant other in your life, don't neglect your relationship in your busy schedule. Physical intimacy is something that you should take time to indulge in.

Give your spouse a proper kiss every day when you leave for work and when you come home. You will be surprised at how much it improves your spirit and helps your worries melt away.

And when you're feeling very stressed and drained, don't crash straight onto the bed or in front of the television – try sex instead. Research has shown that sex lowers blood pressure, increases immunity and improves self-esteem.

A healthy physical connection with your partner will also strengthen your relationship emotionally, which gives you one less reason to be stressed during the day!


Can stretching be an indulgence?

It can, when you take your time at it and give every little muscle in your body a tweak (watch a cat the next time it stretches).

Stretching helps ease tired muscles, increases flexibility, improves your range of motion, gets the blood circulating and soothes away the stress.

It's always a good idea to stop in the middle of the workday and give yourself a good stretch.

Get out of your chair and do a slow stretch across all the major parts of your bodies, holding each pose for 10 seconds. You can also do it again when you are at home, while watching TV.

Call a good friend

When was the last time you had a proper chat with one of your dear friends?

You may see them at gatherings, drop them an email sometimes or read their status updates on Facebook, but nothing beats a good conversation about the things that really matter in life (or even just chatting about trivial, fun things).

The power of friendship in nurturing good mental and emotional health is not negligible. Everyone needs to have emotional attachments to people around them, as it gives us a sense of belonging, purpose and self-worth.

So treat yourself to a good long conversation with your friend, either over the phone or a simple meal.

Get moving

Get your blood flowing with some physical movements in your daily life.

It's not necessarily exercise (which is something else you should do regularly). Instead, this is just a chance to get some fresh air, relax your mind and boost your energy levels.

You could try taking a walk around your neighbourhood, do some simple gardening or play around with the kids outside.

Just 10 minutes will make you feel the difference!

Get some zzz's

Indulgence or necessity? It's certainly the latter, but you also need to indulge in good quality, restful sleep each night.

The amount of sleep we need differs between individuals, but generally, six to eight hours every night is the recommended amount.

Quality sleep refreshes your mind, helping you to retain information that you have learnt during the day and make memories.

Sleep may also play a crucial role in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

I have previously written about ways to improve the quality of sleep, such as by ensuring that the bedroom is properly dark and quiet, the mattress and pillows are comfortable, and the temperature is not too warm or too cold.

Lavender is another good trick to help you sleep and also ease your anxiety. Spritz a little lavender water on your pillow, or put a little sachet with lavender oil next to your bed.

These tips above are simple ways to take time out in a day and indulge in a little pick-me-up. Try not to go a day without at least one of these healthy treats.

> Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist (FRCOG, UK). For further information, visit www.primanora.com. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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‘Shock’ therapy for ED

Posted: 29 Oct 2011 05:08 PM PDT

A treatment originally meant for urinary stones is now being utilised to help men with erectile dysfunction.

EXTRACORPOREAL Shockwave Lithotripsy (ESWL) for the treatment of urinary stones was pioneered by urologists in Germany in the mid-1980s. It was arguably recognized as the greatest invention in medicine at that time!

ESWL was brought to Malaysia in early 1988, and within a short period, all urinary stone treatments were done without open surgery, albeit with the support of endourological procedures in a certain number of cases.

In recent years, ESWL has been used in the treatment of shoulder stiffness/pain and Peyronie's disease with limited success.

Today, ESWL is being used successfully in many centres to treat men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED).

Painless shockwaves delivered to the penis in stages over six weeks have been found to increase the blood flow to the penis significantly.

Over the past one year, well-conducted studies have confirmed that ESWL treatment is highly effective in treating men suffering from ED.

The results in these centres have shown that in the short term (up to a year), its efficacy is similar, if not better than, the current oral phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5i) used to treat ED.

In a few series, patients who initially failed to respond to PDE5i, responded to ESWL, and a number of them subsequently become responsive to PDE5i.

A novel treatment

ED shockwave therapy (EDSWT) is currently recognised as a novel innovative approach to treat vasculogenic ED (ie ED caused by disorder of the blood vessels). Apparently, all vasculogenic ED patients will benefit from EDSWT in varying degrees.

In the recent Annual Congress of the International Society of Men's Health held early this month, Prof Y. Vardi reported a series of studies dating back to 2009.

The first pilot study involved 20 middle-aged patients with moderate to severe ED (mean International Index of Erectile Function-ED score of 13.5 out of 25). He excluded men with ED from neurogenic (caused by nerve problems), psychogenic (caused by mental problems) or post-pelvic surgical causes.

Low intensity shockwaves were applied to the penile shaft and crus (base of penis) for three minutes in five different penile sites (300 shocks per site) without any painkillers.

The treatment included two sessions per week for three weeks, and was repeated after a three week no-treatment interval.

At the end of the nine week treatment regime, 15 patients (75%) responded to the therapy. Prior to the intervention, all the patients were on PDE5i therapy — five with poor response and 15 with good response.

Overall, 12 patients did not require PDE5i therapy three months after completing the shockwave treatment.

At one year, nine subjects showed improvement from an average of 14.4 to 23.3 in the IIEF-Erectile Function score (max score 15 of 25). None of the patients reported pain or any other side effects from the study.

This first pilot study was followed by a randomised sham controlled double blind study involving 60 vasculogenic ED patients who, at screening, were responders to PDE5i therapy (IIEF-EF score of >21).

The results showed clearly that 65% (26/40) of the treated group, compared to 20% of the sham group (p=0.0007), increased their IIEF-EF score by ≥5 points.

The treated patients also reported significantly higher satisfaction rate and increased flow-mediated dilatation parameters compared to the sham group.

Prof Vardi went on to present a study involving 24 patients with severe ED, who were not responding to oral medication.

At the end of the 12 week study, 80% of the patients achieved a rigidity score of ≥3 out of 5 (p21) with the use of PDE5i.

Prof Vardi concluded that EDSWT is a new modality that can be used to effectively treat a subgroup of ED patients who fail PDE5i therapy, and this study confirmed the potential clinical benefits of this novel shockwave therapy in restoring erectile function.

Currently, patients with severe vasculogenic ED who fail oral therapies often resort to vacuum pumps, injection therapies or penile implants if they want to resume sexual activities.

The experience with shockwaves (EDSWT) has shown that up to 70% of these difficult-to-treat cases can be salvaged, and become responsive to PDE5i.

Prof Vardi's study results have been duplicated by many centres in Europe, Japan, Korea and India.

Going beyond ED

EDSWT utilizes low-intensity extracorporeal shockwaves focusing on penile blood vessels, resulting in development of numerous tiny vessels (neovascularization) in the shaft and crus (base) of the penis.

This technology has been used successfully in cardiology to bring about revascularization of ischaemic tissues.

Low intensity shockwaves are also currently being experimented on in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and in aesthetics medicine to treat cellulite.

The discovery of sildenafil (Viagra), a PDE5i, revolutionised the management of ED in the 1990s. Four of six PDE5i are available in Malaysia, and they have been used very successfully in an on-demand basis in treating men with ED.

Lately, modification of the treatment regime using daily low dose PDE5i is preferred by men who cannot tolerate the side effects (headache, backache or flushing) of on-demand dosages. A proportion of men who desire spontaneity in their sex life also favour using daily dose PDE5i.

Recently, the US Food & Drug Administra-tion (FDA) approved the use of daily PDE5i in treating men with lower urinary tract symptoms secondary to prostate enlargement. This is certainly another milestone in the expanding usage of PDE5i.

Daily high doses of sildenafil taken two to three times per day has already been proven and approved to treat patients (including children) who suffer from debilitating life-threatening pulmonary arterial hypertension.

We have certainly come full circle with therapies for ED that continue to evolve and marvel medical science with their ever-expanding applications.

ESWL, which dramatically changed the treatment of urinary stones, is certainly on the verge of changing the treatment of men suffering from erectile dysfunction.

It is unimaginable that ESWL, a powerful but safe energy that has been used by urologists to crush nearly all stones in the urinary system, can be harnessed to deliver painless, controlled shock energy to bring new blood supply to the penis.

Urologists are certainly living in exciting times. We have literally grown up with the lithotripter. The powerful energy which we unleash to crush stones safely can also be controlled and tamed to caress the penis back to 'life'.

Urologists are also helping researchers in other fields of medicine to innovate the use of shockwave energy in the treatment of other medical conditions.

> This article is contributed by The Star Health & Ageing Panel, which comprises a group of panellists who are not just opinion leaders in their respective fields of medical expertise, but have wide experience in medical health education for the public. The members of the panel include: Datuk Prof Dr Tan Hui Meng, consultant urologist; Dr Yap Piang Kian, consultant endocrinologist; Datuk Dr Azhari Rosman, consultant cardiologist; A/Prof Dr Philip Poi, consultant geriatrician; Dr Hew Fen Lee, consultant endocrinologist; Prof Dr Low Wah Yun, psychologist; Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist; Dr Lee Moon Keen, consultant neurologist; Dr Ting Hoon Chin, consultant dermatologist; Prof Khoo Ee Ming, primary care physician; Dr Ng Soo Chin, consultant haematologist. For more information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel provides this information for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader's own medical care. The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel disclaims any and all liability for injury or other damages that could result from use of the information obtained from this article.

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