Sabtu, 8 September 2012

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

A royal spectacle

Posted: 09 Sep 2012 12:46 AM PDT

Watch exciting programmes on TV dedicated to Will and Kate who will be touching down in Malaysia on Thursday.

THERE really is no getting enough of the royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is there?

Everybody seems excited at their visit here next week as they can't wait to see Prince William and wife Catherine in the flesh.

There will be many exciting shows on Ntv7, E! and TLC to mark their visit.

Beginning today, Ntv7 will have an interesting mix of Will and Kate content in Bella (Sunday at 1.30pm; Monday to Thursday at 11am) and The Breakfast Show (Monday to Friday at 8am).

The hosts will be discussing everything from Kate's fashion evolution to the couple's extraordinary love story, as well as trivia on the two of them.

Other shows set to air on the couple include:

On Ntv7

> William & Kate: A First Year Anniversary Celebration (Sept 13, 8.30pm): A look at the lives of Will and Kate and their first year of marriage.

> Biography: Kate Middleton (Sept 14, 8.30pm): Find out what makes the future queen of England tick.

> The Diamond Jubilee Concert 2012 (Sept 15, 8.30pm): The star-studded concert held in June in conjunction with Queen Elizabeth II's 60-year reign.

> Will & Kate – The Malaysian Tour (Sept 16, 9.30pm): Viewers will see footage on their tour in Malaysia and get exclusive reports on the royal couple.

On E!

> Kate & Will: Happily Ever After (Sept 11, 1.30pm, with repeats on Sept 12, 5.20pm; Sept 13, 6.15pm; Sept 14, 8.35pm; Sept 15, 4.50pm & Sept 18, 10am): Hosted by Guiliana Rancic, this E! Special takes viewers through the past 12 months of the couple's life.

> True Hollywood Story: Kate & Pippa (Sept 11, 7.45pm, with repeats on Sept 13, 3.55pm and Sept 14, 7.45pm): A look at the dynamics of the sisters from childhood to adulthood.

> True Hollywood Story: Young Royals (Sept 12, 9pm, with a repeat on Sept 14, 3pm): Get the scoop on the most well-known royal families in Europe, including William and Harry.


> The Making Of A Royal Wedding (today, 1pm, with repeats on Sept 10, 8pm and Sept 13, 8pm): Learn about the logistics of the grand event. From security to dresses, to maintenance and meals, everyone has something to say about the big day.

> Royally Astounding: 30 Defining Days Of The Monarchy (today, 2pm, with a repeat on Sept 11, 8pm): Look back on the most prominent 30 dates that defined the British monarchy. From Charles and Di's wedding to Prince William falling for Kate at a fashion show.

> Charles and Di: Once Upon A Time (today, 4pm, with a repeat on Sept 14, 8pm): This two-hour special replays romantic and fascinating rare footage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. – Sharmila Nair

In high definition

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 11:30 PM PDT

CATCH all the glitz and glamour of Prince William and Kate Middleton's first visit to Malaysia in stunning picture quality now.

Sky News HD (Astro Ch 532) is the first news channel on Astro in high definition (HD) and in conjunction with the couple's visit, Sky's royal correspondent Paul Harrison will travel to Asia Pacific, including Malaysia to cover their royal visit.

Be sure to catch all the excitement on Astro's Sky News HD which is available to all Astro B.yond HD customers.


The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Thai veteran is the best on Tour with 14th title

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 07:04 PM PDT

SHAH ALAM: Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant became the most successful golfer in the Asian Tour when he claimed his 14th title after winning the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters by three strokes at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club.

The Thai led from the first day and shot a three-under 69 in yesterday's final round for a winning total of 16-under 272.

He overtakes countryman Thongchai Jaidee, who has 13 titles to his name in the Asian Tour. Malaysia has been a good hunting ground for Thaworn as he won his first Asian Tour title in 1996 at the Sabah Masters. He is also the first golfer to have won twice in the Tour this year, with his other victory coming at the Queens Cup in Thailand in June.

Thaworn was more than happy with the win as "it gives me the confidence to aim for more titles".

"I have no reason to think that I can win more titles at my age but my aim in every golf tournament is to win. I am happy to have set the record 14th win but that is not something I think about. But, of course, I want to win more titles," said the 45-year-old veteran, who took home US$60,900.25.

He is already third on the all-time money list in the Asian Tour (since 1995) with a total earning of US$3.2mil and 339 tournaments under his belt.

India's rising star Ganganjeet Bhullar settled for second place in the RM1.2mil event after signing off with a 66 while Vietnam's Michael Tran carded a 68 to cap a memorable week by finishing joint third with Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman and Spaniard Javi Colomo.

Siddukur also scored a 66 in the final round while Colomo had a 67.

Holding a three-shot overnight lead, Thaworn put some distance between him and the chasing pack with four birdies in his opening seven holes.

But bogeys on holes nine and 10 saw Bhullar closing the gap to three. Thaworn responded with birdies on the 12th and 13th to eventually win despite a bogey on the 18th.

Bhullar, searching for his third Asian Tour win, tried to apply some pressure on the leader with an outward 31 but a bogey on the 11th put paid to his hopes.

"Thaworn was too far ahead. If we had played in the same group it may have made a difference. But congratulations to him," said the 24-year-old Bhullar.

Surprise package Tran produced a superb inward 31 after going through his opening nine with two double bogeys and three birdies. He was pleased with his achievement.

"The two doubles really hurt me. It should not have been doubles. When I made the turn, I knew I had no chance of winning. I just said to myself 'enjoy the last nine holes' and that's what I did. I stopped trying to force things to happen," said the 22-year-old Vietnamese.

For their efforts, Ganganjeet won US$41,688.81 while the three third-placed golfers took home US$19,377.93 each.

Nicholas is Malaysia’s pride at Masters

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 04:00 PM PDT

SHAH ALAM: Nicholas Fung carded a one-under-71 in the final round to end up as the best Malaysian finisher in the Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters with a three-under 285 total.

He started off in 37th position and ended up in 29th place with nine others.

Nicholas had a good start, scoring two birdies in the first nine and closing off with another in the 8th hole. But bogeys in the ninth and 12th holes saw him finishing with a one-under for the round.

Nicholas, who won US$3,061 for his efforts, said that the only way he could improve further is to become a regular on the Asian Tour.

He currently depends on local exemptions when the Asian Tour is held in Malaysia but hopes to take part in the Qualifying School next year to gain a place on the Tour.

"I have to improve on my iron and overall play. It's difficult when you are not a regular on the Tour and the lack of experience is telling," he said.

"I hope to go through the Q-school next year to gain a regular place on the Tour."

The next best Malaysians were Danny Chia and Lim Eng Seng, who had similar four-day totals of 288. Danny scored a two-over 74 and Eng Seng finished with a one-over 73 yesterday. One stroke behind them was Shaaban Hussin and Airil Rizman Zahari, both on 289.

The Malaysians will play in the Sapura national qualifier tomorrow, the PGM Penang Masters the following weekend and then the Taiwan Mercury Open on Sept 27-30.

No decisions after high-powered six-hour CNT panel meeting

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 07:06 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) coaching and training (CNT) committee chairman Ng Chin Chai had claimed that it was time for "facta, non verba (deeds, not words).

But as it turned out, yesterday's CNT meeting ended with neither.

No head coach. No final decision on the top men's pairing of Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong. No firm decisions.

Basically, nothing.

That was the anti-climatic outcome of a six-hour meeting of the CNT committee that discussed about the future of Malaysian badminton.

After all the hoopla over the last few days, one would have expected BAM to come out with specific plans for the future, especially since they had more than one month after the London Olympic Games to conduct post-mortem.

But again they have come up short of expectations, deciding instead to wait until the BAM's exco meeting in middle of this month to finalise matters.

All Chin Chai would say yesterday was that they will name one head each for their short, medium and long term plans and not have one man oversee the whole programme.

"We will form an elite squad that will serve our short-term targets. The players under this programme will be Lee Chong Wei and Kien Keat-Boon Heong," he said.

"Our medium-term programme will focus on the younger group of players – aged 21 and below – to excel in 2016. And we will look into players aged 17 and below for our long-term programme – 2020.

"Finance is a major issue and we will wait until the exco meeting to approve our structure.

"Each squad will be handled by a head coach. The 2016 squad may even have a project manager to oversee their programme."

The BAM will also focus on the 9-14 year olds to peak at the 2024 Olympic Games "but that will come under the development committee."

On Kien Keat-Boon Heong, Chin Chai said that they will speak to the players first before deciding whether to split them up or not.

"We find that their level of commitment has improved since last year's World Championships (in Wembley)," said Chin Chai. "It's sad that they missed out on a medal at the London Olympic Games but they did well as the top four pair."

BAM general manager Kenny Goh, who is not a member of the CNT committee but present at the press conference, chipped in: "Kien Keat-Boon Heong can still contribute to the nation for the next three to four years. It is best that we find out what they want before making a decision. For now, we still want them."

Chin Chai also said that they will decide on the reshuffling of the coaches "once the structure has been put in place".

"We will decide later on the coaches for the different squads," he said.

It is learnt that Wong Tat Meng, Yap Kim Hock and Cheah Soon Kit are interested in becoming head coaches.

The only change, if you can call it that, is the dissolution of the High Performance Team (HPT), which comprises Datuk James Selvaraj, Wong Ah Jit, Mohd Ariffin Ghani and Chin Chai.

Except for Ariffin, the others will continue to be member of the CNT committee.

Does that constitute change?


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

City within a city

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 03:41 AM PDT

I-BHD founder and executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong has been in business for a great many years. Yet, he never fails to light up at the mention of his pride and joy the ambitious, steadily forming township of i-City.

With the exuberance of a young man, Lim, 62, is likely to take you by the hand and break into a short sprint as he points out upcoming attractions at his RM5bil, 72-acre development in Shah Alam, which was exactly what happened when StarBizWeek paid a visit there this week.

Seven years hence, I-Bhd's flagship project is set to harvest the first fruits of its labour.

Having made its name on the rows upon rows of LED-lit trees lining its streets, i-City is now a familiar backdrop to weekend family jaunts. However, its owners believe this is the year I-Bhd begins the transition to a serious player in property development.

When finished, i-City will be many things to many people theme park, mall, hotel, residence, office and concert venue.

"We have over the past few years been working behind the scene to get all the approvals and infrastructure in place. We have that today, and moving forward we are going to reap the efforts of our investments," group chief executive officer Datuk Eu Hong Chew asserts.

The story of i-City stretches as far back as 1993, when Lim bought a parcel of land in Section 7 of the then sleepy Shah Alam at RM4 per sq ft.

The freehold development is the brainchild of Lim, who has throughout his life been a trailblazer on many fronts despite adverse circumstances.

The youngest in a family of 10 children, he dropped out of school after standard six and worked in a furniture-making shop in his hometown of Muar, Johor, as an apprentice.

Lim later struck out on his own as a carpenter. At 21, he signed up as a mattress dealer with Dunlop and within a short time, he was the biggest dealer in the country. Soon after, Lim started Dreamland, Malaysia's first spring mattress brand, earning him the nickname "mattress king".

Dreamland was subsequently listed in 1987 and Lim sold the business in 1993 for RM350mil. He invested the money in several regional ventures as well as in the land on which i-City sits.

I-Bhd, which is 61.2%-owned by Lim, used to be a white goods maker known as Sanyo Industries Malaysia Bhd before he acquired and renamed it in 1999.

But his technology-based township did not take off until 2005, hampered by the Asian financial crisis.

Today, Lim has the state on his side, so much so that it agreed to build three flyover interchanges that will link i-City to the Federal Highway, making it only the second development to have exclusive access to the bustling expressway after Mid Valley.

Not only that, the Shah Alam City Council has written to the Land Public Transport Commission requesting that one of the stations along the proposed Kelana Jaya-Klang line of the My Rapid Transit service i-City.

With only 20% of the construction in place, large tracts of bare land still dominate the landscape of i-City, although if everything goes on schedule, this will not be the case for much longer.

Day and night

I-Bhd will spend the next 10 years realising the masterplan designed by Jon A. Jerde, whose portfolio includes the ritzy Roppongi Hills neighbourhood in Japan and SP Setia Bhd's KL Eco City.

Lim and his team are working to create an "international business hub by day and lifestyle haven by night", the likes of which has no comparison in Shah Alam, and which many thought preposterous to do in a place better known for its sedate suburbia and factories than as a thriving nightspot.

"The perception then was that no one wanted to invest in Shah Alam," recalls Eu, Lim's loyal aide of 20 years.

Because of this, i-City was a tough sell. Lim, for example, had to contend with an initially miniscule plot ratio of 1:3 and approved built up of five million sq ft, which would not allow the company to maximise its potential.

After much wrangling, Lim got the green light to raise i-City's plot ratio to 1:5, giving it a total gross floor area (GFA) of 13 million sq ft and RM5bil in gross development value (GDV).

i-City was the first and still the only private sector-led MSC status zone in the state.

It also signed a management and development agreement with the Selangor government to make i-City a "technopreneur campus", which comes with a host of incentives such as a temporary occupation licence for some 30 acres of neighbouring land, 24-hour operation for approved outlets, lower bumiputra sales quota of 30%, and the expanded plot ratio.

"If you look at all the successful urban centres in the world, there is always a business as well as entertainment component. Look at Roppongi or Canary Wharf (in London). When you have both day and night activities, the place becomes vibrant," Eu explains.


The quarter ended June 30 marked the first time I-Bhd recognised revenue from the residential portion of i-City in its books. Its turnover in the second quarter improved 63% to RM10.94mil from RM6.71mil in the same period last year, and net profit to RM2.97mil versus a loss of RM129,000, boosted by a three-fold increase in its leisure segment and a one-off gain of RM1.8mil from the divestment of its i-Home trademark.

For the first half of the year, revenue climbed 73.5% to RM19.59mil from RM11.29mil, while net profit stood at RM3.79mil compared to RM294,000 of losses a year earlier.

In the notes accompanying its financial results, the firm said it recorded a profit of RM7.6mil from its leisure operations during the six months to June, which was triple the RM2.2mil achieved in the previous corresponding period due to stronger revenue from its upgraded SnoWalk, more visitors to the LED Lightscapes and new theme park attractions installed in the final quarter of 2011.

Nonetheless, Eu explains that the contribution from its leisure division, which has so far been I-Bhd's main earnings engine, should balance out as the company progressively receives cash from the sales of its residences.

"We have only accounted for less than 5% of our unbilled sales in the second quarter," he points out.

I-Bhd in May launched 173 units of the West Wing of i-Residence, which has been fully sold. It unveiled last month a further 173 units of the East Wing in addition to 20 villas.

Also sold out were its 220 small office/versatile offices (Sovos), whose completion and handover is expected in two years.

In terms of pricing, Eu says i-Residence has set a new benchmark in the area at RM500 per sq ft.

Capital values in the vicinity, he adds, have appreciated in tandem. "When we were building in 2008, the semi-detached houses behind us were going for RM750,000 and RM300,000 for terrace homes. Now it has doubled to RM1.5mil and RM600,000.

"We have demonstrated that there is demand for high-rise living in Shah Alam, which has historically favoured landed property. When we wanted to do this, people were sceptical. But we have proven that if you have a nice product and environment, high rise is possible."

Of i-City's total 13 million sq ft, 8 million has been carved out for residential-type dwellings, 2 million for the mall and three hotels, and the rest for offices.

I-Bhd is targeting to roll out some RM500mil worth of launches with one million sq ft of GFA and hit RM500mil in sales per annum.

Eu calls i-City a "dual-track" project as the tourism and property development elements can operate independently of each other.

"Every developer wants a recurring income stream, that's how the theme parks came about," he elaborates.

"Once everything is done, we will also receive recurring income from the investment properties, namely the mall, hotels and carparks."

Quantum leap

By the middle of the next decade, after i-City has come to fruition, it is envisaged to have 30,000 knowledge workers, 25,000 residents and 40 million to 50 million visitors from five million now.

And while the small office/home offices (Sohos) and Sovos make up a significant chunk of its residences at 5.2 million sq ft, or 40% of the total built up, Eu does not think there will be a crunch in demand, citing the growing number of technopreneurs who eschew traditional offices.

In the near term, I-Bhd aims to launch 950 units of its RM300mil GDV Sohos in November alongside its Water World@i-City that will feature the country's only tornado ride.

Also in the works are a luxury 43-storey condominium sited on 1.1 acres in Kuala Lumpur's Golden Triangle in Jalan Kia Peng, which is slated to be revealed in the first quarter of next year, and Clarke Quay @i-City, the working title for what will be its riverfront complex inspired by the Singaporean tourist haunt of the same name.

"The authorities here are learning from Singapore and have decided to do away with the cemented banks of Sungai Rasau, which snakes past i-City. The plan is to widen and deepen the river to give it a natural look," Eu explains.

The river will be the focal point for its leisure district comprising its one million sq ft regional mall, hotels, an amphitheatre and an F&B hub.

For the rest of the year, Eu is confident that the company can maintain its growth momentum.

He expects net profit to be double that of last year in the financial period ended Dec 31, 2012 (FY12) on the back of progressive recognition of unbilled sales from its apartments and better ticket sales from its rides and attractions with the looming year-end holidays.

In a May report, Kenanga Research estimates that I-Bhd could see solid earnings growth in FY12 and FY13 of over 100% to RM11.4mil and RM24.3mil respectively.

"For the past five years, the group has maintained its net cash position with a zero gearing balance sheet," adds the research house, which has a target price of RM1.51 for the stock.

On dividends, Eu shares that there is potential for higher payouts in the future. It has been returning one sen to shareholders over the past two years for a yield of 1% to 3%.

"Last time we were thinking about how to settle the problems. Now we will settle shareholders," Lim chips in.

To the serial entrepreneur, this is more than a business investment. "It is not only about returns. Without love, this will not be successful. Without love, we would have surrendered," he says simply.

"The challenge for us now," Eu sums it up, "is to continue to increase the GDV of i-City. We have 10 years left under the current plan. Our job is not to complete it, but to enhance it further so we will have many more years to go."

KL’s most desirable address

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 03:24 AM PDT

Two things came as a surprise to the marketing consultant behind what will be the world's first Banyan Tree Signatures in Kuala Lumpur how quickly it was sold out, and more astoundingly, that most of its customers were Malaysians.

"As you know, Malaysians are currently not a condo-buying group, especially when the price is high, and they usually prefer landed property," remarks Tracey Lai, the marketing director of 1 Pavilion Property Consultancy Sdn Bhd, which handles sales and marketing for the RM1.4bil high-rise due to be completed in 2015.

Sandwiched between the Prince Hotel and Residence and Hakka Restaurant on Jalan Conlay opposite Pavilion KL, which some may remember as the site of the former Wisma MISC, Banyan Tree Signatures is well on its way to becoming the "most desirable add ress" in the capital, if its selling price and speed are any indication.

Lumayan Indah Sdn Bhd is developing Banyan Tree Signatures on a 1.46 acre plot at the junction of Jalan Conlay and Jalan Raja Chulan.

Set to tower over the Golden Triangle at a whopping 55 storeys, it will also be one of the tallest residential landmarks here.

Lai tells StarBizWeek in an interview that while its average selling price per sq ft was RM2,000, which is already at the top end for its location, the highest transacted price came close to RM3,000 per sq ft for the smaller units at the upper floors. In terms of the rental, Lai reveals that Banyan Tree Signatures is expected to be priced at RM10 per sq ft or higher, eclipsing even Pavilion Residences' RM8 per sq ft.

And for a development of its stature, Banyan Tree Signatures is sure to have courted some similarly high-profile, high net worth tenants. On this Lai is coy, holding firm to the confidentiality of her clients.

"There were prominent people who bought this but we can't divulge," she says with a smile.

"About 70% of our buyers were local and 30% from Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, the UK, Middle East, and Singapore, as well as a smattering from Indonesia. We did approach foreign buyers but the local take-up was so fast. Many were actually referred to us."

Lumayan Indah had, in fact, only signed the agreement with Singapore-listed Banyan Tree in October last year, after which some 80% of the private residences were snapped up within months.

Storied brands

The reason for this, Lai believes, is the confluence of the two brands backing the project Banyan Tree, known for its ultra-luxe spa resorts in various exotic locales, and Pavilion, owner of the award-winning shopping complex on Bukit Bintang.

Banyan Tree will manage the hotel and spa itself, giving the added allure of the service and amenities the brand is renowned for.

Imagine high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, the tinkle of champagne glasses and warm glow of crystal chandeliers against an evening panorama of KL.

Top that off with the ability to summon a limousine, yacht or even private jet through its concierge these are but some of the things in store for the owners.

The single-block development consists of 441 private residences, 51 serviced residences and 50 hotel suites, which are located at the two uppermost floors. Like the apartments, the hotel will also be the most expensive in town, Lai says.

The spa, a hallmark of Banyan Tree, will take pride of place on level 53. Plans are also in store for a rooftop deck with a gourmet sky bar and restaurant modelled after the Vertigo and Moon Bar of the Banyan Tree Bangkok.

Lai explains that the private residences were mostly sold to investors, with owner-occupiers making up some 30%.

"Our role does not end here (after the sale) as we will be looking at property management for the owners, for example if they are overseas or busy and need someone to care for and rent out their units."

Banyan Tree ventured into residences six years ago, but the one here will be the first under its "Signatures" concept, a model centred around the development of mixed use residences that will allow the firm to maximise returns vis-vis single-use projects.

How Banyan Tree got to where it is is the stuff of real estate legend. In 1984, Ho Kwon Ping, an ex-financial journalist and economics editor of the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review, along with his wife and brother, saw potential in a disused 600-acre tin mine in Phuket, Thailand.

Following years of site rehabilitation, Banyan Tree's maiden resort was unveiled there in 1994, a precursor to the 30 hotels, 60 spas, 80 galleries, and two golf courses they own today.

Couture living

The next item on Lai's agenda is the Pavilion Couture Suites, the last piece of the puzzle for Pavilion KL.

Situated on the corner between Chulan Square and the Westin hotel, the suites will be built exactly above the mall's retail floor, on which the street-fronting stores of Herms, Chopard, Versace and the rest currently stand.

"The interesting thing is we have been getting enquiries even though there isn't much information about it," Lai says of the serviced residences, whose preview was on Thursday.

The suites, 175 of them, will feature sizes ranging from 686 sq ft to 2,206 sq ft, with some 70% of them smaller than 1,000 sq ft, Lai points out.

"We haven't determined the pricing yet, but it should be within RM2,500 to RM3,000 per sq ft," she says, explaining that this was originally intended to form Pavilion's hotel component, but those plans were shelved in favour of the demand for private residences.

But with so many developments descending on the Bukit Bintang-KLCC stretch, most recently the proposal to build the Harrods Hotel right between Pavilion and Banyan Tree Signatures, is there cause for concern?

"A prime location is where everything comes together," Lai retorts. "You can't have your own brand standing alone without the support of other brands. A consumer wants choice."

"When you see many world-renowned brands converging in one place, it is a good sign, it means we have the potential to grow."

Besides, she contends, the sheer force of big-ticket projects such as the RM26bil Tun Razak Exchange a few blocks away would only serve to enhance the appeal of the surrounding real estate.

Buying local

One thing Lai feels strongly about is how Malaysians sell themselves short when it comes to the local property market.

"If you compare us to other global cities, we are at the low end. I just returned from Singapore and you're talking about S$3,000, S$5,000 and S$7,000 per sq ft in the central business district (CBD)," she quips.

"Even in KLCC, we have been stagnant for a long time. We haven't moved from when we were hit by the financial crisis in 2008. My personal view is that the our CBD is very underpriced.

"We hit the RM2,000 per sq ft level years ago and nobody has dared to push beyond RM3,000. Our banks got a little worried as well about our prices."

The problem, she adds, is that buyers tend to put their money elsewhere without thinking everything through.

"In my experience, a lot of our customers are Malaysian, yet they return here to purchase real estate.

"At the end of the day, we all want to come home. And you don't want to be stuck with a property that is 14 hours away and that will cost you a lot of money to manage."

As someone who interacts regularly with investors, Lai has seen how foreign property purchases can backfire.

"A client of mine had her Melbourne apartment in the CBD revalued downwards by 10% at the point of completion. And when she decides to sell, it must be to an Australian.

"Malaysians can be so fearful that we're paying too much for our own properties so they go overseas and pay a lot of money for properties whose returns are 2% or 3% net.

"To be fair, a lot of people have made their money investing overseas. But the common belief that you can save on rental when your children study abroad by buying a foreign home is difficult unless you have currency gains and your returns are really good.

"You can do the same thing here for less risk."

On her pick for the best locations to invest in, Lai says prime properties are ever reliable. "Good prime property will always have ready buyers, and they are the first to bounce back."

Caterpillar sees China stimulus helping in 2013

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 08:17 PM PDT

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: Caterpillar , the world's largest maker of construction equipment, expects a $157 billion Chinese infrastructure spending drive to feed through to its sales next year, boosting its operations both locally and in North America.

China has given the go-ahead to 60 infrastructure projects as it seeks to export weakness resulting from Europe's debt crisis and a slow U.S. recovery that have dragged its economic growth to a three-year low.

President Hu Jintao pitched the stimulus plan in a keynote speech on Saturday to business leaders attending an Asia-Pacific summit, drawing an enthusiastic response from Caterpillar's top regional executive.

"It's very good news," Richard Lavin, who oversees Caterpillar's China business, told Reuters during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Russia's eastern port of Vladivostok.

"To have President Hu ... talking about infrastructure and the role it plays in ongoing stable economic development ... I thought that was really exciting."

Highlighting increasing downward risks to global growth, Hu said in his speech that China would "leverage the role of infrastructure in boosting domestic demand, creating jobs and improving people's livelihood".

Hu reeled off a list of areas where China needed to upgrade its infrastructure - in agriculture, energy, water conservation and information technology.

He also called for a buildout of transport networks, listing railways, highways, waterways, airports and pipelines.

Lavin said he expected details of the infrastructure spending plan to become clearer in the next few days or weeks, but Hu's comments suggested "it's going to be very broad in its application".

"He talked about roads, bridges, airports, sewage systems, energy - all of these are areas that we play in, it's the core of our business," said Lavin, who is Caterpillar's group president and chairman and is based in Hong Kong.

"I think we can expect a fairly broad and significant impact across our business."


Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Ill., posted record earnings in the second quarter, and forecasts 2012 revenues of $68-$70 billion this year and earnings per share of $9.60 - which would also be records.

The company has, however, suffered a slide in China as the far larger stimulus package - put into effect in response to the global financial crisis of 2008 - created a raft of bad debts that weighed on the construction sector.

Chinese economic growth slowed to 7.6 percent in the second quarter of the year and, in his speech, Hu cautioned that growth was facing "notable downward pressure".

Chinese sales as a share of Caterpillar's overall business slipped to 3-3.5 percent last year from 6 percent in 2010, and should roughly hold pace with overall sales this year, Lavin said. He predicted a positive impact from the stimulus in 2013.

The company, which has 18 plants in China and nine under construction, has suffered from overcapacity and has started temporarily exporting machinery made there to the Middle East and Africa, but expects its bet on the long-term China growth story to work out.

"I would fully expect that the heavy focus on earth moving-type work - roads, airports, bridges - that it'll have a very positive effect on our China manufacturing," said Lavin.

"We don't serve China 100 percent from China - we import machines for construction, also for mining, from outside of China, principally from North America. We expect to see a boost from North America, as well as in China." - Reuters


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

AELB says will enforce removal of Lynas waste out of M'sia

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 08:11 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The Atomic Energy Licencing Board (AELB) has clarified that the issuance of the temporary operating licence (TOL) to Lynas legally binds the company to remove residue from its plant in Gebeng, Kuantan.

It said in a statement on Saturday that the issue of the removal of residue being non-binding for Lynas does not arise. "It is legally binding and AELB will enforce it," it said.

AELB said the issue of the return of residue to Australia was clearly stated in its Board's decision on Jan 30, 2012.

"Subsequently, Lynas had submitted two letters of undertaking, the first by Lynas Australia committing itself to remove the residue out of Malaysia, and the second by Lynas Malaysia Sdn Bhd, reaffirming the same.

"This commitment was also publicly announced by Lynas in their various press statements/sessions, notably on the 27, 29 and 30 August 2012, which was reported extensively, both in Australia and Malaysia, and in both print and on-line media," the statement said.

AELB said that at the media conference on Friday (Sept 7), it was strongly emphasized that all the requirements and conditions imposed on Lynas throughout the above decision processes still applied to Lynas, including the additional two instituted by the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister under sub-section 32(5) of the Atomic Energy Licensing Act (Act 304).

"The management and removal of residue is an integral part of the TOL conditions and agreements, and is permanently documented in the licence document issued to Lynas on 5 September 2012," it added.

In conclusion, it said the issue of removal of residue being non-binding for Lynas does not arise. It is legally binding and AELB will enforce it, it said.

Related Stories:
Liow: Send waste out of Malaysia
Ongkili: Board acted correctly in giving TOL
AELB: TOL not a "blank cheque" for Lynas
Lynas granted TOL until 2014
Lynas gets temporary operating license

Hisham: BN parties can follow Umno's stand on sacking saboteurs

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 07:48 AM PDT

SEPANG: Barisan Nasional component parties can adopt Umno's principle to sack party members or leaders who sabotage the party's candidates in the coming general election.

Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the stand has to be taken to ensure loyalty and sincerity of Barisan members and ensure it remains in power.

"If Umno can make such a stand, there is no reason why other BN component parties can't," he told a media conference after opening Sepang Umno division delegates meeting.

He said this in response to a warning by Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that Umno leaders and members would be sacked if they sabotage the party's general election candidates.

Hishammuddin, who is Home Minister, said he supported the move to rid 'double standards' in the party.

He expects the opposition to make more personal attacks, including resorting to various tactics, to undermine the image and credibility of BN leaders at the parliament session, from Sept 24-27, in their assault on the general election.

"Hence, the need for us to condition the people's mind so that they will not be easily swayed by them," said Hishammuddin. - Bernama

Koh to Guan Eng: All files on land sale under BN in your office

Posted: 08 Sep 2012 07:12 AM PDT

BUTTERWORTH: Former Penang chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon will answer in the near future, queries over land sale when Barisan Nasional (BN) ruled the state.

Koh, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said he needed to examine reports on the sale before explaining to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as required.

"I will give Lim the answer in the near future but I don't have the files now because we left the files at the Chief Minister's Office. I need to read the reports and examine the files.

"By right, he (Lim) needs no clarification from us (the previous state government) because all he wants are in the files at his office," he told reporters after a ceremony to hand over the 2012 Budget Special Fund to northern zone missionary schools here.

He said this when asked to comment on Lim wanting the previous state government to clarify issues on land sale carried out under BN if they wanted the current chief minister to explain the land issue in Taman Manggis, Jalan Zainal Abidin.

According to the original plan of the previous Barisan government, the empty 0.45 hectare land in Taman Manggis was for the second phase of 272 units of affordable homes after 320 units in phase one was completed, several years ago. - Bernama


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Horrific fun

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 04:53 AM PDT

We have zombies and elves and star-crossed lovers, oh my!

ParaNorman: Attack Of The Pilgrim Zombies
Author: Annie Auerbach
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 24 pages

THIS is based on the similarly titled animated movie currently showing in cinemas nationwide, with the screenplay written by Chris Butler. There is also a novel adaptation but this edition is for younger readers.

Something weird is happening in the small town of Blithe Hollow. An old witch's curse has raised the dead from their graves! These undead Pilgrims are out and about, and only looking for one thing – a boy named Norman Babcock. You see, Norman has a special ability: he can talk to ghosts. Unfortunately, zombies are a little different from spirits. So what can he and his friends do to stop the undead invasion?

Author: R.L. Stine
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 416 pages

THIS is a collection of three fan-favourite stories: Goodnight Kiss, Goodnight Kiss 2 and The Vampire Club.

It's summer in Sandy Hollow, and the vampires there look forward to the arrival of tourists, which really means the arrival of fresh new blood for them to feast on. But they want to have some fun first with a game: the first vampire to seduce and turn a human date into a blood-sucking creature will emerge the winner. But there's a catch. They can only take three small sips on three different nights. Drink too much and the human prey will die. But can they resist temptation since their thirst is so great?

The Vampire Fighters
Author: Pete Johnson
Publisher: Corgi, 272 pages

AFTER The Vampire Blog and The Vampire Hunters comes this third book in the series. Marcus, the 13-year-old half-vampire, tries to live life as normally as he can but the hour is approaching when he will acquire his special powers. Yet, it doesn't seem to happen when he expects it, and every day that passes piles on the pressure.

Then a weird Winter Fair comes to town, and when a few horrifying attacks occur, Marcus and his friends believe it is the work of the super-evil Deadly Vampires sect.

Elf Girl And Raven Boy: Fright Forest
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Publisher: Orion, 224 pages

THIS is the first book in the Elf Girl And Raven Boy series. Funny, entrancing and creepy adventures abound for the two magical creatures. Raven Boy is gifted with the ability to talk to animals and with incredible night vision. Meanwhile, Elf Girl is lightfooted and quick-thinking.

They meet under not-so-wondrous circumstances, however – Raven Boy falls out of a tree and crushes Elf girl's home! Before they can begin fueding, though, they find they have their work cut out for them to save their world from ogres, witches, trolls and other such monsters in the frightful forest.

Ash Mistry And The Savage Fortress
Author: Sarwat Chadda
Publisher: Collins, 320 pages

AUTHOR Sarwat Chadda travelled the world collecting myths and legends. With this new series, he aims to share them, bringing together obscure Eastern gods, heroes and demons to sit alongside other well-known mythical characters of the world.

In this first book, Ash and his sister Lucky visit their relatives in India and end up at a party hosted by the strange Lord Savage. Ash is suspicious of Lord Savage, and believes there is more to the man than meets the eye. Sure enough, soon Ash and Lucky are on the run from Savage and his demons.

Spark (Sky Chasers 2)
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: Pan MacMillan, 309 pages

THIS is the thrilling sequel to Glow. Waverly and Kieran are reunited on the Empyrean, and continue on their mission to rescue their parents from the enemy ship, New Horizon. But Kieran's leadership ways begin to raise Waverly's suspicions and she finds herself more and more in agreement with Seth.

When a mysterious explosion occurs on the Empyrean, Seth is released from the brig, but the ship has been thrown off course. Fingers point at Seth as the cause of the explosion, and Waverly is accused of releasing him. Will Kieran lock them both away or will Seth find the real culprit?

Author: S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Hot Key Books, 444 pages

IMAGINE if playing computer games could save the world, and the government needs you to do just that. Wouldn't that be every kid's dream?

Tom Raines drifts from town to town with his gambler father. But one day, he is recruited into an elite military academy to train as a virtual reality combatant. If he passes the test, he will join the Intrasolar Forces and help his country fight in World War III. But he can he pay the price of becoming a virtual reality soldier.

Dreamless (Starcrossed 2)
Author: Josephine Angelini
Publisher: Macmillan UK, 487 pages

THIS the sequel to Starcrossed, which introduced readers to the unusual Helen Hamilton, the only human who can travel into Hades.

Helen has been tasked with killing the Furies, but she doesn't know how to do it. She wanders around the Underworld, and the exhaustion is tearing away at her sanity. Though still with the Delos Clan, Helen and Lucas are slowly accepting the fact that they cannot be together. Believing she can only complete her task alone, Lucas leaves her. In comes Orion, an attractive descendent of Adonis, who keeps Helen safe from the dangers of Hades. But even as her world turns chaotic, she finds that she still cannot forget Lucas.

Books going cheap

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 03:48 AM PDT

Here are more titles that Star2 readers can get at a special price at tomorrow's eagerly awaited warehouse sale.

ALIENS on the run from another alien race; talking animals living on a farm; French verbs and how to exercise your brain; I love you, I love you not.... From fiction to self-help to romance, travel, and business books and many more, you are bound to find something to tickle your fancy at the MPH Distributors Warehouse Sale tomorrow.

Customers who purchase RM300 and above worth of books at the sale will stand a chance at the lucky dip, where 100 freebies will be given out daily on a first come, first served basis for the duration of the sale.

And for Star2 readers: you are entitled to further marked down prices for a selection of titles. Simply present this original page (no photocopies!) upon payment and enjoy the special prices.

This offer is valid, while stocks last, only during the MPH Distributors Warehouse Sale from tomorrow until Sept 17. It is not valid with other promotions and is not exchangeable for cash. One page is valid for up to five of the titles featured on this page.

Gripping fiction

Game Of Thrones five-book box set (warehouse sale price: RM90 / Star2 price: RM85) – On the fictional lands of Westeros and Essos, the seasons have a mind of their own. Winter can last as many years as she pleases, backed by a wall of ice and old magic. A Song Of Ice And Fire series by George R.R. Martin is now available in a complete five-book box set.

I Heart London by Lindsey Kelk (WP: RM15 / SP: RM10) – Angela Clark has fallen in love with New York, and it's starting to love her back. But when she's summoned home to London, she risks losing her shiny new life to gloomy English rains, warm beer and bad memories. There's the ex-boyfriend she never wanted to see again, her best friend and her terrifying new baby, and a wedding coming up. Everyone still remembers how she behaved at the last wedding she attended, so she is not exactly keen on having history repeat itself.

James Rollins Assorted 2-in-1 bundles (WP: RM27 / SP: RM22) – New York Times bestselling author James

Rollins is known for his action-adventure-thrill-packed novels. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages and unveil unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs and historical secrets. His many titles are available in assorted 2-in-1 bundles.

Sidney Sheldon's Angel Of The Dark by Tilly Bagshawe (WP: RM18 / SP: RM13) – An elderly multimillionaire is murdered, and his young wife raped and beaten. The police assume the motive is robbery. A decade later, three similar killings happen in different cities around the world. Male victim: wealthy, elderly, newly married. Female victim: raped or assaulted, but allowed to live. How can the Angel of Death be prevented from striking again?

The Devil Who Tamed Her by Johanna Lindsey (WP: RM15 / SP: RM10) – The beautiful and ruthless Ophelia Reid has a reputation for starting rumours and spreading them. Having purposely wrecked her arranged engagement to a future marquis, she now intends to make her own choice of a wealthy husband. Unfortunately, her paths cross with that of a dashing rake who is dedicated to making her change her wicked ways.

Learning fun

100 Battles: Conflicts That Shaped The World (WP: RM28 / SP: RM23) – From the Battle Of Kadesh to Pearl Harbour, this book depicts major battles in history from the Ancient era to present day that have had a significant impact on the world in which we now live. Full-colour tactical battle plans, engaging illustrations and maps are included.

Brain Rules by John Medina (WP: RM 40 / SP: RM34) – Why wasn't Michael Jordan good at baseball? How can a boy come to be talented at music, but can't tie his shoelaces? The author, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work.

Brain Rules For Baby by John Medina (WP: RM34 / SP: RM30) – What does the latest science say about how to raise smart and happy children? Medina, who is a father in addition to being a molecular biologist, attempts to bridge the gap between what scientists know and what parents practice. He offers insights into how a child's brain develops and what you can do to optimise that growth.

Collins Easy Learning French Verbs (WP: RM17 / SP: RM12) – A beginner's guide to understanding French verbs, it shows all the major tenses of the most important verbs in French. Its clear, colour layout helps you find the information you need quickly and easily. This guide comes with a handy verb wheel that covers the most common tenses for 28 essential French verbs.

For young minds

I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: The Legacies by Pittacus Lore (WP: RM20 / SP: RM16) – These three action-packed novellas, originally published as the e-novellas Six's Legacy, Nine's Legacy and The Fallen Legacies, have been compiled in one volume for the first time.

The Rise Of Nine: Book 3 Of The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore (WP: RM19 / SP: RM15) – In the beginning we were a group of nine. We left our home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack from the deadly Mogodorians. We scattered on Earth and went into hiding. We look like ordinary teenagers, but we are not human. Number One was caught in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. They caught me in New York, but I escaped. I am Number Six. The Mogodorians want to finish what they started, but they'll have to fight us first.

Children's Planet Earth Encyclopedia (WP: RM24 / SP: RM18) – What is a glacier? What causes a volcano to erupt? How was the Grand Canyon formed? Children can explore our planet with amazing diagrams of the Earth and information about how it has evolved. This encyclopedia also covers topics such as rocks and minerals, and weather and climate, suitable for curious minds.

Disney Ultimate Storybook Collection (WP: RM30 / SP: RM25) – Lose yourself in the world of 10 magical character storybooks from Disney and Pixar in this charming slipcase set, from Beauty And The Beast to Cars, Peter Pan, Finding Nemo and lots more.

Encyclopedia Of Questions And Answers (WP: RM20 / SP: RM17) – How does a Venus fly-trap catch prey? Why did dinosaurs become extinct? Find answers to these questions and over 1,000 other intriguing queries inside this brilliantly illustrated book. Young readers will find a vast amount of information in this book, made interesting and accessible by the question and answer format and the use of realistic illustration.

Farmyard Stories (WP: RM9 / SP: RM5) – Farmyard animals come to life in this delightful padded book comprising 10 stories. Ideal for read-aloud sessions with parents and children. – Rouwen Lin

The MPH Distributors Warehouse Sale will be held from 8am to 6pm, from tomorrow to Sept 17, at The Crest, 3 Two Square, Block F, Ground Floor, No. 2, Jalan 19/1, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. For inquiries, call 03-7958 1688. "Like" the sale at for the latest updates; today is the last day to win free books on their Facebook page.

City’s underbelly

Posted: 07 Sep 2012 02:47 AM PDT

Give this novel a chance, don't be put off by its junkie characters, for it is definitely worthy of a read.

Author: Jeet Thayil
Publisher: Faber and Faber, 304 pages

BOMBAY, which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face, is the hero or heroine of this story, and since I'm the one who's telling it and you don't know who I am, let me say that we'll get to the who of it but not right now, because now there's time enough not to hurry, to light the lamp and open the window to the moon and take a moment to dream of a great and broken city, because when the day starts I'll have to stop...."

So begins Jeet Thayil's debut novel, Narcopolis, an ode to Bombay (now called Mumbai) and the flawed and colourful characters that provide the life and make up of the city.

The nameless narrator – perhaps it is Thayil, perhaps it is a figment of Thayil's imagination – first arrives in colourful Bombay from New York in the late 1970s. It is here that the nameless narrator stumbles upon an array of shifty, desperate, colourful and strangely attractive characters.

While the central character of Narcopolis is without a doubt Bombay, the bulk of the action revolves around Rashid's opium room, where monied individuals with good family names mix with petty thieves, prostitutes, and traffic wardens to achieve a common goal: to get high and forget the trials and tribulations of their lives.

The main characters, whose lives typify the chaos, despair and suffering of Bombay, include Rumi the salaryman and husband whose addiction is violence; Newton Xavier, the celebrated painter who both rejects and craves adulation; and Mr Lee, the Chinese refugee and businessman.

And then there is Dimple, an initially unassuming character who represents the lowest of the low and most desperate of Bombay, and perhaps India itself.

Dimple is not your average individual and is far from being an average woman. Born a boy, Dimple was given away or possibly sold by her mother when she was six years old, and at that time, had her genitals cut off, removing any possibility of a normal life. Dimple, in fact, was surgically designed to become a prostitute. And the author does not hold back when describing the agony that Dimple goes through with her customers – the words are too painful, and perhaps too graphic, to reproduce here.

Rounding out her day while waiting for customers, Dimple prepares and serves pipes to those who frequent the opium den that is next to her brothel.

Of course, there are those who argue that despite whatever problems characters like Rumi, Newton Xavier and Dimple may be facing that led them to become junkies, they could all have done something more productive and meaningful with their lives. However, it is not Thayil's intention to document a cast of sober and career-minded characters with limited flaws.

Thayil's Bombay is filled with flawed characters whose taste in drugs shift from opium in the 1970s to heroin in the 1980s and crystal meth in the 1990s – and these flawed characters that provide a skewed vision of sobriety.

Like most junkies, Rumi, Xavier and Dimple do not know why they need to fill their bodies with chemicals to the point of hallucination, they just do it, and Thayil does not attempt to explain that need. The lack of reasoning works – if Thayil had tried to explain, Narcopolis would have lost its appeal.

The most poignant point in the novel is the ending, whereby the nameless narrator returns to Bombay in 2004 and finds the city – and indeed, the country – changed. India has moved ahead on the world's economic stage, and so has Bombay. In the quest to remain relevant and on par with (and perhaps even get ahead of) her competitors, Bombay has rushed forward to embrace the 21st century and all of its modern promises, dragging her populace with her.

The characters that once littered Rashid's opium den are either dead, in recovery, or sobered up and running businesses, while secretly longing for the carefree days of the 1970s.

My personal view on this particular segment of the novel is that perhaps progress is not all it is cut out to be. Perhaps life was simpler and more straight forward when no one had anything to prove, either to ourselves or to the world, and the promises of modernity did not get in the way of living life.

Just as people have differing views on narcotics, some readers may be put off by Narcopolis and Thayil's poetic way of telling a story. The prologue itself is a challenge to get through: it is an endless ramble that lasts for seven pages. This is Thayil's attempt to illustrate the non-linear train of thought of an individual high on opium; those with less patience may find this opening sequence disjointed, annoying and utterly pretentious.

However, once you allow yourself to get sucked into the underbelly of Bombay – which is the main course in Narcopolis – Thayil's lyrical prose starts to make sense and becomes easy to read. He alternates between opium highs, depressing lows and harsh reality, while pushing the story of junkies forward. Reading is made even easier because the novel is broken into short chapters, allowing both the reader and Thayil to remain focused on unveiling the tale.

For a debut novel, Narcopolis is an ambitious work. If Thayil had wanted to highlight and showcase life in a vibrant, colourful, proud and at times sleazy city like Bombay, he has succeeded. As for the flawed characters: they are a reflection of almost every society in the world. They are not to be hated or pitied; we just have to live with them.

Give this novel a chance, get past the pretentious prologue and the filth that are the central characters: Narcopolis is worthy of a read.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Drawing the young

Posted: 02 Sep 2012 01:14 AM PDT

Watching Penang's youth rediscover their hometown through his murals is compliment enough for a Lithuanian artist.

FORGET stuffy, CCTV-rigged art galleries where even standing too close to a painting will immediately send the security guards into a frenzy. Visit George Town's streets instead if you are in the mood for an artistic experience like no other.

The narrow criss-crossing lanes of Penang's Unesco World Heritage Site is arguably the hottest open-air gallery these days, especially among the Gen Y social networking site fans.

Log into Facebook and chances are, more than half of your friends have posted pictures of themselves with 25-year-old Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic's modern masterpieces, some measuring more than 15m high!

While excited tourists mostly flock to his two murals on Lebuh Ah Quee, the artist himself doesn't have a favourite.

"I created them all so it would be strange to prefer one or the other – it would be like having a favourite among your children," he says in an email interview.

His seven gigantic murals now adorn the pre-war heritage walls along Lebuh Ah Quee (a boy on a bike and another boy walking his pet dinosaur); Chew Jetty (a couple of children with their cat on a boat); Lebuh Muntri (Zacharevic's eight-year-old art student practising wushu as she hangs on a beam); Lebuh Canon (a boy standing on tiptoes on a chair); Lebuh Armenian (kids on a bicycle), and Upper Penang Road (a man sitting in a trishaw).

Zacharevic will be back in Geoge Town to work on what is likely to be his last wall mural in Carnarvon Street.

"I will start work at the end of September or beginning of October. Penang is quite small so I don't want to do too many murals because they will loose their appeal," he adds.

Once completed, the Murobond paint artworks imprinted on the heritage walls will be presented as part of a self-guided Art & Heritage Walk tour with their locations marked on a map featuring short stories, interesting facts on Penang and impressions of the people depicted in the murals.

Zacharevic seems genuinely surprised at the attention his work has garnered. "There is nothing special about me. I'm very simple. I like to eat, sleep and paint."

He finds his new-found "celebrity artist" status a little overwhelming.

"To be honest, it is nice that people like the murals. I get so many requests for pictures and autographs (but) I think the fact that young people are inspired to rediscover their hometown is the biggest compliment ever."

The artist credits George Town Festival director Joe Sidek for the unorthodox "canvas". The murals were created as part of the Mirrors George Town street art project for the recent George Town Festival 2012.

"Joe has a clear vision of what he wants for the festival. Without his support, this project would have never happened," Zacharevic says.

He spent some six months on the groundwork before he could start weaving his magic on the brick and mortar canvas.

"It was a very long process. First, we needed to get all the necessary permits. Then, it was choosing the walls, discussing the visuals and making sure everyone was in agreement.

"Next up was sorting out the logistics, scaffolding, etc, before I could even start painting."

It was loads of research, photo shoots, digital mock-ups, and of course, buckets of sweat under the scorching tropical sun, before the visuals – the most time-consuming process – were ready.

Zacharevic says the murals weren't too difficult to paint but the biggest challenges he faced were time limitation and the heat.

"I could not paint at night because you can't see the colours properly, so it had to be daytime. In Penang, it gets quite hot during the day."

Photographs of the murals and his artwork in the island have since been published in the Street Art Notebook.

"This is an extension of the mural project. It is like a DIY street art book in which people can draw their own murals," he says.

Zacharevic is holding a competition for the public to post their drawings, photographs, montages, or anything that is creative, on, to win prizes. The most interesting works will be featured in an exhibition.

Besides the murals, he also joined five Malaysians in the RESCUBE exhibition (held at Beach Street, Penang, in July), which highlights the interdisciplinary marriage between visual arts and music.

The cube, now on display at the 23 Love Lane boutique hotel, is based on the structure and the concept of "one cube, six walls, one entity, six sides".

While growing up, Zacharevic had always wanted to paint – well, that and to juggle.

"I like juggling and have been doing Diabolo (an action role-playing video game) for almost 10 years now," he shares.

The Middlesex University (London) fine art graduate has studied art since he was little, attending the National Art Boarding School, where they teach sculpture, painting, design, even textiles and stained-glass.

His next big project will be in Selangor – an art installation for the Urbanscapes Festival in November.

"It should be a fun project and (Icelandic folk band) Sigur Ros is performing, so I am really looking forward to it.

"I also have a few requests to create a series of murals in Kuala Lumpur which are similar to what I've done for Penang. But that's next year, so we'll see how it goes. Most of KL's buildings do not have heritage status, so it will be very different, but still interactive and fun," he says.

Sharing his thoughts on George Town, where he is currently based, Zacharevic echoes what Penangites had been saying even before the 2008 George Town World Heritage listing – that is, the city is an amazing place to live, heat aside.

His "extended stay" was apparently unintended.

"I just came for few days and never left. Penang is an amazing place and I really like it here. My girlfriend likes it as well, so there's no reason not to extend a visit for few more months," he says.

Apparently, size does matter to him.

"I like the size of the place. It is not too big and there's a sense of community and things are accessible. Yet, it's also not too small and you can still buy the things you need, meet interesting people and eat food from around the globe."

Apart from his work in Penang, Zacharevic has also left his "mark" in Singapore's Little India district, and Shoreditch, London.

Glamour on Mumbai’s walls

Posted: 02 Sep 2012 01:12 AM PDT

Two film buffs pay tribute to the Hindi silver screen ahead of its centenary.

FRUSTRATED by the lack of old Bollywood glamour on the streets of Mumbai, two film buffs are trying to brighten up India's movie capital with mural tributes to mark the industry's 100th birthday next year.

The iconic image of a reclining, cigarette-smoking young Amitabh Bachchan, the biggest star of Hindi cinema, has been lovingly recreated on a roadside wall, replicating the dying style of hand-painted poster art. Bachchan's character Vijay joined the underworld of the city's mean streets in the 1975 hit Deewar (The Wall), but the film's antihero now has pride of place on a lane in the hip Bandra suburb, home to many film stars.

Despite the abundance of slick new posters plastered around Mumbai, artist Ranjit Dahiya says he was struck by how the city's rich film heritage was being forgotten in recent years.

"I couldn't see any Bollywood in Bombay, yet this is the city of Bollywood," adds Dahiya, using the city's old name. "So I thought I should paint the walls on the street."

The mural in Bandra was the second to be completed as part of the Bollywood Art Project (BAP), a self-funded venture set up by Dahiya and his friend Tony Peter to create film artwork "accessible for everyone".

The duo hope to finish about one painting a month in the run-up to next May, when India will celebrate a century since its first silent feature film, Raja Harishchandra, opened in Mumbai in 1913.

Getting permission is not always straightforward, with plans for a 21m dancing girl thwarted by unimpressed locals. "It depends on the people," said Dahiya. "Some people are sensible and really know about the art."

BAP began life last April with a mural of the 1953 classic Anarkali, one of the greatest hits of its decade, which told the tale of an ill-fated love affair between a beautiful court dancer and a Mughal prince.

"With Bollywood having run for 100 years, the films have run into the hundred thousands at least. We're skimming the surface," says Peter, who runs a film and design company.

Their murals also pay tribute to Bollywood's old poster painters, whose art Dahiya laments "is going to die" as digital media technology takes over. It is one of many aspects of the prolific film industry that some fans would like to see preserved in Mumbai, whose role at the heart of the movie world may have passed its glory days.

"There was a time when 'Bombay' and 'Bollywood' were synonymous," says a recent Hindustan Times article, wistfully recalling the days when more film premieres were held in Mumbai and star-struck fans thronged film studio gates.

"Since Bollywood has gone global and premieres have shifted to Dubai and Singapore, the city's studios lie forgotten."

Much of the studio action now happens in a Film City complex in north Mumbai, and film historian Amrit Gangar says that old heritage gems such as the once-famed Bombay Talkies studio have been left to crumble in recent decades.

Gangar laments India's attitude to its film heritage and history – from the studios to original film frames to hand-painted billboards – saying that it is crucial for future generations to have reference material from the past.

"At this point of time, not much has been left with us. But whatever we can salvage has to be preserved with a lot of care and respect and made public."

Next year's anniversary could provide a crucial impetus, with other projects springing up across the city in the countdown.

A recent exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art explored the relationship between Mumbai and the movies, while the first part of a museum dedicated to Indian cinema is due to open in December.

"It's going to be pretty huge," says D.P. Reddy, joint secretary of India's information and broadcasting ministry, adding that 1.2bil rupees (RM62mil) will be spent on the project.

He also lists plans for various festivals, exhibitions and other events to mark the centenary of not just Hindi-language Bollywood, but all Indian cinema.

Last March, the UTV Stars television channel launched a "Walk of Fame" in the style of the famous boulevard in Los Angeles, but Mumbai still has some catching up to do to match the legendary landmarks of the US film capital.

"Hollywood is a location but Bollywood is just an entity without a specific location," adds Peter, who hopes to attract more funding to keep their project alive. "Maybe if our paintings help to create the feeling of being in Bollywood, that will be something we have achieved." – AFP Relaxnews

Urban hub for arts

Posted: 01 Sep 2012 04:44 PM PDT

What would it take to make KL a lively arts paradise?

CAN Kuala Lumpur ever become an arts hub like Melbourne (in Australia), Seoul or Singapore?

We do have a vibrant arts scene in this country as every week sees a play or musical or art exhibition being held in KL. And although our arts community is relatively small, the practitioners are nevertheless a busy bunch.

But how ready are we to turn KL into an arts city that never sleeps?

The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) recently held a panel discussion on "Arts and the city" with members of the arts community, on how to empower the arts community, how much money matters in artistic endeavours, and what's on the arts community's wish list.

It is the ETP's belief that arts and culture will play a major role in turning KL into "an iconic and vibrant city", from both a social and an economic perspective. Thus the panellists explored the economic value of the arts, the impact of policies and incentives, and what can be done to help KL move in that direction.

On the panel were Low Ngai Yuen, head of Kakiseni, the arts portal that organises the annual Boh Cameronian Awards; Bilqis Hijjas, president of MyDance Alliance; Lee Weng Choy, co-director of The Substation Arts Centre, Singapore; dance choreographer, writer and educator Dr Zulkifli Mohamad; and Nor Asmah Mohd Noor, senior manager of communication, content and infrastructure of Pemandu (the Performance Management and Delivery Unit).

Zulkifli felt that transparency in fund-giving is of top priority, and there should also be more spaces for different types of performances.

"Thirdly, we should have platforms. For instance, if we have a KL arts festival, then we should also have a fringe section for the more experimental works," he said.

The panellists wanted the government to lead the way, although everyone should be proactive in making things happen.

"The government should have a little bit more courage and vision in its funding," said Lee. "It can identify a few key projects and key individuals that deserve long-term investment."

He believes this will lead to the development of leadership in the arts community, which will then be empowered to speak for itself.

On whether there are models to emulate, Bilqis said: "If you look at any country or city now – Seoul, Singapore, Melbourne, Berlin – they all have enabling policies in place. But we also have to remove the disenablers, the disincentives.

"Obviously, censorship is a big issue here. Malaysian artists would feel much happier if we knew very clearly where the lines are drawn, what is allowed and what is not."

Zulkifli added that dance also has problems with censorship, citing the recent case of Singapore Dance Theatre's (SDT) permit being denied because, reportedly, the dancers had to wear tutus.

(Earlier this year, the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre claimed it was told, verbally, by a ministry official that the SDT's application to perform in KL had been rejected because of "costumes and foreign performers".

Information, Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim later denied that the dancers' tutus were a problem, and approved the permit, by which time it was too late for the group to come.)

Lee cited the government-commissioned censorship review committees in Singapore as an example of how the arts community was mobilised to take a stand for a more regulatory position instead of censorship, even though the community had initially accepted that censorship is necessary.

On whether an arts council is needed, Low said: "A few years ago, we tried to have an arts council but it didn't happen. We are putting together something almost similar and will be moving towards a proper structure soon."

Lee said the arts needs a public figure in a high position who thinks the arts is important and will "defend" it.

For example, The Substation worked really closely with the Arts Council in Singapore, but the latter "couldn't really defend us against the higher-ups in government. That's what you really need – a really strong supporter."

Should the government should be a leader or a partner?

"The government can't be leading in everything," Nor Asmah said. "The right role for the government is that of a facilitator. Of course it would like to see the (arts scene) united and provide constructive feedback.

"We need a list of projects on a long-term basis. But this has to come from the (arts scene) itself. The government can't be expected to fund the projects 100%. We need to come up with more reliable business models.

"Matching grants would be good. At least, you can see the commitment from the private sector to make it happen. And we can tell the public, 'Look, the government is very serious about making this city a lively arts centre.'"

But is the arts community united? Bilqis replied: "Is there a community? Yes. Is there a single voice? No."

Zulkifli thought it is difficult to get everyone together. "I think that's why we have MyDance, the ballet society – all dance people but in different societies. I suppose, for the good of the arts and its future, people should get together."

The Boh Cameronian Awards is a good example of getting artists together to celebrate as a single community. But does it want to develop a voice?

"I think a lot of people will (want to work with the government)," said Bilqis. "Obviously, there will be those who are suspicious. But judging by the effort it took to set up the previous version of the arts council, a lot of people came together ... it takes a lot of work, but it's not impossible."

Said Lee: "You have so many great individuals moving in different directions. Occasionally, you get very strong leadership at a particular time, because there's an issue, opportunity or occasion. It's like history. Who knows why things happen?"

Finally, on what the focus should be to make KL a vibrant arts city, Low said discussions should be encouraged and everyone should act on whatever plans that result from that.

"This country is still in its infancy in terms of the growth of the performing arts," she added. "The growth is minimal and it needs a little push from all sectors."

Zulkifli felt the capacity of those who work behind the scenes should also be built up. "The leaders in the arts scene are not just the artists themselves but also the producers, fund-raisers, managers and technical people."

Bilqis called for greater transparency, more discussions, and more information from the government about what it is trying to do.

"Sometimes there are opportunities that no one knows about, and the government doesn't get any response to what it's trying to promote," she said.

Nor Asmah said come November, the government will hold a Kuala Lumpur Creative Content and Information Mart.

"We're trying to get all the players in the creative scene to participate and promote what they do," she said. "(We hope to have) people from the performing arts, music, film and other genres.

"There have been a series of discussions. I hope those in the arts community will take proactive steps to be involved."


The Star Online

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