Isnin, 30 September 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Girlfriend lookalikes molested


A Certis Cisco inspector was so enraptured with his online girlfriend that he molested a 12-year-old and a 22-year-old who looked like her. 

Neo Chip Wei, 28, now unemployed, was jailed for three years yesterday and ordered to be caned three times.

After midnight on June 24, he followed a 22-year-old executive from a bus stop to her block in Woodlands. 

As she was about to walk out of the lift, he hugged her from behind. She screamed and he fled.

Two days later, he followed the younger victim from Paya Lebar MRT station to the block of flats in Geylang Serai where she lived. 

Then, while they were in the lift, he grabbed her and carried her to the lift landing of the 15th floor where he molested her. She started crying and Ng fled.

Neo told psychiatrists that he had been involved in an online relationship with a girl since 2010 whom he knew as "Cheryl". 

He said he had only seen pictures of her and she only wanted to meet him when she turns 18 next year. 

He said that the victims looked like her.

Pleading for a lenient sentence, defence counsel Rajan Suprama­niam said that Neo has a degree in electronic commerce from the National University of Singapore. 

He was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2011 and also has a personality disorder. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Singaporeans not 'emotionless' after all


Just a year ago, Singapore was ranked the world's most emotionless society by a Gallup survey.

In a major turnaround, it has now been singled out as the country which has recorded the biggest surge in "positive emotions" in the latest edition of the same survey.

According to the findings released yesterday, 70% of respondents here reported more positive emotions last year, compared to 46% the year before – the biggest jump among the 143 countries and areas surveyed by the international polling firm.

That catapulted the republic from the bottom of the table in the 2011 study to the top half of the "positive" league of nations. Gallup attributed the upswing in positive emotions to the "unprecedented attention" given to the 2011 study, which could have influenced how Singaporeans responded to the latest survey.

"The rise (in positive emotions) took place among all demographic groups, even as other societal measures remained steady," Gallup noted. 

The survey polled about 1,000 people aged 15 and above from each of the 143 countries and areas in 2012. They were asked if they had felt five positive and five negative emotions the day before they were polled.

Questions included whether they felt well-rested and respected, if they laughed and smiled a lot, and if they had done or learnt something interesting. The "yes" results were then compiled into a Positive Experience Index score.

Latin American nations Paraguay and Venezuela continued to top the index, while places like Syria and Iraq were ranked the lowest. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Two workers killed after crane collapses at art gallery site


At least two construction workers were killed and another three seriously injured after an accident at the worksite for the future National Art Gallery Singapore on Supreme Court Lane. It was earlier reported that one only worker had died.

According to workers, the crane collapsed at 10.50am along with its concrete counterbalance weights, partially crushing scaffolding within the worksite. The site's main contractor is Takenaka.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said that of the two men who were pronounced dead on arrival, one was trapped at a five-storey height in the scaffolding and had to be hoisted down using rescue ropes.

The injured workers have been taken to Singapore General Hospital and Raffles Hospital. The SCDF, which came to determine if there are other fatalities or injuries, said it sent one fire engine, two fire bikes, four ambulances and three supporting vehicles to the scene.

One worker Sen Thil, 36, said that the crane had been lifting a load at the time and may have become overloaded. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

New TV show in the works: <i>Constantine</i>


The comic book supernatural detective is set to have his own TV show.

NBC has ordered Constantine, a script about DC Comics conman-turned-supernatural detective John Constantine, from Dexter vet Daniel Cerone and The Dark Knight trilogy writer David S. Goyer.

The order comes with a penalty, meaning NBC will have to pay if it does not air a pilot. The one-hour drama comes from Warner Bros Television.

Goyer and Cerone, the showrunner on Season Two of Dexter, will write and executive produce. Constantine was created by Watchmen writer Alan Moore, as well as Steve Bissette and John Totleben, and debuted in the pages of Swamp Thing in 1985.

The character is the star of the comic books Hellblazer and Constantine, and was played by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 film Constantine. — Reuters


The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.S. government heads toward shutdown, Senate rebuffs House talks


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government was headed toward a major shutdown over Republican efforts to halt President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms using a temporary spending bill as last minute manoeuvres failed to resolve deep differences between Democrats and Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the House Republican offer of a panel to work out a deal on an emergency spending bill negotiation "with a gun to our head."

Reid instead called on the House to pass a Senate-approved measure that would keep the government funded through November 15.

With so little time remaining before a midnight (0400 GMT)deadline, a shutdown appeared inevitable. It would leave some essential functions like national security intact but sharply cut many regulatory agencies, furlough up to a million federal workers.

Earlier on Monday, competing spending measures flew back and forth between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-led Senate with increasing rapidity and without any sign of compromise.

The House repeatedly insisted that the measure to temporarily fund the government must include a delay of Obamacare, and the Senate kept stripping the delay out.

An anticipated revolt by moderate House Republicans fizzled earlier on Monday after House Speaker John Boehner made personal appeals to many of them to back him on a key procedural vote, said Republican Representative Peter King of New York.

"John said, 'This is going to work out. Trust me,'" said King, one of only a handful of at least two dozen House Republican moderates who rejected the appeal and voted "no."

Boehner prevailed on the procedural vote 225-204.

After Boehner made his personal appeal, House Democratic Whip Steyn Toyer called on him to permit a vote on a simple extension of federal funding of the government without any Obamacare add-on.

"I dare you to do that," Toyer roared, confident such a measure would win bipartisan approval. "Let democracy work."


On Monday afternoon, Obama appeared resigned to a shutdown, stepping into the White House press room to reiterate that the shutdown would be the fault of the "extreme right wing" of the Republican Party, referring to the conservative Tea Party.

He also reassured the public that while poor people and seniors, among others, would continue to receive benefit checks in the event of a shutdown, many other functions of government would grind to a halt, throwing "a wrench into the gears of our economy."

And he taunted Republicans about Obamacare, a program aimed at providing healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. It "takes effect tomorrow no matter what Congress decides to do today ... you can't shut it down."

Republicans say the launch on Tuesday of new online government health insurance exchanges will cause premiums to rise and deter companies from hiring new workers.

The White House later said Obama placed calls to top lawmakers, continuing to press the Republican leadership for six weeks of government funding, free of any "ideological riders."

Obama also signed a measure that would ensure troops get paid in the event of a shutdown. The bill was passed by the House on the weekend and the Senate on Monday.

Americans are split over whether funding for Obama's signature healthcare law should be linked to measures that pay for U.S. government operations, but more will blame Republicans if the government has to shut down on Tuesday, according to a new Reuters/ Ipsos poll.

The duration of the "funding gap," the bureaucratic term for a partial government shutdown, would depend on when lawmakers finally approve a funding bill.

Some functions deemed essential, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture meat inspections, would continue. Other agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, will furlough most of their workers.

A shutdown would continue until Congress resolves its differences. That could be a matter of days, or weeks.

The standoff does not bode well for the next political battle, a far-more consequential bill to raise the federal government's borrowing authority. Failure to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by mid-October would force the United States to default on some payment obligations - an event that could cripple its economy and send shockwaves around the globe.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Caren Bohan, Kim Dixon and Gabriel Debenedetti in Washington and Ryan Vlastica in New York; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

Factbox - What would happen, who would be furloughed if U.S. government shuts down?


(Reuters) - If Congress cannot agree on a funding bill for the U.S. government by a midnight deadline, there will be far-reaching consequences for federal agencies dealing with everything from Social Security checks to initial public offerings and National Park admissions.

Much of the impact or relative lack of disruption is determined by whether agencies are partly funded by industry user fees or deemed to be essential services.

Here is a roundup of some of the impact that would be felt:

FEDERAL WORKERS: As many as 1 million federal employees could face unpaid furloughs or missed paydays, according to the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 670,000 union members.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The Executive Office of the President will furlough about 1,265 staff and retain 436 as excepted workers. Among the staff retained will be 15 to provide "minimum maintenance and support" for the White House. Executive agencies will be reduced to skeleton staff, including four at the Council of Economic Advisors.

U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION: The SEC would continue reviewing applications for initial public offerings (IPOs) and monitoring markets as normal in the early weeks of a government shutdown, and can continue operating fully for a few weeks, a spokesman said.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Signup for the new U.S. health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act due to start on October 1 will proceed. [ID:nL1N0HQ1R3] Across the vast department and its sub-agencies, about 52 percent of staff will be furloughed - some 40,512 workers. Among the programs shuttered would be the Centers for Disease Control's annual seasonal flu influenza program. The National Institutes of Health would not admit new patients in most circumstances.

U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: Some 55 percent of the FDA's employees will be working. Of those reporting to work, 74 percent will be funded with fees paid to the FDA by the industries it regulates. The FDA's expert advisory committee meetings, which recommend whether the agency should approve new products, will for the most part continue. The next scheduled panel is on October 8 to recommend whether to approve expanded use of certain pacemakers and defibrillators from Medtronic Inc.. The FDA will cease most of its food safety, nutrition and cosmetics activities, such as routine inspections of plants and facilities. It will also be unable to monitor imports, and will cease certain compliance and enforcement activities.

U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES: Substantial numbers of intelligence personnel could be placed on leave, but those assigned to vital national security missions, including supporting the president, and collecting data from informants or spy devices such as eavesdropping systems or satellites, will generally remain on the job.

Shawn Turner, chief spokesman for National Intelligence Director James Clapper, said: "The immediate and significant reduction in employees on the job means that we will assume greater risk and our ability to support emerging intelligence requirements will be curtailed."

NATIONAL PARKS: National parks would close, meaning a loss of 750,000 daily visitors and an economic loss to gateway communities of as much as $30 million for each day parks are shut, according to the non-profit National Parks Conservation Association.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: All military personnel would continue on normal duty status, but half of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian employees would be placed on unpaid leave. Pentagon has said it will halt military activity not critical to national security.

Officials have said military personnel, who are paid twice a month, would receive their October 1 paychecks but might see their October 15 paychecks delayed if a government shutdown takes place and no funding deal is reached by October 7.

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE: Most of the federal tax agency's 90,000 employees would be furloughed. Taxpayers who requested an extension beyond the April 15 deadline to file their 2012 taxes must do so by October 15 and will be able to file these returns even if the IRS is still shut down then.

FEDERAL RESERVE AND OTHER FINANCIAL AGENCIES: Bank regulators, including the Federal Reserve and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would stay open because they do not rely on Congress for funding. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency pay for themselves and would remain open. Loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will still be available during the government shutdown. Both firms, which were seized by the U.S. government in 2008 as rising mortgage losses threatened them with insolvency, will continue normal operations. The Federal Housing Administration, which offers mortgage lenders guarantees against homeowner defaults, will have limited operations.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Fewer than 18,000 of the department's 114,486 employees would be furloughed, and if the furlough is prolonged, some of those could be brought back to work. Criminal litigation would continue under a government shutdown, while civil litigation would be curtailed or postponed as much as possible "without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property," the department said in its contingency plan.

COURTS: The U.S. Supreme Court would probably operate normally, as it has during previous shutdowns, but a spokesman declined to share the high court's plans. Federal courts would remain open for about 10 business days if the government closes on October 1, and their status would be reassessed on or about October 15.

U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE'S OFFICE: Already squeezed by automatic spending cuts imposed by the so-called sequester, the USTR office has reduced travel to the 41 countries where there are concerns about intellectual property, Trade Representative Michael Froman said.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: The agency would be one of the hardest hit, with less than 7 percent of its employees exempt from furlough. The broad-based shutdown of all but emergency services would delay rule-making, potentially including finalization of renewable fuel volume requirements for 2014.

AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT: USDA meat inspectors would stay on the job. Statistical reports would not be published, and the important October 11 U.S. crop report could be delayed depending on how long a shutdown lasts. USDA has said its website,, "will go dark and be linked to a 'splash' page," denying access to historical data and other information.

TRAVEL: Air and rail travellers in the United States should not feel a big impact, since passport inspectors, security officers and air traffic controllers will all continue to work as usual.

WASHINGTON SIGHTS: Most popular tourist spots in the nation's capital would close, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Zoo and all Smithsonian Museums. The zoo's live animal webcams would be disabled. All animals will continue to be fed and cared for.

(Reporting by the Washington bureau; Editing by Ros Krasny and Philip Barbara)

A million U.S. government workers, unions brace for shutdown


(Reuters) - As many as a million U.S. government employees were making urgent plans on Monday for a possible midnight shutdown, with their unions urging Congress to strike a last-minute deal.

To avoid sending hundreds of thousands of workers across the country home without pay, lawmakers must act within hours, but it was unclear if an agreement could be reached in time.

On the streets of Washington at midday, federal worker Gary Peyton Hardaway, 30, said he faced possible furlough, but that he was "optimistic" a deal could be reached.

If not, he predicted a shutdown would be short in duration. "At that point, pretty much Congress and the whole world will realize how serious it is," Hardaway told Reuters.

If Congress fails to approve a spending bill before Tuesday, between 800,000 and 1 million government workers will be forced to take unpaid time off.

Only "essential" personnel at national parks, federal courthouses, food stamp programs, passport offices and other agencies funded by congressional appropriations would keep working until the government is authorized to spend money again.

Nearly 2.8 million people were employed by the federal government as of September 2012, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Not all, however, are at agencies that would be affected by a shutdown.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, estimated half its 670,000 members would be furloughed, while the other half, deemed essential, would work, but not get paid until after a deal is reached.

"Half will be told to stay home without pay, half will be told to come to work without pay," spokesman Tim Kauffman said.

If there is a shutdown, union leaders said, they would pressure Congress to ensure that furloughed federal employees are also paid after the fact. Congress would have to authorize such payments, as it did for workers affected by the last government shutdown in late 1995 and early 1996.

"The National Treasury Employees Union will be leading the fight to make that happen," the union's president, Colleen Kelley, told Reuters, adding that 90 percent of the workforce it represented at the Internal Revenue Service was facing furlough.

In a shutdown, taxes would not be collected; audits would not be done; and a skeleton crew at the IRS would not be providing taxpayer guidance, Kelley said.

IRS workers have already had to take off three unpaid days from work since May due to the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester. "The non-stop questions about the future are something that is very disheartening to longtime federal employees, they're tired," Kelley said.

The American Federation of Government Employees had conference calls set for Monday night to answer questions from members about what to expect if furloughed. An online campaign encourages members to call lawmakers, write letters to the editor and organize picket lines in their cities.

A 43-year-old IRS worker facing furlough, who asked not to be identified due to the nature of his work, told Reuters his office was "completely distracted" by the looming shutdown.

"I'm mostly sorry for the state of our government," he said. "It's an embarrassment for the country that the government can't get simple things done."

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Mohammad Zargham)


The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

SapuraKencana rose on solid 2Q and analysts Buy rating


KUALA LUMPUR: SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd rose at midmorning on Tuesday on its solid half year results and after analysts maintained their Buy call on the oil and gas company.

At 9.55am, it rose eight sen to RM3.77 with 4.08 million shares traded between RM3.74 and RM3.80.

The FBM KLCI fell 1.26 points to 1,767.36. Turnover was 397.73 million valued at RM252.49mil. There were 164 gainers, 217 decliners and 219 counters unchanged.

CIMB Equities Research said SapuraKencana's record second quarter led to a record first half with a core net profit that broadly met expectations at 45% of its full-year forecast and 42% of consensus, thanks to Seadrill's drilling rigs.

Therefore, it has raised the target price of SapuraKencana from RM4.80 to RM5.60, which is a 51.8% above the current price of RM3.69.

Last Friday, SapuraKencana had launched its first pipe laying vessel, Sapura Diamante.

The launch marks a significant new chapter for the group's expansion into Brazil's giant oil and gas sector. The 550-tonne vessel is the first in a series of six fully integrated offshore vessels to be used to develop deep-sea oilfields in Brazilian waters on behalf of Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras).

KLCI starts fourth quarter on weak note, Wall Street weighs


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's blue chips fell in early Tuesday trade, weighed down by the weak overnight close on Wall Street and key markets, with BAT, UMW and Petronas Chemicals among the losers.

At 9.02am, the KLCI was down 2.73 points to 1,765.89, kicking off the fourth quarter on a weak note. Turnover was 37.93 million shares valued RM19.71mil. There were 64 gainers, 84 losers and 113 counters unchanged.

JF Apex Research said the local market will remain uncertain as investors await a last minute deal in the US Congress to avoid the government shutdown by noon. For the downside, immediate support for the KLCI is at 1,750.

BAT fell the most, down RM1.20 to RM63 with 200 shares done while GAB lost 18 sen to RM17 on worries about a hike in sin taxes in the Budget 2014 proposals.

Lafarge lost nine sen also to RM9.33 while UMW shed six sen to RM11.76.

Sersol continued to lose ground, falling seven sen to 67 sen and its warrants five sen to 48 sen.

United Plantations rose 36 sen to RM26.96 and Genting Plantations 14 sen to RM9.54. PPB lost 12 sen to RM14.10.

Among oil and gas counters, Petronas Dagangan added 10 sen to RM29.10, SKPetro rose eight sen to RM3.77 and Dialog three sen to RM2.57. Petronas Chemicals shed nine sen to RM6.76.

UK job vacancies rise, wages remain flat


LONDON: The number of advertised jobs in Britain rose to its highest level in four years in September, according to a survey released by a jobs website on Tuesday, another sign that the economic recovery is gaining momentum.

The Reed Job Index, assembled using data from around 150,000 vacancies advertised on the website of recruitment firm Reed Global, showed vacancies grew 24 percent on an annual basis to hit the highest number since the launch of the index in 2009.

However, wages remained stagnant for a third month, it found.

Unemployment, currently 7.7 percent, has become one of the closest watched economic indicators since the Bank of England said it would not think about raising interest rates from a record low until the jobless rate falls to 7 percent.

Reed's data indicated that job prospects were improving across all regions in the UK and in a range of industries.

Vacancies in manufacturing and retail rose by 32 percent and 31 percent respectively compared to the same period last year. The construction and property sector saw a 78 percent year-on-year rise in vacancies.- Reuters


The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Interpol to help track Malaysian gangsters abroad


GEORGE TOWN: Police will be working hand-in-hand with the Interpol to trace gang leaders and members who have fled overseas to avoid arrest, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

"It doesn't matter if they come back or not, the Interpol will help us arrest them and they will be detained under the proposed amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act 1953," he told reporters after visiting the late Sjn Zal-Azri Abd Somad's residence in Tingkat Sungai Gelugor here.

He also said there were no plans to discontinue Ops Cantas Khas, which is aimed at crippling underworld activities.

"It will not end on Oct 19 as claimed by certain parties. It will be carried out until we're done combating serious crimes," he said.

Sjn Zal-Azri, who was a corporal when he passed away, was given a posthumous promotion after he was killed in the line of duty in Malacca on Sept 23.

Ahmad Zahid also handed over an undisclosed amount of contribution to Sjn Zal-Azri's mother Zaiton Ismail, 54, and his wife Atiqah Mohd Rosdi, 29.

Sjn Zal-Azri, 31, was killed during a five-man operation against motorcycle thefts and robberies at the Cheng Technology and Industrial Park in Malacca.

A 17-year-old suspect, who was high on drugs, had bludgeoned him to death.

Ahmad Zahid said he had instructed the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar to confer the posthumous promotion to Zal-Azri.

"We will arrange for Atiqah and the couple's two sons – Mohamad Habibullah, four, and five-month-old Mohamad Atiqullah to move to Zal-Azri's hometown here or Atiqah's hometown in Bertam," he said.

Present were Penang police chief Senior Deputy Comm Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi and George Town OCPD Asst Comm Gan Kong Meng.

Atiqah said she was grateful to every one who had offered assistance during the family's time of grief.

Sjn Zal-Azri's remains was buried at the Masjid Jamek Sungai Gelugor cemetery on Sept 24.

Hubby held over wife's death


KUALA LUMPUR: The case of the woman found dead inside a wardrobe took a sudden twist when police arrested her husband and reclassified the case as murder.

The 46-year-old woman was found hanged in her wardrobe at an apartment in Bandar Manjalara here last Thursday.

City deputy CID chief Asst Comm Khairy Ahrasa said the husband was picked up at the apartment at about 9pm on Friday.

"We have remanded the man for seven days to help with investigations. The case has been reclassified as murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code," he said.

Sources revealed that there were bruises all over the woman's body during the post mortem.

It was reported that the body was found by her husband in his 50s when he returned home at about 11am on Thursday.

It is learnt that the woman had a previous marriage and was living there with her current husband and a son from the previous marriage.

Police who arrived at the scene around noon found that the body had been placed on the bed.

The husband claimed that he had removed the body from the wardrobe and placed it there.

Meanwhile, ACP Khairy said police have extended the remand on "Sei Ngan Chai" (four-eyed guy in Cantonese) to facilitate further investigations into the murder of Arab Malaysian Bank founder Hussain Ahmad Najadi.

"We have remanded him till Sept 5 to help identify the mastermind of the murder and locate the gun," he said.

ACP Khairy said the 44-year-old suspect was taken to the city police headquarters for further interrogation yesterday morning.

Police arrested Sei Ngan Chai in a house at Larut Tin Tambahan in Taiping on Sept 23 after a three-month manhunt.

Najadi, 75, was gunned down in front of the Kuan Yin Temple in Lorong Ceylon shortly after a meeting over a RM40mil land deal.

The temple occupies a portion of the land that was being negotiated for sale.

Najadi was neither a buyer nor seller in the deal but was there to ensure the temple would not be sold or demolished.

Khairy expects Malay exodus from DAP over loss of confidence


JOHOR BARU: Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin expects more Malays in the DAP to leave the party due to their loss of confidence in the party's purported principle of being multi-racial.

"The party has failed to uphold its principles as a party for all Malaysians," he said, commenting on the decision by Penang Malay Congress president Rahmad Isahak to quit the party after a brief stint since June last year.

"Although the party had been around for many years, it had not been able to attract and recruit many Malays," Khairy told reporters after a meet-the-people session at Kampung Pasir here on Saturday evening.

"This shows the Malays have not accepted the party wholeheartedly and had stayed only because of the DAP's alliance with PAS and PKR," he said.

Rahmad had quit on Saturday, saying he was disillusioned with the leadership of secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and the DAP's indifference towards Malay members.

Meanwhile, Khairy said he supported the opportunity given to Umno members to compete in the party elections.

Khairy, who is defending his post, said: "Democracy is alive in the party as the members have the freedom to choose and vote for leaders they feel could serve the party well."

The Youth and Sports Minister said Umno had never stopped its members from contesting.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

The Bone Season


Following our interview last week with Samantha Shannon, the latest young author to ink million-dollar deals, we take a look at her debut novel that's causing all the fuss.

THE Bone Season has come once every decade for the past 200 years in the Scion citadel of London.

It is the time when the city's "unnaturals" – those with clairvoyant abilities – are claimed by the alien Rephaim to use as frontline cannon fodder in the war to defend Earth against the carnivorous Emim, and not to mention, to serve the Rephaim themselves.

While the ruling Scion elite have taught the rest of London to fear the unnaturals, the wider population doesn't know about the Rephaim or the Emim; kept in ignorance, they have no inkling about the Scion's dark deal with the Rephaim and believe that unnaturals are just humanely killed when captured by the authorities.

So when 19-year-old dreamwalker Paige Mahoney is caught in the act of using her powers and taken away to the Tower of London, she expects a swift but merciful death at the hands of the authorities. Instead, she finds herself being taken to Sheol I in long-destroyed Oxford, which the Rephaim have been using as a base in their war against the Emim.

There, she is given into the keeping of Arcturus Mesarthim, blood-consort to the female blood sovereign of the Rephaim, Nashira Sargas. But Arcturus seems different from your usual Rephaim, and Nashira seems to take a greater interest in Paige's clairvoyant ability than is healthy for her life.

Naturally feisty, with a heart for the helpless, Paige intends to rebel and fight back against the Rephaim. But with 200 years of experience behind them, and a failed human rebellion 20 years ago, can she even dream of succeeding?

For those who missed our interview last week and haven't heard the hype yet, first-time author Samantha Shannon, 21, just graduated from St Anne's College, Oxford University, with a degree in English Language and Literature. This is her debut novel and the first of a planned seven-book series; also, film rights have already been optioned by The Imaginarium Studios, headed by motion-capture actor extraordinaire Andy Serkis.

It is obvious from The Bone Season that Shannon has a clear vision of her dystopian, alternate-history supernatural world. All one has to do is check out the "Seven Orders of Clairvoyance" listed in the front of the book to see the thought she has put into her world, not to mention the glossary of made-up and obscure slang words she includes in the back.

She also writes with good pacing, drawing the reader easily on from one chapter to the next. The story itself is interesting enough in terms of concepts and ideas, although I seriously doubt she has enough material in it to spin out for another six books.

My two main problems are with her characters, and the sudden epic turn into bad romance territory without so much as a single warning (although I could see that hook-up coming from a mile away).

Character-wise, I have to say I am not a big fan of the protagonist Paige, whom I feel acts immature more times than supposedly feisty and rebellious.

There are also too many supporting characters, who seem to pop up to be introduced, carry out minor roles in a few scenes, and subsequently, used to conveniently push the plot along, versus the story unfolding naturally.

And way too many of them are male (says this female reviewer)! Aside from Paige and villainess Nashira, the only other significant female character is Liss Rymore, a failed clairvoyant who befriends Paige in Sheol I. And while I'm no ultra-feminist, I do believe in balance, and the character balance here does not serve the story well.

åAs another reviewer describes it, Shannon's characters seem to be more furniture set out in her world rather than actual people readers can empathise with and root for.

I would say that while there are some good things going on in The Bone Season, there are also some irritating flaws that might put some readers off.

So, should you pick up this book? Perhaps for a different type of read – think alien overlords and ESP – or perhaps to satisfy your curiosity about the hype. It won't be a totally bad read, just perhaps less satisfying than it should be, especially with its many loose ends.

Unnatural Creatures


WHAT comes to mind when you think of "unnatural creatures"?

Looking at current pop culture trends, I would say most people would immediately think of vampires, werewolves and zombies.Classical fantasy fans might expand upon that list with dragons, unicorns and griffins, while mythology buffs might throw in sphinxes, chimaeras, cyclops, centaurs and harpies, among others.

Fans of shows like Supernatural and The X-Files are likely to come up with creatures like chupacabras, wendigoes and shapeshifters, while literary-minded readers might include Frankenstein's monster. And those who remember 20th-century legends will perhaps think of Bigfoot, yetis (or the abominable snowman) and the Loch Ness monster.

Well, I can tell you that at least three of the creatures mentioned above appear in the short stories selected and edited by authors Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley.

The compilation is actually a mixture of old and new stories, including some of Gaiman's own favourites. In fact, there are two stories that were first published over 100 years ago!

The oldest one, published in 1885, is Frank R. Stockton's The Griffin And The Minor Canon. It tells the story of a griffin who descends upon a town whose church has statues of griffins decorating it, in order to see what he looks like as he has no idea what he appears like. The Minor Canon is the priest who first encounters him.

Other older stories include those from well-known young adult (YA) and science fiction and fantasy authors like E. Nesbit, Larry Niven, Samuel Delany and Diana Wynne Jones.

Nesbit brings her usual engaging style of writing from the point of view of young protagonists in her 1900 story The Cockatoucan, Or Great-Aunt Willoughby. In this story, the young heroine Matilda and her nursemaid Pridmore get on the wrong bus on their way to visit Great-Aunt Willoughby and end up in a kingdom where a cockatoucan is causing chaos by changing things randomly every time he laughs.

For example, in the course of the story, the king gets changed into a desirable villa, the navy into French poodles, and Pridmore into an Automatic Nagging Machine (although some might say she was already that, anyway!). Matilda eventually helps solve the situation after she gets changed into a much cleverer version of herself.

Some of the newer stories include Gaiman's own Sunbird (first published 2005), The Smile On The Face (2004) by Nalo Hopkinson, and The Cartographer Wasps And The Anarchist Bees (2011) by E. Lily Yu.

Sunbird was my favourite story in the Fragile Things short story collection, so I was happy to see it here again. The tale is a slightly disturbing but very interesting take on a group of gourmands known as the Epicureans, who decide to catch and eat the legendary Sunbird of Suntown. (Hint: It refers to a familiar mythical creature; extra points if you figure out the real name of Suntown before it is revealed!)

There are also three original stories, published for the first time in this book. Moveable Beast by Headley tells of a Beast residing in a small forest surrounded by a town that is charged with containing it, while Megan Kurashige's The Manticore, The Mermaid And Me tells, literally, of unnatural creatures and how they come to be.

Meanwhile, YA author Nnedi Okorafor takes us to Africa with her tale of Ozioma The Wicked, a girl who can speak to snakes, and is both shunned and sought out for her talent. (She's not the unnatural creature, by the way.)

I quite enjoyed this compilation of 16 short stories.

The creatures within are unexpected, imaginative and refreshing to read about, despite the age of some of the stories.

I mean, how can you not be drawn in by a story whose title is basically a line of ink? (That's illustrator and author Gahan Wilson's story, which starts off the book.)

A lot of thought has also gone into the presentation of the book, which includes illustrations by Briony Morrow-Cribbs that accompany the title page of each story.

As such, I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for an appropriate gift for readers who enjoy the YA and/or fantasy genres. In fact, pick it up for yourself, as I am sure you will enjoy the different creatures from myth, classics and pure imagination contained within.

An important note: Royalties from the sales of the book will go towards supporting the American nonprofit literacy organisation 826DC (

Night Film


A page-turning roller-coaster of a thriller that has an intriguing multimedia aspect to it.

NIGHT Film is Marisha Pessl's second novel and will doubtlessly follow the success of her previous book, Special Topics In Calamity Physics.

Hoping for a scoop, narrator and journalist Scott McGrath investigates the strange circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of the talented daughter of mysterious filmmaker Stanislas Cordova. McGrath is willing to do anything to expose Cordova, who he suspects of playing some role in his daughter Ashley's death in a seedy part of Chinatown.

McGrath forms an unlikely alliance with coat-stand attendant and would-be actress, Nora, and a handsome and sullen part-time drug dealer named Hopper, each of whom have their own particular reasons for being interested in learning the truth about Ashley Cordova's death.

Cordova is Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch and Roman Polanski all rolled into one. His mysterious and unsavoury reputation is based mostly on his cult movies, which have all been banned because they are so terrifying that they have the ability to make people lose their minds.

The first thing the reader will notice about Night Film, apart from its unwieldy 600 pages, is the use of visuals and formatting within the text. There are many pages that replicate websites, medical files, police reports and newspaper articles, creating a whole universe of information, mis-information and rumour around the reclusive Stanislas Cordova.

It's an interesting reflection on how the form of presentation frames and influences the way we receive the content, particularly relevant in this digital age, where we are used to receiving and digesting information in a variety of media, formats and templates. Perhaps now that we have gone beyond the limitations of manual typesetting for books this is the shape of things to come for digital natives and we may well see more of this in the future.

The multimedia aspect of the book mostly works well, but having photos of some of the characters and locations is a step too far and undermines the reader's role in the creative process. One of the joys of reading as opposed to cinema is precisely the participative collaboration between the reader and the writer; being allowed to imagine what people or places look like.

There's an app for that.

As well as fictional footage about Cordova and his films on the author's YouTube page there are icons embedded within the text that link to an app that contains further background material about Stanislas Cordova and the mythical archive of his movies, many of which are described or alluded to in the book.

Though Pessl has already sold the film rights to

Night Film, she has retained the rights to the fictional movies she describes and it's easy to see how Night Film might become a matrix that spawns a whole series of interconnected works.

As the story progresses we find out that things are not quite what they seem. What starts out as a rollercoaster ride of a thriller suddenly becomes a fun-fair house-of-horrors ghost train, which swerves from gothic noir to slapstick and back again, with passages as purple and as dark as Poe or Lovecraft.

Though there are some interesting characters in Night Film they all speak with the same voice as the narrator – which in truth is closer to an exuberant teenaged girl than a jaded middle-aged journalist.

As McGrath investigates, he questions many people, some of whom put up a token resistance at first, but invariably and a little too conveniently, everyone tells the protagonist everything he needs to know so that he can move on to the next step of his investigation.

I'm not quite sure when this book stops taking itself seriously, but about halfway through I had to check the cover to make sure I hadn't accidentally picked up a Harry Potter adventure. I imagine that Pessl had quite a bit of fun writing some of the more extravagant scenes, but that said this playfulness stretches the elasticity of the willing suspension of disbelief beyond its limit, making the tension snap.

Though it does come back to the original plot, the story is irredeemably pulled out of shape. The book isn't helped either by the long and drawn-out ending, which is not totally satisfying and leaves some loose ends dangling unnecessarily. Another annoying feature is the seemingly random use of italics throughout the book.

Apart from these quibbles the book is competently written and well paced. The chapters are short. They often end arbitrarily in the middle of a scene, where a paragraph break would have been sufficient, but the small bite-size segments work like a chocolate bar and you find yourself breaking off another chunk, and another, until you start looking at the bedside alarm clock to see how many more hours of sleep you can sacrifice.

All in all, Night Film is an energetic, gripping and entertaining read and worth the time and effort.


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Solving the mystery with Detective Dee


YOUNG Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon is the prequel to the Detective Dee franchise and is directed by Tsui Hark.

The young Dee Renjie (Mark Chao) arrives in the Eastern Capital Luoyang amidst chaos. Several navy warships have been destroyed by what is suspected to be a "sea dragon". The fearful citizens hope to appease the dragon by sacrificing a young maiden, Courtesan Yin (Angelababy).

She was chosen as a victim because she has angered many officials by refusing their advances.

Carina Lau reprises her role as Empress Wu Zetian, who orders Chief Commissioner of the Supreme Court, Yuchi Zhenjin (William Feng) to investigate the attack against the ships and solve the case in 10 days or lose his head.

He teams up with Dee, aided by a young doctor Shatuo (Lin Gengxin) to solve the mystery.

With Yuchi's martial arts prowess, Shatuo's medical skills, the trioraces against time to crack the case.

This is the first feature film by Huayi Brothers Media that is shot in stereoscopic 3D; its previous films like Painted Skin: The Resurrection and Taichi series were converted to 3D in post-production. (Unfortunately, the 3D version of Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon is not screened in Malaysia.) – Oh Ing Yeen

Related story:

Angelababy and Mark Chao make a Dee-lightful couple

Angelababy and Mark Chao make a Dee-lightful couple


Third time's the charm for Angelababy and Mark Chao as the actors reunite in the prequel to the popular Detective Dee film.

TAIWANESE-BORN actor Mark Chao was stumped when researching for his character Detective Dee in Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon.

"I tried to look up Detective Dee in history books to find out more about the character. However most of the books are about Empress Wu Zetian; there was not much about Detective Dee," the handsome actor tells Star2 in an interview in Hong Kong.

"It was only written in novels about how he cracks cases, hence I have to come up with my own way of portraying the character."

Dee Renjie or Detective Dee is China's answer to Sherlock Holmes, as director Tsui Hark puts it. Dee has a remarkable memory and uses his deduction skills to solve cases.

But aside from these set of skills, Chao feels that Dee has a strong sense of justice and is a brave, honest person.

Although Chao is a fast rising male star in the Chinese movie industry, did he feel the pressure of assuming the role of the younger Detective Dee, a role which beloved veteran star Andy Lau played in the first movie?

"I have much respect for Andy Lau. The stress actually comes from whether I can fulfil the director's expectations," Chao explains.

This is the third collaboration between Chao and Hong Kong starlet Angelababy. They first acted alongside each other in Han Yan's, aptly titled, First Time where Chao played Angelababy's love interest. From their banter during Star2's interview, which was held before the film's gala premiere in Hong Kong last Tuesday, it was evident that these two stars, who describe their relationship as "brothers", share a common understanding that has enabled them to work well together in the movie.

"While waiting on the set, she would fidget and start bugging me. I would be waiting patiently with a book but she would start poking me," Chao reveals.

Angelababy quickly interjects: "We are all young; how could you be reading when everyone is having fun and talking while waiting on the set."

He is very mature and one could see it from the way he carries himself."

In Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon, Angela Yeung, or Angelababy as she is known in the industry, plays the most beautiful woman in the Eastern Capital, a courtesan desired by many.

Angelababy seems born to play this role as the actress is just as popular in real life.

In 2007, the Shanghai-born beauty entered the entertainment industry in Hong Kong first as a model and then made her acting debut in Pang Ho-cheung's Trivial Matters. It was her role in 2010's Hot Summer Days that got her noticed and ever since then, Angelababy has become hot property.

It is no secret that many beautiful actresses in Hong Kong are cast in movies as eye candy. Despite her previous roles in romantic films, Angelababy is not afraid of being typecast as the pretty face or the damsel in distress.

"In First Time (where she plays someone who suffers from neuromuscular disease), I played a strong willed character. I even tried my hand as a martial artist in Stephen Fung's Taichi movies (Taichi 0 and Taichi Hero)," she reasons.

Angelababy for Star2 cover

Angelababy is not afraid of being typecast as the pretty face or the damsel in distress.

Angelababy has been modelling since 14 and is regarded as an Asian fashion icon. As someone who is also active in the fashion scene, the actress has a lot to say about the period pieces she wore for her role as Courtesan Yin in Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon.

"The Tang Dynasty had an extensive cultural exchange so that explains why the costumes are sexy. Plus, my character is a foreigner," she says To prepare for the role, the actress learned about tea ceremonies and began dance training three months before the shoot.

"I have also looked online about Tang Dynasty paintings and learned how to pose like a courtesan."

She reveals that director Tsui Hark would also give her tips on how to act like an enchanting courtesan.

"To attract men, he said, it's all in the eyes; you must show that you care for no one (but him)."

Co-star Chao says: "I was surprised to see Angelababy when she first appeared on set as Courtesan Yin. I thought to myself, 'What happened to my brother?'

"This is the first time I see extras not needing any cue; they were dumbfounded the moment she appeared (yet) they could act without any further instructions."

Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon is currently playing in cinemas nationwide.

Related story:

Solving the mystery with Detective Dee

Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and gang went camping


The actors shared some male-bonding time at an English countryside.

FURY co-stars Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal and Kevin Vance more or less had no choice but to rough it out together when director David Ayer dropped them off in the wilderness without the cellphones, according to entertainment magazine Us Weekly.

According to a source cited by the magazine, the actors spent three nights at a forest in England's Buckinghamshire county.

"They play soldiers in the same World War II troop, and the director wanted to make sure they bonded," the source was quoted as saying.

Fury revolves around a group of American soldiers posted in Germany during World War II who embark on a brave mission. It is set to be released in late 2014.

The source goes on to explain that the actors spent their days foraging for food in the forest, and that they huddled up together in their tents to keep warm (the temperature was about 10°C).

Meanwhile, Scott Eastwood, who also stars in the movie, did not join his castmates but seemed to love being on set, judging from his selfies on Instagram. The up-and-coming actor, model and son of Clint Eastwood posted pictures of himself shirtless and flexing his muscles in front of a military tank. His caption: "Trying to outflex the tank. Not working."

Eastwood recently became one of the most-searched celebrities on the Internet, thanks to a feature in Town & Country magazine's October issue, in which he replicated a few of his formerly estranged father's iconic poses.

The actor has been busy of late, working in movies like The Perfect Wave, Mercury Plains, Dawn Patrol and Boulevard H, as well as appearing in TV shows like Chicago Fire and its spin-off, Chicago PD. — Melody L. Goh

One of the Scott Eastwood pictures featured in Town & Country magazine.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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Gazing at Japan's transformation through photos


Travelling photography exhibition seeks to show the modern divide in Japan.

JAPAN is a country all of us are familiar with. It is the land of sushi and Hello Kitty. It is the birthplace of the infamous Godzilla and kids will tell you, the birthplace of Ultraman. And who can forget the dreadful WWII bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

So, yes, we know Japan very well indeed … or do we?

Does anyone know how an ordinary citizen of Japan lives? Can anyone speak with authority on the mundane and simple things about this country? Perhaps, our view and understanding of Japan is one of myopia and it this very situation that the latest art exhibition by the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL) wishes to challenge.

Entitled rather appropriately Gazing At The Contemporary World, this exhibition of photographs by some of the most noted photographers of Japan such as Daido Moriyama, Nobuyoshi Araki and Norio Kobayashi will give visitors an intimate look at Japan – from the 1970s to 2006 – through the gaze and lens of these photographers.

Indeed, the subtitle "Japanese Photography From The 1970s To The Present" points to this underlying theme, the single thread as it were, that holds this exhibition together.

"The theme of the exhibition, as the title suggests, is to show how the photographers looked at their era and time in regards to the society and the people. There are two parts to this exhibition. The first part is entitled "Changing Society"' and it focuses more on people," explained Mio Yachita, JKFL's Head of Cultural Affairs Department, in a recent interview.

"It is the photographers' gaze on what the society is and how it is changing and how their everyday lives look like. The second part is entitled "Changing Landscape" and it focuses on landscapes such as suburban areas and developments."

The art enthusiast added that the exhibition's goal is to highlight the ordinary and everyday life in Japan with the country's development from the 1970s to the early 2000s as the backdrop.

Tokuko Ushioda's Ice Box series reveals a family's culture by showing what's inside the refrigerator.

Tokuko Ushioda's Ice Box series reveals a family's culture by showing what's inside the refrigerator.

Yachita said the photographers had captured how the Japanese society changed over time and through that, expressed "how they were feeling about the society. It is not through some higher viewpoint but through the people's viewpoint. You will see that most of the photographs show the ordinary Japan. It's not about the prime minister or the emperor or some big events."

And ordinary they were. One only has to walk into the exhibition space, the Kuala Lumpur Library, and immediately, one will realise no neon colours of Tokyo's nightlife or breathtaking skyscrapers meets the eye. In the vast, expansive space of the gallery, the photographs are almost negligible, mere frames of blacks and whites on the wall.

But the moment you stop and gaze into each of the photographs, a different world swims into view. A Japan that is not so common to most of us, the ordinary Japan, emerges and at once, you will begin to appreciate the genius of the photographers and their innate ability to capture the simple when mega changes were rapidly happening around them.

"We are using art photography as a medium to show how dynamic the Japanese society was from the 1970s to the early 2000s. It is an aesthetic exhibition but it's also very meaningful for us to do this exhibition in many countries so that your image of Japan will become more diverse. It's not only about Samurai or eating sushi!" Yachita jested.

This travelling exhibition, which began in 2007, has been to, among others, Lithuania, Papua New Guinea, Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Honduras and Mongolia.

One of the notable photographs at the exhibition is the "Ice Box" series by Tokuko Ushioda. A series of four photos, two from 1988 and two from 1989, "Ice Box" is simply about, as the title suggests, refrigerators. The first photo shows a closed fridge at a home and the second photo shows the same fridge but opened, revealing all that is inside the fridge.

So, what is so special about these refrigerators? Yes, the photographers have captured the ordinary life in Japan and that is the theme of the exhibition but what can one learn about the changing society in Japan through photographs of refrigerators?

"These pictures are in line with the changing society section of the exhibition because the refrigerator tells a lot about your family culture, like what's inside, how packed it is and how many notes are stuck on the door," shared Yachita.

As for the "Changing Landscape" section, besides photographs of developments around Japan and the construction of building and bridges, one powerful picture is that of the Kobe earthquake in 1995. Photographed by Ryuji Miyamoto and named Kobe 1995 After the Earthquake, Yachita reasoned that not only developments marked the changes that were happening in Japan but this earthquake was a big punctuation mark in the developmental history of the country.

Ryuji Miyamoto's photograph on the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake, which also changed Japan.

Ryuji Miyamoto's photograph on the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake in 1995, which also changed Japan.

It is always good to pause and look back through the veil of time at how a country has changed over the years. And the Gazing At The Contemporary World exhibition depicts just that.

Japan, as we know it, immediately changes before our very eyes, seen through the lens of these photographers. And even as we drive or walk to this gallery, adjacent to Dataran Merdeka and overlooking the KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers, you cannot but reminisce on how much our very own country has changed.

> The Gazing At The Contemporary World: Japanese Photography From The 1970s To The Present exhibition is on at the KL Library, No.1, Jalan Raja (next to Dataran Merdeka) in Kuala Lumpur from now until Oct 30. Opening times: Monday 2pm-6.45pm; Tuesday-Friday, 10am-6.45pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Closed on first weekend of the month. The exhibition moves to Muzium & Galeri Tunku Fauziah, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang from Nov 8 till Dec 14. Admission is free.

A fine parade at Art Expo Malaysia 2013


With a balance of commerce and contemporary cool, Art Expo Malaysia 2013 exceeded expectations.

WOULD you plonk RM200,000 on a small pumpkin? It's no ordinary pumpkin, actually. It's a work from famed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, the outrageous Grandma of Pop Art. This work featured at Japan's Yod Kogure booth (alongside a Damien Hirst – his Skulls work) at the recent Art Expo Malaysia 2013 at Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur (Sept 19-22).

By far, it was the most successful edition of Art Expo Malaysia, especially in terms of sales.

At 84, the frail but flamboyant Yayoi is said not to be able to paint any longer, although Singapore's Cultural Medallion artist Lim Tze Peng (at artist-gallerist Terence Teo's Cape of Good Hope Art Gallery), who is 90, still wields a very mean brush. But at the Art Basel Hong Kong last May, I met a Yayoi "Cosplay" wannabe (with a toyboy in tow) who looked like her, dressed like her but was not her, but who claimed to be a close friend of Yayoi and said that Yayoi could still paint.

While these Silent-Generation (those born between the 1930s and 1940s) art treasures are revered with a price to match, the seventh edition of Art Expo Malaysia (AEM) will be remembered for the Big "C" – as in "Contemporary." Yes, while the last two years have seen a perceptible transition, the money in 2013 was on the Big "C."

AEM project co-director Sim Po-Lenn revealed: "This year's AEM registered a significant uptick in sales from both the local and foreign galleries, and a few have confirmed returning next year, and have asked for a bigger booth!"

That the leading local galleries were taking part in full force this time after a bout of folding-arms hesitancy, was a vindication of the AEM, which essentially is organised for them – to help them showcase Malaysian art and those from other countries, on a one-global platform. They must have been pleased with the overall robust sales record.

Azrin Mohd's 'The Day The Circus Came To Town', a mixed media standing installation presented by Malaysia's G13 Gallery.

Azrin Mohd's The Day The Circus Came To Town, a mixed media standing installation presented by Malaysia's G13 Gallery.

After all, the Singapore galleries – which are far more international and cosmopolitan – have been clued in about this AEM event years ago, and they are part of the AEM's growth and success stories and their own success.

The AEM has inadvertently branded itself as an "Art Fair With A Face, And A Heart" and much of its success is based on a cultivated culture of goodwill (after-hours fraternising) and "partnership", in that the organisers also tried to help make it worth the while of the paying exhibitors.

But on the second day of the AEM, a seismic shock hit the Henry Butcher Art Auction booth, when it announced that the sole single consignor of The Modernist auction had controversially and unprecedentedly withdrawn from the much-awaited Sept 22 auction. It is now concentrating on its main Nov 3 auction. Two other auctioneers, KL Lifestyle Art Space (KLAS) and Masterpiece, had also taken up booths at the AEM to advertise their auctions on Sept 21 and Oct 13 respectively.

Interest was still there on the old and deceased such as Yayoi, Chen Yi-Fei, M.F. Husain, Li Chi Mao but the Big C was calling the shots. The accent was on "Art In The Here and Now", with the bewildering array of Hyper-Realism; pseudo-Pop in a playful whimsical way; space-gobblers/transgressors; caricature Fantasy-Gothic and other soul-excoriating works. But they all shared one thing in common: BIG!

Indonesia's ArtXchange was a popular destination at Art Expo 2013. Pictured is a work by Agung Mangu Putra called 'Dia Menatapku.'

Indonesia's ArtXchange was a popular destination at Art Expo 2013. Pictured is a work by Agung Mangu Putra called Dia Menatapku.

The bold double-header from Malaysia's Core Design Gallery, which featured Zulkifli Yusoff and Hamir Soib, made heads turn at the exhibition billed under the "Great Malaysian Contemporary Art" banner. With a stellar cast that also had Multhalib Musa, Eng Hwe Chu, Shoosie Sulaiman and Husin Hourmain, it was really what the works were about that counted, and impressed most!

Other leading local galleries such as G13, Artemis, Segaris, Pelita Hati, NN Gallery and RA Fine Arts had a fine parade of their own stable of artists, revealing a trend towards exclusivity to certain artists. This is only for the better, but not so workable on the ground, in the open cat-scratch-cat business level. Others such as Yahong Art Gallery and EQ Art focused on one artist, with Yahong's Chuah Seow Keng being the batik-art heir of the great House of Teng (world-acknowledged batik-art founder Datuk Chuah Thean Teng) who was taking part alone for the fifth year; and EQ being the collagist Eric Quah. Another, Malaysian-born Wenchi Lucas, who had a booth, is a naturalised Briton now.

Benny Oentoro's ArtXchange Gallery (Indonesia) has been a huge draw since 2011, and among its star performers this year were Heri Dono, Agung Mangu Putra, Jange Rae (Evi Muheriyawan), Masagoeng and Suwandi Waeng.

The more popular artists were Gustavo Charif (Fuman Art, France/KL), the Minimalist Masayuki Tsubota (H-Art Beat, Japan), Rudi Mardijanto and I Bagus Purwa (H Gallery, Indonesia), Val (Redsea Gallery, Singapore), Kim Eun-Ok (Zoom Gallery, South Korea), Edo Pillo and Kim MyingYoung (Art Front Gallery, Singapore).

Not everything was a BUY-BUY frenzy. It had become like an annual James Bond/007 treat with the Miao Xiao-Chun 3D animatrix – a truly stupendous animation theatre of pure genius. This year's offering was Limitless. It was part of the AEM's expanding China Pavilion – apart from the individual booths of Chinoiserie from Chit Fung Art (Li Xiaoke, Jia YouFu, Wang XiJing, PanGongkai, Li DingCheng); William Art Salon, where its Duxi had finally come home after several years of promotion, and the MAD Museum of Art and Design's tribute to Chen Wen-Hsi (1906-1991).

Elsewhere, Blue Dots Art had China's rising star 31-year-old sculptor Chen Jin Qing, with his cutesy sculptures based on the face of his young son – a Chinese version of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. Then, there was also Zi Peng (Y2 Arts) with his jade-centred works – with one piece mocking Damien Hirst's shark (The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living).

Apart from the special booths for Wang Xi Jing, there was also the Li Chi Mao Museum. Others in the China Pavilion were Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, China National Academy of Painting, Shaanxi Artists Association, Szechuan New Wave, 6th Ring International Art Zone (Beijing), Perpetuum, and a tribute to Hong Kong's Liu Meng Kuan.

Spain's ATR Gallery, which has been with the AEM since the inaugural expo in 2007, has painstakingly promoted Jesus Curia to the huge success he is now.

The best statement of the man's pedigree was his half bust sculpture with his trademark androgynous figure (with wings spread out). From the success of a special series of prints by the great Joan Miro (1893-1983) and prints by Pablo Picasso, ATR had gone more ambitious by bringing in three rare Miro marquettes done at the Mallorca studio. Making his debut was another established Spanish artist-sculptor Gines Serran Pagan, whose works are increasingly inspired by the cultures of the Asia-Pacific.

The Embassy Zone – dedicated to countries whose artists were rarely seen in these parts – also proved popular. Booths from Brazil, Colombia, Cuba (Enrique Wong Dias), Ecuador, Iran, Kazakhstan and Italy were among the more visited destinations from the 10 participating countries.


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