Ahad, 10 Februari 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

'Identity Thief' tops North American box office

Posted: 10 Feb 2013 03:36 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: The comedy "Identity Thief" defied mediocre reviews by critics and topped the box office in the United States and Canada in its opening weekend, industry figures showed Sunday.

The comedy, starring Jason Bateman from the TV series "Arrested Development" and "Bridesmaids" breakaway star Melissa McCarthy, pulled in $36.6 million Friday to Sunday, according to preliminary figures released by tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.

Salon.com said that the movie "reaches impressive heights of laziness and idiocy;" the Toronto Star slammed it as a "sloppily made exercise of rip-offs and redemption;" and National Public Radio dismissed it as an "uninspired trudge of a road movie."

It was followed by the romantic zombie comedy "Warm Bodies," based on Isaac Marion's book of the same name and inspired by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," which took $11.5 million in sales.

Director Steven Soderbergh's new suspense film, "Side Effects," starring Jude Law and Rooney Mara, opened third.

The movie, which follows a woman who goes on antidepressant drugs after her husband is released from prison, pulled in $10 million.

Fourth was the Oscar-nominated romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, with $6.9 million, followed by "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunt," a horror movie twist on the classic fairy tale starring Jeremy Renner, with $5.8 million.

Horror flick "Mama," in which a shadowy being trails two young children rescued after being lost in the woods when their parents died, fell from fourth to sixth place with $4.3 million, followed by the Oscar-tipped Osama bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty" with $4 million.

Director Ben Affleck's "Argo," the story of a bold CIA operation to rescue six US diplomats trapped by the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran, made the eighth spot, pulling in $2.5 million, followed by another Oscar nominee, Quentin Tarantino's blood-soaked spaghetti Western tribute "Django Unchained," with $2.3 million.

Rounding off the list was Sylvester Stallone's latest action movie, "Bullet to the Head," with $2 million.

Exhibitor Relations releases the final weekend box office returns on Monday. - AFP

Ben Affleck's 'Argo' named best film at British BAFTAs

Posted: 10 Feb 2013 03:27 PM PST

LONDON: Iran hostage crisis drama "Argo" won the best film prize at Britain's BAFTA awards on Sunday in a further boost for US actor-director Ben Affleck's movie at the Oscars later this month.

At a rainy but celebrity-packed ceremony at the Royal Opera House in London, Affleck also won the best director award, highlighting the fact that he has been snubbed in the same category at the Academy Awards.

Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor for his presidential turn in Steven Spielberg's political drama "Lincoln", while 85-year-old French screen legend Emmanuelle Riva won best actress for "Amour".

Anne Hathaway won best supporting actress for her performance in British musical "Les Miserables" while Christoph Waltz won best supporting actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino's blood-soaked western "Django Unchained".

Dozens of stars defied the sleet and wind of a typical British winter evening to sashay down the red carpet for the awards, which are widely viewed as a bellwether for the Oscars on February 24.

The BAFTAs have picked the same best film as the Oscars for the last four years in a row, and for five of the last 10 years in total.

Veteran British actress Helen Mirren stole the show with freshly dyed pink hair, while US star Jennifer Lawrence blew a kiss to television audiences during the ceremony, just as Brad Pitt did last year.

"Les Miserables" won the most awards with four including Hathaway's gong, plus prizes for production design, sound and hair and make-up, followed by "Argo" with three, also including editing.

Riva's best actress award for her role as a dying woman in "Amour" - which won the Palme d'Or in Cannes last year - came after the movie by Austrian director Michael Haneke also won the best foreign language film award at the BAFTAs.

French star Riva is the oldest ever nominee for the best actress award at the Oscars.

Meanwhile, glossing over his own Oscar snub, Affleck said the best director award was a second chance for him after a career that took off when he starred in the 1997 picture "Good Will Hunting" with Matt Damon.

"I want to say this is a second act for me and you've given me that, this industry has given me that and I want to thank you and I'm so grateful and proud," he said as he accepted the award from British actor Ian McKellen.

"Argo" also won the top Golden Globe awards against all the odds, beating "Lincoln."

Affleck also won the best director award from the Directors Guild of America a week ago. "Argo" itself has received seven Oscar nominations, including best picture.

Cult director Tarantino won the award for best original screenplay for "Django Unchained" and David O. Russell picked up the best adapted screenplay award for romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook".

In a rare accolade for the James Bond series despite its enduring appeal over the past 50 years, "Skyfall" was named best British film and the score won the best original music prize. "Skyfall" is Britain's highest grossing film ever.

The BAFTAs ceremony ended with the awarding of a special fellowship to filmmaker Alan Parker, the director of movies including "Midnight Express", "Birdy", "Angel Heart" and "Bugsy Malone".

Long a highlight of the British film industry calendar, the BAFTAs have been growing in stature over the years and are now seen as one of the key indicators of Oscar success. - AFP

Fangs for the memories

Posted: 10 Feb 2013 02:11 AM PST

Snakes have been featured in films from as far back as we can remember. Here, we evaluate the poisonous legacy of some memorable movie serpents.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Fiction: Indiana Jones may hate snakes – a fear he developed after falling into a snake pit (of sorts) on board a train when he was a teenager – but we love it whenever he encounters these cold-blooded creatures. Harrison Ford's comic timing in these scenes is priceless.

Fact: Fear of snakes is a common phobia; an abnormal fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia.

Quote: Indiana Jones (Ford): "Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?"

Conan The Barbarian

Fiction: Speaking of taking on human form, the creepiest one has to be of James Earl Jones (both as a leader of a snake cult and a giant snake that he can turn into). He also happens to be the guy Conan wants to kill in order to get vengeance for the death of his family.

Fact: Arnold Schwarzenegger is really awful. What? It's a fact.

Quote: Thulsa Doom (Jones): "You broke into my house, stole my property, murdered by servants and my pets, and THAT is what grieves me the most! You killed my snake..."

Snakes On A Plane

Fiction: Do we need to go further than the title? Yes, we kind of do because Samuel L. Jackson just kills here as an FBI agent who gets on this particular plane to transport a witness from Honolulu to Los Angeles, only to have a crate of poisonous snakes (think 450 kinds of snakes, including a 7m Burmese python) to be released midflight.

Fact: More than 450 actual snakes were used in the filming of the movie. However, more than two-thirds of the snames you see in the movie were either animatronic or computer generated. As part of his contract, no snake was allowed near Samuel L Jackson _ they had to stay at least 8m away!

Quote: Neville Flynn (Jackson): "Enough is enough! I have had it with these mother****ing snakes on this mother****ing plane!"


Fiction: Best known as the film featuring Jennifer Lopez before she famously became Jenny from the Block. What's even more memorable than a young Lopez is Jon Voight's accent and that Danny "Machete" Trejo was one of the first to be swallowed whole by the titular snake.

Fact: Anacondas are gigantic snakes (their average size is 6.1m and average weight is 148.5kg) that live in the Amazon jungles of South America. In this movie, a massive 40-foot long animatronic snake which included 60w dual-axis hydraulically powered joints was created to replicate the snake.

Quote: Danny (Ice Cube): "There's snakes out there this big?"

Kung Fu Panda

Fiction: Master Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu) is one reptilian character who has defied the stereotype. This green tree viper is one of the good guys and part of the Furious Five, a band of kung fu masters (the others are Tigress, Monkey, Mantis and Crane). Together with newbie Po the Panda, they fight any threats that put their village in danger.

Fact: Erm, snakes don't talk. And they definitely don't do martial arts.

Quote: During a training, Viper attacks, and Po is flung. Viper: "I'm sorry, Brother! I thought you said you were ready."


Fiction: A 1979 Tamil film starring Kamal Hassan, which is a remake of the 1976 Hindi movie Nagin. He plays a researcher whose speciality is snakes, especially one particular snake, chadhari, which is said to have the ability to take on the form of a person. During an expedition, his friends kill a serpent. It turns out the serpent's partner is chadhari. Soon, the guys' lives are in danger especially when the female serpent takes on the form of a beautiful woman (SriPriya) to get her vengeance.

Fact: The serpent is one of the oldest and most commonly occurring creature in legends. Its mythological significance differs depending on geographical location. One thing that stands out is that serpents are connected with revenge and vindictiveness.

The Sorcerer And The White Snake

Fiction: A sorcerer fights for the soul of a young physician who has fallen in love with a woman who is really Madame White Snake, a thousand-year-old snake demon. Oops. There was an earlier movie too, starring Brigitte Lin, which is a classic.

Fact: Whitesnake is also a British rock band founded in 1978.

Quote: White Snake: "Before I saw you I meditated for a thousand years, but those thousand years are worth less than a moment with you."

The Jungle Book

Fiction: As far as Mowgli knows, the jungle has always been his home. And Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the Panther are his family. However, other creatures are not so friendly towards Mowgli – there's Shere Khan the tiger and Kaa, a sly snake, both of whom intend to devour Mowgli.

Fact: The movie was based on Rudyard Kipling's collection of stories of the same title. Sterling Holloway was the voice of Kaa. He was also the original voice of Walt Disney's Winnie the Pooh.

Quote: Kaa: "You have just s-s-sealed your doom."

Robin Hood

Fiction: Robin Hood is a fox. No, really. With a bushy tail and shiny nose and everything. In the 1973 Disney cartoon, Robin goes up against the cowardly lion Prince John and his scaly minion, Sir Hiss. Like the two-faced henchman he is, Hiss often hypnotises his boss to do his bidding, and often lectures the prince when things go wrong.

Fact: Although the cobra does sway in a hypnotic manner, snakes cannot hypnotise because they can't count backwards.

Quote: (After being stuffed into a barrel full of ale.) Hiss: "Please! Please! I don't drink!"

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Stimulating show

Posted: 10 Feb 2013 12:47 AM PST

From politicians behaving as 'bradhers' to urban alienation and dreary housework, 19 local artists showcase their diverse and stirring ideas.

IMAGINE ... No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man. / Imagine all the people / Sharing all the world....

And then see ... politicians from opposing parties engaging in a group hug – well, anything is possible in art!

These are the subjects of two paintings at the exhibition entitled Locals Only 2013 at Gallerie Taksu, Kuala Lumpur. As the name implies, only Malaysian artists, some 19 of them here, are featured in the gallery's popular annual show that presents a scrumptious slice of local artistic ideas.

Imagine by Arikwibowo Amril, casts a shimmering effect as it dreamily splices the famous lyrics by John Lennon over a portrait of the late singer. Its ideals are in ironic contrast to The After Party, which features local politicians as a satirical group of chummy "bradhers" after the next general elections.

For the latter's painter, Ed Roger Rosili, it's about a transition from his teenage years when girls would have posters of their favourite boy bands.

"Then, after school years, we got into jobs, which involved paychecks, paying taxes, household finances, petrol prices, and all of a sudden, politics became our new favourite topic.... It became apparent to us that the media circles around these politicians like celebrities," he says.

On a more domestic level, Seah Zelin depicts the drudgery of endless housework as choking billows of smoke and gluey, gummy pools of grease in her painting Figure In Kitchen.

"My painting misappropriates Ikea publicity pictures," says the artist. "It depicts minimalist interior scenes in floods and erosion. This is to reflect the consumption patterns of globalisation with which the Malaysian identity has been increasingly blurred."

Yet the painting does not quite jive with her stated intent, for the globalised Malaysian would surely be encircled by office toil and traffic snarls rather than kitchen duties – so as to be able to afford a showcase Ikea kitchen!

A more accurate depiction of modern dystopia is found in Hafidz Shabri's Comfort Zone, with its phalanxes of water meters feeling like hurdles while hordes of airconditioning units festooned upon typical Malaysian shophouses billow heat outwards (adding to the "urban heat island" effect) while inhabitants are cocooned in their self-contained (and perhaps self-centred) units of comfort.

Hafidz says he is concerned about the effects of urban modernisation on the traditional Malay community, of buzzing towns sprouting up in formerly idyllic provincial areas, a disquiet that is also reflected in his other work, Just Passing Through, which chooses a detached, alienated, aerial view to portray a monorail slicing through communities.

Khairul Izham's My Wonderland 1 captures the fantasy of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter from Alice In Wonderland character, overlaid on a series of drawings as disjointed as Lewis Carroll's 1865 book and the 2010 movie.

Yeoh Choo Kuan has a series of provocative female figurative works, including Raw 1 & 2, which suggests the private parts, as well as The Rite Of Spring, with its hints of frenzied liberation.

"I'm trying to paint something hidden under my direct feelings towards the female figure," he says. "I have been painting females since my mother passed away with cancer when I was 12 years old. When I look back at all those portraits it's as if I can track back how I have changed all these years. I wouldn't realise it until all of my paintings are in front of me."

Finally, a mention of Hisyamuddin Abdullah's One, The Red Handed.

"These artworks record my immediate response to my surroundings, specifically the fiercely discussed political issues of today," says the artist.

With its single index finger dipped in red, perhaps he is referring to the use of indelible ink in the upcoming general elections?

All in all, this group exhibition is a stimulating smorgasbord of delicacies prepared by up and coming local artists and well worth a look.

Locals Only 2013 will be shown till Feb 21 at Gallerie Taksu (No. 17, Jalan Pawang, in the Datuk Keramat area of Kuala Lumpur). For more information, call 03-4251 4396 or go to taksu.com.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Slithery wonders

Posted: 09 Feb 2013 07:16 PM PST

As the year of the snake slithers into sight, Fit4Life takes a look at all things snake-related in health, proven or otherwise.

SNAKES have a pretty nasty reputation. We already know they are not the kind of creatures you want to cuddle up in bed with. In fact, they give most people the creeps, with their slimy, yucky, scaly and alien-like bodies.

However, snakes are one of the most maligned creatures around. Whether in playing the resident seducer in the Garden of Eden or turning innocent folk into stone through Medusa'sstare, these slithery creatures have been seen as a symbol of mischief and evil across many cultures and religions.

This abominable reputation seeps into the real-life experiences of victims of venomous attacks. Snakes can often deliver painful and potentially fatal bites.

But not everyone is afraid of the big, bad snake. Ancient Chinese wisdom says that having a snake in the house is a good omen, because it means that your family will never starve.

In certain parts of Asia, especially China and South-East Asia, these reptiles are actually coveted for their various health and medicinal properties.

The snake also makes quite an interesting character in the Chinese zodiac. In Chinese culture, people born under this sign are said to be charming, popular, and absolutely irresistible, so we're guessing that males born under this sign are probably the suave James-Bond types.

Some of the celebrities born in the year of the snake include Bob Dylan, Greta Garbo, Art Garfunkel, Audrey Hepburn, Dean Martin, Dorothy Parker, Paul Simon, Oprah Winfrey, Virginia Woolf, Ben Stiller, Charlie Sheen, Martha Stewart, Pierce Brosnan (told you there was a Bond in there, somewhere), Robert Downey Jr and Tim Allen.

Apparently, these folks also enjoy being at the centre of attention and often steal the spotlight.

As the year of the snake slithers into sight this Chinese New Year, Fit4Life takes a step into the world of all things snake-related in health (proven or otherwise).


In just minutes, the venom of rattlesnakes, cobras, vipers and other poisonous snakes can cause swelling and severe burning pain at the bite site. This local reaction may be followed by a dangerous drop in blood pressure or paralysis, which will cause the victim to collapse and experience extensive bleeding everywhere in their body.

Major bruises can spread from the bite, with blood escaping from the nose and mouth. Without treatment, the victim may die.

Malaysia has its fair share of these slithery predators. At the coastal waters of the region, there are at least 18 different species of venomous front-fanged land snakes and over 22 different species of sea snakes.

The cobra is the most common type of venomous snake found in South-East Asia, and throughout Malaysia in particular.

However, some studies claim that up to two-thirds of all snakebites in Malaysia are due to Malayan pit vipers, and about 75% of these cases occur in the northern states of Perlis, Kedah and Penang in Peninsular Malaysia.

Of all the snakes found in this part of the world, the sea snakes are said to be the deadliest and most venomous. The venom of these sea snakes is about four to eight times as toxic as cobra venom. Because most sea snakes live along shallow coastal water, fishermen are at the highest risk of being bitten by them.

Incidences of snakebites in Malaysia are not as uncommon as you think. A total of 19,355 admissions to government health facilities from venomous animal bites or stings were reported from the year 1999 to 2001, according to poisoning data compiled from the Information and Documentation System of the Health Ministry.

Snakebites commonly affect those between the ages of 10 and 19, and are twice as common in males than in females.

In general, there are three types of snake antivenin available in local hospitals. They are: polyvalent antivenin, mainly intended for cobra bites; the Malayan pit viper antivenin; and the sea snake antivenin. Such cases are typically handled by the emergency department in hospitals.

Snakes in medicine

Knowing the perils that loom when dealing with snakes, you would think that medical researchers (or humans in general) would want to stay as far away as they can from these poisonous terrors, or the deadly venom they secrete in their saliva and eject out of their fangs.

However, poisonous snakes are actually prized research subjects for scientists in search of better treatments for disorders such as high blood pressure, heart diseases, stroke, cancers, and auto-immune and neurological disorders.

The reason behind this is because some investigators think that the very proteins that make snake venom deadly, may, in the right dosages or right changes, be a source of healing for humankind.

Since ancient times, snakes have been used in traditional treatments to treat a myriad of health problems, including chronic skin diseases, arthritis, convulsions, paralysis and erectile dysfunction.

Although none of these treatments have actually been backed up by any scientific or medical evidence, some of them remain popular alternative health options to this day.

Among the earliest recorded use of snakes in Chinese medicine was the application of sloughed snake skin in China circa 100 AD. Because snakes shed their skin, it was thought that their skin has regenerative properties.

As a result, sloughed snake skin (usually roasted) has been used orally and topically in the treatment of skin problems like acne, carbuncles, itching skin and psoriasis.

The snake's incredible agility and flexibility have also led to the belief that they might be helpful in the treatment of joint stiffness and arthritis.

The speed with which some snakes move also indicate that as medicines, their "substance" can move quickly around the body. These snakes are also sometimes soaked in alcohol to make an extract for stiff joints.

Elsewhere, snake bile has long been valued as a tonic, and is used to make special health drinks. In some specialty restaurants in southern China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the bile of the snake is eaten with rice wine and consumed before a meal as an appetite stimulant.

Snake meat and blood have also been thought to be powerful aphrodisiacs that can help enhance one's performance in the bedroom. And to think that some of us are actually happy to make-do with chocolate, cologne and some Barry White...

The 'snake disease'

Shingles, also known as sang seh (translated as "snake disease") to the Chinese, is a painful, blistering skin rash due to the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox in children and adults.

After you get chickenpox, the virus remains inactive (becomes dormant) in certain nerves in the body. Generally, one gets life-long immunity after recovering from chickenpox.

However, if a person is only partially immune, a second infection can occur. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves years later. While the reason the virus suddenly becomes active again is not clear, often, only one attack is likely to occur.

Shingles may develop at any age, but you are more likely to develop the condition if you are older than 60; had chickenpox before the age of one; or your immune system has been weakened by medication or disease.

Shingles begins as a hypersensitive area of the skin, with irritation and itching or burning, usually in a coil around the midriff area or under the breasts, hence earning its name, the snake disease. It usually, but not always, affects only one side of the body.

Other areas usually affected by shingles include the neck, shoulder, upper back, and in some cases, even the face or eyes. A bout of sensitivity is typically followed by an outbreak of small, very painful blisters, usually in a cluster around the area in question.

The pain can range from being moderate to extremely severe depending on the state of the individual's immune system. Unfortunately, it is usually the elderly and those with a weakened immune system who will suffer the most pain from the disease. Some can't even wear clothing or allow the affected area to be touched.

There is no cure for shingles, and if left untreated, the duration of the disease can go on for three to five weeks. Treatment such as antiviral medicines and topical creams may shorten the length of illness and prevent complications, as well as help relieve pain.

In some cases, post-herpetic neuralgia, a chronic condition that causes the patient to experience mild to severe pain even after the blisters have disappeared, can develop after a shingles attack. Unfortunately, this can go on for years afterwards, and the longer the condition goes untreated, the poorer the prognosis.

Lessons we can learn from the snake

Snakes have no legs. I don't mean to be Captain Obvious here, but here's an important lesson we can all learn from the snake – don't be defined by your limitations.

Just look at the snake. Despite not having legs (or arms for that matter), these creatures somehow find a way to negotiate a wide variety of habitats, from desert dunes to trees to the ocean.

From the giant anaconda of the Amazon, to the poisonous rattlesnakes of the Americas, the cobras of Asia and Africa, as well as the tiger snakes in Australia, snakes have managed to roam almost the entire planet.

Not having legs hasn't stopped them from being among the deadliest predators in the wild either. These swift-striking, venom-spitting reptiles are predators that can outwit and overcome their prey in a matter of seconds.

Whether they are venomous or constrictors, they make the best of their abilities to overcome whatever obstacles thrown their way to triumph and to survive, making them a true testament of physical and mental strength.

So the next time you feel like dunking your head into that giant pile of excuses to justify whatever lack of success you may be having, just take a cue from the resilient snake and get moving.

The snake's bad rap as being the embodiment of the devil isn't going away any time soon.

But really, snakes rarely harm humans unless they are threatened or injured. They may be cold-blooded and slimy, but these guys are also fighters and survivors that truly deserve our respect.

Whether in the dark of the forest, arid caves, uncertain waters or deep, dark holes, these slithery wonders will no doubt continue to live up to their reputation as among the most feared and revered wild animals man has ever known.

What a waist!

Posted: 09 Feb 2013 07:15 PM PST

A bulging belly can be a source of chagrin for most mortals. Here are some basic and simple exercises you can do to fight belly fat.

THE most common question I get asked is: how to get a flat stomach?

A bulging belly can be a source of chagrin for most mortals. Even those who were naturally lean in their youth tend to develop a pouch as they enter their 30s.

The reasons for having a rotund middle can range from age and genetics, to plain abuse of food and drink, with little or no exercise.

One thing is for certain – having a big gut is certainly a bad thing, however cute and cushy it may be. Excessive abdominal fat has been linked to serious health conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and cancer.

Often, people take up a gym membership to banish the bulge, but have a rather vague or incorrect idea on how to actually do it.

Contrary to popular belief, no amount of sit-ups or crunches alone will actually give you the chiselled six-pack you so covet. And that fitness commercial that claims that doing a 10-minute abs routine will give you a sexy midsection? Yeaahh, good luck with that...

And don't even think about sucking it in to fit into that little black dress. There are less painful and surer ways to getting that amazing body you've been dreaming about.

Here are a few things to consider when you embark on the quest to zap that jelly-belly, and to help strengthen and create lean abdominal muscles:


Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass, but if you are overweight and want to lose belly fat, cardiovascular exercises (cardio) is a good place to start because it burns more calories.

When transitioning from couch potato to workout newbie, the first thing to establishe is the number of days per week cardio sessions should be performed.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercises for at least five days a week, or vigorous cardio for 20 minutes a day, three times a week.

For those unacquainted with physical activity, it would be a good idea to start small. You can go for up to 15-20 minutes a day, three times a week, and build up your energy and stamina from there.

The benefits of cardio are many. Moving around increases blood flow to our muscles and strengthens the heart and lungs. In doing so, it reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity, and also provides a temporary relief from depression and anxiety.

It also promotes better sleep and higher energy levels.

An added bonus is that you will definitely have more confidence about how you look and feel.

Popular cardio options include brisk walking, running, cycling, dance classes, skipping, swimming and what have you. Go ahead, knock yourself out. But do include at least one or two days of rest each week.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High intensity, short duration cardio, popularly known as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), has gained popularity in recent years, and has been proven to be an effective way to lose fat.

HIIT allows for very high intensities to be used and alternated with short periods of recuperation. There are no hard and fast rules to HIIT training, but a work:rest ratio of 1:3, 1:2 or 1:1 (eg going at your maximum effort for one minute, then resting for three – and repeating this for up to five or six bouts), are commonly used, depending on your fitness level.

The Tabata is one popular form of HIIT that is relatively easy to follow. The regimen was developed in the 1970s by Professor Izumi Tabata to help Olympic speed skaters improve their performance and fitness levels.

To do a Tabata, all you have to do is pick a cardio activity, such as running, biking or doing burpees, and go as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Follow that with 10 seconds of rest, then repeat seven more cycles (for a total duration of four minutes). And by "hard as you can", I mean you should be seeing stars or having a date with Pukey by the end of it.

Doing the Tabata is no walk in the park, but it's worth it, trust me on this. Believe it or not, four minutes of Tabata can actually give you better fitness gains than an entire hour spent dawdling on the treadmill.

Tabata can help increase aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, resting metabolic rate, and ultimately, help you burn more fat than a 60-minute jog can.

The high intensity also gives your metabolism a cool boost, and this means that you don't just torch calories during training, your body will be burning calories while you are resting afterwards too. And that translates to a nice, flat stomach!


I am a big believer in functional exercises that can help develop a strong overall support system, rather than spot-reduction exercises that focus mainly on building muscles on the facade.

I don't want a set of beautiful abs just for show, I want them to have a function for movement too.

Push-ups are an excellent exercise that will help you do just that. They not only help you get a stronger upper body, but also help to strengthen the core muscles as well.

A basic push-up does not require any equipment other than your own body. But here's the beauty of it – every repetition of a push-up incorporates the stabilisation of your core muscles, combining an upper-body pushing movement with a plank. What this means is that if you disengage your core muscles, you neglect the main source of power for your exercise.

In doing so, the push-up doesn't just strengthen your chest, shoulders and triceps; it is in fact, also one of the best exercises for your midsection – as long as you're doing it correctly.

A regular push-up is done with the hands directly under the shoulders with straight legs. However, you can start off by doing push-ups on your knees if you can't do them with straight legs yet.

Some points to consider when doing push-ups is that you should always keep your body in a straight line from head to toe, without sagging in the middle or arching your back. Also, don't lock out the elbows – keep them slightly bent.


Squats, one of my all-time favourite exercises, are another great option to help build a rock-solid midsection.

While they are more commonly known as a lower body workout, squats are actually a fantastic core exercise as well. This is because your abdominal and back muscles are required to do a significant amount of work to maintain good posture when performing this movement.

When you squat, your midline has to be kept stable to keep your spine safe, especially if you are doing it with a heavy load.

The result is a tighter, more defined abdominal area and a stronger lower back. Make a conscious effort to hold in your abdominal muscles while squatting to enhance this effect.

Squats are also an effective exercise to work the posterior chain – mainly the major muscle groups on your butt, hips and glutes.

When performing air squats, slowing down the motion will make the movement more intense.

Squats can be done almost anywhere and at any time, with or without the use of weights or equipment (I like the barbell), according to your fitness levels and goals.

One important aspect people often overlook when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is food. We are what we eat, so the kind of food you put in your body will certainly make a difference between losing your belly or gaining one.

It is common knowledge that natural foods like fruits, vegetables and lean protein should replace processed foods that are full of sugar. And this means you'll have to refrain from digging into those tasty CNY treats!

To minimise water retention, lower your sodium intake.

I know how hard it is to stick to a clean diet and maintain a consistent fitness regimen, but believe me, your perseverance will be worth it.

After all, whether you like it or not, this body is the only one you will ever have your whole life, and there is no better time to take care of it than now.

Be consistent and persistent, and you will soon shed those extra inches and pounds, banish the flood, and emerge a beautiful swan in those gorgeous skinny jeans!

Fiona Ho is a certified personal trainer and a CrossFit enthusiast who is trying her darndest to keep her hands off the cookie jar this CNY! For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my.

Keep your child safe

Posted: 09 Feb 2013 07:14 PM PST

Find out how you can keep your child safe from danger outside the home.

PARENTS always want the best for their children. Many spend a great deal to make sure that their children receive the right nutrition, get the best possible education, and are given the appropriate medical care and treatment when they fall ill.

Unfortunately, many also do not realise that they need to give equal importance and attention to their child's safety.

More children suffer harm because of trauma and injury than from sickness and disease. Many of these injuries are preventable. There are several factors which make children prone to injury and danger.

Children like to explore, to try new things, to play and to make friends. However, they may not have enough knowledge and understanding to recognise danger. They do not have the maturity to look at a situation from different angles and exercise good judgement. When they are having fun, they may easily get distracted and may not react quickly enough to sudden unexpected danger.

Their size also makes them almost invisible in crowds.

The environment outside the home has many potential hazards for children – drains, traffic, ponds or rivers, or even people.

There is no substitute for good supervision. Young children should be closely supervised by their parents or placed in the care of other responsible adults when their parents are unable to directly supervise them, eg when they go to work.

As children become older, parents should begin to train them by explaining safety rules. They should also set a good example to their children by following these rules.

When they accompany their children on walks and outings, they should point out potential hazards and remind their children about safety rules so that they become familiar and are part of their regular routine.

Only when parents have observed their child's behaviour and are confident that they are sensible and mature enough should they be allowed out on their own. For most children, this would be by the age of 12 years, but it depends on the understanding and maturity of the individual child.

Venturing into the world

As your child reaches school-going age, he or she will start to have more freedom and opportunities to venture outside the home. However, some of the more serious dangers to children under the age of 12 lurk outside the home, including strangers who may lack good intentions.

Although it is impossible to protect your child from every danger he or she can possibly encounter outdoors, you can equip your child with some basic safety rules and precautions. Teach your child to be safe when venturing outside the home.

Walking along the road

Imagine not being able to judge how fast a vehicle is approaching or where it is coming from. That's the experience of children under 10 years each time they step onto a road. And yet, 91% of Malaysian parents do not even escort their young children to and from school.

Don't take your child's safety for granted. Always accompany him when walking on the road, even for very short walks. Hold his hand at all times and let him walk on the inner side of the road. Do this until he is more than 10 years old and is familiar with the traffic rules below:

1. Walk with your child to find the safest path. Look for the most direct route with the minimum number of crossings and highways and accompany your child several times in order to assess the route's safety, and to discuss safe areas to cross.

2. Take the time to teach your child to:

·Stop at the curb and look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Make sure drivers can see them before crossing in front of them.

·Walk, not run, when crossing the street and only cross at pedestrian crossings such as traffic lights, zebra crossings and pedestrian bridges.

·Walk facing traffic and keep as far to the left as possible if there are no sidewalks.

·Understand and obey traffic signals and signs.

·Do not enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes and watch for cars that are turning or backing up.

If you are not around, make sure that your child is accompanied by a trusted adult or a responsible older sibling. Be sure that your children know how to contact you in case of an emergency and carry a written record of emergency contact numbers at all times.

You should also give them the name of an adult family member they can contact if you are unavailable or ill.

Stranger danger

When your children venture out into the world, the general rule for avoiding strangers still apply. It is not possible to keep them safe just by telling them not to talk to strangers as danger does not only come from strangers.

A young child may not be able to reliably distinguish a "stranger" from a "familiar person" or what situations represent "danger", especially at a very young age. Danger may also come from familiar persons. This is why we must teach them responses according to circumstances or the behaviour of people.

Empower your child to speak up even when someone who is within the friend or family circle does something that makes them uncomfortable or frightened.

As your child grows older and the level of supervision decreases, it is important that your child is conscious of his or her safety when away from home.

Tips for your child

1. Run from danger. Explain to your child that "danger" is when anyone comes too close or tries to grab him. If this happens, tell him to do everything he can to stop the stranger from pulling or dragging him into his or her car. He could drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite, and scream to attract the attention of others around.

2. Be wary of strangers. Advise your child to be careful about people who approach him with gifts, candies or other items. He should be reminded to never walk off with a stranger no matter what the person says or tells him to do. Tell your child to run quickly to a safe place if he is approached by anyone who makes him uncomfortable.

3. Do not follow anyone. Tell your child that they should not follow anyone who comes to pick them up claiming to be your "friend" other than their regular transport without checking with their teacher first.

4. Be aware of his surroundings. If someone is following him, tell him to try and remember the license plate of the stranger's vehicle and run or immediately tell a trusted adult.

5. Approach the right people for help. In case your child is separated from you at a mall or in public, teach your child not to search for you on his own. Instead, they should head for the nearest help or information booth.

Working together

While the safety of children when walking to school or going out alone is of paramount importance, the main fear of parents is largely linked to "stranger danger" and the heinous criminal acts against children (such as kidnapping, abuse, assault, rape and even murder).

Not a day goes by that we don't read or hear about some horrific crime against a child n TV, radio, newspapers or online websites.

The recent disappearance and murders of a number of Malaysian children over the past few years have become stark reminders that crime knows no race or religion. Crime also takes place when there is an opportunity.

Statistics from Bukit Aman show that from the year 2008 until April 2011, there were 3,223 missing children below the age of 18. According to the police, 1,708 cases were solved.

Although kidnappings are rare, the threat does clearly exist. The problem of paedophiles has also become more visible in recent years.

Protecting our younger generation is the responsibility of all. It is not just the duty of the parents and the authorities but that of the community and society as a whole.

Different roles to play

1. Parents

The protection of a child must start from the home itself. Parents are urged to keep track of their children at all times and also teach them how to respond to potentially dangerous situations.

Your child must learn to act responsibly before he is allowed to leave the home unsupervised. Ask your child what he knows about personal safety and how he will handle situations that are unsafe.

Talk to your children about crimes that you read in the newspaper and discuss with them what went wrong, how that victim could have protected themselves and some options for safety.

Avoid having your children play outside the house after dark, unless there is a parent or another trusted adult supervising.

Never allow young children to use a public restroom by themselves. Remember that most murders and abductions are opportunistic. If children are ever on their own, keep them in pairs. A lone child is a much bigger target for an abductor.

Parents must stop taking things for granted and later blame others for their own carelessness when things go wrong. The saying "It will not happen to me" will not apply all the time.

2. Society

Our community and society today has become less concerned about the welfare of others. When we live among neighbours who "see but don't see", we are always at a disadvantage.

If we see a child struggling to get away from an adult and crying, do we tolerate this because that is not our child or family member and that it is none of our business?

It is because of this civic disengagement that crimes are allowed to happen. It is time for each and everyone to realise that every human being is someone's child, brother or sister or future parent. Become busybodies and be aware of what is going on around you. Remember that you can prevent a crime against a child.

3. Police and the community

The Malaysian police force and other legal authorities must consider the need to form a special task force for missing children. There is indeed a need to get qualified professionals to be part of this task force in order to curb this serious issue.

In addition, there is a growing consensus that community policing is the best strategy to fight crime in residential neighbourhoods. The emphasis on community relations is reflected in officer training and evaluations.

Service style management stresses community service above law enforcement. The community-oriented policing philosophy is the "identify and rectify" approach to problem-solving. This strategy is based on police community reciprocity – the police and public must cooperate to prevent and solve crimes.

However, community policing has yet been started in Malaysia. We need more professional police officers with relevant qualifications in order to achieve community policing in Malaysia.

4. The media

Apart from reporting on the various criminal acts against children, the media also has an important role in educating society on the right mentality and attitude that we should have in protecting our younger generation.

Programmes, workshops and events on child safety should be widely publicised for the benefit of parents or guardians and children.

If all these parties come together and work hand-in-hand to fight the various crimes against children, there is a higher chance of solving the volume of cases of missing children in Malaysia as well as preventing criminal acts from occurring to our children.

Children's safety, parent's priority

Every parent wishes for their children to be constantly safe from harm and danger. A major concern of many parents in allowing their children to roam free and play about is the exposure to various dangers such as accidents and the acts and intentions of other individuals.

One can never be too cautious when the safety of their child is concerned.

The safety of your child at home is not as simple as his safety outside the home. There are several security issues that were not present some years back, which you as parents have to acknowledge today. One main concern is child predators and how best to safeguard your children from these individuals once they step outside the home.

You may have taught your child to stay away from "strangers", but this concept is often difficult for a child to grasp and it is likely that the perpetrator is someone that your child knows. It is more important to build your child's confidence and teach him how to respond to potentially dangerous situations, rather than teaching them to look out for a particular type of person.

Every home and school should also teach children about safety and protection measures. As parents, you should take an active interest in your children and listen to them. Teach your children that they can be assertive in order to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation.

And most importantly, make your home a place of trust and support that fulfils your child's needs.

Together with the authorities and members of the community, you can protect your children by teaching them to be smart, strong, and safe.

Here to help you

In light of the increasing number of criminal acts and violence against children, many organisations have taken the initiative to work together in order to help protect and safeguard our younger generation. Various associations and helplines have been set up to uphold the rights of children in Malaysia.

15999 CHILDLINE – A Helpline Dedicated to Children       

Call 15999 / Send them an email on a problem you have at talktous@Childlinemalaysia.org / Email them a question at askaquestion@Childlinemalaysia.org

NUR ALERT - Child Abduction Alert System

In case of emergency, you can contact the police at 03-2031 9999 / 03-2266 3333 or alternatively dial 999.

PDRM Headquarters No – 03-2266 2222.

Protect & Save The Children Association

No. 5, Jalan 7/14,Section 7,

46050, Petaling Jaya,

Selangor, Malaysia.

Telephone: (603) 7957 4344 / 7956 4355

Fax: (603) 7957 4322 / (603) 7957 4322

Email: protect@psthechildren.org.my

Dr Mary Joseph Marret is a consultant paediatrician; Datuk Akhbar Satar is a criminologist and director of the Institute of Crime & Criminology, Help University; Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail ia President of Asia Pacific Paediatric Association (APPA). This article is a courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Association's Positive Parenting Programme. The opinions expressed in the article are the view of the author. For further information, please visit www.mypositiveparenting.org.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Let’s have a party

Posted: 10 Feb 2013 02:13 AM PST

JUSTIN Timberlake will join Elton John, Taylor Swift, Jack White, Rihanna, Sting, Bruno Mars and other stars performing at the 55th Grammy awards show.

Six-time Grammy winner Timberlake's appearance at the awards will come on the eve of his first studio album for seven years, titled The 20/20 Experience.

Other artistes already lined up for the music industry's biggest awards show include Kelly Clarkson, Ed Sheeran, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, The Black Keys, fun., The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and Carrie Underwood.

The awards ceremony will be hosted by veteran rapper LL Cool J.

List of nominees for 2013 Grammys

Posted: 09 Feb 2013 10:05 PM PST

LOS ANGELES: Here is a list of the nominees in the main categories at the 55th Grammys, to be held Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The show starts at 5:00 pm (0100 GMT Monday).

Record Of The Year (for producers of song):

  • - "Lonely Boy" - The Black Keys
  • - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" - Kelly Clarkson
  • - "We Are Young" - fun. featuring Janelle Monae
  • - "Somebody That I Used to Know" - Gotye featuring Kimbra
  • - "Thinkin Bout You" - Frank Ocean
  • - "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" - Taylor Swift
Album Of The Year:
  • - "El Camino" - The Black Keys
  • - "Some Nights" - fun.
  • - "Babel" - Mumford & Sons
  • - "Channel Orange" - Frank Ocean
  • - "Blunderbuss" - Jack White
Song Of The Year (for songwriters)
  • - "The A Team" - Ed Sheeran (songwriter: Ed Sheeran)
  • - "Adorn" - Miguel (songwriter: Miguel Pimentel)
  • - "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen (songwriters: Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen and Josh Ramsay)
  • - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" - Kelly Clarkson (songwriters: Jorgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin and Ali Tamposi)
  • - "We Are Young" - fun. featuring Janelle Monae (songwriters: Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess)
Best New Artist:
  • - Alabama Shakes
  • - fun.
  • - Hunter Hayes
  • - The Lumineers
  • - Frank Ocean
Best Pop Solo Performance:
  • - "Set Fire To The Rain" (live) - Adele
  • - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" - Kelly Clarkson
  • - "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
  • - "Wide Awake" - Katy Perry
  • - "Where Have You Been" - Rihanna
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:
  • - "Shake It Out" - Florence + the Machine
  • - "We Are Young" - fun. featuring Janelle Monae
  • - "Somebody That I Used To Know" - Gotye featuring Kimbra
  • - "Sexy And I Know It" - LMFAO
  • - "Payphone" - Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa

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Remembering an icon

Posted: 09 Feb 2013 09:18 PM PST

She came, she saw and she conquered. Whitney Houston stole our hearts with her gift of song, as some of our writers recall.

> I WANTED to be Whitney. Didn't we all? And when the karaoke rage first hit us in the 1990s, it gave us the chance to pretend to be her.

No karaoke joint was complete without her songs and no one could resist having her on their list.

And so we paid homage to her by singing her greatest hits, more often than not badly, but sang them we did.

The beauty of Whitney's songs was that they were near impossible to master but easy to sing.

With a mike in hand, whether it was Saving All My Love For You ("A few stolen moments, that's all that we share..."), or Greatest Love Of All (I believe the children are our are future...) or I Will Always Love You (So, goodbye. Please, don't cry, we both know I'm not what you, you need...), we could launch into them with ease.

We would try to imitate the wobble or snarl she put into certain parts, or vibrate our lower jaw the way she did, but no one could match her hugeness of voice, control, range and virtuosity.

We loved her songs because she put so much emotion and heart into them so that we believed she was the conflicted mistress of a married man; or the woman who understands that the most important love is to be found in herself; or celebrity who had to give up the man she loved. She made it all unforgettably real. And that's why we became her great pretenders in the karaoke lounge. – June H.L. Wong

> TRYING to recall when the name Whitney Houston came to memory is a tough one. I guess using her songs as lullabies for me burned that mezzo-sopranic voice of hers into my childhood memories.

Mom was a huge Houston fan. As she is a soprano too, mom would be humming her songs while dicing the meat for lunch or stir-frying rice in the wok. More pertinently, I grew to listen to my elder brother fingering away on the piano to How Will I Know and even more so, Greatest Love Of All.

These classic pieces were then passed on to me, which became my practice pieces as well. Mom would also get my teacher to find different arrangements of the pieces for me to play on.

Watching her deliver the Star-Spangled Banner at Tampa Stadium, Florida in 1991 was just so profound, which coincided with a period in my life when I began to embrace the American culture. Her mammoth crescendos made my heart cry with the song and no doubt, it was the greatest Superbowl history has ever seen.

When her timeless movie The Bodyguard was finally available on Malaysian television, I think no movie fan would ever forget the scene where Houston stopped her pilot and ran down the plane to Kevin Costner's arms with her highest-grossing hit I Will Always Love You being played.

Later on, she went down a similar route to the likes of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, and it was saddening to see her struggle with her married life and drugs.

But then again, who could ever forget her golden moments and the standard she set for the younger generation of female artistses? Houston's songs have stood and will continue to stand the test of time for she still is the "greatest love of all" to all music scribes out there. – Christine Cheah

> CALL it a guilty pleasure, but there was something that made me feel all fuzzy and warm inside when I first heard Whitney Houston's rendition of Greatest Love Of All in the mid 1980s. While I no longer indulge in this particular genre of music, the memory of the simple electric piano intro and Whitney's sweet voice gliding over it remains etched in my mind ... forever, it seems, since I still recall it so well ... to this day.

I remember so distinctly staggering down the stairs of my home at 6am (after my dad would switch the fan off in the bedroom I shared with my brothers ... a sure fire way of getting us to wake up, because it would get so stuffy) and instinctively switching on the radio on the family stereo system in the hall.

I'd be all blurry-eyed and barely awake, and for some reason, Greatest Love Of All would almost certainly be played between the 6-7am belt on the Blue Network (later Radio Four and today, Traxx FM). It was a combination of the hope in the words and her luscious voice, and as a song, there aren't too many better written and arranged pop songs, honestly.

Why, the song was even referenced in a movie that easily eschewed everything pop-related, School Of Rock. Remember that scene in the canteen when Jack Black quotes the opening lines from the song to his fellow teachers, hoping to justify his position as a teacher at the school? While it was funny, it also confirmed the song's place in popular culture. Sure, Whitney didn't write it – George Benson did. But it's really Whitney's version that reached out to the world.

When I was 12, I attended my secondary school's Variety Show (an annual showcase of the school's talent pool). The year was 1987. A couple of sixth form girls did a dance routine to Whitney's I Wanna Dance With Somebody. I was so infatuated with one of the two girls and later bumped into them at the canteen. I was dying to tell them I loved their dance routine, but when words failed me, I just hummed I Wanna Dance With Somebody to myself and was content to simply replay their performance in my head.

I was completely immersed in rock music by this point and wouldn't give pop music a second chance, yet, when it came to the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games, I was once again cast under Whitney's spell.

One Moment In Time is still one of the best games songs ever sung. Call it up on YouTube now, I dare you. And tell me that's not a good song. Yes, Whitney seemed to be everywhere ... all the time, too.

And my final memory of her all-encompassing prowess was when I worked as a waiter at the coffee house of a hotel in Ipoh. I always hoped to get the afternoon or night shift, which would mean I could catch the resident Filipino band on its nightly stint (and also so that I could sleep in late). And my favourite chore during the band's set was wiping the plates, dishes and cutlery – I would be doing it behind the stage.

The lead singer of the band, this really cute Filipina, used to do a jaw-dropping version of I Will Always Love You. Sure, it was two years later from when Whitney's version hit the airwaves as part of the soundtrack of the godawful The Bodyguard, but the song clearly had lasting power.

I would hold my breath when it came to that break near the end of the song, where ... wham!!!! ... she would burst in with the chorus at a higher key. Talk about drama! While I was always enthralled by her rendition, Whitney's version would make the hair on my neck stand on end during that part of the song.

It's crazy when you think Whitney had less than 10 years of a great run, yet, she's carved her place among the legends ... the Aretha Franklins, the Tina Turners, the Diana Rosses ...

That said, just listening to Greatest Love Of All again today can send shivers down my spine. I still can't put my finger on what it is that really does it for me. I'm compelled to think that nostalgia has a part to play, but the more I listen, the more I'm convinced that there won't be too many pop songs as endearing as this again ... and that's a tribute to the inimitable Whitney Houston. – N. Rama Lohan

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Whitney Houston, never forgotten

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