Ahad, 24 Mac 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

The voice behind Disney XD’s animated series Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja

Posted: 25 Mar 2013 01:07 AM PDT

Actor Ben Schwartz shares why being on Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja gives him a sore throat.

ACTOR Ben Schwartz is constantly losing his voice these days.

"When I get out of the room, I'm totally sweating, my voice is totally gone," he says of his latest project.

Has he taken on a role as a grouchy drill sergeant barking commands under the hot sun in a war flick? Or perhaps a blue-collar worker picketing for fair wage in a historical biopic? Well, no.

Schwartz has been lending his voice to Disney XD's latest animated series Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja. Though he is no stranger to voice-acting, having landed various guest roles on animated series and films, this is the first time Schwartz is voicing a main character.

"I have to speak in an octave higher than my normal voice for the role," Schwartz says, adding that he spews out 60 to 70 lines for each episode on average.

To ease the strain on his voice, the actor reveals a regiment he sticks to closely. "I drink a special mixture that we have shipped in from out of the country and I do warm up exercises to make sure my voice is smooth."

It seems to work. When Star2 caught up with Schwartz in a phone interview from Los Angeles recently, the actor's voice is crisp and clear – not a hint of his parched, worn out throat.

In the series, the 31-year-old actor is the voice of a geeky, 14-year-old high school student and videogame enthusiast, Randy Cunningham, who finds out one day that he has been chosen to become the town's next ninja. Set in the fictional town of Norrisville, its inhabitants have been protected by a secret ninja for 800 years against the evil powers of the Sorcerer.

Banished to a dungeon beneath the Earth some 800 years ago by the original ninja, the Sorcerer survives on a diet of chaos and destruction. To get his fill of mayhem, he wreaks havoc by releasing a stinky gas that turns the unsuspecting students of Norrisville High (the dungeon is situated right below it) into crazy monsters.

But now, the villain is plotting to escape the dungeon for good and unleash his powers on the town.

Schwartz says he is very similar to his character in reality. "In real life I am very geeky. I'm probably closer to Randy than any of the other live-action characters I've played. I still DVR (record) all my cartoons, I used to play videogames all day and I'm really into tech stuff. It is a part of who I am. I think that's why I connect with the role so well," he explains.

The actor goes on to describe the show, saying it is "a beautiful mix of action and comedy" and thinks viewers would enjoy it. But more than just fun and games, Schwartz believes children can learn some valuable lessons from it too.

"One of the biggest lessons kids can learn is how important friendship is. If you really care about somebody, you would be true to them and you would have their back," he shares, referring to his character's relationship with his friend Harold Weinerman.

Asked what the actor would do if he was suddenly granted superpowers like Cunningham, Schwartz says he would use the powers to do some travelling. "If I could run really fast and jump on buildings like Randy, I love the idea of visiting different cities in the US and overseas.

"But I would never use them for something bad like spy on people, I'm not that type of person."

Schwartz got his start in show business doing improv at a theatre and training centre. He has since landed roles on both the big screen (Everybody's Fine and The Other Guys) and TV (Parks And Recreation and House Of Lies).

He is also a promising scriptwriter with writing credits on shows like The Late Show With David Letterman. Schwartz is in talks with Randy Cunningham creators Scott Thomas and Jed Elinoff to write an episode for the animated series.

> Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja airs daily at 9.30am on Disney XD (Astro Ch 617/HD Ch 637).

Catch the latest fashion trends on radio station 988

Posted: 25 Mar 2013 05:46 AM PDT

A television show on the radio? Yes, please.

IT'S time for fashion! Popular radio station 988 and Unifi's HyppTV bring you a brand new style and fashion programme called Vogue In Paris, a variety show that features the latest news on trends and beauty.

Vogue In Paris is exclusively shown on HyppTV's Now International (Ch 155) every Sunday at 10pm, while the show's three-minute segment Vogue In Paris: (Nu Huang Jia Dao) Beauty Tips is aired over 988's Good Show hosted by DJ KK at 7pm every Monday to Friday.

This is the first cross-media collaboration between the Star Radio Group and HyppTV. Starting this year, the Star Radio Group's four radio stations are available on HyppTV (Red FM on Ch 955, Suria FM on Ch 956, 988 on Ch 957 and Capital FM on Ch 958).

Vogue In Paris is hosted by Hong Kong style queen Anna Yau Hoi Man, who, along with featured guests will give beauty tips, fashion updates and a whole lot more.

Also on 988 this week:

Morning Up (Monday-Friday, 9am-10am)

Most people have a fear of going to the dentist, even though we know just how important dental care is! The hosts of Morning Up Cases chats with listeners about teeth – what is tooth decay, what causes our tooth to ache and others. Dental care professionals will also be on hand to talk about how best to look after your teeth.

Meanwhile, in Morning Up VIP, guest star singer Kit Chan, dubbed "Singapore's national treasure" who performed in the Hong Kong musical Snow. Wolf. Lake with Jacky Cheung in 1997, shares her story with listeners. From singing pop to jazz numbers, Kit Chan talks about her upcoming retirement from the pop music.

Let's K-Pop (Saturday, 3pm-4pm)

The 3rd Korean Wave best music chart of the year has released the results of two awards: The Best K-Pop Song goes to Girls' Generation SNSD (I Got A Boy) while Most Popular K-Pop Song is Super Junior's From U.

This week, results for the Best K-Pop Dance Song and Most Popular Rookie Star will be released. Cast your vote on 988.com.my.

> 988 is owned and operated by The Star.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

U.N. chief condemns rebel seizure of power in Central African Republic

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 08:07 PM PDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday condemned the "unconstitutional seizure of power" in Central African Republic and demanded the restoration of constitutional order in the country.

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by reports of serious violations of human rights. He underscores that those who are responsible for committing such violations will be held accountable," the U.N. press office said in a statement.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon waves at the beginning of the fifth United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Forum in Vienna February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon waves at the beginning of the fifth United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Forum in Vienna February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Rebels in Central African Republic (CAR) seized the riverside capital Bangui in fierce fighting on Sunday, forcing President Francois Bozize to flee and sowing confusion over who rules the mineral-rich heart of Africa.

"The Secretary-General appeals for calm and for the respect of the rule of law in the CAR," it said. "He is concerned by the dire humanitarian situation in the country and the reports of ongoing looting in the capital, Bangui, including of United Nations property."

The statement added that United Nations was taking all precautions to protect its staff. It also reminded the authorities of their "obligations to ensure the safety of all United Nations personnel and premises."

The Seleka rebel coalition resumed hostilities on Thursday in the former French colony and quickly swept south to Bangui with the aim of ousting Bozize, whom it accused of breaking a January peace deal to integrate its fighters into the army.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Australia PM appoints new resources minister in reshuffle

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 07:59 PM PDT

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia's prime minister appointed Gary Gray, a former adviser to the country's largest oil and gas firm Woodside Petroleum, as resources minister on Monday in a cabinet reshuffle forced by a string of ministerial resignations.

Gray, a senior Labor party figure in the resource-rich Western Australia state, should ensure an advocate for the resources industry remains in place at a time when investment in the sector is slowing amid signs the mining boom has peaked.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (C) greets members of the audience as Opposition leader Tony Abbott follows as she arrives to the National Apology for Forced Adoptions ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra March 21, 2013 in this picture provided by the Australian Attorney-General's Department. REUTERS/Penny Bradfield/Attorney-General's Department/Handout

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (C) greets members of the audience as Opposition leader Tony Abbott follows as she arrives to the National Apology for Forced Adoptions ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra March 21, 2013 in this picture provided by the Australian Attorney-General's Department. REUTERS/Penny Bradfield/Attorney-General's Department/Handout

Prime Minister Julia Gillard also said the Climate Change Department, which has overseen the introduction of a controversial carbon tax, would now be merged with the Industry Department, and would be overseen by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet.

However, Gillard made no changes to the crucial Treasury or Finance Ministry, held by Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan and Penny Wong respectively.

The reshuffle was forced on the government after a botched leadership coup last Thursday by forces loyal to former leader Kevin Rudd, with three cabinet ministers and two junior ministers quitting after supporting Rudd.

Gillard has set elections for September 14, which opinions polls currently show she is almost to certain to lose, meaning the reshuffle's impact is likely to be limited.

Among those to resign was former Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who was regarded as a business friendly minister and a strong supporter of the mining industry in Gillard's cabinet.

Around A$400 billion ($418 billion) has been invested in Australian resources projects over the past decade, with a further A$200 billion in liquefied natural gas projects, but the boom appears to be slowing.

The mining employer group Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) said Gray was well known to the industry and should help attract investment to the sector.

Gray joined the Labor party in 1974. He quit the party in 2000 to work for conglomerate Wesfarmers and later as a public relations adviser for Woodside Petroleum, in order to help shape its defence in a takeover battle with Royal Dutch Shell.

Shell eventually withdrew its bid after it was deemed harmful to the national interest by then Treasurer Peter Costello, thanks in part to Gray's campaign to muster public sentiment against Shell.

($1 = 0.9572 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Ed Davies)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Last-minute Cyprus deal to close bank, force losses

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 07:49 PM PDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Cyprus clinched a last-ditch deal with international lenders to shut down its second largest bank and inflict heavy losses on uninsured depositors, including wealthy Russians, in return for a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout.

Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades leaves the European Council building in Brussels, March 25, 2013, after a meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and other officials to discuss a rescue package for the island. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades leaves the European Council building in Brussels, March 25, 2013, after a meeting with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and other officials to discuss a rescue package for the island. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

The agreement came hours before a deadline to avert a collapse of the banking system in fraught negotiations between President Nicos Anastasiades and heads of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Swiftly endorsed by euro zone finance ministers, the plan will spare the east Mediterranean island a financial meltdown by winding down Popular Bank of Cyprus, also known as Laiki, and shifting deposits below 100,000 euros to the Bank of Cyprus to create a "good bank".

Deposits above 100,000 euros in both banks, which are not guaranteed under EU law, will be frozen and used to resolve Laiki's debts and recapitalise Bank of Cyprus through a deposit/equity conversion.

The raid on uninsured Laiki depositors is expected to raise 4.2 billion euros, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijssebloem said.

Laiki will effectively be shuttered, with thousands of job losses. Officials said senior bondholders in Laiki would be wiped out and those in Bank of Cyprus would have to make a contribution.

An EU spokesman said no across-the-board levy or tax would be imposed on deposits in Cypriot banks, although the hit on large account holders in the two biggest banks is likely to be far greater than initially planned. A first attempt at a deal last week collapsed when the Cypriot parliament rejected a proposed levy on all deposits.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said lawmakers would not need to vote on the new scheme, since they had already enacted a law setting procedures for bank resolution.

"It can't be done without a bail-in in both banks... This is bitter for Cyprus but we now have the result that the (German) government always stood up for," Schaeuble told reporters, saying he was sure the German parliament would approve.

A senior source in the talks said Anastasiades threatened to resign at one stage on Sunday if he was pushed too far. He left EU headquarters without making any comment.

Conservative leader Anastasiades, barely a month in office and wrestling with Cyprus' worst crisis since a 1974 invasion by Turkish forces split the island in two, was forced to back down on his efforts to shield big account holders.

Diplomats said the president had fought hard to preserve the country's business model as an offshore financial centre drawing huge sums from wealthy Russians and Britons but had lost.

The EU and IMF required that Cyprus raise 5.8 billion euros from its banking sector towards its own financial rescue in return for 10 billion euros in international loans. The head of the EU rescue fund said Cyprus should receive the first emergency funds in May.

With banks closed for the last week, the Central Bank of Cyprus imposed a 100-euros per day limit on withdrawals from cash machines at the two biggest banks to avert a run.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici rejected charges that the EU had brought Cypriots to their knees, saying it was the island's offshore business model that had failed.

"To all those who say that we are strangling an entire people ... Cyprus is a casino economy that was on the brink of bankruptcy," he said.

The euro gained against the dollar on the news in early Asian trading.

Analysts had said failure to clinch a deal could cause a financial market selloff, but some said the island's small size - it accounts for just 0.2 percent of the euro zone's economic output - meant contagion would be limited.

The abandoned plan for a levy on bank deposits had unsettled investors since it represented an unprecedented step in Europe's handling of a debt crisis that has spread from Greece, to Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.


In the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, the mood on Sunday was anxious.

"I haven't felt so uncertain about the future since I was 13 and Cyprus was invaded," said Dora Giorgali, 53, a nursery teacher who lost her job two years ago when the school she worked at closed down.

"I have two children studying abroad and I tell them not to return to Cyprus. Imagine a mother saying that," she said in a central Nicosia square.

Cyprus's banking sector, with assets eight times the size of its economy, has been crippled by exposure to Greece, where private bondholders suffered a 75 percent "haircut" last year.

Without a deal by the end of Monday, the ECB said it would have cut off emergency funds to the banks, spelling certain collapse and potentially pushing the country out of the euro.

Under the bailout agreement, Laiki's ECB funds will pass to Bank of Cyprus and the central bank will "provide liquidity to BoC in line with applicable rules".

Anticipating a run when banks reopen on Tuesday, parliament has given the government powers to impose capital controls.


About 200 bank employees protested outside the presidential palace on Sunday chanting "troika out of Cyprus" and "Cyprus will not become a protectorate".

In a stunning vote on Tuesday, the 56-seat parliament rejected a levy on depositors, big and small. Finance Minister Michael Sarris then spent three fruitless days in Moscow trying to win help from Russia, whose citizens and companies have billions of euros at stake in Cypriot banks.

On Friday, lawmakers voted to nationalise pension funds and split failing lenders into good and bad banks - the measure to be applied to Laiki. The plan to tap pension funds was shelved due to German opposition, a Cypriot official said.

The tottering banks held 68 billion euros in deposits, including 38 billion in accounts of more than 100,000 euros - enormous sums for an island of 1.1 million people which could never sustain such a big financial system on its own.

(Additional reporting by Luke Baker, John O'Donnell, Robin Emmott, Philip Blenkinsop and Rex Merrifield in Brussels, Michele Kambas, Karolina Tagaris, Costas Pitas in Nicosia and Lionel Laurent in Paris. Writing by Paul Taylor, editing by Mike Peacock)

Related Stories:
Cypriot parliament does not need to vote on bailout - German finance minister

Cypriot Laiki bank to be closed down, Bank of Cyprus restructured
Cyprus to get first tranche of bailout in early May
Senior bondholders face haircut in Cyprus

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Malaysian Rubber Board to launch new strategies to spur rubber industry

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 06:37 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) is planning to launch a second edition of strategies for the local rubber industry within the next few months in view of the new challenges and prolonged issues in the thriving industry, according to director-general Datuk Dr Salmiah Ahmad.

The local rubber industry has shown tremendous growth over the years. In 2011, the industry contributed RM39.8bil in terms of export earnings, 200% higher than RM13.27bil in 2000 reflecting an annual average growth of 16.7%.

Despite the favourable growth, Salmiah told StarBiz that serious attention was needed to sustain the continued growth of both the rubber upstream and downstream sectors.

Under the upstream sector, the major areas which would continously be developed are the declining natural rubber (NR) production and the domestic low productivity.

She pointed out that the Malaysian upstream natural rubber production sector since 1982 has contracted in size especially in the estate sector as investors shifted factor resources to alternative investments that promise better return.

"This is due to long term price decline prior to 2002 which have made returns unattractive and incomes low for the smallholders prior to the price increases starting from 2002.

"Thus, under Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the Government has initiated two Entry Point Projects (EPPs) such as increasing average national rubber productivity to 2,000 kg per ha per year by 2020 (EPP 1) and ensuring sustainability of the upstream rubber industry (EPP 2) to address this issue," Salmiah explained.

These two EPPs are also initiated to overcome issue on low productivity and supply of NR. Despite efforts to improve productivity and production, she noted that production of NR had decline by 8% to 9% in 2012 owing to unfavourable weather conditions.

"There is no indication to show that production will pick up this year. What more with unskilled tappers used in harvesting have seriously impacted on rubber trees in the long run," she added.

Productivity still remain low due to the existence of old and low yielding clones, ageing smallholders that do no comply with good agriculture practices, unskilled harvesters and low adoption of latest latex harvesting technologies and low mechanisation.

According to Salmiah, Malaysia's average yield per ha stands at about 1,500 kg, which is much lower than other major NR producing countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

On the downstream Sector, she noted that industry players particulary rubber-based product manufacturers had to dealt with the implementation of the minimum wage, increase in gas tariffs and NR feedstock prices, labour shortage and also growing environmental-related issues.

With the implementation of the minimum wage since Jan 1 this year, a minimum hike of around 29% was expected, Salmiah said.

For example, the domestic rubber glovemakers which rely more on manual labour, have been on a labour reduction drive.

It is believed that many of these players had incurred capital expenditure of RM70mil to RM80m each to improve on automation levels as "they plan to cut their unskilled workforce involved in stripping, counting and stacking by as much as 30% in 2013," explained Salmiah.

"The impact of the wage hike for major manufacturers could be as little as 2% of total production cost this year as a result of the decrease in the number of workers. In general, labour accounts for 8% to 9% of the glovemakers' total production cost," she added.

However, the implementation of the minimum wage will not have an impact on labour in the upstream sector as the current wages received by workers in rubber plantation are well above the minimum wage recommended.

In addition, gas accounted for 4% to 7% of the total production costs of glove making and therefore any increase in gas tariffs would also see rubber glovemakers' costs increasing by 5% to 8% this year, said Salmiah.

"The cost of raw materials (NR feedstock) for glove manufacturers is expected to register an increase between February and May this year as the wintering season sets in and NR production will decline.

"Rubber prices in turn will trend lower once production returns to normal after the wintering season," she said.

For this year, Salmiah also expected the strong demand for nitrile gloves to continue to take away the market share of latex rubber gloves.

In Europe, the latex versus nitrile demand split was at 65%:35% compared with the United States whereby the split was about 30%:70%.

Salmiah said this was due to the price competitiveness of nitrile gloves as they were a premium substitute for latex powder-free gloves.

"The nitrile glove demand grew at around 20% to 30% in 2011-2012, and it is expected that the double-digit growth momentum will continue into 2013," she added.

Meanwhile, both the midstream and downstream sectors would continue to depend on the importation of NR either in latex or dry rubber from the neighbouring rubber producing countries.

Based on statistics in 2011, Malaysia imported 667,434 tonnes of NR which comprise of 45% latex while the remaining of 55% is dry rubber. But she pointed out that focus has been given to the recent shortage of latex to meet the requirement of latex based products which contribute about 80% of export earnings of rubber product sub sector.

Salmiah said the local rubber industry was also facing shortage of labour particularly in the upstream and downstream activities and has to depend on foreign workers.

In 2010, 52.7% of 78,878 workers in the rubber product manufacturing were foreign workers. Substantial costs have been incurred by manufacturers to recruit and train new foreign workers from time to time.

Therefore, the continued scarcity of labour experienced by the local rubber industry would also increase the cost of production among industry players this year, said Salmiah.

Another emerging issue is on the growing concern on the environment which resulted in the introduction of stringent international standards for environmental protection, which constitute non-tariff barriers imposed by importing countries.

"The rubber industry particularly the midstream sector is constantly facing increasing stringent environmental regulations due to global trends towards environmental awareness and conservation," Salmiah noted.


Tips on how to make your investments make money, What’s luck got to do with it?

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 06:35 PM PDT

There seems to be a certain pattern among investors the ones who have somehow been always able to make good investment returns and the ones who almost always don't. And the common view among those who don't is that it is attributed to some kind of "bad luck". These are misconceptions, writes JOYCE CHUAH

ON the surface, it sometimes seems as if luck does have something to do with one's record of bad historical returns. Can it be true that luck really has a hold on our money? And can luck be so powerful'?

Essentially, there is no such thing as luck factors', only misconceptions about how markets react to varying economic, political, and environmental circumstances. These misconceptions are merely your biased observations which will only leave you with an impoverished financial mindset.

Minimising these very misconceptions is important. Just as some people employ psychic strategies to minimise their "streak of bad luck", there are also strategies which can be used to minimise these poverty-driven misconceptions.

DEVELOP AN INVESTMENT PLAN: Don't change your goals and directions frequently. Always make gradual rather than drastic adjustments.

BE PATIENT WITH YOUR PLAN: Review your plan annually and not on a monthly basis.

UNDERSTAND HOW EQUITY MARKETS WORK: Equity markets never move in a straight upward line. Wrong performance expectations simply produce detours away from your original portfolio goals.

PREVENT ANALYSIS PARALYSIS': Your decision-making powers can be easily short-circuited by over-analysing data and trends.

AVOID SPECULATION AND PESSIMISM: Speculation can lead you into a zero sum game when it is not controlled. On the other hand, pessimism makes you ignore buying opportunities when prices fall.

Remember that even professional gamblers do not believe in luck; they always have a game plan to win. What about you?


DiGi, Malaysia’s third largest celco, on track to complete network modernisation by year-end

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 06:28 PM PDT

SHAH ALAM: DiGi.com Bhd, the third biggest mobile network operator by market capitalisation on Bursa Malaysia, is on track to complete its network modernisation by the end of this year.

Its chief technology officer Ole Martin Gunhildsbu said: "After the modernisation, our customers will automatically be able to enjoy wireless fibre-like speeds on upcoming Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile devices.

"This upgrade had started since 2011 and we invested RM700mil in capital expenditure in 2012 where a significant portion went towards this purpose.

"This is our effort to allow customers to surf quickly on the single Radio Access Network (s-RAN) and the hundreds of millions ringgit in investments for the network modernisation is with the hope we will eventually receive better returns that will make our customers happy," Gunhildsbu told StarBiz in an interview.

S-RAN is capable of delivering multi-spectrum data solution on the 2G, 3G and 4G-LTE bands from a single base station site.

Sectoral analysts said the successful migration to the s-RAN platform will potentially lower overall costs per customer and could in turn increase average revenue per user given the higher efficiency in delivery.

"I do not discount this as this is a new technology altogether as the telcos aim to be more efficient in overall aspects," an analyst from a bank backed equity research firm said.

Meanwhile when asked to comment on the matter of "dropped calls" for which it had been fined by the regulator, Gunhildsbu, who is in charge of Digi's network, said it was not in the company's interest to allow this matter to linger on.

"This matter of dropped calls is present with any mobile operator in the world and it really is not in Digi's interest to allow this issue to fester.

"Dropped calls are akin to the traffic jams we face on the highways - sometimes happens because of factors such as peak hour usage etc," he said.

"We understand that the more dropped calls we have, the less revenue we will earn.

Thus, dropped calls are really not in our interest: and we do not earn money from dropped calls as alleged by some quarters," he added.

Gunhildsbu also presented the company's own internal study which claimed improvements in its network drop call rate and lost stood at 0.66% in the first quarter of calendar year 2013.

He added Digi's internal ambition is to reach less than 0.60% drop call rate by the end of this year and noted that the rate for the Klang Valley area is lower at 0.52% in the quarter.

"We may be the third operator (in terms of market capitalisation) in Malaysia and we may have our weaknesses due to certain limitations out of our control such as network spectrum flexibility," Gunhildsbu said.

"Despite the limitations we aim to be on par in terms of providing the best service we can to our customers - thus the emphasis on our network modernisation drive.

"We can then be on par or better than our competitors in certain areas," he added.

He noted the risk of dropped calls are higher when one uses their mobile phone while driving at 120kmph on the highways due to the process of handover' between any two base station towers.

On a related matter, Gunhildsbu also said Digi and the other telco operators are also facing the continued issue of vandalism and theft at its base stations that if left unchecked can cause havoc despite sounding petty on the surface.

"The incidences of this is about 60-100 occurrence per month.

"They can be stolen cables, batteries or telecomm equipments.

"We are working with the police and relevant authorities to help resolve this problem but we believe there can be further improvements in this area," he said.


Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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Red Bull's Vettel steals thunder from Mark Webber

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 06:41 PM PDT

REIGNING world champion Sebastian Vettel was hell-bent on finishing the Petronas Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix race in pole position where he started – for his first win of the season and his third win at Sepang. But not before sparking controversy by ignoring team-orders not to overtake his team-mate Mark Webber.

The pair were repeatedly engaged in wheel-to-wheel racing in the closing stages of the 56-lap race before Vettel broke clear – despite the team having ordered them to hold station with Webber ahead.

Conditions had been wet at the start of the race following a shower and last year's winner at Sepang, Fernando Alonso, was the first to retire early when he sustained wing damage on his Ferrari after nudging Vettel on the opening lap.

Alonso, who started third on the grid, immediately passed team-mate Felipe Massa off the line and attacked Vettel for the lead, but slid lightly into the Red Bull car. The Spaniard's wing collapsed in the end as he skated into the gravel.

Vettel and Webber then ran first and second, swapping positions at the pitstops as Vettel's early change to slicks turned out not to be the best decision.

Webber came under increasing pressure from Vettel in mid-race. This prompted Vettel to urge the team to get Webber out of his way but the Australian managed to rebuild a lead and Vettel found himself dropping behind the earlier-pitting Hamilton at the third pit-stops.

Hamilton lost pace in the next stint as he had to start saving fuel, allowing Vettel to reclaim second into the first corner. The world champion then pitted early at the fourth and final pit visit, which brought him right back onto Webber's tail when the Australian changed tyres.

They grappled wheel-to-wheel through the first five corners for two consecutive laps, prompting frantic radio calls from a concerned Red Bull pit-wall, before Vettel got in front and went on to take the chequered flag.

There were no celebrations on the Red Bull pit-wall and the duo were stony-faced on the podium. A fuming Webber was heard angrily confronting Vettel with the phrase "multi 21", believed to be team code for holding station.

Webber confirmed during the tense podium interview later that Red Bull had asked the team to cruise to the end in order but Vettel had ignored that instruction to steal victory from him.

"After the last stop, the team told me the race was over and we turned the engine down to go to the end. I want to race as well but in the end, the team made a decision which we always say before the start of the race is how it's probably going to be, we look after the tyres and get the cars to the end.

"In the end, Seb made his own decisions today and will have protection as usual and that's the way it goes.

"I turned my engine down and started cruising on the tyres, and then the fight was on. I was disappointed with the outcome of today's race," said the Australian.

Vettel later apologised for denying his team-mate his first victory at Sepang. "At the end, I felt I had strong pace and on a new set of medium tyres, I had a bit more speed and it was a close fight, but I did a big mistake today.

"We should have stayed in the positions we were in. I didn't ignore it (the order) on purpose but I messed up in that situation. I took the lead from Mark, which I can see now he is upset about, but I want to be honest and stick to the truth, and apologise," said Vettel.

"I took quite a lot of risk to pass him and I should have behaved better. It doesn't help his feelings right now. Apologies to Mark and now the result is there, but all I can say is that I didn't do it deliberately."

It was not the only controversy at play. The Mercedes cars were involved in their own intra-team controversy. After Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg swapped places repeatedly for several laps, they were ordered to hold station and save fuel and tyres, to Rosberg's clear displeasure. Hamilton eventually cruised to third place ahead of Rosberg while Ferrari had to settle for fifth with Felipe Massa, who recovered after losing ground in the early stages of the race.

That place would have gone to Jenson Button had the McLaren ace not lose two minutes in the pits after pulling away with a loose right front wheel and having to stop in the pitlane and wait for his mechanics to retrieve the car.

Malaysia’s Tommy back with MSS Touring ‘bang’

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 03:50 PM PDT

MALAYSIA'S Tommy Lee marked his comeback to motor-racing with a "bang" as he won Race 2 of the Malaysian Super Series (MSS) Touring Production class at the Sepang International Circuit yesterday.

Tommy, the only driver who won the 12-hour Malaysia Endurance Race (MMER) three times, took over driving duties from partner Damien Dielenberg, who won Race 1 on Saturday.

Showing a bit of rust after a long absence from racing, Tommy in his Honda Integra DC5 took some time to hold the race before winning the eight-lap race in 20:36.708. P. Krishnan, also in a Honda Integra DC5, settled for second place in 20:41.318 while A. Kesavamoorthy (Honda Integra DC5) came third in 20:48.649.

Tommy tried to break away when the Safety Car drove into the pit lane entry for the rolling start but Kesavamoorthy, who clearly had a faster Honda Integra DC5 machine, followed Tommy closely and managed to pass at the first turn but lost the lead back to Tommy on the ensuing tight Turn 2 and Turn 3.

Entering the second lap, Kesavamoorthy again made a successful passing manoeuvre at Turn 1 on Tommy, who again managed to take over the lead, which he was able to hold until the chequered flag.

"I have to defend very hard. I must say that it was much easier to win in those days than now. You have to really, really work hard for it," said Tommy, who confirmed that he would be doing a full season of the MSS.

"I am actually only the second driver for the team and supporting Damien in the MSS. The new rules allow two drivers and I am really, really pleased about it. We may also compete in the S1K (Sepang 1000 Kilometre) race, but we definitely need a new car as it's a very, very competitive event."

In the Malaysian Touring Car Challenge, Syafiq Ali of Proton R3 Motorsports scored his second victory; winning the class with a time of 21:29.173.

Indonesian Andrew Haryanto took second place in 22:01.555, finishing ahead of the second Proton R3 Motorsport driver, James Veerapan, who had to be contented with third placing in 22:08.261.

McLaren face problems at pit stop in Sepang

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 03:50 PM PDT

MCLAREN'S woes continued at the Malaysian Grand Prix yesterday after Jenson Button, who ran in a respectable fifth for most of the race, retired with mechanical problems late in the race.

And Sergio Perez finished the race in ninth spot to collect two points.

Button had a disastrous pit stop when his right front wheel was improperly secured and he dropped back in the pack. He managed to climb up to 12th before being called in for another mechanical problem late in the race.

"We drove a good race today. Strategy-wise, we did everything right. We pitted on the correct laps and looked after the tyres exactly as we should have done," said Button.

"We finished fifth because of the problems in during the pitstop. We could have even ended up third or fourth. It's very disappointing that we were not able to show our potential."

"Struggling with his front left tyre towards the end of the race, Button, who started on eighth position, was called into the pit.

It (tyre) kept locking up, and it was producing such a bad vibration that I think the guys were worried that it might damage the front left suspension if I carried on," he said.

Meanwhile, Perez had heaps of praise for the team as they set up the car to have a good acceleration early in the race to put him in a good position from his 10th place on the starting grid.

"Unfortunately, my tyres began to degrade a bit too much towards the end, especially my front left and we felt it would be too risky to try to drive to the finish on that set. I had no option but to pit for another set of tyres and that caused me to lose position," said Perez.

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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Jacqueline Harvey is delighting young readers

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 08:19 AM PDT

Alice-Miranda is set for more adventures.

IN Alice-Miranda At School by Jacqueline Harvey, the titular character makes a phone call to her parents and is greeted with "Oh, darling, so it really is awful? We'll come and get you straight away."

Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones is not your average seven-year-old. For one, her full name is a mouthful and she's in her first year of boarding school at the posh Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies. Imagine going through the first day of boarding school with a long name like that. Then, instead of crying to mum and dad about how awful it all is, Alice-Miranda loves every minute of it – much to the dismay of her clingy parents!

In an exclusive telephone interview from Singapore where the Australian author is currently on a whirlwind book tour, Harvey explains how the whimsical book series about a very articulate and affable young girl came to be.

"I started writing Alice-Miranda as a character for a picture book. Over time, I realised that she had so much more to say so I decide to expand it into a book," says Harvey.

Could the inspiration for Alice-Miranda have come from Harvey's life experience as a teacher at boarding schools? After all, till October last year, Harvey served as deputy of development at a girls school in Sydney, Australia.

"No, Alice-Miranda is not based on any specific student that I personally know. But I've met a lot of children in my line of work and I can say that some of them have inspired me to write Alice-Miranda."

The Alice-Miranda series has been around and growing in popularity since 2010, when In School was first published. Since then, Alice-Miranda has gone from adventures in school and on a cruise to New York city, and now to a fashion runway in Paris. Harvey is delighted to talk about the latest Alice-Miranda In Paris book.

"The book is the seventh one in the series and it follows Alice-Miranda on a school-trip to Paris. As usual, she goes on an adventure, solving mysteries and meeting new friends. One of them is a fashion designer who says he's been robbed. Alice-Miranda also finds out that there's more to the fashion designer than meets the eye."

Harvey describes Alice-Miranda as a "perpetually positive seven-year-old", someone who will stop at nothing to help anyone in need. In the first book, Alice-Miranda In School, for instance, where Alice-Miranda is very much the new kid on the block, she decides to take matters into her own hand to a couple of troubled characters she meets. The new girl also encounters bullies (one of them is snooty Alethea Goldsworthy – hell hath not seen fury like a spoilt child scorned) and a seemingly hostile headmistress (the appropriately named Miss Grimm).

"What I really like about Alice-Miranda is that she chooses to see the good in everyone. Whenever someone is mean to her, she sees past the behaviour and often thinks that there is a valid reason for someone to be that way."

For Harvey, the process of writing Alice-Miranda is about "finding the right voice". Bullying is a prevalent theme in the Alice-Miranda series and Harvey thinks it's something that a lot of her young readers can relate to.

"It's such an age-old issue. I think any school that says bullying doesn't happen on their premises is lying. In fact, most parents don't know how to talk to their children about how to overcome bullies."

Apart from Alice-Miranda, Harvey also has another series for younger readers. Clementine Rose is a charming series which revolves around the adventures of a little girl and her pet teacup pig, Lavender. So far there are three books in the series and Harvey happily says that Clementine Rose will crossover with Alice-Miranda.

"Oh yes, it's going to happen. Readers have to watch out for the next Clementine Rose book!"

> Jacqueline Harvey's books are available at Times bookstores Malaysia as well as other major bookstores. The books are distributed by Pansing.

Haunted by the past

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 01:19 AM PDT

An author attempts to explain today's driven Chinese through the lives of three women who grew up during the Cultural Revolution.

The Bathing Women

Author: Tie Ning

Publisher: Blue Door, 368 pages

THIS book has a huge span, from the Cultural Revolution all the way to the go-go years of modern China. And just as vast as that period, just as much China has evolved in that time – that is how much change the characters in The Bathing Women undergo.

In the end, as China begins to move awkwardly into modernity, the characters come to terms with their own identities, accepting their personalities that have so acutely been shaped by their country's history. Still, there are voids, strange voids.

A feminist fiction set against the backdrop of tumultuous revolution and economic reform, this book is an allegory that focuses on misogyny, deprivation, rivalry, friendships, and romance.

Having grown up during a period of history when no one is spared grief, the four characters of the story emerge as adults among the early waves of China's race to modernise. But the pain they suffer from the past continues to haunt them.

Fei, a beautiful orphan whose mother was condemned publicly as a female "hooligan" for bearing a fatherless child, grew up using arrogance as her defence and beauty as her weapon. She walks into an adulthood in which men become rich overnight but have not learned to conceal their vulgarity, and withers away, failing to find true love and be united with her biological father.

The contrast between the younger and older Fei is striking, though it emerges slowly as Fei, after all, is not the main character.

The central characters, Tiao and Fan, are sisters who have hazy recollections of a childhood during which a suffering people succumbed to the nihilism of failed political dogma. As the intellects are wasting away doing hard labour, their children bob around, observing pain and experiencing suffering. Tioa and Fan witness their mother's affair with a "small-eyed" doctor, who impregnates her despite his eager clumsiness. The new, youngest, daughter, the apple of their mother's eyes, falls into a manhole one day, an "accident" perpetrated by Tiao and Fan and their friend Fei.

Or was the tragedy caused by the voids in them, the holes caused by not being loved, not being cared for, not having enough to eat?

Such voids can't be filled, not even with the abundance that ensues when China opens its doors to the world.

Fei's helplessness epitomises the helpless feeling of many Chinese women who chase after their dreams in such economic tides. The void inside gnaws at her soul, and the eventual disease washes her away.

Tiao looks for love all her life, though true love is right next to her and has been since childhood. His love is indiscernible, as if anything from the vacuum of the past is highly improbable. "Kindness and forgiveness with a reason do not exist, that's for fairy tales," writes author Tie Ning, reflecting on the scepticism Tiao feels for human benevolence.

Tiao's younger sister Fan becomes an oddity, confused about her own identity in a foreign land and in her own bitter jealousy over her own sister.

Tiao is said to have pulled on Fan's hand to stop her from rescuing their illegitimate sister. But was it Fan who had a more decisive pull on Tiao's hand?

That tragic part of their lives has left a void, blurring their memories. But keen readers know – they both stopped each other from averting the tragic death from happening. That denial has left a void, giving Fan a reason to despise her sister.

This book is not just about suffering and how it is borne; it is about the affliction of pain in a dark period when every existence is denied, and that denial is firmly etched in people's mind as a norm of society, causing them to distrust and disbelieve.

"Some events out of the past are taboo subjects," writes Tie Ning.

China has already developed beyond this stage at which Fei, Tiao and Fan live in this entertaining, coming-of-age as adults fiction, and taboo subjects that come out of China's past continue to shock and dumbfound the rest of the world.

If the lives of Fei, Tiao and Fan exemplify life under the old regime and the beginnings of the economic tidal wave, we wonder how many other lives are also haunted by China's dark history and to what extent have personalities been shaped by it.

Whether or not the stiff translation has done the book poor justice, or whether the context is dated because the book was originally published in China in 2000, The Bathing Women does provide a glimpse into the old "forbidden kingdom" and an explanation for why Chinese distrustfulness, desperation, and burning desire to disassociate themselves from the past may somehow force the return of a meaningless revolution.

Not an easy job

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 01:16 AM PDT

THE late Maurice Sendak, or his work at any rate, is never far from my thoughts. He is my favourite write-illustrator although I do not always like his art. Believe it or not, I feel more enthusiasm for some of his stories than I do for his illustrations.

Higgledy Piggledy Pop, which my friend the author Rukhsana Khan thinks is rubbish, fills me with unaccountable (Rukhsana would roll her eyes) delight. Very Far Away is, to me, the most perfect and subtle portrayal of sibling rivalry and resentment, and the need children have to feel valued and heard. The Sign On Rosie's Door introduces readers to the most singular sensation who ever lived, on the earth or on the page. (I suspect my daughter is Rosie made flesh.) Where The Wild Things Are is exciting, astonishing and tender, full of anger and energy and love. Surely it's the best handbook for mothers of little boys.

I recently bought The Comics Journal's special issue on Maurice Sendak (who died last year aged 83). Among other interesting material there are two long interviews (the last interviews) with the man, totalling 71 pages (bliss!). In a retrospective on Sendak's work and life, the writer of the article, Philip Nel, says: "It seems wrong to limit him to the realm of children". Indeed, Sendak did more than write and illustrate children's books. He also designed album covers, dust jackets for novels, posters, and ballet and opera sets.

He is of course best known as a children's book illustrator and writer, but he didn't like the association because, in my opinion, he felt it caused people to think less of him. This is a problem everyone working in the field of children's literature faces. The ignorance and prejudice is mind boggling and, I suspect, will always exist: I don't think the world will ever be rid of narrow-minded donkeys, and we will always have to contend with insecure snobs who need to dismiss what they don't (or refuse to) understand in order to make themselves feel better and special.

In Malaysia (and perhaps the rest of the world too), it seems that there are a great many people who wish to write because they think it will bring them fame and fortune. A portion of these people choose to write for children because they feel it's easier than writing for adults. Then there are those who shrink at the mere suggestion that they write for young readers: "How dare you! I'm too good for that!"

Those of us who do write (for readers of all ages) will attest that it's bloody difficult to write well for anyone, and that it's laughable to imagine that you're too good for one or the other, or, indeed, good at all. We're all learning all the time, and hopefully we get better the more we do it but it's the slippery slope to nowhere to think you're god's gift to the writing world.

The Asian Festival of Children's Content will be on again this year in Singapore. Anyone who's thinking of writing or illustrating children's or young adult books should consider attending the Writers and Illustrators Conference (May 28 and 29) which is part of the festival. It's a good place to network with writers, illustrators, editors, publishers and others in the industry, and also to find out the reality of how things work in the region.

Speakers this year include the inspiring and talented illustrator and writer Naomi Kojima from Japan, the entertaining and effervescent Australian author Susanne Gervay, Golda Mowe the author of the brilliant Malaysian fantasy novel Iban Dream, and comic artist and Eisner nominee (the Oscars of the comic book industry) Sonny Liew. Malaysian speakers include Tutta Dutta-Yean, the author of several anthologies inspired by Asian myths and legends, and award-winning short story writer and young adult novelist Teoh Choon Ean. I too will be there at a panel discussing Asian themes in children's books.

While you won't get to meet anyone as exciting as Maurice Sendak, I don't doubt that the line-up at this year's festival will offer much food for thought and fodder for discussion.

> Daphne Lee is a writer, editor, book reviewer and teacher. She runs a Facebook group, called The Places You Will Go, for lovers of all kinds of literature. Write to her at star2@thestar.com.my.

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PM Najib joins youths at Sembang Mesra Belia

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 08:49 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of young people joined Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the Sembang Mesra Belia on Sunday night.

The event was held in conjunction with the Astro Fiesta Mesra Belia 1Malaysia at the Tesco Ampang open car park here.

In his speech, Najib said he was touched by the overwhelming support he received from youths.

"I am pleased to see such an outstanding turnout here. Congratulations to all of you for showing your spirit and loyalty to Malaysia," he said.

Najib spent about 10 minutes on stage with local artistes like Jay Jay, Black, Awie, Datuk DJ Dave and Datuk Hattan for a rendition of Inilah Barisan Kita.

Also present were Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek and Pandan MP Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat.

GE13: Nik Aziz wants PAS member not to contest as independent

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 08:31 AM PDT

KOTA BARU: The move by a PAS member to contest as an independent in the Guchil state seat could split the opposition, noted spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (pix).

Nik Abdul Aziz, who was clearly disappointed with the action of Guchil Hulu PAS chief, Muhamad Bustaman Yaacob, to contest against the PKR candidate, said it was an unwise move by a PAS member.

"In a tit-for-tat, DAP can also contest if it disagrees with a seat given to PAS, by putting up an independent. That will be disastrous for all," he said when met by reporters at his residence in Pulau Melaka here.

According to reports, Muhamad Bustaman offered to contest as an independent against PKR incumbent Tuan Zamri Ariff Tuan Zakaria as he was dissatisfied with the latter for allegedly failing to fulfill the Pakatan Rakyat spirit.

In the 2008 general election, Tuan Zamri Ariff won the Guchil seat when he defeated Barisan Nasional's Dr Shamsul Ikhwan Ashaari Azmi with a 1,000 vote majority. - Bernama

GE13: Thousands gather to express support for Penang BN

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 06:12 AM PDT

GEORGE TOWN: Thousands joined a "Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu" (United People's Gathering) at Padang Kota Lama here on Sunday to express their support for Barisan Nasional (BN).

The programme, organised by Sekretariat Rakyat Bersatu Pulau Pinang, began at 5pm and was attended by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop.

Penang Barisan chairman Teng Chang Yeow, state Umno Liaison Committee chairman Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman and state MIC deputy chairman L. Krishnan addressed the two-hour gathering.

They raised several issues, including low-cost houses, traffic congestion, the proposed construction of the undersea tunnel and alleged failure of the Penang DAP to fulfil pledges in its 2008 election manifesto.

Teng said that Penang Barisan was ready to take over the state administration and had drawn up a New Economic Plan as well as various other development programmes.

He said the Penang Barisan pledged to abolish toll imposed on motorcycles at the Penang Bridge if it was given the mandate to administer the state.

Teng told reporters later that the presence of the large crowd showed that the people were prepared to support Barisan in the next general election. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The form-idable woman in Claudia Manperl

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 08:17 AM PDT

This sculptress' works may be fashioned from bronze, but she might say they are actually formed by emotions.

TO meet Claudia Manperl is to understand firsthand the source of her art. The Spanish sculptress, whose works mainly revolve around the theme of "the woman", is the living embodiment of the feminine energy that pulsates in her pieces. Warm, humourous and confident, yet also introspective and emotive, she seems to imbue each of her sculptures with some intangible aspect of herself, which in turn draws in and connects with the viewer.

Having recently made Penang her home, the Argentinian-born Manperl is currently showing her works at NN Gallery in Ampang, Selangor, and they are fascinating indeed.

Perhaps it is their graceful, biomorphic forms, suggesting an intimate familiarity with the body while being just alien enough to draw the eye. Maybe it is the smooth, organic curves of bronze that glisten vividly with the patina of various hues, inviting you to run your hands over them. Or perhaps, it is the ideas and stories that each sculpture seems to whisper, whether of sensuality, empowerment, sadness or playfulness.

Take, for example, the pieces Vivir (To live) and Quien tu quieras que sea (Whoever you want me to be). Both are female nudes sculpted in a semi-realistic style; yet, the former exudes strength and wild sexuality while the latter signals a sort of naive submissiveness.

Manperl says her art is the product of her feelings, as well as the energy she picks up from others.

"I believe my art stands out because people feel an emotional connection to my work, they often feel an intense reaction when they see them."

She recounts how, about 10 years ago, when her mother passed away, she couldn't produce any work for six months. Then one day, she felt the compulsion to express all her emotions surrouding the event, and produced a sculpture in two hours, which she named Sadness.

"The amazing thing was, a woman attending one of my shows saw the piece and started crying. Apparently, it was because her mother had just passed away, and that piece rekindled her feelings about it, without her even knowing what had inspired me to make it!"

It isn't so surprising, however, that Manperl's works are so intertwined with her feelings; in fact, her foray into art began with an intense surge of emotion too.

"I became aware that I wanted to sculpt about 15 years ago, when I was in Florence, Italy," she explains. "I was in front of Michelangelo's sculpture, David. I was paralysed. I realised in that moment that this was my life path, to be a sculptress."

Remarkably, Manperl was in her early 40s at the time, and had thus far been working primarily in education, music teaching and psychology. But once she felt the call of the art, she knew there was no going back, and here she is, at age 57, still enjoying and evolving her work.

"I love to create, I need to create with my hands. And I love to play; even when I was teaching, I used to play all the time. Doing what I do allows me to let go and just let the inspiration flow. My work is very spontaneous, almost like meditation," she says.

Her works, she adds, revolve around themes of femaleness because that is what she can relate to the most.

"Well, I am a woman, and I want to reflect in my work a woman's thoughts, reflections, feelings and that special magic she employs to face life."

That's not to say she only exclusively sculpts female figures. Instead, she lets the work guide her.

"I don't confine myself to one thing in my art. Sometimes, the work connects more with a woman, and sometimes a man," she explains.

Pieces like Uno es dos (One equals two), for instance, juxtapose the masculine and female forms quite clearly, creating a sense of both harmony and tension, while something like El aventurero (The adventurer) is more subtle, incorporating rigid, masculine lines into a feminine-seeming work.

Colours, too, play an important part in her sculptures, and Manperl works hard to get the right patina for each piece.

"I patinate them in different colours that seem like silk, marble or stones; this helps to create the feeling I want for each piece," she says.

This can be seen in the way the rich shade of green on Por que (Why?), a female figure curved over in contemplation, lends the piece a thoughtful, almost melancholic air; meanwhile, the gorgeous cerulean blue of Mujer del mar (Woman from the sea) – an organically flowing female nude – evokes both tranquility and energy.

Manperl's style has been compared to that of British sculptor Henry Moore, known for his semi-abstractions of the human figure that often feature flowing curves and hollow spaces. Fans of German artist Kathe Kollwitz may also see her influence in Manperl's merging of abstraction and realism.

"I'm not figurative and I'm not abstract; it all depends on which style expresses what I want to say best. I'd call my works 'neo-figurative'," she says. "My work is a constant search of the synthesis of forms in a subjective universe. Through bronze, by creatively using emptiness and fullness, curves and tensions, I play with the space."

> Intimate Forms is showing at NN Gallery (53A & 56, Jalan Sulaiman 1, Taman Ampang Hilir, Ampang, Selangor) until March 30.

Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 9am-6pm (free admission). For more information, call 03-4270 6588 or visit www.nngallery.com.my

No more kitsch

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 01:27 AM PDT

Original of world's 'most popular'art print sold in London.

A picture dubbed the most reproduced fine art print in the world sold at auction in London on Wednesday for almost £1mil (RM4.73mil), a record for South African artist Vladimir Tretchikoff.

Chinese Girl was bought by the chairman of Graff Diamonds International, Laurence Graff, Bonhams auctioneers said.

"It's a new world record for Tretchikoff," a Russian emigre who settled in South Africa, Bonhams head of communications and marketing Julian Roup told AFP.

Graff, a British jeweller, will put the iconic painting on public display with the rest of his collection of South African art at the Delaire Graff Estate at Stellenbosch outside Cape Town.

"The picture is going home to Cape Town, where Tretchikoff painted it. It's rather wonderful," said Roup.

Chinese Girl is a simple charcoal drawing on a brown canvas illuminated by an iridescent green-blue face, luscious black hair and bright golden tunic.

Bonhams said it is widely believed to be the most reproduced fine art print, noting Tretchikoff himself claimed to have sold half a million large-format reproductions by the end of his career.

Roup said Wednesday's sale price, which includes a buyer's premium, signalled a new recognition for an artist who before his death in 2006 at the age of 92 was often regarded as "kitsch". – AFP Relaxnews

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