Ahad, 23 Jun 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

'Sopranos' star's body leaves Rome for New York

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 08:20 PM PDT

ROME (Reuters) - The body of actor James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack in Rome last week, was flown out of Italy on Sunday on a flight bound for New York, Rome airport authorities said.

Gandolfini, best known for his leading role in the Emmy-winning series The Sopranos, was found dead in his Rome hotel late on Wednesday.

The actor's body left Rome's Fiumicino airport on a private flight, an airport official said.

Family friend Michael Kobold, speaking to reporters in Rome, thanked the Italian authorities and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for helping to accelerate procedures.

Gandolfini was on holiday in Italy with his 13-year-old son and was due to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday. An autopsy showed had died of natural causes.

Gandolfini's performance as New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano made him a household name and helped usher in a new era of American television drama.

Since The Sopranos ended its six-season run in June 2007, Gandolfini had appeared in a number of big-screen roles, including the crime drama Killing Them Softly and Zero Dark Thirty, a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Gandolfini had been working on an upcoming HBO series, Criminal Justice, and had two films due out next year.

A big charity day

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 12:38 AM PDT

It's going to be a day of fun in the sun for a cause! Most of us take for granted what we have on a daily basis. The Star Radio Group's Red FM, Capital FM, Suria FM and 988 will embark on its first integrated charity event on June 30 called A Big Charity Day (ABC Day) at The Square, Publika in Kuala Lumpur to raise funds for two homes in dire need of assistance.

The two homes – Pertubuhan Kebaikan Anak-Anak Yatim Al-Nasuha and Angels Charity Home – provide shelter and guidance to those who have either been orphaned or rescued from broken homes. Without public assistance, these homes struggle to provide for the kids.

Kak Umi who runs Pertubuhan Kebaikan Anak-Anak Yatim Al-Nasuha, says, "We want to get a more comfortable house for the kids, but we can't afford it. One of the major challenges we currently face is to pay rent each month as our expenses per month totals up to RM20,000."

The announcers from all four stations will be there in full force.

The Red FM and Capital FM announcers will perform an improv comedy show, much like Whose Line Is It Anyway. Live for the first time, JJ and Lil' Kev from The Red Breakfast WTF will perform "Potong Line", their parody of chart topper Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines.

Suria FM announcers will be performing their very own dikir barat while 988 announcers will have a sing-and-dance show. All four stations will have outdoor broadcasts from Publika.

Ever dreamed of being on air, with people listening to what you have to say and share?

At ABC Day, all four stations will be holding live auditions for people who would like to be announcers. This is your chance to show off your gift of the gab.

Come on down and show off your talent! Along with announcer performances and the chance to try out to be the next big hit on radio, there will be a Thrift Store with designer items up for grabs, a book and toy sale and delicious baked treats on sale, too.

To buy all these items, purchase voucher books on the day of the event worth RM20 or RM50.

Do come over and join the fun for a good cause on June 30. This event is supported by Ah Huat White Coffee, Chatime, Foodpanda, Havaianas, Lennox Firm Up Plus Collagen, Life Centre, Massimo, Oloiya, Tropicana Twister and Yakult Ace Light.

Go behind bars

Posted: 24 Jun 2013 12:00 AM PDT

When it comes to life in prison, we only know what we have watched on TV shows and in movies. Here in Malaysia, the prison system is different from the US. Do you know visitation is allowed twice for the first month and only once subsequently for prisons in Malaysia? Find out more about the life of prisoners in Malaysia in 988's The Feature (Mon-Tues, 9am-10am)

Also on 988 this week >Morning Up VIP (Wed-Fri, 9am-10am) Starting his career as a DJ in a radio station in Hong Kong, Brian Chow Kwok Fung has rise up the rank to station manager. Chow said that the most embarassing moment in his career as a DJ was when he interviewed Jacky Cheung but failed to record the interview. He had to plead Cheung to redo the interview. A man with many talents, Chow produced the song Boat Of Love (Tong Zhou Zhi Qing) performed by Jacky Cheung and Eason Chan.

>Music VIP (Mon-Fri, 2pm) A good man, caring father, helpful friend. Whenever he has a concert, his friends will support him from the front row. 988's guest this week is Taiwanese star Richie Ren Xian Qi. Find out more about this affable singer on Music VIP.

> Special - Music Gets Crazy (Mon, 1pm-4pm) Only two more months before CN Blue's first ever concert in Malaysia. To all the "Boice" out there, tune in to 988 today for a lovely surprise. CN Blue's Blue Moon World Tour will be held on 24 August at Stadium Negara.

For more information, log on to www.988.com.my

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Nadayu up 3% to RM1.35 on privatisation plan

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 07:06 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Nadayu Properties Bhd's share price rose 3% to a high of RM1.35 amid a more cautious market on Monday after its major shareholders proposed to privatise it at RM1.39 a share.

At 9.49am, its share price was up two sen to RM1.32. There were 62,100 shares traded at prices ranging from RM1.31 to RM1.35. The FBM KLCI fell 0.83 of a point to 1,755.02. Turnover was 190.35 million shares valued at RM151.19mil. There were 159 gainers, 229 losers and 184 counters unchanged.

Last Friday, Nadayu's major shareholders proposed to take the company private via a selective capital reduction (SCR) and repayment exercise.

Nadayu said it had received a letter proposing the privatisation exercise from its major shareholders via ATIS IDR Ventures Sdn Bhd and Zhoujian Associates Sdn Bhd together with parties acting in concert.

Under the proposed SCR, shareholders other than ATIS IDR Ventures, Zhoujian Associates and parties acting in concert woul receive a capital repayment of RM93.124mil, or RM1.39 for each Nadayu share held.

This will result in reducing Nadayu's capital to 134.377 million shares, from 227.501 million, by cancelling 93.124 million shares.

The offer price of RM1.39 per share was 7.75% above the stock's closing price of RM1.29 on Thursday, prior to the trading suspension of Nadayu shares.

KLCI starts week in the red, sold-down stocks rebound

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 06:43 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's stock market started the week on Monday in the red, extending the decline from last week, as investors awaited leads from funds but stocks which were sold down in late trade last Friday rebounded.

At 9.15am, the KLCI fell 1.90 points to 1,753.95. Turnover was 98.80 million shares valued at RM81.51mil. There were 136 gainers, 140 losers and 132 counters unchanged.

BIMB Securities Research said the immediate support for the KLCI was at 1,755 with a more meaningful one at 1,750.

"Investors will be in for a bumpy ride this week as global equity markets is expected to remain volatile. With most now suffering from a withdrawal syndrome, focus from investors and traders alike will be centred on a host of economic data this week to gauge the inevitable," said the research house.

At Bursa Malaysia, Star gave up 81 sen to RM2.90 as investors took profit after its share price hit limit-up last Friday in late trade. CIMB Research, in a recent report, had a target price of RM3.12 and advised investors to accumulate the shares as it expected adex to pick up now that elections are over.

"The more than 6% net dividend yield provides protection from downside risk, in our view," it said.

Lafarge fell 56 sen to RM10.60, JCY 25 sen to 65 sen and CMSB 12 sen to RM5.36 while MSM lost 10 sen to RM4.91.

Among the consumer stocks, Carlsberg fell 26 sen to RM15.66 and Nestle 20 sen to RM66.50 but Ducth Lady added RM1.66 to RM47 and BAT 30 sen to RM59.80.

Batu Kawan rebounded, up RM4.02 to RM17.48 after hitting limit down last Friday in late trade while TDM added 87 sen to RM3.77 and palm oil mill builder CBIP added 57 sen to RM2.50.

Also up were BToto, surging 96 sen to RM4.16, Coastal Contracts 44 sen to RM1.92 and PetGas 24 sen to RM21.

Affin Research maintains "Buy" on Hai-O

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 06:35 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Affin Research is maintaining its "Buy" call on Hai-O Enterprise Bhd with a raised target price of RM3.20 from RM 2.98.

"Since we upgraded our rating from "Add" to "Buy" on Apr 4, 2013, the stock has appreciated by 12.8%, outperforming the KLCI by 7.8%. Notwithstanding the sharp rise in share price, we reckon that Hai-O's valuation remains highly undemanding.Furthermore, the stock also offers highly attractive yields at 5%," it said.

Affin said is forecasts a revised its financial year 2013 net profit growth of 39% on-year, an uplift from the earlier growth forecast of 23%.

"We remain positive on Hai-O's new operating strategy in driving its core MLM division. Our check with management indicated that the growth in new members registration, 80% Bumiputeras is encouraging, with 2,200-2,500 new members registered each month," it said.

It added its anticipates a stronger net profit growth and higher dividend payout.

"Embedded in our forecast is a final dividend per share of seven sen, bringing the total net dividend per share for FY04/13 to 13 sen," it said.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Rollins storms to fourth fastest 100m hurdles time in history

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 04:43 PM PDT

DES MOINES (Iowa): Brianna Rollins served notice she is a force to be reckoned with by matching the fourth-fastest 100m hurdles time in history at the US Athletics Championships on Saturday.

Running in her first US outdoor nationals, Rollins booked a berth at the World Championships by posting a dominant victory in a time of 12.26 seconds.

The fastest time the event has seen since 1992 immediately caught the eye of world and Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia.

"Looks like I am bringing my A++ game to Worlds this year with Brianna Rollins just running 12.26," Pearson said on Twitter.

Only Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova, who set the world record of 12.21 in 1988, and compatriot Ginka Zagorcheva have run faster.

"I just feel so overwhelmed, so emotional," Rollins said. "It is so amazing."

The 21-year-old, who until turning professional this month was competing for Clemson University, improved on her own season-leading time of 12.39.

She ran under that in both the heats and semi-finals, but both times were wind-aided. Rollins finally got a legal wind of 1.2m per second in the final and flew to an American record.

Queen Harrison was a distant second in 12.43 and Nia Ali third in 12.48 to claimed the final berth for the World Championships in Moscow on August 10-18.

Lolo Jones' hard luck in big events continued. The hometown favourite, who endured disappointment at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, was fifth.

Dawn Harper, who has a bye into the worlds as the Diamond League 100m hurdles winner last season, opted out of the semi-finals and final.

Rollins, whose best 100m hurdles time prior to this season was 12.70, has now established herself as a contender against the likes of Harper and Pearson.

It's heady stuff for an athlete who only took up running in high school "because someone told me I was fast."

She opted for hurdles "because I thought it was interesting and fun to do."

Rollins' scintillating performance was one of three world-leading performances on Saturday.

Olympic silver medallist Brigetta Barrett won the women's high jump with a season-leading 2.04m, and said she thought she could have jumped higher but followed her coach's instructions to stand pat and keep her eyes on Moscow.

Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley became the first man this year to break 48 seconds in the 400m hurdles, winning in 47.96.

Former world champion Kerron Clement was second in 48.06 and Bershawn Jackson third in 48.09. — AFP

Veteran Mahut wins maiden ATP title at the age of 31

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 04:32 PM PDT

HERTOGENBOSCH (Holland): Fre­nchman Nicolas Mahut (pic) won his first ATP title on Saturday taking the Topshelf Hertogenbosch Open event with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over favourite Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland.

The 31-year-old, whose ranking has slipped to 240th in the world after a knee injury, was appearing in just his third final.

Mahut, best known for having participated in the longest tennis match of all time with John Isner at Wimbledon in 2010, adapted best to the conditions which saw rain intervene twice in the first set, the second time at 3-3.

Mahut broke Wawrinka, ranked 10th in the world, on their return and had no problem in wrapping up the set.

"After all the difficulties these past months this win proves that I was right to keep going," he said.

Mahut was given a wild card entry for Wimbledon, which gets under way today, and will play Czech Jan Hajek in the first round.

Isner tweeted his congratulations to the Frenchman.

"Congrats to @nmahut on his title in Holland! No one deserves it more than him. Well done!," wrote the American.

In the women's section, Rom­ania's Simona Halep's rich vein of form continued as she won her second successive WTA title beating Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-4, 6-2.

Halep, 21 and ranked 45th in the world, had won her maiden title in Nuremberg, Germany, last Sunday.

For her fourth-seeded opponent, aged 27 and ranked 20th in the world, it left her without a victory in three matches with Halep.

Halep, who plays Belarus' Olga Govortsova in the first round at Wimbledon, broke Flipkens on her first service game of the second set and was never troubled after that in recording her 10th successive win. — AFP

Athletes cite worsening air condition for poor results

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 04:45 PM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The worsening haze condition clearly affected the performances of many national athletes on the third and last day of the National Closed Athletics Champ­ionships at the National Sports Council (NSC) Training Track in Bukit Jalil.

Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, 25, went against his coach Raymie A. Bakar's advice to compete in the men's 110m hurdles yesterday.

The Sabahan, who has a personal best of 13.80, could only win the event in a poor 14.05.

And he even had difficulty breathing after the event.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) reading at Bukit Jalil was 111 at 11am yesterday.

"My coach told me not to compete but I didn't listen to him because I wanted to qualify for the Myanmar SEA Games," said Rayzam.

"I should have listened to him. The haze affected my performance.

"I also had difficulty breathing after the event. I was also feeling jet-lagged as I only returned from a training stint in Germany last Wed­nesday," added Rayzam, who won the gold medal in the 110m hurdles in the 2007 Korat SEA Games.

Nauraj Singh, who won the men's high jump after clearing 2.15m, was another athlete whose performance was affected by the haze.

"I had to use a face mask during the warm-up and my eyes were smarting due to the haze.

"I could have done better if not for the haze," said Nauraj, who achieved a personal best of 2.16m in the Malaysian Grand Prix at the same venue to qualify for the SEA Games.

The 21-year-old Nauraj, of Johor, said that although he had qualified for the SEA Games, his mission this year was to further improve on his personal best, which he hopes to do at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, next month.

National sprinter Komalam Shally, who was pipped to the gold in the women's 100m on Friday, won the 200m in 25.51 yesterday, blaming the haze for her poor time.

Her time was almost a second slower than her personal best of 24.55.

Komalam, who lost to Zaidatul Husnia Zulkifli in the 100m final, said that she was not too concerned with her time in the 200m as "it is not my pet event".

"I didn't really prepare for the 200m as my favourite is the 100m," said Komalam.

"The haze is bad today (yesterday). The conditions were not good to compete."

Meanwhile, S. Kannathasan, who has qualified for the Myanmar SEA Games in the 400m, clocked 21.67 to win the men's 200m gold.

Kannathasan, who will feature in the World University Games, however, failed to qualify for the SEA Games in the 200m as the qualifying mark is 21.05.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

'Letters to Jackie' opens US documentary film festival

Posted: 21 Jun 2013 12:32 AM PDT

WASHINGTON (AFP) - One of America's premier documentary film festivals got underway late Wednesday with a fresh look back on the life and times of John F. Kennedy based on moving condolence messages to his widow.

Letters To Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy marries archival footage with poignant words of sympathy from the 800,000 letters sent to Jacqueline Kennedy in the two months after JFK's assassination 50 years ago this November.

It set the tone of the American Film Institute's AFI Docs festival, which over five days will unspool 53 documentaries, many of them with a distinct political flavor, in theaters in Washington and surburban Silver Spring, Maryland.

Highlights include Herblock: The Black And The White, a biopic of the iconic Washington Post political cartoonist, and Documented, in which journalist Jose Antonio Vargas describes his life after outing himself as an illegal migrant.

Directed by Oscar winner Bill Couturie, Letters To Jackie grew out of an eponymous anthology of condolence letters and telegrams to the former first lady compiled by Ellen Fitzpatrick, published two years ago.

Reading off-camera the selected two dozen or so letters from grief-stricken Americans from all walks of life is a constellation of Hollywood stars from Betty White, 91, to Hailee Steinfeld, 16.

"When this tragedy struck, I felt like Peter Pan when Tinker Bell was dying," wrote one letter-writer gripped by a sense of helplessness. Another declared by way of a postscript: "I wish I could get my hands on that assassinator."

Others in the film's largely female cast of voices include Berenice Bejo, Jessica Chastain, Zooey Deschanel, Kirsten Dunst, Anne Hathaway, Melissa Leo and -- conveying the words of a US army lieutenant in Berlin -- Channing Tatum.

"What I find so amazing is that common people sit down and they spill their heart out," said Couturie prior to a gala evening screening at the Newseum, a museum in downtown Washington dedicated to journalism.

"There is so much compassion, so much wisdom, it makes you so proud to be a human being, and in some cases to be an American," added the filmmaker, an Oscar winner in 1990 for his AIDS film Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt.

"These letters had a way of trying to show there is so much more that brings us together than pulls us apart."

With lots of mood music plus home movies from the Kennedy clan's Cape Cod summer holidays, the film at times feels hagiographic, before Martin Luther King appears to remind viewers how Kennedy sometimes wavered on civil rights.

Couturie also prudently makes a point of underscoring JFK's role in escalating the United States' fateful involvement in the Vietnam war, as well as poignant references to the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Supporting the project was Steven Spielberg's production house Amblin Entertainment and the TLC cable channel, which plans to air it this autumn when the United States alongside commemorations of Kennedy's death.

Robert Downey Jr. back for 'The Avengers' 2 & 3

Posted: 20 Jun 2013 08:38 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Robert Downey Jr., who has gained huge box-office success with his portrayal of Iron Man, has signed on to star as the superhero in the next two installments of the The Avengers, Marvel Studios said on Thursday.

Downey, 48, was one of the main stars of the 2012 all-star superhero film The Avengers, which united Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor and the Black Widow.

The Avengers, made by Walt Disney Co's Marvel Studios, became the third highest-grossing film of all time, with US$1.5 billion at the worldwide box office.

Downey is expected to be joined by Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson in reprising their superhero roles for The Avengers 2.

The Avengers 2, set for release on May 1, 2015, will be directed by Joss Whedon. Marvel said the film would reunite the superheroes from the first film, as well as introducing Marvel characters never seen in film before.

The three Iron Man films starring Downey from 2008 to 2013, have grossed more than US$2.4 billion at the worldwide box office.

Iron Man 3 released last month has become the highest-grossing film of the year, with US$1.2 billion in global ticket sales, and the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, Marvel said in a statement.

'Star Trek's Scotty heads for the final frontier

Posted: 20 Jun 2013 08:25 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The remains of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of sci-fi fantasy television series Star Trek, will head for the final frontier next year. Scotty will be going along with him.

Rodenberry's cremated remains, along with those of his wife, Majel, and actor James Doohan, who played starship engineer Scotty in the original 1960s Star Trek series, will be launched into deep space in November 2014 by the memorial spaceflight company Celestis.

They will be part of a cargo that will include other cremated remains, written messages and samples of DNA in capsules sent by the general public, Celestis said on Thursday.

"What's very cool about this is that it's science fiction meeting reality," Celestis spokeswoman Pazia Schonfeld said.

The messages and remains will be placed on a spacecraft called a solar sail, which is powered by sunlight and made to withstand high temperatures, and headed for orbit around the sun, Celestis said.

The solar sail's journey will be captured by cameras on board the craft and streamed live online.

The flight will not be the first time the remains of Roddenberry, who died in October 1991 at age 70, and Doohan, who was 85 when he died in 2005, have been in space.

Roddenberry was part of Celestis' inaugural flight in 1997, when his remains were taken on a trip into space before returning to Earth. An urn containing some of Doohan's remains were sent into space in 2012.

Members of the public are invited to join Roddenberry and Doohan on Celestis' Sunjammer Voyager Mission, submitting names for free and samples of writing or messages at a price. Sending cremated remains into deep space starts at US$12,500.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Champion of colour

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 01:30 AM PDT

Britain's newest children's laureate talks comics, cliffhangers and why she's banging the drum of diversity in literature.

BY the time Malorie Blackman read a work of fiction featuring black characters, she was 23. The book was Alice Walker's The Color Purple, set in the American South in the 1930s, and its impact on her was huge.

Blackman was then working as a computer programmer, having given up her childhood dream of becoming an English teacher after the careers adviser at her London secondary school put her off. But she still read children's books, and in her spare time began to write her own, and imagine they might one day be published.

It took a long time. None of the texts for picture books she offered publishers was accepted, and she changed tack before an editor at the Women's Press said yes to a collection of short stories for teenagers that blended horror and science fiction. Published after she left her job watching stock prices in the City of London – because she "couldn't care less whether the prices went up, down or sideways" – it was called Not So Stupid!

Earlier this month, Blackman, now 51, was named Britain's eighth children's laureate, a position she inherits from mega-selling Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson and will hold for two years, until 2015. At the announcement of her appointment in London, a few days before publication of her latest novel for teenagers, Noble Conflict, she looks delighted.

"I think younger children have been incredibly well served by the laureates we've had, but maybe teenagers haven't had as much of a look-in, so I'm looking forward to redressing the balance," she says.

Blackman is also the first black laureate and a forceful advocate for black and ethnic minority children's needs and rights. As a child, Blackman loved myths, legends and fairytales, and comics such as Bunty, Judy and Jinty. She read Elinor Brent-Dyer's chalet school stories, Joyce Lankester Brisley's Milly-Molly-Mandy series and later Agatha Christie, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. She loved them all, she says, "but I was very aware that I was not in the books I was reading. I still remember feeling I was totally invisible in the world of literature".

In her 20s, Blackman was a volunteer reader in a south London primary school but her awareness of the lack of black faces in books didn't go away.

"I remember going into a bookshop and the only book I saw with a black child on the cover was A Thief In The Village by James Berry and I thought, is this still the state of publishing? Then I thought either I can whinge about it or try to do something about it. So that was a major reason for me wanting to write books for children, because I wanted to write all the books I'd missed as a child."

But it was years before Blackman would address the subject of race directly. She says people criticised her for not doing it sooner, "but people love to stick you in boxes and put labels on you, and I didn't want that. I thought, I wanted to write the kind of books I would have loved to have read as a child." These were books with characters who looked more like her, but not books with race as their theme. Most importantly, they were books that were hard to put down. Blackman is a devotee of the cliffhangers she enjoyed in her weekly comics, and makes an effort to end her chapters at a suspenseful point.

Her first novel, Hacker, pitted a teenage girl against the bank that thinks her father is a thief. She followed it up with several novels combining technological themes with thriller-type plots in which enterprising children rescue their parents and avert disasters.

Her writing was brisk and vivid, her focus on story more than style. But fearful once again of being pigeonholed, she thought "time to change, so then I wrote Pig-Heart Boy" – about a teenager who undergoes an experimental transplant, it was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal – "and some other books. I wanted to have a body of work behind me before I wrote about racism. But then with the Stephen Lawrence case I thought now I'm going to write about racism, but I'm going to do it my way." (Black teen Stephen Lawrence was killed in a racist attack in London in 1993.)

She planned to write about slavery and its legacy, "but all my friends – black, white, Asian, whatever – were underwhelmed by that idea. My white friends were like, what do you want to write about that for? It's so long ago. And my black friends were like, what do you want to write about that for? It's so painful." So she thought again, and came up with the idea for a series of dystopian adventures in which roles and races would be reversed.

The alternative modern society in which the Noughts & Crosses books are set is governed by the black Crosses, who have all the power, status and money, while the miserable underclass of former slaves are the white Noughts, otherwise known as "Blankers". The first book's plot revolves around the Romeo and Juliet-style romance (albeit with the emphasis more on friendship than sex) between Nought Callum and Cross Sephy, whose father is a government minister.

By making her young white characters the victims of oppression but without dwelling on their race, she offered a new way in. And while she was angry when she sat down to begin Noughts & Crosses, having just watched a TV documentary about the Stephen Lawrence case, she knew she had to channel this.

There was plenty of life experience that Blackman could pour into Noughts & Crosses, which she says was her most painful and satisfying book to write. Blackman, like Callum, was accused of stealing the ticket the first time she travelled in a first-class train compartment. And like Callum, she had a habit of standing up to her teachers. "I remember being in a history lesson and saying to my teacher, 'How come you never talk about black scientists and inventors and pioneers?' And she looked at me and said, 'Because there aren't any.'"

The racism Blackman experienced as a child in south London is shocking. Her father drove a bus, her mother worked in a pyjama factory, and there were five kids. The family avoided public places such as restaurants, and Blackman remembers being called a "jungle bunny" and told to go back to where she came from. "It was a strange and confusing time," she says. "I would think, but I was born in Clapham. But as a child, you get on with it."

She was sent out of class the first time she went to school with her hair loose in an afro, and was told by the careers adviser at her girls' secondary school that "black people don't become teachers".

Her education left her with many unanswered questions, some of which she answered for herself as a young adult when she spent much of her spare time and money in a specialist bookshop researching black history. It also shaped her conviction that efforts to engage ethnic minority children in education are essential if they are not to feel excluded.

Unlike British Prime Minister David Cameron, who argued two years ago that multiculturalism has failed, Blackman believes it needs to go further. "I don't think we've gone far enough with it in terms of making sure children know about different cultures and ways of living. If you want people to feel they are part of a society, it's about making it more inclusive.

"That's why I bang the drum for getting more diverse books out there, and for getting rid of the idea that if a book contains pictures of a black or Asian child, it's going to have a limited market."

Through talent, application and a self-belief she says she learned from her mother, Blackman made it. Her backlist features more than 60 books for all age groups, several of which have won awards. Pig-Heart Boy was adapted for television, and Noughts & Crosses won a spot in the BBC's 2003 "Big Read" poll of all-time favourite books.

But her life story also taught Blackman to distrust authority, and many of her novels are about the crises produced when those in charge get things wrong. In Noughts & Crosses we are invited to sympathise with terrorists. In her latest and even more dystopian novel, Noble Conflict, the reader is forced to switch sides.

Blackman's parents, she says, had an unquestioning attitude to those in charge of their children's education – when her teachers were racist her parents asked what she had done wrong.

But Blackman had a different response: when she was told she was not university material, for instance, she remembers thinking, "I'll show you, you old cow! If anything, it made me work harder."

But she knows not everyone had her confidence, and she speaks with sadness of "a whole generation, my generation, that was undervalued and lost". Newer immigrants, she suggests, don't carry the weight of frustration and disappointment of their African-Caribbean peers.

Over the next two years Blackman will do what she can to raise expectations, visiting schools and promoting libraries.

"As a child I loved Star Trek," she says. "You had Russians and Americans and a black officer and a Japanese officer, and I thought, yes that's the ideal, having all those people working together, when we get to the 21st century it's going to be brilliant because we're going to be past all this nonsense. And here we are in the 21st century and it's the same old, same old. Sometimes I feel we need to get over ourselves and move on. There are bigger issues." – Guardian News & Media


Posted: 23 Jun 2013 01:30 AM PDT

FOR the week ending June 16, 2013:


1.       Kid Chan's Guide To The Business Of Photography by Kid Chan

2.       Claude M. Bristol's The Magic Of Believing: A Modern-Day Interpretation Of A Self-Help Classic by John Middleton

3.       Wreck This Journal (Black): To Create Is To Destroy (Expanded) by Keri Smith

4.       Choose To Be Happy by Rima Rudner

5.       Proof Of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey Into The Afterlife by Eben Alexander

6.       Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

7.       Limitless: Devotions For A Ridiculously Good Life by Nick Vujicic

8.       Bossypants by Tina Fey

9.       Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

10. The Wit & Wisdom Of Lee Kuan Yew by Lee Kuan Yew


1.       Inferno by Dan Brown

2.       Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

3.       Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger

4.       The Great Gatsby (movie tie-in) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

5.       The Racketeer by John Grisham

6.       Robert Ludlum's The Janus Reprisal (A Covert-One Novel) by Jamie Freveletti

7.       A Wanted Man by Lee Child

8.       And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

9.       Manuscript Found In Accra by Paulo Coelho

10. The Garden Of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

> Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; www.mphonline.com.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

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The Star Online: Nation

Four SUPP seniors face disciplinary action over GE13 complaints

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 08:12 AM PDT

KUCHING: SUPP referred four more party members to its disciplinary committee, based on complaints received after the May 5 general election.

Party president Tan Sri Peter Chin declined to reveal who there were but agreed they were "quite senior members."

"After the general election, we received more complaints against certain personalities, relating to what happened in the constituencies.

"As usual, we will pass on (the complaints) to the disciplinary committee," Chin told reporters after the party's central committee meeting on Sunday.

Asked if SUPP could continue to take such actions after the Registrar of Societies (ROS) issued show-cause letters to two party branches, he said "Oh yes, of course, we have sacked two members. ROS did not indicate that was a problem."

Chin said delegates who spoke at the meeting were "not happy" with the slow pace of disciplinary action.

"Sixteen members spoke at length (on such issues) Which is why this time our resolution (passed during the meeting) was for the party to act 'swiftly'," he said.

SUPP has been rocked by factionalism for years. In the 2011 delegates conference, a party election was slated to be held, until Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh and his supporters pulled out at the eleventh hour, citing irregularities.

Two other resolutions passed were on the re-registration exercise of all party members to reflect a more accurate membership list. The meeting also urge the Government to step up efforts to fight "corruption, illegal gambling and crime".

Haze: All Port Dickson schools to close tomorrow

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 07:50 AM PDT

SEREMBAN - All schools in Port Dickson will be closed tomorrow due to the worsening haze which saw the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading touched the 300 mark Sunday.

The announcement was made by Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan at 9pm.

He said all schools should abide by the directive to ensure students remained indoors.

State Department of Environment director Charanpal Singh said the situation in Nilai and Port Dickson deteriorated throughout the day.

"Nilai registered a reading of 106 in the morning and by noon it was 188," he said.

He said Port Dickson registered the highest API reading so far with 205 on Friday.

The API in Seremban was slightly above the unhealthy level of 104.

Charanpal said the department opened an operations centre on Saturday to monitor the situation. The centre will be opened from 10am to 10pm daily.

Checks in Port Dickson showed that the number of picnickers had fallen significantly due to the haze.

Several hotels, particularly those depending on local tourists, were also receiving fewer guests due to last-minute cancellations.

State Education and Health Committee chairman Datuk Shamsulkahar Mohd Deli said schools have been told to cease outdoor activities.

"We will consider closing the schools if the API reading goes beyond 300," he said.

Haze: Cloud seeding useless for now, says DOE

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 05:22 AM PDT

Published: Sunday June 23, 2013 MYT 8:22:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Cloud seeding to reduce the smog shrouding the country, especially in Muar and Ledang, cannot be carried out because of the dry and cloudless weather.

Department of Environment (DOE) director-general Datuk Halimah Hassan said based on observation by the department, cloud seeding could done in a few more days but it all depends on the weather.

Meteorological Department director-general Che Gayah Ismail said cloud seeding, if done during unsuitable condition, would not be successful.

In cloudless and dry condition, as well as with the tropical storm Bebinca (Fabian) approaching the South China Sea and strong winds from the south west bringing the haze, it would make the cloud seeding process more difficult, she told reporters.

Also present at the media conference were Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and Halimah.

Che Gayah said with the Fabian storm expected to end tomorrow, the weather should improve with some rain to reduce the haze in the country.

Currently, the weather is dry due to the southwest monsoon which is expected to end in September, she added. - Bernama.

Related Stories:
Haze: Bad new folks! Sumatra hotspots double to 118 on Saturday
Haze: Schools in Pasir Gudang, Pontian, Kota Tinggi reopen tomorrow
Haze: All schools in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur to close tomorrow
Haze: Health Ministry orders all govt hospitals to provide face masks
Haze: Johor issues six immediate measures
Haze: MB Adnan Yaakob orders all Kuantan schools to close on Monday
Haze: Opposition to set aside politicking, make haze the priority in Parliament on Monday
Haze: Emergency status meant to encourage people to stay indoors, says Muar District Officer
Haze: 211 schools in Muar, Ledang ordered to close on Monday
Haze: PM declares emergency status in Muar and Ledang (Updated)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Casting a spell

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 01:32 AM PDT

Portuguese visual artist talks about his upcoming collage exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.

ABRACADABRA. A word of magic and wonder. Even the very mention of it transports the mind to a world of fantasy. It is a word imbued with power, impossibilities and archaic history. It was, after all, believed to heal ailments more than a thousand years ago. But all in all, a fantastical word.

So, it only seemed appropriate that Nuno Moreira, an art director and photographer from Lisbon, Portugal, named his latest art exhibition ABRAKADABRA, a collection which he says is "mysterious, surreal, magical and funny."

For three days only (June 25-27), the ABRAKADABRA exhibition will be open to the public at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac), Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, Malaysia is the first country in the world to be graced with Moreira's latest collection.

Currently based in Tokyo, Moreira designs book covers and CD artworks for a living. And while he says he enjoys the freedom to design visual wonders for publishers and musicians, Moreira laments that he still suffers from the all too usual compromises artists are accustomed to.

It was these "constraints" that finally led him to venture into photomontage and collages, a style Moreira has adopted for his visual arts projects. Indeed, many of his rejected book covers sketches became a base for this particular collection.

"I wanted to produce images I would feel personally satisfied without any compromises instead of working for clients all the time. I think our vision is very blurred nowadays with so much visual pollution all over the streets and bad programmes on television.

"I believe that simple things make much more difference nowadays. In the case of these artworks when you start seeing the powerful impact that only two or three different images have when they come together, something new emerges," says Moreira of his collection in an email interview.

The 31-year-old mused over the creative path he treads with collages, saying he never knows where all the cutting and gathering of images and shapes would lead him.

"I don't like imposing a rational path but just letting the instinct play the main role throughout those moments. That's what keeps me working with collage, the unexpected element of surprise and not having a clear sense of what the final image will look like," Moreira shares.

And truly, one cursory glance at his artwork and one can immediately notice the instinctual, irrationality of the pictures and yet somehow are visually enticing, drawing you into a world of endless possibilities.

Take, for instance, the piece named Jewel Inside, one of the visual spectacles of Moreira's ABRAKADABRA collection. When you first beset your eyes upon it, the visual could very well be one of Lady Gaga's bizarre fashion statements. It features a woman in a white fur coat, her head bejewelled with diamonds and the tentacles of an octopus clasping her face.

That could be one of the many interpretations but Moreira explains that the concept behind Jewel Inside is the idea of 'inside-out'.

"The piece Jewels Inside came from my obsession with marine elements and the octopus in particular. I wanted to do something that had an 'inside-out' feeling.

And by combining an octopus with fashion models you get Jewels Inside!" says Moreira, a fan of the German Expressionism for its intense contrast of lines, geometries and weird angles.

Moreira believes the very experience of deciphering the meaning behind each artwork is enticing enough for one to check out the exhibition.

"If you're into visual arts, be it photography, design, fashion or cinema, I think it will be interesting to come check the exhibition and compare my references and see where I get these ideas," says Moreira, adding that to truly appreciate the visuals, one has to continuously look at them from different perspectives.

For that very reason, visitors will be able to purchase exclusive prints and postcards of the collection, so that they can take it back home, frame it and "continue seeing it from different perspectives."

The visual artist asserts, "I want to make art available to everyone, independent on prices. Art should be democratic and visually and intellectually challenging."

Promising ABRAKADABRA to be a surprising, magical and exciting visual journey, Moreira, whose next exhibition named State Of Mind will be held at Tokyo, concludes by saying "if you know what Abrakadabra means, you know what these images are about."

> ABRAKADABRA – collages by Nuno Moreira is on at KLPac (foyer Pentas 2), Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur from June 25 to 27. Exhibition is open from 10am to 10pm. Free admission. More info: www.nmdesign.org.

Awaken your vision at Obscura Festival of Photography

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 01:40 AM PDT

Obscura Festival of Photography brings the best of Asian photography and beyond to Penang.

EVERY other person has a camera these days. Owning one isn't quite like it used to be, and anyone with a keen eye can produce stunning images. But only a certain breed get it right consistently, or as Obscura Festival of Photography director Vignes Balasingam put it, "Photography as an artform still belongs in the realm of dedicated practitioners."

The Penang-held Obscura, the first festival of its kind in this part of the world, aspires to parade the best of Asian photography to the world and bring the best works from around the globe to Asian audiences. It is being held at China House on Lebuh Pantai and Victoria in Penang till June 30.

According to Vignes, the festival is trying to be a catalyst for dialogue, understanding and progress in the region through the sharing of photographic projects, discussions and an exchange of ideas.

"It also seeks to bring some of the region's and world's finest practitioners of the art to Malaysia to help nurture the next generation of photographers, curators and editors as well as to raise the public consciousness in photography as an instrument for change and channel for art," he revealed during a recent interview.

Doing this for the first time, there was naturally a learning curve for Vig and his team to overcome, but the fruit of their labour has been encouraging, even if it took three years. "It's a culmination of research work since 2010 of festivals in the region as well as smaller initiatives organised by myself and my friends between 2010 and 2012. The Festival in that sense is a culmination of these smaller exhibitions, workshops, talks and other photographic initiatives from that period, now manifesting itself as a larger festival," he added.

Obscura's inaugural show will see works from the likes of Pablo Bartholomew (India), two-time World Press Photo winner, Pulitzer Prize winner and National Geographic contributor Maggie Steber (USA), Agence Vu's Ian Teh (Britain), visionary street photographer and educator Che Ahmad Azhar (Malaysia) and contemporary artist, Yanming (China).

The exhibition will also be hosting a series of works by younger Asian photographers who will be exhibiting their material under the Asia by Asians theme, including Bharat Choudhary (India), Jannatul Mawa (Bangladesh), Rony Zakaria (Indonesia), Andri Tambunan (USA), Sanjit Das (India) and Suzanne Lee (Malaysia).

In addition to the print exhibitions, the festival has curated eight slideshows for the festival, which feature more than 200 photographers' works from around the world. Throw in master class workshops and Obscura becomes the one-stop centre for all things photography-related.

So, what's with the name of the festival then? Well, "camera obscura" is the precursor to the camera as we know it. Like what we learned in science at school, it can either be a dark room or a box which passes light through a tiny hole and projects the image inside on a screen upside down, with both colour and perspective intact. "Camera Obscuras were large rooms from which the world was projected into darkness, inverted. So, the name is really a throwback at the history and innovation of the camera," Vig related.

Obscura – which is part of the ongoing George Town Festival 2013 – might only be into its first year, but Vig already sees the potential and hopes his sentiment is echoed by the viewing public. "The Festival will always be here to acknowledge new talent and help play a role in the development of photography in Malaysia and Asia.

Hopefully, the festival will continue to grow and invest itself in promoting the best of photography from Asia and around the world. With our growing partnerships globally and locally, I am certain the festival will become a regional and local event to look forward to."

> Obscura Festival of Photography, held at China House on Lebuh Pantai and Victoria, George Town, Penang, ends on June 30. For bookings, e-mail contact@obscurafestival.com or visit www.obscurafestival.com for more info.

Endlessly inventive

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 01:35 AM PDT

One of the world's most important contemporary artists has a new exhibition in Berlin that the Germans are hoping the whole world will visit.

SITTING in a Berlin gallery over a cup of tea, Anish Kapoor is clearly at home in a city that is staging one of his largest ever shows.

The British-based artist, 59, says the exhibition, entitled Kapoor In Berlin, is the best show he has yet put on, which may have much to do with the fact that he feels Germany demonstrates a huge degree of respect for the arts – in stark contrast to Britain and much of the rest of the world.

"Germans have a rather healthy respect for the arts and artists," he says, adding that "in Germany, it seems that the intellectual and aesthetic life are to be celebrated and are seen as part of a real and good education, whereas in Britain, traditionally – certainly since the Enlightenment (in the 17th and 18th centuries) – we've been afraid of anything intellectual, aesthetic, visual."

One of the most highly regarded sculptors in the world, Kapoor is keeping much of the vast show, which covers more than 3,000sqm at the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall, under wraps. But he does reveal that around half the works were created especially for the show. It was, he explains, his concerted effort to stop it from becoming a retrospective, the idea of which he is keen to resist as long as he is alive and working.

"I don't see the reason to be doing a retrospective," he says. "Let somebody else do a retrospective for me. There doesn't seem any reason to dwell on what's been done. Rather, let's build on it and try and do something else. I'm trying to push my practice out there and to see, 'Can I do that? Will it go there?'

"A good half of the show is new, and that's always a risk. But that's the sort of idiot I am."

Kapoor In Berlin is a culmination of the artist's huge body of work of the past three decades, an extravaganza of colour, shapes and textures that its British curator, Norman Rosenthal, has called an "endlessly inventive theatre of sculpture".

As Kapoor chats before the opening, around him bustling workers in hard hats glide up and down on cranes, spray pigment on to walls, and remove plastic covers from sculptures as the show takes shape.

Later, we are given a sneak preview of the works, including the centrepiece of the show.

Emerging from holes in walls and a trapdoor in the floor, conveyor belts rise skywards, carrying big rectangular blocks of viscous, wine-red wax. As the wax moves up, it produces a squelching sound before falling off the end of the belt and landing with a satisfying splat on the linoleum floor. Overseen by a huge crimson sphere suspended from a metal frame, Symphony For A Beloved Sun is a new creation that fills the exhibition hall's main atrium.

Along with the other structures, it reveals the potential the show has to beguile the public, something Kapoor's audience has long come to expect of him. There is everything from a deflated whale, whose maroon mass spills across three rooms; to warty, cave-like innards fashioned from synthetic resin; huge geometrically fragmented mirrors; twisted stainless steel pillars; and a gigantic, slowly rotating wax bell. There is even an old British Telecom generator.

Crafted from sandstone, alabaster, Kilkenny limestone and fibreglass are also the protuberances and orifices, mountains and tomb-like structures that have become Kapoor trademarks, including the subtle bulge in the wall called When I'm Pregnant, all of which reflect the long and complex history of Britain's most celebrated sculptor in a show he says is "private and public in a very curious, sometimes uncomfortable mix".

Exhibiting at the Martin-Gropius-Bau hall, a neo-Renaissance pile in the centre of Berlin, is both a challenge and an inspiration for Kapoor, who has had to deal not just with its complicated, decorative interior, of late-19th-century ornate pillars and mosaics but also with the history that envelops the building: the Berlin Wall and the SS headquarters (of the Nazi secret police during WWII) are literally squeezed up against it, visible from the gallery's windows; and he makes deliberate references to them in his works.

"It's a building with a curious, difficult history that is inexorably linked to the history of Berlin," says Kapoor. "That's very potent. You can't make a show here without some reference to all of that. And it certainly makes a show here so much more interesting."

Symphony For A Beloved Sun is a nod to one of Kapoor's heroes, the late German sculptor Joseph Beuys, who exhibited in the same atrium space shortly after the building's postwar restoration, in 1982. It also strongly alludes to the industrialised, bloody mass murders of the Nazi era, according to Rosenthal. German critics have been quick to make the same connection to the favourite among Kapoor's fan base, Shooting Into The Corner – which has been given a room of its own – in which a cannon fires round pellets of wax into the far corner, staining the walls a blood red.

"We're pleased to say the wax stains can be removed when smeared with margarine," says the Martin-Gropius-Bau's director, Gereon Sievernich, highlighting just one of the many challenges Kapoor's works are posing as he inspects a show that is still very much under construction five days ahead of its opening.

Other practical headaches have included the transportation, by a convoy of lorries, of the huge pieces from Kapoor's London studio. Some had to be dismantled before they could be brought into the hall; others were heaved in on horizontal cranes after window frames had been removed.

For Kapoor, the arrival of his works in the space for which they were conceived over a period of months, during which their creation dominated his life, brings with it a huge sense of achievement. "Getting things out of the studio is great, very exciting," he says. "It's only when they are in the real world that they have a life of their own."

One of his own favourites among the new works – which he describes as a "mad, crazy idea – is the deflated PVC whale, called Death Of A Leviathan. It takes up an entire side of the building, and reinforces Kapoor's sense of responsibility towards tackling major societal issues.

"It's a big deflated skin, like a huge dead whale, a Hobbesian reference to the state being a kind of Leviathan beast that gives its control to the individual," he says. "Death Of The Leviathan may imply the kind of death or deflation of the state, this present condition we seem to be in all over the world where the individual has to take responsibility for the things that the state once took responsibility for." – Guardian News & Media

> Kapoor In Berlin is on at the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall, Berlin, until Nov 24, 2013. For more information, go to tinyurl.com/m3md8k8.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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Gaza joy as Palestinian singer wins Arab Idol contest

Posted: 22 Jun 2013 09:51 PM PDT

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Jubilant Palestinians took to the streets in their thousands early Sunday after singer Mohammed Assaf won a pan-Arab singing contest that has had millions of viewers fixed to their TV screens since March.

Saturday's televised victory was the first such success for a Palestinian entertainer and sparked an unprecedented response in the occupied territories.

Assaf, winner of the Arab Idol contest in Beirut, dedicated the win to "the Palestinian people, who have been suffering for more than 60 years from (Israeli) occupation".

"Mohammed Assaf is the Arab Idol!" called out the presenter of the show, modelled on the Western Pop Idol contest, as coloured confetti rained down on the cheering audience.

Immediately after his win, Assaf was named Youth Ambassador for UNRWA, the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees and named Palestinian goodwill ambassador by president Mahmud Abbas.

The handsome, tuxedo-clad Assaf, 23, won after weeks of anticipation from his army of followers, who had been glued to big screens in cafes and restaurants across Gaza and the occupied West Bank, listening as his powerful voice propelled him through the competition every weekend.

His mother, wearing a traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, wept as she wrapped the Palestinian black, green, white and red flag around her shoulders.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out in Gaza, Assaf's home, and in the West Bank, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets. Huge posters of the Gazan singer have festooned the streets, the singer becoming a source of pride for Palestinians everywhere in recent months.

Each edition of the twice-weekly show, aired by the pan-Arab MBC channel in Beirut, has been followed with increasing anticipation, with social networks mobilising to boost the number of votes for their favoured candidate.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah the celebrations after the final results were announced spread to the tomb of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"The mood is undescribable. Everyone is celebrating. Thank you, Mohammed Assaf, for bringing joy to our hearts. We haven't felt this joy in a long time," Gaza resident Mohammad Dahman told AFP via the Internet.

In Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, celebrations turned sour as young Palestinians clashed with Israeli police. Several people were arrested.

In northern Lebanon, Palestinian refugees in the Beddawi camp fired gunshots into the air and took to the streets, honking their car horns to celebrate Assaf's win.

Across the southern city of Sidon, there were celebrations too, said an AFP journalist.

Born in Misrata, Libya, Assaf grew up in the overcrowded Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, one of the world's poorest and most densely-populated places where Israel severely restricts the movement of people, goods and financial aid.

The Islamist Hamas movement, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, disapproves of what it considers un-Islamic shows, such as Arab Idol, but has not officially clamped down on support for Arab Idol or Assaf.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas phoned Assaf during the contest to offer him encouragement, the official Wafa agency said.

In a previous episode of the programme, popular Lebanese singer and jury member Ragheb Alama had described Assaf as "the best rocket" to have come out of Gaza, and as "a rocket of peace, not war".

Announcing Assaf's nomination as regional ambassador for youth minutes after his win, the agency's chief Filippo Grandi said: "All Palestinians share in his success. Mohammed's music is a universal language and speaks to all of us. How fantastic that a Palestine refugee from Gaza should bring us all together in this way."

On the Israeli side, army spokesman Avichai Adraee congratulated the young Palestinian singer in a tweet in Arabic.

Israel imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza in 2006 after militants there seized an Israeli soldier.

It was further tightened in mid-2007 when the Islamist Hamas movement took control of Gaza, then eased somewhat following the international outcry after Israel's botched raid on a humanitarian flotilla bound the enclave. - AFP

Revisiting Motown Record's Hitsville in Detroit

Posted: 23 Jun 2013 01:54 AM PDT

Motown churned out a sound and style that has come to define popular music.

THERE are magical places in this world. Some of them are natural wonders. Some of them are architectural achievements. And some of them are locations where something special happened.

In the case of a house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan, something special happened again and again … and again. During the 1960s, this two-storey home served as Hitsville, U.S.A. – the primary recording studio (and headquarters) for the Motown Record Corporation. During Motown's blockbuster decade, Hitsville's Studio A produced the majority of the label's hits, from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' The Tracks Of My Tears to The Supremes' Where Did Our Love Go to The Temptations' My Girl and hundreds of others.

A few years ago, my wife and I visited this pop music landmark, which has been operating as the Motown Historical Museum since 1985. I don't know what I expected Motown's headquarters to look like. (Where could these immaculate sounds have come from: a gleaming skyscraper or a stately mansion, perhaps?) It was surprising to find this legendary studio tucked away on a moderately busy urban street with old homes and wide lawns – house, house, house, Motown.

We entered the Motown complex and joined a tour, just as the guide was providing background on the company's founder, Berry Gordy Jr. The Detroit native had been a songwriter in the 1950s, but realised that he could make more money as a record label owner. In 1959, with US$800, Gordy started the label that would become Motown – which, by the way, is short for "motor town," a nickname for Detroit because of its automobile manufacturers.

It didn't take long for Gordy to find success, scoring his first national hit in 1960 with Barrett Strong's Money (That's What I Want), and Motown's first No 1 with The Marvelettes' Please Mr. Postman in 1961. The latter was one of the hundreds of thousands of songs recorded in the building we were touring. Gordy had bought it in 1959, put offices on the first floor, created a studio in the garage and moved his family in upstairs.

Gordy's success was notable for more than just his good business sense and musical taste. Gordy was an African-American record executive selling music by black artists to an audience of many races. This was no easy achievement in 1960s America, which was sharply divided because of tensions between whites and blacks. While some black musicians had found mainstream success, only a few had a prolonged impact and virtually none released music on a label that was owned and operated by a black man.

Gordy was all too aware of his musicians' importance as ambassadors for the black community in the United States (and, later, around the world). In concert and on TV, artists such as The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas and Stevie Wonder were dressed in sharp suits and glittering dresses (which they called "uniforms" and are on display in the museum). The stars took artist development classes in which they were taught to speak and act like royalty in an effort to counteract the prevailing stereotype of uneducated and unrefined black youths.

Not that any of that would have mattered if the music wasn't any good. Under Gordy's leadership, writers and producers such as Smokey Robinson, Norman Whitfield and the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland forged the "Motown Sound" – a hybrid of pop and soul with instantly memorable melodies and intricate instrumentation. The label's hits sounded like nothing else.

As we learned on the tour, those hits were no accident. Gordy reigned supreme over the company's quality control. To determine what he might release, he would hold listening sessions with teenagers from the neighbourhood. Gordy would conduct his "sandwich test." Our tour guide laid out the sce-nario: after a new song played, Gordy would walk over to a teenager and ask, "If you had 50 cents, would you by that record or a sandwich?" If the answer was a sandwich, he thought that the song needed more work. But, if the teenager responded, "What kind of sandwich?" he knew he had a potential hit.

And then our tour came to the room I had been waiting for: the recording studio. Saying that the studio used to be a garage doesn't really convey how tiny this place is. It's hard to imagine some of the vocal groups having room to move around, much less enough space for Motown's legendary "house band," known as The Funk Brothers. To give us an idea of how a recording session felt, our guide lined up five men from the group under the microphones, got them swaying in rhythm and forced a little bit of My Girl out of them. I felt a little of the Motown magic as the guide encouraged the whole group – white and black, young and old – to sing along. We all knew the words.

This was fun for us, but it was hard work for the people who toiled during Motown's heyday. At the studio's apex, employees worked in shifts at Hitsville, U.S.A., keeping the studio open 22 hours each day. Groups would come back from a tour, record a bunch of new songs, and then head out on the road again. Like the auto manufacturing facilities that also called Detroit home, Motown was a factory.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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