Ahad, 21 Julai 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Fewer kids with parents from Singapore


THERE were 42,663 babies born in Singapore last year, but only half of them had parents who were both Singapore citizens. 

Their proportion of all births shrank sharply from 2000.

The rest were born to citizens with foreign spouses, or foreign couples. 

And this group swelled considerably from before.

It is a significant demographic shift, experts say, with implications for what it means to be Singaporean and how to integrate foreigners who are here to stay.

The data on parents' nationality appears in the Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2012, published by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) this month.

A comparison of birth statistics for 2000 and 2012, both auspicious Dragon Years in the Chinese zodiac, shows:

A sharp decline in the number of babies with parents who are both Singaporean – 22,650 (53.1% of all babies) last year, down from 31,308 (66.6%).

Slightly more babies born to Singaporeans and their foreign spouses – 10,588 (24.8%) last year, up from 10,309 (21.9%).

The number of babies born to parents who are both foreigners has nearly doubled – 9,425 (22.1%) last year, from 5,380 (11.4%).

Sociologists and demographers say the shift comes as fewer Singaporeans are marrying and having babies and more marry foreigners.

Meanwhile, the number of permanent residents (PRs) and non-residents such as foreign workers doubled from one million in 2000 to two million last year and this explains the sharp rise in the number of babies born to foreigners here.

Demographer Gavin Jones noted that the ICA statistics shed some light on immigration patterns, giving a rare breakdown of data by nationality. 

For instance, the statistics suggest a significant presence of newcomers from Asean countries, China and India.

Babies born to couples from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for example, formed 4.5% of babies born last year – more than triple the 1.3% in 2000.

According to the Census 2010, the Indian and Others minorities in the resident population grew over the previous decade, while the proportion of Chinese and Malays shrank.

How many of the babies with a foreign parent will stay for the long haul is a question to ponder, said sociologist Paulin Straughan. 

This can affect population size, especially given the baby shortage and ageing population here.

"This is a wake-up call that policies must evolve with the demographic shift," she said. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Church hails Yeo's Vatican role


THE Catholic Church in Singapore has hailed the appointment of former foreign minister George Yeo to a special Vatican commission set up by Pope Francis I.

Archbishop William Goh said the Church will give him all the support it can as Yeo, the only Asian member in the eight-member committee, carries out his responsibilities for the Vatican.

The move is part of an effort by Pope Francis to clean up the scandal-hit institution he inherited from his predecessor Benedict XVI.

"We are pleased that Yeo has accepted this heavy responsibility and we have every confidence that he will make invaluable contributions to the Church through his work in this commission and do us proud," said Archbishop Goh.

When contacted, Yeo declined to be interviewed and would only say that it is a "heavy responsibility".

Archbishop Goh said that Yeo is the best man for the job because of his experience and exposure to various economic, administrative and political challenges, both locally and internationally.

The commission members – also from Spain, Germany, France, Malta and Italy – are experts in fields such as economics, finance and law.

Archbishop Goh said Mr Yeo's knowledge in corporate governance and financial affairs, among other fields, will "value-add significantly to the commission's deliberations".

"(These qualities) are what we believe the Vatican will need in this task of reforming the Church's administrative and economic structures," he added.

The Pope has tasked the commission to overhaul the structure of the Vatican after the Church struggled with a series of issues. 

The committee, which includes seven lay members and one cleric, will have the right to examine any paper and digital document in the Vatican. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin lined up for Everest movie


Jason Clarke and John Hawkes, too, are set to appear in film about the storm that left eight climbers dead on the world's tallest mountain.

JOSH Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke and John Hawkes are all in line to star in the mountain-climbing disaster movie Everest, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Iceland's Baltasar Kormakur (The Deep, Contraband) will direct for production company Working Title. Everest is based on real-life events that took place in 1996 when a freak storm hit the world's tallest mountain, leaving eight climbers dead.

The story was made famous by Jon Krakauer in the book Into Thin Air, which described how he survived to tell the tale. Kormakur's take follows two separate expedition groups whose lives come under threat.

Clarke is being sought to play New Zealand climber Rob Hall, leader of one of the teams, while Gyllenhaal is set to play Scott Fischer, his opposite number with the other expedition. Brolin is cast to play a doctor named Beck Weathers, who is forced to spend a night on Everest, while Hawkes (The Sessions) will be cast as a slow climber who causes his team to be late setting out on their journey up the peak.

The project was previously in play with Christian Bale as Hall, but the British-born actor no longer seems to be involved. Kormakur hopes to shoot the film in Iceland in October.

It is unclear what Everest's move towards production means for another film with the same title which is currently in the works. The latter project is being overseen by Bourne Identity director Doug Liman, and has Tom Hardy attached to play Sir George Mallory, the famous British mountaineer who attempted to be the first to reach the top of the Himalayan peak in the 1920s. – Guardian News & Media

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Metro: Central

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Successful youth more likely to have close friends from another race


SINGAPOREANS who are younger, better educated, have higher incomes and live in a more expensive house are more likely to have a close friend from another race.

The findings, from an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and OnePeople.sg survey released on Thursday, goes against some commonly held perceptions that older folk and those living in Housing Board flats, have deeper relationships with those from other communities.

Tertiary schools and cosmopolitan workplaces may give the young more opportunities to build such friendships, said Dr Mathew Mathews, the study's principal investigator.

Education and working together tend to "open people's world view and help people become more apt at dealing with diversity", said the IPS research fellow.

Race differences may also become less salient as people become better off, he added, as their values and aspirations tend to be more similar to one another's.

In the study, more than one in two of the 4,131 Singaporeans surveyed said they did not have at least one close friend of another race. The overall profile of the survey's respondents mirrored national demographics.

About two in 10 Chinese had a Malay or Indian friend, while nearly two-thirds of minorities had at least one close Chinese friend.

The study defined a close friend as someone with whom they felt at ease, could talk to about what was on their mind, or they could call on for help.

Across all the three major races, those aged between 18 and 25 were more likely to have such friends from another race than those who were older.

Among those surprised by the findings was Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle leader Ameerali Abdeali, who said he had expected older people to be the ones more likely to have close cross-racial friendships. Because of his childhood in a kampung, he has close friends from other races, he added.

But rosy pictures of interracial camaraderie that were a result of kampung days might not be representative, said Dr Mathews, noting that some of these communities were segregated.

Moreover, these ties might not have translated to close friendships, on which the study focuses, said OnePeople.sg chairman Zainudin Nordin.

Dr Mathews added: "Speaking a common language didn't necessarily mean people were deeply connected (to those from another race). 

"The racial riots happened in the 1960s, a time when people did speak other languages." 

The strength of interracial ties was also greater the higher up the socioeconomic ladder a respondent was, the study found.

"People from similar class backgrounds share similar values and lifestyles, and cross-racial friendship becomes a lot more possible," Dr Mathews said.

"The higher you move up the socioeconomic ladder towards the middle class and beyond, the more people's values become similar. There's more likelihood of you finding affinity and closeness with others with similar values, regardless of race." 

How can interracial ties be strengthened, especially among the lower-income groups?

Zainudin, an MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, suggested small-group recreational programmes to help neighbours get to know one another better.This could take the form of encouraging them to greet one another in lifts, and fun quizzes about how well they knew one another.

"This allows people to get a bit of courage to say hello," he said.

But at the end of the day, he added, it was still down to the individual to make a move. —The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Asians must avoid rocky ride ahead


Disputes over islands are sowing mistrust and risk sparking an unintended conflict.

OUR little boat bobbed about in the churning waters for several hours before we caught sight of the tiny island, 45km east of Singapore. A mere speck on the vast sea, it looked forlorn with its solitary lighthouse.

As we approached the rock, covered in bird droppings, it became clear how the island dubbed Pedra Branca (which means white rock) got its name.

A wave of emotions washed over me. Incredulousness, indignance and a sense of the sheer inanity of it all.

"This is what we are squabbling over?" I asked the captain of our crew, referring to the long-drawn dispute between Malaysia and Singapore over sovereignty of the island. "Afraid so," he replied sheepishly.

Yes, I was aware of the wider significance of it all. There was much at stake for both countries in the dispute, which threatened at times to turn nasty. But set against this was the tragedy of lost opportunities to build a better future for people on both sides of the Causeway.

Thankfully, wiser counsel prevailed and both countries agreed in 2003 to take their old dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and settle the matter using jaw-jaw instead of more unspeakable options. Eventually, in 2008, after a keenly contested hearing, the Court ruled in Singapore's favour, a verdict which leaders on both sides accepted with equanimity and good grace, allowing them to press on with cooperation on other fronts.

This happy outcome flashed back in my mind during a panel discussion I chaired at the FutureChina Global Forum recently, titled China-Asean: Managing a Complex Relationship.

Complex is a euphemism. Fraught, tricky or precarious might sum it up better.

The relationship is many-faceted. China is Asean's biggest trading partner, with trade reaching a record high of US$400.9bil (RM1.3 trillion) last year, up 10% from the previous year. These countries are linked not only by commerce, but also common cultures and history. But set against the deepening ties are rising political tensions, chiefly from competing claims to a few island chains around the region.

Some of these islands have been disputed over for decades by several members of Asean. Even among these supposed partners, resolving the claims has proven a challenge. So, add to this mix a rising China, with its historically fraught relations with Japan, and the so-called "pivot" by the United States as it reorientates towards Asia, and the waters get a lot more choppy for all concerned.

At stake is not just national pride, but also access to presumed (it's never been proven because any talk of exploration by one country immediately provokes a strong reaction from others) rich stores of oil, gas and also fishing resources. Lamentably, the disputing countries have adopted a zero-sum, all-mine-or-nothing approach to these resources, leaving everyone worse off.

One of the panellists at the forum, Professor Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, summed up the present situation with an interesting paradox. China, he noted, is today no longer so weak that it has to simply accept the situation in the South China Sea as some other countries in the region view it. But, nor is it so powerful that others in the region have to accept its view of how the situation should be.

So, the region is in for a difficult period of transition, as all players adjust to the shifting political and economic tides.

A Code of Conduct on how to manage this and navigate the tricky waters ahead would help greatly. Thankfully, Asean and China agreed earlier this month to begin talks on this in September, after years of dithering over it.

Welcoming this, Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan, chairman of Malaysia's respected Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said that finding a way forward would call for mutual restraint and much goodwill.

Countries in the region should take a good, hard look at themselves, he said, and ponder if some of their actions were unhelpful to building trust and confidence. Without naming any fellow Asean members, he pointed to moves such as inviting companies from countries outside the region to embark on oil exploration, or making provocative remarks in public statements.

Joining in, editor-in-chief of the Jakarta Post Meidyatama Suryodiningrat threw a challenge to the business leaders in the audience. They could help by fostering even stronger economic and investment links among Asean and China, so that leaders on all sides would have to think many times about the economic downside for their own people before embarking on any aggressive adventures on the high seas.

Indeed, despite the complexities in this relationship, the panel members and audience seemed sanguine that the likelihood of a conflict breaking out in the region was low. There was just too much at stake.

In any case, someone noted, the risk of a flare-up in the South China Sea was considerably lower than it was further north, where tensions are also rising over maritime disputes among China, Japan and Korea. That seemed like scant consolation, since trouble in the north would soon spill over further south.

Indeed, given the tense relations and the proximity of fishing and military vessels out at sea, the reality is that we are one accident – or one nervous soldier's over-reaction – away from a major incident. Many conflicts begin not by design, but through an accident, misstep or miscalculation.

Thoughtful commentators are flagging this as a concern to be taken seriously. A chilling piece in Foreign Policy magazine by Dr Patrick Cronin, titled "Tell me how this starts?", outlined how an unintended conflict might arise on the Korean peninsula, before escalating into a regional conflict as a result of the internal dynamics and pressures faced by key players.

Many have trumpeted the rise of China and Asia, or the dawn of a Pacific century, as if this is an ineluctable certainty. But, to my mind, there is nothing inevitable about this. Asians are just as capable as anyone of allowing empty pride, sheer avarice or plain stupidity to override economic good sense.

Asia will prosper, and Asean with it, only if its leaders and people learn the lessons of the past, and are wise enough to rise above old rivalries to avoid stymying hopes of a better future. They will have to work together to find creative ways to resolve their differences peaceably and develop the region's resources collectively for the common good.

Unless we do so, we will all have to brace ourselves for a rough and rocky ride ahead. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

The frame of life


The Malaysia Chapter of the Royal Photographic Society announces its arrival with its first major exhibition.

THAT'S my picture!" exclaimed Nick Ng as we strode into the room that housed the People, Places & Life Through The Lenses showcase at YTL Land and Development Bhd's Sentul East Design Centre (SEED) in the city centre that is now the refurbished Sentul in the capital.

The said image – seen at Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Malaysia Chapter's first major exhibition – was photographed in the north of India in that part of a restaurant that most patrons will never set foot – the definite business end of the kitchen. The cooks and their assistants, it seems, welcomed Ng's intrusion and he, in turn, had maximised their hospitality.

The shot was pulled back on a wide angle to take in their whole habitat and effectively placed the gritty in an imposing facade. As Ng explained, the exhibition shied away from any thematic pretensions though anyone visiting it from now till July 28 will be persuaded to accept a common thread that intertwines the works of 15 of RPS's members: realism.

On July 18, two days before the opening night of the RPS Malaysia Chapter's first major exhibition, the passion of Ng and his collaborators at the RPS sliced through the sizzling evening. The impression, it would not be incorrect to say, was akin to the imminent staging of a long awaited coming-out celebration.

"We are very lucky to be able to use the place for no fees while J&A Imaging (www.jaissb.com) is sponsoring the prints. To have an event of this scale once a year is manageable, but we can't have it too often because of sponsorship … we may overstretch ourselves," said Ng as he mentioned the struggles to raise funds for RPS's plans.

Nick Ng's gritty shot A Little Sanctuary In The Alley of Delhi takes a detour from the stereotypical tourist sights in India.

The RPS was officially listed with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) in February this year. It has quietly worked the ground in the Peninsular and Sarawak by introducing the organisation to various photographic societies and conducting workshops. Ng recalled the materialisation of a Chapter of the RPS here, and he did not attempt to rein in his sense of disbelief and elation.

"All this happened at the end of October in 2011, before I went to India, when the President of the RPS of Britain e-mailed to ask if I would like to start a chapter in Malaysia. I was doing a salon for a photography society and I e-mailed her for a message for the salon.

"When I got back from India, I received an email and it said 'You've been officially appointed by the Council as the Malaysia Chapter Organiser.' We never actually discussed the proposal … I think they needed somebody to start it here. I then appointed Steven Leong as the West Malaysia Chair while Chan Hua Chiang (Fellow of RPS) is the East Malaysia Chair," he said.

Chan ran RPS's activities in Sibu last year, and Miri in May, and is in touch with the local photographic societies in Sabah and Sarawak to co-organise events. RPS draws its membership from the photographic societies in Malaysia and their efforts are part of People, Places & Life Through The Lenses exhibition in Kuala Lumpur.

Ng was keen to stress that RPS is not a society, and has no ambition to ursurp these clubs into a single body.

"We can't group them into one … some of the societies have been established for more than 50 or 60 years. We are trying to build relationships and a community feel amongst them because it is easier to do things in future. If we manage to build that in every state (in Malaysia), we can bring this exhibition to Penang and Malacca, and promote the name of RPS.

"We are a platform for sharing. If you want to know about photography, you can come over and we will share what we know with you. If we don't have that particular information, there are other people (within RPS) who do know since we have a variety of photographers in every category. That's how we grow together."

The Match by Kid Chan provides a laugh during a joyous wedding shoot.

The exhibition is a step in this direction. Ben Toh, Ng's co-curator, proposed to the RPS that they hold a showcase at SEED when the former organised the Women Behind The Lens exhibition in conjunction with International Woman's Day in March. The SEED management wanted to breathe life into the property – home to mainly landscape designers, interior designers and architects – and convert it into a throbbing hub for the arts, design and photography fields.

According to Toh, the first photography exhibition was in February and helmed by MK Salma or Sally, as she is also known, and the soft launch of the RPS at the same d7 venue was the follow-up in April. In line with the aims of SEED, the People, Places & Life Through The Lenses exhibition traverses the subject matter.

"This event is in itself is not only about photography, but also about bringing the values of the arts to the people … the exhibition is not confined to our members. We are opening it to the public. Besides the exhibition, we have talks and workshops," said Ng.

"This Sunday (July 21), we have a Photo Hunt Competition around Sentul. The theme is Sentul Yesterday & Sentul Today. On July 27, we managed to get three commercial photographers, Kid Chan, Adam Seow, Jen Siow and (Long) Thien-Shih, who is the resident artist at University Malaya (plus) activist and musician AiLin (Yong) for a talk."

Another well-known photographer Patrick Low will moderate this informal "meet & chat" session on July 27, which will discuss Contemporary Views On Art & Photography. Members of the public are invited to participate, especially the click-and-upload generation. Ng is expecting interest to come from these youngsters.

He noted that photography in the digital era – made more convenient with each application and model upgrade – has allowed many to explore this discipline, with the new generation picking it up as a hobby while the rest venture into it professionally as freelancers. While Ng welcomed the development, he broached the issue of art in photography.

Steven Leong's The Egrets, which was captured at an abandoned pond off Rawang, Selangor.

Opining that this is a subjective topic, he held the view that the proliferation of software and applications has afforded freedom for photographers or virtual artists to create compositions out of computer-generated images. This, he said, is acceptable in the same way an artist respects another's ability to create.

Ng elaborated that the question always is if one image is better than the other in the manner in which it invokes a feel for it. But there are exceptions.

"In travel documentary and photojournalism … what you capture is what you should show. Apart from this category, I believe that every image taken digitally should be enhanced – using software – because it brings out the beauty of the image.

"If I was to shoot raw and I don't do anything – level or contrast it – the image that is produced is unattractive.

"This brings us to the chat sessions on July 27 when we deal with the subject of whether technology has diminished the inner creativity of the authors or has it helped the authors to be more creative," he concluded.

Join the activities and discussions during the People, Places & Life Through The Lenses exhibition that daily runs till July 28 at G-19, d7 @ Sentul East in Kuala Lumpur. Opening times: Monday to Saturday (11am to 5pm, by appointment) and Sunday (11am to 4pm). Call: 012-205 0716. For details, go to www.facebook.com/rps.msia. For info on The Royal Photographic Society (Malaysia Chapter), e-mail: nickng6208@gmail.com. Call: 012-377 2331.

Mixed motions


The intricacies of bharatanatyam and Odissi are assimilated in fusion dance performance Sharanagati.

HOMEGROWN dance school Kalpana Dance Studio is about to register one of its most significant milestones since its formation in 1996 with dance presentation, Sharanagati (Absolute Surrender). The performance will feature two orchestras (from South and East India) and two Indian dance styles under the leadership of renowned New Delhi-based Carnatic vocalist O.S. Arun.

Sharanagati – the brainchild of Kalpana Dance Studio's director Shangita Namasivayam – will offer both the bharatanatyam and Odissi dance styles.

The challenging task of assimilating the distinctive features of two dance forms is led by award-winning dancers and choreographers, Chennai-based P.T. Narendran and Leena Mohanty of Orissa. Illuminating the stage with them are dancers Sumathi Chandra, Gowri Chandran, Umayal Eswaran and Nritta Ganeshi Manoharan.

Shangita feels that through the performance, dance enthusiasts can savour the artistic creativity of classical Odissi and bharatanatyam on one stage.

"I've always wanted to combine both dance forms in a confluence. Both styles have their own integrity and discipline, so it requires a lot of skill to merge them without jeopardising the various techniques used in each dance form," said Shangita, 49, during an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Shangita's enthusiasm for the production was palpable, especially the new choreography, which leverages on the creative collaboration of the choreographers. One can understand Shangita's delight as she has, after all, been planning for the performance for over two years.

"Narendran tours the world for shows while Leena is based in Texas and has a tight schedule, having to juggle between caring for her eight-year-old daughter and dance career. Due to their job demands, I literally booked them years in advance (laughs).

"Once I had secured the choreographers, I went on to convince O.S. Arun to come. This will mark his first collaboration with East Indian and West Indian musicians to showcase the fusion between carnatic and Odissi music," explained Shangita, a trained bharatanatyam exponent from the esteemed Kalakshetra Academy in Chennai, India.

The music score was specially composed and arranged last year by O. S. Arun and Dheeraj Kumar Mohapatra, a versatile and accomplished vocalist of Orissa.

Sharanagati paves the way for wisdom to blossom in the heart of the surrendered soul. For the dancer, it is the journey inwards to overcome self-consciousness and to connect with the Divine.

"Sharanagati is a process of opening up your heart, so it can receive the light that comes from the Divine. The performance focuses on the loving relationship between the Lord and devotee," said Leena, who has performed at many local productions, including KDT's Leela Purushottama - The Supreme Absolute, Anjali - Homage To Guru Deba Prasad Das, Arousing the Spirit Within – Revelations of Odissi and Sutra Dance Theatre's Shyam Shyama – A Journey Divine.

The performance is divided into six dances – Pushpanjali (flower offering) is an invocatory piece featuring Odissi and bharatanatyam with carnatic and Odissi music; Pallavi combines bharatanatyam and Odissi with Odissi music; Varnam is a presentation of expressive and mythological elements of bharatanatyam with Carnatic music; Omkarakarini – a bharatanatyam and Odissi piece featuring carnatic music – pays tribute to Goddess Shakti while Chandana Bahuda is a traditional piece from Orissa featuring Odissi dance and music. The grand finale, Shiva, explores different facets of Lord Shiva. It will be performed in both styles and dances.

The choreographers arrived in Kuala Lumpur a month ago and have been working closely with the dancers to ensure their tireless efforts (they have been training the dancers for about eight to 10 hours daily) will culminate in an extraordinary performance. But the question remains – how are the choreographers planning to combine their different styles in one performance?

Narendan, 46, explained: "Dance is a nonverbal language that conveys emotions and actions. Although Odissi and bharatanatyam have different dance techniques, we have incorporated the concepts of tandava (brisk and structured movements) and lasya (gentler and curvy movements) in our choreography to complement both styles. This will enable the audience to soak in the majestic tradition of bharatanatyam, complemented by the grace and beauty of Odissi."

"All the dancers in the production are well trained in their respective dance styles and it has been easy to create new concepts with them. Although there are also differences in age and experience, it was easily overcome as everyone's focus is to make the production a memorable one."

Leena, 40, chipped in: "The dancers are disciplined and have been a joy to work with. While we may have faced some hurdles dealing with musicians from two different parts of India as well as agreeing with costume, props, stage sets and lighting, the results have been satisfying. The joy that every dancer has experienced in every step of the production is a memory that I'll cherish."

Sharanagati is scheduled for Friday and Saturday (8pm) at Shantananad Auditorium, Temple of Fine Arts, Jalan Berhala, Kuala Lumpur and Sunday (7.30pm) at Ipoh Town Hall in Ipoh, Perak. For invitations, call 017-672 5672 / 012-291 8308 (Kalpana Dance Theatre) or 03-2274 3709 (Temple Of Fine Arts).

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

New from Kings Of Leon


Kings Of Leon releases a brand new single.

American rock band Kings Of Leon yesterday released a single called Supersoaker, taken from its upcoming album Mechanical Bull

The track is currently available today on iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers.

Supersoaker takes listeners back to the band's earlier days, when lead singer Caleb Followill's heavy vocals would push through strong guitar riffs and an uncomplicated melody.

The new album is set for a release on Sept 24.

What's great ... so far


Given the volume of music released already in 2013, a half-year update on the best so far is assuredly in order. 

After all, six months in and already Coachella broke records, Lil Wayne was nearly pronounced dead by the press, the Rolling Stones have come and gone, Azaelea Banks still hasn't released her debut, LL Cool J and Brad Paisley have attempted to solve the problem of race in the United States, bunch of Frenchmen have stormed the charts, Beyonce has stomped across the Super Bowl stage and Snoop Dogg has changed his name to Lion and back again.

Oh, and Kanye West has declared himself a god and desecrated Strange Fruit while releasing a phenomenally produced record that smited (smote?) nearly all his people, especially the women, the fashion purveyors preying on the poor and servants sleeping on his damn croissants.

And within all that drama, roughly 100 trillion hours of new music has been uploaded to the Internet.

A very small percentage of this is essential, but so far, 2013 has been a stellar year for surprises both big and small. It's impossible not to drown in the volume, honestly, and despite a life that affords and encourages voluminous listening, I can't argue that this list is definitive. But we've got six months to catch up.

Here are my favourite 11 records of the year so far, in alphabetical order.

Bombino, Nomad
A shimmering electric guitar record that no fan of the instrument should miss, Nomad, by young Tuareg musician Bombino, is, well, perfect. Overflowing with sonic and lyrical joy, the record, produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach in Nashville, continues to grow with each listen. Fans of Jimi Hendrix and Amadou & Miriam alike can connect through Bombino.


David Bowie,The Next Day 
Close your eyes, pick a song, ignore the release date and the advancing age of its composer and let a random Bowie track on The Next Day seep into your head. Be it the riff rock of Love Is Lost, with the insistent cry of "what have you done?", or the next track, Where Are We Now?, which asks a similarly huge and unanswerable question, Bowie released in The Next Day not only the best album he's done since the 1970s but also a record that might take over your psyche. Gone are the Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust. In its place: the man himself.


Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap (self-released free download)
His name doesn't lie. The young Chicagoan released his second mixtape, Acid Rap, in the spring, and from there it's been a quick ascent. Currently being courted by virtually every label of note in hip-hop, the lyricist on Acid Rap offers a distinctly Midwestern take on what it means to be young, talented and human in 2013. Just listen to Cocoa Butter Kisses for quick evidence of a lyricist willing and able to rap about something as touching as missing the scent of cocoa butter on his mum's skin.


Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
A record that lives up to its hype  –which is saying something – Random Access Memories is a shimmering time capsule, a spinning mirror ball in an orbit that connects the disco of 1977 with the dance tones of 2013. The record is a testament to grand statements in an age of bedroom EDM, proof that laptop auteurs are all well and good but that something truly magical can arise from a seemingly limitless budget and a community of well-tuned, imaginative ears eager to think big.


Laura Marling, Once I Was An Eagle
Fans of acoustic guitars and searing lyrics who love a convincing voice and a temperament that's both fearless and delicate should track down Once I Was An Eagle. Produced by Ethan Johns, the record hums with organs that suggest Garth Hudson's work with the Band, is propelled at times by driving snare and tom toms. Although Marling's only 23, she's firmly in command throughout 16 songs.


Jon HopkinsImmunity
Hopkins' day job is as a behind-the-scenes collaborator and engineer with Brian Eno, where he's worked on sessions with Coldplay and Eno himself, as well as early time spent with Imogen Heap. It takes something special to earn Eno's trust, and the evidence is on Immunity, an instrumental electronic record that taps into countless moods, some heavily rhythmic and repetitive, others pensive experiments in piano-based minimalism.


Justin Timberlake, The 20 / 20 Experience
A modern record filled with well-tailored melodies and sharp-seamed beats, The 20 / 20 Experience spins contemporary dance pop into a realm of synthetic funk with the confidence befitting Timberlake and producer Timbaland. Yes, The 20 / 20 Experience glistens with overtly commercial instincts, but the pair admirably upended the serious expectations of a new Timberlake music project by fitting digital sounds into grand, epic structures that consistently defy expectations.


Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park
Musgraves writes and sings about a world where "lemonade keeps turning into lemons" on her confident breakout album, a languid, honest and ultimately optimistic country statement. An assured voice who unflinchingly attacks topics ranging from promiscuity to hopeless love, Musgraves brushes off a drunk boyfriend on Keep It To Yourself, and on Dandelion sings of hopeless love while rich, perfectly engineered instrumentation – including cello, pedal steel and intricately laced guitars – lifts her words.


Thee Oh Sees, Floating Coffin
Garage rock, punk rock, scuzz rock – call it what you want – but no rock 'n' roll band is firing with as much intensity in 2013. (OK, maybe Queens Of The Stone Age.) The San Francisco band is incredible live: neck tattoos tight with throbbing veins, humming organ lines, deep mid-song freewheeling detours that suggest Krautrock as much as punk rock. Lead singer John Dwyer seems genuinely unhinged most of the time. But he can turn off the crazy to go soft on songs such as No Spell, which harnesses the clean sound of a Rickenbacker guitar to create tripped-out bliss.


An album that could fool casual fans of Sade into thinking she's gone indie, Rhye's debut record doesn't hide its affection for the smooth sound or candlelit soul music. Rather, it offers whispered seductions one after the other. Some, such as The Fall, work on the dance floor, while others, such as the closer, One Of These Summer Days, are better for romance, reading or relaxing in the bathtub. Taken together, Rhye offers more pleasure per measure than any record in 2013.


William Tyler, Impossible Truth
Mesmerising instrumental guitar music is an Achilles heel of mine – be it John Fahey, Sandy Bull or James Blackshaw. Tyler is a Nashville guitarist whose exquisitely constructed and recorded eight-song work bodes well for the future of the art form. Like those mentioned above, Tyler has a curious brain looking for expansion, not nostalgia or period-pieces. He builds exquisite structures, the most profound of which, Cadillac Desert, feels like the score to a particularly haunting western. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

The 4 C's of daddyhood


Navigating through Daddyhood can be tricky, and even downright confusing at times, so I've come up with the "four C's" of daddyhood. These four C's remind me of what's most important, show me how to handle various daddy situations and help keep me calmly on the (sometimes bumpy) road that is daddyhood.

CONSISTENCY: First things first – being a dad is all about consistency. Success in daddyhood requires consistency in all aspects of parenthood: Consistently making it home in time for family dinner; developing a routine your children will consistently look forward to every day; consistently finding quality time to spend with your kids; consistently setting a good example for your children to follow. Your kids will look to you, their dad, for advice, for help, for ideas, for really just about everything. And you need to be ready to be a dad who is consistent.

COMMUNICATION: One of the single most important things you can do to navigate smoothly through daddyhood is to communicate effectively – not only with your wife but with your children, too. If something is unclear, you ask questions; if you're expected to be somewhere you find out all the details; and most importantly you let your family know just how much they mean to you each and every day. Sit down with your children and talk to them about anything and everything. You'll be surprised by the things they tell you and your father-child bond will grow because of this special time spent working on keeping open lines of communication.

CONTROL: Yes, you're the man of the house, but that doesn't mean you control how that house is run day to day. In fact, if there's one thing I've learned through daddyhood it's that you'll have to give up a great deal of control. Things are not always going to work out how you wanted them to and you'll have to learn to be flexible and roll with the punches. Your wife likely has control over the weekly calendar and schedule, and you should thank her daily for keeping your family's lives moving smoothly from day to day. You, as the daddy, however, can find control in organisation and routine; figure out what works for you and stick to it.

CREATIVITY: Possibly my favourite of the four C's is creativity. As we struggle through day-to-day life it can be easy to forget to have fun and find enjoyment in the seeming mundane everyday moments. As a dad I work hard to turn simple tasks into enjoyable moments making my wife and children smile and laugh as often as possible. Be creative every single day and strive to make every moment enjoyable, as time is fleeting and your children will be grown up before you know it. - McClatchy-Tribune

Motivating your kids


Are your unmotivated teens or tweens causing you sleepless nights? Now, stand back and take a good look at your child.

DO your teens or tweens come home with borderline grades year after year, or straight Cs when you know he could get As? It is driving you up the wall, especially because you know how important it is for him to do well in school so that he can get into university someday.

You're worried sick about his future, so you nag and get on his case about his laziness, lack of motivation and irresponsibility. You just don't get why he's so uninterested in doing well, so you try everything you can think of to motivate him.

But try as you might, the situation doesn't get better; in fact, it gets worse.

As a parent, it's difficult not to become invested in our teens and tweens' academic life because we know how important it is for their future. From our perspective, it makes no sense that our teens and tweens would put things like friends or electronics before their work. Look at how motivated and interested they are when it comes to things that excite them, like video games, music, Facebook and the coolest jeans to have.

The truth is, most teens and tweens are motivated, but not by what we think should motivate them. One thing for certain is that if you pressure your teens or tweens in order to motivate them, it almost always makes things worse!

Understand that teens and tweens need to buy into the value of doing well. Think about it in terms of our own life and it will be easier to understand. Even as an adult, you may know it's best to eat right, but to actually follow through is another story! In a way, our teens and tweens must own the importance of doing well themselves.

For some teens and tweens, all the stars are aligned at the right time – motivation, skills and attitude combine to create a successful outcome. But for most of us, it's way trickier and a much more uneven path to motivation and success. When you think about it, not every child asks teachers for help, does all their homework on time all the time, reviews the material they have learned each night and puts aside all the other distractions to get down to their studies. Not even ourselves, when we were a tween or teen!

The ones who do are typically those who have what is called "good executive functioning", because the front part of their brain is more developed. This plays a significant role in school achievement. It helps the regulation of emotions, attention span, perseverance and flexibility.

For many, their functioning often does not develop until much later. But if you have a teen or tween who is lagging behind, it's hard to imagine that they're not just lazy, irresponsible and unmotivated.

Of course, if you start believing these things about your child, you will simply get annoyed, frustrated, angry, and reactive to their laziness – which will contribute to the power struggle and their defiance. How can you avoid this?

Remember, your child's lack of motivation is not your fault, so don't personalise it. When you do, you may actually contribute to the underachieving by creating more resistance.

Look at it this way. If you look too closely in the mirror, you can't really see yourself – it's just a blur. But when you get farther away, you actually see yourself more clearly. Do the same with your teen or tween. Sometimes we're just so close, so enmeshed, that we just can't see them as separate from us.

But if you stand back far enough, you can start to see your teen or tween as his own person and find out what makes him tick – and then you'll be able to help him understand himself as well.

When you step back and observe, you'll know what works for him, why he's reaching for certain things and what really gets him moving. There will be things he's never going to be motivated to do but is still required to do. He may hate doing his chores and try to get out of them, and that's when you give him consequences.

As a parent, the goal is to influence your teen or tween when he has to do something he doesn't want to do, and get to know him well enough to figure out what his own desires might be. You want to help your teen or tween define for himself who he is, what's important to him and what he's going to do to make those things happen.

Our responsibility is to help our teen or tween do that, not to do it for them. We need to stay out of their way enough so they can figure out who they are, what they think and where their own interests lie.

Research has plainly shown that motivated children do better in school – not necessarily because they feel they have to be the best, but because they are trying their best.

How to make recess food exciting


Most parents struggle with snacks to give their kids for recess at school. After looking at their child return home with the 10th half-eaten sandwich, some give up and hand their kids two ringgit to buy biscuits that are nutritionally empty. We empathise totally.

Here are some tips and tricks you can use to entice your child to finish the prepared recess food:

Use fun names

Don't tell your kid you packed kaya sandwich for him. Tell him it is the Great Green Magic Potion, that will power him through the spelling test. Instead of boring fried rice, tell him it's Gulliver's magic rice, which gives him the power to listen to little people (like the story). Sardine sandwiches become King Triton's energy roll.

You get the picture.

Disclaimer: This tip usually works with children younger than six. The older ones will see through it.

Choose their favourite colours

Every kid loves a rainbow. Focus on foods that will allow you to colourise their snack. Tell them if they eat a rainbow, they'll be the coolest kid in the world. Arrange apple, cheese, papaya and even cucumber slices side by side. This way, they're eating healthily and in a colourful way.

Fruit and vegetable kebabs

If rainbows don't work, it's time to bring out the skewers. We don't know what it is with kids and skewers, but they seem to love eating anything stuck to a stick. This is a great way for you to make fruits and vegetable a part of their snacking routine. The ingredients are yours for the choosing – juicy watermelon, crunchy cucumber, delicious tomatoes, and more. Just make sure you take the sharp edges off the skewers before sending them to school with their snack box.

Make a connection

Make their food a part of their interest. If your kids are into certain cartoon characters, you could make food in their shapes. There are heaps of online tutorials that will teach you how to make a Totoro sandwich, or a Pororo bento box.

Sometimes, you may not even have to do something as elaborate as a bento box. Find a way to connect the food to your kid's interest of the moment. If your kid loves art, prepare a peanut butter and jam sandwich that is smeared to look like artwork. A ballet fan could be given a rice pack shaped like a ballet shoe. There are plenty of cookie cutters in various shapes out there. Use these as moulds for rice and bread.

Serve it in a new way

Always find new ways to present the food to your kid. Make a roll instead of a sandwich. Create fruit lollipops instead of kebabs. How about a sushi burger instead of a sushi roll?

Let them prepare their own meals

Get your kids involved in preparing their snacks. Take them shopping for the ingredients, and let them choose what they want to eat. Of course, the rule is they have to choose sensible, healthful food, instead of sugary treats.

Once the shopping is done, ask them how they would like to prepare their snack. Do they want to eat with their hands, or would they prefer to use utensils? From there, decide together on a menu for the week. Make sure you take their input seriously, and not just brush it aside. If they say they really don't want cucumber in their snack, agree on an alternative. Don't force it.

Talk about food

Make food a part of your conversation whenever you can. When you're choosing produce at the supermarket, talk about the vitamins that are contained in green vegetables. Talk about how organic farmers grow their crops without pesticides.

Kids are great with technology nowadays. You could follow up with a little research on the Internet after your shopping sessions, to find out a particular point of interest.

Explore food from different countries

This is a great way to introduce new foods to your kids. Divide the weeks into countries. During India week, pack foods like roti canai, vadai, putu mayam and such. During Korea week, make some kimbap for your kid to bring to school to share with friends. During United States week, pack sliders and baked potatoes. Your kids will be too excited about sharing these new discoveries with their friends, that they will hopefully, devour everything you pack.

Make it a group effort

If you can get together with other parents, you could try setting up a snack pooling schedule. We notice that kids love the food that their friends bring. It doesn't matter that they have the same food at home; it's simply more delicious when another kid brings it.

Take turns to cook portions for every kid in the group. If you can get a group of four households together, decide on a schedule a month in advance, and every household will prepare four portions of food every day for a school week.

This will lessen your burden too, as you only have to do it once every four weeks. If you prefer, you could agree in advance the kinds of food to prepare.

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