Isnin, 21 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Mongolia nomads turn to private land


ALTANBULAG: Mongolia's nomads have roamed its sprawling grasslands for centuries, pitching their yurts wherever they find pasture for their animals, but now Tsogtsaikhan Orgodol is staying put as part of a scheme to tackle chronic overgrazing.

The tanned 53-year-old still wears his nomad's riding boots, but he and his community have been given exclusive rights to 1,000ha of steppe in exchange for reducing their herds and remaining in the same place all year round, giving the land a chance to regenerate.

"I have agreed to cut the number of our goats in half," said Orgodol, looking out from horseback over their 200 animals, mostly sheep and some cows, who despite the project principles are not fenced in.

"The only problem is when other animals come," he added. "They sense where the good grass is. We have to chase them away."

According to MCC's website, the project will cover about 300 tracts of land near Ulan Bator and Mongolia's next two largest towns, Erdenet and Darkhan, involving around 1,000 households in total.

Orgodol's 22-strong group shares two yurts, known as gers in Mongolia, and a permanent house next to a barn about 45km outside the capital Ulan Bator.

The national tradition is for land to be accessible to all, with pastoralist families moving several times a year in search of fodder and water.

But Nyamsuren Lkhagvasuren, who runs the land programme for the US-funded aid agency Millennium Challenge Corporation, said: "The number of livestock has exploded to more than 40 million.

"This goes beyond the limits of what is reasonable, even for Mongolia, which is a vast country."

In a study published last month in the journal Global Change Biology, researchers from the University of Oregon using satellite images from NASA found that 70% of Mongolia's grassland – which makes up almost four-fifths of the country – is now "degraded".

Twelve percent of the country's biomass has disappeared in recent years, they said, calling overgrazing a "primary contributor" to the alarming decline of the steppe.

Livestock was collectivised under the socialist planned economy imposed under decades of Com­munist dictatorship when Mongolia was a satellite of the Soviet Union.

But since the advent of democracy and a market economy in 1990, many Mongolians have returned to their sheep and cattle – partly because unemployment shot up – so that 40% of the working population are now herders. — AFP

Agriculture Minister Battulga Khaltmaa – a former judo champion – acknowledged concerns about desertification but downplayed the University of Oregon findings, attributing the problem to climate change rather than overgrazing.

"The number of animals is not that high compared to the size of the land," he said.

In the Soviet era even greater numbers of cattle roamed the country of 1.6 million sq km, he pointed out.

"Under socialism, we had 26 million livestock and under Stalin the target was set at 250 million in order to meet the demand for meat in Siberia."

But herders who cannot command high prices resort to selling large quantities instead, said Thomas Pavie, an agriculture expert who advises French government projects in Mongolia.

"There is indeed overgrazing, especially in the production of cashmere. The problem is that Mongolia exports wool in the form of raw material, particularly to China, so the value-added happens somewhere else," he said.

"That requires them to produce a lot. If wool were sold more expensively, they would need fewer animals." — AFP

Students cheat to get brain boosters


STUDENTS are mimicking ADHD symptoms in a bid to get their hands on a drug that can help them improve their concentration.

Ritalin is most often prescribed to sufferers of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But a handful of young adults have also been using it as a "brain booster" to give them an edge over their competition.

The white circular tablets contain the stimulant methylphenidate and work by activating parts of the brain that allow concentration, "dimming" others.

For a child with ADHD, Ritalin stimulates the production of dopamine – the brain chemical involved with motivation – and helps them to focus on the task at hand.

For the average youth, it boosts their concentration power, tuning out the "white noise" often blamed for procrastination.

Several former and current Ritalin users said said the drug was favoured by those in reading-intensive university courses and jobs requiring prolonged concentration periods.

Whole chapters of textbooks can be read in a third of the time, and number-crunching tasks whizz by, they said.

Most such Ritalin takers do not actually have ADHD and rely on friends who have the drug – or even imitate symptoms to a psychiatrist.

Though the number of abusers is believed to be small, one said she is "not the only one who takes Ritalin" for purposes other than ADHD.

"A small circle" of classmates take it to cope with examinations, said the 23-year-old graduate student, who declined to be named.

She claimed such pill-popping has been going on for at least a decade. "Many of us found out about the drug from our seniors."

The practice also takes place in the United States, Europe and China, where experts have expressed fears of a "Ritalin generation".

Not all hospital and private psychiatrists, and even fewer general practitioners, dispense Ritalin, and the health authorities say they can do so only under strict supervision.

The pills must be kept under lock and key. Names of those who purchase them, as well as the quantity they buy, must be recorded.

Practitioners said that they try to avoid dispensing Ritalin altogether, preferring less addictive alternatives.

If they do so, it is in conjunction with long-term counselling.

To prevent abuse, psychiatrists have implemented a series of checks to ensure young adults claiming to have ADHD are not doing it to get Ritalin.

Most ADHD cases are diagnosed during childhood, said Dr Chan Herng Nieng of Singapore General Hospital.

When anyone over 19 comes in claiming they have ADHD, he requires that they bring their report book and, in some cases, their parents to verify their academic history.

"You can't claim to be perpetually inattentive but score As all the time," he said.

Another 23-year-old student, who was diagnosed with ADHD by a private psychiatrist three years ago, admitted that she "probably doesn't need" Ritalin and takes the pills only in the weeks leading up to her exams.

Even if abusers get around such checks, financial obstacles may stand in the way.

One user said her doctor's consultation fee alone costs S$400 (RM1,018), while each pill costs S$2 (RM5). — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Anger management issues among children on the rise


GETTING calls from teachers complaining about her 10-year-old son's behaviour is something that Madam Toh is used to.

The 48-year-old factory worker, who declined to give her full name, said her son has had problems relating to his classmates.

But the calls stopped after he attended an anger management programme run by the Singapore Children's Society in March.

The society aims to promote the well-being of children, mainly those from abusive and dysfunctional families.

It said there is a rising number of youngsters needing help to manage anger problems and in 2010, it set up a programme called Storm Riders to combat this.

Offering interactive activities and counselling, it has since helped 94 kids aged eight to 12 – mostly boys. "Because of the pace of our society and exposure to instant messaging, we expect more children to face such issues. The younger generation expects instant gratification," executive director Alfred Tan said.

"Many families are small now, so there will be higher expectations on the child in terms of performance. Children who don't meet expectations – that's where the stress levels go up and one outcome will be the issue of anger."

Jenny Giam, a senior counsellor at the society, said that other reasons include family background, parenting style and exposure to violence from TV and computer games. A child may also express anger to seek attention.

Tan noted: "Social workers have seen younger children exhibit such behaviour so we came up with the programme to address the issue early. We will need more early intervention programmes."

The Institute of Mental Health said it treated 74 children aged eight to 13 for anger management issues from 2007 to 2011.

Dr Bernardine Woo, senior consultant at its Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said common signs of anger in children include physical violence, verbal abuse and being sullen or withdrawn.

Professionals said it is important to seek help early and parents should not dismiss the behaviour as a "growing-up phase". — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

Vin Diesel and Marvel - a big maybe


Marvel Studios boss speaks up about casting rumours.

Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige doesn't give many public interviews, so when he spoke about the many casting rumours swirling around his movies, it caught our attention.

Let's go through this one by one:

First there's Vin Diesel. It's been rumoured for months that Diesel would play the tree-creature Groot in Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy. Diesel has perpetuated those rumours with photos and videos on Facebook, where Diesel is one of the most popular actors in the world.

Feige said Diesel's deal was "close" to being done. "I think it's close to being official for the Groot character," he told the Huffington Post.

"But, not 100% yet."


How about Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Reports surfaced last week that the Looper star, record executive and heartthrob was in contention play Ant-Man in Edgar Wright's upcoming film.

Don't get your hopes up.

"Sometimes it's because we are legitimately talking, and sometimes it's just because he's a prominent actor out there now," Feige said.

"And lots of rumours surround prominent actors."

OK, OK, what about Paul Rudd, another rumoured Ant-Man in the making?

"Well, nothing is true yet," Feige said. "I like Paul Rudd, too."

Double tease. — Reuters


The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star eCentral: Movie Buzz

Vin Diesel and Marvel - a big maybe


Marvel Studios boss speaks up about casting rumours.

Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige doesn't give many public interviews, so when he spoke about the many casting rumours swirling around his movies, it caught our attention.

Let's go through this one by one:

First there's Vin Diesel. It's been rumoured for months that Diesel would play the tree-creature Groot in Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy. Diesel has perpetuated those rumours with photos and videos on Facebook, where Diesel is one of the most popular actors in the world.

Feige said Diesel's deal was "close" to being done. "I think it's close to being official for the Groot character," he told the Huffington Post.

"But, not 100% yet."


How about Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Reports surfaced last week that the Looper star, record executive and heartthrob was in contention play Ant-Man in Edgar Wright's upcoming film.

Don't get your hopes up.

"Sometimes it's because we are legitimately talking, and sometimes it's just because he's a prominent actor out there now," Feige said.

"And lots of rumours surround prominent actors."

OK, OK, what about Paul Rudd, another rumoured Ant-Man in the making?

"Well, nothing is true yet," Feige said. "I like Paul Rudd, too."

Double tease. — Reuters


The Star Online: World Updates

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: World Updates

Hurricane Raymond swirls off Mexico, hits Acapulco with more rain


ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) - Ports were closed, school classes were suspended and hundreds of people were evacuated along Mexico's southern Pacific coast on Monday as a major hurricane loomed over a region still recovering from record flooding a few weeks ago.

Raymond, a category three hurricane, weakened slightly on Monday night as it hovered about 145 km (90 miles) offshore.

The major storm was moving in "a slow and erratic motion" with winds blowing up to 193 km per hour (120 mph) on Monday, Miami's National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

"It's not going to move much in the next 24 to 36 hours," Luis Felipe Puente, head of Mexico's national emergency services, said at a news conference in Acapulco.

The NHC's forecast said the storm could move closer to the coast Monday night and Tuesday before turning west on Wednesday.

The hurricane was already dumping steady rain on coastal areas including Acapulco, where storms wrecked homes, roads and cars and stranded tourists last month.

By early afternoon, parts of the city were covered with water, its port was closed and many roads were washed out. Acapulco's beaches were almost deserted on Monday afternoon as winds picked up.

"This is really bad luck after (tropical storm) Manuel," said Anaberta Lopez, 26, who braids tourists' hair on the city's beaches, surveying a vacant stretch of sand. "There's no work now and people here live off tourism."

Mexico has no major oil installations in the area threatened by Raymond, which has swirled around 233 km (145 miles) west-southwest of Acapulco since Sunday night.

Mexico's Gulf Coast is also facing heavy rains due to the advance of a cold front from the north, which has halted Raymond's progress in the south, the government said.

"If (Raymond) carries on moving at this speed and the cold front keeps holding it, we'll have permanent rain for the next 72 hours," Puente said at a conference earlier on Monday.

A hurricane watch is in place from Acapulco to Tecpan de Galeana about 107 km (66 miles) to the south. More than 800 people have been evacuated from the northwestern fringe of Guerrero down to Acapulco, emergency services said.


Anticipating heavy rains, schools closed in Acapulco, in Lazaro Cardenas and other parts of the southwestern coast. The port in Lazaro Cardenas was also closed, the government said.

Rainfall during the next few days could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, the NHC said.

Angel Aguirre, the governor of Guerrero, urged people to leave areas at high risk of flooding, and Michoacan's government said all maritime activity and road travel should be avoided.

Mexico suffered its worst floods on record in mid-September when tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid converged from the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, killing more than 150 people and causing damage estimated at around $6 billion.

Some 5,700 people are still living in shelters in Acapulco due to the impact of those storms, the Guerrero government said.

Acapulco, whose economy relies heavily on tourism, saw hotel occupancy rates plunge to record lows after the storms, which also knocked out the city's airport for a time. As of Monday afternoon, Acapulco's airport was still open.

The flooding, mudslides and displacement of thousands of people caused by the recent storms have heightened the risk of waterborne illness in Mexico. The country has recorded its first local transmission of cholera in just over a decade.

(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Gardner, Eric Walsh and Paul Simao)

Australian firefighters race to contain wildfires


SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian firefighters worked desperately on Tuesday to try and contain a series of massive wildfires burning in mountains west of Sydney ahead of the return of dangerously hot, windy weather forecast for Wednesday.

More than 200 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales (NSW) state since last Thursday, when fires tore through farm and bush land and scattered communities on Sydney's outskirts, razing entire streets.

The insurance council of Australia said claims of more than A$93 million ($90 million) were expected to grow and the NSW government has declared a state of emergency.

One man died of a suspected heart attack last week while trying to defend his home from a fire north of Sydney. Air pollution in parts of Sydney spiked on Tuesday to dangerously high levels as smoke and ash blanketed the city.

Some 60 fires were still burning on Tuesday, with the largest and most dangerous in the Blue Mountains around 100 km (62 miles) west of Sydney, New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters.

Thousands of firefighters, hundreds of fire engines and 90 aircraft were battling the blazes, which have burned through more than 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres) and have a perimeter of 1,600 km (990 miles), he said.

With steep terrain carpeted by tinder dry eucalyptus forests and dotted with small communities, the Blue Mountains are a popular day trip from Sydney, but its rugged and often inaccessible terrain can become a fire nightmare during the long, hot Southern Hemisphere summer.

"You are talking about some of the most beautiful, scenic country in the world but it is an awful challenge for fire fighting and fire management," said Fitzsimmons.

Efforts had been concentrating on back-burning vegetation to reduce the fuel available for the fires, bulldozing containment lines, and merging two large fires into a single blaze that would be easier to control.

Winds were light, temperatures were cool and patchy light rain was falling on Tuesday, but those benign conditions were not expected to last.

A storm cell was moving towards the region, while strong, dry westerly winds gusting to 80 kmph (50 mph) and temperatures in the mid-30 degree Celsius (high-80 degree Fahrenheit) range are predicted for Wednesday.

"Tomorrow I'm hoping it's not going to be as bad as everyone is forecasting, but I understand they have to give us the worst possible scenario too," Blue Mountains resident Daniela Fullagar told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Police arrested two boys suspected of starting fires in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney.

With dry weather and a massive land area, Australia is particularly prone to brushfires. In 2009, the "Black Saturday" wildfires in Victoria state killed 173 people and caused $4.4 billion (2.7 billion pounds) worth of damage.

New South Wales has just experienced the warmest September and warmest 12 months on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

(Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Michael Perry)

Venezuela recovers likely remains of Italian fashion boss killed in plane crash


CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela said on Monday it has recovered what it believes are the remains of Italian fashion executive Vittorio Missoni, who went missing in January after taking off in a small plane from the Los Roques archipelago in the Caribbean.

Four months ago, Venezuela's government said it had discovered the aircraft in 76 meters (249 feet) of water. It had been carrying Missoni, 58, his wife, Maurizia Castiglioni, another couple, and two Venezuelan crew members.

"All the remains were complete in the plane," Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega told reporters. "There was the luggage and other belongings which indicate to us ... that they belonged to the people we were looking for."

Ortega said Venezuelan navy divers recovered the remains of five of the passengers, but that the sixth was in a hard to reach spot in the wreckage.

The remains will be submitted to DNA tests to verify that they belonged to Missoni and the other victims, she said.

Earlier this year, Italy's agency for flight security, ANSV, said its investigation had found that the airline that owned the plane was not fully licensed to operate and that the pilot's license had expired more than a month before the flight.

Missoni was the oldest child of the founders of the fashion house famous for its exuberantly coloured knits, featuring bold stripes and zigzags. He was co-owner with siblings Luca and Angela, who handle the technical and design sides of the firm.

(Reporting by Liamar Ramos and Efrain Otero; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Eric Beech)


The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Amanda de Cadenet talks to celebrities


HONEST girl talk – that is what British television host Amanda de Cadenet is offering in her new TV interview series.

In her show, The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet, the former actress-model-photographer will have frank tete-a-tetes with guests including Jane Fonda, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga. Issues they talk about range from body image to career disappointments to post-partum depression.

Girl talk is sorely lacking in mainstream television, says the 41-year-old host.

"Everywhere I looked, I found stories that were not true. They were fabricated, they were embellished, they were not authentic and it worries me because if you have women who are comparing themselves to people's lives that they think are a certain way ... no wonder we're all feeling bad about themselves," she says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where she is based.

The mother of three, who is married to American rocker Nick Valensi of The Strokes, adds: "You're just bombarded with all kinds of information and media imagery, stories that tell you that to be a woman, you have to behave a certain way. I disagree with a lot of the messaging."

Her show, she says, is a platform for "women to speak up and speak out on things that they care about and that give some alternative options", through telling their stories that "were truthful".

Her chat show started broadcasting in the United States last year and has been so successful that it was launched in Britain recently.

It premiered on regional pay-TV recently on the Lifetime channel.

She describes her celebrity guests, among them actresses Fonda, Paltrow and Zoe Saldana, and pop star Lady Gaga, as women who are "very outspoken and not apologetic for being who they are".

The TV host herself was a wild child of the 1990s and used to be known for partying hard and dating a string of A-list boyfriends from actor Keanu Reeves to English model Nick Kamen to rock band Duran Duran's bassist John Taylor. She was married to Taylor from 1991 to 1997 and has a daughter Atlanta, now 20, with him.

She wed Valensi, 32, in 2006 and they have six-year-old fraternal twins.

She says she has no qualms about being candid about her own life when chatting with her female guests.

"I don't have any sort of shame about any of the things that I've lived through, and I've lived through some very difficult things in my life. And the good and the positive in that is that I get to talk to other women about those experiences," she says.

"If you're a woman or a girl and you are dealing with infidelity or body image issues, or finance and security, or career disappointment or post-partum depression or addiction, whatever your thing is ... If you're dealing with that, don't feel ashamed about it because there are hundreds of thousands of other women who are also dealing with it. So let's just help one another and talk about it."

Asked if she has always been a girl's girl, she says: "I was a boy's girl for a long time and I guess somewhere in my mid-20s, I realised boys come and go, but your girlfriends stay the same.

"I value women's friendships. They have been the most valuable part of my life, other than my children." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

*The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet airs every Monday at 8pm on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709).


The Star Online: Business

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Business

RM6bil Mid Valley Southkey taking shape in JB


JOHOR BARU: Shopoholics in the Southern region will be thrilled as a new mall similar to Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur will be set up here.

The RM6bil project named Mid Valley Southkey Megamall will be about 30% smaller than the megamall in Kuala Lumpur but will feature a similar design.

IGB Corp Bhd group managing director Robert C.M. Tan said that the project was a joint venture between IGB and Johor based Selia Pantai Sdn Bhd who had a 30% stake in the project.

"The first phase of the mall has officially started today and we expect the building to be completed by end of 2016.

"While the new mall may be slightly smaller than the original Mid Valley Megamall, it will have many enhanced features," he said adding that a lot of improvements had been incorporated based on mistakes made in the construction of the first mall.

Tan said that Mid Valley Southkey Megamall would be built within the Southkey township area and would be built on 36 acres.

"Once completed, the mall will be largest shopping mall in Johor," he said adding that the integrated development will include eight 30-storey tower blocks, four office blocks and one serviced apartment with 180 units.

The megamall itself will have six levels with about 12,000 parking bays for visitors.

"We target to receive an average of 2 million visitors in a month but we are still studying the local demographics to see what kind of outlets will be roped into the project.

"The mall will however include a cineplex, bowling alley and other similar leisure facilities that are available at the Mid Valley Megamall," he said adding that three hotels including Cititel Johor Baru, Boulevard Hotel and The Gardens hotel would be included in the project as well.

"The Gardens hotel will be built in the second phase of the project as we plan to build another version of The Gardens Mall in Johor as well," he said.

Meanwhile, Selia Pantai founder and group chief executive officer Datuk Mohamed Zaini Amran said that a lot of improvements would be done to the infrastructure leading to the mall.

"The road from Bakar Batu to Jalan Tebrau will be widened to six lanes and we will also be building direct ramps from the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) leading into the megamall and exiting as well."

Palm oil rises to 1-1/2 month high


KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm futures jumped on Monday to their highest in 1-1/2 months, lifted by
gains in the U.S. and Chinese soy markets after positive economic data from the Asian giant signalled growing demand for food and fuel.
    The U.S. soyoil contract for December rose 0.5
percent in late Asian trade, while the most-active January
soybean oil contract on the Dalian Commodities Exchange
rose 1.5 percent.
    The palm market generally tracks soyoil, a competing
vegetable oil used as a substitute for the tropical oil. 
    "The market is up on the back of China and U.S. soybean oil
markets," said a trader with a foreign commodities brokerage. 
    "Now it's holding at 2,400 ringgit, which is a strong
short-term support level," the Kuala Lumpur-based trader added.
    Demand for palm was also seen steady, lending support to
    Exports of Malaysian palm oil during Oct. 1-20 rose three
percent to 1,026,488 million tonnes, cargo surveyor data showed
early Monday, boosted by buying from Europe and China.
    Another cargo surveyor, Societe Generale de Surveillance
showed exports rose 8 percent compared to the same period a
month ago. 
    By Monday's close, the benchmark January contract 
on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange had extended the
morning's gains to stand up 1.5 percent at 2,437 ringgit ($769)
per tonne. Prices earlier rose to 2,446 ringgit, the highest
level since Sept. 9.
    Total traded volume stood at 25,240 lots of 25 tonnes each,
much lower than the usual 35,000 lots.
    Technicals are bearish. Malaysian palm oil faces resistance
at 2,449 ringgit per tonne and may retrace to 2,406 ringgit,
Reuters market analyst Wang Tao said. But he added that a rise
to 2,461 ringgit could confirm a break above resistance, leading
to a new resistance target of 2,491 ringgit.  
    Gross domestic product in China's giant economy rose 7.8
percent from a year earlier, its quickest pace this year, giving
a boost to commodity markets including oil. 
    "The positive outlook in China's economy is likely to
support demand for the commodity," Phillip Futures analyst Tan
Chee Tat said in a note on Monday, noting that China is the
world's second-largest palm oil consumer after India.
    Palm oil prices have climbed 5 percent so far in October,
fuelled by optimism that output volumes in Malaysia, the world's
second-largest producer, may not surge as much as estimated. 
    Traders and planters say despite being expected to be the
highest-producing month this year, October's pace may show only
a tiny increase, leaving stocks below the 2-million-tonne mark.
    Stocks now stand at 1.78 million tonnes.
    Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producer, kept its
export tax for crude palm oil unchanged at 9 percent for
November, an official at the industry ministry said. Malaysia
will keep its tax at 4.5 percent.  
    Investors also await the release of nearly three weeks of
delayed USDA data, including export sales figures likely to show
nearly 3 million tonnes of soybeans were sold to overseas
    In other markets, oil fell on Monday amid pressure from
strong supplies, with losses limited by expectations that the
U.S. Federal Reserve will delay reining in its money-printing
programme until next year, helping shore up the demand outlook.
  Palm, soy and crude oil prices at 1011 GMT
  Contract        Month    Last   Change     Low    High  Volume
  MY PALM OIL      NOV3    2432   +40.00    2417    2432     388
  MY PALM OIL      DEC3    2439   +40.00    2417    2443    3984
  MY PALM OIL      JAN4    2437   +36.00    2418    2446   13307
  CHINA PALM OLEIN MAY4    6154  +170.00    6058    6186  652638
  CHINA SOYOIL     MAY4    7258  +108.00    7216    7290  683474
  CBOT SOY OIL     DEC3   41.89    +0.21   41.67   42.09    5668
  NYMEX CRUDE      NOV3   99.79    -1.02   99.77  100.95    4777
  Palm oil prices in Malaysian ringgit per tonne
  CBOT soy oil in U.S. cents per pound
  Dalian soy oil and RBD palm olein in Chinese yuan per tonne
  Crude in U.S. dollars per barrel

 ($1=3.17 Malaysian ringgit) - Reuters

Brazil gears up for big oil auction, Petronas participating


RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil geared up on Monday to sell production rights to its largest-ever oil discovery in a landmark auction that sparked widespread nationalist protests even though most of the world's premier energy companies opted to stay away.

Malaysia's state-owned Petroliam Nasional Bmd, or Petronas, and Japanese trading house Mitsui Co <8031.T> are other qualified bidders

The government deployed more than a thousand troops around the beach front Rio de Janeiro hotel where the auction will take place, cordoning off streets to prevent protesters from disrupting an event that President Dilma Rousseff has billed as a crowning achievement of an energy plan aimed at ending poverty and vaulting Brazil to the ranks of developed nations.

On offer are production rights to Libra, a massive offshore field that holds between 8 billion and 12 billion barrels of recoverable oil, according to Brazil's oil regulator and Dallas-based oil certification company Degolyer & MacNaughton. Brazil estimates it will receive at least $400 billion in taxes and other revenue from Libra over 30 years, as well as about $7 billion up front from signing fees.

The auction will be the first under a three-year-old legal framework that expands state control over Brazil's most prolific oil region, the so-called subsalt reserves off the coast of Rio that hold billions of barrels of oil under a thick layer of salt beneath the ocean floor. Under the new law, Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras <PETR4.SA> must lead development of the fields as operator.

Rousseff, who helped conceptualize the framework when she served as energy minister under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, hopes the windfall from Libra and other subsalt fields will pay for schools, hospitals and other social services that are badly needed in a country known for its income inequality.

"Libra and the subsalt are going to transform our economy like shale oil and gas are transforming the U.S. economy," Energy Minister Edison Lobão told Reuters on Sunday as he arrived at the heavily protected hotel where the auction is scheduled to take place.

"This is opening a new chapter in our history," he said.

Libra is one of a flurry of offshore oil strikes made starting in 2007 in the Santos Basin off Brazil's southeastern coast. If its size is proven, Libra holds enough oil to almost double Brazil's existing reserves or supply every drop of world crude demand for up to 19 weeks.

Yet despite the government's goals and promises, many are against the sale, even though Brazil's new production-sharing model gives the government a direct share of future output.

Oil unions are on strike against it, demonstrators have taken to the streets, and some groups have gone to court to try to stop the auction, calling it a sell-out of precious national resources to foreign interests.


Most major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp <XOM.N>, Chevron Corp <CVX.N> and BP Plc <BP.L>, declined to participate, concerned government rights to dictate investment and development decisions will turn the tens of billions of dollars needed to explore and develop Libra into a loss.

Only 11 companies signed up for the auction, a quarter of the "more than 40" that the head of Brazilian oil regulator ANP, Magda Chambriard, had predicted.

With qualified bidders dominated by Chinese and other Asian state oil companies, some warn that Brazil is staking its future on the good will of foreign governments.

Others worry Libra will further hobble Petrobras, which is already financially overstretched with the world's largest corporate spending plan. Petrobras must take at least 30 percent in any winning group and is selling or delaying potentially more lucrative projects to raise cash to develop Libra.

"Libra's potential is huge and Rousseff is staking a lot its sale," said Cleveland Jones, a geologist with the Brazilian Petroleum Institute at Rio de Janeiro State University. "Unfortunately she put the future of the industry on hold for five years to prepare for this sale and the conditions that led to that sale have changed."

With Brazil's decade-long commodities boom over, economic growth sluggish, inflation high and new U.S. shale oil and gas output raising questions about the future of high long-term oil prices, Libra looks less attractive than two to three years ago.

Unlike previous auctions, Libra is also a production-sharing contract. The winner will be the group that gives Brazil the biggest cut of "profit oil" to sell on its own account. Profit oil is oil produced after paying initial investment costs.

The minimum bid is 41.65 percent. While Brazil has said it expects 75 percent or more, it has also set up a new state company to sell its share of the oil and have a direct say, and partial veto, over how and when Libra will be developed.

State-owned companies such as CNOOC <0883.HK> from China dominate the list of qualified bidders. China National Petroleum Corp <CNPET.UL>, India's Oil and National Gas Corp <ONGC.NS>, Colombia's Ecopetrol SA <ECO.CN>, Malaysia's state-owned Petroliam Nasional Bmd <PETR.UL>, or Petronas, and Japanese trading house Mitsui Co <8031.T> are other qualified bidders.

France's Total SA <TOTF.PA> and Royal Dutch Shell Plc <RDSa.L> paid to get in, but there is a good chance that some of the companies that signed up will not make bids, said Christopher Garman of the Eurasia Group consultancy.

Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS SA <GALP.LS> and Spain's Repsol SA <REP.MC> also signed up, but they have already sold part of their Brazil units to China's Sinopec <600688.SS>. Repsol said on Monday it will not bid in the auction.- Reuters


The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Vin Diesel and Marvel - a big maybe


Marvel Studios boss speaks up about casting rumours.

Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige doesn't give many public interviews, so when he spoke about the many casting rumours swirling around his movies, it caught our attention.

Let's go through this one by one:

First there's Vin Diesel. It's been rumoured for months that Diesel would play the tree-creature Groot in Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy. Diesel has perpetuated those rumours with photos and videos on Facebook, where Diesel is one of the most popular actors in the world.

Feige said Diesel's deal was "close" to being done. "I think it's close to being official for the Groot character," he told the Huffington Post.

"But, not 100% yet."


How about Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Reports surfaced last week that the Looper star, record executive and heartthrob was in contention play Ant-Man in Edgar Wright's upcoming film.

Don't get your hopes up.

"Sometimes it's because we are legitimately talking, and sometimes it's just because he's a prominent actor out there now," Feige said.

"And lots of rumours surround prominent actors."

OK, OK, what about Paul Rudd, another rumoured Ant-Man in the making?

"Well, nothing is true yet," Feige said. "I like Paul Rudd, too."

Double tease. — Reuters

Latest trailer of Ben Stiller&#39;s <i>The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty</i>


The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty is tentatively scheduled to open on Christmas Day.

The Secret Life Of Walter MittyThe latest trailer for this Ben Stiller project, tentatively scheduled to open on Christmas Day, gives us more clues as to who Walter Mitty is. The earlier trailer was brilliant as it had no dialogue except right at the end.

Besides new visuals, this new one has all the bits that appeared in the first trailer only this time we get the conversations. With Stiller, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott in the cast – Stiller is also the director – it's not surprising that the film promises to both tickle our funnybone and inspire us. Also, from both trailers, it's very hard not to like an underdog like Walter.

Based on a short story by James Thurber, it introduces us to Walter – an office worker who is letting life pass him by. He is the first to admit that he might as well just blend into the background.

There is a heartbreaking scene in this 168-second trailer when a female colleague (Wiig), whom he is a little in love with, throws a question in his direction. He starts to answer only to realise, a tad too late, that she isn't talking to him at all but to the girl behind him. (Oops. We all hate when that happens to us.) Walter also works for a real douchebag (Scott), a guy who takes every opportunity to belittle him.

No wonder Walter zones out from time to time, imagining he is doing something fantastic – including pushing his boss out the window in a tall building.

But that is not what this film is about. As the trailer progresses, we learn that Walter steps out of his imaginary world to have the greatest adventure of his life. Awww. Let's hope the film lives up to these two very good trailers.

Screening in Tokyo


Nine-day film festival in Japan opens with Hong Kong horror flick Rigor Mortis.

Hollywood glitz descends on the Japanese capital this week as Tom Hanks, Robert de Niro and Francis Ford Coppola arrive for one of Asia's largest movie celebrations.

A US$50,000 (RM157,000) top prize is up for grabs at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), where movies from around the globe will be competing for recognition.

The international film section will award the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix and carries with it a US$50,000 (RM157,000) pay-cheque, while the new Best Asian Future Film Award section, aimed at showcasing Asian and Middle Eastern films, offers a US$10,000 (RM31,000) purse.

The nine-day event begins on Thursday with the screening of Hong Kong horror flick Rigor Mortis directed by Juno Mak, which is in the running for the Asian Future award.

US heavyweight father-and-daughter pairing Francis and Sofia Ford Coppola are likely to be a big draw for punters, with Sofia's latest directorial offering The Bling Ring being shown in the special screening section for high-profile films.

"Since the very first TIFF in 1985 ... (it) has been a platform for talented young filmmakers to win international recognition and find inspiration," organisers said in a statement.

Past award winners include Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, whose film, Babel won the Prix de la Mise en Scene, (Best Director Award) at Cannes in 2006, and Michel Hazanavicius, whose film, The Artist won five Academy Awards in 2012.

Chief judge, Chinese director Chen Kaige, said in a video message: "We all understand that good films require talent. Without talent nothing can be done. But sometimes I feel like... there is something even more important than the talent, which is the unique personal understanding of the world.

"But strange(ly) enough ... most of (the) time we could only find this kind of unique understanding of the world in the early age of a filmmaker's career. So that's why we want to pay very close attention to young filmmakers' works," he said.

Last year, 1,332 films from 91 countries and regions were nominated in the international competition, according to organisers.

Previous highlights of the festival include the French film Untouchable, the 2011 winner of the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix. It later set a world record for attendance for a French language film and was a long-running hit in Japan.

The film festival is also aimed at introducing high-profile international films that have not been released in Japan and promoting Japanese independent movies to the international industry. – AFP RelaxNews


The Star Online: Nation

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Nation

Two friends killed in road accident


KULAIJAYA: The worried mother had called her son at around 2am on his mobile phone, urging him to come home as it was late.

The 19-year-old assured her that he was on his way after having supper with his best friend.

Choo Chee Ying never made it home. He died in a car accident together with 19-year-old Seah Jun Wen.

Seah lost control of the car and it rammed into a tree on their way home to Skudai.

The two were travelling on KM27 along Jalan Johor Baru-Air Hitam when the incident occurred at around 2.15am on Sunday.

"Seah, who was driving Choo's Honda Civic, lost control of the vehicle while negotiating a corner and crashed into a tree on the road shoulder," said district OCPD Supt Zulkefly Yahya yesterday.

"The car then spun a few times before hitting a divider on the right side of the road," he said, adding that according to an eyewitness, the Hon­da was travelling at a high speed.

Supt Zulkefly added that a Toyota Vios, which was behind the Honda, managed to swerve away in time when the accident occurred.

The bodies were sent to Hospital Temenggung Seri Maharaja Tun Ibra­him. Both friends were the youngest in their respective families.

Choo and Seah had known each other for 13 years and were pupils at the same primary, secondary schools and university college together, until Choo dropped out last year to help in the family's recycling business.

Elsewhere, in Alor Setar, Kedah, Muhammad Isham Zamri, 13, a Form One student of SMK Tunku Laksa­mana, was killed in an accident in Jalan Batu Enam in Kuala Kedah, near here, after the motorcycle he was riding collided with a 4WD at about 7am yesterday, said Kota Setar OCPD Asst Comm Adzaman Mohd Jan.

In Temerloh, Pahang, assistant school principal Gan An Peng, 47, of Taman Meranti Indah, Bera, and businesswoman Yip Lai Cheng, 53, of Lorong Bukit Ubi, Kuantan, were killed in a head-on collision involving their cars.

"The accident occurred at KM138 of the Kuala Lumpur-Kuantan road at 8.15pm on Saturday," said OCPD Asst Comm Abdul Aziz Salleh.

&#39;Fears over GST unfounded&#39;


PETALING JAYA: The public's fears over the goods and services tax (GST) are unfounded as they would pay less compared to the current sales and service tax (SST), Malaysian Association of Tax Accountants (Mata) president Abd Aziz Abu Bakar said.

He said a GST of between 4% and 7% should not adversely effect a consumer who now pays a 10% sales tax and 6% service tax.

"In addition, basic necessities are exempted from GST so there should be no changes in prices for these goods," he added.

Abd Aziz said based on their discussions with the Customs Department, public transportation, toll and financial services would not attract GST.

He said the GST was a tax levied on the supply of goods and services at each stage of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the retailer.

"They are currently passing on the cost of the SST to consumers. The GST is a mechanism to ensure that this does not happen," he said.

HSS Advisory Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Harjit Singh Sidhu said most Malay­sians were still in the dark on the impact of the GST as there was no clear explanation from the Govern­ment.

"The general perception is that the GST is going to be a burden," he added.

He said should the Government consider introducing the GST in Budget 2014, it should be fixed at 4% because the public was still unfamiliar with the tax.

Harjit also proposed for the current tax exempt bracket to be raised from RM2,500 and below to RM5,000 to enable taxpayers in this bracket to cope with the recent increase in fuel cost and the impending GST.

MTUC president Mohd Khalid Atan urged the Government to put off implementing the GST yet.

"Consumers will have to bear the consumption tax if GST is implemented and this will definitely affect the poor," he said.

In Malacca, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan said the implementation and initial percentage rate of the GST would likely to be unveiled in Budget 2014.

He said the GST, which has been implemented in many countries worldwide, would see a lower charge rate than the current 16%.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will table Budget 2014 in Parliament on Friday.

Related story:

Guessing game over GST

Nabbed &#8212; thief who broke into police officer&#8217;s house


IPOH: It was a case of bad luck for two thieves who tried to break into a high-ranking police officer's house. One of them was caught at the scene.

The police officer is based in Penang but owns a double-storey terrace house in Taman Falim Indah in Menglembu, near here.

Ipoh OCPD Asst Comm Sum Chang Keong said the 21-year-old suspect was caught red-handed around 2am yesterday outside the unoccupied house, while his accomplice managed to escape.

ACP Sum said police personnel, together with help of Rela and Rakan Cop Community members, rushed to the house following a tip-off.

Arriving at the scene, they noticed that the grille door to the house had been forced open.

When they approached the house, two men tried to escape, but the team gave chase and caught one of them.

ACP Sum said initial investigations revealed that the two men had arrived in a black Wira Aero­back, driven by the runaway suspect.

The case is being investigated under Section 448 of the Penal Code for trespassing.


The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts &amp; Fashion

Redefining the times


Galeri Petronas' Young Malaysian Artists exhibition embraces the contemporary art world's diversity and complexity.

YOU may have very well walked into a haunted spaceship. An eerie sound, so bizarre and otherworldly reverberates in a perpetual chime. Cuboidal screens with a man forcing his way out of them occupy one dark corner.

As your amble cautiously to your left, the hypnotic sound gets louder. You begin to feel your heart beating faster and your mind slowly entering, dangerously, into a state of trance.

And then, a terrifying sight swims into view. Monsters, big and small, crawling and slithering and bursting out of the walls. Remnants of a poem splashed across what used to be a child's bedroom points to a horrific past and as you courageously dash across to the other side, something more shocking meets your eyes.

A big ball of human hair, sitting stoically on an abandoned bed, even more locks scattered on the floor!

Trapped: 'Outflow' by Andrialis Abdul Rahman features 16 television sets with a man trying to get out of them.

Trapped: Outflow by Andrialis Abdul Rahman at Galeri Petronas, features 16 television sets with a man trying to get out of them. — Photos by RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

The alien tune is still resonating menacingly in the air. Heart beating against your chest, you run for it and you stumble upon a ridiculously tall chair and a giant wooden puppet, staring at the chair from across a sea of terracotta warriors. And dangling from the ceiling, just inches away, its jaws wide open, is a shark made out of brassieres.

Welcome to New Object(ion) II, the second instalment of Galeri Petronas' (GP) Young Malaysian Artists (YMA) art exhibition. Initiated by the gallery back in 2010, GP, through YMA, seeks to provide a platform for young Malaysian artists, most of whom are of the contemporary persuasion, to showcase their artworks.

The brochure for YMA states that this exhibition "aims to explore new creative abilities in the hope of discovering new art idioms or vocabulary."

Twenty contemporary artists were invited by the gallery to join this year's exhibition, whose focus is on new media or rather the usage of it in their artworks. Some of the participating artists include Azad Daniel Haris, Louise Low, Azrin Mohd, Andrialis Abdul Rahman, Shaliza Juana and Gan Tee Sheng.

Azrin Mohd's The Art of War #12: Attack by Fire.

Visitors at Galeri Petronas surveying the 'carnage' of Azrin Mohd's The Art of War #12: Attack By Fire.

"Our focus this year is new media. That was the curatorial direction we took and the artists did not have a problem with it because it is something they are familiar with," explained Badrolhisham Mohamad Tahir, the curator of the exhibition, in a recent interview.

"The challenge was for me, the curator. How should I curate the show? Actually, new media is based on sculptural work, which of course uses objects. I am trying to switch the understanding and view on everyday objects from non-art to art. How can we actually perceive the everyday object as art? The rationale behind it is this, all man made objects went through creative processes."

But immediately a question, a rather subjective one at that, arises. What constitutes new media? For not all of the exhibited artworks employ what one generally associates with new media – computer, electronic media and digital technology.

Outflow by Andrialis was purely a new media artwork. It was an assembly of televisions of various sizes and each screen displayed the legs or the upper torso of a man trying to crash out of the screen. Some screens were blue, some were white and some were amber. Assembled at a dark corner, Outflow will immediately grab one's attention, especially if you are one whose life is entrapped by the idiot box or taken a step further, whose life is entrapped by something bigger.

Shaliza Juanna's Monsters In My Closet captures the memories of one's childhood.

Shaliza Juanna's Monsters In My Closet captures the memories of one's childhood.

However, some of them are purely assemblages like Azrin's The Art of War #12: Attack by Fire, which features a very tall chair, easily 3m high, on one side of a platform and a gigantic wooden puppet on the other side. Filling the space between them are pinkish terracotta figurines, some shattered. Clearly, it details (at least for this writer) a struggle for power and the cost of that pursuit. But no new media was present.

"We don't want to say new media is only computer art. When confronted with sculptural or installation art, do we look at it as new media or merely an installation?

"We are treating this exhibition as an introductory exhibition on what new media is and how we should understand installation in relation to new media," explained Badrol.

Galeri Petronas' director Rosli Rahim said if one were to look at Fatal Attraction by Louise Low, the shark made from countless brassieres, one may wonder if it is about feminism or being a lone shark in this world.

"But the interpretation of the work goes beyond the physical. Thus, while you may have these thoughts as you're looking at this piece, it also directs your language and discourse towards 'why is this artist showing this?'.

'Life' by Gan Tee Sheng is a spooky as it gets at the  New Object(ion) II, the second installment of Galeri Petronas¿ Young Malaysian Artist art exhibition.

Life by Gan Tee Sheng is as disturbing as it gets at the New Object(ion) II, the second edition of Galeri Petronas' Young Malaysian Artists art exhibition series.

"This is what's happening when you talk about new media internationally. In terms of ideas and the ability to produce these works, yes, we are capable, but the language, the discourse and the discussion has yet to come to that level. That is what we are trying to achieve via this exhibition," Rosli reasoned, adding that moving into 2014, contemporary art will be the direction undertaken by the gallery.

But according to Low, who used close to 1,000 pairs of brassieres, "the shark portrays men and domestic violence as a whole. As sharks are among the deadliest predators, I used bras to construct its form, making it alluring to nature.

"A heart shape was placed inside the shark's mouth, serving as a love bait to trap the 'fishes', which represents the women. It shows how women still believe their abusive husbands."

She added, "My artwork is not about how the shark captures its prey; it is about how the smarter fish works its way out of the predator's trap, the temptation."

Elsewhere, Shaliza Juana's Monsters In My Closet took nearly two months to complete and features plush monsters of different sizes and colours hiding behind the curtains and door or even dangling from the ceiling. Several childhood poems imploring the monsters to go away were scribbled on the wall using crayons.

Shaliza said her artwork was inspired by her own childhood experience and she wants the visitors to reminisce on their own experiences.

"All of us are familiar with how the darkness plays with our imaginations, especially when we were kids and the fright we feel as a result of it. I explored my own experiences as a child and came up with this installation for not only the kids to enjoy since the monsters look more cartoon like but for the adults to look at it and realise that they too had similar experiences when they were a kid.

"And to make it more personal, the books and the clothes I used to be part of this 'room' are my own. I wanted to encapsulate the exact moment from my childhood memory," added Shaliza.

Meanwhile, Azad Daniel Haris' Caught Red Handed is the artist's parody or an exaggerated imitation of what is deemed "new media".

"The artwork which I made is a connection of both technology and of organic – human touch. I feel that we can't depend solely on technology to do our job but it is good to work hand-in-hand with technology to create art for the relevance of time. Thus the hand and the plug can be seen as the lowest common denominator for defining 'new media' as perceived by people who fail to see the endless possibility of connectivity between art and technology," said Azad.

Both Badrol and Rosli agreed that New Object(ion) II is not a close-ended type of exhibition.

"The single object is no longer appreciated as what we understood of sculpture in the 1950s. This is more of an interactive kind of aesthetic where the content of the work is how you perceived it. So, if you have five different people with five different backgrounds, you will have five different meanings.

"You might be frustrated at the end but that frustration is meaningful to us because these are the symptoms and effects that we have successfully projected to you," said Badrol with a chuckle.

There are a few ways, should you visit the exhibition, this could play out. You might be utterly lost at the end, experience a horrific ride like the narrative at the start or you might have a million and three questions swirling in your mind.

But you see, that is exactly what New Object(ion) II has set out to achieve. It is not for you to look at the artworks and leave the gallery with some aesthetic satisfaction. That is of a bygone age. This is for you interact with the artwork and through your own background and experiences in life, give your own meaning to it.

You may like them or you may pronounce your object(ion).

Young Malaysian Artists: New Object(ion) II is happening at Galeri Petronas, Level 3, Suria KLCC from now till Nov 24. Free admission. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am - 8pm.

Mixed messages


Local artist Poodien's collage-based murals are fast becoming the talk of the region.

IS one country's loss another's gain? That seems to be the case when it comes to homegrown artist Poodien's digital collage mural Long Live Food!, which was originally hung on the feature wall of the E.A.T. Food Village hall in Publika, Kuala Lumpur last year.

It had a grand eight-month reign at the food hall before it was taken down late last year by the Publika management, and according to sources, the reasons for the removal went beyond merely refreshing the facade of the food village.

The good news is Poodien's Long Live Food! will get a new lease of life abroad next week where it will be on prominent display at the Singapore Biennale 2013.

"Funnily enough, Long Live Food! will be exhibited once again nearby a food areain fact, it will be placed at the front of the Singapore Art Museum (next to the cafe there) during the entire duration of the Biennale," said Klang Valley-based Poodien (otherwise known as Shaifuddin Mamat) in an interview in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week.

Poodien first solo exhibition 'Becoming' at Richard Koh Fine Art KL features a range of his work including digital collage, watercolours, and oil paints.

Poodien's first solo exhibition 'Becoming' at Richard Koh Fine Art KL features a range of his work including digital collage, watercolours, and oil paints.

Not only does the Tumpat, Kelantan-born artist have the Singapore Biennale 2013 to think about, he also has his own first solo exhibition entitled Becoming running this month at Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur. If anything, the 34-year-old softly-spoken chap definitely has a lot on his plate.

"I was inspired by the 'Communist China Socialist Realism' movement in art, and used Chinese propaganda posters from the 1950s to the late 1970s for this Long Live Food! project. Each fragment of this mural was digitally edited and rearranged. And the 'Little Red Book' has been digitally manipulated and replaced with iPads," he explained.

Poodien's artistic twist to Long Live Food! was done to symbolise China's economic reforms in the late 1970s leading up to the introduction of a capitalist style market.

Despite Long Live Food! grabbing the most attention at Poodien's Becoming exhibition, let's not forget the rest of his solo parade at Richard Koh Fine Art where the artist puts his collage-inspired technique to good use. The Becoming exhibition features eight pieces – ranging works in digital collage, cut-and-paste, watercolour, oil paint and paper collage.

Poodien first solo exhibition 'Becoming' at Richard Koh Fine Art KL features a range of his work including digital collage, watercolour, mixed media, and oil paints. This work is called

Poodien, who graduated with a diploma in fine art from UiTM, Perak in 2004, has come a long way since his early days of group exhibitions and DIY-style art gatherings.

He has come across regular commercial-based work to pay his rent but he plans to have his own studio soon if the finances add up. At present, he works from his home in Taman Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur. Nevertheless, the committed social activist hasn't lost his raw passion to question his surroundings as he traverses between painting, performance art and design.

His knack for engaging the public in matters about art and agenda in Malaysian society today is most apparent, especially through his The Lonely Crowd series, which was initially created for the Art Tandas public art project comissioned by Publika. These watercolour on paper pieces reflect images of construction workers, their tools and feature excerpts from French Marxist theorist Guy Debord's Society Of Spectacle handpainted in mirror image.

"This work is essentially an updated critique of late 1960s capitalism and urban consumer society," said Poodien.

Poodien's knack for engaging the public in matters about art and agenda is most apparent, especially through his 'The Lonely Crowd' series, which was initially created for the Art Tandas public art project comissioned by Publika. These watercolour on paper pieces reflect images of construction workers, their tools and feature excerpts from French Marxist theorist Guy Debordâ¿¿s Society Of Spectacle handpainted in mirror image.

Poodien's knack for engaging the public in matters about art and agenda is most apparent, especially through his 'The Lonely Crowd' series, which was initially created for the Art Tandas public art project comissioned by Publika. 

Elsewhere, a brochure with a list of 1Malaysia products isn't the likeliest source material for an art piece. Make that two brochures salvaged from the recycling bin and utilised for two works in the case of Poodien, who spent hours scanning pictures and cropping and pasting images (from the brochures) for his digital and manual collages respectively.

These pieces – the digital collage The Great (Hyperreality) Malaysian Landscape II and the collage on paper Square Takes The Circle: The Simulator – are just two of his most recent works that grapple with themes of consumerism and state-endorsed messages.

They sit nicely next to his portfolio of visual confrontation circling issues like colonisation, propaganda, race and war.

"These 1Malaysia brochures were filled with happy faces and stock photos. Yes, your life could be complete with the '200 products' advertised.

"I thumbed through it and realised the same images were also being used on the billboards and posters during GE13. The question now – after the dust has settled – is how real or unreal is this new Malaysian landscape?" concluded Poodien.

Poodien's Becoming exhibition is on daily at Richard Koh Fine Art, Lot 2F-3, Level 2, Bangsar Village 2, Kuala Lumpur till Nov 1. Call 03-2283 3677 for details.

Explosive success


The satirical Atomic Jaya celebrates its 15th anniversary in Singapore next week.

IT'S quite the milestone for Malaysia, this building of the region's first atomic bomb. And for intrepid physicist Dr Mary Yuen, it's so much more than that. It is a way out of her humdrum job, a great opportunity to pit her wits against the best … and shh, isn't it just so exciting to be working on a top secret national project?

More excitement than she bargained for, that's for sure – especially when she finds herself talking to a uranium smuggler today, a cabinet minister tomorrow, and an army general with a Napoleonic fixation the day after.

Atomic Jaya, written by Huzir Sulaiman, was first produced by Straits Theatre Company in 1998, in Kuala Lumpur. Originally conceived as a one-woman show, it was performed by Jo Kukathas, with Huzir directing. It was subsequently performed in Singapore in 2001 by Claire Wong, with Krishen Jit directing.

Other takes on this production see two actors gleefully juggling the mad assortment of characters in the play between them. The latest offering by Checkpoint Theatre in Singapore is no different; Wong and Karen Tan will take on a total of 16 characters in Atomic Jaya.

In an e-mail interview with Huzir, the Singapore-based Malaysian playwright comments that what is nice about having two actors is that "you get to see one actor reacting to the other, which really multiplies the hilarity!"

"It is important to consider all the characters individuals, with their own goals and their own hidden depths," he adds.

To that end, Huzir, the cast, and the designers, went over the 16 characters with a fine-tooth comb in a workshop at the beginning of the process for this production, and discussed what made each of them tick.

He also recalls the inspiration of this madcap comedy when he wrote it 15 years ago: "It was the time of mega-projects, an ambitious attempt to put Malaysia on the map, which succeeded in the end, but not without growing pains, many of which are still being felt today."

The delightfully outrageous idea behind Atomic Jaya was a result of his wanting to look at "the most absurd possible mega-project as a way of unpacking our national obsessions and foibles."

"And what would that be? The atomic bomb of course!" he says.

One wonders if the play would turn out differently if he were to put pen to paper today, instead of over a decade ago. After all, surely the world – and its viewpoint on nuclear power, satirical or not – has evolved.

But Huzir is convinced that there are some things around us that just do not – or have not – change.

"The threat of nuclear proliferation hasn't gone away in the last 15 years; it's the same script but with different countries assigned the role of the villain," he observes.

"Everybody tries to either enrich their own uranium or obtain it from some shady source. So the play is startlingly – some might say tragically – relevant."

Atomic Jaya has certainly stood the test of time. The satire has been performed several times in Singapore and Malaysia.

In 2007, it was presented as a rehearsed reading at Asia House in London, and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in the United States. There have been numerous student productions along the way, but the last professional production in Malaysia was Checkpoint Theatre's tour to Kuala Lumpur in 2003, acted by Checkpoint Theatre's joint artistic directors Huzir and his wife, actress-director Wong.

"I've tried never to repeat myself in my writing, whether in form or content. So in that sense every play is different," says Huzir. "But Atomic Jaya occupies a special place as it was my first full-length play and was fortunate enough to be well received."

Well received is perhaps an understatement.

Atomic Jaya has been published by Silverfish Books in Huzir Sulaiman's collection of plays, Eight Plays, as well as in his newest publication, Huzir Sulaiman: Collected Plays 1998-2012, published this year by Checkpoint Theatre. The play has also been translated into Japanese.

When asked what the secret behind the play's success is, Huzir modestly offers: "I've been told that it captures the foibles and absurdity of Malaysian life, but in a way that celebrates them."

Plus, it is ultimately a play about personal choices, a topic near and dear to many.

"Mary Yuen's moral dilemma about building the bomb echoes the tough decisions many of us make in life about whether to go down certain paths that lead to fulfilment, but at a cost. In asking 'What would happen if Malaysia were to build an atomic bomb?' it juxtaposes a very local situation with global geo-politics," he says.

As for when Atomic Jaya will be next staged in Malaysia, Huzir says he is always open to the idea.

"It's just about finding the time, space and funding for us to do a tour. But I'd also be happy for someone else to take it on with their own version – so long as they ask for permission!"

Atomic Jaya will be staged at Sota Drama Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive, Singapore, from Oct 24 to Nov 1, at 8pm (Tuesday to Friday) and 3pm and 8pm (Saturday and Sunday). Tickets are available from Sistic; call +65 6348 5555 or go to Atomic Jaya, written and directed by Huzir Sulaiman, stars Claire Wong and Karen Tan in this production. It celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.


The Star Online

Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved