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Peace Concert In Havana

21 Sep

HAVANA – MMORE than half a million Cubans gathered in Havana on Sunday for a concert featuring Miami-based singer Juanes, a gig welcomed by US President Barack Obama, but criticised by Cuban exiles.

THE show is the second event under the ‘Paz sin Fronteras’ banner, after a 2008 Juanes show promoting peace on the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

The concert, headlined by Juanes – most famous for his hit songs A Dios le Pido and La Camisa Negra – will also feature some of Latin America’s brightest music stars, including Olga Tanon, Danny Rivera and the Orishas.

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Hundreds of thousands of parasol-waving fans braced blistering heat in the capital’s storied Revolution Square, with merriment belying the political undertones that the concert has produced.

Miami’s Cuban exile community has criticised the performance, saying it will legitimise the island’s communist regime, and Colombian-born singer Juanes received death threats ahead of the ‘Peace without Borders’ concert.

Many of those present appeared focused on the need for Cubans everywhere to unite.

‘We have to unite Cubans that are inside and those outside. Everyone has family there. It does not matter why they left. We have to leave hate behind,’ said Yordanis Padron, a 34-year-old electrician.

Clutching a umbrella, bottle of water and a snack, 73-year-old Lidia said she hoped the concert would ‘serve as a message to the imperialists that we want peace and help to reconcile those here with those from over there.’

Earlier, Mr Obama welcomed plans for the massive but controversial concert, telling US Spanish-language network Univision the performance could help improve ties with Cuba.

Mr Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met the Colombian singer before he left for the island, a trip which has prompted some of Miami’s million-strong Cuban exile community to smash his records in protest.

‘My understanding is that he’s a terrific musician. He puts on a very good concert,’ Mr Obama told the station as part of a five-channel media blitz on Sunday to sell his plan to reform US healthcare.

‘I certainly don’t think it hurts US-Cuban relations, these kinds of cultural exchanges.’ Juanes has promised a ‘historic’ show on Havana’s vast Revolution Square, the scene of countless declarations by Cuba’s communist leaders and home to an iconic mural of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara.

‘We are excited to connect with the audience in Cuba – saying that we are here, that they are not alone, and that we hope over time things can change and the Cuban family can be one,’ the 37-year-old Grammy winner said Saturday.

‘What better language than music… for that wake-up call,’ said Juanes, who now lives in Miami. — AFP

Straits Times

Muse's New Album Irresistable

21 Sep

LONDON – BRITISH rock band Muse shot straight to the top of the UK album charts with their new release The Resistance outselling the next three top albums combined, the Official Charts Company said on Sunday.

British World War Two armed forces’ sweetheart Vera Lynn, who last week became the oldest living artist to have a number one album, dropped a place to number two with We’ll Meet Again, a collection of her best known songs.

That meant singer Peter Andre, whose marriage break-up with glamour model Katie Price, has dominated tabloid newspapers in recent weeks, had to settle for third place with his new release Revelation.

US rapper Jay-Z was another new entry in fourth with The Blueprint 3, while singer-songwriter David Gray’s ‘Draw The Line’ went into the charts in fifth place.

In the singles chart, Taio Cruz, whose writing and production talents have been used by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and the Pussycat Dolls, debuted in top spot with Break Your Heart.

David Guetta featuring Akon stayed in second place with Sexy Chick, while Madonna was a new entry in third with Celebration.

Jay-Z featuring Rihanna and Kanye West remained in fourth with Run This Town, with She Wolf by Shakira climbing 20 places to fifth. — REUTERS

Straits Times

Stella McCartney Sportswear

21 Sep

LONDON – STELLA McCartney’s sportswear franchise is saddling up to take on the cycling world.

The British designer may be better known for her tops and dresses, but her active-wear ‘adidas by Stella McCartney’ concept has been going strong since 2005.

In addition to her pre-existing ranges devoted to yoga, tennis, golf and swim, McCartney is now working to keep cyclists, runners and triathletes looking sharp on the track and in the pool.

The sports apparel on display on Sunday at London’s Somerset House was made from lightweight, breathable fabrics designed with comfort – and perspiration – in mind.

Mesh was nearly everywhere: In wide loops lining the side of a gym shoe or tightly wound into a poly-cotton collared golf shirt.

‘It’s moisture management,’ explained Emma Willey, who works for adidas by Stella McCartney. ‘When you come out after eight hours on the golf course, you want to be smelling fresh.’

McCartney kept to an understated style, with a pair of small red running shorts and a shiny, tinfoil-like pool blue jacket being among the flashiest pieces in an otherwise neutral-coloured collection. Zebra print was pervasive.

McCartney says she tries to keep her materials environmentally friendly and ethically sourced. Apparel on display included clothes constructed out of organic cotton and recycled polyester, and shoes built with recycled rubber and wood pulp insoles.

Sunday, the third day of London Fashion Week, also features shows by Betty Jackson, Nicole Farhi, Jasper Conran, and British fashion icon Vivienne Westwood. — AP

Straits Times

Jon Stewart's New Emmy

21 Sep

LOS ANGELES – JON Stewart and his writing staff are owners of new Emmy Awards.

Comedy Central’s The Daily Show was named the best comedy or variety show in the annual Emmy Awards. Blessed with an abundance of material during a presidential election, the show beat out David Letterman’s Late Show, Saturday Night Live, Real Time With Bill Maher and The Colbert Report.

Stewart’s writing staff also won for best writing in a comedy or variety series, making it a clean sweep.

As he accepted the award, Stewart joked that it gave him and his staff time to go backstage and check out the pro football game, being shown on another network. — AP

Straits Times

Pitt Laughs Off Run For Mayor

14 Aug

NEW ORLEANS – BRAD Pitt is laughing off the idea he should run for mayor of New Orleans. Pitt told NBC television’s Today show on Thursday that he has seen the ‘Brad Pitt for Mayor’ T-shirts that many New Orleans residents have been sporting for at least two months. But when asked if he has considered running,

Judge Approves MJ Collectibles

8 Aug

LOS ANGELES – THE King of Pop is coming to calendars and collectors’ coin cases after a judge approved several deals involving the singer’s estate on Friday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff signed off on agreements for Jackson-themed items including calendars, school supplies, posters and a commemorative coin. He also granted authority so that reprints of Jackson’s autobiography Moonwalk can be sold in China, Korea and several Eastern European countries.

Judge Beckloff also agreed to allow Jackson’s estate to partner with Apple’s iTunes to sell songs and videos of Jermaine Jackson’s performance of the Charlie Chaplain song ‘Smile’ at the pop singer’s public memorial.

The deals were presented to the judge by the current administrators of Jackson’s estate, attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain. Financial details of the agreements were not disclosed.

They offer a hint at Jackson’s post-death marketability, and a pending deal may bring even more Jackson-themed merchandise to store shelves and electronics.

Judge Beckloff has scheduled a hearing on Monday to decide whether to approve other deals involving Jackson, including a movie project that would feature the singer’s final rehearsals and preparations for a series of comeback concerts in London.

Columbia Pictures has agreed to pay US$60 million for the rights to footage shot for Jackson’s ‘This is It’ concerts, but the deal must be approved by Monday. The extra time was granted to give the singer’s mother, Katherine Jackson, time to consider the proposed contracts and voice any opposition to them.

Judge Beckloff is also considering a deal between the estate and merchandiser Bravado for worldwide distribution rights to several Jackson-themed products, including trading cards, apparel, lighters, stuffed animals that play Jackson’s music and digital apparel and even tattoos for online games such as Second Life.

The deals remain an important piece of the Jackson’s financial puzzle and could offset potential losses by concert promoter AEG Live, which spent more than US$30 million organising the singer’s 50-show comeback in London. — AP

Straits Times

Actress Mindee Ong Talks Of Her 'Bondage' Experience

6 Aug

SINGAPORE: You can’t really tie Mindee Ong down. One minute she’s designing bags inspired by envelopes, the next, she’s off to Taiwan in the name of charity.

Unless, of course, you’re tying her down for a play called “Bondage”.

Last seen onstage for “Shanghai Blues”, the Fly Entertainment artiste and “12 Lotus” beauty is in the third play under Drama Box’s ongoing Blanc Space mini-festival of Chinese theatre.

Written by Cheow Boon Seng and directed by Danny Yeo, “Bondage” features a cast of interesting characters. Ong, in particular, plays a teenager opposite a sadomasochistic cop played by multi-media artist Loo Zihan. It opens Thursday and runs until Sunday at The Arts House.

Over the weekend afternoons, Drama Box will also be holding free dramatised readings of scripts by Chong Tze Chien, Ng How Wee and Lee Shyh Jih at the same venue.

“Bondage” is Ong’s third production with the Mandarin theatre company, and while she’s not involved in any of the apparent S&M shenanigans onstage, she did help out in designing their “S&M positionings”.

“I don’t know if I should consider myself fortunate or not that I’m not involved,” she quipped.

So do bad boys appeal to ‘881’s’ Miss Little Papaya?

“I probably won’t go for robbers or thieves, but my Mister Man needs to have a wicked sense of humour,” Ong, 29, revealed.

This of course, from someone who likes to work with leather. On bags, that is.

The Singapore ambassador for Sembonia – which carries Ong’s own Envelope line of bags – is also hosting the road shows and acting as judge for the fashion accessories line’s Bag My Style design challenge, which runs until October 23.

Busy as her schedules are this year, would you believe she’s actually taking it slow?

“The past two years were too hectic. I’m taking a kind of slower pace. But I’m working on a few things and you’ll be seeing more of me next year, I hope.”

For now, she said that the last quarter of the year will be reserved for taking more acting classes.

“Any form of honing my acting skills, I’ll do it!”

Channel News Asia


17 Jul

July 17, 2009

Who would have thought that horror maestro Chukiat Sakweerakul, whose previous efforts include the ghost story Evil and the ultra-violent 13: Game Of Death, would turn out to be such a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy)?

His latest movie, Love Of Siam, is about two childhood friends who lose touch, only to run into each other again as teenagers, at which point their relationship develops into something more than friendship.

The movie, which is rated M18 here, won four Thailand National Film Association Awards last year, including Best Picture.

Love Of Siam tells a very human story, very sensitively told, and it’s frankly hard to believe that the same guy who directed 13: Game Of Death had anything to do with it.

In an e-mail interview with The New Paper, the 28-year old Thai director revealed that this film is actually much closer to his heart than previous efforts.

‘Love Of Siam is my dream project. I always wanted to do a love story, but in Thailand the market at that time was such that 13: Game Of Death had a greater chance of success.

‘Audiences wanted horror more than they wanted a love story. Fortunately, audience demands began to change, and I got to do Love Of Siam.’

Though the popularity of Asian horror may be waning, and the popularity of love stories on the rise, it must be said that Love Of Siam is not a conventional love story.

Though the subject is handled with great delicacy, this is still a film about a homosexual relationship.

But Chukiat believes his movie is more than that.

He said: ‘I think Love Of Siam deals with various issues in Thailand. It talks about family relationships. It talks about friendship and dreams.

‘All of the things that are all around us. I think audiences love to see all these different elements mixed together, and we mixed them well.’

The film has proven to have universal appeal.

Chukiat feels that this is because he spent such a long time on the script, and drew from various sources of inspiration.

‘I collected love stories from the many people around me,’ he said.

‘The main idea is about how love is important in our lives. I would like to share every different perspective on love with the audience.’

The two young stars of Love Of Siam – Mario Maurer and Witwisit Hiranyawongkul – have received critical acclaim and various awards for their performances.

Witwisit, 20, told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: ‘I worried about my acting. This is my first movie.

‘My character, Mew, looks like a normal boy, but in reality, the character is very complex in terms of his relationship with his family, his society, and his close friend, Tong. I was worried about how my character would be received by audiences.’

In a separate e-mail interview, we asked Mario if the film’s subject matter ever made him uncomfortable.

The 20-year old replied: ‘No, it’s just acting. I read the screenplay and thought it was the best thing I’d seen. I did my best, and the feedback’s been good.’



The NewPaper

Farrow's Brother Killed Himself

18 Jun

CASTLETON (Vermont) – ACTRESS Mia Farrow’s brother, a sculptor, killed himself at his art gallery in Vermont, state police and a spokeswoman for the actress said on Wednesday.

Patrick Farrow, 66, died of a single gunshot wound to the head late on Monday night in his studio, a converted church, authorities said.

Farrow and his wife, Susan, regularly walked along the main thoroughfare in Castleton, a central Vermont town of about 4,300 not far from the New York border.

Police had initially classified Farrow’s death as suspicious, but later said the medical examiner’s ruling of suicide was consistent with evidence found at the scene.

Patrick and Mia Farrow are the children of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan.

Mia Farrow’s movie credits include ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ and ‘Crimes and Misdemeanours.’

‘The family of Patrick Farrow is grieving the tragic loss of their beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle who sadly chose to take his own life,’ said Mia Farrow’s manager, Laura Berwick.

‘They greatly appreciate the support of their friends during this difficult time.’

Farrow was a professional sculptor for more than 35 years. The Web site for the Farrow Gallery says it sells jewellery and mixed-media works of art. The gallery was quiet on Wednesday. — AP

Straits Times

Ann Kok Taken Aback By 'Touch Test'

18 Jun

Ann Kok taken aback by ‘touch test’
TV host prods her breasts to see if they’re real because of rumours about implants
By Gan Ling Kai
June 18, 2009

LOCAL actress Ann Kok sat on the couch, ready to field questions about her family.

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE DRESS: Ann reacting during the recording of CelebriTEA Break, and shedding her girl-next-door image at the Star Awards 1996 by wearing a sexy top. PICTURES: MEDIACORP, TNP FILE TNP DESIGN: PRADIP KUMAR SIKDAR PICTURES: SONY PICTURES, MEDIACORP

But halfway through the recording of Channel U talk show CelebriTEA Break II, host Quan Yifeng suddenly asked to touch her breasts.

Ann was shocked but allowed Yifeng to prod her chest, while fully clothed, of course.

This episode of the talk show was filmed more than two months ago, and is one in the series of provocative celebrity interviews viewers will see since the talk show started its second season run on 10 Jun.

The series is aired every Wednesday night.

The episode featuring Ann, 36, will be aired next month.

During the recording, Ann was talking about her family and career path.

Halfway through, one of Ann’s friends, Mr Chen Wencong, 36, a MediaCorp scriptwriter and fellow Star Search finalist with Ann in 1993, was invited by the producers on the set.

He recounted how he was often asked by others whether the voluptuous actress has had breast enlargement.

Yifeng then spontaneously volunteered to solve this ‘mystery’ by conducting a ‘touch test’.

When contacted, Ann told The New Paper that initially, she was shocked.

‘But I wasn’t offended. It’s just to create an entertainment effect after all.’

In a separate interview, Yifeng, 35, said the test wasn’t scripted for the show.

‘We were just reacting to the flow of the conversation in the programme.

‘Although the director roughly told us what we can talk about, there are no limits set on the questions we can raise.’

She added that she was not worried that Ann would be offended, because ‘it was done in a relaxed atmosphere’.

Yifeng said although tough questions may be asked during the show, it’s up to the celebrity guest to decide how to react.

There’s no pressure to respond in any particular way. (See report right.)

And the verdict of the ‘touch test’?

Said Yifeng, with a laugh: ‘They (Ann’s breasts) are soft and must be real!’

Tyra moment

So how did Ann feel about her Tyra Banks moment?

In September 2005, the American model underwent a televised sonogram on her talk show to prove that her breasts were not fake, after rumours that she has had a boob job.

Ann said she was ‘ok, and not upset’ by people regularly speculating whether she’s gone under the knife.

But she insists she doesn’t enjoy being seen as a sex symbol.

Her voluptuous figure became a hot talking point ever since she attended the 1996 Star Awards in a peek-a-boo blouse and black bra top.

In 2004, she was voted as one of the 10 sexiest women in the world by the Singapore version of men’s magazine FHM in its annual survey, beating Jamie Yeo, Paris Hilton and Karen Mok.

And even though she played a mother of one and housewife on her last drama, Housewives’ Holiday, the episode where Ann donned a sexy bikini hit a ratings high of 977,000 viewers.

Yet, the 1.62m actress who weighs 42kg, said: ‘I don’t mind being seen as sexy, but not as a sex symbol.


‘Being sexy is not just about dressing provocatively, but also about exuding charisma.’

To her, if she’s seen as sexy, ‘that’s just a bonus’.

But above all, she wants to be recognised for her hard work in acting.

Is she concerned that this episode will return attention to her chest again?

Said Ann: ‘I don’t think that will happen.

‘Back in 1996, people were more conservative (towards dressing). But 13 years later, audiences have matured.’

Ann said there were no hard feelings towards the talk show and its hosts.

She said: ‘The show allows audiences to know more about the artistes.

‘And it gives the artistes an opportunity to share what’s in their hearts.’

Ann, who is single, isn’t just cool over talk about her figure.

She was equally cool when asked about speculation over her love life.

Shin Min Daily News reported last week that netizens claimed they saw the actress holding hands with up-and-coming actor Dai Yangtian at a supermarket.

Ann confirmed with The New Paper she had been shopping with the 25-year-old actor in Cold Storage at Cluny Court.

But she denied they were holding hands or that they are in a relationship.

Is she bothered by the talk of her snagging a younger man?

Said Ann, laughing: ‘I’m okay, I won’t be concerned about how others perceive (her love life).

‘There’s no need to hide. I’m not committing a crime.

‘I’m not the type that will avoid him (Yangtian) just because of this. We are still friends.’

But when pressed if she’d consider dating The Little Nyonya star, she demurred: ‘I don’t know. I’m a girl after all, so I don’t think of such questions.

‘We are just in the mood of being friends.’

But she admitted that Yangtian is ‘not bad’ and that he’s ‘mature and good-looking’.

She added: ‘As a friend, he’s also very sincere and gentlemanly.’

She said she didn’t think their 11-year age gap would hinder the possiblity of a relationship.

When contacted by The New Paper, Yangtian, too, remained coy, saying: ‘It all depends on fate.’

He also didn’t rule out the possibility of a future romance with Ann.

But he insisted that right now, she is just one of his two close female buddies in showbiz – the other being actress Felicia Chin.


The NewPaper