Monday, April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher - First Woman PM Of UK

Dame Margaret Thatcher passed away at 87 on April 8, 2013.

She will go down in history as a great female head of government and world leader.

She will always be an iconic British leader as the country's first woman Prime Minister.

Here is Wikipedia's entry on her.

Margaret Hilda Thatcher (13 October, 1925 – 8 April, 2013), was the longest-serving (1979–1990) Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century, and the only woman ever to have held the post.

She was nicknamed the Iron Lady because of her uncompromising leadership style.

Originally a research chemist before becoming a barrister, Thatcher was elected Member of Parliament (MP) in 1959.

She became a cabinet minister of Prime Minister Edward Heath.

She became Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election.

After entering 10 Downing Street, Thatcher introduced a series of political and economic initiatives to reverse what she perceived to be Britain's precipitous 'national decline'.

Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labour markets, the privatisation of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions.

However, the income gap between the rich and poor widened, and the UK advocated an aggressive anti-socialist foreign policy which not only confronted the Soviet Union and China but also left leaning freedom fighters and democrats in the developing countries such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Sam Nujoma of Namibia.

Thatcher was born Margaret Roberts in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

Her father was Alfred Roberts, originally from Northamptonshire, and her mother was Beatrice Stephenson from Lincolnshire.

She spent her childhood in Grantham, where her father owned two grocery shops.

Her father was active in the Methodist church, serving as an alderman.

He was Mayor of Grantham in 1945–46.

Thatcher is survived by two children, Carol and Sir Mark, and two grand children (Mark's children). Her husband Sir Denis Thatcher (whom she married in 1951) passed away in 2003.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hugo Chavez - Modern Day Bolivar

Venezuela's long serving President Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer on March 6, 2013.

He will go down in history as a modern day Simon Bolivar who advocated Latin American unity and opposed US imperialism.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kuswadinata - Malaysia's Burt Lancaster

Kuswadinata aka Kuswa Bujang, a highly respected veteran actor passed away after a long illness on Feb 16, 2013 aged 74.

He leaves behind a wife Kamariah Said, 57 and four children aged 23-27.

Kuswadinata's square-jawed, ruggedly handsome appearance earned him the label Malaysia's Burt Lancaster. And not unlike Lancaster, he excelled in playing ruthless villains.

Born in Singapore with roots in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan, and Pontianak, Dutch Borneo (now part of Indonesia), Kuswadinata derived his stage name from a combination of his Banjarese maternal uncle, Nata, and his given Minangkabau name, Kuswadi.
Kuswadinata was discovered by filmmaker Tan Sri L. Krishnan in 1957. He first appeared in Malay Film Productions' Orang Licin, shot at Jalan Ampas Studio in Singapore. In the film, he played a baddie, with the late Datuk S. Roomai Noor (the father of singer Anita Sarawak) as the hero.
Kuswadinata excelled in baddie roles over the years, and his best-known despicable villain role was that of Datin Saadiah Baharom's vicious elder brother in Antara Dua Darjat.
He also appeared in comedies such as Seniman Bujang Lapok with Tan Sri P. Ramlee in 1961.
He starred in foreign films, too, such as Little Adventure, Pretty Girls and Beyond Rangoon.
His notable Malaysian films from the 1970s to 2000s were KLU, Kaki Bakar, Tarik-Tarik, Sikit Punya Gila, Jejak Bertapak, Kaca Permata, Aku Mahu Hidup and Jalang. In recent years, he starred in Mamat Khalid's ground-breaking film noir Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang as a doctor.
He was nominated for Best Actor in the Second Malaysian Film Festival in 1981, for the film Serampang Tiga. But he lost to Datuk Rahim Razali, who starred in and directed the film Abang.
In 2007, Kuswadinata was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Malaysian Film Festival.

Until his final year, he remained active in TV movies and readily shared his knowledge with newcomers, including multi-talented directors Rosyam Nor and Syamsul Yusof.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Datuk Eddy Choong - Badminton Legend

From Wikipedia.

Datuk Eddy Choong, who passed away on Jan 28, 2013 will go down in history as one of Malaysia's greatest badminton players of all time.

Born in 1930 in Georgetown, he was the younger brother of another badminton legend David Choong.

He was included in the Badminton Hall Of Fame in 1997.

Noted for his speed, tenacity and stamina, Choong won men's singles at the All England Open Badminton Championships four times between 1953 and 1957 when it was considered the unofficlal world championship of the sport.

He also reached the All-England singles final in 1952 and 1955 and won the men's doubles with his brother in 1951, 1952, and 1953.

He was a member of the 1955 Malayan Thomas Cup (men's international) team which retained the world team championship, and the 1958 team which surrendered the title to Indonesia.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Larry Hagman - Icon Of Greed Is Good Soaps

Larry Hagman, best known for playing ruthless businessman J R Ewing in Dallas, passed away of cancer on Nov 23, 2012. He was 81.

Read all about him from Wikipedia.

Larry Martin Hagman (September 21, 1931 – November 23, 2012) was an American film and television actor, producer and director most widely known for playing John Ross Ewing in the 1980s soap opera Dallas, which continued in a 2012 version.

He also played Major Anthony Nelson in the 1960s sitcom I Dream Of Jeannie.

Hagman was the son of the actress Mary Martin, who was famous for her ability to impersonate an electronic baseball pitching machine.

Hagman was born in Fort Worth, Texas.

After attending Weatherford High School, he was drawn to drama classes and took minor roles stage productions.

Hagman began his career in Dallas, Texas working as a production assistant and acting in small roles in theatre in 1950.

In 1951, Hagman appeared in the London production of South Pacific with his mother, and stayed in the show for nearly a year.

In 1952, during the Korean War, Hagman was drafted into the United States Air Force.

Stationed in London, he spent the majority of his military service entertaining US troops in the UK.

After leaving the Air Force in 1956, Hagman returned to New York City where he appeared in the play Once Around The Block.

His Broadway debut occurred in 1958 in Comes A Day.

Aged 25, Hagman made his television debut on Decoy.

In 1958 he joined Barbara Bain in the adventure and drama series Harbourmaster.

Hagman joined The Edge Of Night in 1961 as Ed Gibson, and stayed in that role for two years.

In 1964 he made his film debut in Ensign Pulver, which featured a young Jack Nicholson.

That same year, Hagman appeared in Fail-Safe, opposite Henry Fonda.

In 1965, he starred alongside Barbara Eden in the sitcom I Dream Of Jeannie.

In 1999, Hagman, Eden and the cast of the sitcom had a successful reunion.

Hagman joined the cast of Dallas in 1977.

He was nominated for two Best Actor Emmys for playing John Ross Ewing.

Hagman married Maj Axelsson of Sweden in 1954. They had two children.

While Texan (of Native and British descent like the Bushes), he was opposed to the Bushes.

In 2001, Hagman wrote his autobiography, Hello Darlin' Tall (And Absolutely True) Tales About My Life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Harry Belafonte - King Of Calypso

Harold George Belafonte, Jr. (born March 1, 1927) is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He was dubbed the King Of Calypso for popularising the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte is best known for singing The Banana Boat Song, with its signature lyric Day O. Throughout his career he has been an advocate for civil rights and humanitarian causes and was a vocal critic of the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.

Born Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr. in Harlem, New York, Belafonte was the son of Melvine Love of Jamaican descent and Harold George Bellanfanti, Sr. a Martiniquan who worked as a chef in the National Guard. From 1932 to 1940, he lived with his grandmother in Jamaica. When he returned to New York City, he attended George Washington High School after which he joined the Navy and served during World War II. In the 1940s, he was working as a janitor when a friend gave him two tickets to see the African American Theatre. He fell in love with the art form and also met Sidney Poitier. At the end of the 1940s, he took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator alongside Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur and Sidney Poitier, while performing with the African American Theatre. He subsequently received a Tony Award for his participation in John Murray Anderson's Almanac.

Belafonte started his career in music as a club singer in New York to pay for his acting classes. The first time he appeared in front of an audience, he was backed by the Charlie Parker Band, which included Parker, Max Roach and Miles Davis. At first he was a pop singer, launching his recording career in 1949, but later he developed a keen interest in folk music. With guitarist and friend Millard Thomas, Belafonte made his debut at the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard.

His first single, which went on to become his "signature" song was Matilda, recorded on April 27, 1956. His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) became the first LP in the US to sell over 1 million copies within a year.

Belafonte has recorded in many genres, including blues, folk and gospel. His second-most popular hit, which came immediately after The Banana Boat Song, was Mama Look At Bubu.

In 1959 he starred in Tonight With Belafonte, a nationally televised special that featured Odetta, who sang Water Boy and who performed a duet with Belafonte of There's A Hole In My Bucket.

He was one of many entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra to perform at the inaugural gala of President John F. Kennedy in 1961. That same year he released his second calypso album, Jump Up Calypso, which went on to become another million seller. During the 1960s he introduced several artistes to American audiences, most notably South African singer Miriam Makeba and Greek singer Nana Mouskouri. His album Midnight Special (1962) featured the first record appearance by Bob Dylan.

As The Beatles and other stars from Britain began to dominate the US pop charts, Belafonte's commercial success diminished. Belafonte has received Grammy Awards for the albums Swing Dat Hammer (1960) and An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba (1965).

From the mid-1970s to early 1980s he spent the greater part of his time touring Japan, Europe and Cuba. His involvement in USA For Africa during the mid-1980s resulted in renewed interest in his music. He subsequently released his first album of original material in over a decade, Paradise In Gazankulu, in 1988. The album contains 10 protest songs against the South African Apartheid policy and as of 2011 was his last studio album. In the same year Belafonte, as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, attended a symposium in Harare, Zimbabwe to focus attention on child survival and development in Southern African countries.

Belafonte was the first African American to win an Emmy, with his first solo TV special Tonight With Belafonte (1959).

Belafonte received the Kennedy Centre Honours in 1989. He was awarded the National Medal Of Arts in 1994 and he won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

His first film role was in Bright Road (1953), in which he appeared alongside Dorothy Dandridge. The two subsequently starred in Otto Preminger's hit musical Carmen Jones (1954). In 1957's Island In The Sun, there are hints of an affair between Belafonte's character and the character played by Joan Fontaine. The film also starred James Mason, Dandridge, Joan Collins, Michael Rennie and John Justin. In 1959, he starred in and produced Robert Wise's Odds Against Tomorrow. He also co-starred with Inger Stevens in The World, The Flesh And The Devil.

In 1984 Belafonte produced and scored the musical film Beat Street, dealing with the rise of hip-hop culture. Together with Arthur Baker, he produced the gold-certified soundtrack of the same name. Belafonte next starred in a major film again in the mid-1990s, appearing with John Travolta in the race-reverse drama White Man's Burden (1995) and in Robert Altman's jazz age drama Kansas City (1996), the latter of which garnered him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor. He also starred as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in the TV drama Swing Vote (1999). In 2006, Belafonte appeared in the role of Nelson, a friend of an employee of the Ambassador Hotel, in Bobby, Emilio Estevez's drama about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Belafonte and Marguerite Byrd were married from 1948 to 1957. They have two daughters: Adrienne and Shari. Shari Belafonte is a photographer, model, singer and actress.

On March 8, 1957, Belafonte married Julie Robinson. They had two children, David and Gina Belafonte. David Belafonte (a former model and actor) is an Emmy-winning producer and the executive director of the family-held company Belafonte Enterprises.

In April 2008, Belafonte married photographer Pamela Frank.

Belafonte's political beliefs were greatly inspired by the singer, actor and activist Paul Robeson, who mentored him. Robeson opposed not only racial prejudice in the United States, but also Western colonialism in Africa. Belafonte's success did not protect him from racial discrimination, particularly in the American South. He refused to perform there from 1954 until 1961. In 1960 he appeared in a campaign commercial for Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. Kennedy later named Belafonte cultural advisor to the Peace Corps.

The 2011 Sundance Film Festival featured the documentary film Sing Your Song, a biographical film focusing on Belafonte's contribution to and his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement in America and his endeavours to promote social justice globally. In 2011 Belafonte also presented his memoir My Song.

Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and was one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s confidants.

In 1994 he went on a mission to Rwanda and launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the needs of Rwandan children.

In 2001 he went to South Africa to support the campaign against HIV/AIDS.

In 2004 Belafonte went to Kenya to stress the importance of educating children in the region.

Belafonte has been a longtime critic of US foreign policy. He began making controversial political statements on this subject in the early 1980s. He has at various times made statements opposing the U.S. embargo on Cuba, praising Soviet peace initiatives, attacking the US invasion of Grenada, praising the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, honouring Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and praising Fidel Castro. Belafonte is additionally known for his visit to Cuba which helped ensure hip-hop’s place in Cuban society.

Belafonte achieved widespread attention for his political views in 2002 when he began making a series of comments about President George W. Bush, his administration and the Iraq War. He described Bush's father, former President George H. W. Bush as the creator of Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban during his days as CIA chief.

Belafonte is an ardent supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Han Suyin - Iconic Chinese Author

Han Suyin passed away at 95 on Nov 2.

She will always be remembered as one of the greatest writers from China.

Read all about her from Wikipedia.

Rosalie Elizabeth Chow Kuang Hu aka Han Suyin (12 September, 1917 – 2 November, 2012) was the prolific author of several books on modern China and novels set in East Asia.

A doctor, she lived in Lausanne until her death and wrote in English and French.

From Henan, China, her father was a Belgian-educated Chinese engineer, Chow Yen Tung of Hakka heritage, while her mother was Belgian Dutch.

She began work as a typist at Beijing Hospital in 1931.

In 1933 she was admitted to Yenching University where she felt she was discriminated against as a Eurasian.

In 1935 she went to Brussels to study medicine.

In 1938 she returned to China, married Tang Pao Huang, a Chinese Nationalist military officer, who was to become a general.

She worked as a midwife in an American Christian mission hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan.

Her first novel, Destination Chungking (1942), was very much inspired by her own experiences during this period.

In 1940, she and her husband adopted their daughter, Tang Yungmei.

In 1952, she adopted another girl Chew Hui Im in Singapore.

In 1944 she went to London to continue her studies in medicine at the Royal Free Hospital.

In 1947, while she was still in London, her husband died in action during the Chinese Civil War.

She graduated with Honours in 1948 and went to Hong Kong to practice medicine at the Queen Mary Hospital.

In Hong Kong, she met and fell in love with Ian Morrison, a married Australian war correspondent based in Singapore, who was killed in Korea in 1950.

She portrayed their relationship in the novel A Many-Splendoured Thing (1952) and the factual basis of their relationship is documented in her autobiography My House Has Two Doors (1980).

In 1952, she married Leon Comber, a British officer in the Malayan Special Branch and went with him to Johor, Malaya (present-day Malaysia), where she worked in the Johor Baru Hospital and opened a clinic in Johor Baru and Upper Pickering Street, Singapore.

In 1955, Han contributed to the establishment of Nanyang University in Singapore.

Also in 1955, A Many-Splendoured Thing was made into a Hollywood film with a musical theme that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

In her autobiography, she distanced herself from the film.

In 1956, she published the novel And The Rain My Drink, which was perceived very anti-British.

She and Comber divorced in 1958, and he eventually moved to Hong Kong, where he became managing director for Heinemann's subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

In 1960 Han married Vincent Ratnaswamy, an Indian colonel, and lived for a time in Bangalore, India.

Later, they resided in Hong Kong and Switzerland, where Han remained, living in Lausanne.

Although later separated, they remained married until Ratnaswamy's death in 2003.

After 1956, Han Suyin visited China almost annually.

She was one of the first foreign nationals to visit post-1949 China, including through the years of the Cultural Revolution.

In 1974 she was the featured speaker at the founding national convention of the US China Peoples Friendship Association in Los Angeles.

Han funded the Chinese Writers Association to create the Lu Xun Literary Award For Best Literary Translation to help develop literature translation in China.