Sunday, December 28, 2008

ABBA - Mainland Europe's Most Iconic Pop Group

Thanks, Wikipedia.

ABBA was a Swedish pop group that was a worldwide sensation in the 1970s.

The band consisted of Benny Andersson (Sweden), Bjorn Ulvaeus (Sweden), Anni-Frida Lyngstad Fredrikson (Norway) and Agnetha Faltskog (Sweden).

They topped the charts worldwide from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.

The name ABBA is an acronym formed from the first letters of each group member's given name.

ABBA gained immense international popularity employing catchy song hooks, simple lyrics and a Wall of Sound achieved by overdubbing the female singers' voices in multiple harmonies.

As their popularity grew, they were sought after to tour Europe, Australia and North America, drawing crowds of near-hysterical fans, notably in Australia.

Touring became a contentious issue, being particularly unpopular with Agnetha, but they continued to release studio albums to great commercial success.

At the height of their popularity, however, both marriages of the band members (Benny with Frida, and Bjorn with Agnetha) failed, and the relationship changes were reflected in their music, as they produced more thoughtful lyrics with different compositions.

They remain a fixture of radio playlists and are one of the world's best selling bands, having sold over 400 million records worldwide.

ABBA was also the first pop group from mainland Europe to enjoy consistent success in the charts English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The music of ABBA has been re-arranged into the successful musical Mamma Mia! that has toured worldwide and had a movie version released in 2008.

All four of the former members of ABBA were present at the Stockholm premieres of both the musical (2005) and the film (2008).

Benny Andersson (born in Stockholm, Sweden on December 16, 1946) was a member of a popular Swedish pop-rock group, The Hep Stars, that performed covers of international hits, from the age of 18.

The Hep Stars were known as The Swedish Beatles.

Benny played keyboards and eventually started writing original compositions for his band, many of which became major hits including No Response and Sunny Girl.

Bjorn Ulvaeus (born in Gothenburg, Sweden on April 25, 1945) also began his musical career at 18 (as a singer and guitarist), when he fronted The Hootenanny Singers, a popular Swedish folk group.

Ulvaeus started writing English language songs for his group, and even had a brief solo career.

The Hootenanny Singers and The Hep Stars sometimes crossed paths while touring, and on one occasion in 1966 Ulvaeus and Andersson decided to write a song together.

Their first attempt was Isn't It Easy to Say, a song later recorded by The Hep Stars.

Stig Anderson was the manager of The Hootenanny Singers.

He saw potential in the collaboration, and encouraged them to compose more.

Both also began playing occasionally with the other's bands on stage and on record, although not until 1969 did the pair write and produce some of their first real hits together, Merry Sixties.

Andersson wrote and submitted the song Hej, Clown for the 1969 Melodifestivalen, the Swedish Eurovision Song Contest finals.

The song tied for first, but re-voting relegated Andersson's song to second place.

On this occasion, Andersson briefly met his future spouse, singer Anni-Frida, who also participated in the contest.

A month later, the two had become a couple.

As the two bands began to break up, Andersson and Ulvaeus teamed up and eventually recorded their first album together in 1970, called Lycka (Happiness in Swedish), that included original compositions sung by both men.

Agnetha Faltskog, (born on April 5, 1950 in Jonkoping, Sweden) had a number one record in Sweden when she was only 17, and was soon noted by the critics and songwriters as a talented singer and songwriter.

Her main inspirations were singers like Connie Francis.

Along with her own compositions, she recorded covers of foreign hits and performed them on tours.

She submitted an original song for Melodifestivalen at 17, titled Redeemed, but it was rejected.

She briefly met Anni-Frida during a TV show in 1968, and Bjorn at a concert a few months later.

During the filming of a Swedish TV special in 1969, Agnetha met Bjorn again, and they were married in 1971.

In 1973, Agnetha starred as Mary Magdalene in the original Swedish production of Jesus Christ Superstar and attracted favourable reviews.

Between 1967 and 1975, she released five studio albums.

Anni-Frida (born on November 15, 1945 in Bjorkasen in Ballangen, Norway) sang from the age of 13 with various dance bands, and worked mainly in a jazz-oriented cabaret style.

She also formed her own band the Anni-Frida Four.

In 1967, she won a national talent competition with the song A Day Off.

When Benny started to produce her recordings in 1971, she got her first number 1 single My Own Town, for which all four future ABBA members sang the backup vocals.

Frida toured and performed regularly and made appearances on radio and TV.

She met Bjorn briefly in 1963 during a talent contest and Agnetha during a TV show in 1968.

Frida finally linked up with her future bandmates in 1969.

She participated in the Melodifestivalen, where she met Benny for the first time.

Benny produced her single Peter Pan in 1969 – the first collaboration between her and Benny and Bjorn.

Later Benny produced Frida's self-titled debut album which was released in 1971.

Frida also played in several cabaret shows in Stockholm between 1969 and 1973.

After ABBA was formed, she recorded another successful album in 1975, Frida Ensam, which included the original Swedish rendition of Fernando.

It became a huge hit in Scandinavia before the English version was recorded.

An attempt at combining their talents occurred in 1970 when the two couples went on holiday together in Cyprus.

What started as singing for fun on the beach ended up as an improvised live performance in front of the United Nations soldiers stationed on the island.

Benny and Bjorn were recording their first album together, Lycka, which was to be released in 1970.

Agnetha and Frida added backing vocals on several tracks and the idea of them all working together saw them launch their own stage act, Festfolk, which translates from Swedish to mean both Party People and Engaged Couples.

After the 1970 release of Benny and Bjorn's album Lycka, two more singles credited to them were released in Sweden, No Doctor Can Help with That and Imagine if the Earth were Young.

Agnetha released her fourth album in 1971 and married Bjorn on July 6, 1971.

Benny, Bjorn and Agnetha started performing together on a regular basis during the summer of 1971.

Stig Anderson was determined to break into the mainstream international market with music by Benny and Bjorn.

He encouraged them to write a song for Melodifestivalen, and after two rejected entries in 1971, they submitted Say It With A Song for the 1972 contest.

The song won third place and became a huge hit in Sweden.

Their song She's My Kind Of Girl was released by Epic in Japan in 1972, giving them a top 10 hit.

People Need Love was released in 1972, featuring guest vocals by Agnetha and Frida.

Stig released it as a single, credited to Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida.

In 1973, the band and manager Stig decided to have another try at the Melodifestivalen, this time with the song Ring Ring.

Stig arranged an English translation of the lyrics by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody and in the Melodifestivalen, it placed third.

Stig subsequently named the group ABBA. The members had informally called themselves A. B. B. A. for a long time.

In 1974, ABBA performed Waterloo, its self-penned hit, at the Eurovision Song Contest in Britain and won.

The victory gave ABBA the chance to tour Europe and perform on major TV shows.

ABBA's subsequent hit songs included Honey, Honey and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.

ABBA's third album spawned the hit songs S. O. S. and Mamma Mia!

In 1976, ABBA released its Greatest Hits album which contained the hit song Fernando.

The group's next album Arrival was a number 1 bestseller all over Europe and Australia.

It contained the monster hits Money, Money, Money, Knowing Me, Knowing You and Dancing Queen.

ABBA's fifth album in 1977 contained the hit songs The Name of the Game and Take A Chance on Me.

In 1979, the group performed Chiquitita at the Music for UNICEF Concert held at the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate UNICEF's Year of the Child.

Agnetha and Bjorn were divorced in 1979.

The group's sixth album, Voulez-Vous, was released in the same year.

Besides the title track, it also contained the hit songs Does Your Mother Know, Angel Eyes, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and I Have A Dream.

ABBA's seventh album spawned the hit songs The Winner Takes It All, Super Trouper and Lay All Your Love On Me.

ABBA broke up in 1982.

Benny and Bjorn began collaborating with Tim Rice in 1983 on writing songs for the musical Chess, while Agnetha and Frida concentrated on international solo careers.

Among the songs in Chess were One Night In Bangkok and I Know Him So Well.

Frida recorded a duet with French singer Daniel Balavoine titled Belle.

In 1987, Benny released his first solo album Ring My Bells.

In the 1990s, he wrote music for the popular Swedish cabaret quartet Ainbusk Singers, giving them two hits, Lassie and Love Me.

He also wrote music for films.

Benny's band BAO released three successful albums in 2001, 2004 and 2007.

Bjorn had a reunion with his old band The Hootenanny Singers in 2005.

Benny and Bjorn are highly involved in the worldwide productions of the musical Mamma Mia! alongside Frida and Agnetha who attend its premieres.

They were also involved in the production of the successful film version of the musical, which opened in 2008.

Benny and Bjorn also made cameo appearances in the film.

In 1982, Frida launched her album Something's Going On produced by Phil Collins.

Frida's second solo album Shine was released in 1984.

Agnetha followed in 1983 with the album Wrap Your Arms Around Me. This included the hit single The Heat Is On, which was a hit in Europe.

In the US, Agnetha scored a Billboard Top 30 hit with Can't Shake Loose.

Agnetha released Eyes of a Woman in 1985 and it contained the hit song I Won't Let You Go.

In 1987 came I Stand Alone which was produced by ex-Chicago lead vocalist and bassist Peter Cetera.

They had a duet I Wasn't The One Who Said Goodbye.

In 1992 Frida became the chairperson of the environmental organisation Artists for the Environment in Sweden. She held the post for three years.

She also recorded Julian Lennon's environmental song Saltwater.

In the same year she married German prince Heinrich Von Plauen. He died at the age of 49 of cancer in 1999.

A year later, Frida lost her daughter in a car crash.

After ABBA, Frida became traumatised upon discovering that her real biological father was a Nazi German military officer Alfred Haase, who forcefully impregnated her mother during the Nazi German occupation of Norway during World War 2.

She has since made peace with Haase.

Roxette's Per Gessle has written songs for Agnetha and Frida.

U2 paid tribute to ABBA in a concert at Stockholm in 1992.

In 1994 two Australian movies focussed on admiration for ABBA - The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding.

Evan Dando of The Lemonheads recorded a cover version of Knowing Me, Knowing You, Sinead O'Connor and Boyzone's Stephen Gately have recorded Chiquitita, Tanita Tikaram has paid tribute to The Day Before You Came, Cliff Richard has covered Lay All Your Love On Me, while Dionne Warwick and Peter Cetera recorded their versions of S. O. S.

Swedish metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen covered Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! with slightly altered lyrics.

In 2008 all four ABBA members were reunited at the Swedish premiere of the film Mamma Mia!.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Haggis - Britain's Beloved Big Sausage

Thanks, Wikipedia.

One of Britain's most beloved dishes is the haggis, that giant sausage from Scotland.

The haggis contains sheep heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, turnip, spices and salt, wrapped inside a sheep stomach and mixed with stock.

It is believed that the haggis arrived in Britain with the Roman (Italian) invasion of Julius Caesar's time.

However, it is also possible that the haggis was introduced to the Scots by the English invaders.

Scottish poet Robert Burns famously created the poem Address To A Haggis. Every January 25, when the poet's birthday is celebrated in Britain, his poem is read before a haggis is served at any formal dinner in his honour.

The haggis is widely available in supermarkets in Scotland and other parts of Britain, as well as the British diaspora.

Haggis can be served in Scottish fast-food establishments deep fried in batter.

A haggis burger is a patty of fried haggis served on a bun, and a haggis bhaji is another deep fried variant, available in some Indian restaurants in Glasgow.

Higher class restaurants sometimes serve chicken breast stuffed with haggis and this dish is Chicken Balmoral.

Since the 1960s various Scottish shops and manufacturers have created vegetarian haggis for those who do not eat meat. These substitute various pulses and vegetables for the meat in the dish.

In the United States, a sausage known as scrapple closely resembles the haggis.

Sausages which closely resemble the haggis include:

The Danish and Norwegian Garnatalg, Slatur and Lungmush;

The Swedish Polsa;

The English Groats Pudding;

The Dutch Balkenbrij;

The French Boudin;

The German Stippgrutze, Knipp and Saumagen;

The Spanish Camaiot and Chireta;

The Portuguese Tripas;

The Maltese Mazzit;

The Mexican Montalayo;

The Brazilian Buchada;

The Philippine Bopis;

The Romanian Drob;

The Czechoslovakian and Hungarian Tlacenka, Veres, Hurka and Jelito;

The Bulgarian Bahur;

The Yugoslavian Svargl;

The Polish Kaszanka;

The Lithuanian Kepenine and Kraujiniai;

The Russian Kishka;

The Asheh and Ghammeh of Syria and Lebanon;

And the African-Caribbean Jug-Jug.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Florence Foster Jenkins - Queen Of The Sliding Scale

Just came back from a wonderful musical about the life of the legendary precursor to William Hung, Florence Foster Jenkins.

The play is titled Souvenir and is written by Stephen Temperley.

It was staged in The Actors Studio, Kuala Lumpur (which is owned by my relative-by-marriage Datuk Faridah Merican, the First Lady of Malaysian Theatre).

It starred Canadian singer and actress Gabrielle Maes as Florence and Malaysian actor and musician Llew Marsh as her longtime pianist collaborator Cosme McMoon.

This is a brief biography of Florence, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florence Foster Jenkins (July 19, 1868 – November 26, 1944) was an American soprano who became famous for her complete lack of rhythm, pitch and overall singing ability.

Born Florence Foster in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to Charles Foster and Mary Hoagland, Jenkins received music lessons as a child, and expressed a desire to go abroad to study music.

Her wealthy father refused to pay the bill, so she eloped to Philadelphia with Frank Jenkins, a doctor, who became her husband (the two divorced in 1902).

She earned a living there as a teacher and pianist.

Upon her father's death in 1909, Jenkins inherited a sum of money which allowed her to take up the singing career that had been discouraged by her parents and former husband.

She became involved in the musical life of Philadelphia, and later New York City where she founded and funded the Verdi Club.

She also took singing lessons, and began to give recitals, her first in 1912.

Her mother's death in 1928 gave her additional freedom and resources to pursue singing.

Jenkins had little sense of pitch and rhythm and was barely capable of sustaining a note.

Nonetheless, she became tremendously popular in her unconventional way. Her audiences apparently loved her for the amusement she provided rather than her musical ability.

Despite her patent lack of ability, Jenkins was firmly convinced of her greatness.

She compared herself favourably to the renowned sopranos Frieda Hempel and Luisa Tetrazzini, and dismissed the laughter which often came from the audience during her performances as coming from her rivals consumed by "professional jealousy."

She was aware of her critics, however, saying "People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

The music Jenkins tackled in her recitals was a mixture of the standard operatic repertoire by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi and Johann Strauss (all of them well beyond her technical ability), Lieder (including works by Johannes Brahms and Joaquin Valverde), and songs composed by herself or her accompanist Cosme McMoon.

Jenkins often wore elaborate costumes that she designed herself.

After a taxi crash in 1943 she found she could sing "a higher F than ever before." Instead of a lawsuit against the taxi company, she sent the driver a box of expensive cigars.

In spite of public demand for more appearances, Jenkins restricted her rare performances to a few favourite venues, and her annual recital at the Ritz-Carlton ballroom in New York City.

Attendance at her recitals was always limited to her loyal clubwomen — she handled distribution of the coveted tickets herself.

At the age of 76, Jenkins finally yielded to public demand and performed at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 1944.

So anticipated was the performance that tickets for the event sold out weeks in advance.

Jenkins died a month later.

Jenkins recorded nine arias on five records, which have been reissued on three CDs.

The Muse Surmounted: Florence Foster Jenkins contains only one Jenkins' performance, Valse Caressante, and an interview with the composer, who was also her accompanist, Cosme McMoon.

The Glory of the Human Voice contains the other eight arias, all accompanied by McMoon. Murder on the High C's contains all nine arias.

In 2005, a play about Jenkins' life, Souvenir, by Stephen Temperley, opened on Broadway.

It was staged in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 2008.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Isabel Allende - Latin America's Hot Mama Of Novelists

Isabel Allende is one of my favourite Latin American feminist icons.

This is a brief biography of her, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Isabel Allende Llona (born in Lima, Peru on August 2, 1942) is a Chilean-American novelist.

Allende, whose works fall under the "magic realist" tradition, is one of the most successful women novelists in Latin America.

She is famous for her contributions to Latin American literature, and her famous novels include The House of the Spirits (1982) and City of the Beasts (2002).

She has written novels based in part on her own experiences, often focusing on the experiences of women, weaving myth and realism together.

She has lectured and done extensive book tours and has taught literature at 10 US colleges.

Having adopted American citizenship in 2003, she currently resides in California.

Allende was born in Lima, Peru to diplomat Tomas Allende, the Chilean ambassador to Peru and Francisca Llona Barros.

Tomas Allende was the first cousin of Salvador Allende, the President of Chile from 1970 to 1973.

The young Isabel read widely, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.

She married her fellow Chilean Miguel Frías in 1962, and became a TV presenter, dramatist and journalist.

They had 2 children.

From 1959 to 1965, Allende worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Santiago and Belgium.

She also translated novels from English to Spanish.

When her uncle was ousted and executed by General Augusto Pinochet with US backing in 1973, Allende fled to Venezuela.

In 1988, she married American lawyer William Gordon. She became a US citizen in 2003.

She was one of the eight flag-bearers at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

In 2008, she became an honorary doctor of humane letters of the San Francisco State University.

Allende published two children's stories Grandmother Panchita and Lauchas y Lauchones.

She also worked in Chilean television production from 1970 to 1974.

As a journalist, she once sought an interview with Pablo Neruda, a notable Chilean poet.

Neruda declined, telling her she had too much imagination to be a journalist, and should be a novelist instead.

He also advised her to compile her satirical columns in book form.

She did so, and this became her first published book.

In 1973, Allende's play El Embajador played in Santiago, a few months before she was forced to flee the country.

In Allende's time in Venezuela, she was a freelance journalist for El Nacional in Caracas from 1976-1983 and an administrator of the Marrocco School in Caracas from 1979-1983.

In 1981, when Allende learned that her grandfather, aged 99, was on his deathbed, she started writing him a letter that later evolved into a book manuscript, The House of the Spirits.

The intent of this work was to exorcise the ghosts of the Pinochet dictatorship.

The book was a great success; Allende was compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Colombia as an author of magical realism.

Allende's books have since became known for their vivid story-telling.

She writes using a computer, working Monday through Saturday, 9am to 7pm.

Allende's book Paula (1995) is a memoir of her childhood in Santiago, and her years in exile.

It was written in the form of a letter to her daughter Paula, who was terminally ill with cancer. Paula died in 1992.

The Los Angeles Times has called Isabel Allende "a genius," and she has received many international awards, including the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, granted to writers "who have contributed to the beauty of the world."

She is also the founder of the Isabel Allende Foundation, which is "dedicated to supporting programmes that promote and preserve the fundamental rights of women and children to be empowered and protected."

Allende's novels have been translated into 30 languages and sold more than 51 million copies.

There are four movies based on her novels - The House of the Spirits (with Meryl Streep), Aphrodite, Eva Luna and Gift for a Sweetheart.

Her latest book is a memoir, The Sum of Our Days.

It was published in 2008 and looks at her recent life with her immediate family, which includes her son Nicolas, second husband William Gordon and her grandchildren.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

About Tampin & Pulau Sebang

Tampin and Pulau Sebang are twin towns.

This article about them is from Wikipedia and The New Straits Times.

Tampin is a town and district in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

It is named for the traditional Malaysian container weaved from the pandanus fronds.

Tampin's town's centre is situated at the Negeri Sembilan and Melaka state boundary.

Pulau Sebang, a small town within the larger town of Alor Gajah in northern Melaka, is merged with the town centre of Tampin.

Tampin has a major railway station in its suburb Gemas, which is the meeting point of the West Coast and East Coast Peninsular Malaysian railway lines.

However, the railway station located closest to Tampin town centre is the Pulau Sebang railway station.

Prior to World War II, there was a railway line linking Pulau Sebang to Melaka City, but it was dismantled by the Japanese colonialists for the construction of the infamous Burmese Death Railway.

Tampin is governed by the Tampin Municipal Council, one of seven local authorities in Negeri Sembilan.

Pulau Sebang is governed by the Alor Gajah Municipal Council, one of three local authorities in Melaka.

A few schools, shops, government buildings and houses sit on the Negeri Sembilan-Melaka border and are thus shared between Tampin and Pulau Sebang.

Prominent Malaysians who hail from Tampin include former Cabinet Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn (whose hometown is Gemas), singer Khadijah Ibrahim, her elder brother actor Latiff Ibrahim and her elder sister actress Sofea Ibrahim.

Prominent Malaysians who hail from Alor Gajah (of which Pulau Sebang is a part) include journalist Ahirudin Attan, actor Faizal Hussein, former Melaka Chief Minister Tan Sri Rahim Thambychik and former police chief Tan Sri Rahim Noor.

Datuk Ho Koh Chye - A God Of Sportsmen

Malaysian sports recently lost a titan with the passing of hockey lord Datuk Gregory Ho Koh Chye.

The 66-year-old from Seremban who died of cancer on December 3, 2008 was an outstanding Olympian who kept goal for Malaysia in two Olympics - Tokyo 1964 and Mexico City 1968.

Ho honed his skills during his schooldays in St Paul’s Institution, Seremban, and coached the Malaysian hockey squad to a fourth placing in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, the national hockey team’s best ever result to date.

A man of integrity who firmly believed in discipline, spartan ways, meritocracy, family values, diligence, excellence and the spirit of Malaysian-ness, Ho was immensely popular in the sports fraternity and became the chef-de-mission to the Beijing Olympics last August.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Toto - Iconic Pop-Rock Band Of The 1980s

Just had a great time meeting and watching Toto lead singer Bobby Kimball perform at Hard Rock Cafe Kuala Lumpur on November 29, 2008.

This special performance was in celebration of Hard Rock Cafe's recent re-launch and its 17th anniversary.

The cafe recently underwent a RM3 million refurbishment exercise involving both its exterior and interior and now sports an exciting new look.

Kimball performed Toto's hits such as Rosanna, Africa and Hold the Line, which made the band popular worldwide in the 1980s.

Toto was founded in 1977 with Kimball, keyboardist David Paich, (son of composer Marty Paich), drummer Jeff Porcaro (son of acclaimed percussionist Joe Porcaro), guitarist Steve Lukather and Jeff's brother, keyboardist Steve Porcaro. It released its first, self-titled album in 1978.

Toto also composed music for the 1984 science fiction film Dune starring singer Sting and Twin Peaks' Kyle MacLachlan.

Toto is best known for its technical prowess in the studio and its musical style that combines elements of pop, rock, soul, funk, R&B and jazz.

The band has released 17 albums and sold over 30 million records. Its 18th release, Falling In Between Live, was released last year.

Its earliest hits were Hold the Line, I'll Supply the Love and Georgy Porgy.

Its second album contained another monster hit, 99, inspired by Star Wars creator George Lucas' cult film THX 1138.

Toto also provided American Idol judge and notable choreographer Paula Abdul with her first claim to fame. She was a dancer in the band's music video for Till The End.

Steve left the band in 1987 to pursue a solo music and acting career.

Another Porcaro brother, Mike, joined as bassist.

Jeff died in 1992. He suffered a fatal heart attack caused by an allergic reaction to insecticide used in his house.

He was replaced by Simon Phillips, a Londoner noted for collaborating with The Who, Mike Oldfield and Mick Jagger.

In 2005, Greg Philinganes, a protege of Stevie Wonder, joined the group as its new keyboardist.

In April this year, Toto's members chose to call it a day as a band.

They performed together for the last time that month in Seoul, South Korea. Each member is currently working on solo projects.

Toto, and its individual members have collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry and they include Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Larry Carlton, Chicago, Sir Elton John, Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones, Sir Paul McCartney, Steve Vai and Lionel Richie.

Paich also composed music for the Beijing Olympics this year.

Here are the lyrics to some of Toto's greatest hit songs.

Africa (My personal favourite)

I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She’s coming in 12.30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some long forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say, “hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you”

It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
We’re gonna take some time to do the things we never had

The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become

It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
We’re gonna take some time to do the things we never had

Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa, I bless the rains down in Africa
I bless the rains down in Africa, I bless the rains down in Africa
I bless the rains down in Africa
We’re gonna take some time to do the things we never had

I'll Be Over You

Some people live their dreams
Some people close their eyes
Some people's destiny
Passes by

There are no guarantees
There are no alibis
That's how our love must be
Don't ask why

It takes some time
God knows how long
I know that I can forget you

As soon as my heart stops breakin'
As soon as forever is through
I'll be over you

Remembering times gone by
Promises we once made
What are the reasons why
Nothing stays the same

There were the nights holding you close
Someday I'll try to forget them
Someday I'll be over you


All I wanna do when I wake up in the morning is see your eyes
Rosanna, Rosanna
I never thought that a girl like you could ever care for me, Rosanna
All I wanna do in the middle of the evening is hold you tight
Rosanna, Rosanna
I didn't know you were looking for more than I could ever be

Not quite a year since she went away, Rosanna yeah
Now she's gone and I have to say
Meet you all the way, meet you all the way, Rosanna yeah
Meet you all the way, meet you all the way, Rosanna yeah

I can see your face still shining through the window on the other side
Rosanna, Rosanna
I didn't know that a girl like you could make me feel so sad, Rosanna

All I wanna take is a night you'll never ever have to compromise
Rosanna, Rosanna
I never thought that losing you could ever hurt so bad

Meet you all the way, meet you all the way, Rosanna yeah
Meet you all the way, meet you all the way, Rosanna yeah

Georgy Porgy

It's not your situation, I just need contemplation over you
I'm not so systematic, it's just that I'm an addict for your love
Not the only one that holds you, I never ever should have told you
You're my only girl
I'm not the only one that holds you, I never ever should have told you
You're my only world

Just think how long I've known you, it's long for me to own you, lock and key
It's really not confusing, I'm just the young illusion, can't you see

I'm not the only one that holds you, I never ever should have told you
You're my only girl
I'm not the only one that holds you, I never ever should have told you
You're my only world

Georgy Porgy, pudding pie, kissed the girls and made them cry
Kissed the girls and made them cry, kissed the girls and made them cry

It's not your situation, I just need contemplation over you
I'm not so systematic, it's just that I'm an addict for your love

Not the only one that holds you, I never ever should have told you
You're my only girl
I'm not the only one that holds you, I never ever should have told you
You're my only world

Georgy Porgy, pudding pie, kissed the girls and made them cry
Kissed the girls and made them cry, kissed the girls and made them cry

Georgy Porgy, pudding pie, kissed the girls and made them cry
Kissed the girls and made them cry, kissed the girls and made them high

Georgy Porgy
Kissed the girls and made them cry, kissed the girls and made them high
Georgy Porgy
Kissed the girls and made them cry, kissed the girls and made them cry

Datuk Razali Ismail - A Gentleman Deputy Minister From Terengganu

This article is from the Malaysian National News Agency.

Kuala Berang-born Deputy Education Minister Datuk Razali Ismail, 59, who died of a heart attack while playing badminton in Genting Highlands on November 28, 2008 will be deeply missed by Terengganu journalists.

He was well-liked for his friendliness and caring nature.

He was a also a good source of Terengganu news.

Razali was appointed Deputy Minister after winning the Kuala Terengganu Parliamentary seat for a second term in the last general election.

A history graduate from University Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and an education masters graduate from the University of Birmingham in Britain, Razali was a teacher in his home state who rose to become Terengganu education director in 2001.

In 2003, he became the principal of the Kuala Terengganu Teachers’ College.

A black belt in judo, he was the vice-president of the Terengganu Hockey Association and a committee member of the Terengganu Football Association.

Razali is survived by his wife Datin Nooraini Lob Yusof and five sons.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Many of the things we have in life were invented by African Americans.

The lift was invented by Alexander Mills, the automatic gearshift by Richard Spikes.

We must thank Joseph Gambol for the super charge system of engines, and Garrett Morgan for traffic signals.

The rapid transit system was created by Albert Robinson, while Charles Brooks invented the street sweeper.

The pencil sharpener is the creation of John Love while the fountain pen and hand stamp are William Purveys’ inventions.

Lee Barrage created the typewriter and W. A. Love the advanced printing press.

Other Black inventors were William Barry (postmarking and canceling machine), Philip Downing (letter drop), Joe Smith (lawn sprinkler), John Burr (lawn mower), Fred Jones (air conditioner), Lewis Later (electric lamp), Granville Woods (automatic cut-off switch), Tom Steward (mop), Lloyd Ray (dust pan), Jan Matzelinger (shoe lasting machine), Walt Sammons (comb), Sarah Boone (ironing board), George Samon (clothes dryer), and John Standard (refrigerator).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gong Li Is Now Singaporean

Welcome to Nusantara, Gong Li.

The screen goddess of China is now Malaysia's neighbour.

Her businessman hubby is a Singaporean.

Miriam Makeba - Mother of Africa

Miriam Makeba, who passed away on November 9, 2008 at the age of 76, was a Grammy Award-winning South African singer, also known as Mama Afrika.

Born Miriam Zenzi Makeba in Johannesburg in 1932, she was maternally Swazi and paternally Xhosa. Her father died when she was only six. Her mother was a Swazi priestess.

As a child, she sang at the Kilmerton Training Institute in Pretoria, which she attended for eight years.

Makeba first toured with an amateur group. Her professional career began in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers, before she formed her own group, The Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies of South Africa.

In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela, her future husband.

Though she was a successful recording artiste, she was only receiving a few dollars for each recording session and no provisional royalties, and was keen to go to the US.

Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back, Africa in 1959 by independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. She attended the premiere of the film at the Venice Film Festival.

Makeba then travelled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who assisted her in gaining entry to and fame in the United States.

She released many of her most famous hits there including Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa), and Malaika.

In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba. The album dealt with the political plight of Black South Africans under apartheid.

She discovered that her South African passport was revoked when she tried to return there in 1960 for her mother's funeral.

In 1963, after testifying against apartheid before the United Nations, her South African citizenship and her right to return to the country were revoked. She has had nine passports, and was granted honorary citizenship of ten countries.

Her marriage to Trinidadian civil rights activist and Black Panthers leader Stokely Carmichael in 1968 caused controversy in the United States, and her record deals and tours were cancelled.

As a result of this, the couple moved to Guinea, where they became close with President Ahmed Sekou Toure and his wife.

Makeba separated from Carmichael in 1973, and continued to perform primarily in Africa, South America and Europe.

She was one of the African and Afro-American entertainers at the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman held in Congo-Kinshasa.

Makeba also served as a Guinean delegate to the United Nations, for which she won the Dag Hammarskjold Peace Prize in 1986.

After the death of her only daughter Bongi Makeba in 1985, she moved to Brussels.

In 1987, she appeared in Paul Simon's Graceland tour. Shortly thereafter she published her autobiography Makeba: My Story.

Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return to South Africa in 1990.

In 1991, she made a guest appearance in an episode of The Cosby Show, titled Olivia Comes Out Of The Closet.

In 1992 she starred in the film Sarafina!, about the 1976 Soweto youth uprisings, as the title character's mother, Angelina.

She also took part in the 2002 documentary Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony where she and others recalled the days of apartheid.

In 2000, her album, Homeland, produced by Cedric Samson and Michael Levinsohn was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best World Music category.

In 2001 she was awarded the Gold Otto Hahn Peace Medal by the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin, "for outstanding services to peace and international understanding".

In 2002, she shared the Polar Music Prize with Sofia Gubaidulina.

In 2004, Makeba was voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans.

Makeba started a worldwide farewell tour in 2005, holding concerts in all of those countries that she had visited during her working life.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for information on Miriam Makeba).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Return Of The Oldest Malay Hero

A nation of plenty
Blessed but unmindful
Of God’s bounty
Awaits his return

He, the Oldest Malay Hero
Who conquers the enemies
Within and without
Who slays demonic monsters
With the power of his magic
The swish of his kris
And the strength of his faith

The Oldest Malay Hero
Does not show off
He meditates
Atop the Titiwangsa Range
Where his ancestors once dwelled

He drinks the pure water
Of the mighty Selangor River
Near its source
In Kuala Kubu Baru

To him, earth and life are sacred
All life is interconnected
And good and bad, is all because
Of living a life of imbalance
Of straying from the Middle Path
Of upsetting a man’ true self

The Oldest Malay Hero
Is a man who reveres life
In its every form
For life sustains life
And every creature that walks or flies
Shares the same spirit
Of the Creator Spirit, the One

For ages, since his grand-child
The mad king Mahmud
Turned his world upside down
And cursed his brothers
That they vomit blood and be him

The Hero has been lost
Mahmud’s laws conquered the land
And his sadism permeated the hills

But all this will change soon
For Mahmud is dying, slowly but surely
His time is up, and the world is rejecting his curse

Once he goes, the Hero returns
And the Real Malay Man
Will make himself known

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sangkuriang - The Malaysian & Indonesian Oedipus Rex

Sangkuriang is a legend of the Sundanese people of the island of Java.

Since Malaysia and Indonesia share the Javanese people, as both modern countries were born out of the collapsed and colonised Johor Empire, Sangkuriang is as much a Malaysian folk tale as it is an Indonesian one.

The Sundanese and Javanese are descended from the Kadazans of Sabah and Melanaus of Sarawak respectively.

The legend tells about the creation of Lake Bandung, Mount Tangkuban Parahu, Mount Burangrang and Mount Tunggul in modern-day West Java, the Sunda heartland.

The story of Sangkuriang was first written in the 15th century by Prince Jaya Pakuan of Sunda.

His writings can now be found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Britain.

Sangkuriang was a brave and strong man who had been separated from his mother, the Sundanese princess Dayang Sumbi, since childhood.

He travelled around the world and when he returned home, he fell in love with a beautiful princess whom he did not realise was his own mother.

A day before the duo were engaged, Sangkuriang fell ill and collapsed in his fiancee’s lap.

As she cupped and massaged his head and face, she discovered a large scar beneath his hair, and realised that the handsome warrior was her own son.

Twenty years ago, she had hit him hard on the head, and caused him to leave home and travel around the world.

Sumbi told Sangkuriang who she really was.

Years ago, the King of Sunda splashed holy water from a river on a wild boar named Wayungyang, who wanted to become a human being.

Wayungyang transformed into a princess and the ruler married her. They had a daughter, Sumbi, who was blessed with superpowers and eternal youth.

As soon as Sumbi was born, Wayungyang reverted to boar form and was never heard of again.

When she reached her teens, Sumbi abandoned palace life and possible marriage because “all of the Sundanese men lusted for her”.

Accompanied by her magical pet dog Tumang, Sumbi went to live in a mountainous region of her kingdom.

One day, Sumbi lost her hair pin and told Tumang to look for it.

The dog wanted to become a human being and marry the princess, and thus it drank some holy water from a river. His wish soon came true.

Sumbi became pregnant with a son, and as soon as this happened, Tumang reverted to dog form.

Sumbi’s son Sangkuriang grew up to be a handsome warrior with superhuman strength.

One day, he hit his pet Tumang for chasing after a wild boar, which he believed was his grandmother. The dog died, and Sangkuriang slaughtered it for meat.

As they were about to have dinner, Sumbi realised that Sangkuriang had killed their pet dog, and in anger, struck him on the head.

After hearing the story, Sangkuriang remained unconvinced that Sumbi was really his mother, and insisted on marrying the beauty.

She thus set an impossible condition for him to marry her - build a gigantic lake by filling a massive valley with water, as well as a huge ship, all in one night.

However, the Herculean Sangkuriang almost made it, with the help of his friends, the fairies.

Sumbi was horrified. She lit up the eastern horizon with her magical shawl and created a false dawn.

Sangkuriang, who had finished his work shortly after “dawn”, realised that “dawn had come too early” and that he had “failed”.

In his anger, he overturned the ship and it became Mount Tangkuban Parahu [the overturned ship].

Two piles of wood used as raw material for the ship became Mount Burangrang [heap] and Mount Tunggul [stump].

The lake became Lake Bandung.

Sangkuriang jumped into the lake, but his mother pulled him out with her magical shawl. She cast a spell on him, to restore his memory of who he really was, and carried him in her arms to the heavens atop Mount Puteri [princess].

Sangkuriang was made into an Indonesian film in 1982 starring the late Suzanna Van Osch and Clift Sangra.

Suzanna Van Osch - Indonesia’s Queen Of Horror Films

Suzanna Van Osch, who died after a long illness on October 15, 2008, will always be celebrated as Indonesia’s Queen of Horror Films.

Born in Bogor, Java on October 14, 1942 and of Dutch-Sundanese-Makasarese ancestry, she was best known for starring in the horror films Bernafas Dalam Lumpur [Breathing in Mud] (1970), Beranak Dalam Kubur [Birth in the Tomb] (1971) and Ratu Ilmu Hitam [Black Magic Woman] (1981) as well as the romantic Pulau Cinta [Island of Love] (1978) and the Javanese legend Sangkuriang (1982).

Her acting career actually began in the 1950s and in 1960, she won Best Child Actress in the Asia Film Festival for the film Asrama Dara [Girls’ Hostel]. In 1972, she won Most Popular Actress in the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Her most recent acting appearances were in Indonesian telemovies.

Suzanna is survived by a daughter, actress Kiki Maria. She was twice married, to actors Dicky Suprapto and later Clift Sangra [Dicky is the father of Kiki].

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oprah Winfrey - First Lady of Liberal and African America

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Oprah Gail Winfrey (born January 29, 1954) is an American television host, media mogul and philanthropist. Her internationally-syndicated talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, has earned her multiple Emmy Awards and is the highest-rated talk show in the history of television.

She is also an influential book critic, an Academy Award nominated actress and a magazine publisher.

She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the most philanthropic African American of all time and was once the world's only black billionaire.

She is also the most influential woman in the world.

Born in rural Mississippi to a poor teenaged single mother, and later raised in an inner city Milwaukee neighbourhood, Winfrey was raped at the age of nine, and at fourteen, gave birth to a son who died in infancy.

Sent to live with the man she calls her father, a barber in Tennessee, Winfrey landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19.

Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred to the daytime talk show arena and after boosting a third-rated Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company and became internationally syndicated.

Credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication, she popularised and revolutionised the tabloid talk show genre pioneered by Phil Donahue, and broke 20th century taboos by allowing gays, transsexuals and transgender people to enter the mainstream.

By the mid 1990s she had reinvented her show with a focus on literature, self-improvement and spirituality.

Though criticised for unleashing confession culture and promoting controversial self-help fads, she is generally admired for overcoming adversity to become a benefactor to others.

Oprah Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to unmarried parents.

Her mother, Vernita Lee, was a housemaid and her father, Vernon Winfrey, was a coal miner and later worked as a barber before becoming a city councilman.

Winfrey's father was in the Armed Forces when she was born. After her birth, Winfrey's mother travelled north and Winfrey spent her first six years living in rural poverty with her grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, who was so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks, causing the local children to make fun of her.

Her grandmother taught her to read before the age of three and took her to the local church, where she was nicknamed "The Preacher" for her ability to recite Bible verses.

At six, Winfrey moved to an inner-city neighbourhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her mother, who was less supportive and encouraging than her grandmother had been, due in large part to the long hours Vernita Lee worked as a maid.

When she was 14, she became pregnant, but the baby died shortly after birth.

Her mother sent her to live with her father in Nashville, Tennessee.

Vernon was strict, but encouraging and made her education a priority.

Winfrey became an honours student, was voted Most Popular Girl and joined her high school speech team at East Nashville High School.

She won an oratory contest, which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University, a historically Black institution, where she studied communication.

At age 17, Winfrey won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant.

She also attracted the attention of the local Black radio station WVOL, which hired her to do the news part-time.

She worked there during her senior year of high school and again while in her first two years of college.

Winfrey's career choice in media did not surprise her grandmother, who once said that ever since Winfrey could talk, she was on stage.

Working in local media, she was both the youngest news anchor and the first Black female news anchor at Nashville's WLAC-TV.

She moved to Baltimore's WJZ-TV in 1976 to co-anchor the six o'clock news.

She was then recruited to join Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ's local talk show People Are Talking, which premiered in 1978.

In 1983, Winfrey relocated to Chicago to host WLS-TV's low-rated half-hour morning talk-show, AM Chicago.

The first episode aired in 1984.

Within months after Winfrey took over, the show went from last place in the ratings to overtaking Donahue as the highest rated talk show in Chicago.

It was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show, expanded to a full hour and broadcast nationally beginning 1986.

Winfrey's syndicated show quickly doubled its national audience, displacing Donahue as the number one day-time talk show in America.

In 1993, Winfrey hosted a rare prime-time interview with Michael Jackson which became the fourth most watched event in American television history as well as the most watched interview ever, with an audience of one hundred million.

As well as hosting and appearing on television shows, Winfrey co-founded the women's cable television network Oxygen. She is also the president of Harpo Productions (Oprah spelled backwards).

In 1985, Winfrey co-starred in Steven Spielberg's epic film adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Colour Purple.

She earned immediate acclaim as Sofia, the distraught housewife.

The following year Winfrey was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but she lost to Anjelica Huston.

The Colour Purple has now been made into a Broadway musical and opened late 2005, with Winfrey credited as a producer.

In 1998, Winfrey produced and starred in the film Beloved, based upon Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name.

To prepare for her role as Sethe, the protagonist and former slave, Winfrey experienced a 24-hour simulation of the experience of slavery, which included being tied up and blindfolded and left alone in the woods.

In 2005, Harpo Productions released another film adaptation of a famous American novel, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).

The made-for-television film Their Eyes Were Watching God was based upon a teleplay by Suzan-Lori Parks, and starred Halle Berry in the lead female role.

She has voiced for Charlotte's Web, the 2006 film as Gussie the goose. She is also the voice of Judge Bumbleden in Bee Movie (2007) co-starring the voices of Jerry Seinfeld and Renee Zellweger.

Winfrey publishes two magazines namely O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home.

She has co-authored five books.

She also owns, a website created by her company to provide resources and interactive content relating to her shows, magazines, book club and public charity.

Winfrey initiated Oprah’s Child Predator Watch List, through her show and website, to help track down accused child molesters. Within the first 48 hours, two of the featured men were captured.

Winfrey currently lives in The Promised Land, her 170,000 square metre estate with ocean and mountain views in Montecito, California, outside of Santa Barbara.

Winfrey also owns a house in Lavallette, New Jersey, an apartment in Chicago, an estate on Fisher Island off the coast of Miami, a ski house in Telluride, Colorado and property on the island of Maui, Hawaii.

She also owns a home on the island of Antigua.

Winfrey's show is based in Chicago, so she spends time there, specifically in the neighbourhood of Streeterville, but she otherwise resides in California.

Winfrey also owns a home in the exclusive town of Avalon, New Jersey.

Winfrey is engaged to Stedman Graham. They do not have children.

She has traced her ancestry to Liberia and is part-Native American.

In 2005, Winfrey was named the greatest woman in American history as part of a public poll The Greatest American. She was ranked Number 9 overall on the list of greatest Americans.

To her audience of more than 22 million mostly female viewers, she has become a postmodern priestess — an icon of church-free spirituality.

Winfrey has been criticised for her statements regarding religion. She once echoed writer and philosopher Eckhart Tolle by saying "God is a feeling experience and not a believing experience. If your religion is a believing experience then that's not truly God."

Winfrey's shows are watched in 140 countries, and the Arab World loves her.

In 1998, Winfrey began Oprah's Angel Network, a charity aimed at encouraging people around the world to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged others.

To date, Oprah's Angel Network has raised more than US$51,000,000 (US$1 million of which was donated by Jon Bon Jovi).

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oprah asked her viewers to open their hearts — and they did.

Winfrey has also put 250 African-American men through college.

Winfrey was the recipient of the first Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2002 Emmy Awards for services to television and film.

To celebrate two decades on national TV and to thank her employees for their hard work, Winfrey took her staff and their families (1065 people in total) on vacation to Hawaii in the summer of 2006.

Winfrey has recently exerted political influence, endorsing presidential candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. This is the first time she has publically made such an endorsement.

Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore has praised Winfrey as the best president Americans will not have.

He and Oprah are firmly opposed to US foreign interventions in developing countries that refuse to kowtow to American capital, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, China, Vietnam, North Korea, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador.

Nevertheless, they also condemn the brutal rule of some of these countries’ leaders and ex-leaders, and their hypocrisy with regards to “opposing pro-business policies of the West”.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman - An All-American Hero

Thanks, Wikipedia.

This is a tribute to Paul Newman, the all-American screen hero who died after a long illness yesterday.

Paul Leonard Newman (January 26, 1925 – September 26, 2008) was an American actor, film director, entrepreneur, humanitarian and auto racing enthusiast.

He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award and an Emmy award.

He also won several national championships as a driver in the Sports Car Club of America road racing and his race teams won several championships in open wheel IndyCar racing.

Newman was a co-founder of Newman's Own, a food company from which he donated all profits and royalties to charity.

As of May 2007, these donations had exceeded US$220 million.

Newman was born in Shaker Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland), the son of Theresa Fetsko and Arthur S. Newman, who ran a profitable sporting goods store.

His father was Russian-Jewish and his mother was born in Pticie, Slovakia.

Newman showed an early interest in theatre, which his mother encouraged. At the age of seven, he made his acting debut in a school production of Robin Hood.

Graduating from Shaker Heights High School in 1943, he briefly attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he was initiated into the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

Newman served in the Navy in World War II.

He was sent to the Navy V-12 programme at Ohio University, with hope of being accepted for pilot training, but this plan was foiled when it was discovered he was colour blind.

He was sent instead to boot camp and then for further training as a radioman and gunner.

Qualifying as a rear-seat radioman and gunner in torpedo bombers in 1944, Aviation Radioman Third Class Newman was sent to Barber's Point, Hawaii and subsequently assigned to Pacific-based replacement torpedo squadrons.

These torpedo squadrons were responsible primarily for training replacement pilots and combat air crewmen.

He later flew from aircraft carriers as a tail gunner in the Avenger torpedo bomber.

As a radioman/gunner, he served aboard the USS Bunker Hill during the battle for Okinawa in 1945.

After the war, he completed his degree at Kenyon College, graduating in 1949.

Newman later studied acting at Yale University and under Lee Strasberg at the Actors' Studio in New York City.

Newman made his Broadway theatre debut in the original production of William Inge's Picnic, with Kim Stanley.

He later appeared in the original Broadway productions of The Desperate Hours and Sweet Bird of Youth with Geraldine Page.

He would later star in the film version of Sweet Bird of Youth, which also starred Page.

His first movie was The Silver Chalice (1954), followed by acclaimed roles in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), as boxer Rocky Graziano; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), opposite Elizabeth Taylor; and The Young Philadelphians (1959), with Barbara Rush and Robert Vaughn.

Newman appeared in a screen test with James Dean for East of Eden (1955).

Newman was testing for the role of Aron Trask, Dean was testing for the role of Aron's fraternal twin brother Cal Trask.

Dean won the part of Cal, while the role Newman was up for went to Richard Davalos.

The same year Newman would co-star with Eva Marie Saint and Frank Sinatra in a live and colour television broadcast of the Thornton Wilder stage play Our Town.

In 2003 Newman would act in a remake of Our Town, taking on Sinatra's role as the stage manager.

Newman was one of the few actors who successfully made the transition from 1950s cinema to that of the 1960s and 1970s.

His rebellious persona translated well to a subsequent generation.

Newman starred in Exodus (1960), The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), Harper (1966), Hombre (1967), Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Towering Inferno (1974), Slap Shot (1977) and The Verdict (1982).

He teamed up with fellow actor Robert Redford and director George Roy Hill for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and The Sting (1973).

He appeared with his wife Joanne Woodward, in the feature films The Long, Hot Summer (1958), Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!, (1958), From the Terrace (1960), Paris Blues (1961), A New Kind of Love (1963), Winning (1969), WUSA (1970), The Drowning Pool (1975), Harry & Son (1984) and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990).

They also starred in the HBO miniseries Empire Falls, but did not have any scenes together.

In addition to starring in and directing Harry & Son, Newman also directed four feature films (in which he did not act) starring Woodward.

They were Rachel, Rachel (1968), based on Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God, the screen version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), the television screen version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Shadow Box (1980) and a screen version of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie (1987).

Twenty-five years after The Hustler, Newman reprised his role of "Fast" Eddie Felson in the Martin Scorsese-directed The Colour of Money (1986), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

In 2003, he appeared in a Broadway theatre revival of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, receiving his first Tony Award nomination for his performance.

Newman was nominated for an Emmy Award, for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie.

His last screen appearance was as a conflicted mob boss in the 2002 film Road to Perdition opposite Tom Hanks, although he continued to provide voice work for films.

In keeping with his strong interest in car racing, he provided the voice of Doc Hudson, a retired race car in Disney/Pixar's Cars.

Similarly, he served as narrator for the 2007 film Dale, about the life of the legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, which turned out to be his final film performance.

Newman and writer A. E. Hotchner founded Newman's Own, a line of food products, in 1982.

The brand started with salad dressing and has expanded to include pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa and wine among others.

Newman established a policy that all proceeds from the sale of Newman's Own products, after taxes, would be donated to charity.

Newman was married twice. His first marriage was to Jackie Witte and lasted from 1949 to 1958.

Together they had a son and two daughters.

Their son Scott Newman, who died in 1978 from an accidental drug overdose, appeared in the films Breakheart Pass, The Towering Inferno and the 1977 film Fraternity Row.

Newman started the Scott Newman Centre for Drug Abuse Prevention in memory of his son.

One of their daughters Susan Newman is a documentary filmmaker and philanthropist and has Broadway and screen credits, including a starring role as one of four Beatles fans in 1978's I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

She also received an Emmy nomination as co-producer of his telefilm, The Shadow Box.

Newman had eight grandchildren, all by his daughters.

Newman married actress Joanne Woodward in 1958. They have three daughters Nell, Melissa and Claire.

Newman directed Nell in the central role alongside her mother in the film The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.

Scottish rock band Dogs Die In Hot Cars wrote a song entitled Paul Newman's Eyes on its first album Please Describe Yourself.

The Chanukah Song of actor-comedian Adam Sandler refers to Goldie Hawn and Newman as half-Jewish and then declares, "Put them together, what a fine-lookin' Jew!"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Samad Ismail’s Favourite Fried Rice Recipes.

The late Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail was a great cook and he excelled in preparing delicious fried rice.

Here are two of his beloved recipes, for all Malaysians and non-Malaysians to share, in his memory.

2 small bowls cold or overnight rice.
2 shallots.
2 pips garlic.
1/2 dried sepat fish.
5cm salted kurau fish.
1 egg.
Cooking oil.
Salt to taste.

Cut the salted kurau into small pieces.
Fry the kurau and the sepat separately. Remove.
Saute the sliced shallots and garlic.
Mix in the rice and fish.
Beat egg slightly and add to rice.
Stir well.

2 small bowls cold rice.
2 sausages.
2 shallots.
2 pips garlic.
1/2 cup mixed vegetables (carrot, green peas and corn).
1 egg.
2 tablespoons butter.
Salt to taste.

Slice (slanting) sausages thinly.
Saute sliced shallots and garlic in butter.
Add in the sliced sausages.
Then mix in the rice followed by the mixed vegetables.
Lastly stir in beaten egg.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Words Of Wisdom From Tun Hussein Onn And Tun Abdul Razak Hussein - A Merdeka Special

"We have a society in which people of various racial origins have been brought up to be tolerant and understanding. We are a nation of people with conscience.

"The Indians can be very magnanimous, so can the Borneo Natives, the Malays and the Chinese. The great diversity is a blessing, not a handicap.

"It is a challenge and a blessing because no one race can dominate the others. I would hate to see the day when any one race dominates the others.'' - Tun Hussein Onn (1922-1990), third Prime Minister (1976-1981) and Father of National Unity.

"Prosperity is not for any particular group or community. That prosperity must be widely shared and must be spread throughout the nation.

"This prosperity is for all. On our ability to achieve this objective rests the survival of our nation and the peace and happiness of our people.'' - Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (1922-1976), second Prime Minister (1970-1976) and Father of Development.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

RIP Pak Samad (1924-2008)

Malaysia has lost its Father of Journalism.

Tan Sri Samad Ismail or Pak Samad (Grandpa Samad) passed away today at 84 after a long illness.

My heartfelt condolences to my former editor Nuraina Samad and her family.

May God bless Pak Samad and may all Malaysians cherish his vision for the nation and the sacrifices he made in bringing up the newspaper industry and the nation.

As a Malaysian journalist I'm eternally grateful to him as a grandpa and pa to all members of my trade.

Blessed are they who return to the Lord in the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Pak Samad is one such man and he'll always be a titan amongst men. RIP and Al-Fatihah.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Tale Of Two Taksins, The World’s Richest King & Patani, The Poland Of Asia

Thailand has two famous Taksins. Both were men who tried to do things differently and ended up ousted from power (the first one was executed for treason).

Both Taksins were great men but like the other rulers of Thailand, they were prejudiced towards the long-suffering people of Patani.

Rama 9 (or Bhumibol Adulyadej) is the world’s richest King and longest reigning monarch.

He is revered as a living Buddha in his homeland, Thailand, and rightly so, for he has done a lot to improve the lives of the low-income folk.

The man of many talents, however, has his failings, in that he bows to a higher power, that of Anna Leonowens’ tribe, the British.

For the uninitiated, Anna was a British-Indian (Eurasian) expatriate in Bangkok, the tutor of the Thai monarch’s children and a lifelong pal of Rama 9’s illustrious ancestor Rama 4, or King Mongkut in the 1800s.

Her life in Thailand was immortalised in the Broadway musical The King And I [starring the late Mongolian actor Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr] and the film Anna And The King [starring Chow Yun-Fatt and Jodie Foster, and filmed in Ipoh and George Town, Malaysia].

However, both American works unfairly exaggerated Anna’s brilliance and made the King look narrow-minded and somewhat despotic.

The tutor herself, like all British and Anglophiles of her time, grossly exaggerated the wisdom of the superpower’s agents and the lack of it amongst the non-European natives.

Mongkut is the Father of Modern Thailand and so is his son, Anna’s favourite pupil Rama 5, or King Chulalongkorn, the man who cared for Patani, unlike his successors.

Information is all from Wikipedia and the New Straits Times, plus my own.

Thaksin Shinawatra.

Colonel Thaksin Shinawatra (born July 26, 1949 in Chiang Mai, Thailand) is a Thai millionaire businessman and politician.

He was Prime Minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006.

Hugely popular for his skilful management of the country and ability to improve its economy, he was idolised by the country’s village dwellers because he involved himself in boosting their incomes.

He also scored a lot of points from village dwellers for his loathing of the Patani people and his likening them to pigs who should be slaughtered.

Many of his supporters, especially the villagers, cheered him on when he slaughtered Patani folk in cold blood with help from the equally racist top military officers who eventually ousted him from power.

[Some of the worst killers of the Patani people were Patani generals themselves].

Thaksin currently lives in exile in London, Britain.

If he returns to Thailand, he faces trial for corruption.

Thaksin owns the English football club Manchester City.

Thaksin started his career in the Thai police, and later became a successful entrepreneur, establishing Shin Corporation and Advanced Info Service, the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand.

He became one of the richest people in Thailand prior to entering politics.

Thaksin entered politics by joining the Phalang Dharma [Moral Force] Party in 1994 and later founded the Thai Rak Thai [Thais Love Thais] (TRT) Party in 1998.

All Thai parties are conservative parties. The army only allows conservative parties in the country.

All conservative parties are descended from the Democratic Party which is the oldest political party in Thailand.

He became Prime Minister in the country’s freest and fairest elections and despite his tendency to monopolise the Thai economy, has proved to be Thailand’s most open-minded and liberal Prime Minister besides General Chatichai Choonhavan and the revered father of Thai democracy Pridi Phanomyong.

Thaksin is married to Potjaman Shinawatra, and has one son, Panthongtae and two daughters, Pintongtha and Peathongtarn.

Thaksin's great-grandfather Seng Sae Khu was a Hakka (Beijing) Chinese immigrant from Meizhou, Guangdong, who arrived in Siam (old name of Thailand) in the 1860s and settled in Chiang Mai in 1908.

His eldest son, Chiang Sae Khu, was born in Chanthaburi in 1890 and married a Thai woman, Saeng Somna.

Chiang's eldest son, Sak, adopted the Thai surname Shinawatra (“does good always”) in 1938 because of the country's anti-Chinese policies spearheaded by the then fascist Prime Minister Field Marshall Phibun Songram.

Thaksin's father, Lert, was born in Chiang Mai in 1919 and married Yindi Ramingwong.

In 1968, Lert Shinawatra entered politics and became a Member of Parliament for Chiang Mai and deputy leader of the now-defunct Liberal Party.

Lert Shinawatra quit politics in 1976.

Thaksin's great-grandfather Seng Sae Khu made his fortune through tax farming.

The family later founded Shinawatra Silk and then moved into finance, construction and property development.

Lert Shinawatra opened a coffee shop, grew oranges and flowers in Chiang Mai's San Kamphaeng district, and opened two movie theatres, a gas station and a car and motorcycle dealership.

By the time Thaksin was born, the Shinawatra family was one of the richest and most influential families in Chiang Mai.

Thaksin was born in San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai.

At 16, he helped run one of his father's cinemas.

He became a policeman in the early 1970s, graduating from cadet training in 1973.

In 1975, he studied criminal justice at the Eastern Kentucky University in the United States.

In 1978, he received a doctorate in criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in Texas, the United States.

Thaksin rose through the ranks in the police force and eventually became a colonel.

In 1980, he married Potjaman Damapong, the daughter of a police general.

Thaksin and his wife ventured into several businesses while he was still in the police force.

These included opening a silk shop, opening a movie theatre and developing an apartment building.

All of these ventures were failures, and left him over 50 million Baht in debt.

He established the company ICSI in 1982 and using his police contacts leased computers to government agencies with modest success.

In 1986, he founded Advanced Info Service (AIS), another computer rental business.

In 1987, after resigning from the police force, he produced a Thai romance drama called Baan Sai Thong, which became a hit with viewers.

In 1988, he teamed up with Pacific Telesis to operate and market the PacLink pager service, which was a modest success.

In 1989, Thaksin launched IBC, a cable television company, which lost money and was later merged with the station UTV.

In 1989, Thaksin established a data networking service, Shinawatra DataCom, today known as Advanced Data Network.

In 1990, Advanced Info Service launched analog 900 MHz mobile phone services after receiving a 20-year concession from the Telephone Organisation of Thailand and was the first company allowed to operate on the GSM 900 frequency.

The mobile phone boom in Thailand was just beginning, and Total Access Communications also received a concession to the GSM 1800 frequency.

AIS grew rapidly and was listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 1991.

It established a GSM network in 1994 and eventually became the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand.

The Shinawatra Computer and Communications Group was founded in 1987 and listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 1990.

In 1990, Thaksin founded Shinawatra Satellite, which has developed and operated a total of four Thaicom communications satellites.

In 1999, the Shinawatra family spent approximately 1 billion Baht establishing Shinawatra University in Pathum Thani's Sam Khok district.

The private university offered international programmes in engineering, architecture and business management.

After the 2006 military coup, half of the junior students dropped out, fearing repercussions in the job market.

As of 2007, the University had an endowment of 300 million Baht.

In 2000, Thaksin acquired the iTV television station from the Siam Commercial Bank.

Thaksin entered politics in 1994 through General Chamlong Srimuang, the leader of the Palang Dharma Party (PDP).

Thaksin was appointed Foreign Minister in the government of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai from the Democratic Party.

Years later, in 2006 after Thaksin was removed from power, his old sponsor Chamlong expressed regret at getting "such a dictator" into politics.

The PDP soon withdrew from the government, causing Chuan Leekpai to lose power.

Chamlong soon retired and hand-picked Thaksin as the new PDP leader.

Thaksin then joined the government of Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-Archa and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Bangkok traffic.

In 1996, Thaksin quit the cabinet.

In 1997, he returned to the government as Deputy Prime Minister to General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, an ethnic Patani and member of Patani’s royal house, and served for a year.

Thaksin founded the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party in 1998.

The party was swept to power in 2001.

As Prime Minister, Thaksin initiated many distinctive policies affecting the economy, public health, education, energy, drugs and international relations.

Thaksin's policies were particularly effective at reducing rural poverty and at providing affordable health coverage to the people.

His cabinet was packed with academics and former student leaders.

The opposition frequently accused his government of being dictatorial, corrupt and repressive.

After the 2006 coup, many of Thaksin's economic policies were stopped.

Thaksin initiated two key healthcare policies: subsidised universal health care and low-cost universal access to anti-retroviral HIV medication.

Thaksin's healthcare programmes won the applause of the general public, but was criticised by many doctors and officials.

During the Thaksin government, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS noticeably declined.

Thaksin allowed the estimated 2.3 million migrant workers in Thailand to register and seek health coverage under the Thai national healthcare system.

They were also eligible for work permits at the end of the registration period, entitling them to full labour protection.

Thaksin initiated several highly controversial policies to counter a boom in the Thai drug market.

After earlier anti-drug policies like border blocking, public education, sports and promoting peer pressure against drug use proved ineffective, Thaksin launched a multi-pronged suppression campaign.

The policy consisted of rewarding government officials for achieving drug-busting targets and "ruthless" crackdowns on drug dealers.

In the first three months of the programme, 2,275 people, real and alleged drug dealers, were killed.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in his 2003 birthday speech, supported Thaksin's anti-drug approach, although he requested that the commander of the police categorise the deaths as those killed by police and those killed by fellow drug dealers.

Transparency International reported that Thailand's reputation for transparency amongst business executives improved during the years of the Thaksin government.

Thaksin initiated the Income Contingency Loan programme to increase access to higher education amongst Thais youths.

Under the programme, needy students may secure a loan to support their studies from vocational to university levels.

Thaksin made Thailand one of the first supporters of Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, with the Thai Ministry of Education committing to purchase 600,000 units.

His successor later cancelled the project.

In energy policy, the Thaksin government encouraged renewable energy and energy conservation.

Many Thaksin-era energy policies were reversed following the 2006 coup.

A resurgence in violence began in 2001 in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand which were all former components of the scrapped Sultanate of Patani.

Attacks were made against police, the military as well as civilians, unlike in the past when independentist rebels only attacked the first two.

It is believed that the rebels were a whole new independentist movement which was highly secretive and led by graduates from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two countries known for creating such crazy people and which have excellent trade ties with Thailand.

Thaksin, aping his predecessors, fought the violence with “phoenix fire”.

He had the army slaughter Patanis at random and forbid them from forming moderate political parties that demanded autonomy and the restoration of the annexed country which was absorbed into Thailand and dissolved during Phibun’s premiership.

There have also been complaints that Thaksin appointed relatives to senior positions in the civil service and independent commissions, for example by elevating his cousin, General Chaiyasit Shinawatra, to army commander-in-chief.

In 2006, the Shinawatra family sold its entire stake in Shin Corporation to Temasek Holdings, the investment company of the Singapore government.

The Shinawatra and Damapong families netted about 73 billion Baht (about US$1.88 billion) tax-free from the sale.

The transaction made the Prime Minister the target of accusations that he was selling an asset of national importance to a foreign entity, and hence selling out his nation.

Army chief General Sonthi Boonyaratgalin, an ethnic Patani who was no friend of autonomy or independence for his motherland, ousted Thaksin in a bloodless coup in 2006.

Sonthi became interim Prime Minister, with the blessing of the King and privy council chief and ex-Prime Minister General Prem Tinsulanonda.

King Taksin The Great.

King Taksin or Taksin the Great (1734-1782) was a Chinese-Thai ruler of Thailand recognised for his prowess in warfare, his leadership in liberating the country from the Burmese in 1767 and his unification of the country.

Taksin was executed by his successor Rama 1 (founder of the Chakri Dynasty) when he was 48 after a 15-year reign.

His remains were buried at Wat (Temple) Bang Yireua Tai.

A tomb containing Taksin's clothes and a family shrine were found at Ching Hai district in Shantou, China in 1921.

It is believed that a descendant of Taksin the Great must have sent his clothes to be buried there to conform to Chinese Buddhist practices.

This supports the claim that the place was his father's hometown.

Taksin’s successors have declared December 28 as a day of homage to the great King.

Taksin was born in Ayutthaya City, Siam [then also called the Kingdom of Ayutthaya] and given the name Sin (Treasure).

His father Hai Hong was a tax-collector of Shantou Fujian (Teochew Hokkien) Chinese ancestry.

His mother Nok Lang was Thai.

Sin served as the deputy governor and later governor of Tak province.

During this time, he was renamed by the King of Siam (Ayutthaya) as Taksin (Treasure of Tak).

He fought for his kingdom when Burma invaded it in 1767 and destroyed its splendid capital city Ayutthaya City.

Taksin and his childhood friend, the half-Laotian (Hmong) Tong Duang (later Rama 1, founder of the Chakri Dynasty which now rules Thailand) controlled the parts of Thailand not occupied by the Burmese King’s army.

As boys, they were told by a Thai fortune teller that they would both end up ruling their country.

Within months, they successfully drove the Burmese out of Thailand and established a new capital city in Thonburi, near the site of the razed former capital.

Two years after becoming King of Thailand, Taksin invaded Cambodia at the behest of the Cambodian monarch to force the Vietnamese out of the country.

In 1773, the King of Vietnam signed a peace treaty with his Cambodian and Thai counterparts.

In 1779, he made Cambodia a Thai protectorate.

During this time he actively encouraged the Chinese to settle in Thailand.

He also forced Laos to become a protectorate of Thailand.

Likewise the Malaysian kingdoms of Kedah, Kelantan, Patani and Terengganu which were then under the weakened Johor Empire.

In 1821, the province of Perlis was carved out of Kedah as a separate kingdom and protectorate of Thailand under the rule of a nephew of the Kedah monarch.

King Taksin established trade ties with Britain and befriended British colonial agent Sir Francis Light who acquired Penang for the King of Britain from Kedah in 1786.

Soon, the King became a religious fanatic and believed he was the Living Buddha.

He killed anybody who refused to worship him, including the monks.

Rama 1 ousted him in a coup and had him sealed in a velvet sack and beaten to death with a scented sandalwood club, in accordance with the ancient tradition that no royal blood should touch the ground.

His execution was viewed as necessary in order to prevent the former king becoming the centre of a revolt against his successor.

Taksin’s statue stands in the middle of Wongwien Yai (the Big Traffic Circle) in Thonburi district of Bangkok and is a well known Bangkok landmark.

The Na Nakhon (also spelt Na Nakorn) family is descended from King Taksin.

King Taksin's fanaticism is today viewed as a mid-life crisis.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama 9).

Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama 9 (born December 5, 1927), is the King of Thailand.

Having reigned since June 9, 1946, he is the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history.

Although Bhumibol is a constitutional monarch, he has several times made decisive interventions in Thai politics.

He was credited with facilitating Thailand's transition to democracy in the 1990s, although in earlier periods of his reign he supported some military regimes, including that of Prime Minister Sarit Dhanarajata.

He has also used his considerable influence to stop coups, including recent attempts in 1981 and 1985.

Unfortunately, he has been unable to curb the Thai Armed Forces’ heavy involvement in illegal businesses and its well-known collaboration with the murderous Khmer Rouge militia of Cambodia.

The richest monarch in the world with a personal net worth of US$35 billion, Bhumibol has used part of his great wealth to fund over 3,000 development projects, particularly in rural areas.

He is immensely popular in Thailand and is revered as a semi-divine figure by the Thais.

Bhumibol was born in the United States and educated primarily in Switzerland.

Bhumibol is also an accomplished musician, artist and sailor.

Bhumibol means Strongman of the Land and Adulyadej means Incomparable Power.

Read together, it means Super Strongman of Thailand.

Bhumibol was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the United States.

He was the younger son of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej.

Bhumibol returned to Thailand in 1928, after Prince Mahidol graduated from Harvard University.

In 1933, his family went to Switzerland, where he received his secondary education in Lausanne.

He learnt French, Greek and Latin [Ancient Italian] and graduated with a science degree from the University of Lausanne.

In 1935, his elder brother King Ananda Mahidol was crowned King of Thailand.

Bhumibol ascended to the throne following the death of his brother on June 9, 1946.

Ananda Mahidol's death resulted from a gunshot to the head while in his bedroom in the Grand Palace, under circumstances that to this day remain a mystery.

It is widely believed that ex-Prime Minister Phibun Songram’s agents killed him.

Bhumibol was proclaimed the new King but promptly returned to Switzerland to complete his education.

His uncle, Prince Rangsit, was appoined Regent.

Bhumibol eventually obtained a law degree which helped prepare himself for his position as a monarch.

While pursuing his degree in Switzerland, Bhumibol visited Paris frequently.

It was in Paris that he met his first cousin Sirikit Kitiyakara, the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France.

He was 21 and she was 15.

On October 4, 1948, while Bhumibol was driving a Fiat Topolino on the Geneva-Lausanne road, he collided into the rear of a braking truck 10 km outside of Lausanne’s city centre.

He hurt his back and incurred cuts on his face that cost him sight in his right eye.

He subsequently wore an ocular prosthetic.

While he was hospitalised in Lausanne, Sirikit visited him frequently.

She met his mother, who asked her to continue her studies nearby so that Bhumibol could get to know her better.

Bhumibol selected for her a boarding school in Lausanne.

A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on July 19, 1949, and the couple were married on April 28, 1950, just a week before his coronation.

Bhumibol and his wife Queen Sirikit have four children - Princess Ubol Ratana (born April 5, 1951), Prince Vajiralongkorn (born July 28, 1952), Princess Sirindhorn (born April 2, 1955) and Princess Chulabhorn Walailak, (born July 4, 1957).

One of Bhumibol's grandchildren, Bhumi Jensen, was killed in the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

He was the son of Princess Ubol Ratana.

Bhumibol was crowned King of Thailand on May 5, 1950 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok where he pledged that he would "reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people".

In the early years of his reign, during the government of Phibun Songram, Bhumibol had no real power and was little more than a ceremonial figure.

In August 1957, General Sarit Dhanarajata staged a coup.

The King sided with the general and told Phibun to quit.

When Sarit died of an illness in 1963, he was given a grand burial by the King.

The new Prime Minister Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn also enjoyed a close friendship with the King.

In October 1973, after massive protests and the deaths of a large number of pro-democracy demonstrators, Bhumibol opened the gates of the Chitralada Palace to fleeing protesters and held an audience with student leaders.

Bhumibol subsequently appointed the Thammasat University Rector Sanya Dharmasakti as the new Prime Minister, replacing Thanom.

Thanom subsequently moved to the United States and Singapore.

In October 1976, the army seized power again, under the flimsy excuse that some university students had criticised the royalty.

One of the men involved in the coup was Thailand’s current Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, a propagandist for the army.

In 1985, Bhumibol told the army to stop running the government and restore civilian rule within five years.

In 1992, Bhumibol played a key role in assisting Thailand's return to a democratic system of government.

He told military dictator General Suchinda Kraprayoon, who seized power and became Prime Minister in 1991, to quit and return power to civilians.

Bhumibol has been involved in many social and economic development projects which have uplifted the economic standings of many Thai villagers.

In 2006, the United Nations presented the first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award to Bhumibol.

Bhumibol set a world record for receiving the greatest number of honorary university degrees (136) in 1997.

Most of his degrees came from Thai universities.

Bhumibol is a painter, photographer, author and translator.

His book Phra Mahachanok is based on a traditional Jataka story of Buddhist scripture.

The Story of Thong Daeng is the story of his dog Thong Daeng.

In his youth, Bhumibol was greatly interested in firearms.

He kept a carbine, a Sten gun and two automatic pistols in his bedroom and he and his elder brother King Ananda Mahidol often used the gardens of Baromphiman Palace for target practice.

Bhumibol is an accomplished jazz musician and composer, particularly good at the alto saxophone.

He was the first Southeast Asian composer to be awarded honorary membership of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna, Austria at the age of 32.

In his travels, he has played with jazz legends as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Lionel Hampton and Maynard Ferguson.

His songs can often be heard at social gatherings and are performed in concerts.

Bhumibol is an accomplished sailor and sailboat designer.

He won a gold medal for sailing in the Fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games [now SEA Games] in 1967, together with Princess Ubol Ratana whom he tied for points.

This accomplishment is all the more remarkable given Bhumibol's lack of binocular depth perception.

Bhumibol has also sailed the Gulf of Thailand from Hua Hin to Toey Harbour in Sattahip, covering 110 km in a 14-hour journey.

Like his father, a former naval engineer, Bhumibol was an avid boat designer and builder.

Bhumibol is the only Thai monarch — and possibly the only monarch in the world — to hold a patent.

He obtained one in 1993 for a waste water aerator named Chai Pattana and several patents on rainmaking since 1955.

Bhumibol owns massive amounts of land and equity in many companies through the Crown Property Bureau (CPB).

The CPB is the majority shareholder of Siam Cement (the largest Thai industrial conglomerate), Christiani & Nielsen (one of the largest construction firms), Deves Insurance (which has monopoly on government properties and contracts), Siam Commercial Bank (one of the largest banks) and Shin Corporation (a major telecommunications firm, through the CPB's holdings in Siam Commercial Bank).

The CPB also rents or leases about 36,000 properties to third parties, including the sites of the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok, the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, Siam Paragon and Central World Tower.

The CPB spearheaded a plan to turn Bangkok’s historical Rajadamnoen Avenue into a shopping street known as the Champs-Elysees of Asia and in 2007, shocked longtime residents of traditional marketplace districts by giving them eviction notices.

Bhumibol's substantial income from the CPB, at least five billion Baht in 2004 alone, is exempt from taxes.

The CPB receives many state privileges.

Although the Ministry of Finance technically runs the CPB, in reality the decisions are made by Bhumibol.

The CPB's annual report is for the eyes of Bhumibol alone.

In addition, Bhumibol has numerous personal investments independent of the CPB.

He is personally the majority shareholder of the Thai Insurance Company and Sammakorn, as well as many other companies.

Bhumibol has a fleet of two personal aircrafts: a Boeing 737-800 and an Airbus A319.

Bhumibol stated that he was not above criticism in his 2005 birthday speech.

He said: "Actually, I must also be criticised. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know.

Because if you say the King cannot be criticised, it means that the King is not human.

If the King can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the King is not being treated as a human being.

But the King can do wrong."


Patani is a region in South Thailand consisting of the modern-day provinces of Pattani (Patani), Yala (Jala) and Narathiwat (Menara).

In much earlier times, it controlled the Kra Isthmus which contained its vassal state Satun [comprising the modern-day Ranong (Rundung), Phang Nga, Phuket (Bukit), Phattalung (Petaling), Satun (Setul), Trang (Terang) and Krabi provinces].

Satun used to be under Kedah’s control and its kings were Kedahan Hmongs, but they intermarried with Patani’s Cham royal family, and subsequently became vassals of Patani.

There was also the Cham-ruled vassal kingdom of Ligor centred in modern-day Nakhon Si Thammarat and also covering Surat Thani (or Vijaya), Chumphon and Songkhla (or Singgora).

In the 1200s, the Thai tribe which was a minority in the huge Cham kingdom of Ligor, became strong enough to wrest control and subdue it, to create the kingdom of Thailand (Siam).

Once they conquered Ligor, the Thais demanded tribute from the kings of Patani and its southern neighbours Kedah and Kelantan.

This state of affairs was reversed in the mid-1400s when Johor, the protector of Patani, Kedah and Kelantan at the south of the Malay Peninsula, licked the Thais in battle, thanks to the brilliance of military strategist and Prime Minister (Bendahara) Tun Perak.

In the 1770s, when Johor became weak due to royal power struggles and Dutch aggression, Thailand (or Siam) once again extracted tribute from Kedah, Patani and Kelantan, adding Johor’s offshoot Terengganu to its list.

In 1821, Thailand milked a new protectorate Perlis, which it cut out of Kedah in 1821 and placed under the rule of a half-Arab Kedahan prince.

In 1909, Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu were made British protectorates and effectively returned to Malaysia.

However, both Britain and Thailand agreed that the latter keep Patani as its protectorate after the great King Chulalongkorn promised to respect the territorial integrity of his protectorate.

Sadly, the good King’s policy was discontinued after his demise. Successive Thai governments dismembered and dissolved the Patani kingdom.

Bangkok has, until today, employed an uncompromising and harsh approach in dealing with the Patani people’s struggle for self-determination and the restoration of their ancient state.

All non-violent attempts to fight for Patani’s autonomy and reconstitution have been met by brute force and stamped as treason.

This has resulted in violent resistance, first by secular nationalists and in recent years, by horrifyingly brutal terrorists masquerading as freedom fighters.

Thanks to Bangkok’s splendid trade and educational ties with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, Patanis have been poisoned with Saudism and injected with Osama Bin Laden’s deadly poison.

Osama’s minions have committed horrid war crimes against Thai as well as Patani civilians, and the Thai government has done no better.

All Bangkok has been able to do is shoot and kill any Patani who votes against being absorbed into ethnic Thai ways and losing his or her history, and that includes non-violent and secular-minded nationalists.

As a result, the highly-disciplined and secretive foot soldiers of Osama have stepped up their barbarity towards Thai and Patani civilians and no end to the dirty war is in sight.

The current Thai government which replaced that of millionaire Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has proved to be far more anti-Patani and anti-Muslim than its predecessor, despite chastising him for “alienating the Patani people”.

Only American, Chinese and British pressure on Thailand can save Patani from suffering the fate of Poland during the dark days of German occupation in the last two centuries.

Having ethnic Patanis helm the Thai army (like General Sonthi Boonyaratgalin) and even rise to the post of Prime MInister (like 1996-1997 Prime Minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Thaksin’s ally and a prince of Patani) has not helped the oppressed former kingdom’s people.

More often than not, these Patanis with power side with the Siamese majority and sometimes behave worse than their paymasters.

Only worldwide pressure by countries that are not too dependent on Thai goods can make Bangkok change its stubborn Patani-phobia.