Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Battle Of Red Cliff

Battle Of Red Cliff is a poem written by Chinese poet Su Tung Po.

I received it from my colleague, Malaysian poet John Tiong.

The Battle Of Red Cliff is a historical event during China's Three Kingdoms period.

It has been immortalised by the film Red Cliff (Parts 1 and 2) directed by John Woo and starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, the Tom Hanks of Hong Kong.

The Yangtze flows east
Washing away
A thousand ages of great men
West of the ramparts
People say
Are the fabled Red Cliffs
Of young Chou of the Three Kingdoms
Rebellious rocks pierce the sky
Frightening waves rip the bank
The backwash churns vast snowy swells
River and mountains like a painting
How many heroes passed them once

Think back to those years, Chou Yu
Just married to the younger Chiao
Brave, brilliant
With plumed fan, silk kerchief
Laughed and talked
While masts and oars
Vanished to flying ash and smoke
I roam through ancient realms
Absurdly moved
Turn gray too soon
A man's life passes like a dream
Pour out a cup then to the river
And the moon

The endless river eastward flows
With its huge waves are gone all those
Gallant heroes of bygone years
West of the ancient fortress years
Red Cliff where General Zhou Yu
Won his early fame
When the Three Kingdoms were in flame
Jagged rocks tower in the air
And swashing waves beat on the air
Rolling up a thousand heaps of snow
To match the hills and the river so fair
How many heroes brave of yore
Made a great show

The great river surges east
Its waves have scoured away
Since time began
All traces of heroic men
The western side of the old fort
Was once so people say
Known as the Red Cliff
Of Zhou of the Three Kingdoms
With piled-up rocks to stab the sky
And waves to shake them thunderously
Churning the frothy mass to mounds of snow
It's like a masterpiece in paint
Those ages hide how many a hero
Think back to those old days
That first year when Zhou Yu
Had just married the young Qiao
Then what a hero he became
With waving fan and silken cap
He talked and laughed at ease
While masts and oars
Were blotted out in smoke and flame
My wits that stray to realms of old
Deserve the scorn of all who feel
Years pass and hair grows white so soon
Though a man's life is like a dream
One toast continues still - the river and the moon

By Su Tung Po

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mel Gibson - Australia’s Leading Man Of The Screen

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Mel Gibson, one of my favourite film stars from Down Under, was in Malaysia last week. I met him at the KL Hilton Hotel on July 15.

He was in town with his old pal Peter MacNicol (of Ally McBeal, Dragonslayer and Sophie’s Choice fame) as a guest of prominent Malaysian businessman and philanthropist Datuk Vinod Sekhar.

Vinod was attending a dinner organised by accounting firm Grant Thornton in the hotel. The company honoured him with the Corporate Leader Of The Year Award, its first ever in Malaysia.

The Award carried a pledge by the firm to assist an international humanitarian project of Vinod’s choice and he chose The Foundation For Anthropological Research And Environmental Studies or FARES which is headed by Gibson.

FARES is working hard to preserve the Mirador Basin in Guatemala which is the cradle of Mayan Native American civilisation.

Gibson is a two-time Academy Award-winning Australian-American actor, director, producer and screenwriter.

Born in the United States, Gibson moved to Australia when he was 12 years old and he later studied acting at the National Institute Of Dramatic Art in Sydney.

After establishing himself as a household name with the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon series, Gibson went on to direct and star in the Academy Award-winning Braveheart.

Gibson's direction of Braveheart made him the sixth actor-turned-filmmaker to receive an Oscar for Best Director.

In 2004, he directed and produced The Passion Of The Christ, a blockbuster movie that portrayed the last hours of the life of Jesus on Good Friday.

Gibson is an honorary Officer Of The Order Of Australia and was ranked the world's most powerful celebrity in the annual list by Forbes magazine in 2004.

Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson was born on January 3, 1956 in New York, the United States.

He is the sixth of 11 children and the second son of Hutton Gibson and Irish-born Anne Reilly.

His father is of Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English descent with a dash of Roma (Gypsy, from Gujarat in India).

His paternal grandmother was the British Australian opera soprano Eva Mylott (1875–1920).

One of Gibson's younger brothers, Donal, is also an actor.

Gibson's first name comes from Saint Mel, the fifth century Irish saint and founder of Gibson's mother's native diocese (church district), Ardagh, while his second name, Columcille, is also that of an Irish saint.

Columcille is also the name of the parish (sub-district) in County Longford where Anne Reilly was born and raised.

Because of his mother, Mel Gibson holds dual citizenship in America and the Republic of Ireland.

When Gibson was 12, Hutton relocated his family to Sydney, Australia.

The move to Hutton's mother's native Australia was for economic reasons and because Hutton thought the Australian military would reject his oldest son for the Vietnam War draft.

Growing up, Mel Gibson considered becoming a journalist and a chef.

On his elder sister Mary’s advice, he joined the National Institute Of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney.

The students at NIDA were classically trained in the British-theatre tradition rather than in preparation for screen acting.

After graduation in 1977, Gibson immediately began work on the filming of Mad Max, but continued to work as a stage actor and joined the State Theatre Company of South Australia in Adelaide.

At the beginning of his acting career, Gibson also appeared in pilots for Australian television series including The Sullivans.

While a student at NIDA, Gibson made his film debut in the 1977 film Summer City.

After being cast in Mad Max by Australian doctor-turned-director George Miller, Gibson began his first lead role in 1977 at the age of 21 on the day after he graduated from drama school.

Gibson also played a mentally-slow youth in Tim, which earned him the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actor In A Leading Role.

The release of Mad Max in 1979 made Gibson internationally famous overnight.

Gibson joined the cast of the World War II action film Attack Force Z, which was not released until 1982 when Gibson had become a bigger star.

Director Peter Weir cast Gibson as one of the leads in the critically-acclaimed World War I drama Gallipoli, which earned Gibson another Best Actor Award from the Australian Film Institute.

The film Gallipoli also helped to earn Gibson the reputation of a serious, versatile actor.

The sequel Mad Max 2 was his first hit in America (released as The Road Warrior).

In 1982 Gibson attracted critical acclaim in Peter Weir’s romantic thriller The Year Of Living Dangerously.

Following a year’s hiatus from film acting after the birth of his twin sons, Gibson took on the role of Fletcher Christian in The Bounty in 1984.

Playing Max Rockatansky for the third time in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985 earned Gibson his first million dollar salary.

Mel Gibson’s first American film was Mark Rydell’s 1984 drama The River in which he and Sissy Spacek played struggling Tennessee farmers.

He then took on the role of Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon, a film which helped to cement his status as a Hollywood star.

Gibson’s next film was Robert Towne’s Tequila Sunrise, followed by Lethal Weapon 2 in 1989.

After starring in three films back-to-back, Bird On A Wire, Air America and Hamlet, Gibson took another hiatus from Hollywood.

During the 1990s, Gibson used his box office power to alternate between commercial and personal projects.

His films in the first half of the decade were Forever Young, Lethal Weapon 3, Maverick and Braveheart.

He then starred in Ransom, Conspiracy Theory, Lethal Weapon 4 and Payback.

Gibson also served as the speaking and singing voice of John Smith in Disney’s Pocahontas.

In 2000, Gibson acted in three films that each grossed over $100 million: The Patriot, Chicken Run and What Women Want, the all-time top-grossing romantic comedy.

In 2002, Gibson appeared in the Vietnam War drama We Were Soldiers and M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, which became the highest-grossing film of Gibson’s acting career.

While promoting Signs, Gibson said that he no longer wanted to be a movie star and would only act in films if the scripts were truly extraordinary.

After his success in Hollywood with the Lethal Weapon series, Gibson began to move into the areas of producing and directing.

With partner Bruce Davey, Gibson formed Icon Productions in 1989 in order to make Hamlet.

In addition to producing or co-producing many of Gibson's own star vehicles, Icon has turned out many other small films such as Immortal Beloved.

Gibson has taken supporting roles in some of these films, most notably The Million Dollar Hotel and The Singing Detective.

Gibson has also produced a number of projects for television, including a biopic on The Three Stooges.

Gibson has credited his directors, particularly George Miller, Peter Weir and Richard Donner, with teaching him the craft of filmmaking.

Gibson made his directorial debut in 1993 with The Man Without A Face, followed two years later by Braveheart, which earned Gibson the Oscar for Best Director.

In 2006, he directed the action-adventure film Apocalypto, his second film to feature sparse dialogue not spoken in the English language.

On July 25, 1997, Gibson was named an honorary Officer Of The Order Of Australia (AO), in recognition of his "service to the Australian film industry".

Gibson received two Academy Awards, Best Director and Best Picture, for his 1995 direction of Braveheart. In the movie, Gibson starred as Sir William Wallace, a 13th century martyr of Scottish nationalism.

In 2004 Gibson directed The Passion Of The Christ which was rendered in Aramaic (Ancient Syrian Arabic), Latin (Ancient Italian) and Hebrew (Ancient Israeli).

Gibson co-wrote the screenplay with writer Benedict Fitzgerald and financed the film himself. The filming took place on location in Matera, Italy.

Gibson got married in 1980 to Robyn Moore, a nurse. They have a daughter, six sons and one grandchild.

Gibson has eclectic tastes in music and is particularly fond of Italian opera.

He is big fan of Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio.

Gibson has a reputation for discreetly assisting members of the entertainment community with substance abuse problems.

In 1999, he famously made a “guest appearance” in The Simpsons.

He is currently filming The Edge Of Darkness.

More Famous Asian Israelites

Jacques Derrida, French philosopher (Moroccan-Israeli).
Elliott Yamin, American singer from American Idol 5 (Iraqi-Israeli).
Jerry Seinfeld, American actor and comedian (Syrian-Israeli).
Paula Abdul, American singer, dancer, television personality, jewellery designer and actress (Syrian-Israeli).
Charles Saatchi, advertising executive and art collector (Iraqi-Israeli).
Maurice Saatchi, advertising executive and chairman of the British Conservative Party (Iraqi-Israeli).
Michael Kadoorie, prominent businessman from Hong Kong (Iraqi-Israeli).

Happy 90th Birthday Nelson Mandela

One of my all-time heroes has just turned 90.

He is South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born July 18, 1918) is a former President of South Africa, the first to be elected in fully representative democratic elections.

Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress and its armed wing Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear Of The Nation).

He spent 27 years in prison, much of it on Robben Island in Cape Town, on convictions for crimes that included sabotage committed while he spearheaded the struggle against apartheid.

Among opponents of apartheid in South Africa and internationally, he became a symbol of freedom and equality, while the apartheid government and nations sympathetic to it condemned him and the ANC as Communists and terrorists.

Following his release from prison on February 11, 1990, his switch to a policy of reconciliation and negotiation helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa.

Since the end of apartheid, he has been widely praised, even by former opponents.

Mandela has received more than 100 awards over four decades, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

He is currently a celebrated elder statesman who continues to voice his opinion on world issues.

In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan.

The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.

Mandela has frequently credited Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi for being a major source of inspiration in his life, both for the philosophy of non-violence and for facing adversity with dignity.

Mandela belongs to the Thembu dynasty which reigns in the Transkei Territory of South Africa's Cape Province.

He was born in the small village of Mvezo in Umtata, the Transkei capital.

His great-grandfather was Ngubengcuka (died 1832), the Inkosi Enkhulu or King of the Tembu Xhosa people, who were eventually subjected to British colonial rule.

One of the King's sons, named Mandela, became Nelson's grandfather and the source of his surname.

However, being only the Inkosi's child by a wife of the Ixhiba clan (the so-called Left-Hand House), the descendants of his branch of the royal family were not eligible to succeed to the Thembu Xhosa throne.

His father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (1880–1928) was nonetheless designated chief of the town of Mvezo.

Upon alienating the colonial authorities, however, he was deprived of his position and moved his family to Qunu.

Gadla remained, however, a member of the Inkosi's Privy Council and was instrumental in the ascension to the Thembu Xhosa throne of Jongintaba Dalindyebo who would later return this favour by informally adopting Mandela upon Gadla's death.

Mandela's father had four wives, with whom he fathered a total of 13 children (four boys and nine girls).

Mandela was born to Gadla's third wife Nosekeni Fanny, daughter of Nkedama of the Mpemvu Xhosa clan, the dynastic Right-Hand House in whose Umzi or homestead Mandela spent much of his childhood.

His given name Rolihlahla means "to pull a branch of a tree" or more colloquially "rebel".

At seven years of age, Rolihlahla Mandela became the first member of his family to attend school, where he was given the name "Nelson", after the Admiral Horatio Nelson of the British Royal Navy, by a Methodist Christian teacher who found his native name difficult to pronounce.

His father died of tuberculosis when Rolihlahla was nine, and the Regent, Jongintaba, became his guardian.

Mandela attended a Wesleyan Methodist Christian mission school next door to the palace of the Regent.

Following Thembu Xhosa custom, he was initiated at age 16 and attended Clarkebury Boarding Institute.

He completed his Junior Certificate in two years instead of the usual three.

Destined to inherit his father's position as a Privy Councillor in 1937 Mandela moved to Healdtown, the Wesleyan college in Fort Beaufort which most Thembu Xhosa royalty attended.

At 19, he took an interest in boxing and running.

After matriculating, he began to study for a BA at the Fort Hare University. There he met Oliver Tambo and the two became lifelong friends and colleagues.

He also became close friends with his kinsman Kaiser (KD) Matanzima who as royal scion of the Thembu Xhosa Right-Hand House was destined for the throne of Transkei, a role that later led him to embrace apartheid policies which made him and Mandela political enemies.

At the end of Nelson's first year, he became involved in a boycott by the Students' Representative Council against the university policies and was asked to leave Fort Hare.

Later, while imprisoned, Mandela studied for a Bachelor of Law from the University of London External Programme.

Shortly after leaving Fort Hare, Jongintaba announced to Mandela and Justice (the Regent's own son and heir to the throne) that he had arranged marriages for both of them.

Both young men were displeased by this and rather than marry, they elected to flee the comfort of the Regent's estate to go to Johannesburg.

Upon his arrival, Mandela initially found employment as a guard at a mine.

However, this was quickly terminated after the employer learned that Mandela was the Regent's runaway adopted son.

He later started work as an articled clerk at a law firm thanks to connections with his friend and mentor, realtor Walter Sisulu.

While working there, he completed his BA at the University of South Africa via correspondence, after which he started law studies at the University of Witwatersrand.

There he befriended fellow students and future anti-apartheid political activists Joe Slovo, Harry Schwarz and Ruth First.

During this time Mandela lived in Alexandra township, north of Johannesburg.

After the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner (Dutch South African)-dominated National Party with its apartheid policy of racial segregation, Mandela was prominent in the ANC's anti-apartheid struggle.

Mandela and fellow lawyer Oliver Tambo operated the law firm of Mandela and Tambo, providing free or low-cost legal counsel to many Blacks who would otherwise have been without representation.

Mandela's approach was influenced by Gandhi, who inspired him and succeeding generations of South African anti-apartheid activists.

Indeed, Mandela took part in the January 2007 conference in New Delhi, India which marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's introduction of Satyagraha or non-violence in South Africa.

Initially committed to non-violent mass struggle, Mandela was arrested with 150 others in 1956 and charged with treason.

They were all acquitted.

From 1952–59 the ANC experienced disruption as a new class of Black activists emerged in the townships demanding more drastic steps against the National Party regime.

The ANC leadership of Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu felt not only that events were moving too fast, but also that their leadership was challenged.

They consequently bolstered their position by alliances with small White and Coloured (Indians, Malays and Chinese) political parties most notably the South African Communist Party (SACP) in an attempt to appear to have a wider appeal.

In 1959 the ANC lost its most militant support when its radical activists, with financial support from Ghana and significant political support from the Transvaal-based Basotho people (who also live in Lesotho), broke away to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) under Robert Sobukwe and Potlako Leballo.

In 1961, Mandela became the leader of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK), which he co-founded.

He coordinated a sabotage campaign against military and government targets and made plans for a possible guerrilla war if sabotage failed to end apartheid.

Mandela also raised funds for MK abroad and arranged for paramilitary training, visiting various African governments.

Mandela explained the move to embark on armed struggle as a last resort, when increasing repression and violence from the state convinced him that many years of non-violent protest against apartheid had achieved nothing and could not succeed.

A few decades later, MK waged a guerrilla war against the regime, especially during the 1980s, in which many civilians were killed.

Mandela later admitted that the ANC, in its struggle against apartheid, also violated human rights and has sharply criticised attempts by parts of his party to remove statements supporting this fact.

Until July 2008, Mandela and ANC party members were barred from entering the United States —except the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan — without a special waiver from the US Secretary of State, due to their designation as terrorists by the former South African apartheid regime.

On August 5, 1962 Mandela was arrested after living on the run for 17 months and was imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort.

The arrest was made possible because the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tipped off the security police as to Mandela's whereabouts and disguise.

Three days later, the charges of leading workers to strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally were read to him during a court appearance.

On October 25, 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years in prison.

Two years later on June 11, 1964, the sentence was increased to 27 years.

Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island where he remained for the next 18 of his 27 years in prison.

On the island, he and others performed hard labour in a lime quarry.

Prison conditions were very basic. Prisoners were segregated by race, with Black prisoners receiving the fewest rations.

Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges.

He was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. Letters, when they came, were often delayed for long periods and made unreadable by the prison censors.

Whilst in prison Mandela undertook study with the University of London by correspondence through its External Programme and received a Bachelor of Laws.

He was subsequently nominated for the position of Chancellor of the University of London in 1981, but lost to Princess Anne of the United Kingdom.

In 1982, Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, along with other senior ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba.

This was to remove the influence of these senior leaders on the new generation of young Black activists imprisoned on Robben Island, the so-called Mandela University.

In 1985, President Pieter W. Botha offered Mandela conditional release in return for renouncing armed struggle.

He replied: "What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."

The first meeting between Mandela and the National Party government came in November 1985 when Kobie Coetsee met Mandela in Volks Hospital in Cape Town where Mandela was being treated for prostate surgery.

Over the next four years, a series of tentative meetings took place, laying the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations, but little real progress was made.

Throughout Mandela's imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the South African government to release him, under the resounding slogan Free Nelson Mandela!

In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads when Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik Willem De Klerk of Dutch-Indian ancestry.

De Klerk announced Mandela's release in February 1990.

On February 2, 1990, De Klerk reversed the ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison.

Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990. The event was broadcast live all over the world.

On the day of his release, Mandela made a speech to the nation. He declared his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the country's White minority but made it clear that the ANC's armed struggle was not yet over.

He also said his main focus was to bring peace to the Black majority and give them the right to vote in both national and local elections.

Following his release from prison, Mandela returned to the leadership of the ANC and between 1990 and 1994 led the party in the multi-party negotiations that led to the country's first multi-racial elections.

In 1991, the ANC held its first national conference in South Africa after its unbanning, electing Mandela as President of the organisation.

His old friend and colleague Oliver Tambo, who had led the organisation in exile during Mandela's imprisonment, became National Chairman.

Mandela's leadership through the negotiations, as well as his relationship with De Klerk was recognised when they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Following the assassination of senior ANC leader Chris Hani by the South African Secret Service in April 1993, there were renewed fears that the country would erupt in violence.

Mandela addressed the nation appealing for calm, in a speech regarded as 'presidential' even though he was not yet president of the country at that time.

Democratic elections took place on April 27, 1994, just over a year after Hani's assassination.

Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, was published in 1994.

Mandela had begun work on it secretly while in prison.

The ANC won 62 percent of the votes in the election and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on May 10, 1994 as the country's first Black President with the National Party's De Klerk as his first deputy and Thabo Mbeki as the second.

As President from May 1994 until June 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

Mandela encouraged Black South Africans to get behind the previously hated Springboks (the South African national rugby team) as South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

After the Springboks won an epic final over New Zealand, Mandela, wearing a Springbok shirt, presented the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar, a Dutch South African.

This was widely seen as a major step in the reconciliation of White and Black South Africans.

After assuming the presidency, one of Mandela's trademarks was his use of Batik shirts, known as "Madiba shirts", even on formal occasions.

In South Africa's first post-apartheid military operation, Mandela ordered troops into Lesotho in September 1998 to protect the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

This came after a disputed election prompted fierce opposition threatening the unstable government.

Commentators and critics including AIDS activists have criticised Mandela for his government's ineffectiveness in stemming the AIDS crisis.

After his retirement, Mandela admitted that he may have failed his country by not paying more attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

He has since taken many opportunities to highlight this South African and international tragedy.

Mandela has been married three times, has fathered six children, has 20 grandchildren and a growing number of great-grandchildren. His grandson is Chief Mandla Mandela.

Mandela's first marriage was to Evelyn Ntoko Mase who, like Mandela, was also from Transkei although they actually met in Johannesburg.

The couple had two sons, Madiba Thembekile (Thembi) (born 1946) and Makgatho Lewanika (born 1950) and two daughters, both named Makaziwe (born 1947 and 1953).

Their first daughter died aged nine months and they named their second daughter in her honour.

The couple broke up in 1957 after 13 years.

Thembi was killed in a car crash in 1969 at the age of 25, while Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Evelyn Mase died in 2004.

Mandela's second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, also came from the Transkei although they, too, met in Johannesburg, where she was the city's first Black social worker.

They had two daughters, Zenani (Zeni), born 1958 and Zindziswa (Zindzi), born 1960.

Later, Winnie would be deeply torn by family discord which mirrored the country's political strife.

While her husband was serving a life sentence at the Robben Island prison, her father became the agriculture minister in Transkei.

The marriage ended in separation (April 1992) and divorce (March 1996), fuelled by political estrangement.

Mandela still languished in prison when his daughter Zenani was married to Prince Thumbumuzi Dlamini in 1973. He was the elder brother of King Mswati III of Swaziland.

As a member by marriage of a reigning foreign dynasty, she was able to visit her father during his South African imprisonment while other family members were denied access.

The Dlamini couple live and run a business in Boston.

One of their sons, Prince Cedza Dlamini (born 1976), educated in the United States, has followed in his grandfather's footsteps as an international advocate for human rights and humanitarian aid.

Thumbumuzi’s and Mswati's sister, Princess Mantfombi Dlamini, is the chief consort to King Goodwill Zwelithini of KwaZulu-Natal, who "reigns but does not rule" over South Africa's largest ethnic group under the auspices of South Africa's government.

One of the Zulu King's sons is expected to eventually succeed him.

Many Zulus support their very own Inkatha Party whose leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was one of the political rivals of Mandela, before and during his presidency.

Mandela remarried in 1998 on his 80th birthday. His bride was Graca Machel Simbine, the widow of Samora Machel, the first Mozambican president and ANC ally who was killed in an air crash 12 years earlier.

His plane was sabotaged by Botha’s Secret Service.

Negotiations were conducted on Mandela's behalf by his traditional sovereign, King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo, born 1964.

It was this paramount chief's grandfather, the Regent Jongintaba, whose selection of a bride for him prompted Mandela to flee to Johannesburg as a young man.

Mandela still maintains a home at Qunu in the realm of his royal nephew, whose university expenses he defrayed and whose Privy Councillor he remains.

Mandela became the oldest elected President of South Africa when he took office at the age of 77 in 1994. He decided not to stand for a second term as President and retired in 1999, to be succeeded by Thabo Mbeki.

In July 2001 Mandela was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. He was treated with a seven-week course of radiation.

After his retirement as President, Mandela went on to become an advocate for a variety of social and human rights organisations. He has expressed his support for the international Make Poverty History movement.

Mandela is a vocal supporter of SOS Children's Villages, the world's largest organisation dedicated to raising orphaned and abandoned children.

Mandela appeared in a televised advertisement for the 2006 Winter Olympics and was quoted for the International Olympic Committee's Celebrate Humanity campaign.

The Nelson Mandela Invitational Charity Golf Tournament, hosted by Gary Player, has raised over twenty million Rands for children's charities since its inception in 2000.

This annual special event has become South Africa's most successful charitable sports gathering and benefits both the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and Gary Player Foundation for various children's causes around the world.

On July 18, 2007, Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel and Desmond Tutu convened a group of world leaders in Johannesburg to contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world's toughest problems.

Mandela announced the formation of this new group The Elders in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday.

Archbishop Tutu became the Chair of The Elders. The founding members of this group also included Graca Machel, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus.

Since his retirement, one of Mandela's primary commitments has been to the fight against AIDS.

In 2003, he lent his support to the 46664 AIDS fundraising campaign, named after his prison number.

In 2004, he flew to Bangkok to speak at the 15th International AIDS Conference.

His son, Makgatho Mandela died of AIDS on January 6, 2005.

In 2003 Mandela criticised the foreign policy of US President George W. Bush in a number of speeches.

Criticising the lack of UN involvement in the decision to begin the War in Iraq, he said: "It is a tragedy, what is happening, what Bush is doing. But Bush is now undermining the United Nations."

He urged the people of the US to join massive protests against Bush and called on world leaders, especially those with vetoes in the UN Security Council, to oppose him.

Mandela has criticised Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for his autocratic and repressive rule.

Many artistes have dedicated songs to Mandela.

One of the most popular was from the The Specials who recorded the song Nelson Mandela in 1983.

Stevie Wonder dedicated his 1985 Oscar for the song I Just Called To Say I Love You to Mandela, resulting in his music being banned by the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

In 1985, Youssou N'Dour's album Nelson Mandela was the Senegalese artiste's first United States release.

In 1988, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at London's Wembley Stadium was a focal point of the anti-apartheid movement, with many musicians voicing their support for Mandela.

Jerry Dammers, the author of Nelson Mandela, was one of the organisers.

Simple Minds recorded the song Mandela Day for the concert, Santana recorded the instrumental Mandela and Tracy Chapman performed Freedom Now, dedicated to Mandela and released on her album Crossroads.

Salif Keita from Mali, who played at the concert, later visited South Africa and in 1995 recorded the song Mandela on his album Folon.

In South Africa, Asimbonanga (Mandela) became one of Johnny Clegg's most famous songs, appearing on his Third World Child album in 1987.

Hugh Masekela, in exile in the UK, sang Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) in 1987.

Brenda Fassie's 1989 song Black President, a tribute to Mandela, was hugely popular even though it was banned in South Africa.

In 1990, Hong Kong Cantopop band Beyond released a popular Cantonese song, Days Of Glory. The anti-apartheid song featured lyrics referring to Mandela's heroic struggle for racial equality.

A tribute concert for Mandela's 90th birthday took place in Hyde Park, London on June 27, 2008.

In 1997, the film Mandela And De Klerk told the story of Mandela's release from prison.

Mandela was played by Sidney Poitier.

Goodbye Bafana, a feature film that focused on Mandela's life had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on February 11, 2007.

The film starred Dennis Haysbert as Mandela and chronicled Mandela's relationship with prison guard James Gregory.

In the final scene of the 1992 movie Malcolm X, Mandela – recently released after 27 years of political imprisonment – appears as a schoolteacher in a Soweto classroom.

He recites a portion of one of Malcolm X's most famous speeches, including the following sentence: "We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence..."

The famous final phrase of that sentence is "by any means necessary."

Mandela informed director Spike Lee that he could not utter the phrase on camera fearing that the apartheid government would use it against him if he did.

Lee obliged and the final seconds of the film feature black-and-white footage of Malcolm X himself delivering the phrase.

On March 31, 2004, Sandton Square was renamed Nelson Mandela Square, after a 6-metre statue of Nelson Mandela was installed on the square to honour the famous South African statesman.

On August 29, 2007, a statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at Parliament Square in London by Lord Richard Attenborough, Ken Livingstone, Wendy Woods (wife of the late anti-apartheid activist and journalist Donald Woods) and Gordon Brown.

The campaign to erect the statue was started in 2000 by Donald Woods, a South African journalist driven into exile because of his anti-apartheid activities.

Mandela stated that it represented not just him, but all those who have resisted oppression, especially those in South Africa.

He said: "The history of the struggle in South Africa is rich with the stories of heroes and heroines, some of them leaders, some of them followers. All of them deserve to be remembered."

In 2004, zoologists Brent E. Hendrixson and Jason E. Bond named a South African species of trapdoor spider as Stasimopus Mandelai, "honoring Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa and one of the great moral leaders of our time."

Information from Wikipedia and New Straits Times. Thanks to both.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Congratulations To Melaka City And George Town

Congratulations to the people of Melaka City in Melaka State and George Town in Penang State.

Both historic cities, the first major centres of Chinese, Indian and European settlement in Malaysia, have been named Unesco (United Nations) Heritage Sites.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Johnny Cash - King Of Country, Emperor Of American Song

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Johnny Cash (February 26, 1932 - September 12, 2003) was a Grammy Award-winning American country singer-songwriter.

Cash is widely considered to be the most influential American musician of the 20th century.

Cash was known for his deep, distinctive voice, the boom-chick-a-boom or "freight train" sound of his Tennessee Three backing band, his demeanour and his dark clothing, which earned him the nickname The Man In Black.

He traditionally started his concerts with the introduction "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."

Much of Cash's music, especially that of his later career, echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption.

His signature songs include I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Ring Of Fire, Get Rhythm, That Old Wheel (a duet with Hank Williams Jr), Cocaine Blues and Man In Black.

He also recorded several humorous songs, such as One Piece At A Time, The One On The Right Is On The Left, Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog, A Boy Named Sue and a duet with his wife June Carter called Jackson.

He was also a champion of Native American rights and aspirations and dedicated the songs The Ballad Of Ira Hayes and Apache Tears to the community.

He sold over 90 million albums in his 50-year career and came to occupy a "commanding position in music history".

Cash was of Scottish and Native American descent. He was born in Kingsland, Arkansas to Raymond Cash and Carrie Rivers.

He was one of 7 children and his younger brother Tommy also became a successful country singer.

By age five, Cash was working in the cotton fields, singing along with his family as they worked.

The family farm was flooded on at least one occasion, which later inspired him to write the song Five Feet High And Rising.

His family's economic and personal struggles during the Depression inspired many of his songs, especially those about other people facing similar difficulties.

Cash was very close to his brother Jack, who was two years older.

In 1944, Jack was pulled into a whirling table saw in the mill where he worked and cut almost in two. He suffered for over a week before he died.

Cash often spoke of the horrible guilt he felt over this incident.

Decades later, Cash spoke of looking forward to meeting his brother in Heaven.

He wrote that he had seen his brother many times in his dreams and that Jack always looked two years older than whatever age Cash himself was at that moment.

Taught by his mother and a childhood friend, Cash began playing the guitar and writing songs as a young boy.

In high school he sang on a local radio station; decades later he released an album of traditional Gospel songs called My Mother's Hymn Book.

He was also significantly influenced by traditional Irish music.

Cash enlisted in the United States Air Force. After basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base, both in San Antonio, Texas, Cash was assigned to a US Air Force Security Service unit as a Morse Code decoder on Russian Army transmissions at Landsberg, Germany.

While in Air Force training in 1950, Cash met Vivian Liberto. A month after his discharge, on August 7, 1954, they were married.

They had four daughters: Rosanne (1955), Kathleen (1956), Cindy (1959) and Tara (1961).

His constant touring and drug use put intense strain on his marriage and they divorced in 1967.

In 1954, Cash moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he sold appliances while studying to be a radio announcer.

At night he played with guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant, known as The Tennessee Two.

Cash subsequently auditioned at Sun Records and released the hit singles Hey Porter and Cry Cry Cry in 1955 with reasonable success.

Cash's next hit Folsom Prison Blues made the country Top 5 and I Walk The Line became No. 1 on the country charts and entered the pop charts’ Top 20.

In the early 1960s, Cash toured with the Carter Family, which by this time regularly included Maybelle's daughters Anita, June and Helen.

As his career was taking off in the early 1960s, Cash started drinking heavily and became addicted to drugs.

Nevertheless, Cash kept delivering hit songs flawlessly.

His rendition of Ring Of Fire reached No. 1 on the country charts and entered the Top 20 on the pop charts. The song was written by June Carter.

Although Cash carefully cultivated a romantic outlaw image, he never served a prison sentence.

Despite landing in jail seven times for misdemeanours, each stay lasted only a single night.

His most infamous run-in with the law occurred while on tour in 1965, when he was arrested by a narcotics squad in El Paso, Texas.

The officers suspected that he was smuggling heroin from Mexico, but it was prescription narcotics that the singer had hidden inside his guitar case.

In the mid 1960s, Cash released a number of concept albums, including Ballads Of The True West (1965), an experimental double record mixing authentic frontier songs with Cash's spoken narration and Bitter Tears (1964) with songs highlighting the plight of the Native Americans.

His drug addiction was at its worst at this point and his destructive behaviour led to a divorce from his first wife and cancelled performances.

In 1967, Cash's duet with Carter, Jackson, won a Grammy Award.

Cash quit using drugs in 1968, after a spiritual epiphany in the Nickajack Cave.

June, Maybelle and Ezra Carter moved into Cash's mansion for a month to help him defeat his addiction.

Cash proposed on stage to Carter at a concert at the London Gardens in London, Ontario on February 22, 1968. The couple married a week later on March 1 in Franklin, Kentucky.

June had agreed to marry Cash after he had 'cleaned up'.

Cash felt great compassion for prisoners. He began performing concerts at various prisons starting in the late 1950s.

These performances led to a pair of highly successful live albums, Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison (1968) and Johnny Cash At San Quentin (1969).

Cash advocated prison reform at his 1972 meeting with United States President Richard Nixon.

From 1969 to 1971, Cash starred in his own television show The Johnny Cash Show, on the ABC network.

Those who performed on his show included the Carter Family, Carl Perkins, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, James Taylor, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan.

He was friendly with every United States President starting with Richard Nixon. He was closest with Jimmy Carter.

When invited to perform at the White House for the first time in 1972, President Richard Nixon's office requested that he play Okie From Muskogee (a satirical Merle Haggard song about people who despised youthful drug users and war protesters) and Welfare Cadillac (a Guy Drake song that derides the integrity of welfare recipients).

Cash declined to play either song and instead played a series of more left-leaning, politically-charged songs including The Ballad Of Ira Hayes (about a brave Native American World War 2 veteran who was mistreated upon his return to Arizona) and his own compositions, What Is Truth? and Man In Black.

In 1980, Cash became the Country Music Hall Of Fame's youngest living inductee at age 48.

In the mid 1980s, he recorded and toured with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson as The Highwaymen, making two hit albums.

During this period, Cash appeared as an actor in a number of television films.

In 1981, he starred in The Pride Of Jesse Hallam. Cash won fine reviews for his work in this film that called attention to adult illiteracy.

In 1983, Cash also appeared as a heroic sheriff in Murder In Coweta County, which co-starred Andy Griffith as his nemesis. This film was based on a real-life Georgia murder case.

In 1986, Cash published his only novel Man In White, a book about St Paul. He also recorded Johnny Cash Reads The Complete New Testament in 1990.

His career was rejuvenated in the 1990s, leading to popularity amongst a younger audience not traditionally interested in country music.

In 1993, he sang the vocals on U2's The Wanderer for the group’s album Zooropa.

Cash and his wife appeared on a number of episodes of the popular television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman starring Jane Seymour.

The actress thought so highly of Cash that she later named one of her twin sons after him.

He lent his voice for a cartoon cameo in an episode of The Simpsons, with his voice as that of a coyote that guides Homer on a spiritual quest.

In 2002, he recorded the song Hurt with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

June Carter died at 73 on May 15, 2003. Cash followed on September 12, 2003 at the age of 71.

His first wife Liberto died on May 24, 2005 of cancer.

Among Johnny Cash's children, his daughter Rosanne Cash (by Liberto) and his son John Carter Cash (by June Carter) are notable country musicians in their own right.

In total, he wrote over a thousand songs and released dozens of albums.

In 1999, Cash received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Johnny Cash Number 31 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artistes Of All Time.

Walk The Line, an Academy Award-winning biopic about Johnny Cash's life starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter (for which she won the 2005 Best Actress Oscar) was released in the US in 2005 to great critical acclaim.

Phoenix received the Grammy Award for his contributions to the Walk The Line soundtrack. John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter was the Executive Producer of the film.

Cash was the personification of country music to many people around the world. He was a musician not tied to a single genre.

He recorded songs that could be considered rock and roll, blues, folk and gospel and exerted an influence on each of those genres.

He had the unique distinction amongst country artistes of having "crossed over" late in his career to become popular with alternative rock fans.

His diversity was evidenced by his presence in three major music halls of fame: the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame (1977), the Country Music Hall Of Fame (1980) and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (1992).

Only 13 performers are in both of the last two and only Hank Williams Sr, Jimmie Rodgers and Bill Monroe share the honour with Cash of being in all three.

The Clash - Kings Of Radical Rock

Thanks, Wikipedia.

The Clash was a British punk rock band, active from 1976 to 1986.

It also experimented with reggae, funk, hip-hop and rock and roll.

Its major members were Joe Strummer [John Mellor who was of Armenian ancestry] (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Mick Jones (lead guitar, vocals) [he is of Russian-Israeli ancestry], Paul Simonon (bass, backing vocals) and Nicky "Topper" Headon (drums, percussion).

The Clash was a major success in the UK from the release of its debut album.

Its third album, London Calling, released in 1979, brought it popularity in the United States. Rolling Stone magazine declared it the best album of the 1980s.

The Clash's style and rebellious attitude, along with its music, had a far-reaching influence on rock and alternative rock.

In January 2003 it was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Strummer died of a heart attack in 2002 at the age of 50.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked The Clash No. 30 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artistes Of All Time.

Most of the band's founding members were already active in the London music scene at the time of The Clash's formation.

Paul Simonon came up with the band's name, The Clash, as it was the first word that came into his mind while reading the newspapers one morning.

The Clash had its first gig on July 4, 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols in Sheffield.

It released its first single White Riot and self-titled debut album the following year. In the same year, Headon joined the band.

After the hugely successful London Calling, The Clash came up with an album titled Sandinista which paid tribute to the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979.

It also came up with the hit Rock The Casbah, a song about religious fascism in Imam Khomeini’s Iran.

In 1982, Headon quit The Clash. Four years later the band called it a day in music.

The Clash’s dissolution did not stop its ex-members from collaborating musically, however.

In 1999, Strummer, Jones and Simonon cooperated in the compiling of the live album From Here To Eternity.

In 2002, Jones and Strummer shared the stage, performing three Clash songs during a London benefit show by Strummer’s new band The Mescaleros.

In January 2008, Jones and Headon performed together in London.

The Clash’s music was often charged by a leftist political ideology.

The band is credited with pioneering the advocacy of radical politics in punk rock.

It was never driven entirely by money. Even at its peak, tickets to shows and souvenirs were reasonably priced.

The group was also involved in the Rock Against Racism initiative at London’s Victoria Park in 1978.

Strummer was noted for his devotion to fans. He never left a venue until everyone who had waited around got an autograph and talked with him personally, a process which often lasted for hours.

Strummer also founded The Carbon Neutral Company, an organisation dedicated to planting trees in various parts of the world in order to combat global warming.

He was the first artiste to make the recording, pressing and distribution of his records carbon neutral through the planting of trees.

Many other artistes such as Foo Fighters, Coldplay and Pink Floyd have followed suit.

At the Grammy Awards 2003, London Calling was performed by Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Pete Thomas and Tony Kanal (No Doubt) in tribute to Strummer.

Simonon is also a talented artist.