Sunday, July 29, 2012

About The Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony

From Wikipedia.

The opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, called Isles Of Wonder began at 9pm (UK time) in the Olympic Stadium, London.

It was designed and co-ordinated by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, with musical direction by electronica duo Underworld.

The Games was opened by Queen Elizabeth II.

Boyle acknowledged that the scale, extravagance and expense of the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony at Beijing was an impossible act to follow: "You can't get bigger than Beijing" and that this had in fact liberated his team in their approach to designing the 2012 ceremony.

The budget of the 2012 ceremony was £27m (as opposed to Beijing's £65m).

The cast of the ceremony was mostly made up of volunteers - some 15,000 of them - who had given up hundreds of hours of their time to rehearse over the preceding months.

The Isles Of Wonder name was taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest, with the giant bell used in the ceremony inscribed with a line from a speech by Caliban: "Be not afeard, the isle is full of noises".

It was the second Games opened by the Queen. She had also opened the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal as Queen of Canada.

Most of the music chosen was either British or Irish.

Survival, a single released by Muse was announced as the official song of the Olympics.

It will be played before medal ceremonies and international broadcasters will also play it while reporting on the Games.

A R Rahman, who worked with Boyle on his film Slumdog Millionair composed a Punjabi song for the opening ceremony, intended to be a part of a medley which would showcase Indian influence in the UK, according to Boyle's wishes.

Sir Paul McCartney was the ceremony's closing act.

Paolo Nutini and Duran Duran played before the opening ceremony was shown to the audience on big screens.

Stereophonics and Snow Patrol then played during the athletes' parade, before the lighting of the torch was shown.

At exactly 8.12 pm (2012 on the 24-hour clock) the Red Arrows performed a flypast over the Olympic Stadium.

At 9pm the ceremony began with a two-minute film directed by Danny Boyle and produced with the involvement of the BBC.

Beginning at the source of the River Thames in Gloucestershire, the film traced the river to the heart of London, juxtaposing images of contemporary British life with pastoral shots.

As it passed Battersea Power Station, a Pink Floyd pig was flying between its towers.

The soundtrack featured clips from various pieces of music, including the theme tune of The South Bank Show (Lord Lloyd-Webber's Variations), the theme tune of EastEnders by Simon May and Leslie Osborne, London Calling by The Clash and the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen.

The film's track ended in the Olympic Stadium, where groups of children held balloons numbered from 10 to 1 that popped in sequence with an audience-led countdown.

Bradley Wiggins, who won the Tour De France just five days earlier, emerged to open the ceremony by ringing the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world.

The bell was cast for London's Whitechapel Bell Foundry by Royal Eijsbouts of the Netherlands.

The opening section of the ceremony encapsulated British economic and social development from rural economy to Industrial Revolution to the 1960s.

At the beginning, the floor of the stadium had at its centre a model of Glastonbury Tor and a model village as promised by Boyle, replete with live animals and actors portraying working villagers.

Youth choirs began a cappella performances.

The informal anthems of the four constituent countries of the host nation were then sung: Jerusalem (from England, sung by a live choir in the stadium), complemented by filmed performances of Danny Boy (from the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland), Flower Of Scotland (from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland) and Bread Of Heaven (from Rhosilli Beach in Wales, but sung in English).

The anthems were inter-cut with footage of notable Rugby Union Home Nations' tries.

As the performances progressed, vintage London General Omnibus Company stagecoaches entered the stadium, carrying men in Victorian dress, complete with top hats.

Led by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (played by Sir Kenneth Branagh), the men exited the carriages and surveyed the land approvingly.

After walking up Glastonbury Tor, Brunel delivered Caliban's "Be not afeard" speech from Act 3, Scene II of Shakespeare's The Tempest, reflecting Boyle's introduction to the ceremony in the programme.

As the villagers rolled away the grass and other props, chimney stacks with accompanying steeplejacks symbolising the Industrial Revolution rose from the ground and workers mimed forging what was to become a large Olympic ring.

Boyle described this section of the ceremony as Pandemonium (in reference to the capital of Hell in Paradise Lost) and said that it celebrated the "tremendous potential" afforded by the advancements of the Victorian era.

This part of the show also included a silence in remembrance of the sacrifice and loss of life of both the World Wars, featuring British 'Tommies' and a field of poppies.

Accompanied by 1000 percussionists led by Dame Evelyn Glennie, actors paraded around the stadium representing historical groups who changed the face of Britain, including the woman's suffrage movement, the Jarrow Crusade, the first Caribbean immigrants arriving in Britain on board The Empire Windrush and The Beatles as they appeared on the cover of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Included in this parade were real-life Chelsea Pensioners and a group of Pearly Kings and Queens.

Many of the participants, including the Victorian gentlemen, mimed the repetitive mechanical movements associated with industrial processes, such as weaving.

As the parade progressed, four Olympic rings were flown into place above the stadium floor and, when the fifth was raised into position, they ignited and rained fire.

The ceremony then cut to Happy And Glorious, a short film featuring James Bond (played by current Bond actor Daniel Craig) entering Buckingham Palace.

Bond escorted Queen Elizabeth II (who played herself) out of the building and into a waiting helicopter, which flew across London to the stadium.

At the end of the film, Bond and Her Majesty jump from the helicopter and this was interspersed with live footage of actors playing the pair who parachuted out of a helicopter over the stadium (using Union Jack parachutes).

The actual jump was carried out by BASE jumper and stuntman Gary Connery.

The Queen and The Duke Of Edinburgh (as well as Count Rogge, President of the IOC) were then introduced in the stadium.

The Union Flag was then raised by members of the British Armed Forces, with the national anthem performed a cappella by the Kaos Signing Choir For Deaf And Hearing Children.

There followed a sequence celebrating the National Health Service (NHS).

Nurses from the NHS entered the stadium with children on hospital beds, some of which functioned as trampolines.

Among the performers were hospital staff and nine children who are long-term patients at the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The beds' blankets illuminated, and the beds were arranged into a smiling face (the logo of Great Ormond Street Hospital) and its acronym GOSH, visible from above.

After a dance sequence, a celebration of children's literature by British authors began with J K Rowling reading a section from J M Barrie's Peter Pan (from which Great Ormond Street Hospital receives royalties) and inflatable representations of children's literature villains The Queen Of Hearts, Captain Hook, Cruella De Vil and Lord Voldemort.

The Child Catcher appeared amongst the children.

Dozens of women playing Mary Poppins descended on flying umbrellas as the characters deflated and the actors resumed dancing.

The entire sequence was set to music performed by Mike Oldfield and a backing band.

Their selections included partially rearranged sections from Tubular Bells (played in part on a giant set of tubular bells at the rear of the stage).

Sir Simon Rattle was then introduced to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Vangelis' Chariots Of Fire.

Mr Bean (played by Rowan Atkinson) appeared, comically playing a repeated single note on synthesiser.

He then lapsed into a dream sequence in which he joined the runners from the film of the same name (about the 1924 Summer Olympics), beating them in their iconic run along West Sands at St. Andrews by riding in a car and tripping the front runner.

The performance was followed by a sequence concerning British popular culture.

To the accompaniment of famous signature tunes, including Going Underground by The Jam and the theme song from The Archers, a young mother and son drove up to a house in the centre of the venue in a Mini Cooper.

The house's sides each served as a projection screen showing clips from various British films, television programmes and music videos including Billy Elliot, Gregory's Girl and Boyle's own Trainspotting.

A large group of dancers, centred around a boy and girl (Jasmine Breinburg) flirting by mobile phone, performed to an assortment of British popular songs arranged chronologically, ending with a live performance of Bonkers by Dizzee Rascal.

At the close of the sequence, the house was raised to reveal Sir Tim Berners-Lee, working at a NeXT Computer like the one on which he invented the World Wide Web.

He tweeted: "This is for everyone", instantly spelled out in LED lights held by 70,500 people in the audience.

A filmed sequence then showed David Beckham driving a motor boat up the River Thames and under Tower Bridge, carrying the Olympic torch accompanied by footballer Jade Bailey.

In tribute to victims of war and the 2005 London bombings, (which happened the day after the announcement that London had been awarded the 2012 Olympics), the hymn Abide With Me by Henry Francis Lyte to music by William Henry Monk, was performed by Emeli Sande and a group of dancers including Akram Khan, while a screen showed photos of people who had died, contributed by members of the public as a memorial.

The Parade Of Nations followed, accompanied in part by popular songs including West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys, Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees and Beautiful Day by Irish band U2.

According to custom, Greece led the parade, followed by other competing countries in alphabetical order and finally the host nation Great Britain.

The British delegation entered to David Bowie's song Heroes.

Each nation's flag was planted along the model of Glastonbury Tor.

After the Parade, the Arctic Monkeys performed their song I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor and a version of The Beatles' Come Together, the latter whilst cyclists carrying LED representations of the Doves Of Peace circled the stadium.

Speeches by Lord Coe and Count Rogge followed, and the Queen officially opened the Games.
Seated near the Queen and the Duke Of Edinburgh was Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop Of Canterbury.

The Olympic Flag was then carried by eight people chosen from around the world as symbols of the Olympic values: Daniel Barenboim, Sally Becker, Shami Chakrabarti, Leymah Gbowee, Haile Gebrselassie, Doreen Lawrence, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Marina Silva.

This was a break with tradition as the Olympic Flag has previously been carried by Olympic athletes.

Before reaching its destination the flag paused in front of Muhammad Ali, who touched it.

Ali, who lit the Olympic flame at the 1996 games in Atlanta, Georgia and who was accompanied by his wife, had not made a public appearance since 2009.

The Olympic Flag was received by a colour guard of British Armed Forces personnel and hoisted to the sound of the Olympic Hymn.

David Beckham, on arriving at Olympic Park, assisted Sir Steve Redgrave, six-time Olympic rowing medallist, in lighting his Olympic torch from that on the boat.

Redgrave carried his torch into the stadium, through a guard of honour formed by construction workers who built the Olympic Park and handed it to one of a team of seven young athletes: Callum Airlie, Jordan Duckitt, Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk, Cameron MacRitchie, Aidan Reynolds and Adelle Tracey, each nominated by a famous British Olympian to convey the 2012 Games' aim to "inspire a generation".

After completing a lap of the stadium, each was hugged by their nominating Olympian and each presented with their own torches, which were lit from the original.

They then completed another partial circuit of the stadium, before each lighting one of 204 copper petals — one for every nation competing in this competition — mounted on long, hinged arms.

When the flame had spread to all of the petals, they were raised up in rings and converged to form the Olympic cauldron, which was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and was described as "one of the best-kept secrets of the opening ceremony".

Before the cauldron lighting, Alex Trimble, the lead singer of Northern Irish rock band Two Door Cinema Club, performed the song Caliban's Dream.

The song was written specifically for the ceremony by Rick Smith of Underworld.

The cauldron lighting was followed by a fireworks presentation, the climax of which was soundtracked by Pink Floyd's song Eclipse.

Sir Paul McCartney and his band performed the ending of The End and Hey Jude, with its anthem-like finale sung by the entire stadium, to close the ceremony.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sherman Hemsley - The Black Archie Bunker

Veteran American actor Sherman Hemsley aka George Jefferson passed away at the age of 74 on July 24, 2012.

He will be best remembered as the straight-talking bigot George Jefferson in The Jeffersons, the popular 1970s sitcom.

George Jefferson is regarded as the Black Archie Bunker in comparison with the late Carol O'Connor's bigoted bar owner from All In The Family and its spin-off Archie Bunker's Place.

The Jeffersons is itself a spin-off of All In The Family.

Read all about Hemsley from Wikipedia.

Sherman Alexander Hemsley (February 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012) was an American actor most famous for his role as George Jefferson on the television series All In The Family and The Jeffersons.

Hemsley was born and raised in South Philadelphia by his mother, who was a factory worker.

He joined the United States Air Force, where he served for four years.

On leaving the Air Force, he worked for the Post Office during the day while attending acting school at night.

He then moved to New York and starred in the early 1970s Broadway play Purlie.

Norman Lear called him in 1971 to play the role of George Jefferson on his burgeoning new sitcom, All In The Family.

The characters of Hemsley and co-star Isabel Sanford were secondary, but were given their own spin-off series, The Jeffersons, less than two years after Hemsley made his debut on the show.

The Jeffersons proved to be one of Lear's most successful shows, enjoying a run of 11 seasons through 1985.

Hemsley and Sanford appeared together in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s, reprising their roles in guest spots on television programmes such as The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

In recent years Hemsley lent his voice to the animated series Family Guy.

Hemsley was also a jazz keyboardist and released a single in 1989 titled Ain't That A Kick In The Head.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rajesh Khanna - Bollywood's Elephant Man

Veteran Bollywood actor Rajesh Khanna passed away of cancer on July 18, 2012.

Read all about him from Wikipedia.

Rajesh Khanna (December 29, 1942 - July 18, 2012) was an Indian actor in Hindi films and film producer.

He appeared in 163 feature films of which 128 films saw him as the protagonist.

He won three Filmfare Best Actor Awards and was nominated for the same 14 times.

He received the maximum BFJA Awards for Best Actor (Hindi) – four times and was nominated 25 times.

In 1991, he was awarded the Filmfare Special Award for completing 25 years in the industry, appearing in a record 106 films as the protagonist in a span of 25 years.

In 2005, he was awarded the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.

Khanna was referred to as the "First Superstar" of Hindi cinema.

He made his debut in 1966 with Aakhri Khat and rose to prominence in the films Haathi Mere Sathi, Raaz, Baharon Ke Sapne, Ittefaq and Aradhana.

Haathi was his most popular film, the story of a young man and his elephant friends.

Born in Amritsar, Punjab, Khanna lived in Thakurdwar near Girgaon and attended St. Sebastian’s Goan High School in Girgaon with his friend Ravi Kapoor who later took the stage name Jeetendra.

Khanna became interested in theatre and did a lot of plays in his school and college days.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Khanna fell in love with the then fashion designer and actress Anju Mahendru. They were in a relationship for seven years.

Khanna married Dimple Kapadia in 1973, six months before Dimple's debut film Bobby released. They had two daughters. Khanna and Dimple separated in 1984.

Their elder daughter Twinkle, an interior decorator and former actress is married to actor Akshay Kumar while their younger daughter Rinke Khanna, also a former actress is married to London-based investment banker Samir Saran.

Khanna was a life member of the International Film And Television Research Centre, the International Film And Television Club and the Asian Academy Of Film And Television.

He also served as a Member of Parliament in New Delhi.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stephen Covey - World Class Motivational Guru.

Stephen Covey passed away from complications from a bicycle accident on July 16, 2012.

Read all about him from Wikipedia.

Stephen Richards Covey (October 24, 1932 - July 16, 2012) was an American educator, author, businessman and motivational speaker.

His most popular book was The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.

His other books include First Things First, Principle-Centered Leadership, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Families, The 8th Habit and The Leader In Me — How Schools And Parents Around The World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child At A Time.

He was a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School Of Business at Utah State University at the time of his death.

Covey was born to Stephen Glenn Covey and Irene Louise Richards Covey.

Louise was the daughter of Stephen Richards, a counselor in the Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons).

He was the grandson of Stephen Mack Covey who founded the original Little America (Mormon church) near Granger, Wyoming.

Covey earned a degree in business administration from the University Of Utah, an MBA from Harvard University and a Doctor of Religious Education from Brigham Young University.

He was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity. He was awarded 10 honorary doctorates.

Covey established the Covey Leadership Centre which in 1997 merged with Franklin Quest to form FranklinCovey, a global professional services firm and specialty retailer selling both training and productivity tools to individuals and organisations.

Their mission statement reads: "We enable greatness in people and organisations everywhere".

In March 2008 Covey launched the Stephen Covey Online Community.

The site was a collection of online courses, goal management and social networking.

Covey used it to teach his thoughts and ideas on current topics and self leadership.

In February 2010, Covey became a professor of the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair In Leadership at the Huntsman School Of Business at Utah State University.

Huntsman and Covey were longtime friends. At USU, he taught courses, performed research and helped to establish the Stephen R. Covey Centre For Leadership.

Covey toured the world and gave lectures. He visited Malaysia in 1997.

Azmi Anshar's Tribute To Paul Ponnudorai.

Azmi Anshar is an editor in the New Straits Times.

Paul Ponnudorai came into the national psyche as a guitar virtuoso, picking and yodelling his way into the 1975 ‘Bakat TV’ talent contest.

WHEN Paul Ponnudorai was hitting it on his own, paying his dues, the journey was occasionally fraught with moments of comedic terror: raucous watering holes for fat-bellied patrons, money-grubbing musical philistines cursing loud expletives if he refused to play the latest punch-drunk Top 10 tune in any ethnic configuration.

Legend has it that one gangster showed Ponnudorai the size of his pistol snug in the belt: he decided that being pragmatic was better than maintaining integrity and being shot at, so he indulged the thug with face time by unleashing a Paul Ponnudorai original cover of Careless Whisper - a personal record of 17 times in a row to the howls of drunken stupor!

Friends often quipped to Ponnudorai that during his 15th rendition, he should have taken the pistol and just pulled the trigger himself, just to flee the diabolical torment.

This fact was known to rabid Ponnudorai followers. The man was a guitarist able to navigate any given tune with the eye of a fine sommelier, the risk-taking of a rogue archaeologist and the mischief of a loveable prankster.

With his passing at age 51 (he did say that he walked into a bar in 1979 gigging with his siblings and "I haven't walked out of a bar since"), his supremely-natural gifts on the guitar, the engaging sense of humour inter-played with a rapturous audience and that personal charm he exuded is forever etched in memory.

Ponnudorai was a musical pugilist from the 1970s generation, a bunch too young to dig Flower Power but old enough to avoid the Generation-X slacker rap, but he was a genius of a musician living life to the fullest.

He even survived a horrific car crash where he needed metal screws bored into his skull after a surgery to neutralise a blood clot.

Ponnudorai was soaked in the brine (his favourite phrase) of the Bible and gospel music, 1970s avant-garde rock and other metallic-like structures, and disco with a genteel focus on jazz and blues.

But the coyness of the 1970s did not subvert Ponnudorai. It turned him into a peerless virtuoso of the guitar. Medium-built but stout in physique and blessed with a propelling tenor voice, Ponnudorai's years of gigging before musically-illiterate audiences in dingy nightclubs was a profound woodshedding experience.

But his obsession for the outrageous guitar riff and chord progression during those halcyon years elevated him into a cult guitar hero. Ponnudorai's thumbs are unmercifully bent, which was consistent with the plausible theory that bent thumbs are the physical characteristic of fabulous musicians.

Ponnudorai came into the national psyche as a guitar virtuoso, picking and yodelling his way into the 1975 Bakat TV variety talent contest which became the springboard into greatness, reinforced soon with successes in competitions in the Yamaha Guitar and Southeast Asian Guitar Festivals.

Following gigs at pubs and lounges, he was snared as lead singer/guitarist for the Drifting Cowboys, the Waves and the Sweet Notes. That improvisatory spirit though was too vexing: he formed his own band, Made In Malaysia, playing notably at the now defunct All That Jazz, with a selection of sweet pop, rock and blues numbers but inevitably went solo again.

Ponnudorai never wavered nor did he compromise his faith in the blues while riffing it up in jazz and rock, though his true musical religion was spontaneous improvisation.

Brandishing his electro-acoustic axe on stage was as enthralling as watching a firebrand preacher on a pulpit. Ponnudorai was spiritual in that sense as he adapted popular tunes, then twisted and artistically tortured them into something insanely subliminal.

Ponnudorai passed on with his precocious talent intact, but even with a single under-the-radar 2005 album Back In Time, his reputation preceded him.

One night, while playing a routine hotel club gig in Singapore, a certain gentleman by the name of Wynton Marsalis, perhaps America's greatest living jazz cat, jumped on stage and began jamming on his trumpet against a very startled Ponnudorai.

Ponnudorai was assuredly the antithesis of everything we assumed in the age of MTV and Billboard ratings.

Many Malaysians aren't aware of the existence of Ponnudorai, the rich heritage he bestowed upon his native country, even as he had to eke a living across the border.

The passing of such a gifted man in our midst is not the real tragedy. Ignorance of his existence is.

Lim Chang Moh - Malaysia's Foremost Film Critic

Lim Chang Moh, who passed away at 62 on July 14, 2012, will always be remembered as the country's foremost film critic.

He was best known for his film reviews in The Malay Mail. He retired in 2006 but continued to review films in his blog At The Movies With Lim Chang Moh.

The Malay Mail lifestyle editor Daniel Chan said: “His three decades as a film review columnist is a tough act to follow. He was a dear old friend and will be sorely missed.”

As production editor, Lim was highly respected for his command of English and perfectionist attitude towards ensuring there were no grammatical or spelling errors in the reports published by The Malay Mail.

Filmmaker Datuk Yusof Haslam described Lim as the country's foremost film critic, second to none.

Yusof hailed Lim as a prolific writer who did a good biography of former Chief Secretary To The Government Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid in 2008.

Educated at Penang Free School in Georgetown from 1964 to 1970, Lim graduated from University Malaya in 1974.

He joined the New Straits Times and later The Malay Mail where he wrote a long-running weekly column on movies titled At The Movies.

His son Jason has followed in his footsteps, frequently contributing movie reviews for The Star.

Lim also acted in one film, The Joshua Tapes in 2010.

Sabrina Yeap - Mother Teresa Of The Animals

Animal rights activist and friend of the stray dogs and cats Sabrina Yeap passed away today after a long illness.

She will always be remembered as the Mother Teresa Of The Animals.

Yeap was formerly in SPCA Malaysia before founding the Furry Friends Farm, a shelter for strays.

Three years ago she famously rescued stray dogs from Pulau Selat Kering in Klang.

One of the intelligent stray dogs, Hitam, became her special assistant in the mission.

Yeap famously said: “I can’t believe there is a heaven without dogs / pets.”

“Dogs / pets do more for people than people do for one another.”

“They don’t ask for anything in return. They are not part of today's great 'I want'.”

Hitam, the heroic black dog which helped her and became the most respected dog in Malaysia, passed on the same year.

RIP Sabrina. You are truly a saint.

Hitam and Noah are waiting.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Tribute To Paul Ponnudorai - By Eddin Khoo.

Eddin Khoo is a freelance writer who used to work for The Star.

He is my cousin and hails from Ipoh.

Paul Ponnudorai has left behind a legacy which we hope younger musicians will look up to, grab a hold of and run with.

If there was a single, striking quality to a Paul Ponnudorai performance, it was the touch of the epiphanous.

Undoubtedly a musician of the greatest dexterity, imagination and soulfulness, Ponnudorai had the ability to invoke, in a single song – however ordinary or even saccharine the song may be – the sense of great possibility and genuine timelessness.

It was this sense of epiphany that seemed to have touched him personally, on countless occasions not least of which was a near-fatal car accident in 1992 that left him with a blood clot in the brain and a recovery from surgery that could best be described as “miraculous”.

The incident was to indelibly transform him and his musicianship.

As he recalled to Time magazine in 2007, “Things that were so important – success, recognition, accolades – suddenly didn’t matter any more. And as a byproduct of my heightened awareness after the accident, I started listening to music – really listening to it.”

The “byproduct” of his listening was evident in his only solo album Right On Time, a sampling that reveals the consummate facility with which Ponnudorai claimed diverse and disparate styles ranging from the blues, bluegrass, gospel, folk and the most common pop styles.

These are all invested within that characteristic Ponnudorai combination of musical sinew and effortlessness.

In him, it was as if the act of creating musical seams was the most natural and rational thing in the world.

The Paul Ponnudorai experience contained a world – one that expressed the musical landscape from which he emerged.

Born to a large family committed to church or, as he movingly put it (in the Time interview) “I grew up soaked in the brine of the Bible.”

And the “brine of the Bible”, in Tamil churches such as his, naturally meant faith expressed in rhythm and music.

The music language that infused him was inspired also by the diverse setting that was his hometown of Ipoh in Perak, with its decaying jukeboxes and old record shops which, by the time of his growing up, reflected the passing of the country’s once principal mining town into quaint memory.

Ponnudorai carved a predictable path to national attention, winning the talent show Bakat TV in 1981 and subsequently playing and arranging for the most prominent of popular musicians – Francissca Peter, Datuk Sudirman Arshad, Datuk Sheila Majid and others.

Made In Malaysia, formed with Allan Perera, Jerry Felix and Daniel Soliano, was as close to a supergroup as Malaysia ever had and its capacity audiences at the Spuds club (now Life Centre) in Kuala Lumpur every Saturday night in the late 1980s attested to its super status.

Yet, it was his love of intimacy and deep sharing that kept him faithful to the bar-setting through the decades.

I had never known the Paul Ponnudorai of the stage.

Except for a few visits to the Spuds, my trail was different.

I – underaged and adulating – went to bars such as the Treffpunkt in Damansara Jaya, Selangor, where Paul alternated days with another teenage hero, Rafique Rashid.

After that, it was to All That Jazz many years later in a two-night spartan but beautiful solo set at the Instant Cafe Theatre’s Theatre Upstairs in KL where Paul, in characteristic fashion, transformed a bland Sir Cliff Richard song, The Twelvth Of Never, into a masterclass in ballad delivery.

Soon after, a modest event organised by a mutual friend, Errol D’Cruz, became an occasion for a moving performance of that John Hartford classic Gentle On My Mind.

At the end of the song, we realised we shared the same favourite lines – lines that, in recollection, appear to capture his sensibility so well – “And it’s knowing I’m not shackled by forgotten words and bonds and the ink stains that have dried upon some line.

That keeps you in the back roads by the rivers of memory, that keeps you ever gentle on my mind.”

The last performance I witnessed was in a modest pub in Taman Tun Dr Ismail in KL, even the name of which I can’t remember and an audience that could best be described as non-existent.

Still, it was the same generosity of spirit which pervaded his performance.

Here, during a version of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, I commented on his flawless phrasing and his reply, intelligent and quick as always was, “That’s where I put the student who wanted to study English Literature at university, but never did.”

The route to Singapore and to Harry’s pub followed.

Jam sessions with musicians the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Toots Thielemens and a glorious musical camaraderie with Jeremy Monteiro followed, all of whom recorded their amazement of his musicianship and all of which I missed.

In the past few months, I inadvertently thought of Paul frequently and an afternoon conversation about him occurred on July 6, the very day of his untimely passing.

In a gesture of tribute then, a quick search on YouTube and a good listen to a song (spiritual Joshua Fit De Battle Of Jericho) that he, of course, learned at Sunday school and instant was the recognition of the spirit of the “brine of the Bible” that pervaded Paul.

No wonder then, that each time I witnessed Paul in performance, a biblical phrase refrained in my head, “And there for the grace of God, go I.”

Rest in peace, Paul Ponnudorai, dear friend, you return to where you belong – to sing with the angels.

Richard Zanuck - Award-Winning Film-Maker

Richard Zanuck passed away on July 13, 2012.

Read all about the man who made great movies as Driving Miss Daisy and Jaws from Wikipedia.

Richard Darryl Zanuck (December 13, 1934 – July 13, 2012) was an American film producer. He won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1989 for Driving Miss Daisy.

Zanuck was born in Los Angeles, California, to actress Virginia Fox and Darryl F. Zanuck, then head of 20th Century Fox.

While studying at Stanford University, he began his career in the film industry working for Fox.

In 1959, Zanuck had his first shot at producing with Compulsion.

In the 1960s Zanuck became president of 20th Century Fox.

One year of his tenure, 1967, is chronicled in the John Gregory Dunne book The Studio.

After disastrous failures like 1967's Doctor Dolittle, he was fired by his father and joined Warner Brothers as executive vice president.

One year later he formed The Zanuck/Brown Company.

In 1968 he married model and actress Linda Harrison. They divorced in 1978.

Zanuck and Brown produced Steven Spielberg's early films The Sugarland Express (1974) and Jaws (1975).

They subsequently produced box office hits as Cocoon (1985) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989) before dissolving their partnership in 1988.

They were jointly awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences in 1990.

Zanuck worked with Tim Burton six times, producing Planet Of The Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007), Alice In Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sage Stallone - Talented Son Of Sylvester

IT'S a tragic loss that Sage Stallone, the son of Sylvester Stallone, passed away of an undisclosed illness on July 13, 2012.

He was 36 and divorced.

Born on May 5, 1976, Sage was a talented actor, director, producer and screenwriter.

His mother is Stallone's ex-wife Sasha Czack.

Sage was of Italian, Russian and Israeli ancestry paternally and Czech ancestry maternally.

He made his acting debut in Rocky V with his father and later starred in the 1996 film Daylight.

Sage made a film Vic in 2006 and it was screened in the California Film Festival.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Paul Ponnudorai - Great Malaysian, Great Musician

Paul Ponnudorai passed away after a long illness on July 7, 2012 at 51.

A highly respected musician he was nicknamed PP King by fans, as he played the guitar as good as BB King.

Paul who hails from Ipoh participated in Bintang RTM (then Bakat RTM) in the 1970s and became active in the nightclub circuit.

Time magazine has described him as one of the greatest musicians of our time.

Paul backed up most of Malaysia's greatest recording artistes including King of Entertainment Datuk Sudirman Arshad and co-produced his hit song One Thousand Million Smiles with Michael Veerapen.

He launched his album Right On Time in 2005 and collaborated with Wynton Marsalis among others.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Andy Griffith - Iconic TV Sheriff

Iconic TV Dad Andy Griffith passed away on July 3, 2012. He was 86.

From Wikipedia.

Andrew Samuel Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was an American actor, television producer, Grammy Award-winning Gospel singer and writer.

A Tony Award nominee for two roles, he gained prominence in director Elia Kazan's film A Face In The Crowd (1957) before he became known for his television roles.

He played the lead characters in the 1960–1968 situation comedy The Andy Griffith Show and the 1986–1995 legal drama Matlock.

Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina.

He was born on the same day and year as Marilyn Monroe.

Griffith grew up listening to music. His father instilled a sense of humour from old family stories.

As a student at Mount Airy High School, Griffith cultivated an interest in the arts, and he participated in the school's drama programme.

A growing love of music, particularly swing, would change his life.

Griffith looked up to Ed Mickey, a minister at Grace Moravian Church, who led the brass band and taught him to sing and play the trombone.

Mickey nurtured Griffith's talent throughout high school until graduation in 1944.

Griffith was delighted when he was offered a role in The Lost Colony by Paul Green, a play still performed today on Roanoke Island.

He performed as a cast member of the play for several years, playing a variety of roles, until he finally landed the role of Sir Walter Raleigh, the namesake of North Carolina's capital.

He began college studying to be a Moravian preacher, but he changed his major to music and became a part of the school's Carolina Play Makers.

He attended the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and graduated with a bachelor of music in 1949.

After graduation, he taught Music and Drama for a few years at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Griffith's early career was as a monologist, delivering long stories such as What it Was, Was Football, which is told from the point of view of a rural backwoodsman trying to figure out what was going on in a football game.

Released as a single in 1953, the monologue was a hit for Griffith, reaching number nine on the charts in 1954.

Griffith starred in a one-hour teleplay version of No Time For Sergeants (1955).

The role earned him a Distinguished Supporting or Featured Dramatic Actor nomination at the 1956 Tony Awards.

Griffith later reprised his role for the film version (1958) of No Time For Sergeants.

The film also featured Don Knotts, marking the beginning of a life-long association between Griffith and Knotts.

No Time For Sergeants is considered the direct inspiration for the later television situation comedy Gomer Pyle USMC.

In 1957, Griffith made his film debut, A Face In The Crowd.

The film also starred Walter Matthau and Lee Remick (in her film debut).

It was directed by Elia Kazan.

In 1960, Griffith appeared as a county sheriff in Make Room For Daddy, starring Danny Thomas.

This served as a backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show. Both shows were produced by Sheldon Leonard.

Beginning in 1960, Griffith starred as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show for the CBS television network.

The show took place in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina, where Taylor, a widower, was the sheriff and town sage.

The show co-starred Knotts in the role of Deputy Barney Fife, Taylor's cousin.

The show also starred child actor Ron Howard (then known as Ronny Howard), who played Taylor's only child, Opie Taylor.

In 1986, Griffith played Ben Matlock in the legal drama Matlock.

Matlock was a country lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, who was known for his Southern drawl and for always winning his cases.

Griffith also made character appearances on Playhouse 90, Gomer Pyle, The Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-O, The Doris Day Show, Here's Lucy, The Bionic Woman, Fantasy Island and Dawson's Creek.

For most of the 1970s, Griffith starred in many television films including Pray For The Wildcats (1974) which marked his first villainous role.

Griffith appeared again as a villain in Savages (1974), a television film based on the novel Deathwatch (1972) by Robb White.

He won further acclaim for his role as a homicidal villain in the television film Murder In Coweta County (1983), co-starring music legend Johnny Cash as the sheriff.

He also proved to be a good character actor in television mini-series as Roots: The Next Generations (1979), Centennial (1978) and the Watergate scandal-inspired Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977).

Griffith sang as part of some of his acting roles, most notably in A Face In The Crowd and in many episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock.

Griffith made a surprise appearance as the ghost of Andy Taylor when Howard hosted Saturday Night Live in 1982.

Howard did not make any cameo appearances on Matlock, but his mother, Jean Speegle Howard, had a small role in one episode.

Howard attended the People's Choice Awards in 1987, where Griffith was honoured with a lifetime acheivement award.

Howard and Griffith kept in contact sharing news about family and personal activities, and Griffith still called Howard by his childhood nickname, Ronny.

In 2008, Griffith appeared with Howard in a video endorsement for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Griffith married Barbara Bay Edwards in 1949. They split in 1972.

From 1973-1981 he was married to Greek actress Solica Cassuto.

In 1983 he married Cindi Knight.

Griffith received a Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album for I Love To Tell The Story — 25 Timeless Hymns in 1997.

In 1999, Griffith was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall Of Fame.

In 2002, an 18km stretch of US Highway 52 that passes through Mount Airy was dedicated as the Andy Griffith Parkway.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom by President George W. Bush on November 9, 2005.

In 2007, he was inducted into the Christian Music Hall Of Fame And Museum.