International Man of Mystery Low Taek Jho, who parties with Hollywood celebrities and is now Malaysia’s most famous socialite, has aroused so much worldwide curiosity that there has been a lot of online searches about him.  He recently granted an exclusive interview to The Star, the leading English daily in Malaysia, to shed some light into his background, his life, his career and a whole range of other points.

The Star...The People's Paper

Jho Low, aged 28, was born in Penang where he lived till he was 16. At 16, his parents sent him to Harrow School in England. He is the third and youngest child in the family of Datuk Larry Low, the founder of the engineering company MWE. He can speak English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Hokkien, Teo Chew and Basic Arabic.

Low attributed his success to being in the right place at the right time and going to the right schools – Harrow School in England (A-Levels) and The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, in the United States (Bachelor of Science in Economics majoring in Finance). Harrow had lots of children of prominent European, Asian and Middle Eastern families, enabling him to build the core foundation of contacts for the future. At Wharton, he expanded his network , further cementing his relationships with Arab royalty and well-connected Middle East friends especially those from Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.

Harrow School

Wharton School of Business

Jho Low made his first million – in US dollars – when he was barely 20 years old when he took a semester off from The Wharton School of Business to set up an investment fund called The Wynton Group with US$25mil from family and nine South-East Asian and Middle Eastern friends. The company started out by dealing mainly in portfolio investments around the world. It later moved from just buying and selling public shares to private equity. The company, in which he owns a stake, now has offices in Malaysia, Singapore and headquarters in British Virgin Island and is now worth in excess of US$1bil.

Wynton is planning to launch a new US$1 billion real estate and hospitality fund sometime in October, mainly for investing in real estate, hotels and hospitality projects around the world.

A US$250 million entertainment fund is also in the pipeline because Wynton believes there is some synergy between real estate and entertainment. This fund covers the whole spectrum from fashion to movies and so forth. Shooting Hollywood movies in Malaysia is a vital part of Jho Low’s plans to help attract investments to the country. He has been trying to convince his Hollywood friends like Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx and Leonardo di Caprio to use Malaysia as a location for movies.

The third fund will be a US$250 million general fund.

All these fund sizes are the initial first phase equity commitment that the company is securing which means that actual fund sizes and purchasing power could be much larger. An equity of US$1 billion could have a potential purchasing power in excess of US$2 billion or more after leverage. The new headquarters will be a 20,000sq ft office in Sowwah Island in Abu Dhabi.

An impression of Sowwah Island

An impression of Sowwah Island

Jho Low was appointed to the board of UBG Bhd as group adviser and non-independent & non-executive director in 2008. He is also group adviser to several international corporations involved in global private equity, M&A and buyouts.

He lives a globe-trotting life covering Los Angeles, New York, London, St Tropez, Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur. He parties with Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Jamie Foxx, Lindsay Lohan and Usher but claims that news reports about the parties are exaggerated. His Arab childhood friends and investors are actually the spenders, not him. He is the person who calls to make the reservations on behalf of his Arab friends and investors.  His name is thus all over the place, putting him under the global spotlight.

On that particular occasion when the New York Post ran the article about him and his lavish spending, it was in reference to a party that was thrown for a friend’s engagement. He was just helping to coordinate the party arrangements as usual. Even his lavish 28th birthday party in Las Vegas was a surprise party thrown by a group of his close friends.

He is not going out with Paris Hilton but they have been to several parties together because he is a friend of her parents, Rick and Kathy Hilton. Things had been blown out of proportions by the media according to Jho Low.

Low vehemently dismissed talk that he was “wasting a lot of money partying”.

“For me, we all work very hard. Of course, we have a disadvantage where at our age, people may perceive it differently. At the end of the day, I handle the investors’ money prudently. I generate returns for them.

“I am not an excessive person. Excessiveness with alcohol is just not me.”

On the home front, Jho Low dispelled talk that he is involved in the controversial redevelopment of the TUDM Sungai Besi airbase. He denied the allegations that he had received a RM500 million contract for the project. He stressed that he has no involvement whatsoever.

Jho Low thinks Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had great vision when he was Prime Minister with big spending in Malaysian infrastructure which resulted in Malaysian-based construction companies becoming leaders in the global construction arena. Many Malaysian companies are now doing sophisticated construction work in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and all over the Middle East.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

He talked about his superstar friend – Usher – who wants to help him start a charity programme for children here to learn the business part of the entertainment industry. He has known Usher for a long time. He met Usher in New York when he was working with Usher on Usher’s New Look Foundation, a charity assisting children who want careers in the business side of the entertainment industry. He mentored these kids, advising them on writing business plans.

Usher

Usher

Usher's New Look Foundation

Usher's New Look Foundation

With this interview by The Star, we get a glimpse into the life of this international man of mystery and Jho Low achieved his objective of de-mystifying himself. No more “Jho Who?”. He is Low, Jho Low….licensed to kill invest your money.  May the force be with Jho!

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Tomorrow will see former first daughter Chelsea Clinton tying the knots with investment banker Marc Mezvinsky. For the past couple of weeks, US media hype over the nuptials is verging on hysteria. America being America, the internet has been abuzz with questions and rumors about Chelsea’s upcoming nuptials, a ceremony that is shaping up to be a potent combination of D.C. power and Hollywood glitz.

Chelsea Clinton with Marc Mezvinsky

Who’s this lucky groom Marc Mezvinsky? He is a 32-year old Goldman Sachs banker and has known Chelsea since their teens. The two first met as teenagers in Hilton Head, S.C., during a Renaissance Weekend, the annual intellectual and spiritual fest popularized by the Clintons. Both attended Stanford University, though their romance did not bloom until a few years ago. And both know firsthand the price of political loss and scandal.  Chelsea is an only child, but Marc is one of 11, some adopted. Mezvinsky is Jewish and Clinton is Christian. Stolberg said it’s likely both a minister and a rabbi will preside at the nuptials, but it’s unlikely Chelsea will convert to Judaism after the marriage.

Mezvinsky’s mother, former Representative Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky of Pennsylvania, is a one-time television journalist who was elected in 1992 on President Clinton’s coattails. She lost her seat two years later after voting for the president’s budget.  She currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, where her spring 2010 course offerings included “Dealing With the Media.” She is divorced from the bridegroom’s father, former Representative Ed Mezvinsky of Iowa.

Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky

Ed Mezvinsky’s nickname among pool reporters in the 1970s was “Fast Talkin’ Eddie.” The former star athlete turned politician spent four years in the U.S. House of Representatives before going into business for himself, hatching a string of fraudulent activity the FBI later said infiltratated nearly every one of his business deals between 1980 and 2000. After pleading guilty to 31 of 69 charges of bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud in 2001, Mezvinsky went on to serve federal prison time and was released April 11, 2008. He is now living in western New York, and working as a health advocate for low-income people and refugees.

Ed Mezvinsky

Americans are eternally fascinated with presidential children, and perhaps none more so than Chelsea, who arrived at the White House as a gawky 12-year-old with frizzy hair and braces, and grew up before the nation’s eyes, under a cone of silence that she has broken only rarely, to campaign for her mother, for instance, when Mrs. Clinton’s bid for the presidency was in jeopardy. Today, she is a chic strawberry-blonde, with experience working at a hedge fund, a deep interest in public policy and, as of January, a master’s degree from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Yet for Americans of a certain age, the enduring image of Chelsea Clinton is that of the 18-year-old college girl walking on the White House lawn, her back to the camera, holding one hand of each parent — literally the glue binding her family together after her father’s painful confession of marital infidelities. Even then, she seemed to exude a combination of dignity and distance.

Chelsea holding one hand of each parent after her father's confession of marital infidelilities

Always extremely private, Chelsea Clinton was 12 years old when her family moved into the White House. When Bill Clinton was revealed to have been unfaithful, it was Chelsea who seemed to keep the family together. A doting father, Bill Clinton once postponed an overseas presidential trip to help her study for exams.

Asked why there is such fascination with Chelsea’s wedding, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times told Today: “We don’t have royalty in this country. We’re particularly fascinated with Chelsea, because she was such a gawky teenager. She grew up obviously into a lovely young woman.”

Because the Clintons are keeping even the most mundane details of their daughter’s wedding private, the whole affair has been shrouded in secrecy. However, within the tight-knit circle of New York wedding coordinators, some tidbits are beginning to leak.

While the public has demonstrated a voracious appetite for details about the wedding, no factor has gotten more attention than its projected cost. It is rumored that the lavish wedding will cost anywhere between $2 to $5 million. As far as recent presidential weddings go, Chelsea Clinton’s will take the cake.

It is now almost certain that the wedding will take place at Astor Courts, the former 50-acre estate of John Jacob Astor IV in the picturesque town of Rhinebeck, N.Y. The Astor Courts is a 13,000-foot Beaux Arts pavilion built between 1902 and 1904 for John Jacob Astor IV and designed by Stanford White to evoke the Grand Trianon at Versailles.The mansion boasts an indoor tennis court and white marble swimming pool. The property is now owned by Kathleen Hammer, a contributor to Hillary Clinton’s presidential and Senate bids.

Astor Courts

Inside the mansion

The postcard-pretty Rhinebeck, a little town of upscale boutiques and pricey homes 90 miles north of New York City, has witnessed an avalanche of security personnel, reporters and rubber-neckers. Signs congratulating the 30-year-old former first daughter are posted on shop windows in the Hudson Valley town.  Rhinebeck, population less than 8,000, is laying out the welcome mat.

Rhinebeck at dusk

Best wishes from the residents of Rhinebeck

“It’s like having the Olympics in your town,” exclaimed Alex Batkin, manager of the up-market Wing and Clover arts-and-craft boutique. Batkin’s store revealed at least one success: a painting bought as a gift for the betrothed. The picture is emblazoned “Chelsea and Marc” over a naive-style depiction of a wedding cake surrounded by trees, squirrels and a fish-filled river.

Painting by Diana Huff depicting Chelsea Clinton's wedding in Rhinebeck

Painting by Diana Huff depicting Chelsea Clinton's wedding in Rhinebeck

Another entrepreneur seeking wedding joy is Rhinebeck Deli, where the menu features the Hillary Clinton-themed “Secretary of Steak.”

Even the Hudson Valley Renegades, a minor league baseball team, wants to get in on the act. Their mascot, a man dressed as a raccoon, stood at Rhinebeck’s main crossroads Tuesday with a sign reading: “Chelsea Will U Marry Me?” Locals and bemused tourists grinned at the sight.

Mascot of the Hudson Valley Renegades getting in on the act

The wedding planner is Bryan Rafanelli of Boston, who has worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton and produced inaugural balls for Mr. Obama. Rafanelli’s reputation for orchestrating sumptuous parties has won him high-profile admirers from Boston to Washington to Palm Beach.

Bryan Rafanelli

“Bryan is the Chanel of party-planning,’’ says Boston socialite Lisa Pierpont, a friend and occasional client of Rafanelli’s. “He can talk to the prince and the pauper, and he has an impeccable eye. When people hear it’s a Rafanelli event, it’s like, ‘OK, we’re going.’ ’’

The wedding gown, expected to cost about $25,000, will either be a creation by Oscar de la Renta or Vera Wang.  The New York Times is certain it will be de la Renta.  But a lot are now saying it will be a Vera Wang.

Vera Wang

Some of Vera Wang's creations

Oscar de la Renta

Some of Oscar de la Renta's wedding gowns

Both Boston-based Winston Flowers and Four Seasons George V Hotel’s artistic director Jeff Leatham will be handling the flowers. The flowers alone could cost $250,000.

Jeff Leatham

Jeff Leatham's floral arrangement

A stylish floral arrangement by Winston Flowers

The catering job will be shared by Blue Ribbon Restaurants, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts, and Olivier Cheng Catering and Events. Chelsea is a vegan. The food will include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes, but there will also be grass-fed organic beef on the menu. It’ll reportedly be gluten-free complete with a vegan wedding cake.

A creation by Olivier Cheng Catering And Events

Jimmy Vali, whose Web site boasts that his clients include Glenn Close, is coordinating the music.

Jimmy Vali

Unlike everyone else on the planet, Chelsea Clinton’s wedding guests won’t need gas masks to do their business in a porta-potty — because Bill’s daughter is renting the swankiest outhouses in town. The portable latrines have actual porcelain toilets, stereo music and hot running water — oh yeah, and they’re HUGE. Rental for these porta-potties is estimated to be $15,000.

A luxury porta-potty trailer

Interior of Porta-Potties Trailer

Americans are also intrigued about who are included in the ultra-exclusive guest list. With the invite list limited to 500 names, Chelsea has apparently instituted a strict no-strangers policy: She must personally know every invitee. It’s an intimate gathering for a family that knows the most famous people in nearly every walk of life on the planet.

Knowing the former president or the secretary of state isn’t good enough to get in. To make the cut, guests must have had a personal connection to Chelsea, 30, and her groom, 32, and not just to her famous parents.

President Obama — Hillary Clinton’s boss — is on the list, but the White House says he won’t go. It is rumored that the Obamas were invited but declined, in an effort to help keep the press corps from swamping the proceedings. But don’t count them out.  Though the public has been led to believe that the President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama won’t be attending, security plans are still being developed for such a possibility.

The big question: Will the Obamas be attending the wedding?

Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, and Ted Turner are among the 500 guests. Also attending will be various members of the Clinton “inner circle,” including former British Prime Minister John Major, former deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes, DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Democratic donor Denise Rich.

As secretary of state, the mother of the bride, or MOTB, as she has taken to referring to herself, is accustomed to keeping secrets, and this one is no different.

In an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell in Pakistan, Hillary Clinton said, “My lips are sealed. I am under very strict orders not to talk about it, and I think for the right reasons, because it is hers, and it is a family wedding. The people coming are her friends and people who have been meaningful in her life, as it should be.”

When CNN’s Crowley asked her which was harder — negotiating Middle East peace or planning this wedding — Hillary replied with a smile, “Well, I’d probably call it a draw.”

Former President Bill Clinton, the father of the bride, had previously told TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager that his role is to pay for the wedding. At Chelsea’s request, he’s taken off 15 pounds so he looks his best walking her down the aisle.

Chelsea Clinton with her parents

Stolberg said the mother of the bride has been minutely involved in Chelsea’s wedding.

“She’s been absolutely hands-on. She’s been viewing flower arrangements by e-mail. She said that she’s been squeezing in tastings and dress selections. She’s obviously very excited about this, as is her husband,” Stolberg said.

Is Bill helping mastermind the nuptials? Yes, to a limited degree. Though he had said that his role was limited to walking Chelsea down the aisle and paying the bills, he told NBC that his daughter had opted to tap his world-leader expertise: “Chelsea has been good enough to include me in the decisions…so I love that.” Still, Bill is making sure to keep the focus on the bride. “I am going to try not to cry because this isn’t about me, it’s about her. And if I am crying then it becomes partly about me and I don’t even want to be mentioned in the story except that I didn’t stumble walking down the aisle. So I am going to try but I may not be able to do it,” he said at June’s Fortune/Time/CNN global forum.

“My daughter is happy. I like and admire my future son-in-law, so I couldn’t be happier about it,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley in a January interview when asked about what he thought of his future son-in-law.

Should any wedding, even a Clinton wedding, really cost that much? Between the $15,000 deluxe portable toilets, several hundred thousand dollars worth of flowers, glass-walled tents, and premium security the bill for the nuptials is being estimated at between $2 and $5 million. Should we expect no less for the daughter of political royalty?

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Malaysia, truly Asia. This little phrase is Tourism Malaysia’s slogan. Over the past many years, we have all been bombarded with this slogan from Tourism Malaysia’s billboard, radio and TV ad to the point that some people are finding it annoying. And in the past two years or so, we have been bombarded by the 1Malaysia campaign. Malaysians are a funny lot. I propose another slogan for Malaysia. 1FunnyMalaysia, truly Lat Lah!

1Funny Malaysia

Malaysia's most popular cartoon character Lat

See how funny Malaysians can be!

Malaysian Starbucks

Who in the right mind would want to press the durians?

A Malaysian balancing act

A giant Malaysian bumblebee

The Malaysian government's drive to encourage reading is so successful that Malaysian dogs also know how to read!

Malaysian higher education?

The advantage of being a male in Malaysia!

Malaysian shopper

Another Malaysian shopper

Shopping Malaysian style

Shopping Malaysian style

A rich Malaysian telling the whole world about his wealth

A no-signboard coffeeshop in Malaysia

A stool for males

Malaysian helmet

Two Wong Fei Hong visit Malaysia

Malaysia, truly Lat!

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People worldwide love going to garage sales and flea markets in the hope of finding hidden gems or treasures. Won’t it be nice if they really find genuine treasures? This is one of those stories.

Ten years ago in the spring of 2000 Nick Norsigian, a painter in Fresno, California, was making the garage-sale circuit in Southern California looking for a barber chair when he spotted two deteriorated boxes. In the boxes were ageing manila envelopes containing glass negatives and when he pulled out one of the negatives, he saw it was a negative of Yosemite National Park because as a young man, he used to work at Yosemite. The owner was asking $70 for the 65 negatives of nature photography, but Norsigian bickered with the seller, finally negotiating down from $70 to $45 for the boxes. The owner said he bought them in the 1940s at a warehouse salvage in Los Angeles.

Rick Norsigian with a photograph made from a glass negative shot by the late Ansel Adams

Norsigian kept two boxes under his pool table for four years before realizing they may be too valuable to store at home. During these four years, he did a lot of research and upon sharing his find with friends and family, people commented that they looked like Ansel Adams’ work. Norsigian was struck by how closely the negatives, which he had scanned and developed into prints, resembled Adam’s published works. He read everything he could possibly get his hands on and spent hours at the California State Fresno library. As he began to make himself an expert on Ansel Adams’ photography and development techniques, Norsigian became more convinced about the origin of the negatives. Realizing that the plates could be very valuable, he transferred them to a bank vault.

Norsigian hired entertainment lawyer Arnold Peter in his quest to authenticate the negatives as Adams’ work. Photography, forensic, handwriting and weather experts teamed up to conclude the 65 glass plates in the boxes were photographic negatives created more than 80 years ago by Ansel Adams, the iconic American photographer whose images of the West inspired the country and who was regarded as the “father” of American photography.

A print from one of the glass negatives

Another print from one of the glass negatives

Another print from one of the glass negatives

Another print from one of the glass negatives

Another print from one of the glass negatives

Another print from one of the glass negatives

“I have sent people to prison for the rest of their lives for far less evidence than I have seen in this case,” said evidence and burden of proof expert Manny Medrano, who was hired by Norsigian to help authenticate them. “In my view, those photographs were done by Ansel Adams.”

Meteorologist George Wright studied clouds and snow cover in a Norsigian negative to conclude that it was taken at about the same time as a known Adams photo of a Yosemite tree.

The plates were individually wrapped in newspaper inside deteriorating manila envelopes. Notations on each envelope appeared to have been made by Virginia Adams, the photographer’s wife, according to handwriting experts Michael Nattenberg and Marcel Matley. They compared them to samples provided by the Adams’ grandson.

Silver tarnishing on the negatives also helped date the plates to around the 1920s.

They’re now believed to be the lost works of famed photographer Ansel Adams, with experts estimating that they’re worth $200 million.

“When I heard that $200 million, I got a little weak,” Norsigian said at a Beverly Hills art gallery Tuesday.

A mural-size photograph entitled “Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park” by Ansel Adams was sold recently for more than $722,000 at a Sotheby auction in New York City. Sotheby’s said the sale of the photograph set an auction record for Adams.

"Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park" by Ansel Adams

Anyone care to join me garage-sale shopping this weekend?

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The 2010 Borneo International Yachting Challenge (BIYC) began in Miri, Sarawak on the 24th of this month with 51 yachts  from 14 countries taking part. There are 20 entries from Australia, 6 from UK, 5 from Malaysia, 5 from New Zealand, 4 from USA, 2 from Germany, 2 from France and 1 each from Singapore, Grenadines, Vanuatu, British Virgin Island, Netherlands, Canada and Sweden.

BIYC 2010 Logo

This annual event, now in its 7th year, takes a fleet of international yachts from Miri to Labuan – a distance of 105 miles, and then from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) which is another 65 miles. The regatta finishes in Kota Kinabalu with two races around the Tunku Abdul Rahman national Marine Park on Friday the 30th July, followed by a lavish prize giving dinner at Sutera Harbour Marina Club hosted by Sabah Tourism.

The regatta is a joint effort between the Ministry Of Tourism And Heritage Sarawak, Labuan Corporation, and the Sabah Tourism Board. Other sponsors include Sutera Harbour Resort, Samling Global, Pelita and Park City Everly Hotel in Miri.

Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan flagged off the contestants at Marina Bay in Miri. Sarawk’s Assistant Minister of Social Development & Urbanisation Datuk Lee Kin Shin, BYIC Miri Working Committee chairman Troy Yaw and Miri mayor Lawrence Lai were also present at the flag-off.

Marina Bay Miri

This year’s fleet has set a new record for the event. It will also make the regatta one of the largest of its kind in South East Asia. One of the reasons for this dramatic increase in numbers is due to collaboration between the BIYC and the Sail Malaysia Rally – Passage to the East.

BIYC committee member Simon Farmer, who was instrumental in forging this partnership with the organizers of Sail Malaysia, said that given the current state of the global economy and the ever shrinking sponsorship dollar it made sense to combine the two events. He said the number of entries this year proved that this had been a popular strategy.

The Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board and co-chairman of the regatta, Dato Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin expressed his delight with the number of yachts taking part this year and said that Sabah is on target to achieving its goal in becoming the Caribbean of the East.

He said that ‘events such as this are putting Borneo and Kota Kinabalu on the map, and are the perfect vehicle for showcasing the state and its bio-diversity’.

Adlin commented further that over the past 12 months Sutera Harbour Marina and Kota Kinabalu had hosted at least 10 mega yachts of over thirty meters with a combined value of over US$350 million dollars. Among these visitors was the world’s largest privately owned sailing yacht, the 92 meter ‘Eos’ valued in excess of US$150 million.

Sutera Harbour Marina in Kota Kinabalu

“The fact that more and more of these types of yachts are visiting our shores means that the message is getting through to yacht owners and captains that Sabah and Borneo have as much to offer, if not more than the other major destinations around the world. These types of visitors provide a tremendous boost to the local economy and to the global perception of Sabah”, remarked Adlin

Tengku Adlin will take part in the regatta once again this year sailing aboard Farmers yacht in the final two races off Kota Kinabalu. This will be a little different from last year when he crewed on the 120’ luxury sailing yacht ‘Naos’ and was treated to a gourmet lunch. Farmer warned Adlin not to expect the same this year as the boat he is sailing on is a stripped out racing yacht with only the bare essentials. Adlin replied that he was ready for the challenge.

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Adam Liaw, a 31-year-old media lawyer of Malaysian heritage, won the finale of Australia’s MasterChef on July 25 2010 to cook up massive ratings, making the reality show the most-watched, non-sporting event ever shown on Australian television.

The jubilant Adam Liaw

The televised great debate between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was brought forward to 6:30pm so that it did not clash with MasterChef finale shown on Network Ten. And the move paid off. In the end, the political debate attracted almost as many free-to-air viewers as the cook-off.

Viewers across Australia tuning in to watch the finale reached a peak of 4.348 million. This year’s MasterChef finale saw Liaw, whose parents are from Malaysia, beat Callum Hann, a 20-year-old engineering student from South Australia’s Barossa Valley to win the coveted title and the prizes of A$100,000 and a cookbook publishing deal.

Adam Liaw and Callum Hann

Adelaide-born Liaw beat Hann with advanced food knowledge and tasting skills, claiming the win with a score 89 to Hann’s 82 out of a possible 100.

Judge Matt Preston said Liaw won because he was “highly skilled” and had an “intellectual approach to food”.

Liaw will now turn his thoughts to relocating back to Australia after six years living in Tokyo as a media lawyer.

A tearful Liaw dedicated his win to his grandmother who was by his  side shortly after his win, saying that her influence on his cooking was “enormous”.

“She’s been there for me throughout my entire life and she’s been a huge influence not just in my cooking but in everything,” he said.

He was joined on the set by his girlfriend of two years, Asami Fujitsuka, and father Dr Liaw Sia-Lin.

When growing up in Adelaide, there seemed little doubt that Liaw’s world would eventually centre around cooking.

“I first remember cooking when I was eight or nine and living with my mum and stepfather,” said Liaw, a young protege who completed Year 11 at age 14, enrolled in university, two years later and graduated as lawyer at 21.

“With my step-brothers and sisters, there were eight of us kids in the house and once a month, it would be the kids’ turn to make dinner.

“We moved around a bit when I was younger, like over to Malaysia, and there would always be some kind of food that I had loved — and wanted to cook — for the whole family.”

Liaw’s mum and step-father moved to New Zealand when he was 14, but he stayed in Adelaide where he lived at his grandmother’s home.

He lists her as a food inspiration, but it wasn’t until he was studying science and law at the University of Adelaide that it became a passion.

MasterChef Australia is an Australian competitive cooking game show based on the original British version of MasterChef. It is produced by FremantleMedia Australia and screens on Network Ten. Restaurateur and chef Gary Mehigan, chef George Calombaris and food critic Matt Preston serve as the show’s main judges.

MasterChef Australia

MasterChef Australia judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston (from left to right)

If you would like MasterChef recipes or more info about the show, head down to their official website.

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Having read rave reviews about the movie “Inception” over the past few days, I decided  to watch the 2.30 pm show of this movie this afternoon at Star Cineplex at Bintang Megamall. As today is a working day, the number of patrons for this show can be counted with the fingers of both of my hands.

Inception is a 2010 American science-fiction film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page and Cillian Murphy. The film is inspired by the experience of lucid dreaming. The film centers on Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) an “extractor”, who enters the dreams of others to obtain information that is otherwise inaccessible. His abilities have cost him his family and his nationality, but a chance at redemption and regaining his old life is promised by Saito (played by Ken Watanabe) when Cobb and his team of specialists are hired to plant an idea in a target’s subconscious. This process of planting of an idea, known as “inception”, is less familiar and far more difficult than Cobb’s usual job of “extraction”.

A lucid dream is a dream in which the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming. A lucid dreamer can actively participate in and manipulate imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can seem extremely real and vivid, depending on a person’s level of self-awareness during the lucid dream.

Inception poster

This is a complex dazzling movie with almost non-stop action. And coming from the director who gave us a long list of awe-inspiring movies like “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”, you really can’t go wrong. The mind-blowing visuals will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole entire time.  Some of the action sequences are so complicated that you need to be paying constant attention to remember all of the layers of what is happening. To top it all, the acting are fantastic too, with Leonardo DiCaprio really standing out. DiCaprio powerfully embodies a tortured soul while Gordon-Levitt has all the fun in the best action sequence.

A scene from the movie

Another scene from the movie

It’s both a tremendously challenging and tremendously rewarding movie, the type that will have audiences talking — and debating — long after the credits roll. The complexity of the plot works to make the film a must see, but it also ends up frustrating the audience because it all can’t be figured out on the first viewing. It is one of those movies that may require many viewings in order to grasp all the intricate details of these multi-layered trips into the dreams and nightmares of the central characters. A scintillating exploration of dreams, reality and the fine line that divides them, Inception toys with our minds on a massive scale, sending us on a dizzying trip which makes all our preconceptions spin relentlessly.

Cobb carries a spinning top to test whether he is dreaming or awake, which spins unceasingly or topples, respectively. At the end of the movie, Cobb suddenly awakens to find everyone on the plane, including Saito, up and well.  Saito honors their arrangement and Cobb enters the United States, reunited with his children at home. Cobb spins the top to test reality, but is distracted by his children. The top begins to wobble, but the scene cuts to black, which leaves the question of whether Cobb is awake or still dreaming. It leaves the audience to draw their own conclusion.

Cobb's top - Was the top spinning or did it topple at the end of the movie?

In short, Inception is a very original, thought-provoking, intense, mind-blowing piece of entertainment, an experience laced with palpable tension and fueled with drama. It has been hailed as one of the most intoxicating, challenging and beautiful movies of the 21st century, deserving of multiple Oscar nominations.

Go watch the movie and let yourself be drawn into the dreamscape of Christopher Nolan. See the trailer below.

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Teen singer Greyson Chance finally met his idol Lady Gaga backstage at Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball concert at Oklahoma City on July 20 2010. It was a dream come true for the 12-year old internet sensation whose YouTube video of him performing Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi has been viewed more than 27 million times!

Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour

In his tweet with a photo of himself and Lady Gaga backstage, he gushed: “I met @LadyGaga! She was so kind, gave me some great advice and put on an amazing show!!”

Greyson Chance meets his idol Lady Gaga

On one of his appearances on the Ellen DeGeneres show, Greyson received a surprise phone call from Lady Gaga who gave him the following advice: “Work really hard, and stay away from girls and be focused.”

Just weeks after Greyson’s debut, Ellen announced that she had started a record label, with Greyson as her first signing. “Greyson inspired me to start a record label called eleveneleven,” said the famous talk show host, “He is my first artist and we are making a record together.”

Greyson’s music teacher from Cheyenne Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma, told Pop Eater earlier this year, “I have never seen anyone with his level or type of talent. We really hope he comes back to school for the rest of the year, but after this video, who knows what his future holds.”

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Desiree Jennings hit the top of Google hot searches a while ago. Out of curiousity, I googled the internet and this is what I found out.

Desiree Jennings

25-year old Desiree Jennings was living a dream come true, with a marketing job at a major company and married to a handsome, successful man. She was an avid runner and a cheerleading ambassador for the Washington Redskins football team.

Then almost overnight, after a routine flu shot last fall, Jennings went from the picture of happiness and health, to a twisted, stuttering vision of pain and suffering. From fever and painful body aches, the symptoms worsened until she could only walk with a twisted, halting gait, and had trouble reading, doing simple math and even remembering things. Her condition put a halt on her once-frenetic lifestyle.

Jennings developed another odd symptom — a strange foreign accent; the Midwestern woman suddenly sounded British. “It sounds like an accent, but it’s not. I just can’t pronounce words anymore,” she said.

But perhaps worse of all is what happens when Jennings tried to recall specific memories. In her “20/20″ interview, Jennings’ speech devolved to stuttering, then complete gibberish.

“The mind keeps bouncing and it won’t stay on that memory,” she explained. “It gets garbled up on a bad hard drive so to speak.”

In search of a cure, Jennings and her husband Brendan visited countless doctors and four hospitals, among them Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, a physical therapist told Jennings about dystonia, a rare movement disorder that causes the muscles to twitch or convulse involuntary. The symptoms resembled her own.

Jennings looked online and saw that in some cases, people with dystonia, who have trouble walking forward like she did, can walk backwards. Even more exciting for the devoted jogger was that a medical website said some sufferers can run.

“Within five minutes of seeing it on the website, she had her running shoes on,” Brendan recalled.

Miraculously, Jennings could run. She also found out she could walk backwards, and even sideways, and that while doing so, her speech returned to normal.

“It’s the strangest thing,” she said. “As soon as you try to get into a running motion, you feel the whole body correcting itself.”

It wasn’t long before Jennings became a media sensation. Video of the beautiful young cheerleader, flopping about and stuttering one moment, running and talking normally the next, went viral. At once, she became the poster child of the anti-vaccine movement and a global Internet joke. YouTube comics garnered millions of hits setting her jerky movements to rap music.

When not running, however, Jennings was far from well. Not only could she not walk or talk normally, Jennings said her brain sometimes forgot to tell her lungs to breathe, leading to fainting spells and convulsions.

Traditional medicine having failed her, Jennings decided to do something “outside the box,” and ended up at a North Carolina clinic run by Dr. Rashid Buttar. Buttar uses an unproven, alternative treatment termed “chelation” (the removal of metals from the body) for almost every medical condition, from autism to cancer.

When Jennings arrived at Buttar’s clinic in October 2009, she could hardly breathe and collapsed in his waiting room. She was pumped with IVs and Dr. Buttar began his unproven chelation process, where chelating agents bind to metals in the body, including mercury, and then are excreted in the urine.

In less than two weeks, Jennings’ condition apparently improved: she walked again and her stutter disappeared.

But just as she was leaving Dr. Buttar’s clinic on her last visit in December 2009 — with “20/20′s” cameras rolling — everything seemed to fall apart again. She could no longer walk forward and was taken out in a wheelchair.

While millions viewed video of Jennings on YouTube, those following her case are skeptical and suspect that her symptoms were all a hoax. In fact, what has bothered Jennings most about her unorthodox fame is the online assault on her integrity.

“Why would I fake it?” she said during her interview with “20/20.” “I’ve had a great life. . . Now I’m sitting at home every day, bored to tears.”

Still, there has been skepticism in the medical world. Dr. Steven Novella, an assistant professor of neurology at Yale, who has followed Jennings’ case closely on the Internet said that Jennings’ symptoms were not typical of the disease. Novella is confident Jennings’ condition was not caused by mercury in a flu shot.

Other experts consulted by “20/20″ agree. Dr. Charles McKay, a board member of the American College of Medical Toxicology, said Jennings would have been exposed to far less mercury in a flu shot than in a tuna steak.

But what could have caused Jennings’ strange symptoms? Novella and other leading neurologists interviewed by “20/20″ believe that Jennings’ disease is a psychogenic disorder rather than a neurological disorder. They don’t believe she has faked her symptoms, but instead that her unconscious mind has caused them.

Novella feels the temporary improvements Jennings experienced while undergoing Buttar’s treatment were due to “the placebo effect on steroids”: she got better because she thought she would.

Jennings, on the other hand, finds the “psychogenic” label insulting. “It’s a convenient way for incompetent doctors to get you out of their office,” she said.

Today, Jennings’ condition does not appear as severe, but she remains convinced that the flu shot caused her condition, and her search for a cure continues. She is currently seeing a specialist for her condition and still seeking answers.

“If I have to go over to China and do experimental procedures, I’ll find a way to get it all back,” she said. “It may take a while, but I will get everything back. I will find a way.”

Jennings has a host of detractors who think her condition is just a hoax to garner sympathy and fame. And these people have vilified her with their comments on YouTube, blogs, forums and the like. I just want to put a question to these people. What if Jennings’ condition is genuine? She may truly be living in a nightmare. Don’t be too rash to bombard her with all those obscenities. Just give her the benefit of the doubt, okay? Have some compassion and live a more meaningful and beautiful life!

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The Internet is abuzz about author and pastor Rick Warren being temporarily blinded by firestick plant sap. Rick  was pruning a firestick plant in his yard when he got some of the sap on his hands. According to publicist A. Larry Ross, “He went to wipe his brow and immediately experienced excruciating pain in both eyes.” The sap of the Firestick plant, or Euphorbia tirucalli, is corrosive and extremely toxic.

Rick Warren on the cover of Time Magazine

The pain was so debilitating that his wife Kay had to call 911 and Rick was zipped to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo because he couldn’t articulate to his wife what had happened. He was attended to by an eye specialist, kept overnight and released the next day.

After returning home, Warren took to Twitter, asking for prayers from friends, family and members of the Saddleback Church where he serves as a Pastor. Rick is the author of the international bestselling book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Cover of the Purpose Driven Life (English edition)

Cover of The Purpose Driven Life (Mandarin edition)

It’s not uncommon for such a sap related problem to arise, thus the Firestick Plant being nicknamed the “Blinding Tree.” The Firestick plant is also known as Indian Tree Spurge, Naked Lady, Pencil Tree, or Milk Bush. It is a shrub that grows in semi-arid tropical climates and has red tips resembling sticks on fire. It is indigenous to tropical eastern and southern Africa.

A firestick plant

Firestick plant

All parts of the firestick plant ooze a milky sap when damaged or cut. Skin contact with the sap causes severe burning. Contact with the eyes may cause severe pain and temporary blindness for up to 7 days.

The milk bush has been used in traditional medicine in cultures of Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malabar, and Malaysia. It is thought to treat cancers, warts, asthma, rheumatism and toothache.

If you have firestick plant in your garden, please be warned. You would not want to experience what Rick had gone through.

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