The best party

ENJOY CARLSBERG, and Carlsberg Smooth Draught, and you might be one of 50 lucky first prize winners to throw the ultimate party with 80 of your favourite people in Carlsberg’s latest campaign Probably the Best Party.

Winners will not only be able to party at a participating venue of their choice, but also customise the type of food, beer, and entertainment they want – and all paid for by Carlsberg!

But that’s not all – three grand prize winners will get the chance to host Probably the Best Winter Party in Copenhagen, Denmark!

Carlsberg Malaysia managing director Lars Lehmann stated: “The Carlsberg brand has enjoyed enormous success this year from Probably the Most Victorious Year campaign in conjunction with Chinese New Year, Probably the Best Football Beer campaign, the launch of Carlsberg Smooth Draught’s Pop cap, to Probably the Best Oktoberfest consumer promotion.

“Building on this momentum, we have set the bar higher by launching Probably the Best Party campaign nationwide to reward our beer consumers.”

Guests recently got a taste of what to expect from this campaign at an event held at First Avenue’s The Roof.

The place was transformed to showcase all five themed options – Oriental, Kollywood, German, Sports, and Karaoke – that await the winners of Probably the Best Party.

Chinese drums were pounding away at the Oriental Party held at Ye Zi Restaurant, while Ballers lounge bar was shaking to the beat of the Kollywood Party.

Meanwhile, guests were seen raising their beers at the German Party at Signature, SCORE was running full steam ahead with the Sports Party, and Play had the Karaoke Party going full swing.

Each party also catered delicious grub in line with its theme, for example Chinese steamboat (Oriental), soft pretzels (German), and vadai (Kollywood), complemented by ice cold Carlsberg and Carlsberg Smooth Draught.

The names of three lucky winners who have since scored probably the best party of their lives were also revealed that night.

For Ng Kiang Soon from Perak, his winning bottle cap came just in time as a birthday gift.

He told Carlsberg officials: “I’m so glad to win this opportunity to host a party for my wife who will be celebrating her birthday, and for my friends who are Carlsberg lovers.”

Another winner Ngang Teng Siong from Negeri Sembilan said in a statement: “I was overjoyed when I noticed that my bottle cap had ‘Party Malaysia 2018’ when I was out enjoying Carlsberg beers with my buddies.”

For Tan Ah Hee from Johor, the Oriental-themed win was the highlight of his year. The self-described Carlsberg beer lover for the past 20 years told Carlsberg he had won exclusive merchandise during Chinese New Year and the recent football campaign, but this was the ultimate reward.

To be one of these lucky winners of Probably the Best Party, just check the bottle caps of each big bottle of Carlsberg or Carlsberg Smooth Draught you crack open at participating coffee shops and food courts.

Also check out the Gift Cards at participating bars and pubs. Gift Cards can also be found in the inner panel of six-can packs of Carlsberg and Carlsberg Smooth Draught from supermarkets, hypermarkets, and e-commerce platforms, and through a minimum RM15 purchase at convenience stores.

Probably the Best Party campaign runs till the end of November.

For more, visit facebook.com/CarlsbergMY, or probablythebest.com.my.

Spotlight on play and fun at Ikea

HOME FURNISHING expert Ikea has revealed the five winning designs for this year’s Sagoskatt collection, chosen from out of 87,000 designs submitted worldwide last year in the Ikea Soft Toy Drawing Competition for children by children, that transforms designs from paper to plush toys.

The five limited edition soft toys were based on the winning designs by eight-year-old Runar from Iceland, nine-year-old Jimin from South Korea, five-year-old Peixin from China, eight-year-old Natalia from Poland, and eight-year-old Greta from Sweden.

They feature a blue monster, colourful shark, dotted seal, pink unicorn, and a green hedgehog dinosaur.

According to Children’s Ikea product developer Bodil Fritjofsson, the process of selecting the five winners was “incredibly fun … and hard”!

Peixin, the youngest winner, hopes other children in the world will enjoy her pink unicorn. “I drew a pink unicorn named Pink who loves to fly in the sky.”

Runar and Greta clearly aren’t afraid of monsters, with their fun takes of these creatures in their drawings.

The little Icelander wanted to draw “something cool”, and decided on a monster named Monster.

“During the day, he’s always saying something funny, teasing, and joking,” said Runar.

Greta, on the other hand, mixed “a hedgehog, dinosaur, and a monster” in her Kotten, coloured in her favourite shade of green. Her cuddly Kotten “only eats fruit” and likes “a hot climate”.

When the jury saw little Natalia’s drawing of Unda, they fell in love with the dotted seal that “look so happy and satisfied with life”

Meanwhile, Jimin chose to draw a multicoloured shark which sports a huge friendly grin “because I love swimming and want to swim together with the little shark”.

This drawing competition is part of Ikea’s Let’s Play for Change campaign, in which it wants to show us how playing helps us to connect, create, recharge, escape and explore, by making its stores playful places to be.

Children here too still have a chance to get their creative designs turned into a plush toy for next year, when they participate in Ikea’s in-store drawing competition from now till Sunday.

When playtime is over, head over to Ikea’s dining hall for some food offers, such as chicken chop with buckwheat at RM12.90 (available until Dec 31), a five-meatball spaghetti combo at RM9.90 (until Nov 25) or eight-piece chicken ball for only RM8 (Nov 21 and Nov 28).

From now until Nov 25, enjoy a western breakfast set at only RM9 from 9am to 10am (Damansara & Cheras outlets) and 9.30am to 10.30am (Tebrau outlet).

On top of that, Ikea is offering its signature furniture at even lower prices this year! Get the Kvistbro storage table at RM129, Tjusig shoe rack (RM149), Vessla storage crate with castors (RM22.90 each), and Adum high pile rug (RM199 each).

You can now also opt for parcel delivery (West Malaysia only) at RM25 for small items like candles, cushions, storage, and stools.

For more, visit the Ikea Malaysia website.

Taiwanese puppet master fights to save dying art

TAIPEI: At 87 years old, Taiwanese glove puppeteer Chen Hsi-huang is the star of a new documentary which reflects his determination to revive the dying traditional craft and a late-life renaissance as a high-profile promoter of the art form.

The film, entitled “Father”, tells the story of how Chen pursued the craft in the shadow of his father, the legendary puppeteer Li Tian-lu, who drew huge audiences to his shows in the 1950-1970s and appeared in several movies.

Also known as “Budaixi”, glove puppetry spread to Taiwan in the 19th century from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian and was mainly performed at religious and festive occasions, becoming a popular form of entertainment.

Puppeteers manoeuvre small glove dolls on ornate wooden stages to present historical and martial arts stories accompanied by live folk music.

Chen said he values the traditional puppetry because it is characterised by subtle movements, with the puppeteer taking on all roles, from a young woman to an old man.

He first set up his own troupe at 23 years old but as business declined he was forced to shut shop at 40. He went on to teach the craft and continued to perform with other groups in Taiwan and overseas.

At the age of 79, motivated by his desire to stop the art form fading completely in the face of modern entertainment, he set up a new troupe and teaches puppetry at weekend classes as well as taking on apprentices.

“There were only two or three traditional troupes left,” he told AFP.

“I used my name to open a new troupe because I didn’t want the traditional craft to disappear”.

Next generation

Chen acknowledges the challenges facing the ancient craft, saying people have less time to spare to watch the shows.

But he has taken heart from the positive response to the documentary which premiered in Taiwan last month, directed by local filmmaker Yang Li-chou over a period of 10 years.

“I was worried that people might not understand the film, but young people did, even if they hadn’t watched Budaixi before. They told me they liked it and that puppetry is awesome,” says Chen.

Chen’s current apprentice Chen Wei-you is part of a family troupe that runs around 150 puppet shows a year.

“My grandfather actually told me to find ‘a better job’ but I chose this career because I am interested,” the 32-year-old told AFP.

“Like the master, I don’t want the traditional puppetry to disappear,” he said.

Dozens of students of all ages attend Chen’s classes at the government-funded Puppetry Art Centre in Taipei every Saturday.

Student Hung Wei-heng, 10, said he was interested in learning puppetry because it was “very cool”.

“I want to learn how to operate the puppets and to make the movements,” he said.

Taiwanese authorities are trying to promote the traditional craft, organising an annual puppet festival in Yunlin county.

Puppet fan Chiang Chi-feng, 41, attended the festival last month with a sense of nostalgia.

“Now that I have kids of my own, I bring them to temple fairs and watch outdoor puppet shows. They are experiencing what I experienced in my childhood,” he said.

Puppet master Chen vows to continue performing and teaching as long as he still has the strength.

“I haven’t completed passing on the art so I can’t retire,” he said. — AFP

Uber loss tops US$1b as it seeks to diversify

SAN FRANCISCO: Ride-share company Uber on Wednesday said that its net loss topped a billion dollars in the recently ended quarter as it pumped money into bikes, scooters, freight and food delivery.

While a private company, Uber has taken to sharing quarterly earnings figures as it prepares for a keenly-anticipated debut on the stock market next year.

Figures released by Uber showed the San Francisco-based company lost US$1.1 billion, (RM4 billion) on revenue that grew to US$3 billion, while overall bookings notched up to US$12.7 billion.

“We had another strong quarter for a business of our size and global scope,” Uber chief financial officer Nelson Chai said in a statement shared along with the earnings figures.

“As we look ahead to an IPO and beyond, we are investing in future growth across our platform, including in food, freight, electric bikes and scooters, and high-potential markets in India and the Middle East”.

In the previous quarter, the smartphone-summoned ride service reported it lost US$891 million on net revenue of US$2.8 billion, with overall bookings of US$12 billion.

Uber is eyeing a valuation above US$100 billion for its share offering due in 2019, which would be the biggest-ever in the tech sector, sources familiar with the plan said last month.

The sources told AFP the global ridesharing giant is considering speeding up its plans for an initial public offering to the first half of 2019, rather than the second half of the year.

Uber, which operates in over 60 countries, is already the largest of the venture-backed “unicorns” valued at more than US$1 billion, which until recently was considered rare without tapping stock markets.

Its most recent investment — a US$500 million injection from Japanese auto giant Toyota — was made at a reported valuation of US$72 billion.

Uber offered no comment on the IPO plans.

Uber is due to make a market debut by the end of 2019 as part of an investment deal with Japan’s SoftBank, which has a stake of some 15%.

The ridesharing group last year hired a new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, who has vowed to fix the company’s work culture and business practices after a series of missteps and scandals over executive misconduct, a toxic work atmosphere and potentially unethical competitive practices.

Uber has also expanded its services beyond car rides to freight hauling, delivering food, and sharing scooters or bicycles.

As it expands its services, Uber is also seeking to become a major player in autonomous cars and has agreed to buy and adapt vehicles from Volvo to begin operating self-driving taxis. — AFP

‘Like nothing on Earth’: APEC’s cruise ship summit

ABOARD THE PACIFIC JEWEL, Papua New Guinea: Quoits deck, plunge pools and sunset yoga: for security and logistical reasons, thousands of delegates and journalists attending this year’s APEC summit have very unusual quarters — on hulking cruise ships moored offshore.

“Like nothing on Earth” screams the slogan in huge dark lettering against their gleaming white hulls, off Papua New Guinea’s crime-ridden capital of Port Moresby. And indeed few attendees can have experienced summit accommodation like it.

The 245-metre Pacific Jewel, where mainly journalists are housed, has 14 decks and berths for nearly 1,700 people ranging from small interior cabins to spacious suites with an ocean view.

It boasts an array of restaurants and bars — from the Mix Cocktail bar to the darker and jazz-filled Orient. Other entertainment includes the Marquee theatre for shows and onboard “Gatsby” or “Back to School” parties.

Those who have not had their fill of high-wire summitry can try “walking the plank” — being suspended by a rope 14 floors over the sea — or “rock climbing” up the ship’s funnel.

Others unlucky in summit negotiations can try their luck at the casino, with plush blue-baized blackjack tables and dozens of blinking slot machines.

Sporting memorabilia adorns the walls, from “Magic” Johnson’s famous 32 LA Lakers shirt to stamps featuring legendary Australian cricketer Donald Bradman.

Summit organisers turned to the cruise ships amid a lack of sufficient facilities in the Papua New Guinean capital, where this year’s summit is taking place.

“We simply do not have enough hotel rooms in Port Moresby to accommodate all delegations,” admitted Justin Tkatchenko, minister in charge of APEC in a recent parliamentary speech.

Flotels

The other concern was security — how to keep officials from around the world safe in Port Moresby, rated one of the most dangerous cities on Earth.

Carjackings have become commonplace, often carried out by the notorious “raskols” street gangs, and petty crime is rife.

The Economist Intelligence Unit this year ranked the city 136th out of 140 on its list of most liveable places, above only Karachi, Lagos, Dhaka and war-torn Damascus.

Unsurprisingly, security is tight both onboard and onshore, with world leaders like China’s President Xi Jinping and US Vice-President Mike Pence attending the summit — although the latter is overnighting in the northern Australian city of Cairns.

Moored just a kilometre from the Pacific Jewel lurk two menacing warships. Small police inflatables and jetskis patrol nearby waters constantly.

Sharon Fernandes, assistant night manager aboard the Pacific Jewel, said the 650 staff from 40 countries had to adjust from a cruise-ship mentality to essentially running a “Flotel” for delegates.

“For the first time, we are a hotel, not a ship. We need to be more broad-minded and adjust to different mentalities,” the 31-year-old from Mumbai told AFP.

Guests said they were happy to be offshore given the logistical difficulties and safety reputation of Port Moresby.

“I’m really pleased I’m on a cruise ship because it’s safer and more convenient. It’s better to stick with everyone else because the logistics are so difficult,” said one 26-year-old Hong Kong-based reporter.

One delegate, who declined to be named, also cited convenience as a key factor compared to staying in a hotel with security restrictions.

“As a delegate, it’s not a bad thing being on a cruise ship because everything is laid on here. In a hotel, you are much more restricted”.

David Jones, spokesman for Carnival Australia, which provided the ships, said the company has been running cruise ships to Papua New Guinea for several years and was an obvious choice for authorities.

“There is no way you could have this extent of accommodation shoreside and we see this as a natural extension of our relationship with Papua New Guinea,” Jones told AFP. — AFP

Floating giants

THE EMBASSY of Japan in Malaysia recently invited Nebuta craftsman Shunichi Kitamura to talk about the massive, unique, and fantastic lanterns that are the centrepiece of the Nebuta festival in Japan.

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, or Nebuta for short, is a summer festival celebrated every year in early August in the Aomori prefecture, located in the north of Honshu, the biggest of the four main islands of Japan.

The Nebuta festival, one of the three biggest festivals in Japan, evolved from the Tanabata festival, which in turn originated from the Chinese Qixi festival.

At the heart of this festival is a parade, and the centrepieces of this parade are the gigantic lit-up lanterns made by craftsmen like Kitamura and his team.

These massive Nebuta floats measure around nine metres wide, seven metres in length, and five metres in height. Their skeletal structure is made out of wood and wire while their skin is made out of washi paper.

It takes around 15 to 20 people approximately six months from conceptualisation to completion to make one of these floats.

The lanterns often depict legendary scenes from mythology and history.

Some lanterns also depict scenes from popular culture, including a Nebuta float made by one of Kitamura’s relatives featuring a famous battle between Ultraseven and Eleking from the Ultraman TV series, as well as a series of Star Wars Nebuta floats which appeared back in 2015.

Kitamura comes from a family of Nebuta craftsmen in Aomori.

Initially, he was not interested in picking up the craft from his father.

Instead, he left for Tokyo over 700km away.

One fateful day, two years after he left home, he saw a poster featuring one of the Nebuta floats his father had made.

His chest swelled up with pride, and he decided to return home to Aomori and learn from his father.

Kitamura made his debut as a Nebuta artist in 2011 by participating in the NTT Group Nebuta with his first group work, titled God of Justice: Ashura’s Anger.

Since then, he has created huge Nebuta works every year, and was awarded the outstanding production award in 2017.

Kitamura still uses the traditional method to design his floats, starting with a smaller model that he creates.

He added that he does not use computers to plan out these colossal lanterns. Instead, he sketches them out with a three-dimensional model in mind.

He said that the most challenging part of building the Nebuta floats is applying and decorating the washi paper around the structure.

Washi paper is used because it is a resilient high-quality paper that diffuses light, which gives the floats a distinctive glow.

It’s a very tricky process to ensure the colours and effects are correct, Kitamura said, adding that getting the faces of the characters right is vital.

First, the artist handpaints the lines on the float using Sumigaki ink.

This is an important process.

Water and poster colours are then used to colour the floats, while wax and old newspaper are used to add detail and mask off areas for painting, to avoid colour contamination.

Kitamura said that traditionally the structure of the floats was made out of bamboo, a tradition that he is looking to bring back.

Nowadays, the Nebuta floats also incorporate some modern elements such as LEDs.

Each float is lit by 1,000 to 1,500 LEDs and covered with around 10,000 pieces of washi paper.

The end result is a structure that weighs approximately four tonnes.

Most of the weight, explained Kitamura, comes from the base the float is placed on, and the generator within it.

Although it is called a float parade, the Nebuta parade in Aomori is held on the streets, and not in a river.

Some 20 floats participate in the parade every year.

After the main event, the top five best floats are later placed on a boat and made to float along a river.

During the parade, each float is headed by a leader who coordinates the movement of the float, and volunteers who push and pull it on its wheeled base through the streets.

It takes some 30 people to move and manoeuvre the four-tonne float.

The float is also accompanied by a band of musicians, Haneto dancers, and additional costumed characters.

The musicians play the drums, flutes, and cymbals that set the pace for the float, as well as dance alongside the Haneto dancers.

Anyone can join the Haneto dancers, Kitamura added – you just need the right costume.

There are also smaller floats made by smaller groups. These are known as children’s Nebuta.

The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is now one of the biggest festival attractions in Japan.

Kitamura hopes that the floats could bring entertainment and enjoyment to all, and perhaps, beyond the festival itself.

In China’s Himalayas, a wine ‘flying above the clouds’

ADONG, China: A US$300, (RM1,254) bottle of wine sold in the United States and Europe is made in the unlikeliest of places: at the foot of the Himalayas in China, where farmers sing traditional songs while picking grapes.

A stone’s throw away from Tibet, Ao Yun’s vineyards are located beneath the sacred Meili mountain at altitudes ranging up from 7,218 feet in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

While wine consumption is soaring in China, it is not known as a major producer, but French luxury giant Moet Hennessy has bet on this remote location to show the Asian country can produce a first-class bottle of red.

It took four years for the company to find the ideal spot in the vast country and the result was Ao Yun, Chinese for “flying above the clouds”, which debuted in 2013.

“The place is magical, it has this wild side,” Maxence Dulou, Ao Yun’s estate manager, told AFP as he carefully inspected the grapes at one of the vineyards.

Dulou, 43, said he had “dreamed” of discovering a great “terroir” — the unique French term for the ground and climatic conditions in which grapes are grown — in China since his university days.

The company wanted to show that a great wine could be made in China, where even local consumers trust French wines more than homegrown products, he said.

The smooth full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc has surprised many wine lovers.

Only 2,000 cases are produced per year and are sold in China, other Asian countries, the United States and Europe.

East meets West

Moet Hennessy leased the vineyards for 30 years from local farmers in 2012 — a decade after the municipal government encouraged villagers to switch from growing barley to grapevines in an attempt to kickstart the wine industry.

But without proper knowledge or training, they floundered until the luxury giant turned up, bringing a wealth of expertise and resources to four villages: Adong, Shuori, Sinong and Xidang.

The vineyards are situated in the middle of the Mekong, Yangtze and Salween rivers, a unique location which boasts moderate temperatures all year round so the vines do not need to be buried to prevent them from freezing in the winter.

The property is divided into more than 300 small parcels spread over 28ha and grapes are harvested by hand, requiring four times more work hours on average than the biggest vineyards in the world.

For villagers like 42-year-old Ci Liwudui, who leases out his land and has family members working on the vineyard, the transformation of the farms that once grew basic crops into bustling, profitable businesses was a godsend.

“It has brought good changes to the four villages, lots of change, we don’t have to worry about money, people don’t have to go out to work laborious jobs anymore,” Ci said.

Dulou attributes the wine’s success to the collaboration between East and West.

“The Chinese are very creative and they are not afraid of change and that’s extraordinary because you can be the most creative in the world, but if you are afraid of change there is no creativity,” the viniculturist said.

Revamping ‘Made in China’

China’s appetite for wine has matured over the last 10 years, led by its burgeoning middle class. The country is set to become the world’s second largest wine consumer by 2021.

China’s wine market was worth US$71 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow 27 percent in the next five years to nearly US$91 billion, according to research group Euromonitor.

However, Chinese consumers are turning their noses up at local wines, as imported wine consumption grew over 17% year on year in 2017 while domestic wine sales plummeted for the fifth consecutive year.

Chinese wine has had a history of inconsistent quality, but Dulou is determined to change the prejudice attached to the term ‘Made in China’.

“I think that little but little, Chinese people will realise that we can make great products in China, notably wines,” he said.

“We do everything with passion, and we do it with utmost precision to make the best wine possible, to have the best grape possible, and to be one of the companies that revamp ‘Made in China'”. — AFP