Thursday, November 15, 2018

Of Pink Diamonds

An employee displays the Pink Legacy during a preview at Christie's.

A rare 18.96-carat pink diamond fetched $50 million (RM210 million) at an auction in Geneva, Switzerland this week, Christie's said – setting a new per carat record for a stone of its kind, i.e. $2.637 million per carat.

Christie's said the Pink Legacy is "the largest and finest Fancy Vivid Pink diamond ever offered at auction by the company", calling it "incomparable". (Note: "fancy vivid" is the highest possible grade of color intensity). 

If you don’t know, most pink diamonds weigh less than one carat and those in the top color category with more than 10 carats are virtually unheard of at auction houses. 

Also, it possesses a classic rectangular cut which is traditionally used for white stones but rare for pink diamonds – standing out from the typical, more rounded, multi-facetted cuts used today. 

In fact, Christie's international head of jewellery, Rahul Kadakia, described it as "one of the world's greatest diamonds". 

The precious stone, discovered in a South African mine around a century ago and probably cut in the 1920s, has not been altered since, Christie's said. 

Named Pink Legacy, it once belonged to the Oppenheimer family which for decades ran the De Beers diamond mining company – and on Tuesday, it was snapped up by American luxury brand Harry Wilson, part of the Swiss Swatch group. 

Christie's said only four vivid pink diamonds of over 10 carats have ever been offered for auction. 

One of them, the nearly 15-carat Pink Promise, was sold last November at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong for $32.5 million. That amounts to $2.176 million per carat, which was previously the world auction record price per carat for any pink diamond. 

To Malaysians, it confirms that Rosmah Mansor (left) has class. And overly expensive taste.

She already has her grubby hands on her very own pink diamond pendant – I would name it Pink FLOM  reportedly worth $27.3 million (RM113.7 million). 

According to her dog...err, husband, Najis…err, I mean, Najib Razak – it was a gift from Prince Sheikh Mansour, the brother of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. Court documents by the US Department of Justice against fugitive businessperson Jho Low however, stated that the necklace was purchased by a shell company owned by him and other co-conspirators. 

I’m wondering aloud what would this piece of jewelry fetch now.

I can just imagine Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng gleefully rubbing his hands together and giving out whoops of joy. I am sure he can't wait to get his hands on it to cash out. 

I was at the EcoWorld Toastmasters meeting at Setia Alam in Shah Alam, Selangor yesterday. 

I was the General Evaluator and also an evaluator for Lee Chin Yee, who presented The Roast, an Advanced speech from the Special Occasion Speeches manual. 

All I can say is “Ouch!” – but I must admit, she was inventively ingenious. 

When she described her subject as a Sesame Street, it did say a lot about that person whom she was highlighting. I saw that individual as being a colourful smorgasbord of complex yet compelling characteristics coming together as one.

And I had never seen May Teoh laughed so loudly! 

What an awesome Toastmasters meeting it was! It was great fun but equally important, there was much learning to be had. It would seem that we were all enthusiastically riding on the crest of an exuberant wave that eloquently whooshed with enjoyment!

Distinguished Toastmaster Tan Saw Bee deserves special mention – she sacrificed a family dinner to be at Setia Avenue. And then, she surrendered her speech evaluation slot – to give the opportunity instead to an EcoWorld Toastmaster Thong Foong Lan (already a Competent Communicator)  but not before armouring her with confidence and coaching her for the task.

And the latter did not disappoint.

Comic Man Stan Lee (1922-2018)

Stan Lee at his office in Manhattan in 1980. Image credit: William E Sauro/The New York Times

Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber), the comic book Methuselah died in Los Angeles, California on Monday at 95. 

He really doesn’t need any introduction – after all, he was the one who revolutionized the comic book world in the 1960s and left an indelible imprint on the wider pop culture landscape of today. 

From a cluttered office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, NYC, he helped conjure a line-up of pulp-fiction heroes who never cease to stir the popular imagination. Think the Hulk. Think Thor. Think Spider-Man. Think Iron Man. Think the X-Men. And many, many more.

Indeed, he was for many the embodiment of Marvel, if not comic books in general, overseeing the company’s emergence as an international media behemoth. A writer, editor, publisher, Hollywood executive and tireless promoter (of Marvel and of himself) – he played a critical role in what comics fans call the medium’s silver age. 

Many believe that Marvel, under Lee's (right) leadership and infused with his colorful voice, crystallized that era, one of exploding sales, increasingly complex characters and stories, and growing cultural legitimacy for the medium – although, National Periodical Publications, now known as DC – the home of Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, among other characters – may disagree. 

What attracted me most to Marvel comics was the scintillating copywriting – I simply loved it! 

Lee’s dialogue is one of a kind. He really impresses. 

I adore the Elizabethan idioms in Thor’s. The working-class oral swagger in the Thing’s. The eco-oratory in the Silver Surfer’s. All in Stan Lee's "masterful manner", as he himself puts it.

Here’s one wee sample, uttered by the cosmic entity, the space alien, the Silver Surfer on humans: “And yet – in their uncontrollable insanity – in their unforgivable blindness – they seek to destroy this shining jewel – this softly spinning gem – this tiny blessed sphere – which men call Earth!”

There will never be another Stan Lee. 


[*'Excelsior' was Lee's signature sign-off line, which has largely permeated the comic book industry's collective subconscious. Lee, when asked, will usually define the word as meaning "onward and upward to greater glory"].

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

My Toastmasters’ Competent Communication Milestone

A milestone in a Toastmaster’s life is when they have successfully earned their Competent Communicator award. At least that is how I see it.

But I guess I am an avid Toastmaster with a voracious appetite for speeches. Obviously, one CC title is insufficient. I have to aim for 50. 

And so, on November 13, 2018 – I had, indeed, completed fifty rounds of the CC manual – meaning, fifty CC awards. 

How many Toastmasters do you know who have delivered 500 CC speeches? It took me 10 years, 4 months and 13 days to accomplish this though. 

But really, it’s not about hoarding an impressive collection of award certificates from Toastmasters International. It’s about the learning and every one of the CC manual that I completed gave me valuable lessons on public speaking. 

It means I am constantly and continuously working to improve my communication skills. 

I can say with some pride that now, I can speak with fluency and fluidity. And I can even do an impromptu 5-7 minute speech on demand. 

Good job, Victor!

Bohemian Rhapsody Gallops Past $280 Million

L-R: Joe Mazzello (John Deacon), Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor), Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury), and Gwilym Lee (Brian May) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Photo credit: Alex Bailey

L-R: Gwilym Lee (Brian May), Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury), and Joe Mazzello (John Deacon) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Photo credit: Alex Bailey

The $55 million-budgeted Bryan Singer-directed (with a little help from Dexter Fletcher) Queen flick is already a spectacular hit! 

As at November 12, 2018, 'domestic' sales have galloped past $100 million – $104,782,117 to be exact – and worldwide sales reached $285,273,150. 

This was achieved on the back of generally unsatisfactory reviews. It currently gets 49% on Metacritic (which aggregates critics’ reviews) and a barely respectable 60% on Rotten Tomatoes (which measures the proportion of positive reviews). 

The fact of the matter is all the bad buzz in the world can’t kill a movie that people actually want to see! 

I know exactly what I’m getting – triply so with Bohemian Rhapsody: a legendary star (Freddie Mercury), a medley of oh-so-heavenly Queen songs and a straight-ahead rock-biopic format. And that is more than enough for me! 

Actually, according to Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score, 95% of people who saw it liked it.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a blockbuster, as far as I'm concerned!

With a CC #50 and a CL #22 under my belt – which  I added this week  I have todate earned 98 Toastmasters awards in Communication and Leadership:


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mahathir Mohamad Barks an Order

PM Mahathir Mohamad’s instruction to Maszlee Malik is loud and clear. 

The Education Minister should stop trying to be a smart ass – and just be an ass. 

I was at Kelab Shah Alam in Shah Alam, Selangor – where I presented my CC #10 – this Inspire Your Audience speech was titled My ‘500’ Achievement. It refers to my successful completion of my 50th round of the Competent Communication manual. 

Thanks to VP Education Lotfi Razak for his kind facilitation and support.

This evening's Toastmasters meeting was a high octane one – and I too was impressed.  BTW, I was voted Best Project Speaker.