April 13, 2010

Solo Sailor Girl Sails Into History

UPDATE MAY 15:  SYDNEY  – Australian schoolgirl sailor Jessica Watson sailed into history Saturday  (May 15) as a noisy pink-bathed crowd welcomed her home as the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, non-stop and without help, AFP reported.
Tens of thousands of people took to the harbour and lined the foreshore to celebrate as Watson, 16, crossed the finish line in her bright pink yacht, ending a remarkable 210 days at sea. 

Teen sailor Jessica in home stretch

Australian teen adventurer Jessica Watson is coming into the home stretch in her 34-ft yacht Ella's Pink Lady with a new record waiting for her as the youngest person to sail around the world, nonstop and unassisted.

The plucky teenager will be heading towards Sydney Harbour, expected to be on May 2, weather permitting, to a hero's welcome. She will be celebrating her 17th birthday on May 18.

If Jessica succeeds she will take the title from fellow Australian Jesse Martin, who was 18 in 1999,  when he girdled the globe on his own and without stopping or getting help.

An April 13 posting on the sponsored Jessica Watson website by Amanda Lulham of the Daily Telegraph says Jessica on Monday had passed the 20,000 nautical miles of sailing on her own - another extraordinary milestone for the teenager.

The Ella's Pink Lady was reported entering Australian waters over the weekend. Jessica's parents, brother and sister flew overhead in a small plane to greet her, according to her April 12 posting on her official blog.

"Even though all I could see was a small plane way overhead, it was still really cool. Mum reckons that Ella's Pink Lady and I looked really small between the swell, which seems strange to me because Ella's Pink Lady is my whole world at the moment!" she says.

Jessica also mentioned an electrical storm the "worst I've seen at sea yet".

She says: "Even though I could hardly see it through the icy cold sideways rain, the lightning was striking the water nearby much too close for my liking. The wind gusted pretty high too.

"Other than the lightning storm, the weather's still been really unsettled with almost constant rain, squalls and a messy sea. Luckily the wind hasn't been too strong though. Progress has been good and even with all this gloomy grey stuff, I'm happy as Larry and mostly staying dry, thanks to my snug dodger," says Jessica.

Earlier on Saturday, Ella's Pink Lady sailed over the green line on the chart and into Australian waters, according to a post on April 10.

"But we've still got a long way to go and over the next week we will pass under the Great Australian Bight and head south to Tasmania," says the post.

"It's very likely that I'll pass back over the green line out of Australian waters again. It's weird being so close, but still having so many miles to cover."

Jessica explains that she didn't take a short cut through the Bass Strait but instead went south of Tasmania because the Strait is full of shipping and islands which would mean a few days with very little or no sleep for her.

Watson's parents were criticized for allowing her to make the journey on her own. Critics were concerned that any ocean rescue operation would cost thousands of dollars and place her life in jeopardy.

However, Jessica eventually silenced most of the critics after a test run to New Zealand and several solo journeys in Australia proved she's capable of doing the job. She has been sailing since she was eight.

Jessica started her long journey from Sydney. She sailed towards the equator in the mid-Pacific Ocean, went under South America, then across the south Atlantic Ocean to the southern tip of South Africa and east across the Indian Ocean towards home.

Meanwhile, Earth Times reported that Jessica might not hold on to her title for long if she wins it because Abby Sunderland, a US citizen four months her junior, left Mexico in February in pursuit of Martin's record.

Abby is the latest scion of the Sunderland family to set out around the world. She became the youngest person to sail single-handed round Cape Horn on the tip of South America last month. Her brother Zac made the trip when he was 17.

[Photos via YouTube]

April 11, 2010

Polish president killed in plane crash

World leaders expressed shock at the horrific plane crash Saturday in Smolensk, Russia, that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and much of the nation's ruling elite. All 96 people on board did not survive the tragic crash.

Russian news agencies said pilot error had come under immediate suspicion.

AFP reported the Tupolev Tu-154 jet was carrying Kaczynski and his wife, the military chief of staff, central bank governor, deputy foreign minister, members of parliament and other top officials to a ceremony for thousands of Polish troops massacred by Russian forces in World War II.

Kaczynski was the identical twin brother of former prime minister Jaroslaw. He was on his way to attend commemorative ceremonies for the Katyn massacre, which decimated Poland's military and intellectual elite 70 years ago.

It was reported the crash occurred three days after Putin and his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, together attended a memorial for the victims of the massacre at Katyn.

The Putin-Tusk meeting there was seen as a huge symbolic advance in Russia's often thorny relations with Poland.

Poland went into mourning with this horrific tragedy on Saturday.

April 10, 2010

Will stardom come to new 'Susan Boyle'?

Susan Boyle, Cai Hua Tian Ma (Sweet Cauliflower Mama) and Lin Yu-chun have something in common - they don't have the looks but, boy, can they sing!

We already know a lot about Scottish spinster Susan who became a singing sensation after she was discovered on Britain's Got Talent show last year. Her debut album sold millions and we can say she's got it made.

Recently two other singing talents - one from Shanghai, China and the other from Taiwan - were discovered and videos of them on YouTube became the rage.

Cai Hua Tian Ma, as she is known, sells chicken at the market stall. She belts out English gospel songs with amazing grace and pulls in the crowd.

That was how the middle-aged woman with two pigtails was discovered and a video clip of her singing in front of a market crowd was posted on YouTube and overnight, the video pulled in more than 46,000 hits. Maybe more by now.

Apart from English gospel songs, she also sings Maria Callas and Mariah Carey numbers as well as local folk songs and Chinese opera.

While Cai Hua Tian Ma has restricted her singing at her chicken stall, Taiwanese Lin revealed his singing prowess on Taiwan's Avenue to Stardom talent show on April 9.

Known as "Little Fatty", the round-faced Lin sings like a soprano and wowed everyone with his rendition of Whitney Houston's hit "I Will Always Love You".

Lin, 24, soon discovered that a video clip of his performance
appeared on YouTube and in no time, racked up more than 2 million hits as people started to call him "Taiwan's Susan Boyle". No doubt, the hits will keep coming for a while.

One viewer on YouTube commented: "I got goose bumps."

AFP reported that Lin was "shocked" by the great attention he has received and cited him as saying: "I'm really moved and happy that people like my performance of Whitney's song. . .I'm honoured to be compared to Susan Boyle."

Lin, who works part-time at a musical instrument shop in Taipei, may well be on his way to stardom and nobody is going to laugh at Little Fatty again.

April 6, 2010

China's new 'Susan Boyle'

A middle-aged woman who is a chicken seller in Shanghai has been hailed as the Chinese Susan Boyle by netizens. China's singing discovery is nicknamed Cai Hua Tian Ma (Sweet Cauliflower Mama).

Susan Boyle, from Scotland, gained fame and millions of admirers since she wowed the judges on Britain's Got Talent show last year with her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" from the musical Les Miserables.

Cai Hua Tian Ma's rendition of an English gospel song on video clip, posted on YouTube, has become the latest hit among Web users in China.

Cai Hua Tian Ma made her first public appearance on the Internet when a patron at a market in Shanghai where she works, recorded a clip of her singing to the customers at her chicken stall, according to Malaysian Mirror.

The patron uploaded the video clip on the Internet on April 1 and within days, the video which was shown in various popular websites in China, has attracted more than 46,000 hits.

Cai Hua Tian Ma is seen on video with her hair tied into two pigtails and dressed in a red shirt with a Hello Kitty apron. Some netizens mistook her for the late Hong Kong billionaire Nina Wang.

Cai Hua Tian Ma, it is learnt, hails from a remote village in Anhui. She has no professional training in music. She cannot even read out all the 26 letters of the alphabet.

Apart from English gospel songs, she also sings Maria Callas and Mariah Carey numbers as well as local folk songs and Chinese opera.

April 4, 2010

"Brokenhearted" Night for Idol Finalist Didi Benami

AMERICAN IDOL Season 9 Top 10 chugged along. This week the show rode on the R&B/Soul train and there were a few surprises. It was like a roller coaster ride for some of the contestants, writes Sebastian Lee in the news website Malaysian Mirror.

It was a brokenhearted night for 23-year-old LA waitress Didi Benami who became the third finalist to reach the end of the road on Wednesday when she got the least amount of votes. She was in the bottom three with 20-year-old Tim Urban and 17-year-old Katie Stevens.

On Tuesday's competition show, the judges felt Didi (left) was "old-fashioned...off key" and didn't do justice to Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted."

While Randy Jackson thought she "didn't get it" with the song, Simon Cowell said "it was like swimming in jelly". Kara DioGuardi told her bluntly:  "It's overdone, girl. . .you lost your way."  And so it was.

Unlikely stayer Tim Urban, who was nicknamed "Teflon Tim", sang Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" without setting the house on fire. Randy said "it felt so pedestrian". Kara told Tim he "took the soul out of the song." A frustrated Simon Cowell told Tim sacastically: "It doesn't matter. You're going to smile, and they will vote for you, and you'll be back next week."

True enough, the Texas college student with the floppy-hairdo once again rode his luck and moved on to the next round. . .obviously smiling while tearful Didi bid farewell.

In her farewell performance, Didi sang Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)" again and although Simon kindly said it was "far better" than her performance the night before, she didn't get the "save" vote from the judges.


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