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If picture paints a thousand words, how many words does a video paint?

In light of the Japan earthquake and the tsunami that followed after, the large number of pictures and videos were rampant on the internet, especially on Youtube.com and reputed news websites such as BBC.

Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709791

Marshall McLuhan (1967) media determinism theory states that the medium is more important that the message. In this case, instead of just printed words, the disaster that struck Japan was depicted through pictures of the after effects and videos of the tsunami swallowing Sendai through news agencies on television and on the Internet. No doubt that the message is important, the method of delivering the message determines how the audiences react.

Pictures and videos convey more than just the information we need to know, it conveys the emotions and plight of the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami. If the whole crisis was relayed through chunks of printed words, there would be very little, if not no trigger of emotions from the audience. Therefore, like how the old saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words. It is only after seeing what Japan has become that we can visualize and sympathize with the tsunami victims.

Moreover, the Japan crisis happened only shortly after Christchurch’s unfortunate disaster. Together with these headline news are news update on Libya’s protests and revolts, the Ivory Coast crisis. It is not just these recent news, news reported have always been more bad than good. According to George Gerbner (1976), his cultivation theory states that people who watches television more than four hours daily are exposed to more violence and therefore are affected by the Mean World Syndrome, an idea that the world is worse than it actually is.

Ergo, we cannot blame the Mayans or Nostradamus for the many different prophecies of how the world will end and how large numbers of the masses actually firmly believe in these predictions. It is the fault of natural and human disasters that sparked such beliefs, which was made worst by the media. The media influences its audience gradually and cultivates the idea of how the world is more violent and mean than it actually is.

Aside from what is real, television programs also further aggravates the Mean World Syndrome with the thriller and crime genres. Local television often show kidnaps, gang fights and other crimes which do not usually happen in a safe and secure country like Singapore. In addition, imported foreign television dramas with more exaggerated story lines further exacerbates the whole idea that the world is worse than it actually is.

We need to have our own sets of filters to sieve out what is real and what has been exaggerated by the media through the use of television. We cannot allow the media to shape how we view the world, and most of all, we being the receiving end of the media needs to know that the world is not as mean as it is being portrayed on television.

Having said that, is this really possible? Can we really be unaffected by the media? Or are we already panicking inside after receiving all these bad news?

This is our culture.

According to this video, this is what makes up the Singaporean culture; Singlish(the incorporation of dialects in Engish), our ‘kiasu(fear of losing) and kiasi(fear of dying)’ mentality, our complaining nature, our nonverbal cues in reserving seats, our need to conform, and our exceptionally excellent talent at cross-referencing when it comes to buying things.

Quoting Geert Hofstede, culture is the “collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group of people from the other.” Based on this, Singaporeans are categorised by the above mentioned traits. Whether you like it or not, this is the culture of Singaporeans. Hofstede mentioned the collective programming of the mind, this can be translated to mean: a group of people with the same mentality. In this case, Singaporeans are guarded by the need to win, and the need to survive. When we act upon this mentality, it results in the kind of behaviour(Edward T. Hall’s definition of culture) you see in the video clip above, or if you take a look around you, the behaviour you see is the culture of Singaporeans.

Other than what is mentioned, there are a few other things that makes our culture as well. For example, in most countries, chewing gum is a norm, but in Singapore, government policies such as the outlawing of gums has made it such that Singapore is the only country known for banning gum chewing.

Having said that, culture is something that is unique to a group of people. It is also the basis that we employ when we judge others. The video below is an excerpt from a Taiwanese variety show, with the Taiwanese celebrities criticizing Singapore’s pronunciation of English.

For those who do not understand Chinese, you should be able to roughly make out what are the words that are specifically pointed out and critiqued upon. It is funny how we are allowed to criticize our fellow Singaporeans’ bad command of English(i.e Ris Low), but when outsiders actually critique Singapore’s English on the whole, we stand together and defend our country’s culture and pride. Below are merely some of the comments I have extracted from the video’s page:

It is because culture is unique to a particular group of people, it is almost a personal attack when the Taiwanese celebrities judged Singapore’s English. As you can see, these comments are very defensive maybe because we, as Singaporeans, know that this is not true for everybody here.

One probable reason why we tend to judge other cultures is because our own culture is so ingrained in ourselves that it takes great effort to even begin understanding other cultures. Judging comes in when we do not understand fully how a culture operates in a whole new place. To illustrate, compare the modern culture of tattooing to a tribal culture of scarification.

VS

Both picture depicts body art. Why is it that we accept tattooing our bodies, but we look at scarification with a judgmental mindset?

Once a certain pattern of thinking, feeling and acting have been established within a person’s mind, he or she must unlearn these before being able to learn something different altogether. Of course, to just understand another culture, we do not have to forget about our own culture. But it will be difficult because we have the tendency to compare other cultures to our own and then make a judgement.

Are you ashamed of our culture, as described in the first video? Or do you think that there is another set of culture that define Singaporeans better? Did you feel the angst when you watched the second video? I know I sure did.

You’re leaving us?

All of us are part of a group, or two. Many a times we have to leave our group, it could be by choice, or otherwise. There are many factors that contributes to why we have to leave a certain group. It could be that the group does not benefit you anymore.

In the case of the recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, The Toast Derivation, Sheldon realizes that he is not the center of the group and decided to create a new group, where he thought he will be the focal point. The screen caps below shows the series of actions that Sheldon decided to take after his realization.

We can see that Sheldon left his group of friends, and created his own social group. However, he finds that they are essentially not the same type of people. These new “friends” do not care about giving in to him. While his old group of friends, despite the fact that they cannot stand Sheldon most of the time, gives in to Sheldon. This is when he realizes that he has to go back to his real friends. And while Sheldon was with his new “friends”, the rest of the group are talking about how they miss not having Sheldon around.

Another apt example would be the popular television series in the 1990s, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, in the episode, The One with the Kips, Ross had to stop seeing Rachel in order to salvage his marriage with Emily. However it is not as easy as it sounds, in order for this to happen, either Ross or Rachel had to leave the group. This is not a decision by choice, and in this tightly knitted group, it is a very hard decision to make.

Ross had to balance between his individual need and the group’s needs. For those who had not seen this episode, Ross and Rachel tried very hard to not be in the same room, and Ross decided that it was a stupid idea and confessed to Emily that Rachel was at dinner too.

Also, in every group there is always the possibility that someone new will join in. However, it would take some time for the new member to fit in with the rest of the group. This will happen when the new member starts to build a relationship with each of the other members. This can be depicted with Knapp’s model of relational development. It is also mostly focusing on the first phase, consisting of 5 stages of what Knapp calls the “coming together”.

Initiating being the cautious period, where you are self-concious and where all the filtering and screening of each other takes place, experimenting being the start of small talks, to try and know a little more about each other, and likewise, telling them little things about yourself, intensifying is where there is increased commitment, awareness and participation. Also this is where you start to be more comfortable around the group, integrating is the stage where you identify yourself with the group, forming a group identity and finally there is bonding where obligations and commitments are formalized.

In The Big Bang Theory (below), Penny was the new addition to the group.

As for F.R.I.E.N.D.S (below), Joey and Rachel were the new addition to the group.

So, have you joined and left any groups you were part of? If it boils down to the decision of leaving a group, would you make the same decisions as Sheldon and Ross? And if so, would you come back to the group after?

I guess such decisions are dependent on the situation, but it would be nice to have a group of friends like that of The Big Bang Theory and F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

You know you love me.

Don’t we all love Gossip Girl, all the scandals, twists and turns in the plot? For those of you who do not watch Gossip Girl, here is a brief overview of the series. It is an American teen drama series about the lives of  young adults from elite families on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York City. The above video is the promo of the recent episode aired on Monday, season 4 episode 15 “IT-girl happened one night.”

In this episode, Chuck Bass played by Ed Westwick, is desperate to save his late father’s company (Bass Industries). You should have watched the promo above, and would have known that Chuck is trying to get Raina Thorpe, the daughter of the man who bought the company, to fall in love with him so that the Thorpes will spare the company. While Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester) is trying to get Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) to sleep with her boss so that she gets a promotion.

For those of you who have been following the series, you would know that the relationships forged in Gossip Girl are mostly based on the costs and rewards of the relationship. For instance, in the most recent episode, Chuck tried to get Raina to fall in love with him so that his company might be salvaged. He started by exposing his most vulnerable side to her, which in this case is the relational capital, which is rarely seen throughout the series, in turn she fell in love with him and tried her best to do what she can for Bass Industries. Despite the superficial basis of forming this relationship, Chuck found himself developing feelings for Raina too.

On the other hand, Upper East Side’s most unlikely couple Blair Waldorf and Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) started to form a new relationship that is finally not based on scheming and plotting, but rather of companionship and friendship. Elsewhere, Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) struggles with her feelings for Ben against her family’s disapproval.

It is these formation of relationships that makes the series so intriguing because it applies to us as well! It relates to us well as we are constantly forging relationships for whatever reasons we may have. Even for the people who think that they already know each other, i.e. Dan and Blair; they have always known each other as that irritating eyesore, but little did they know that they will eventually form a whole new relationship and see each other in a new light.

We all have been Chuck or Blair or Serena at some point in time. We form relationships for many different reasons, and agenda. Like Chuck, sometimes we would never have expected ourselves to go further than what we had planned. Or Blair, to have never expected ourselves to end up with the person we have always been at loggerheads with. Or even Serena, to be fighting and maintaining a relationship with someone that our friends and families disapprove of.

Personally, I resent the basis of a relationship that is built on exchange. Some people emphasize too much on this and it causes a dysfunctional relationship. Admittedly, I may have had similar intentions when I formed certain relationships. However, as years passed, I have come to realize that this is ultimately inevitable.

So how were your relationships with others formed? Were you mostly like Chuck and Blair, and their scheming and plotting? Or were your intentions mostly positive? What are your views on forming a relationship based on costs and rewards?

The way you dress tells us something.

Church is no place for flip-flops or shorts – The Straits Times, Feb 6 2011

Being a Roman Catholic, I think that it is inappropriate to go to church in flip-flops, shorts, mini-skirts or spaghetti strap tops. The church is a religious ground, and a certain level of decorum must be observed. By going to church in such attire mentioned, it shows disrespect.

The article started off by saying that “Wearing one’s Sunday best used to be de rigueur for churchgoers.” Well, I couldn’t agree more with that statement. The African-American women will always have their Sunday hats when they go to church. The Mormons will always be seen in their shirts and pants, dresses or skirts.

The picture above is a depiction of churchgoers in the Victorian times, notice how the women are all clad in long-sleeved dresses.

The picture above is how Singaporeans dress for church, or school, or any occasion for that matter.

You may think that this can be explained by the crazy weather here in Singapore, that it is more comfortable to be wearing sleeveless tops, shorts and slippers. But ask yourselves, would you be dressed like that for a job interview on a warm and humid day? Would you be dressed like that when you are meeting your prospective business partners on a sunny day? Why is it then, acceptable to be dressed inappropriately for church?

Whether you like it or not, people judge you by how you look, that is the first impression that they get. By dressing inappropriately, you are sending off nonverbal cues, telling others that you have no respect, that you do not have any sense of decency and that you cannot dress right for the occasion.

This issue not only applies to churchgoers. In fact, of late, Singaporeans are all dressed in t-shirts, shorts and slippers for almost every occasion. I often see girls in school, whose shorts are so short, that they might as well have worn their undergarments out instead. I am not asking Singaporeans to dress formal for every single occasion, I’m just saying that there is a right attire for everything. Party clothes for a party, office wear for work, sports attire for sports, appropriate dressing for schools and churches. Is that too much to ask?

Such inappropriate dressing does not only reflect badly on yourself, but it also sends a negative message to tourists and other foreigners, and because first impressions are usually persistent, it will be too late to remove the stereotypes that are imposed on us Singaporeans.

I did a search on Google.com about Singaporean’s dressing, only to be surprised by how many results pertaining questions about why Singaporeans dress sloppily, questions asking if Singaporeans dress badly. And to my surprise, these questions are asked by Singaporeans ourselves! What then, would outsiders think of us? I would certainly not want foreigners to think of sloppy dressing when they think of Singaporeans!

Quoting a Stomper: “If they can take the trouble to get new outfits for a wedding or a party, why can’t they find the appropriate clothes to wear to go to school or attend church?”

What do you think? Schools and churches have to impose dress codes, are Singaporeans going a little too far? Do Singaporeans really dress sloppily? Is it acceptable to wear t-shirt, shorts and slippers to schools and churches? Are you one of such people?

You can’t express your own opinion.

Critical Chinese journalist loses job – The Straits Times, Saturday, January 29 2011

(Click here for a more detailed report on this issue)

Mr Chang Ping was a prominent columnist and veteran journalist at the Southern Weekend Group in China. He is notorious for being critical of the Chinese government. Just yesterday he was “forced to resign” from his position because he refused to tone down  his writing, and also because his bosses were “under pressure” from government propaganda authorities.

Most of us know that China adopts censorship in all their media. Well for those who had no clue, China pretty much censors everything from print media to the Internet, in fact censorship is applied to any media that have the ability to reach wide audiences. China, already so tight about what is exposed to its citizens, then comes Mr Chang Ping, a journalist who works in a major media company, and most of his works are critics about the weaknesses of the Chinese government (corruption, lack of political reform and the latest column on the violent anti-government riots in Tibetan regions in 2008 that questioned the government portrayal of the unrest as “sabotage” instigated by the Dalai Lama) Of course, he had to be censored too, didn’t he?

Funny how I naturally agreed with the criticisms of the social constructionist perspective, that people have become social performers because the theory was exaggerated in the sense that people have become so much more conscious about their social self instead of their individual self. The fact that we have unknowingly become people who are so politically correct in order to escape the troubles of miscommunication and that we have become so concerned about how other people view us based on what we say and do. It sounded so right, I almost forgot about people like Mr Chang Ping. I almost forgot that I, myself cannot care less about what others think at times.

So, what does a columnist do, you may ask. A columnist is a journalist who writes for publication in a series, creating an article that usually offers commentary and opinions. Mr Chang Ping was forced to resign because he did what he was hired to do, create articles that offers commentary and opinions. Because of the fact that he is in China, he is expected to be a social performer, to write what is appropriate, to ignore his own opinions and to write what the Chinese government wants China to read.

I feel his pain, for being punished for his words, as he put it.

He is not the first journalist to be annihilated for expressing his own opinions. An editor at CNN was fired last year for expressing her own thoughts on Twitter. This case is a little more controversial as she praised a Hezbollah-linked cleric provided a “good lesson” on what to write online. Citing just one more case from Yahoo! news, veteran reporter Helen Thomas had to forfeit her front-row seat in the White House briefing room after commenting that Jews should leave Israel and “go home”.

What all these examples suggest is that if you aspire to be a journalist, be prepared to leave your opinions behind before you graduate. If you have forgotten to do so, prepare a vault and lock all your opinions away, away from the world. Of course, you may infer from all these that in order to be a successful journalist, you just have to be politically correct and always be mindful of what you say and how you say it. No worries, you can still be yourself, except that you have transformed into a social performer, like everyone else. Who cares about being unique anymore, right?