Friday, January 29, 2010

Giving in to dance

Guest blogger Jehan Mohd writes about what she thinks about the promotional stunts for the late King of Pop's DVD release of the concert that never was.

 

GETTING a bunch of convicts serving time at a maximum security facility to promote the launch of your latest DVD may not seem to be the brightest of ideas…unless you’re a recently deceased-cum-former-King-of-Pop and the prisoners are those at Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, a maximum security prison in the Philippines.

The inmates who made waves globally in 2007 when a video of them dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller hit YouTube aren’t exactly unknown (collectively, anyway) – videos of them dancing to other songs have received tens of millions of hits in total.

Nevertheless being visited by longtime MJ choreographer Travis Payne and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid who taught the inmates the moves to a sequence from MJ’s This Is It, and performed a dance to promote the launch of the DVD must still be pretty exciting.
 
It’s hard not to admire and get excited by the efforts of these 1,500-odd men.

You might even forget that these are hardened criminals and not a bunch of kids getting together for a flash mob type event (yes, I am spoiling the video for you) – at the end of the video, they form a giant peace sign.

The choice of They Don’t Care about Us as the song they dance to is kind of ironic (or fitting, depending on how you see it) as one of the original music videos (two were made for this song) saw Michael Jackson singing and dancing with inmates in a prison facility.

Who, aside from their families and loved ones, would look upon prisoners kindly or with admiration? These are people who committed not just any petty crime but serious offences – including murder, rape and drug trafficking – that landed them in the maximum security facility.

Prison warden and security consultant Byron Garcia sees dancing as a form of rehabilitation.

In his site, he says that rehabilitation has to be “anchored on bringing out the best in men instead of the worst…” and that it should be done with compassion so that a sinner can be separated from the sin.

I can imagine that the people who fell victim to their acts not being fans of these criminals.

Still, for the four to five-minute duration of the songs they dance to, normal viewers and total strangers to them would still be amazed at how “hard-core” criminals can let their guards down enough to give in to dance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Guest Post: Suicide solution

Avid Facebook junkie Jehan Mohd is slightly aghast and somewhat intrigued by the notion of being able to “off” yourself virtually. She guest-blogs about this new phenomenon here:

Picture by Aref Omar


TIRED of countless requests to be friends with strangers or to tend to friends’ neglected farms and pets?

Wish that you could spend more quality time with your friends (as you feel online interaction doesn’t count as actual interaction)?

Just plain tired of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn?

Say hello to the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, which touts its services with a simple slogan: “Meet your real neighbours again! Sign out forever!”.

The brainchild of Walter Langelaar, Gordan Savicic, and Danya Vasiliev, the programme has helped more than 1,000 people commit virtual suicide, severing more than 85,000 friendships on Facebook and removing over 300,000 tweets from Twitter.

The programme provides users an easy way out (no pun intended) from their online personas.

With a simple handing over of your login details and the click of the “commit” button on its site, the programme will delete all your info, leaving behind a profile with no data.

Nothing that a normal user wouldn’t do, except that it takes a fraction of the time you would normally take and it deletes EVERYTHING.

And, like real life, once the deed is done (actually once you start the process of killing off your 2.0 self, it cannot be stopped), it cannot be undone.

Needless to say the folks behind Facebook are not amused.

The corporation issued the folks behind the Suicide Machine a cease and desist letter (which the latter helpfully scanned and posted up on its site).

Among Facebook’s objections are that Suicide Machine’s actions violate Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibility and that Facebook “takes the protection of its users’ privacy and security of their data very seriously” (this statement is laughable with its track record but that’s a whole other story).

In its FAQ page, Suicide Machine claims it does not store your password and that once the dirty deed is done, it only saves your profile picture, name and last words for posterity.

While it is looking to be a promising way to exit your social networking sites, I would rather do the deleting of my online persona on my own and in my own time.

Excuse me while I harvest my pumpkins in Farmville, feed my pseudo-cat in Petville and check in on my café in Café World…

Friday, January 15, 2010

The other face of Gaza

Guest blogger Jehan Mohd speaks to Perdana Global Peace Organisation manager Ram Karthigasu about the adventures he had on the Viva Palestina convoy, which recently successfully delivered humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in the besieged territory of Gaza.


International peace activists shout as they stand atop a truck carrying medical supplies in Gaza City January 7, 2010. Egypt has reached a deal with members of an aid convoy to take supplies to Palestinians in Gaza after protests overnight, but Cairo barred their private cars from crossing, an Egyptian security source said. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem


They hang out in cyber-cafes to play popular video game Counter-Strike, are in touch with the latest news through the Internet and complete their attire with mobile phones.

If not for the seemingly requisite AK-47 slung over their shoulder, these young Gazan boys may have passed off for normal teenagers in any other country.

“Everybody carries a gun – all smuggled in – in Gaza — it’s like a normal thing there,” says Perdana Global Peace Organisation manager Ram Karthigasu, who recently visited the war-torn territory as part of the Viva Palestina convoy to deliver much needed humanitarian aid.

Years of being under siege and constant bombardment may have toughened the youths – most of whom aspire to become doctors or civil engineers – but they remain optimistic about their lives.

“Most of the kids I spoke to seemed very optimistic – they are like ‘yeah, we’re going to get out there and kill some Israelis and Egyptians, finish our PhDs, come back and shoot more Israelis and Egyptians’,” says Ram, half-jokingly.

 
Ram Karthigasu - NSTP picture by Surianie Mohd Hanif

Hundreds who have been offered full scholarships to study at Oxbridge or Ivy League universities are unable to do so because they cannot pass the borders.

He says being able to enter the territory has given the volunteers a better idea of what is actually needed.

“We realise that things like milk powder is something they are able to acquire by smuggling them through underground tunnels.

“Maybe we should now look at how we can help these students get out to pursue their studies,” says Ram.

A few of the youths he met don’t go to school because they’ve already completed secondary school but aren’t able to continue their studies – but they learn to make do.

“I met this 15-year-old who’s a computer hacker.

“He demonstrated how he could find out the password to my Gmail account on my laptop,” he says.

No stranger to the Palestinian conflict – it was a major subject in his Master’s of International Relations course at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK – he still found the trip an eye-opener as he saw life as it was, something that you can’t get by merely reading a book.

Driving through Gaza city is akin to driving through an old Malaysian town – “only really clean”, he says.

“It’s so embarrassing for Egypt, which is a shithole because it’s so badly run and whatnot.

“If there were no pyramids , there’s no reason to go to Egypt,” he says.

Members of the Al-Athamna family play outside their clay house in the northern Gaza Strip January 11, 2010. Palestinians in Gaza suspect that temporary clay houses they are being given to replace homes destroyed a year ago in the Israeli offensive are a sign that the United Nations is giving up on reconstruction.  REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

His bitterness with Egypt is no surprise – the nation had seemed bent on preventing the convoy from reaching the war-torn territory by putting laying down several tedious conditions for their entry.

Many a time the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza tend to be “hijacked” to be an issue on Muslim brotherhood.

During the convoy, Ram was approached by “friendly and curious” youths, also volunteers on the convoy, who tried to convert him to Islam, not being able to fathom what he – a non-white Hindu – was doing there.

“What is happening there is a humanitarian issue - it’s about the right to live.”

While the Islamist political party Hamas may be painted as a demon by western media, people on the street in Gaza do seem to respect them – regardless of whether they are Muslims or Christians.

“They’re militant and aggressive but they’re not corrupt…after years of Fatah’s failure as a governing body, Hamas was a breath of fresh air.”

Also, unlike Malaysia, religion does not seem to be used as a platform for governing the territory.

“Without the bombings and sanctions, they would probably be a secular Muslim state akin to Turkey,” says Ram.

“So when the Israelis and Americans say that the Palestinians are Muslim terrorists, it’s way off the mark because they’re not and you can see this when you go there.”

---


Read this Sunday's Learning Curve and next Saturday's YOU for more reports.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A hero's welcome

Perdana Global Peace Organisation (PGPO) members Juana Jaafar and Ram Karthigasu were given a hero's welcome on their return home.

They landed at Kuala Lumpur International Ariport slightly after 2pm today looking tired but happy to be home.

The pair were given an enthusiastic welcome as they walked out of baggage clearance towards the waiting area at the airport.



For the parents of Juana and Ram the wait is over: their children are safe and that is all that matters.

Relief is written all over Azizah Dahlan's face -- Juana's mum.

Vanaja Ramachandran says the family can rest easy: Ram is home.


 

Juana, 28, and Ram, 29, were part of the International Humanitarian Aid convoy under Viva Palestina, a British-registered charity, to Gaza.

The convoy departed London December 6, 2009 and arrived in Gaza January 6, 2010.

What an accomplishment for these young Malaysian heroes!

There will be stories to tell and books to write.

All that can wait.

They can relax safe in the knowledge that they are at home with their loving families.

Congratulations Ram and Juana!

We are very proud of you!


Thursday, January 07, 2010

No sugar, please



Cut down on our sugar intake.

That is my response to the sugar price hike in Malaysia.

The Malaysian Government raised the price of sugar by 20 sen (US6 cent) per kilogramme beginning January 1, this year.

Endocrinologist and Monash Malaysia academic Professor Dato' Dr Khalid Kadir warns that one in five adults in this country will develop diabetes this year.

Eating less sugar reduces the risk of obesity which is said to be a major factor behind the increase.

Giving up sugar in your diet won't be easy.

Still, there are useful tips on how to do so.

TIPS

CUT DOWN SLOWLY. Forget going cold turkey. Therein lies failure. Instead, if you normally have two candy bars a day, cut to one a day.

Then next week, one every other day.

The following week, one every three days, until you're down to just one a week.

If you normally take two 2 of sugar in your coffee, use the same routine, cutting down to 1 1/2 teaspoons for a week, then 1, then 1/2.

Eventually, get to the point where you're using artificial sweetener if you still need the sweet taste.

The more sugar you eat, the more you'll crave.

So cutting down slowly is the best way to tame a sweet tooth gone wild.

CONTINUE ... 


NOTE: For information on living with diabetes and news updates, visit the Malaysian Diabetes Association website.



Picture by Jehan Mohd.