Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gunning for Change [Part 1]

Barack Obama ain't the only one capable of ushering in the winds of change. Anyone can do it! Twenty two year old Molly Katchpole did just that when she made Bank of America remove a US$5 monthly debit card fee it was planning to charge its' customers.


How did she do it? When Katchpole who works two part-time jobs in Washington D.C. heard about the yearly US$60 increase, she turned to Change.org - an online platform that enables people to initiate campaigns for social change.

What she did:
  • Wrote an open letter to Bank of America to withdraw the fee. The letter went viral.
  • Closed her account with Bank of America.
  • Cut up her debit card on camera.
  • Moved her money to a community bank.

After one month and 306,000 signatures later, Katchpole succeeded. Bank of America removed the charge on  November 1. Other top national banks have also scrapped plans for a similar fee.

Katchpole's success is a sign of the times. Can you imagine any other era in which one person could make a huge corporation change their policy in a matter of months (September to November)? Without going to court or the press, but by simply posting an online petition? Well that's the power of social media for you!

We all have grouses about many things, but how many of us would go the extra mile to do something about it? That is what I admire about Katchpole. Ask most people why they don't do something about the things they are unhappy about, and the most likely answer would be - it won't work, waste of time. So they rather rant with friends and accept whatever it is.

I do admit that once upon a time, getting heard was tough. I'm talking from a Malaysian perspective here. If you had a grouse/concern - you had to know the right people........so very third world right? Especially if it was to do with government departments.

As a last resort, people would go to the press. However as a former reporter, let me tell you that even this can get tricky. Big companies and politicians make a point to be friendly with top bosses in the newspaper world.

So if you have a grouse against the 'friend' of a newspaper boss, your story might not see the light of day. However if the said organisation has irritated the top guns in a newspaper or is a rival of one of their 'friends', they will be more than happy to make a splash of the issue. Stinks huh? Trust me, there were times when the stench got too unbearable.

Which is why I absolutely love social media, you don't have to kiss someone's arse to get heard.

More to come on my love for online platforms.......

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Humanitarian is.........


This monkey apparently went to the rescue of a puppy during a pipeline explosion in Nanjing, China. The image was posted on Twitter. However reports have surfaced that the photo above has been circulating on the net since 2006. True or not true, animals have been known to watch out for each other and even nurture a cub from another species.


Recently a neighbour of ours moved out. The sad thing is that he left his two dogs behind. A pair of cross-breed German Shepherd dogs. For a couple of days they wandered about the neighbourhood, a woman who lives a few doors away and my mum would feed them.

Three days after they were left to fend for themselves, people from the Veterinary Services Department came to take them away. We don't live in a dog friendly neighbourhood. The thing is, though the official story is that dogs who are taken away are put to sleep - via injection. The unofficial story is far different.

Most of these dogs who are abandoned and the many strays usually meet quite a grisly end. They are clubbed to death and buried in a pit, sometimes while they are still alive.

When my mother saw the two dogs being taken away - their names are 'Boy' and 'Girl', she decided that she had to do something. So she and my father made several phone calls to find out where they had been taken.

To cut a long story short, my parents were told that they could get the dogs back for a certain amount of money (RM500). So they met the people who had taken Boy and Girl away that morning, paid the cash, got the pair out and sent them to a shelter. They have since been re-homed.

When my mum came home after settling the matter, she told me that she was glad she had gotten both the dogs out, even though she had to go to all that trouble and part with her money. Mum said the place where Boy and Girl had been taken to was terrible - a huge rubbish heap in a very deserted location. She said there was a huge pit there and she shuddered to think what would have happened to both canines if she and dad had not gotten them out.

While they were still in the shelter, mum paid for their monthly upkeep, some family members also chipped in. Well ever since then, we have been called dog lovers. Many people who heard about what happened wondered why my parents went to all that trouble for two dogs and then put it down to the fact that we love dogs.

The thing is we don't fit the bill of being animal lovers, until recently we never had pets. Now there's Lexie of course, our little teddy bear of a canine who will be a year old this month. Mum and dad did what they did because they are humanitarians.

A humanitarian treats both people and animals with respect. Being a humanitarian means treating others the way you would want to be treated.

It means not discriminating against people for whatever economic function they are performing, they are doing their jobs, earning an honest living, respect that. It also means treating your hired help with dignity and respect. Because they are here to do a job, not be your slaves. That era is over.

It is shocking - the way many people out there treat their foreign maids and restaurant workers. The headlines and news stories usually brand these tyrants as animals - are animals cruel?  They only kill for food and to protect themselves, not for perverse pleasure. I hope at some point people writing these stories see the light and stop insulting the animals.

The Charity Fairy......

Being a humanitarian also does not mean doing charity for the good of your soul, kissing orphans at Xmas and such the way politicians do. Reminds me of a certain incident, this woman whose husband was on trial (A very high profile murder trial), you would think that she would be very worried and stressed right? I mean her husband could go to the gallows.......nah but she didn't seem very perturbed by it.

She was more interested in getting publicity for the fact that she and her friends had donated an old television set to an old folks home. So I humoured her by passing the said news item over to my editor. It wasn't enough that her hubby was making the headlines every day, she wanted in on it too.......with her old TV set no less!

My editor being the nice obliging guy that he is, humoured her, it came out as a three paragraph news brief. She wasn't happy, called up the next day wanting to know why the article was so short, why was there no photo of them handing over the TV to the old folks. 

Would you call her a humanitarian? Many people like her think they are you know, bundling up their old rags and faulty appliances to be dumped off at some charity home or another. Never mind whether the said charity needs stuff like that or not.


Then again there are those who will donate their organs to complete strangers, risk their lives to save more lives............some angels have no wings, but big hearts, and sometimes they walk on all fours and have a swishy tale too.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who is the Journo now?

The face of journalism as we know it is changing. News organisations and governments no longer get to decide what we know and what we don't. Who or what brought about this emancipation? Technology in the form of smart gadgets and social media with its unprecedented reach.

In fact we now live in an era where the power of independent journalism is giving established news organisations a run for their money. For one who was a reporter with such a media group, I say this is good news!

I don't know how it is done in other countries. But here in Malaysia, if we are dealing with - The private scandal of a politician from the ruling party, something that makes an opposition politician look good, racially tinged issues and epidemics to quote a few, there is usually a certain amount of filtering that is done before the news reaches the public.

It has been a few years since I left journalism, so I don't know to what extent things have changed. It must have, at least a little. There's more competition now - internet news sites, blogs and the Independent Journalist.........

The Rise of a New Phenomenon

This happened in America, but I think it's a sign of things to come. On Tuesday when police raided  New York's Zucoti Park, members of the media were denied access to the park in the pandemonium that followed. But the public were not denied updates and live coverage on what was happening. How so?

Tim Pool a 25 year old protester from Chicago switched on the camera of his Samsung Galaxy S II and began streaming live from Ustream (A website which provides a platform for lifecasting and live video streaming) to more than 100,000 viewers.

Inspired by his coverage, people brought him  batteries, food and water to support his reporting marathons.
Pool is a part of The Other 99, an independent media group that has been covering the Occupy Wall Street movement for several weeks now. One of the objectives of the group is to provide real time coverage of events on the ground.

The Other 99 has successfully used social networks to gain leverage as the main news source for the movement. Reports, photos and videos are posted everyday on http://www.wearetheother99.com/

Disenchantment

Pool and his compatriots say they aren't satisfied with American mainstream media coverage. Saying such news organisations are corrupted by the corporate world. In his updates, he often tells his audience that he's here to show what is really going on.

People like Pool are a rising phenomena, not just in America but everywhere. The face of journalism as we know it is changing. Imagine the possibilities - real time reporting of conflicts from citizens who are caught up in it. Not polished reports sent in by newswires or publications that are favourable to the countries/parties involved.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aishwarya's Daughter

It was a big day for Bollywood yesterday, or for Bollywood fans at least when the reigning queen of Indian cinema Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was finally delivered of a baby girl. A big day and a big deal because speculation has been rife on when Ash would become a mum since she married Abhishek way back in 2007.

Ash was admitted to the Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai on Monday night. She went into labour at 4am on Wednesday and delivered about  six hours after.
Ever since Ash got pregnant, all sorts of stories appeared in the Indian press with regards to the gender of her yet to be born child. Some said it would be twin girls, others said it would be a boy and had to be a boy because father in-law Amitabh Bachchan required a male heir to continue his family dynasty. There was even one strange story about her visiting a fertility clinic in Bangkok to sort of um.....ensure that the baby would be male.

Well so much for all those stories! The baby is finally here and it is a girl, just one girl, no accompanying sister with whom she would have to share mum and dad's affections with. And her dynasty loving grandpa seems pleased as punch with the new arrival, tweeting about the cuteness of his little granddaughter. So everyone is happy, that's great!

So this must be like the luckiest baby girl ever right? I'm not terribly sure about that. The baby is barely a few days old, not many outside the family circle even know what she looks like yet, and anyway she's just a baby - but comparisons are already being drawn with her famous mother. People are calling her little Miss World and Bollywood's new royal princess.

Now that will be a lot to live up to in the years and decades to come. Imagine living a life where the world has already decided what you should be when you grow-up. What if this little one grows up to look like her dad? Do you think Abhishek's features would transfer prettily on a girl? Or what if she looks like some not so great looking relative of her mum.

Well lets hope that whoever she looks like, or whatever her future talents are, both her parents raise her to be a normal and down to earth lass as can be. As normal as one can be when you hail from one of Bollywood's most famous families and have a tweet loving grandpa like Amitabh who will probably tweet her first words and first baby-steps.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stylish After 50

There is no age limit to being stylish and fashionable. One's fashion sense does not melt away into the sunset after 50. Plus there's absolutely no rule that says a woman in her 60s or 70s who has grandchildren must stop wearing make-up, painting her nails and wearing lovely clothes.

Way too often have I heard the common refrain: " So old already why must dress up, who is going to look at us?" or "Already a grandmother, why want to do all this some more...." Said in typical Malaysian lingo of course!

First of all, I don't get the concept of dressing up for other people. When you look good, you feel good, it is as simple as that. It is not about the number of people who might stop by to lavish you with compliments. It is about making a statement about who you are - someone who believes in looking good by wearing clothes that compliment her. Forget the white streaks in your hair, those faint lines on your face.

Clothes, shoes and accessories don't have a tag on them saying that it's best worn by women 30 plus and below. So I don't quite get it when older women go on and on about avoiding bright colours. Being 50 and above doesn't mean that you have to confine yourself to greys and browns. It's like being older means a woman is automatically obliged to sink into the woodwork.

In an earlier post I spoke about how I love to blogwalk and sniff out interesting blogs. So I turned to my trusted companion Google and surprise, surprise.......I found these VERY interesting style blogs written by and featuring stylish women - all 50 and above.

Ageless Fashionistas

http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com


This blog is written by Patti who doesn't believe in receding gracefully into the style closet. Besides showcasing her own sense of style, this 50-something professional also demystifies what works and what doesn't for mature women.

http://stylesud-est.blogspot.com/


Ariane believes that one can have fun with fashion after 50. And she certainly does! Her love of colours, vintage clothing and styling is reflected in what she wears. See for yourself.........


Ari Seth Cohen the creator of Advanced Style believes that personal style advances with age. He roams the streets of New York looking for fashionable older folk to be featured in his blog. Like this lady for instance.


Whether you be older or younger, hope the stylish folks featured here inspire you to put a little zing in your wardrobe whether you're heading to work, a party or an informal get-together with friends. Have a fab week ahead :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Seksualiti" Will Survive


The other day my mum who was reading news alerts on her mobile asked me, "Hei have you heard about this festival - 'Seksualiti Merdeka'......?" And I was like: "Seksualiti what....??" Then I promptly googled it and oh then I knew! My first reaction? I was mighty impressed that we actually have such a festival here and wondered how come I never knew about it before this. I'm sure a lot of you out there are hearing about Seksualiti Merdeka for the first time too.

But imagine this guys, if the powers that be didn't go all frothy at the mouth and decide to ban it, would the majority of us even know about this annual sexuality rights festival that has been around since 2008? Now not only city folks know all about Seksualiti Merdeka, even those in Baling......where is that again? Are up in arms about this event which they fear will encourage more gayness in society......well people will always delude themselves silly if they want to.

So what's gonna happen now? Marina is threatening to sue, Ambiga says Malaysians have no shame, like we ever did! Anwar mulled it over and decided not to lend his support (can we blame him?), the NGO heads are busy having their statements recorded (we put too much trust in police statements in this country) and giving press conferences to the press whose duty is to lap up everything and report everything. The supporters will get more ardent and the haters will get more hateful. God only knows which animal's head or body part they will decide to kick around this time. Naturally not the "haram" one coz it's too "haram" right?

The Verdict?

Remember Bersih 2.0?? despite all the opposition it went ahead and got the message across. And a few months later the unthinkable happened.........we are staring at the prospect of an ISA-less Malaysia. Well Seksualiti Merdeka might face more of a challenge than Bersih coz as much as we love freedom, we can't stand it when people are different and actually have the nerve to flaunt their difference. But love them or hate them - Seksualiti Merdeka is here to stay. You can ban their events, but you can't stop them from spreading the message of Education not Recruitment! Why? Because there's this platform called social media that has even brought down governments......remember Egypt?

Seksualiti Merdeka is on the net. Check out their blog and mayhaps you will be more informed and less threatened?

http://www.seksualitimerdeka.org/


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tweet for Change

Do you know that many individuals in the Twitter universe have brought about great change by the power of a single tweet? Considering that a tweet cannot exceed 140 characters, that's pretty awesome stuff!

To highlight the stories of these folks and to inspire others to do the same, Twitter on Tuesday (November 1) launched Twitter Stories - A site for Twitter users to share their experiences of how their one tweet brought about meaningful change.

Each month Twitter will share a new collection of stories. Here's a snapshot of a few stories from the first series:

stories.twitter.com


A Life Saved
One man tweeted - "Sh*t I need a kidney". In just a few days, 19 people responded and a match was eventually found.

The Power of Marketing
 How Japanese fishermen use Twitter to sell their catch even before returning to shore.

Public Transportation Woes
Frustrated about the lack of information on trains, Ravi Pina created a system for commuters to get alerts through Twitter. The account has 400 contributors and 7000 followers. Shall we also create one for the erratic Malaysian public bus service?

Death at his Door
As armed men entered his home during the height of the revolution, a Tunisian man's desperate tweet for help saved his life.

The Tweeting Judge
A Kenyan judge becomes the first African chief justice to encourage communication between the people and the courts. I'm having visions of Malaysian judges tweeting, somehow I don't think that's gonna be so cool.

It's Tweetwalk now!
Burberry tweeted all their looks for London Fashion Week before the models even hit the runaway. They put the public before the snooty fashion crowd. Wow!

Bersih?


During the Bersih rally, participants used Twitter to great effect as they kept up a steady stream of updates on what was happening in the locked down city. A potential candidate for Twitter Stories? Or perhaps such a story has already been submitted.

Join the movement

Though it's barely a few days old, the account @Twitterstories already has 160,000 followers and the stories have not stopped pouring in. Lets have some Malaysian stories in there with the rest of the world, send your awe inspiring tales by mentioning @twitterstories or by using the hashtag #twitterstories. Include links to photos or videos that will help tell your story.

All the best with those tweets! Have an awesome weekend everyone =)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Halloween Bumper Issue

Howdy folks! Hope everyone has sufficiently recovered from their Halloween revelry. Last week I began a series of posts on Halloween. It was kind of a Gripevine Bumper Issue on all things associated with this "Dark Festival". For those of you who didn't manage to catch my postings as they appeared, here are the links to it  - all in one post for your belated reading pleasure :)

Halloween Fashion!!
http://jothijeyasingam.blogspot.com/2011/10/halloween-cover-looks.html



Claws or Nails?
http://jothijeyasingam.blogspot.com/2011/10/get-evil-with-those-nails.html



Halloween Recipes
http://jothijeyasingam.blogspot.com/2011/10/yummy-halloween-food.html



When it gets spooky..............
http://jothijeyasingam.blogspot.com/2011/10/witching-hour.html



The Origins of Halloween
http://jothijeyasingam.blogspot.com/2011/10/halloween-post.html


Monday, October 31, 2011

The Halloween Post.....!!



A long time ago, before Christianity, before Christmas, the western world was as pagan as could be. They had hundreds of gods, who sometimes had to be appeased with blood sacrifices no less. Their religion was Druidism, and it held particular sway among the Celts - the people of Ireland, Britain and northern Europe.


Though the gods of the Celts have been ignored for centuries now, one particular tradition survived the coming of Christianity and is today one of the most celebrated festivals in Europe and America after Xmas. We call it Halloween and associate it with fun and partying. But in those days, it was a solemn affair honouring the dead.


The Celts called it Samhain ( pronounced as Sahween) on October 31 which marked the end of Summer and the beginning of winter on November 1. They believed that during this time, the division between our world and the realm of spirits lie open - enabling the souls of the dead and other supernatural beings to walk the earth.


Besides the souls of their departed relatives, other more scarier creatures were also free to roam about on the night of Samhain. So people decided that dressing up as a witch, vampire or some demonic being or other, would enable them to blend in. Strange huh? Here in the east, dressing up as a Pontianak (female vampire) for instance, would be seen as an invitation instead........


Trick-or-Treat?




People would place plates of delicious food or treats on their doorsteps to appease the hunger of wandering spirits and placate them, so they would not cause any harm to them or their property. Kinda like the Hungry Ghost Festival no?


The Jack O' Lantern


My plastic pumpkin from Watsons. Gripevine pic.
No Halloween celebration is complete without Jack's devilish grin right? This lantern is the ancient symbol of a damned soul. It was originally carved out of turnips or beets. However when the Irish started migrating to America, they found scarce turnips to carve into Jack O' Lanterns. But there were plenty of pumpkins to be found. The rest is history of course.


This post marks the end of my series of articles on all things Halloween. To those who took time out to read my ramblings, Thank you!! Happy Halloween 2011 folks, hope the night to come is memorable, even if the 'Strange' folk don't pay you a visit..........

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Witching Hour


When I was a kid, I assumed witching hour means the time when witches left their homes and zoomed about on their broomsticks. The other day I decided to do a little Googling to find out what the term really meant, and it appears I was about half right. Coz witches are not the only ones who come out during that potent time of the night.

Popular belief has it that ghosts, demons, and other strange otherworldly creatures also make their appearance after the clock strikes 12 midnight, which officially signifies the start of witching hour. Many people believe that black magic is at its' most powerful during this time.


If you have watched many spooky movies like me, I'm sure you'll remember that the demons, zombies, and other creatures of the dark usually make their appearance around this hour to plague their victims. So it is kinda generally accepted that bad things usually happen during this time.


In The Exorcism of Emily Rose however, the term witching hour can also mean the time from midnight to 3am. In the movie, 3am is said to be the Devil's hour as opposed to 3pm when Jesus was supposed to have been crucified. Then there are those who say that witching hour is from 3am to 4am.


My View..........


To me witching hour is the time between the end of one day and the start of another. A time with great potency for magical things to happen and magical creatures to appear. Not necessarily bad ones'.


From what I know and have heard from others, people are more likely to see the spirits of their departed relatives during this time, experience ghostly disturbances, or see some very, very, strange things...........


My mum used to work in this multinational company in Pasir Gudang, Johor. Once one of the driver's there told her that while he was driving on the Pasir Gudang highway at about 4am, on his way to pick up a boss who had to be sent to the airport, he saw a white tiger cross the road and make its way up a hill. There's a small temple dedicated to Goddess Shakti atop that hill.


For those of you non-Hindus, the tiger and sometimes a lion is depicted as the vehicle of the Goddess in popular iconography. I doubt the white tiger intended to show itself to the driver, I just think that sometimes during witching hour, we glimpse things, things that are not visible under the harsh light of day...................


Have any of you had strange experiences during witching hour? Or perhaps you've heard a creepy tale or two from friends. If you do, please share them with me!! I love ghost stories, and there's nothing like a spine tingling or goose-bump inducing story to brighten up this coming Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yummy Halloween Food

If you're gonna throw a party this All Hallow's Eve, my suggestion is to go all out! Let there be eyeballs floating in your punch bowl, a generous drizzle of blood atop your caramel pudding, rotting fingers protruding  from your chicken pie........get the picture? Well here's a couple of stomach churning images to get you started.










These blogs and websites show you how to dish up a feast worthy of the undead!








Friday, October 28, 2011

Get Evil With Those Nails....!!

Whether you're a witch, werewolf or some nocturnal creature or another, your prey will not be convinced that you mean business until they see your nails. Yes folks, it's those claws and talons of yours that will serve to strike terror into the hearts of your victims! Here are some pretty ghoulish looks worth considering this Halloween season.










Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Cover Looks

Hollywood movies provide oodles of style inspiration when it comes to choosing a costume for Halloween. Especially the movies of Tim Burton. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Alice in Wonderland in particular have done much to inspire the fashion world.

Here are several fashionable takes from these two movies which can serve as style ideas for this coming Halloween!

The Demon with the white streak................



Gothic Helena



What Fashion made of it............




Alice in Fashion






Depp goes Mad









Red & White........the Queens