Archives for category: Current Events

It did not seem possible that there would be something more mindless than the Gangnam Style popularity which has swept popular culture recently, but here comes the Harlem Shake phenomenon which pervades cyberspace via YouTube primarily.

Initially, I had the impression that it was a direct East vs. West response to Gangnam Style since the first word of the popular phenomenon both referred to geographic location but as I tried to search for the original music video I kept coming across Internet memes with strange masked people shaking their booties in a room of “normal” people going about their business and within a few seconds the strange gyrations of the lone masked person seems to infect the room and everyone starts bobbing about in a manner which resembles a mass epileptic seizure of strange characters and most notably a person in a pink costume and a person who is wiggling around on the floor like a worm, and a person in a gas mask or motorcycle helmet. Versions characters seem to appear in the different video memes.

Now, why is the Harlem Shake so popular and despite its being more mindless and seemingly more pointless than the choreographed Gangnam Style dance craze it seems to be even more viral. I think it works because unlike choreographed danced movies which have to be learned to be involved in a Gangnam style video, no dancing skill level is required to participate in a Harlem Shake video–simply a willingness to leave one’s inhibitions at the door and let loose and have fun and in some instances, a chance to act crazy and enjoy oneself anonymously behind a mask and/or a costume.

It is participative and entertaining because of the humor in seeing a stranged masked person dancing in a costume or doing strange movements seemingly invisible to the rest of the people on the scene who are portrayed initially as doing mundane boring daily activities. It appeals to our unconscious desire to uninhibitedly let lose in a mundane daily routine group setting, which is not usually the case under typical daily scenarios. The contrast pulls our attention and further amuses is when everyone finally gives in and have fun with no differentiation or discrimination of wiggling, gyrating, shaking, or dancing styles. It allows everyone to happily be themselves and yet belong in a group/community. Isn’t this one of the basic human psychological needs? And strangely enough, without meaning to, this popular Internet video meme Harlem Shake addresses and allows it.

That’s why it works.

(c) Niconica 2013

There is much talk about going green and being eco-friendly in the context of recycling and as much as people are aware that it’s ‘good’ to go green, this campaign talks about a more distant future and lacks the immediacy which would appeal to more myopic and self-focused beings such as ourselves.

We complain about the air being polluted and epidemics going around–even if it is as common place as the cold or the flu, yet we continue to dispose of our waste unthinkingly, knowing that the lower echelons of society would be going through the trash bins and exposing themselves to the rotting food and bacteria just to salvage some recyclables (bottles, plastics, paper) which they can sell.

We are inconsiderate of what happens to our rubbish after it has been removed from our premises and we think that it would not affect us in any solid way except for perhaps some flooding which happens every few weeks or months due to the clogged sewers and yet we have become so immune to this that we don’t think of it as our problem or even so, it’s always the responsibility if the city government.

It is precisely this sort of thinking which escalates the problem and it manifests more concretely as disease which we complain about should our loved ones especially our children get sick from contagious viruses even as ubiquitous as the common cold or flu.

If we just took a few minutes to think about it and think back to the people we see around the neighbourhood or the city scouring the rubbish for what items they can sell for a pittance, disregarding the risk to their health… We can further realise that these people wander around quite a bit and do come in contact with many people on the street in many parts of the Metro and whatever bacteria or virus they might have come across can easily be transmitted to the commuters and pedestrians who may happen to be neighbours or relatives with people we come across daily or even just randomly in malls and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how disease spreads and affects us.

Granted, it may not be the Ebola virus but anyone who has had their schedules altered or their body debilitated even for a few days by the common sore throat, flu or cold will agree that it is not a pleasant experience, adding to the fact that it is even more unpleasant to watch our housemates or family catch these common illnesses after we do.

It’s not to say that vitamin C and B-complex will not help boost our immune systems, but when we are more responsible with disposing our rubbish and recyclables, we create less causes for disease to spread. We cannot prevent people from going through the rubbish because poverty is quite rampant here and the few pesos they get from selling the bottles, plastic, or paper might mean the survival of their families.

What we can do is to rinse out used sardine/tuna/canned goods cans, plastic containers, and bottles, let them dry on our dish racks and then place them in a designates big black (or whatever coloured) garbage bag together with empty medicine bottles, boxes, paperbags, paper leaflets, newspapers which can be recycled too and give it to people in the neighbourhood who would benefit from selling them.

It can be as simple as selling the recyclables at the local junk shop, or of we are feeling more altruistic, I’m sure we know people in the neighbourhood who would be willing to take the clean recyclables and sell them.

We need not be insensitive to the others while we help them. It is not considerate to think that they will be selling it so it’s their responsibility to deal with the almost decayed food or unhygienic possibly recyclable garbage after they have been unthinkingly mixed with biodegradables since they would be accessing the rubbish long after the waste items are fresh.

They are fellow human beings too and deserve our consideration, but if this line of reasoning does not appeal to our more self-centered fellow human beings, then the health scare and possible diseases to be communicated should be enough reason for everyone to hygienically recycle and separate their recyclables from the biodegradables.

Properly cleaning, drying, separating, and disposing recyclable materials is in your best self-interest. (Benefitting others by preventing the spread of disease is a good bonus/motivation). Start doing it now–today.

(c) Niconica 2012

Today (August 25, 2010) has been declared as the “National Day of Mourning” for the victims of the August 23 Philippine Bus Siege… While the idea might have good intentions, it almost seems like a token effort and a moot point since the whole tragedy could have been avoided were it not for incomprehensible lapses of judgements which took place during the so-called negotiations.

It wasn’t like some random object (take your pick from the following: a gas bomb, missile, a giant rock, an airplane, a monster truck, or a space ship)  dropped from the sky and killed nine (9) people (8 innocent tourists from Hong Kong and the 1 hostage taker) and injured and most likely permanently traumatized seven (7) other HK tourists, and terrified the six (6) other tourists from Hong Kong who were released during the course of negotiations…

It was not like the incident was an “accident” or a force of nature like an earthquake or tsunami,which could not have been helped, and thus there is nothing than can be done except mourning and grieving the loss, and picking up the pieces.  It was not like a violent terrorist with home made bombs strapped on his body was trying to blow up the bus… but instead it was a disgruntled and troubled dismissed policeman’s desperate albeit imprudent call for help and attention.

Even it no one would be singing praises for Mendoza any time soon, it has to be said he assured the hostages at the onset that they would not be harmed, and was even persuaded during the course of the negotiations to release several hostages.

What is infinitely sad and frustrating about this incident is that… this whole incident was a product of a series of gross human errors.  Among other things that had woefully gone wrong,  the bloodshed could have been circumvented had they not agitated the hostage taker (Rolando Mendoza) by forcibly capturing his brother (Gregorio Mendoza) which appeared to have been the final straw to a state of mind which had already been stretched thin.  Whether the arrest of his brother did or did not have just cause, the timing was questionable since the hostage taker had been following the media coverage on the television in the bus.

It can be said, to say the least, that it was the height of hubris and the depths of poor judgement to provoke a distraught and emotional gunman by agitating or harming his family members.  This display of misplaced “bravado” of the “authorities” by perhaps taking their collective frustrations out on the brother of the hostage taker had an immediate and extremely detrimental effect to the situation, eventually costing many human lives.

These are real human lives, real bullets, and real guns… this is not a war game, a training simulation, or an action movie.  If the concern for the preservation of human lives had been kept at the fore, this would not have been the course of action taken.

Just because the bus driver, who could have or have not been colluding with the hostage taker, was conveniently able to escape with the aid of his trusty and magical nail cutter (nor nail clipper in some accounts), and started yelling that everyone has been killed… it does not mean that he should have been so easily believed by the so-called authorities who seemed to think that it was time to go for broke – arresting the brother and the family members of the gunman, and indiscriminately returning shots fired by an unstable gunman.

Has anyone not learned anything from “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”?  Hope and prudence should not have been so hastily abandoned based on words of a person who could have been under real or false duress… Hope and prudence should have been held for however long it was needed to have peacefully saved lives.

While it would have to be said that it was a fraught situation … with the hostage negotiations dragging on from 10am to the evening hours with heavy rain and considering that the people involved with making key decisions might have been drenched, testy, and even perhaps hungry, and impatient to go home… This sort of hasty display of what might have been collective frustration upon the brother of the gunman who happens to be a key figure in the situation is a huge mistake… and proved to be the catastrophic turning point resulting in what turned out to be a wretched international incident.

What is being focused upon repeatedly is the effect of the incident of tourism in the Philippines… While it is true that this incident might have an adverse effect on the ailing Philippine economy, the timing of this reflection of pragmatic self-absorption is in bad taste… especially when it comes before profuse apologies and deep shame.

A reflection of the severe lack of shame and lack of perception is the presence of the widely circulated photos of the police, SWAT team, and students in uniform with wide smiles having their photos taken in front of the scene of the bloodbath as though it was a tourist attraction… and being humiliatingly unaware that they are cheerfully celebrating or commemorating the scene of a national failure.  It should not need to be pointed out that sobriety, sorrow, and solemnity would have been appropriate at this point.

Human lives are not and should not be mere statistics serving the greater whole.  Each human life matters.  The collective outrage engendered by this botched incident is going to be cumulatively harmful as it sours personal human relations, aggravates ethnic tension, and fuels more misunderstandings, hatred and anger in the world – as if we did not already have enough of that.

As time travel is not an option to undo what has been produced by concerted incompetence, it cannot be said enough that agitating an already distressed person reflects poor decision making and is a very, very bad idea.  Human lives are paramount.

Would it have been too difficult for the gunman to have been given the few minutes of airtime he demanded in exchange for the survival of the innocent hostages?

Would it have been too difficult for his demands of being reinstated as a police officer after committing this crime, which would of course is not a product of a rationality, be tolerated and yielded to for the mean time, so that he would have been able to be talked down from the ledge and prevented from taking other lives together with his own?

Was a display of an aggravating misguided “tough guy” stance in trying to “show the gunman who is boss” by taking his brother and family members a warranted response, given the gravity of the situation?

Was everything humanly possible done to ensure the safety of the innocent lives at stake?

It should have, it could have… but unfortunately, it wasn’t… at the mortal peril of precious human lives.

(c) Niconica 2010