Good Afternoon auntie, one Kopi-Si please.

I refer to the above article ‘Coffee culture brewing in India’ (The Straits Times, Saturday, February 12 2011). Indians have been traditionally tea-drinkers due to British influence but some of that is about to change. Over the past decade, a number of domestic coffee chains have been sprouting all over the country and considering how India has been evolving over the past years, it wouldn’t occur as a surprise that Cultural Imperialism has come in the form of ‘coffee culture’.

 

Cultural Imperialism is said to bring messages of imperialism and ideological propaganda to its recipients, and in this case, it seems like the locals have adopted the familiar American idea of paying for overpriced coffee simply for the ambience and upper-class luxe of a coffeehouse as displayed by the branding image of such media products in many films and shows by the West and in particular, America.

Targeting mainly at the youths of the nation, “coffee café culture is considerably a young phenomenon and our primary audiences are the students and the young, working professionals”, said Mr K Ramakrishnan, president of marketing at Café Coffee Day.

A coffee board official also says that it is “a ‘generation next’ phenomenon. Coffee requires paying capacity and it is the drink of the middle class. This is seen in all the newer economies where consumption is increasing.”


Personally, it comes hardly as a surprise considering how I myself am guilty as charged, along with many other youths I see, who are equally willing to shell out five to seven dollars over a cup of caffeine; some of which have evolved into cups of blended cream and flavouring – all the more an exhorbitant amount to pay for something that has a significantly lower production cost. By coming up with a wider variety of concoctions and membership discounts, they appeal to the masses’ choice.

Apparently, this practise does not only limit to the young but the traditional and older generation as well.

“Drinking coffee is now part of my routine”, said Mr Saurav Chopra, 32, who manages a bakery in Gurgaon, Delhi’s satellite town. The change came after frequent business trips to the United States and coffee chains started sprouting up all across India.

 

Granted that it isn’t India alone but indeed, much of the world has long integrated this idea of convening under a roof just to sip coffee. In the article, it is mentioned that ‘coffee meet-up’ groups of up to 40 to 50 people gather every week to gab about everyday issues where social circles are also expanded.

“Such social networking groups, formed over the Internet, exist in American and European cities also. In India, all the major metropolitan cities have their own coffee meet-ups”


Currently, local coffee houses are soon to be facing competition with the arrival of Starbucks, one of the globe’s widest and highest-profiting coffee chains and it seems like they have no plans on stopping. Set to enter the market in the later part of the year and “wow a youth segment which has one eye firmly on Western brands”. Starbucks, without a doubt, is highly symbolic of the American culture.

Other parts of the world also been impacted with this coffee culture.  In Beijing, China, citizens were outraged at the opening of a Starbucks outlet in the historial Forbidden City itself. Globalisation gone crazy, perhaps?

 

Resonating a clear truth amongst the younger generation these days, coffee culture is but one of the many things that we youths “fall victim” for. Given a choice of a sixty cents cup of plain coffee at the sweltering hawker centre and a six dollar almost identical cup with a comfortable cushiony seat and air-conditioning, which would you pick? Safe to say most of us pampered folks are happy to fork out a generous price all in the name of comfort. Or are we paying simply for the branding? A few other examples would include say, good ol’ MacDonalds.

 

What are some other cultural ‘trends’ that are heavily influenced by the West which have seem to be ingrained into our own local culture and the reasons behind them?

Are the roots of our own culture threatened and our identities questioned when we allow the influx of such ideas into our own?

Le battle

Raise of hands: Who here uses Google as their Number One choice for everything? I certainly do. The internet, as we all have known by now is one of, if not the most powerful source of mass communication and in this case, search engine pioneers such as Yahoo. Along with Google, they are all under institutional sources which comprise of a huge team of individuals that perform specialised functions to craft the seemingly-simple web product which we, invisible receivers with little or no direct contact with the media sources, are using this very instance.

 

Yahoooo-hooo
I refer to the above article titled, “Mouthy CEO lets actions do the talking” (The Sunday Times, February 20, 2011) by Grace Chng. Centred around Yahoo’s relatively new CEO, Ms Carol Bartz is known for “using the F word during media interviews or employee meetings”, gaining notice by many bloggers and web analysts.

According to the article’s statistics, Yahoo is said to be “struggling in the 2000s” and “rival Google’s ascendance in the last decade resulted in Yahoo losing market share and online advertising revenue”. This shows the power of the Limited Effects Theory (LET), originating from the fifties. The LET states that the audiences hold the power in siphoning out competing media messages according to their own needs.

 

 

Think Yahoo is bound for a steady decline? Think again. What Bartz has under her belt is a vast working experience in the field of communication technology which led her to hold top positions in other media giants such as Autodesk. In her interview, she “proved to be a straight-talking executive with a clear focus of what Yahoo is”.

Besides cutting-costs, out-sourcing and striking partnerships with other software giants such as Microsoft, what is the key idea in her plans in reviving Yahoo? By integrating the agenda setting function in her various schemes, of course. With the repeated coverage of the unobtrusive issues, she has one goal in mind – to prime the viewers and bring them back to what Yahoo started out as – a portal to provide news, entertainment and travel content.

 

According to Bartz, “Yahoo’s strength has always been in content and its ability to serve up the appropriate content”. Putting words into action, Yahoo Labs began monitoring its’ users content journeys through its site, gathering the data that allow them to analyse the preferences of their viewers. Surprised? I hope not. After all, who are the ones who set the media agenda? Dictate the content dished out to us hungry netizens who lap up everything we see? The media organisations of course; otherwise also known as the gatekeepers.

“People think digital media is a magical concept. Digital media (in one aspect) is advertising, the art of convincing people to buy your products and services, which is a vice-president of the marketing role,” says Ms Bartz.

 

Here’s the very last question for all of you:

With the in-depth look behind-the-scenes in but one of the many huge online new media bigwigs, what do you think are certain strategies of websites or even other forms of mass media that influence us as viewers?

Or do we as viewers, control the content on the internet?

讲华语!

And for the rest of us – Speak Chinese!


Remember this campaign back in 2006 encouraging all of us to speak Chinese? Posters plastered at bus stops and cheesy TV adverts involving some of our English-speaking(cough) local celebrities… Yeah.

Our country is not alone; with the rise of China being labelled as the next Superpower, people all over the world have been abuzz about learning the native language to fit in, keep up and diversify. Along with the language, people are also embracing the culture and history as well.

I refer to the above article “Tide turning for Chinese in schools” (The Straits Times, Sunday Times, February 20, 2011). Writer Teo Han Wue talks about his trip to Hangzhou last November for the two international conferences on Wu Guanzhong and Lin Fengmian, both distinguished historical art painters of the nineties. Participants hailed from all over the world, socialised and conversed in one language – Mandarin, “readily and easily”.

According to Edward T Hall, “culture dictates where to draw the line separating one thing from another; the line is arbitrary until it is learnt and internalised and become reality”.


In this event, many have gathered under a completely foreign culture to the individual’s own and shared a communal language and culture they were interested in learning more from. Language, history and the arts are vital components of heritage, which in turn is a big part of culture itself.  Take example our own country, where our history is known to be young, yet highly diverse with its multi-racial and multi-lingual society, and the ever increasing number of foreign expatriates. It is the clash and bind of many cultures that come united as one under our nation’s identity, to exist in the same place. Through a common culture displayed at the international conferences, shared values and beliefs provide the context which a society or group’s norms are established.

In lieu of the recent debate on the weightage of the Mother Tongue (MT) language for the PSLE, PM Lee has given the assurance that MT remains “crucial as a foundation of our education system”. However, changes will be made to update the curriculum, teaching and examining in order to adapt to the changing environment. In the international school which Teo used to teach in, he laments on the “bright Chinese kids who reject their own heritage” , with “most of the Chinese who ended up in my class were resentful that their parents had forced them to take the language”.

It did get me wondering – why did so many of us, including myself, detest learning the language so much? Apparently this mindset does not only extend to the Chinese race but as a whole, have we been practising reverse ethnocentrism a little too much – favouring other cultures over our own?

What are some traits you like or dislike about our local culture?

 


Sources:

The Straits Times

http://www.thegovmonitor.com/world_news/asia/mother-tongue-is-foundation-of-singapore-education-system-30729.html

Tua Seh Kai

Having lived in the comforting vicinity my whole life, the uniformed days after school would be spent idly gallivanting with friends along the many familiar rows of shops, eating fast food and catching movies. Watching Great World City (GWC) go through one renovation after another and shops replacing each other, the place holds much fond nostalgia even up till today.

 

It's A Great Great World

Naturally, I was anticipating this movie’s release after hearing all the stories my grandparents and parents told me about the legendary ‘Tua Seh Kai’ of their childhood and adolesence. Without getting too historical, here’s a short synopsis for those who did not manage to catch the film,

It’s A Great Great World” is set in Singapore’s legendary amusement park named Great World, which was also affectionately known in Hokkien as ‘Tua Seh Kai’. Spanning from the 1940s to the present day, the film presents four tales centred on attractions within these once famous walls. This film signifies the stories of a multitude of characters that lived, worked, played, sang danced and even fell in love in Great World.


In a nutshell, the entire movie is based on four tales that revolve around the topic of love and relationships between two characters, be it in pursuit of someone or recalling a past memory.

The second story is about romance between Mei Juan (Joanna Peh) a game stall vendor and Ah Leong (Zhang Zhen Huan) an ointment seller from a Malaysia kampong. The story goes with Mei Juan and Ah Leong clashing into each other frequently, indirectly showing a qualitative approach on both sides where their social-cognitive orientation is based heavily on stimulus discrimination (psychological information) when they notice the stark differences through interaction. Throughout their courtship, their Initiating and Experimenting stages consist of the usual playing hard-to-get and pretentiously mocking each other amidst laced with subtle flirting and witty sarcasm. Especially the feisty moments when Mei Juan tore down Ah Leong’s attempts to be suave are a delight to watch.

The scene Ah Leong dared Mei Juan to take the ghost train ride was one of the main highlights of the show, where Ah Leong’s plan on scaring Mei Juan backfired when he himself screamed in horror with thanks to Mei Juan’s brilliantly hilarious plan. It is shown that they are attracted to each other through the Dissimilarities/Complimentaries component of Relational Formation and Development; where they are attracted by the differences in their opposing characters with their constant banter against each other. Later on, Ah Leong leaves unexpectedly along with the disappearance of his father’s makeshift stall and Mei Juan is seen to be devastated, despite remaining her cool when she feels a certain attraction towards Ah Leong whenever they interacted. However, as cheesy romance stories go, he makes an unexpected comeback a year later and the both are reunited again where they proceed into the Intensifying and Integrating stages of Knapp Model of Relational Development.

The other stories focus on the topic of marriage (Bonding). In the last story where the narrator recounts the time of his wedding, he defies the judgement of physical attractiveness that is influenced by cultural and social norms by marrying his wife who was mute. During this segment was the precise moment when the Japanese started the historic invasion of Singapore with its first bombardment. In order to give this newly-weds a night to remember, the restaurant’s staff decided to stay put and cook up a storm by serving their very best menu at no extra cost, despite the unknown of what was going to happen after the invasion. With coordination and group synergy, they lend support and commitment to each other while balancing task and maintenance roles while working under great pressure. Despite the risk of staying put in the restaurant, the staff agreed collectively to stay calm and united with their guests instead of possibly running amok, causing great distress and confusion to everyone.

Humour wise, this movie is full of local flavour. Director Kelvin Tong’s use of the many dialect jokes would probably strike a chord particularly in the older generation. Worked together with the simple stories that are particular to the amusement park, it evokes some warm and fuzzy feeling, as though you were reliving your memories as well – just like it did for me, despite not having experienced it in the same era.

 

What are some places or things that hold a significant place in your heart and remind you of certain memories of the past where you experienced courtship and romance?

Do you think its always necessary for both parties in the formation of their relationship to play hard to get with each other? What are the crucial factors that build the foundation during the formation of a relationship??


 

Sources:

Golden Village Cinemas

Consensual rape?

As oxymoronic as it may sound, such controversial cases have been on the rise recently – man has’consented’ sex with woman, woman claims rape, man is arrested and both end up in court. We can’t help but to wonder the true cause behind such a fiasco; was it truly a case of overpowered and helpless violation or in this case, some form of miscommunicated consent amidst drunk debauchery?

We have all seen for ourselves how ugly  a seemingly harmless night out at the clubs can turn out and go awry in a matter of seconds; catfights on the dancefloor, drunk men brawling outside the premises and others spread-eagled and unconscious in the remnants of their own vomit even before the night is up. Then there is the occasional case of accused outrage of modesty as seen below.

I refer to the above article on 15 February 2011, The Straits Times, Home, Page B6.

Ong Mingwee, 28 and an unnamed 22 year-old first met at Zouk on the night of the incident where a video footage showed how “the woman put her arms around Ong Mingwee’s shoulders where in the context of a club, nonverbally implies an idosyncratic meaning of seduction. Also with the use of kinesics, Ong claimed “she was dancing sexily, as if seducing him” which clearly meant she asserted body contact in means of luring the accused. Ong even felt “so embarrassed at one stage, as a lot of people were looking at them dancing”. Not only did the woman initiate, she was clearly persistent in her body language and unafraid of the environment and the surrounding patrons who were giving obvious stares. Even going to the extent of the following,

“He said the woman pulled him to the dance floor and that she danced “very sexily” and in a seductive manner. When she asked him to be her boyfriend, he turned her down, he claimed, adding that she also asked him to take her home later”


Getting your freaky fly on? Think again.

 

Seems like someone is no holy nun.


From the plaintiff ‘s physical use of haptics by intentionally touching Ong many times with the portryal of physical intimacy and ‘dirty dancing’, she is propositioning herself by leaving a trail of crumbs and tempting him for more to come.

Intending to send the woman home, he changed his mind by switching the destination to Ong’s residence when they bridged all gaps and kissed in the taxi, what can be said as a situation that was socially agreed upon with physical stimuli. However upon reaching the man’s place, the woman had a sudden change in behaviour and started crying for no reason, citing fear and wanting to go home. Naturally, Ong was shocked and personally, so would I! Putting myself in the man’s perspective, I would be utterly disappointed and puzzled after all the blatant and shameless flirting, only to lead up to this – a complete anti-climax?

Please.

Following with more playing hard to get, the pair eventually commited the act of sex but once again the alledged ‘victim’ is now turning around by attributing the blame on Ong, even claiming that he had “threatened her by saying she could not leave unless she had sex with him”.

Personally speaking, this article has helped to shed light on the often close-minded and predictable nature of the country’s authorities – guy is prosecuted and subjected to instantaneous charges for a sex-related offence while the girl somehow, emerges scot-free? Is there some form of rationale behind this? Or perhaps the piece above was written to slant towards a certain hidden motive, making us form a certain impression behind the characters of this episode… Until the official statements have been announced, we can only fathom.

In conclusion, this entire misadventure got me wondering; could she possibly be under such heavy influence of alcohol to have not grasp consciousness of the situation? Or was she simply bitter in self-regret of a night’s careless misdemeanour?

Sources:

Google Images

 

*** UPDATE: CLICK HERE FOR VERDICT

Guess some of us were wrong in some aspects. Now it leads us to the question – was the article intentionally one-sided, misleading us to form clouded judgement about the two?

Dearest lover,

The lost art of letter-writing, The Straits Times Saturday February 12 2011 Page E8

 

I believe many of us can’t seem to recall when was the last time we received or penned a letter, sealed with an address and affixed with a stamp. The upcoming Valentine’s Day aside along with other celebratory(or obligatory?) ocassions like birthdays and anniversaries which we express ourselves with touch of affection and personalisation by a handwritten letter. This traditional means of communication dates back to several hundred years among the most “ancient of arts” and has been long superseded in this age of technology, mostly limited to the portrayal of romance in the media especially movies. However, there is much in common between written and verbal communication present in our everyday lives.

I refer to the article “The lost art of letter-writing” (12 January 2011, Lifestyle, The Straits Times) as the author residing in Paris starts by describing the simplest and unadulterated pleasure of receiving a hand-written letter from her grandmother in England. From the anticipation of how “the feel of it breaks through time and space” to how she “immediately envisions her”, presumably from their relationship and the medium received. An example of the author’s vivid perception extends from the setting of her grandmother having

“a cup of tea to her right, the radio switched off or turned down, her thoughts flowing through her fingers and onto the page”

Seen through the lasting impression of her grandmother’s individual characteristics with similarity, the author also imagines how her grandmother

“puts on her coat and bonnet and walks to the postbox, just in time for the 4.30pm pick up”

In letter-writing, the roles we play are based on the relationship with the reader and it influences our tone of language and choice of words that not only orally symbolic but drafted as well. Despite the lack of phonemes, other components like syntatics and semantics continue to apply with the wide use of sentence structure and concise meaning all with the exclusion of language-based barriers to avoid potential misinterpretation.

“A good handwritten letter is a creative act and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability”

Concrete and laden with information, our style of writing is also carefully oriented to our recipient for effectivity. Writing, as opposed to say E-Mail, requires a different scale of effort altogether with words being the sole tool for conveying different meanings that shapes the thoughts and the perception of the intended reader upon receiving the letter a bout of time later.

Lastly, the author muses about the current state of communication;

“Messages crafted by hand rather than bits of binary code? Writing that carries emotions rather than emoticons?”

Familiar terminology aside, we ask ourselves if we have given way to modern-day science and allowed it to get the better of us.  Will it ever have the same Impact of Language as “history on paper” ?

 

Time to pull out your best ink and paper.

Mother, or Tyrant?

“Really? I’ll take it!”, I exclaimed on the phone to the sales girl from the fifth bookstore I tried my luck with after having none with the previous four. It remains elusive why I decided on this impulse purchase – perhaps like everyone else who snagged a quick copy upon release earlier this month, I was curious after reading the controversial piece first published online on the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”, as it continues to generate debate and garner comments from public figures and writers – most of whom criticise and rebuke her parenting methodologies. In short, she has made herself an overnight phenomenon as the mother the world loves to hate.

 

What I first noticed on the cover of the book seemed to be a rather ironic disclaimer of sorts,

” This was supposed to be a story about how Chinese parents are better at raising kids, But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures and how I was humbled by a thirteen year old. “

 

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a biographical recount on her superior ways of parenting as a “Chinese mother” ? This term in the book she coins loosely refers to the cultural stereotypes of parents who emphasise heavily on traditional chinese values like academic excellence(and nothing short), distinguishing them from the predominantly laxed and overly-liberal approach of the West.

 

We heave a unified sigh of gratitude how many of us don’t have her as our mother; or anyone in the household for the matter! However with deeper exploration of the text, it got me thinking – What if my very own mother was an exact replica of Amy Chua? Would I still resent the idea of her characterised strict parenting I was raised with, after achieving numerous academic and musical accolades despite having little social development? I think not.

After living more than twenty-one years of my life largely in mediocrity (the number one bane of all Chinese mothers) over every other aspect be it education, sports or music, safe to say I seethe with envy each time I hear of a friend, or anyone in relation attain remarkable standards in a honed skill. Why wasn’t I a piano prodigy or math whiz like the author’s first daughter Sophia? Or was it because I convinced my mother I simply wasn’t musically talented enough  to endure the arduous hours of practising? Absence of interest aside, this resonated a fundamental concept by Chinese parents – nothing is fun until you’re good at it. This requires unrequited sacrifice – preference and choice are clearly not options.

 

Holiday? What holiday??

I look at this entire debate with an implicit pragmatism and find myself mostly agreeing with many valuable doctrines of culture, family and willpower brought to light; America is obese, children around the world are overindulgent with themselves, parents are quick to coddle over the smallest failures and knowledge is the power that brings about economic growth and buying that branded bag you have been eyeing with your own means.

 

The book however, has been highly misinterpreted by the majority as an  adamant and self-righteous claim by an elitist professor mom who claims to know the world. In Chua’s defense, it was meant as a self-parody and humbling experience of how she in turn, was educated by her daughters on the true meaning of parenting. Incidents such as throwing her daughter out in the cold and Chua breaking down in the middle of a restaurant in Italy, appeal with pathos – heartwarming and other times, heart-wrenching. As a reader, one feels a tight sense of self-conflict between sympathy and indifference. Other descriptive accounts, such as Sophia’s debut at the renown Carnegie Hall at age 14, exemplifies the logos in the success of Chua’s manic perfectionist methods and ethos in Chua’s unnervingly persistent and unwavering spirit.

 

So I say Yes to the Amy Chuas of the world, parents who make up for the great lack of others and prioritise the overrated perception of their child’s self-esteem before their performance. Maybe because I wished my own mother had pushed me harder and out of my bubble. Afterall, who desires to remain simply mediocre?

 

33.12 SGD at your friendly neighbourhood bookstore.

References:

The original article can be found here.