Saturday, June 27, 2009

MJ: His Music Lives On

In Aug last year, I wrote on his 50th birthday and now....

I do plan to write about Michael Jackson (MJ) again but I never thought I will be writing about his demise, in less than a year.

I caught the news yesterday morning shortly after his death was officially confirmed. It was unbelievable but I had no reason to doubt what I heard over the BBC. I tried to related the energetic MJ on stage to "cardiac arrest". They don't gel.

MJ's music is extraordinary and so is his life story.

His is called the King of Pop not for nothing. MJ was born in 1958, the seventh of the nine Jackson children. At age 6, he joined his brothers in the 'Jackson Five'. By age 8, he was the lead singer in the group. He later went solo and his "Thriller" album in 1982 became the the best-selling album for a long time (until it was overtaken by Eagles' Greatest Hits, 1971-1975, released in the late 90s.) His career was not built solely on his singing talent. In 1983, he thrilled the world with his signature dance move, the 'moon walk'.

His records were sold in the millions and his concerts grossed him hundreds of millions. He was due to begin his "comeback" concert next month in London but now he leaves his fans around the world feeling the loss.

His music is recognised across races, cultures and generations. I have no doubt that MJ is a genius in music and there has been little disagreement to that. However, when it comes to his personal life, his successful music career seems to pale next to the slew of controversial episodes in his rather short life.

Here are some:

Appearance - he went through a series of 'makeover' which drastically changed his look. Not only his facial features were altered, his color too. He was totally refabricated and defaced after three decades.

Health - He was reported to have slept in oxygen chamber so as to slow down his aging process.

Sexual abuse - He was accused of child molestation in 1993 and 2005. Even though he was not found guilty, the incidents tainted his life.

Marriage - He married and divorced twice. Once to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley and the second time, to his nurse.

Children - He fathered two children in his second marriage, Prince and Paris. He later fathered his third child, Prince Michael Jackson II, aka 'Blanket', with an unidentified surrogate mother.

Finance - His foundation supports a whooping 39 charities and has been listed in the Guinness Record for that. On the other hand, his masses of assets seem insufficient to finance his spendthrift lifestyle.

Pet - He had an unusual pet: a chimpanzee named Bubbles.

MJ is just famous for being infamous. It is not difficult to understand how he has earned the nickname "Wacko Jacko".

When he came to Singapore in 1993 as part of the third leg of his 'Dangerous World Tour', I was amidst the 90,000 crowd. I was there on 29 Aug 1993 and together with thousands others, we 'celebrated' his 35th birthday. He was due to perform his second concert on the following day. However, he was reported to have taken ill and the show organiser had to announce the postponement right before a screaming crowd at the National Stadium. The concert resumed a day later on 1 Sep.

Watch this (rather blur) footage taken on that day of his birthday in 1993.

At that time, he was under a lot of stress, being away from his family for a long time and feeling the pressure of the on-going child abuse accusations. He began taking sedatives and later went into drug rehabilitation.

When I wrote on his 50th birthday on 29 Aug 2008 (Every Dog Has Its Day), 15 years after I witnessed this music genius on stage, he was keeping an unusually low profile. He stayed away from the media and behaved rather reclusively.

After a long absence, his much awaited "This Is It" concert was meant to begin from 13 Jul 09 till 6 Mar 2010. Pre-sale began in March 09 and his fans rushed to get the tickets online, causing the pre-sale ticket sites to crash within minutes. It was reported that two million people tried to grab the tickets within 18 hours. I am truly amazed at his never diminished charm.

Life is full of ironies. MJ has to die 18 days before his planned show. With that, all the 50 shows over the next nine months are cancelled. Millions of fans who were expecting his astonishing comeback can only say "this is it" with huge disappointment and sadness.

The news of MJ's's death spread like wild fire over the media, text, email and social networking sites such as Facebook and Tweeter. The spread of the news caused a spike in Internet traffic as millions of worldwide users tried to access and share information. It seems that the news has generated a high volume of tweets, exceeding that during Obama's election.

MJ was born black but died white. I do not know for sure if he has yearned to turn white or his skin condition has indeed lightened his color. In "Black or White", which is one of my favorites of his songs, he sings "I'm not going to spend my life being a color." Is he saying something?

His life is a transformation just like the images in this video. Watch how he is being morphed from a young black MJ to an old white Wacko. The video ends with a question of which only MJ has the answer: "If this is what's happening outside, what's going on inside?"

When he was alive, there was so much criticism about him. I am glad that the media is now observing the rule of decorum and speak mainly good things about him. Let's remember only his contribution to the music world and let him rest in peace. I will leave you to browse through the 10 great MJ moments, put together by 'TIME'.

Well, this is it. R.I.P, MJ.

"If you enter this world knowing you are loved
and you leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in
between can be dealt with."

* Michael Jackson (1958-2009) *

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unlearn Your Fear

Just came back from my routine night swim. Satisfied.

Swimming at night is not out of preference. On a typical weekday, I am usually left with a few hours at the end of the day. I can choose to swim at night or not to swim. It is matter of choice.

Actually, night swim is a fairly recent thing to me for I have been living with an unexplained fear of water at night. Somehow, I got over that. Perhaps, it was because my fear was not too chronic to begin with. However, it is usually not so easy to overcome phobia of any kind.

Yes, phobia, that crippling word.

A phobia, ("fear" in Greek), is an abnormal, persistent fear of situations, objects, activities, or persons. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive, unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject.

There are many types of phobia. Some are understandable and some appear weird. Just like any psychological conditions, the degree of phobia varies and it can be so bad that it affects our quality of life.

It is not difficult to imagine why a person has fear of height (Hypsiphobia), blood (Hematophobia) or ghosts (Phasmophobia). It is perhaps harder to appreciate when it comes to fear of hearing good news (Euphobia) or flowers (Anthophobia).

When you are not suffering from a particular phobia, it can be funny, odd or even annoying to see someone else reacting to his/her phobia. However, if you put your judgment aside, all phobias are the same from the psychological point of view.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 8.7% of people, or about 19.2 million American adults, suffer from one or more specific phobias. It is comforting to know that for I do have mine too. I will come to that shortly.

Apparently, top ten common phobias are listed as:

01. Acrophobia - Fear of Heights
02. Claustrophobia - Fear of Enclosed Spaces
03. Nyctophobia - Fear of the Dark
04. Ophidiophobia - Fear of Snakes
05. Arachnophobia - Fear of Spiders
06. Trypanophobia - Fear of Injection or Medical Needles
07. Astraphobia - Fear of Thunder and Lightning
08. Nosophobia - Fear of Having a Disease
09. Mysophobia AKA Germophobia - Fear of Germs
10. Triskaidekaphobia - Fear of the Number 13

From the medical perspective, phobia is an irrational strong reaction towards certain subject, activity or situation. The affected person knows that the reaction is excessive but has little control over it.

In our lifetime, phobia may develop over time and it may come and go. Most of us cannot say for sure where our phobias come from. Here are some possible theories:

01. Nature & Nurture: It may run in your family (nature/genetic) or come from your environment (nurture).

02. Bad experience: Some people develop phobias after being exposed to traumatic or frightening events. For eg. you can develop fear of water after a near-drowning experience.

03. Warning: Children may receive frightening information or have been told to stay away from objects. This may have been done inadvertently. For eg. a child may develop a phobia for an animal after being warned persistently that it may cause harm.

04. Observation: A child may develop a phobia by observing hysterical adults responding to their fear. For eg. A child who constantly sees a screaming mom at the sight of spiders may develop the same phobia too.

It is probably not so helpful spending energy finding the root cause. What is important is learning how to manage the phobia, if you have one.

Step 1: Be Honest With Yourself

Tell yourself that it is OK to experience anxiety as this is nature's way to prepare you for danger. What is not OK here is that you feel the anxiety even when there is no real danger.

Step 2: Understand Your Phobia

Ask yourself what exactly frightens you. Is it the noise it makes? The way it moves? You need to get this right, otherwise, you may be solving the wrong problem.

Step 3: Be Realistic

Phobias are unrealistic fear, get it? Get the facts right and think rationally. For eg. Some people believe that the chance of a plane crash is high - get the statistics to reassure them. Remember, somehow, we have learnt our irrational fears therefore we can also unlearn them. Read more on 'Realistic Thinking'.

Step 4: Face Your Fears

To face your fears, you would have to be exposed to them. To do so, you gradually and repeatedly expose yourself to the feared object or situation in a safe an controlled way. This step requires courage and determination. Just look at it this way, if you can garner enough mental strength to get this through, you can use the same techniques to overcome other problems in life. Find out how you can face your fears.

Step 5: Learn To Relax

Learn some relaxation techniques. They can help you reduce your anxiety when you are about to face your phobic situation. For eg. you can learn to do Calm Breathing or Muscle Relaxation.

I know some of you are going to say "It's easier said than done." Don't! You have to start telling yourself that you can do it. You need some encouragement and there is no one who can do this better than you.

For me, I would have to work on my Scoliodentosaurophobia, i.e. the fear of lizards.

For some unknown reasons, I would freeze at the sight of a lizard. I know it does not make sense unless you too suffer from Scoliodentosaurophobia. Those house lizards pose no danger at all (has anyone ever died of a house lizard attack before?) but I would feel my vital organs stop working and the time stands still whenever they are around.

Ya, OK, I may be exaggerating but the truth is not very far from that. I look really ridiculous at the presence of a lizard and I do not like that. I believe I can work on my problem. I have to.

At the moment, when a lizard and I are in the same confinement, I would jump. Once I overcome my phobia, I believe it would the lizard's turn (we shall see!)

So, what are your phobias? Astraphobia (lightning)? Felinophobia (cat)? Batrachophobia (frog)? Dentophobia (dentist)? Phasmophobia (ghost)? Coulrophobia (clown)? Whatever it is, your fear can be overcome. You would just have to decide if you want to.

I can go on sharing more on phobia but I do not want you to develop a phobia for reading my blog. Let's look at something lighter to wrap up this 'fear factor' topic.
While I was searching for ways to overcome my phobias, I came across Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. It is a scarily long word and ironically, it means the fear of long words. I had a good LOL moment.

Learn that word to impress or to scare someone!

"Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is."
German Proverb

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Finalist for the Singapore BLOG Award 2009

It was a midnight surprise on 19 Jun.

I checked my mailbox last week and there was this email sent 4 days earlier by OMY. It read:

"Dear Blogger, Congratulations! You are one of the top ten finalists in the Most Insightful Blog category in this year's Singapore Blog Awards! Your blog is shortlisted from over 1500 blogs submitted and will now go through the scoring and voting phase..."

I read it again carefully. I wanted to be sure that it was not a spam mail which usually begins by saying 'Congratulations! You are the lucky winner of blah blah blah and you have won yourself a da-di-da.'

I checked the OMY official website and found my blog listed there. Ahha! So it's real! What I have done to get there I probably will never know. What is more important is that you too agree that I belong there. I hope you would give me your support by casting your votes.

How to vote:

1. Go to the Singapore Blog Awards official website.

2. Log in if you are an OMY member. If not, you need to register (simple steps).

3. If you are only browsing, skip (2).

4. View and Vote for Finalists

5. Pick "Most Insightful Blog" Category

6. Click on "Vanilla" to vote (need to log in at this stage)

7. You can submit as many votes as you like from now till 31 Jul (Max 1 per day)

8. Voters stand to win prizes - Creative Vado (Worth $169) or ST701 Portable External Hard Disk (250GB)

9. Good luck and thanks for voting!

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Angels And Demons

I watched "Angels and Demons" a few days ago.

My original movie-going plan in this season does not include this movie. Honestly, if not for the two free passes, I would not have ended up watching it. Well, since I have, here's what I think of it.

This movie is an adaptation of Dan Brown's novel by the same name. Three years ago, another of his book "The Da Vinci Code" was also adapted into a movie. "Angels and Demons" is seen as a sequel to the earlier movie. However, the book of "Angels and Demons" (2000) was actually published before "Da Vinci" (2003). Now, it is really confusing as to what makes a sequel and what makes a prequel.

The lead character, Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), is the same symbologist in "Da Vinci". Similar to the earlier movie, he is summoned to help crack the mystery behind the murder of a famous physicist.

From the clues left behind at the murder scene, Langdon believes that the crime is related to an ancient secret society known as illuminati, thought to have been long extinct. However, the real scare is the fact that the murderer has taken with him a vial of antimatter which is a newly invented destructive weapon, capable of wiping our the Vatican City and beyond.

From here, Langdon sets out his quest to look for the murderer. He has to get to him before he blasts the Vatican City with the vial of antimatter. The rest of the plots goes on like the movie version of 'Amazing Race' with Langdon racing with the clock moving from clue to clue, place to place.

The movie is fast-paced compared to "Da Vinci". This is where the problem starts. I did not read the novels but as in most print-to-screen adaptation, lots of twists and turns in the book would have been lost in the process of adaptation. This movie tries to cover so much with so little explanation between subplots. The viewers should have been forewarned that they are expected to read the novels beforehand.

In short, I do not think that the novel has been effectively translated to the big screen. (To be fair, I have not read the book and I have no plan to do so).

Tom Hank, a two-time Oscar winner, is an A-list actor and I have always liked his acting. "Splash", "Big" and "Forrest Gump" are just some of my early favorites. In this movie, his continues to charm me, albeit less hair and more mass.

The movie is of an epic scale and I like the scenes even though I know I have not been presented with the authentic ones taken from real sites. This is unlike "Da Vinci", which was partly shot in France having granted permission to film at the Lourve. In "Angels and Demons", the Catholic Church is obviously so upset with Dan Brown's story that Vatican has banned the movie director, Ron Howard, from filming there.

The director had little choice but to 're-enact' the Vatican City in Los Angeles. A scale model was painstakingly built for the movie and I would say that it is hard to tell the real from the fake in the movie.

Other key locations in the story are the churches of Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Vittoria. Similarly, the film makers were denied entry to both locations set in Rome. They have to shoot at some other real but alternative sites.

I can tell that Dan Brown has obviously annoyed some people.

When declaring the ban, a Vatican spokesman had said: "Usually we read the script but in this case it wasn't necessary. Just the name Dan Brown was enough. Angels and Demons peddles a type of fantasy that damages our common religious beliefs, just like The Da Vinci Code did."

Previously, the Catholic Church had also described "The Da Vinci Code" as "a pot pourri of nonsense, a phantasmagorical cocktail of inventions".

Yes, non-fiction can hurt the truth too.

I would not comment on the level of truth carried by Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons". I will leave it to you to decide based on your own subscription of faith, culture and values. However, I have taken note that Tom Hanks admitted his doubt over the facts in "Angels and Demons".

In any case, the facts about religion in the movie are delivered to the viewers in a "fast and loose" manner, hardly making much sense. In this aspect it can be undesirable. There is plenty of room for the viewers to fill in the missing pieces and formulating a wide variety of interpretation of religion and history.

In this movie, I like the contrast made between high tech physics and ancient history. Both are equally capable of raising doubts.

The use of a 'Large Hadron Collider' to make a significant amount of antimatter sounds Greek to most of us. Well, so do the ideas of a 400-year old secret society known as the illuminati and the ancient symbology presented in ambigrams.

I am no physicist but "Large Hadron Collider" is real. Simply put, it is a device meant to smash subatomic particles so as to create a huge amount of energy. What I am not sure is whether sciences in our lifetime are ready to use it to solve our energy problems. However, I have no idea what to say about the illuminati, supposedly the ancient enemy of the Catholic Church.

"Da Vinci" grossed more than US$750 million takings worldwide. So far, "Angels and Demons" is still a distance away from US$500 million. It will be too simplistic to gauge theatrical performance merely based on the $ sign but it does say something.

Interestingly, the Singapore censorship authorities have given "Da Vinci" a 'NC-16' rating with the comment "Mature Content". But in this movie, the rating is "PG" with consumer advice: "Violence".

Let me guess, the 'mature content' here refers to the naked man who died in the position of the Vitruvian Man whilst 'violence' refers to .... the brutal murders and the spectacular explosion in the air?? Seriously, I am not sure which is more 'worthy' of censorship.

Verdict: This fast-paced thriller can be entertaining if you do not think too hard on its plausibility.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

This is a book with an unusual title.

I have noticed "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" sometime back. I have resisted reading it because of two reasons: 1) It is fictional (I prefer non-fiction) and 2) It has an unusual title which in some way, is cheesy.

I finally got my hand on it and I realised that I was the one being cheesy. The book has taught me much.

The author, Robin Sharma, has chosen to share meaningful life tips through a fable. It is about a successful lawyer, Julian Mantle, who initially leads a hectic schedule and is guided by money, power and prestige.

Julian later suffers a heart attack and the near-death experience transforms him. He sells his possession (which includes his Ferrari, of course), goes to India to seek a more meaningful existence and returns a changed man. Julian shares what he has learnt with one of his former associates, John and the fable is told from the perspective of his associate.

In the fable, Julian gives John (and the readers) practical advice on how changing daily habits can help us achieve more.

Broadly, the book covers seven Virtues of Enlightening Learning, which Julian reveals to John one at a time and presented in separate chapters. Each of these 'Virtues' entails a set of concepts and habits to develop.

1. Master your mind
2. Follow your purpose
3. Practice kaizen
4. Live with discipline
5. Respect your time
6. Selflessly serve others
7. Embrace the present

I find the advice from this book both inspiring and confusing.

Some of the concepts are not new to me but I have learnt to appreciate it from a different perspective. I often hear comments that books of this genre often say the same thing but in different ways. There is nothing wrong with that.

When I see the same thing from varying perspective, I learn to smoothen the rough edges that are left behind by previous views. Put it simply, each time I read about the same thing from a different author, I learn different ways to achieve the same thing. Very often, little tips help me achieve something big.

Over time, I have developed some of my habits on my own thinking that they might help me. Seeing that the same thing is being said by different authors gives me the confidence that I am doing the right thing. The power of endorsement is great and it makes me want to do more with such habits.

The advice can be confusing because the author is drawing quite a fine line between each concept. Some of them sound repetitive. It is a 'story book' that I would have to read over and over again to grasp the concepts shared.

For example, under the first virtue "Master Your Mind", five habits can be developed:

Habit 1:
Learn to see the positive in every circumstance. Do not judge events as “good” or “bad”, but experience them, celebrate them and learn from them.

Habit 2:
With the use of a fresh rose, find a quiet place and stare at the heart of the rose. Focus on the petals, folds, texture etc. Free up other thoughts as they come to you. Start with 5 minutes a day and learn to stretch it to 20. This is the way to your oasis of peace.

Habit 3:
Every day, spend 10 minutes to reflect your day, and on how to can improve your next day.

Habit 4:
Opposition thinking: Take every negative thought that comes into your mind and turn it into a positive one. Be conscious of your thoughts. It is easy to have negative thoughts invading your mind but it is also easy to have them replaced with positive ones. Instead of being moody, focus your energy on being cheery.

Habit 5:
Secret of the lake: Your vision can be powerful. Take a few deep breaths and relax and envision your dreams becoming a reality. Picture vivid images of what you want to become and they will become reality.

The above five habits can be a hefty load, especially if they are new to you and we are merely talking about the first virtue. As the book is written in the style of a fable, the habits in each virtue are weaved into the story, rather than being listed clearly. In this aspect, the summary page at the end of each chapter does help a great deal.

Even though the book carries lots of big ideas on how you can change your habits (and therefore your lives), you need not swallow them whole. For me, I find it more practical and manageable to pick and choose some and practise on one or two of the ideas at a time.

My life may not be as out-of-balance as Julian's at this moment but I am not about to wait till it happens. This book teaches me many very useful ideas, some of which so simple that they hurt.

We tend to dismiss a piece of advice which appears commonsensical because we do not believe that something so simple can be so powerful. That is the problem that many of us have. I have since learnt to give due respect to common sense.

While it can be confusing to distill the essence from the story, I could not imagine the book being written like an instruction manual. We cannot prescribe changes to anyone. Unless our understanding is changed, mindless application of any instruction in a book will not do much. When told in a story, the author helped to provide more insights and meaning to the recommended rituals.

I would recommend this book to those of you who are looking for some guidance in your change journey.

Verdict: A book of great wisdom.

See an earlier review of another book by the same author : "Who will cry when you die?"

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happiness: My "Q&A"

"Happy" is a fuzzy and hazy word and yet we use it as if we understand the meaning well.

From a very young age, the word came to me frequently at my childhood birthday parties. We would be prompted to sing 'Happy Birthday" and taught to greet "Happy Birthday". This would go on into adulthood.

We learnt to greet "Happy New Year" at least once a year on the first day of the year. Depending on your cultural background and faith, you may also be greeting "Happy Deepavali", "Happy Easter Day" or "Happy Vesak Day". Though we say "Merry Christmas", I suppose "Merry" is just as "Happy".

Later in life, we went on with it on more occasions: "Happy Anniversary" (of any kind), "Happy Mothers' Day" and "Happy Retirement", as if we have understood the meaning even more.

Let's be honest. Many of us are struggling with the meaning of 'Happiness". At least for me, I do have some questions which I would also attempt to answer. I am sure you would have your own set of Q&A too.

Q: What is "Happiness"?

Just what exactly is the meaning of "Happy" in those greetings?

I did a quick check in the dictionary and it said "delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing." Perhaps that will earn me the deserving full mark in an English test but it does not really say much to me. Each of those words in the definition in turn prompts more questions as to what they actually mean.

Wiki says "Happiness is a state of mind or feeling such as contentment, satisfaction, pleasure, or Joy."

A: Well said but none of the above answers my question.

Q: Who is happier? Man or Woman?

I belong to the womankind and naturally this question means much to me. It is widely believed and accepted that between the gender, women are generally less happy than men. Surprised? I am not.

You do not have to read widely to know that historically, women are expected to walk a step behind men and accept, gracefully or otherwise, the inequality between the genders. Many of us have also personally witnessed the patriarchy-oppressed and apron-wearing days either in our own lives or in those of our parents or grandparents.

It was only until the beginning of the 20th Century that feminist movement started to push for equality.

For decades, waves of movement sought to achieve the 1:1 equality between men and women. Campaigns on domestic violence, maternity leave, access to education, employment opportunity and equal pay were not uncommon. We still see them today.

A: For a long time, women were the less happy ones.


Q: Are women happier now?

I would say that we have not really reached 1:1. In some regions such as the Middle East, Africa and some parts of Asia, the ratio still looks pathetic. But I would say that we have gone a long way to come closer to 1:1.

So, should I expect women to be generally happier than before? Yes, I should but a recent study has suggested otherwise.

We would have all thought that after decades of egalitarian feminism movements, we should be happier. Why not? At least in the developed countries, we have been enjoying (almost) equal opportunities for education and employment. Surely we ought to be happier than before, no?

A new study conducted by Wharton academics Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, finds that the happiness of Western women has been steadily declining. It sets everyone wondering what happens to the goodness that was supposed to be brought along by the fairly long span of feminism movement?

Not only we are less happy than before, we continue to be less happy than men. (According to the study, the men have also become less happy than before but to a lesser extent)

A: That's it, we are not happier now.

Q: Why are women less happy today?

Now we have as many, if not more, girls in the universities. We also have seen women in the top echelon in the political and commercial arena. We are given more and we are achieving more but we are less happy. Why is that so?

One possible explanation: We now expect more from ourselves and we are achieving less than desired. The new found equality has made our lives more complex and more pressurised. Yes, we seem to have achieved more in our education and career. But I guess, we have reached where we are today by trading some of the happiness we once had.


A: May be gender equality is not the way to go, after all? (I know this is a question rather than an answer)

Q: How to be 'Happy'?

This is probably the most important question of all.

I have come to accept that there is no universal definition of this word. It means different things to different people. Here are some examples how some wise people have explained "Happiness"....
"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier."-- Mother Teresa
"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get."-- Dale Carnegie
"In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy."-- Albert Clarke
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."-- The Dalai Lama
"Action may not always be happiness, but there is no happiness without action."-- Sir Benjamin Disraeli
"The summit of happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is."-- Erasmus
Wise words indeed.

Everyone wants to be happy and has the right to be so. We often feel envious or even jealous of others who seem to have the ability to feel great and see the good side of life. We often wonder what is it they have that we don't. We often blame others except ourselves for our failure to find happiness.

If I were to say that happiness is not beyond reach, you may disagree. But it is true.

- Happiness is a choice, your choice.
- Happiness is from within you and no one else can give it to you.
- Happiness is now, not yesterday's good memory nor tomorrow's hope.

The art of happiness is quite simple.

It is a cycle and it may begin with just a simple smile. Each time you smile, some of the depression and negative emotions evaporate. Without you knowing, you would be slightly happier and feeling better.

When you feel better, any hurt and pain become more tolerable and you begin to notice some of the little good things around you: The people who care about you; the garden you have forgotten; the passion you once had and your dog that always loves you no matter what.

These good things put positive experiences in you. They make you think and behave in a positive way and positive thoughts and actions are great seeds for happiness. The longer you keep these positive seeds in you, the richer your positive emotion will grow and the HAPPIER you will become.

It goes in a cycle. You will come a full round feeling better and you will go one more round and one more round and before long, you would be wondering why you would want to move in the opposite direction ever.

A: Give it a try. A simple smile is all you need to start.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Jai Ho" - Part of a Global Language?

I was listening to "Jai Ho" on my way home and some thoughts came to my mind...

In case you are unaware (really??), the song was made famous by the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire". Along with the movie which won the "Best Picture" Award at the 81st Oscar, the song also bagged the "Best Original Song" Award. The song was composed by Indian song composer, A R Rahman and according to him, "Jai Ho" means 'Victory Hooray'.

I like this song right from the first time I heard it in the movie. It was then sung mostly in Hindi, interspersed with some Spanish lyrics, and I had no idea what it was all about. I just loved it with no apparent reasons. Perhaps it was because I heard it at the happy-ending part of the movie or perhaps it was because the well-choreographed mass dancing made the tune so catchy.

Later, the famous pop girl group, Pussycat Dolls did a remix in English with the track name "Jai Ho! (You Are My Destiny)". The song soon climbed up song charts across the world. In Singapore, it was listed in the Radio 91.3 Music Song Chart for several weeks as one of the top 10 hits.

Watch the English version by the Pussycat Dolls. It has been cleverly adapted, keeping the essence of "Bollywoodness" well intact.

After months of being an international sensation, "Jai Ho" has gotten into a rather interesting development. This time, it has nothing to do with music.

According to the Global Language Monitor (GLM), the English Language would cross the one million word threshold on Jun 10 2009 10.22 am, Stratford-Upon-Avon time (roughly 10 Jun 4.30 pm Singapore time). This is based on the firm's analysis that a new English-language word is created in about every 98 minutes.

GLM is a firm which documents, analyzes, and tracks the latest trends in word usage and word choices and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English. It has been tracking English word creation since 2003.

GLM has observed that "There are three major trends involving the English language today:

1. An explosion in word creation where English words are being added to the language at the rate of some 14.7 words a day;

2. a geographic explosion where some 1.53 billion people now speak English around the globe as a primary, auxiliary or business language; and

3. English has become, in fact, the first truly global language.”

GLM had initiated the 'Million Word March' and it tracked the emergence of the one-millionth English word
with the of use statistical techniques. That has attracted much criticism as well positive interest.

Some linguists believe that there is no way to count words since it is hard to really say what the nature of words really is. As such, it is impossible to count what you cannot define.

On the other hand, other linguists and even the media were all excited to find out which word might be the one-millionth English word. GLM has since announced the finalists comprising of 75 words and "Jai Ho" and "Slumdog" are amongst these words.

GLM has just made their announcement in Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon a few hours ago. By now, the world has officially witnessed the 1,000,000th word being entered into the Oxford English Dictionary. Even though A R Rahman explained that "Jai Ho" means in Hindi, its meaning has been given as "It is accomplished" in the Oxford dictionary.

I will let you know THE word in a moment.

I checked the list of potential 1,000,000th word and here are some of the contenders which either puzzle or intrigue me:

Fashion: 'Mobama' – relating to the fashion-sense of the US First Lady, as in ‘that is quite mobamaish’. (Usually, a new sensation tends to create a new word, like Obamania)

Chinglish: 'Chengguan' – Urban management officers, a cross between mayors, sheriff, and city managers. (In Chinese, it is 城管. I fail to see why this qualifies to be a widely used English word.)

Green Living: 'E-vampire' – Appliances and machines on standby-mode, which continually use electrical energy they ‘sleep’. (This does not sound new to me. For that matter, it is as if we can add the prefix 'e' to almost any word nowadays.)

Technology: 'Noob' — From the Gamer Community; a neophyte in playing a particular game; used as a disparaging term. (I have been trying to use this word in Scrabble but it was not accepted until lately.)

'Sexting' – Sending email (or text messages) with sexual content. (May be this word does not mean much to Singapore users as they are more familiar with 'SMS' insteand of 'text'.)

Technology: 'Web 2.0' - The next generation of web products and services, coming soon to a browser near you. (Words are looking more interesting and have now turned numerical !)

All the finalists were analyzed based on a few factors and the word with the highest score would be deemed the 1,000,000th English language word:

1. Depth (number of citations)

2. Breath (geographic extent of word usage)
3. Number of appearances (in electronic media, the Internet, the blogosphere, and social media such as Twitter and YouTube)

The verdict...

'Web 2.0' beats 'Jai Ho', 'Noob' and 'Slumdog'!

'Web 2.0' - 1,000,000th
'Jai Ho' - 999,999th
'Noob' - 999,998th
'Slumdog' -999,997th

Wow! We actually have numerical English words now. It is time to have some shifts in the mindset. OK, I think I can manage that.

Oh, by the way, 'OK' is called "the most recognised English word on the planet".


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