Sunday, January 31, 2010

Awesome Asian Ads: Philippines

Also you can see some awesome Malaysian ads here and here.

Awesome Indonesian ads here and here.

Awesome Korean ads here and here.

Awesome Japanese ads here, here, here and here.

Awesome Indian ads here and here, and awesome Chinese ads here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How the media manufactures a racist "controversy"

(Alternative title: How the Herald-Sun is really f***ing sinister)

Ever wonder why some Muslims seem to feel like they are being unfairly persecuted in the media? Consider this...

I wrote earlier in the week about the halal certification of Vegemite, and how there had been an intense negative reaction to it. A few days later and the reaction seems to be getting more intense, at least on the internet. There is already a "Take the halal stamp off Vegemite" group up on Facebook, and there are anti-Muslim mutterings and rantings all over the discussion forums about the whole business.

But I also noticed that no other newspaper in the country ran the story, outside the News Limited media. And it dawned on me. The Herald-Sun was not reporting a controversy. The Herald-Sun was taking it upon itself to create one.

This is how it's done. Take something that should not be controversial. Then go find a reactionary buffoon who disagrees with it. Then report that disagreement as representative of "what people in the community are saying", and you have a story.

Check out this sentence:

The label on Australia's most famous spread has changed in recent months to include halal certification in a move some have described as "ridiculous" political correctness.

Some? In other words, one person, Bill Muehlenberg, secretary of the Family Council of Victoria. Now, you might think that the Family Council of Victoria sounds like an important organisation that represents families, but as far as I understand it, it's no more than a handful of people. Their primary role is to release statements to the media, or to give a conservative viewpoint to reporters who don't want to do proper journalism.

So in need of a story, Herald-Sun reporter Wendy Hargreaves dutifully goes to Mr Muehlenberg, and he dutifully complains about Australia bending over backwards for minority groups, and how Islamisation is threatening our once-great nation.

Then release the story, and sit back and watch the mayhem ensue. Here are the results of the phone-in poll related to the issue:

Should vegemite carry the halal stamp?

Yes 21.84% (387 votes)
No 78.16% (1385 votes)
Total votes: 1772

And here are some of the reactions to the story:

Christine Marin Posted at 3:03 PM January 24, 2010
Definately no to Islamic labelling on Vegemite. If we went to their country would they put an Australian label on one of their products, I think NO.
Comment 13 of 47

doug molloy Posted at 4:24 PM January 24, 2010
well i hope simon talbot has a secure job at kraft,because he has just lost my support and my familys support with his veiws on halal certification. this certification also appears on cadbury chocolate and bega cheese which we no longer buy. AUSTRALIA is heading down the wrong path for our younger generationComment 16 of 47

Geoffrey Robert Wilson of Shepparton Posted at 4:05 PM January 25, 2010
Reverse the situation,bet your bottom dollar this woudn't be allowed in Islamic countries !!!
Comment 36 of 47

S. Grange Posted at 10:18 AM January 26, 2010
This is a christian country, I see no reason to have this symbol attached to any product in Aust, if they want a product such as this, import their own. These muslim countries do not assimilate to our christian values why do we cater to theirs. As this has raised my attention I will also look at other products I will select from the supermarkets ""products"" that "do not" have this marking in future including vegemite to purchase if thats the case .
Comment 46 of 47

Yes, those people are stupid, but they are only ignorant; they don't understand the situation, their xenophobia kicks in and they say stupid things. Don't blame them for being f***ing donkeys. Blame the Herald-Sun.

Why? Because of the misleading way the story was reported. Here's the first 2 sentences:

Vegemite has gone halal in a bid by food giant Kraft to make the national "treasure" available to Muslim Australians. The label on Australia's most famous spread has changed in recent months to include halal certification.

The second sentence is the true statement; Kraft have changed the label slightly.

The first sentence contains the misleading words. How has Vegemite "gone halal?" That would imply that Kraft have changed Vegemite to suit Muslim Australians.

This is untrue. They have NOT changed the product. They have changed the LABEL.

(Halal means permissible for Muslim consumption. Vegemite was always halal, but it was not labelled as such. The change in label clears up confusion for Muslims who might be unsure about it.)

Now, if Kraft were changing the recipe and taste to suit Muslims, perhaps that might be a story. But they are not changing either, which is surely the most important detail.

The media in a free society has several important responsibilities. Such as reporting accurately and fairly. Inciting fear and hatred of minorities is not one of them.

You may also like:

Addressing the myths and misconceptions about anti-Indian violence in Australia

Asian-fearing Herald-Sun readers of the week

Was Islamophobia a factor in the wrongful conviction of Farah Jama?

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Pulp Fiction" in Italian, German, Turkish, Spanish and French

Samuel L Jackson furiously reciting Ezekiel 25:17 in French before shooting some poor dude = totally badass.

Samuel threatening the guy in Italian = odd but really awesome.

Samuel threatening the guy in Turkish and Spanish = surreal.

Samuel threatening the guy in German = the stuff of nightmares. Freakin' scary as sh*t.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

From around the interwebs...

Here are a few things I've come across during the week that I think you should read...

For and against the face-veil
Articles by two British Muslims on why one opposes and one supports (and wears) the niqab. I've got my own views on it; see here if you are interested (although you may not agree).

A blight on us for a perfectly fruity fetish
Want to see an example of what's wrong with unbridled capitalism? How about this: In Australia, around 25% of all perfectly edible fruit and vegetables do not make it to shop shelves, because they don't look perfect enough. So a banana that is slightly too curvy or not the right length will end up as landfill instead. Meanwhile, next door to us, East Timor is the poorest nation in Asia, where malnutrition is rife. It's an indictment both on our system and on our fussy attitudes towards what we buy.

Don't feed poor people, they might breed
South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer criticised the government's program of free school lunches in poor schools, likening it to feeding stray animals. The Colbert Report ridicules him here, and he totally deserves it.

A League of Their Own?
Jeff Yang discusses the proposed All-American Basketball League, which will be for white Americans only. But he also covers the sticky topic of rooting for one's own kind, parallelling it with the way the Asian-American community gets excited about seeing Asian faces in the NBA and NCAA. My previous post on the AABA is here.

The Last Airbender film and how to talk about it
If you've not heard about it, The Last Airbender is the upcoming film based on a popular animated series set in an Asian-styled fantasy world full of Asian characters and culture. Except the film uses real actors, who are all white. Except the baddies of course, who are all brown. Unsurprisingly, lots of people are unhappy about this. Racebending gives a basic rundown in video form.


I noticed one of these statues outside someone's front door the other day. A friendly creature with a rotund belly and oddly large testicles, wearing a straw hat and holding a jar of sake. I'm told that these are very common in Japan outside traditional-style restaurants.

By coincidence, while wasting my days away on Youtube as I often do, I came across the following Japanese ad which I found very funny, weird and fascinating.

(In case its not incredibly obvious, it's for a construction company's new apartments.)

Now, I can't explain why the dancing bear, rabbit, deer and wolf all suddenly acquire big breasts halfway through that ad. But the animal that appears toward the end of the ad, with gigantic swinging testicles, is the same one depicted in the statue.

Now I'm a curious fellow by nature, so I had to find out what this was all about.

The animal in question is a raccoon dog, or tanuki in Japanese.

If the name tanuki sounds vaguely familiar to you, it may be from a reference to the game Super Mario Bros. In the game, Mario is able to acquire a "tanuki suit" which bestows upon him special powers. The tanuki is also the main character in a classic early Japanese arcade game called Ponpoko, which you can play here if you wish. They are also the subject of a 1994 anime called Pompoko.

So what is it? Despite its very raccoon-like face, it is a member of the dog family native to East Asia. Although its numbers are dwindling due to fur trapping, it was introduced into Eastern Europe due to desire for its fur, and from where it has spread and multiplied. It is unusual among dogs for having curved claws that enable it to climb trees, and it is the only dog species known to hibernate during the winter. A secretive animal, it prefers to hide, scream or play dead to avoid predators.

But the tanuki also has a special and quite odd place within Japanese traditional folklore.

Like the fox, the tanuki of folklore is a something of a trickster, a master of shape-shifting and disguise, but also a jovial, womanising character. Fond of a drink, it is seen as being absent-minded in nature.

The balls? Well, in real life, raccoon dogs do have inordinately large testicles. It's apparently related to the ratio of males to females and the need to mate frequently when the season arrives. In Japanese folklore however, the testes and scrotum of the raccoon dog take on all kinds of mystical powers. In one sense they represent prosperity, while they are also used by the mythical tanuki as drums; the aforementioned term "pompoko" is an onomatopaeic word describing the sound of a tanuki drumming away on its nuts.

But the list of things the tanuki of myth can do with its scrotum goes beyond merely drumming. Old artworks depict tanuki, often assuming a part-man, part-animal form, using their massively enlarged scrotums for all kinds of purposes: slung over its shoulder as a kind of backpack, or outstretched as an umbrella to protect against rain. You can check out some pretty crazy illustrations of tanuki doing things with their scrotums here.

Below is the trailer for the film Pom Poko, about a tribe of magical tanuki whose forest home is threatened by encroaching development.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More Indians assaulted in Melbourne and Brisbane

Another weekend brings another round of violent incidents.

Firstly, 9 young men were arrested yesterday after two Indian men were attacked in Melbourne's CBD on Monday night. 5 of them, aged 19 and 20, were charged with affray, assault and intentionally causing injury. The remaining 4 may yet face charges.

The Indians described being racially abused by the group at 10:20pm on the corner of Latrobe and Swanston Streets, then being pushed to the ground and punched and kicked. One of the victims had microsurgery on an abrasion suspected of being from a bladed weapon.

The charged men have been described by police as Asian and Caucasian, from the suburbs of Carlton, Abbotsford, Warrandyte and Northcote and Donvale. The were bailed to appear in court on April 5th.

Meanwhile in Brisbane on Thursday night, a 25-year-old Indian man was assaulted and robbed while using a phone box in Macgregor. Two youths aged 15 and 20 are facing court in relation to the attack.

On the same night, taxi driver and student Sandeep Goyal (pictured), aged 20, was attacked by brothers Brett Anthony Gill, 28, and Joshua Philip Colin Gill, 25, apparently following an argument over the $6 fare. The two men have been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm while armed, with wilful damage and attempted stealing in company.

Acting police commissioner Kathy Rynders says there is no suggestion race was a factor in either incident. Which may well be true, but some would suggest that such a response is all too predictable from the police. But representatives of Brisbane's Indian community fear that they may be copycat incidents inspired by the violence in Sydney and Melbourne.

That raises an interesting question, which certainly occurred to me when I heard about the bashing in Melbourne. Has publicity about anti-Indian violence made it into some kind of trend? I'm not saying it has (not knowing all the facts in any of the incidents), but you have to wonder. Consider also the way that some elements in the media seem keen to portray Indians (here and abroad) as paranoid crybabies. Add to that the early police statements which gained wide currency about Indians being easy targets because they were passive and carried around iPods and laptops. It is possible that there is a second wave of these attacks which have been strongly influenced by media coverage. Which is a real worry.

I'm not sure if it's giving the police too much credit, but this might be the reason they seem to want to play down any racial element in the attacks. It is certainly worth considering if the media has to change its approach to covering these crimes. Although articles like Alan Howe's (which I wrote about here) which seek to paint Indians as hypocritical whingers, would be the first thing to change.

For more information about attacks on Indians in Australia, try in my archives here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vegemite is now certified as halal. Apparently, this is the end of civilisation as we know it.

In case you're reading this and you're not from Australia, let me briefly fill you in. Vegemite is this weird black salty substance for spreading on bread. Much like Marmite. And it's an Australian icon. Personally, I don't really care for it (a little too salty), but that's another story.

The Herald-Sun reported this over the weekend (making sure to use a suitably sh*t-stirring title):


Vegemite has gone halal in a bid by food giant Kraft to make the national "treasure" available to Muslim Australians. The label on Australia's most famous spread has changed in recent months to include halal certification in a move some have described as "ridiculous" political correctness.
"Islamic communities are proud Australians and they want to be able to eat our national icon as well," Kraft spokesman Simon Talbot said. "We don't own Vegemite. The people of Australia own Vegemite. We're just the custodians and we want to make sure Vegemite is available for everyone."

Muslim leaders have congratulated Kraft for introducing the labels, but Family Council of Victoria secretary Bill Muehlenberg questioned the company's motives.

"This is a private company trying to make money," Mr Muehlenberg said. "I don't think they care a rip about offending the tastebuds of Muslims. "Why do we have to keep bending over backwards to please minority groups? There are only 300,000 Muslims in Australia out of 22 million people, which is a very small percentage. Of course, there's a case for making allowances for different cultures, but aren't we getting a bit carried away with political correctness here? It's ridiculous."

Mr Muehlenberg feared the halal labelling was also a sign of "Islamisation" of western countries. "We're already seeing sharia law courts operating in Britain," he said. "Where does it end?"

Since the labels were changed in August, Kraft's head office has received regular phone calls from people complaining about the halal labelling on Vegemite.

"People have called us with some fairly strong views about Australian society and culture," Mr Talbot said. "These are views that we at Kraft don't agree with. We don't engage in racist or bigoted commentary. But for every call we receive asking about it, there is a call to say how proud they are to see it's halal. We are also proud of our kosher, halal and vegetarian products."

Vegemite has been certified kosher for more than a decade. When Kraft decided to scrap kosher Vegemite production in 2004, the backlash from Jewish consumers forced the company to do a backflip.

Yasser Soliman, Islamic Council of Victoria past-president and executive director of Diversity Connect International, said the halal certification on Vegemite was a sign Muslims were "becoming more Aussie".
Now, as far as I understand it (and I may be wrong here), this should really be a non-story. Vegemite has not been changed. Vegemite has always been halal. (It is made from brewers yeast, a by-product of beer-making, but since it contains no alcohol it is fine for Muslims to consume.) All that has happened is that it now carries a small symbol that certifies it as halal, which I'm thinking is to clear up any confusion that Muslims may have had, given its association with brewing.

But clearly, this tiny symbol on the jar is causing almighty wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst some "true blue Aussies". Bill Muehlenberg, quoted above, is just a dial-an-outraged-quote guy who doesn't actually represent anyone, but the newpapers always ask him his opinion on things in order to create a story. But he's certainly not the only one to think that way.

Type "halal vegemite" into Google and you'll find all kinds of things, including an online petition to remove the halal certification. It's quite laughable, they are asking the Federal Parliament to force Kraft to remove the symbol from the label. Here are some of the comments left at the site:

* "This is un-Australian!!"

* "I find this disgusting, Kraft you've betrayed the Australian people !"


* "Make it Halal so the 300,000 muslims can eat Vegemite... I will be one of the many Australians who will not support this and will stop buying/eating Vegemite until my great country stops bending over backwards for minority groups. WHAT ABOUT THE AUSTRALIANS!"

* "Take it of the vegemite, ban the meat, ban imported shit or tax it heavily, and boycott all multi nationals that use chineese indian or other non white labour"

* "Stop any further Muslim immigration into Australia!"

* "Does anyone else of any particualr religion get this kind ass licking? Truely sickening, I'll never buy any food product that has that sign of conquest stamped on it. In future perhaps we could elect a government that actually is a democracy and not a neo nazi facist left winged one Hell bent on committing genocide against its own race of people! What a bunch of psycopaths the white far left are!"
Wow. I'm not sure how someone made the connection between Vegemite and genocide against the Australian people, or between Vegemite and boycotting non-white labour, but they did.

The guy who seems to have started the petition, Dan Tyson, has this to say over at the Atheist Foundation of Australia's Facebook page:

"I wish I could boycott the newly labelled Halal Vegemite but I live on the stuff! All Vegemite is Halal, it's not like you can get non-Halal Vegemite anywhere, it's the dhimmitude of Kraft caving in to Muslim pressure that is the issue here. We have to stop Islamification of Australia by stealth. Please, if you're Aust...ralian and object to our hard fought for freedoms being eroded and our unique culture being invaded by incompatible, oppressive, mysoginistic and tyrannical belief systems, sign the petition."

Then there are these posts over at this forum:

* "How many of you realise that your Cadbury Chocolates also have the Halil symbol on them?? I had that information some months ago and immediately checked. The symbol is hard to see and is just above the barcode. This country is becoming a joke and we are all just being taken for a ride down a dangerous road. What is happening to Australia is not in the best interests of our descendants. It is time we all revolted."

* "I too get VERY upset at all this! Again it seems that MINORITIES rule Australia. What about the silent MAJORITY? It is REVERSE RACISM against Australians."

* "I demand Catholic certified potato chips and Presbyterian bread be labelled accordingly! Cerified Baptist cheese and Adventist donuts. Where would it end?"

Now I realise that there are a lot of people out there who are scared of Muslims. And in the global climate we are currently in, confronted by a culture they are not familiar with and hear all kinds of things about, I can understand that without condoning it. Human nature says that certain things are going have some people a little on edge.

But this? This is the most ridiculously inconsequential thing for anyone to get riled up about. The halal-certification label is basically equivalent to writing "This product may contain traces of nuts" for the benefit of folks with nut allergies or "This product is suitable for vegetarians." (Granted, I haven't heard of any acts of terrorism in the name of peanut intolerance, but you get my point.) It does not change what is in the jar itself, and I'm assuming would be barely noticeable amongst everything else on the label.

In any case, call me un-Australian, but I still think it's too salty.

The above illustration appeared in The Age in 2006, relating to a completely different issue, but it has a strange relevance today.

See also: Addressing the myths and misconceptions about anti-Indian violence in Australia

Asian-fearing Herald-Sun readers of the week
UPDATE (30th Jan): In a later post, I discuss the Herald-Sun's role in generating this controversy, and how the reporting seems geared towards a xenophobic reaction.

Happy Invasion Day!

It's Australia Day today! Which means we all have a holiday, and I'm spending the day at a friend's barbecue. While they all eat lamb and whatever else, I've got the vegetarian mock-chicken patties happening, which is probably quite un-Australian, but I don't care.

Of course, it is worth taking a moment in between beers to contemplate what the day means. And yes, it is the celebration of our nation, and generally speaking, what a great nation it is. But keep in mind that to Australia's indigenous inhabitants, "Invasion Day" remains a more apt title. I'm going to be too busy enjoying my day off and sipping Moscato to get all angry and worked up, but nonetheless it's worth remembering how our good fortune to live in "The Lucky Country" came at a cost to someone else.

Check out this video, sent to me by my homeboy Aamer (of Fear of a Brown Planet fame).

Happy Invasion Day 2010 from Fear of a Brown Planet on Vimeo.

Jeff Stilson on Letterman

Caught comedian Jeff Stilson on The Late Show the other night and had a few good LOLs. His cynical style won't be to everyone's taste but he's got a few good lines, and observations about the cultural differences of living in Australia and the US, and his experiences with the German language while on honeymoon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

That is Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin at the European figure skating championships recently; the Russian pair are hotly tipped for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Their outfits and dance routine, inspired by Australian Aboriginal traditional culture, have not gone down too well with the people they claim to be paying tribute to.

"They have got the whole thing wrong," said Stephen Page, artistic director of the respected indigenous group, the Bangarra Dance Company. Page said there were no traditional movements in the routine, the music sounded more like it came from India or Africa than Aboriginal Australia and the body paint looked like "a three-year-old child had drawn it on"... "Probably the elders in the bush would be laughing because they would be saying, 'Look how stupid these fellas are,' " he said.

Bev Manton, a representative of the Worimi nation in New South Wales, had this to say:

“From an Aboriginal perspective, this performance is offensive. It was clearly not meant to mock Aboriginal culture, but that does not make it acceptable to Aboriginal people,” she wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “There are a number of problems with the performance, not least of all the fact that both skaters are wearing brown body suits to make their skin appear darker. That alone puts them on a very slippery slope.”
I have little to no interest in ice-skating, so I don't have a lot to say about this one. But brown body suits? Really?

And it's also a good thing to be REALLY familiar with something before you try and mimic it, if you want to capture any kind of authenticity at all. And no, watching videos on Youtube, as Domnina and Shabalin did, does not really qualify as research.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

People Under the Stairs with some Japanese retro stylee

Trippin' at the disco by LA-based underground hip-hop duo People Under The Stairs was already one of my favourite songs from last year, an absolute dancefloor monster. But I just came across the video and I love it even more. It's got some kitsch late 70s Japanese flava, and it's always nice to see rappers unafraid to look like their having fun instead of trying to look tough all the time.

It comes with this (entirely fictional) description:
"In March of 1980 two young rappers from los angeles appeared on the "Chikara Kurahashi Hit Station" variety show in Tokyo. It was the first time rap music had ever been performed in Asia and here is the lost tape of that performance. Enjoy this lost performance transferred from Beta - People Under The Stairs 'Trippin' at the Disco'"
Directed by: Chris Zamoscianyk & Thes One
Special Effects: Ryan Fitzgerald

Friday, January 22, 2010

From around the interwebs...

If you use the internet to actively pursue knowledge rather than just to look at naked women, you can learn lots of interesting things. You can then whip them out as anecdotes at parties and thus impress people with your terminal geekiness. Here are some of the recent things that have piqued my interest, that fall under the vague umbrella of what I cover in this blog:

Gordon Brown, Robert Mugabe and Osama's playlists revealed
Ever wondered how musical tastes reflects what kind of person someone is? Well this article reveals the musical tastes of some of the worlds most powerful, and in some cases infamous men. Zimbabwean dictator Mugabe is a sucker for Cliff Richard apparently, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fancies a bit of Chris DeBurgh, while Kim Jong-Il is an Eric Clapton fan. But the kicker is Osama bin Laden's love of Whitney Houston; a passion so strong that he wanted to kill her then-husband Bobby Brown and take her back with him to live in Sudan.
(Hat tip: Bonoboboy)

Evolution in Moscow's Stray Dogs
It may not sound interesting unless you are really into dogs, but this is one of the most fascinating things I've read for a while. And I'm not even into dogs. The article, featured in the Financial Times, details how the 35,000 strays that live in Russia's capital are in a process of evolving back to a wild state. The domestic dog was obviously bred from the wolf many thousands of years ago, over a long process of evolution and social adaptation; here we can see that process being reversed. The strays have developed an amazing range of behaviours that allow them to survive in the urban environment; there are even around 20 that have learned to ride trains. Not just randomly getting on trains, but actually getting from place to place and back again!

European skeleton found in ancient Mongol tomb
DNA analysis has revealed a skeleton with distinctive Indo-European traits in a Xiongnu cemetery in northeast Mongolia dating back 2000 years. It illuminates the picture of ancient Central Asia as being quite ethnically diverse, since the expanse of steppe allowed considerable movement, especially when factoring in nomadic lifestyles based around the horse, and displacement through conquest. Migration went the other way too; the modern Magyars (Hungarians), Turks and Finns are all partly descended from Central Asian peoples.

Google suggestions about Japan
You can probably try this out yourself if you have nothing better to do. Type in "why are japanese" into google and the first suggestion that comes up is "so perverted", followed by "people so weird". There are a number of different suggestions depending on what permutation of the question you type. So try "why do Japanese" and the suggestions include "girls cry" and "have bad teeth" and "have slanted eyes." An interesting reflection of how the country is perceived in the English speaking world.

The Daily Show evaluates Barack Obama's first year in office
It turns out he's not a "magical negro" after all. Features the eternally awesome black correspondent Larry Wilmore.

Djinn impregnation
A high school principal in the Indonesian town of Tangerang has denied raping one of his students, who then became pregnant. He instead blamed it on his pet djinn (genie). That's the worst excuse I've heard for a sexual crime since that guy who was busted with all that child porn and blamed it all on his cat walking on the keyboard. It would almost be funny, except of course that a teenage girl was violated.
Tangerang of course is the same place where a married woman was arrested and convicted of prostitution because she was waiting by the side of the road, and happened to be carrying lipstick in her purse.

Meanwhile in other news from certain parts of Indonesia still stuck in medieval times, a council of East Javanese clerics have decided to ban Muslims from straightening or colouring their hair. Basically, anything that makes you look better is haram. These are the same guys who recently issued a fatwa against Facebook (poking might lead to fornication, you see.)

Strangest Australian tourism questions
... as listed by Australian travel agents. Including "Can I catch a train from Fiji to New Zealand?'', and asking staff to compile a list of toilets they could visit while driving from Cairns to Brisbane. There's also some compiled by British travel agents here.

Stuff White People Do: Blame their accusers instead of themselves

I very recently wrote a guest post for the popular US anti-racist blog Stuff White People Do. It deals with the recent Australian ways of ignoring and deflecting criticism from abroad relating to anti-Indian violence and Hey Hey It's Saturday's controversial blackface skit.

It's one of the better things I've written recently, so make sure check it out here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Still more Awesome Asian Ads - Thailand

I never knew Thais were such a quirky people. Although truth be told, I just don't know that many Thais to judge. But of all the countries' ads I've posted up here in the past, Thailand's are the most consistently weird and awesome. You can also see more of them here, here and here.

Also you can see some awesome Malaysian ads here and here.

Awesome Indonesian ads here and here.

Awesome Korean ads here and here.

Awesome Japanese ads here, here, here and here.

Awesome Indian ads here and here, and awesome Chinese ads here.

A basketball league only for white American players?

Yep, some guy named Don "Moose" Lewis is starting up the All-American Basketball League, which is not exactly for all Americans. You can only play in if both your parents are Caucasian and American.  Don, of course, isn't racist (they never are) and doesn't actually have anything against black or foreign players, according to him. He just wants a league that is based on fundamentals rather than "street ball" as played by black Americans. To imagine how exciting such a league would be, envision the current NBA, then just take out anyone who is black or foreign-born. (Black Americans currently make up 71% of the league and European players make up 18%.) You are left with a bunch of solid but unremarkable players, of whom the likes of Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller would be the standouts. (Who? Exactly.)

Wow, that sounds really awesome, Don.

Those white hoods won't be good for anyone's shooting percentage though.

You can read an amusingly snarky take on it here. And a satirical one here.

It's a shame that the All-American Basketball League excludes foreign white players. Because it seems like something the Spanish national team (pictured) would really be into.

Of course, only last month a short, white and somewhat unathletic point guard named Kyle McAlarney raised the issue of race in the NBA, claiming that he was not drafted out of college because the NBA is biased towards black players. But he's still trying, pursuing that dream on behalf of all those members of his oppressed ethnic minority.

It's probably Barack Obama's fault. Everything else is.

Here's a fascinating article (particularly if you are a b-ball fan) at National Sports Review:
Kyle McAlarney - just another case of keeping the white man down.

Here's a bit of ESPN's story about McAlarney.

Of course, should he ever reach the NBA, McAlarney better get used to those flagrant fouls; he is gonna be one unpopular dude.

Iraq's black African minority

With all the news about Iraq in recent years, here's one aspect of the country you probably haven't heard of.

Black Iraqis or Zanj have a history in the area dating back to the 9th century AD. Their ancestors were taken there as slaves, and were mostly from the East African coastal areas of what is now Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

There's also an interesting article here on the Zanj that dates back to 2004. A curious detail is use of the term abd, which means slave. They are often colloquially referred to as abd by lighter-skinned Iraqis, which they consider derogatory. Yet the Zanj use the term amongst themselves in a joking manner; an intriguing parallel with the modern American use of the word "nigger".

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unruly Croatian fans disrupt the Australian Open

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." - Samuel Johnson, 1775.

Nasty scenes marred the opening day of tennis at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday. 11 fans, of whom all or most were apparently Croatian-Australians, were ejected from the tournament after rowdy and intimidating behaviour including setting off flares.

They appear to have been part of a group of around 60 young men who had marched en masse to Melbourne Park, chanting and behaving aggressively. Their behaviour included what appeared to be a Nazi-style salute, and spitting on and assaulting a newspaper cameraman.

This is not the first time the tournament has been the stage for such rubbish. Last year Serbian and Bosnian youths threw chairs at each other inside the grounds amidst families enjoying the sunshine, a fracas in which one female bystander was hit by a flying chair. In 2008, rowdy behaviour by Greek fans led to the police using pepper spray on the crowd. While in 2007, Serbian and Croatian supporters were involved in a brawl in which one was hit over the head with a flagpole.

Firstly: tennis? Come on guys. I can understand this kind of thing at the soccer - it has the atmosphere for it, and can involve two teams representing their nations against each other. (And indeed, it was exactly this kind of behaviour that led to the scrapping of Australia's National Soccer League a few years back.)

But tennis? I mean, the players here are representing themselves, not their countries. And tennis crowds are among the quietest and most conservative of all sports. What next? Lawn bowls? Synchronised swimming?

Secondly: while they are ostensibly motivated by pride in their nationality, this is a joke. Most of the youths involved would probably have never even been to the Balkans. The tennis players these idiots claim to support are embarassed by their antics and want nothing to do with them. Their actions are an embarassment to the ethnic communities they feel so passionate about.

All these guys are doing is reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices that are held in the wider community about people from that part of the world. When that happens, all their community suffers. Of course, we should not judge an entire community by the actions of a few idiots by any means, but the unfortunate reality is that many people will. Predictably, pick up any Australian newspaper this week and you will find letters to the editor complaining about multiculturalism and calling for people to be sent back where they came from.

While most representatives of Melbourne's Croatian community have spoken out against this, and even Croatia's main tabloid newspaper has derided the behaviour as "a festival of primitism", one community leader stood out for her denial. Linda Paric of Australia Croatia Community Services chose instead to blame the media for singling out Croatians, with the laughable comments like “predictable, annual, hysterical reporting and negative portrayal of the Croatian community is disappointing and a real comment on our media and its role... no other community in the history of this country has been (as) vilified repeatedly."

It is that kind of head-in-the-sand attitude that allows this sort of thing to flourish. I understand Paric is in damage control mode, but her denial just makes her community look worse.

For a better article, by a Balkan-born journalist at The Age, try here.

It's puzzling to me that such unquestioning nationalist pride still exists in our ethnic communities here. There's nothing wrong with loving the country of one's ancestry at all. But to ignore all its flaws?

I see no problem in loving my mother's country, Indonesia, yet feeling ashamed of its imperialism in East Timor and West Papua, or its incidences of violence against its Chinese minority, for example. I can have an understanding of how an Indonesian in Indonesia might see things differently, as they have less access to education and fair reporting on these matters, and are subject to propaganda.

But it dismays me that, despite the benefits of distance and education, so many Australian-born Turks will still deny Turkey's role in the Armenian genocide. Or how some Australians with Balkan ancestry will still nurture the hatreds of a conflict on the other side of the world, and in some cases even be proud of the atrocities committed against rival ethnic groups. Or how some Australians of Sri Lankan heritage have stuck steadfastly to the viewpoints promoted by either the Tamil Tigers or the Sinhalese-dominated government.

A country like Australia with its free media, good education system and multicultural environment, would seemingly provide the perfect opportunity to rise above all that crap. But some folks don't want to - they find greater comfort in sticking to the tribe.


UPDATE (20th January): It seems that some Turkish and Chilean fans didn't want to miss out on all the fun of acting like penis-heads. 35 people were ejected today from a match involving Fernando Gonzales and Marsel Ilhan. Well done, chaps.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Flight of the Conchords - Racism

From one of my favourite Conchords episodes. That's Aziz Ansari playing the desi fruit vendor.

"That person over there's a person." Love it.

For more funny stuff about racism, try:

Mitchell and Webb: "The Good Samaritan"

Acceptable TV: "My Black Friend"

Louis CK: "Being White"

Salam Cafe: "Uncle Sameer goes to Frankston"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Also making news this week...

Controversial move to ban Islam4UK
The British government has banned radical Islamic group Islam4UK. Its leader, Anjem Choudary, has among other things called for the execution of the pope for insulting Islam, and praised the 9/11 hijackers as "magnificent martyrs". He clearly hates the British state, yet happily collects a welfare cheque from it. His group has abhorrent terror-supporting views, sure, but what about freedom of speech? And given how these numbskulls feed off a persecution complex, will the move backfire and fuel further radicalism?

Limbaugh and Beck try to turn the Haiti tragedy into an attack on Obama.
Lovely chaps, aren't they? If you thought Pat Robertson's "pact with the devil" comment was inappropriate, influential right-wing commentators Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck seemed determined to go one step further. Limbaugh basically dissuaded his listeners from donating to earthquake relief, implying that US domestic needs are more important. Beck claimed that Obama was "dividing the nation" by responding so much quicker to the crisis in Haiti (full of black people) than he had to the underwear bomber incident (in which no one was killed).

"Tank man" picture available in China via Google
The standoff between the Chinese government and Google heats up, with fears the internet giant will pull out its operations from China. It has refused to censor its content, and has faced attacks from Chinese hackers. Meanwhile, the famous picture of a protester standing up to the tanks in Tiananmen Square, has suddenly become available at While it is a well-known image world-wide, most Chinese have no idea of its existence.

Malaysian unrest over non-Muslims using the word "Allah" in reference to God.
The High Court recently ruled that "Allah" was a perfectly fine word for Christians and others to use, which enraged many Malays, who believe it should be purely for Muslims to use. The Malay-dominated Government has taken sides and condemned the ruling, and there have been incidents of violence and vandalism targeting Christian churches and now Sikh temples. Good analysis here, while Unspun has some worthwhile perspectives also.

Indonesian journalists appeal the ban on "Balibo"
The Independent Journalist Alliance has been showing guerilla screenings around the country of the banned Australian movie, which depicts the murder of 5 Australian journalists by the Indonesian military in East Timor in 1975. They are now challenging the ban in court. This is a real test for Indonesia in my opinion; as a nation moving away from dictatorship and towards free democracy, the powers that be need to accept that uncomfortable films like Balibo are an important facet of a democratic state. President Yudhoyono's military background may be compromising his judgement on this.

Chinese beatboxer Liang Bo


See also: Daichi, amazing Japanese beatbox kid.

Sikh temple burns, more Indians assaulted. Australia still not racist.

The question of whether there is a particular problem with violence towards Indian people in Australia is still a controversial one. But for those who argue that there is, more evidence could be found this weekend.

In Lynbrook, in the outer southeastern fringe of Melbourne, a Sikh gurdwara (temple) was set on fire on Wednesday. The Nanaksar Thath Isher Darbar temple, which was still under construction, was badly burned in a fire police confirm was deliberately lit. Story here.

In Sydney, a 28-year-old man of Indian descent was badly beaten by a group of youths, both male and female, at Coogee Beach. No one else present on the beach came to his rescue. The victim then called the police who arrived at least 40 minutes after the incident took place. The victim had been living in Australia for the past 11 years and was a permanent resident there. He said he believed that this attack was unprovoked and racial in nature. One person has been arrested in connection with the incident, and admitted that he and others punched and kicked the victim. Story here.

In Ballarat, three incidents occurred involving Indian taxi drivers during the week. One involved a driver being threatened with a knife by two male passengers who then fled the scene. In another, a driver was punched and spat on by four youths who also stole his taxi. And a 48-year-old man, Paul John Brogden, was jailed for 3 months after attacking a taxi driver and racially abusing him while on a drunken rampage.

Now, it is an unfortunate reality that fare evasion and violence are not uncommon for taxi drivers. So given that Indians make up a large proportion of the taxi drivers in Ballarat, there was not necessarily a racial motive in these attacks. Of course, the racist abuse that accompanied Brogden's attack is an obvious clue, but it is possible that racism was merely part of his behaviour but not the cause.
But while the incidents may be purely down to drunken male idiocy, it is hard to escape the feeling that they might not have happened to a white Australian taxi driver. At very least, I think the fact that the drivers were Indian makes it considerably more likely that such anti-social types will get aggressive. I have heard it suggested that Indian taxi drivers get attacked more because they are ruder or do not provide a good service; this is possible, but at least as important is the tendency for potential criminals to pick on someone they see as different, or easier to take advantage of. If you see someone as being not like you, it is easier to treat them with disrespect.

Another incident was reported in the Indian media this week, but it seems to be a case of hysteria making something out of nothing. The Times of India reports that a group of 6 South Asians (3 Indians and 3 Nepalese) were denied entry to a bar in Melbourne, and cites it as a case of racism. Now lets be real here. People are rejected from bars all the time. Sometimes it actually is due to racism, and it is possible that it was in this case. But quite likely not. There are plenty of other reasons they may have been excluded - what they were wearing, the door security just being pricks, or perhaps they were not cool enough for the image the venue was trying to maintain. Many clubs and bars dislike admitting groups which are all- or mostly male. That the South Asian group felt it was racism gives an indication of how on-edge much of that community is now, and are extra sensitive to anything that could possibly be racism. Which doesn't help things, but it's hard to blame them really.

A couple of interesting articles in the Australian press this week about racism. One is by Josh Gordon in the Sydney Morning Herald, entitled See No Evil, in which he details quite honestly the tendency we have to deny that racism exists, even though the evidence is there if you look. Meanwhile in the Herald Sun, Aboriginal leader Tom Calma says that there is inherent racism in Australia, which may be the cause of some of the attacks, and that attitudes need to change. So of course, being the Herald Sun, the readers' comments to that article are all about how it is Aborigines and immigrants who are the racists, and "true blue" Aussies are perfect and not to blame for anything. What was Josh Gordon saying about denial?

Finally in India, Hindu extremists remind us that Australia has no monopoly on bastardry. Far-right nationalist group Shiv Sena are trying to prevent Australians from competing in the 20/20 cricket tournament in Mumbai, due to the recent attacks on Indian students in Australia. They have vandalised pitches in the past to prevent games between India and Pakistan, so this is no empty threat. Shiv Sena has a real history of violence against Muslims and anyone else they don't like, so Australians need to be careful.

The irony is, of course, that any such move will only add fuel to the fire. It will no doubt do wonders for Indians' popularity in Australia and make further attacks likely, unfortunately.

UPDATE (18th Jan):
Two more men will face court today after another attack on an Indian taxi driver in Geelong over the weekend. Robert Harvey, 25, and Andrew Madden, 24, both of Norlane, set upon the driver and stole cash from him. One positive aspect of this, if you want to find one, is that a number of passersby intervened to stop the attack and subdue one of the men.

For everything I've previously blogged about attacks on Indians, try here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Racial analyses of "Avatar"

I'm a bit slow with this one, but I did manage to catch Avatar a couple of weeks back, in 3D no less. And an extremely impressive movie it is too, at least from a visual standpoint.

But what of the plot and underlying philosophy? Avatar is undeniably a propaganda movie - it extols the virtues of green philosophy and indigenous cultures against the juggernaut of modern greed and exploitation. I happen to be sympathetic to that particular world-view, so I didn't mind it. But many conservative commentators are railing against the movie, presumably because they are in favour of the juggernaut of modern greed and exploitation.

In any case, it is quite unusual indeed to have a blockbuster movie where the audience is cheering for the aliens to smash their human oppressors. You could almost see it as a revenge-fantasy movie for indigenous people, not altogether different from the way that 70s black action movies repeatedly portrayed the black hero defeating the white characters or at least making them look stupid.

Despite its apparent fondness for indigenous peoples, Avatar is also somewhat offensive to them in its own way. Firstly, the alien Na'vi are based on the patronising stereotype of the "noble savage". Secondly, as wonderful and in tune with nature the Na'vi are, their fabled "chosen one" is... a human! In that sense, it is yet another movie in which a white man immerses himself in an exotic foreign culture, and is not only accepted by them, but becomes even better than they are. Think of martial arts movies like Jean Claude Van Damme's Kick Boxer and The Forbidden Kingdom, or white-man-goes-native films such as as Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai. So the message is that while exotic cultures are totally cool and exotic, white folks can do it better if they try.

I'm not going to write a whole lot about the racial overtones of Avatar, because plenty has been written about it elsewhere. If you are interested, here are a few links to a variety of views.

In The Guardian George Monbiot commends the film for reminding us of the uncomfortable truths of the past, such as the wholesale genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but criticises its happy ending that "rips the heart out of the film".

Remington at The Moving Image blog critiques the white privilege inherent of the Jake Sully character's adoption of the Na'vi ways as his own; while challenging his fellow humans, he still retains the option of returning to his other life as a human. It's the Western tourist fantasy of "going primitive" and becoming "The Other", yet only for a holiday.

Annalee Newitz writes an interesting article entitled "When will white people stop making movies like Avatar?", describing the film as a "white guilt fantasy", a way of assuaging the shame of historical injustices perpetrated by Europeans. Some interesting comments on that post; my favourite is this one, by "milesteg", which neatly summarises the conservative white position:

What bothers me the most about these movies is that the basis of their allegory isn't exactly real. They're based on a FANTASY spin on actual history. The history of "European/Indian relations" isn't fully or accurately taught any more (was it ever?): the common acceptance is that the settlers, without provocation, wantonly slaughtered the natives and stole their land.

What is almost completely ignored is that there was little concept of private property, rule of law, justice, and freedom (including freedom from violence) among *nomadic* native tribes. Addressed even less are these tribes' barbaric practices -- cruel rites of passage, slavery, rape, murder, human sacrifice, mutilation as punishment for criminals, abandonment of the weak, torture, cannibalism, "knowledge" and "wisdom" obtained with hallucinogens, and severe punishment of anyone that demonstrated individuality, reason, or disobedience to the authority of witch-doctors. These attributes didn't suddenly vanish when white people showed up.

The initiative destruction of native peoples by settlers occurred, but very infrequently. In more instances than not, colonists attempted to trade with the natives -- i.e. tried to treat them as equals -- bringing modern technology, conveniences, and Enlightenment ideas in exchange for being allowed to establish towns -- and they were rewarded with unprovoked, brutal, bloody raids BY these natives.

This isn't "white perspective" or even "racism": it's simple historical fact. I absolutely do not condone any form of racism, slavery, genocide, colonialism, Manifest Destiny and the lot -- it's as barbaric in nature as the savages were. I'm not implying that that *all* natives (certainly not their modern descendants) remained savage, nor does it imply that *all* settlers and expansionists were peaceful, Enlightened victims.

Yet, I won't fall for revisionist history and the moral recrimination of centuries-dead Europeans, and I won't be suckered into believing in the archetypal "noble savage" (which is as obvious an oxymoron as they get). So for once, I'd like to see a "spin" on the "white/human goes native/alien" story:

A MODERN human (his/her race being completely unimportant) enters a SAVAGE alien society, and demonstrates the value of a civilized technological culture that arose by abandoning barbarism. The film ends with the savages doing likewise, living the longer, healthier, more productive, more comfortable, and ultimately happier lives that can only result when superstition and primitivism are abolished and science and reason embraced.
So according to Milesteg, those third world savages should be eternally greatful to the great white master for bestowing on them the privilege of enlightenment and freedom. (Except those that were enslaved, they didn't get much freedom.)
Conservatives dislike Avatar because of its allegory to white colonialism. Some examples are Fjordman at The Brussels Journal (which calls itself "the Voice of Conservatism in Europe").

Basically, the white characters are portrayed as brutal, greedy and insensitive beasts who rape the environment and destroy other cultures with a smile in the search for profit...
Of course, back in the real world whites are among the most self-critical and least ethnocentric people on Earth, and have been so for a long time. Whites are also disproportionately represented in the environmental movement whereas many “diverse” Third World peoples couldn’t care less about the environment. But why let the truth get in the way of making a good anti-white movie? The fact that quite a few among the predominantly white audience cheered for this movie shows that anti-white hatred and stereotypes have become so widespread and accepted that most people cannot even see it, least of all whites themselves.
A similar perspective is expressed at The Weekly Standard:

The conclusion does ask the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency. So it is a deep expression of anti-Americanism - kind of.
It is fascinating that even today, there is such resistance amidst white conservatives to admit that the legacy of European colonialism on the rest of the world has been anything less than overwhelmingly positive. No indigenous culture is perfect, and some were downright brutal in many aspects. And yes, there have been many positive outcomes from the impact of European colonialism. But the millions upon millions of Aboriginal Americans and Australians killed by the colonialists, and Africans sold into slavery, are stark reminders that European rule was far from enlightened.

It is a history that still affects many populations today, yet is also a history that many on the Right would like to pretend never happened.

Sitting in the movie theatre, I reflected on the audience around me. Particularly the group of young douchebags seated a few rows in front of me, who talked idiotically and threw things at each other during the movie, and used the word "bro" in virtually every sentence.*

I wondered: could this movie, peddling a philosophy of caring for the earth and respect for traditional cultures but disguised as a special effects blockbuster, possibly reach into the minds of these wayward youth? If so, then Avatar has done its job, in its own mawkishly overblown way. And that's actually not such a bad thing.

* Using "bro" here and there is perfectly acceptable. Using it in every sentence is a strong indicator of douchebaggery, or being a New Zealander.

UPDATE (17th Jan): Also came across this article about how the movie is being interpreted in the Chinese context. Interesting.

Like this? You may like:

"300" and racism

Yellowface is still alive

The Asian penis in popular culture

How come there's a black chick in "Merlin"?

The lack of Asians on Australian TV, and why it matters

Pictured: Me & my posse rockin' the 3D glasses at Avatar.

WTF of the Week - Aaron Hall's Dog Rehab

I had to do a double take with this - at first I thought it was a piss-take, like something that Chappelle's Show would do. But nope, it's for real.

In case you don't know, Aaron Hall was an RnB star from the late 80s and early 90s (with the group Guy and then a solo career). And now he is doing his own dog rehab show. As one does.

And I'm happy for him. But this is surreal and funny as hell. Firstly, watching someone training dogs while wearing a pimptastic yellow zoot suit, and playing with big-ass scary looking pitbulls while slow-jam RnB plays in the background; that's slightly unusual. Secondly, at the 1:45 mark when he starts name-dropping as if his life depends on it. Then from 6:30 onward, when he starts talking Vietnamese, German, Farsi and Spanish to his dogs - I'm in WTF heaven.

Youtube, I thank you.

Is it OK to laugh at this?

Ever laugh at something, then later realise that maybe you shouldn't have laughed at it, and then felt like a bad human being?

I recently came across this clip of Ris Low, who was on 31st of July crowned as Miss World Singapore. She's certainly nice to look at, but watch and you'll see why half of Singapore collectively facepalmed at the thought of Low representing them on the world stage.

Ris Low's interviews have spawned a number of sendups on Youtube and elsewhere, and single-handedly introduced the term "Boomz" into the Singaporean lexicon.

Admit it, you thought that was pretty funny. Most of us like to chuckle at someone who appears not too bright. Singaporeans like to think of themselves as good English speakers too, so someone who speaks like an ah lian like Low is going to come in for a bit of mockery. (Even if half of Singapore speaks like that anyway; and who would really be shocked that a beauty pageant winner turned out to be a bit ditzy?)

Ok, but then things got complicated; it turned out that Low was on probation for credit card fraud, and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She subsequently stepped down from her role as Miss World Singapore.

Um, so is it still all right to laugh? In these murky politically correct times, it's OK to laugh at someone who is just dumb, but if they are that way because they have some kind of mental problems, then that's just nasty. Shame on you.

In any case, these folks below thought it was still funny.

If you found that funny, you are obviously a bad person.

RIP Teddy Pendergrass and Willie Mitchell

Soul music farewells two giants this week, supreme vocalist Teddy Pendergrass and producer Willie Mitchell.

Pendergrass, who died aged 59 following surgery for colon cancer, was one of the all-time great seductive soul singers of the 70s. Perhaps only Al Green and Marvin Gaye bettered him in the ability to sing women's panties off. He first became known as the lead singer for Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, with whom he had numerous hits, including If You Don't Know Me By Now. Strangely, he joined the group as their drummer, yet was soon pushed out front when they discovered his warm, gruff baritone. He later embarked on a solo career, having numerous chart hits such as Love TKO and Close the Door. But his success was curtailed by a car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed from the waist down; he still managed to record after that, but his career never really recovered.

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes - Wake Up Everybody

Teddy Pendergrass - Come Go With Me

Willie Mitchell, who died at age 81 from cardiac arrest, was the studio mastermind behind the Memphis soul sound of the late 60s and 70s. Starting out as a trumpeter, Mitchell's production work at Hi Records was notable for its smooth organs, powerful horn sections and driving beats. He was best known for his long and fruitful partnership with Al Green, but his work with Ann Peebles and Syl Johnson also yielded some incredible high points.

Syl Johnson - Could I Be Falling In Love

Al Green - Tired of Being Alone

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson blames Haiti's woes on pact with the devil

Televangelist Pat Robertson is in trouble again after he blamed Haiti's earthquake and other woes on a pact that Haitians made with the devil a long time ago. Check it:

This is only the latest of a number of highly idiotic utterances to emanate from the man. He previously described the stroke suffered by Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2006 as a punishment from God, and in 2005 basically urged people to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Suffice to say the version of God that Robertson follows is a fairly mean-spirited one. That said, Robertson is still involved in raising donations for the afflicted, which is more than a lot of people are doing, so kudos to him for that. Still, his perspectives on the workings of the Lord are poisonous.

I wonder how Robertson's brown-skinned co-presenter on "700 Club" felt about his "history lesson", in which a the world's only successful slave rebellion against white oppression is seen as being the work of Satan. And I wonder about the effect his little tale had on relief donations (the number was on the screen as he spoke), when he more or less blamed the Haitians themselves for this natural disaster.

But don't think that Robertson invented this story. It's actually a story that comes from Haiti itself, and is commonly rehashed by Haitian preachers in attempting to explain why the island seems plagued by troubles (it is the poorest and most chaotic nation in the Western hemisphere). A 2005 article here details this phenomenon.

So given that Robertson is merely recounting a Haitian folk tale, is that OK then? No. Firstly, to present the story as fact (without even a "it is said that..." ) is ridiculous broadcasting. Secondly, there is a difference in context between a story Haitians tell to themselves, and a story an outsider uses to effectively condemn them. And thirdly, to tell that story in the context of raising donations for Haiti is irresponsible and counterproductive.

Interested in a more studied social and historical explanation about why Haiti has suffered so much while the Dominican Republic (on the other end of the island) has done comparatively well? Read this article by one of my favourite authors, Jared Diamond. It's quite illuminating. Or there is this saddening essay by Bob Corbett from 1986 which illustrates in fascinating detail the way that so many factors have conspired to make Haiti the way it is.

The white boy who speaks Singlish

16-year-old American-born Tyler Creasman has become something of a minor celebrity in his current home, Singapore, for an odd reason. He speaks fluent Singlish (Singaporean English). The ability to speak a local variant of your own tongue seems like a strange reason to become famous, but for anyone who has even a vague interest in accents, this is pretty cool.

Check out his recent appearance on Singapore's The Shan and Rozz Show here. It gets a bit lame towards the end (mostly due to the ultra-lame co-host Shan) but is quite funny to watch at the start.

Lots of people think they can imitate Singaporeans and Malaysians (I do it all the time), but to do it right takes more than just putting "lah" on the end of everything lah. I think anyone who can really pull off another accent convincingly has to have real affection for that accent and culture, rather than mocking disdain. And Creasman seems to have that affection.

Creasman had already mastered Singlish by age 13, as seen here at a performance at his international school gala night. This starts slowly but gets good.

(Hat tip: Absolutely Fobulous)

Like this? You may like:

Communication challenges in Malaysia

Boomz! Singapore's interesting Miss World entrant Ris Low

The Guide to Ordering Food in Malaysia

Listmania: Greatest tracks of the 00s

The noughties (or aughts as I've seen them called) are over, so let me just squeeze in my favourite tracks of the decade.

As musical decades go, it might have been the worst in popular music since the rock n' roll era began. But that doesn't mean we didn't have great music though. It's always out there somewhere, you just need to know where to find it, and it's usually not on the charts. But sometimes it is, and the fact that 4 of my top 6 were serious worldwide chart hits, is a great thing in showing that the divide between quality and popular is not always so great. Either that or I'm just a commercial-ass douche.

One notable positive was rock bands remembering that rock n' roll was originally created for dancing and didn't have to be all doom and gloom. Add that to songs like "Hey Ya" and "Crazy", and we had ample opportunity to shake it loose, yet keep street credibility intact. Other trends include the fascination with appropriating South Asian and Middle-Eastern music in pop and hip-hop (see here, here and here). And it was also the decade that vintage soul made a serious comeback. Strangely, it was mostly being performed by white people.

It's hardly an exhausive list, but these are the ones that spring to mind. Feel free to let me know what you think I have missed. I've embedded a few, particularly the ones you might not know.

1. Gnarls Barkley - "Crazy"
2. The Strokes - "Last Night"
3. Alicia Keys - "If I Ain't Got You"
4. Nickodemus featuring Quantic - "Mi Swing Es Tropical"

5. Cody Chestnutt - "I Look Good in Leather"

6. Outkast - "Hey Ya"
7. The Rapture - Get Myself Into It

8. The Strokes - "Someday"

9. Rufus Wainwright - "Going to a Town"

10. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings featuring Lee Fields - "Stranded in Your Love"

11. Doves - "The Cedar Room"

12. Mayer Hawthorne and the County - "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out"

13. John Legend - "She Don't Have to Know"

14. System of a Down - "Chop Suey!"
15. Common featuring Dwele - "The People"
16. Ed Harcourt - "She Fell Into My Arms"

17. Coldplay - "Shiver"
18. Badly Drawn Boy - "Silent Sigh"
19. Cinematic Orchestra featuring Roots Manuva - "All things to all men"

20. Coldplay - "The Scientist"
21. Jet - "Are You Gonna Be My Girl"
22. Roots Manuva - "Witness (1 Hope)"

23. Avalanches - "Since I left you"
24. Weezer - "Island in the Sun"
25. Ash - "Sometimes"

26. Arctic Monkeys - "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor"
27. Keane - "Somewhere Only We Know"
28. Mark Ronson featuring Ghostafe Killah and Nate Dogg - "Ooh Wee"

29. Dizzee Rascal featuring Calvin Harris and Chrome - "Dance Wiv Me"
30. The Coral - "Dreaming of You"

Sure, you may disagree, but my opinion is better than yours, so what are you gonna do about it?

Also see here: My favourite movies of the decade.