Friday, 21 October 2011

There will be flood

Thailand is currently battling the worst monsoon season in about 50 years. About a third of her provinces has been affected. As per usual, the Thai government's priorities are to protect the interest of the rich and that means focusing on keeping the floods out of capital, at great cost to surrounding provinces. However, since a couple of days ago, Bangkok could no longer fight the inevitable and parts of Northern Bangkok (including Sai Mai, where my mother lives) are now flooded, with the floods expecting to reach more and more parts of the city.

I remember from my childhood in Thailand being really excited whenever there was a flood because it was like living in some sort of fantastical water world but now, as a grown up, all I think about is how scary this situation is and how much damage it will cause, to ordinary people, to their homes, their livelihood and income, to the economy, etc. I worry about my poor mother everyday even though she sounds like she's taking it in all in stride as she prepares for the inevitable. A disaster like this really accentuates what I love about Thai people - their good spirits. They know that it is a dire situation but all that they can do is try to prepare for it, no matter how futile their efforts may prove to be (there is only so much that sandbags can do), and soldier on...usually with a smile.

It's a crisis that some experts are blaming on the myopia and poor planning of water management officials, government-sanctioned deforestation and reckless urbanization. On top of everything else, you have a government that seems completely overwhelmed and ill-equipped to dealing with a natural disaster on such an epic scale, led by the inexperienced Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (the first woman elected to this office in Thailand, voted in just two months ago, who happens to be the younger sister of ousted former PM and political fugitve Thaksin Shinawatra).

From watching all the news footage, I feel this sense of pride about the way the people of Thailand are handling this nightmare situation and their generosity of spirit; the way people are looking out for and helping one another, whether they be friends, family or strangers. Nobody gets left behind....not even that poor little puppy in the video below! The full impact of this monsoon season cannot be measured but what I can be sure of is that Thailand will get through this, as it has before with other tough times. Nobody knows what the situation will be day-to-day, let alone week-to-week but in my heart, I pray that Thailand will be able to put this chapter behind her in the next 2-3 weeks, just in time to come together and celebrate Loi Krathong, which is, ironically enough, a traditional Thai festival that has its roots in the practice of paying respect to the spirits of the waters.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Another fallen dictator

By now, the whole world will have heard the news of the demise of former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi. After 42 years of autocratic rule, the people of Libya are on the path to becoming a democracy. Of course, this all depends on Libya's National Transitional Council fulfilling its promise to hold elections. What fascinates me is the media's eagerness to report the news using graphic images and video footage. Mainstream media outlets around the world, including in the US and UK, have been airing footage of Gaddafi being captured and dragged by Libyan rebels. Not that I have much sympathy for a man who came to power through a military coup and ruled with disregard for civil liberties or human life but all of this jubilant hysteria over his violent death reminds me of the excitement that people expressed back in 2003, when Saddam Hussein was executed, and it leaves me with a sense of unease about the human need for retaliation and tendency for violence.
I am certainly not above this primal thirst for justice at all costs. I don't feel holier than thou because just like everyone else, I'm glad the man's dead. He was, to use a label that is so incendiary that it has now become absurd, almost to the point of being comedic, an evil dictator - a rotten human being, through and through. However, I feel like those of us who live in the free world need to evaluate our standing as an enlightened people. A part of me feels like there is a lot of poetic justice to the way this atrocious excuse for a human being being finished off at the hands of the very people that he inflicted on much suffering upon for over four decades. As someone who appreciates good storytelling, this is definitely a much better dramatic climax than, say, the way the world had to observe some bogus fair trial after Saddam Hussein was captured before he met his violent fate. Still, we all need to reflect on this moment in history and look to the NTC's next moves to ensure that history does not repeat it almost invariably does.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Zachary Quinto is gay, proud and HAWT!

Over the weekend, New York magazine published an interview with the American actor Zachary Quinto (Sylar of TV's 'Heroes' and Spock in the 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise) in which the star acknowledges what many media outlets, especially those in the gay media, have long speculated - that he is a proud and sexy gay man. Okay, so he didn't call him 'sexy' (I kinda added that coz I think he's a total babe) but he did refer to himself as 'a gay man' twice. I am loving the fact that Zachary Quinto publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation for the first time in such an astute manner - he put it in the context of a greater discussion about the advancement of gay rights and the continued struggle for equality. It was sensitive and incredibly smart as it deflects some of the attention that inevitably comes whenever a public figure officially 'comes out'. He reveals that what prompted him to talk about his political status as a gay man (let's face it - in the world that we all live in, to lead an open life as a gay person is a political statement, whether intended or not) was the recent suicide of American gay teenager Jamey Rodemeyer. Zachary commented on his intention for talking about his private life on his website:

'when i found out that jamey rodemeyer killed himself – i felt deeply troubled. but when i found out that jamey rodemeyer had made an it gets better video only months before taking his own life – i felt indescribable despair. i also made an it gets better video last year – in the wake of the senseless and tragic gay teen suicides that were sweeping the nation at the time. but in light of jamey’s death – it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it – is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality. our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay lesbian bisexual and transgendered citizen of this country. gay kids need to stop killing themselves because they are made to feel worthless by cruel and relentless bullying. parents need to teach their children principles of respect and acceptance. we are witnessing an enormous shift of collective consciousness throughout the world. we are at the precipice of great transformation within our culture and government. i believe in the power of intention to change the landscape of our society – and it is my intention to live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action. jamey rodemeyer’s life changed mine. and while his death only makes me wish that i had done this sooner – i am eternally grateful to him for being the catalyst for change within me. now i can only hope to serve as the same catalyst for even one other person in this world. that – i believe – is all that we can ask of ourselves and of each other.'

I'm excited to see how Mr Quinto will be able to affect social change now that he has lifted the veil on his identity. Judging from how articulate he is, I have no doubt that he'll become a refreshing new voice in the advancement of gay rights in the US. In the meantime, let's enjoy this rather odd videoclip of him getting drenched in milk (in reverse motion, no less!) by Tyler Shields from May 2009. Implicit coming out statements don't get more explicit than this!

X-Factor loser

Poor Matt Cardle, his first single since winning X Factor UK last year (the winner's single that comes out just after the show finishes doesn't count since the voting public's initial euphoria always dies off after the first few weeks) 'Run for Your Life' just debuted at number 6 on the UK singles chart. I predict a speedy slide from the lower half of the top 10 straight down to obscurity. Let's hope, for his sake, that 'From Popstar to Opera Star' comes calling...and fast! This makes me wonder if the current season's eventual winner will end up another Joe McElderry (like our Matt 'ere) or will we finally have another Leona on our hands. I think there's a chance that it could be the latter if the fabulous Misha B wins. Go, gurl!