Wednesday, 26 October 2011

McLuhan could have been a rockstar

Last year, I took a class called Rhetoric and the World Wide Web with the most eccentric professor I have ever met.  He was new to both the University of Winnipeg and Winnipeg.  He was nearly bald, but he twisted and curled his bangs almost every day.  He wore ties and skater shoes to class.  He was a vegan.  He rode his bicycle everywhere, even during harsh Winnipeg winters.  He was once a pro-BMX biker, and he wrote his Master's thesis on BMX biking.  In a setting where students were used to calling their instructors “Professor X” or “Doctor Y”, he insisted that they call him by his first name, otherwise he wouldn’t respond.  Aside from being a Communications professor at UW, he was a roller derby referee in his free time.

And he was a Marshall McLuhan enthusiast.

The course was heavily laden with McLuhanesque material, including McLuhan himself.  One of the very first things this professor pounded into our minds was the medium was the message.

. . . Wait, what?

It was a long journey that took almost half of the semester, but my classmates and I had finally understood the meaning behind this mysterious, vague phrase.

The Medium is the Message - Guitar Version

After attempting to explain the phrase to us in technical terms, he tried a different approach.  He hastily grabbed his electric guitar (oh, did I mention he played guitar too?) from its case underneath his desk, along with a small amplifier.

My classmates and I looked utterly confused.  We knew he was a new professor, but surely he wouldn’t dream of playing loud guitar while other classes are still going on?  But we also knew that this man was not one to follow conventional rules.

This is what happened next (to the best of my memory).

The professor played his guitar without plugging it into the amplifier.  He told us that we were hearing the message in its purest form.  We are 100% experiencing the message straight from the source.  We nodded and showed little signs of agreement.  Okay, we’re with you so far.

He then plugged the guitar into the amplifier and strummed a few strings (I sincerely apologize for my lack of knowledge of music terminology).  Now we are not experiencing 100% of the message.  The amplifier is the medium from which we receive the message.  The message, which is the sounds of the guitar, is now altered because it is going through the medium, which is the amplifier.

The medium is the message.  The medium shapes the message.  Therefore, the amplifier shapes the sounds of the guitar.

If we had recorded the professor playing his guitar through his amplifier, then the message would again be altered because the new medium would be the camera.  And if we uploaded this video onto YouTube, then the message would be – you guessed it – changed again.

Overall, the meaning of the message is altered and changed each time it goes through a medium.  The sounds of the guitar lost its intended meaning when we heard it through the amplifier, through the camera, and through YouTube.

After that outstanding exhibition put on by our professor, the majority of us slapped our foreheads and cried, “Oh yeah! Now I get it!”  We were also impressed that the new guy would take such a huge risk in annoying the other instructors just to teach us a lesson.

If McLuhan were here today, I'm sure he would have been impressed with my professor's public display of his theory.  He may have even participated.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure he would.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Daddy's princess

Oh, you thought he meant me?  Ah, nope.  I'm talking about my dad's younger sister*.

My dad has always had a soft spot for his little sister.  He has two older sisters, but unlike them, his younger sister is deceased.  It's a topic that turns him from this take-charge, assertive, angry little man into a gentle, kind, protective older brother.  Sometimes I'm convinced he loved her more than he loves me.

She died of severe illness during the genocide in 1978.

BUU: My younger sister was sick.  What can we do?  There's a story that I still remember 'til now.  I thought I tell you before this kind of story. . . . One husband and wife which lived in the same village, because of the husband and wife, they had no food so they were hungry.  Sometimes they fought over a little food. On that day, we can't say divorce, we can't say nothing.  Husband and wife, they don't want to be husband and wife anymore.  They lived in the same house but they were just strangers to each other.

But the wife, that lady that . . . when she saw my sister, because the symptoms of my sister's sickness.  Her skin suddenly turned yellow and we still don't know what happened.  And she felt so weak and we don't know what to do because we have no money.  We have nothing to exchange for medicine.  And we don't even know where to get the medicine, so all we have to do is we just watched my sister, the situation, the condition went from bad to worse.  And then that lady came to talk to my mom, "What happened to your daughter?"  My mom said, "I don't know what to do."  And the lady said, "Why don't you get some medicine for her?"  And my mom said, "We have nothing, we have nothing to exchange.  We have no more gold.  We have no more rings.  Nothing."  That lady, after she was thinking for a little bit, and then she went back to the place she lived, and later on she came back with one ring.  Gold.  I still remember.  I remember all my life.  The ring with a very nice, shiny, yellow stone.  Yellow stone.  She gave it to my mom.  She said, "Go, get it, take it. Hurry up.  Go exchange.  Look for some medicine for your daughter."  But it's too late.  And we don't know if the medicine we got was the right medicine for my sister.

We looked at my sister getting weak day by day and finally she can't move anymore and then we sat beside her and watched her pass away silently.  We ran out of tears.  We just took her to be buried and then kept going.

There are so many ways to die.  Hunger and sickness.  And one terrible thing is you can get killed so easily because the life of people is so cheap.  Those people . . . they were too hungry so they stole some food from public lunchrooms.  Even a piece of meat.  If you steal a piece of yam in the field and get caught, then you 100% get killed for sure.

C: I thought you said she died by drowning.

B: No, by drowning was my brother.

C: Oh.

B: That was an accident.  That was when the country was peaceful and prosperous.  But he went to swim in the river.  And right now we have new information that . . . because a group of boys, they went swimming.  And one of the boys that survived recently talked to your uncle.  He said, "You know how your brother died?  He was trying to rescue someone else.  That's why he died."  Okay, that's a different story.

C: Vicky's dad (my uncle) told her that your younger sister reminds him of me.  Why would he say that?

My dad gives me the most disgusted look and said, "No."

I shrug it off.

B: Why would he say that?  Ha.  She was really pretty.

Thanks, Dad.

B: She was so adorable, so nice, so adorable.  She loved everybody.  She loved me so much.

At this point, he looked sullen and told me to end the interview.


*Any surviving pictures of my dad's little sister would be at my grandfather's house.  I'll put some up as soon as I get my hands on them!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

My aunt's first love

My Aunt Hue is my father's older sister.  She lives in Montreal now, so I am not able to reach her for an interview.  It's too bad.  She loves to talk.  And talk.  And talk.

A few years ago, she went to Cambodia in search of surviving family members.  Unfortunately, she didn't find any relatives.

But she did find her first love.

Okay, her meeting wasn't as spontaneous as in the movies or as cute as Alana's first encounter with her husband.  My aunt, who was widowed for many years, was keeping in touch with a man from her past for a long time.  Very few people knew about their long-distance relationship.  I was unaware that my aunt even had a first love.

My dad told me that when Aunt Hue was a teenager, she was infatuated with someone named Mengheng.  However, she kept her feelings for him to herself.  Back then - and even now - males are believed to be the ones to make the first move.

Apparently Mengheng liked her too, but he was also shy to tell her how he felt.  As a result, they never confessed their adoration for each other.  They married other people and had children.  They both lost their first spouses in the genocide.  They lost touch during the Khmer Rouge regime and for several years after that.

Fast forward to 2005.  My aunt went to Cambodia with the intention of searching for our relatives and meeting with The One That Got Away.

When she returned, she told us she was now married.  Yep, she and Mengheng eloped.  (Aww!)  They are still happily together.

I just wanted to share this with you guys to show you that not every story posted on here is sad and full of despair.  Although they had an uneventful start to their relationship and were separated by both their cowardliness and the genocide, they were eventually reunited and are now making up for lost time.

Monday, 3 October 2011

TRAILER: Enemies of the People

Hello, readers!  I have decided to take a break from the interviews this week to show you a trailer of an amazing documentary about the Khmer Rouge regime entitled Enemies of the People.  The video of the trailer is located farther down; I hope it'll make you interested enough to watch the entire film.  It's worth it.  Trust me.

The film is directed by Cambodian investigative journalist Thet Sambath.  He has lost his own family in the genocide. The movie's website states that the film is Sambath's "journey to discover not how but why they died".

Sambath has spent years earning the trust of the men and women who perpetrated the massacres.  Eventually, he was able to gather and record testimonies from these killers, including Pol Pot's right-hand man, Nuon Chea (also known as Brother Number Two).  In this film, we get to hear about the Khmer Rouge regime from the perspective of a murderer.