Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sandstorm in Kuwait

History Is Dull No More

I love history and used to spend most of my time reading a lot of history books in the university library (instead of doing revision), now mainly through articles from Internet, or newspapers and magazines as well as TV channels.
It is one of my dreams to travel to these historical places but of course I can't afford this extravaganxa which is why Travel, National Geoghraphy and History channels are the best venues to 'be there'. Perhaps, someday I will be able to realise this dream...inshaAllah.

If you think that history is dull, here’s some very bad news

It naturally pains me to say this as an anthropologist and historian, but many people find history dull. Very few – probably well under half the population, I would guess – will take the time to sit, read and analyse the past. And only those who are really enthusiastic will take the time to read long works, plough through weighty tomes, and form a realistic picture in their minds of the people and events that have shaped their world.
So in looking back at our past, there is a chance that non-historians may not fully understand what really happened. The lack of visual aids and photographs is a particular obstacle preventing many people taking an interest in – and gaining an understanding of – their history. Many past events need thorough explanation, and without visual aids, that can be difficult. In a rapidly changing and developing nation such as ours, there is a great need to find an effective link between the present and the past in order for the young generation to fully understand and connect with their parents and grandparents and, indeed, their own history. In a visual age, the only way to do this is through the medium of what used to be called “the moving image”, whether that be television, film, video or digital.
Whatever name it goes by, film has always been a very good tool for sparking people’s imaginations and presenting them with easily understood information. Film also develops our visual appreciation, giving us the chance to appreciate fully the beauty that lies around us. From an historical perspective, it also gives us the chance to actually view the past, showing us how things used to be and what we used to have. Film also reveals that the people of 40 or 50 years ago were very little different from us today – even if they do seem to exist only in black and white.
Which is all to explain why I believe that Abu Dhabi Television’s step in restoring and digitally archiving some 16,000 hours of film showing how life used to be here from the 1950s to the 1980s, is one of the greatest acts of historical significance carried out by any network company. When the film is fully archived and restored, the colour corrected and background scratchiness removed, it will give modern viewers an amazing insight into their country of half a century or so ago.
Today’s younger generation, who have only known cities and skyscrapers, highways and four-wheel drives, will be shown the beauties of the Emirates of the past. There is film of pearl fishermen at work, laden camels traversing the desert, bustling markets – and the tiny town of Abu Dhabi. There is also, thankfully, extensive footage of the late Sheikh Zayed to inspire generations anew.In a country such as the UAE, which until relatively recently relied more on oral traditions for passing on its knowledge of history, it is difficult to stress sufficiently how important this archive will be in developing an awareness of the past. We have only a small number of written historical documents and so we have to be meticulous in preserving everything we can – as well as constantly seeking new ways to encourage people to connect with what we have.
This film archive marks a major step towards the improvement of historical libraries in the Emirates as well as demonstrating the arrival of the latest technologies. At the moment “a technical infrastructure” is being developed before the digitalisation process can begin. That should take until the end of the year, and then the transfer of all the film to digital archive should take up to another year.
Once completed, the people of the UAE will have a fantastic resource, one that gives them an easy and enjoyable access to the nation’s history and their past. It will also give television and cinema producers the means to produce films for both education and entertainment that look back into history. Thanks to technology – and, of course, the money and commitment of the television stations – history should never again be considered as dull. I personally can’t wait until we start to see some of the restored footage, or the documentaries that should follow later retelling the stories and the history of the people of the UAE. But the bad news for anyone who is convinced that history is not for them is that they will quickly have to change their minds.

Dr Salem Humaid is an Emirati writer and researcher in cultural and anthropological studies based in Dubai

Visit Malaysia - Minus 5 states

Perhaps, it is a bad joke that our Tourism Ministry has deleted five states from its website and ongoing promotions. It could be because the current and latest map of Malaysia showing a new sparkling corridor, i.e. five states under Pakatan Rakyat.

Joke aside, we need to shift our paradigm and mentality into higher level, especially those who are now leaders of the nation. Malaysia is a nation irrespective which parties rule. We can change the leaders and parties that rule the government but we are all Malaysians who love Malaysia, a heaven on earth and the best destination for holidays (well, it can be disputed but who cares)

Yes, we need to live in diversity of cultures as well with different political inclinations and support. We are going for a developed nation status which means, it does not matter which political party/parties or leaders as long as rule of law, human rights and other constitutional matters are intact.

The below article somehow makes me take another look of the real situation on the ground, it is not a joke anymore!

Foreign language lessons for Germans

R. Nadeswaran

IT was quite a bad error of judgment, to say the least. Having left Frankfurt the day before – Sunday, June 22, there was a sort of helplessness when Bernama filed this report the following day: "Tourism Malaysia is working on growing its share of the northeast Asia market by coming up with new plans to draw more arrivals from Japan and Hongkong."
Its international promotion director for North and East Asia Wan Zawawi Mohamed was quoted as saying that a promotion on Malaysia’s gastronomy and spa delights was launched in Taiwan and was well-received by tour agents there.
What a pity. The Friday before, friends in Germany were talking over lunch about a trip to Malaysia and a sojourn to Penang was a must. They had experienced it all before, but had to convince their wives to make that 12-hour flight, though. While they went back to clear their work because of an important Euro match ahead, I marched to the Tourism Malaysia office in the centre of the city to pick up some literature for the womenfolk who only spoke a smattering English and knew little about our country.
I signed in the name in the "record book" at the reception to be greeted by a man of Middle-Eastern origin. Polite as he was, he was unable to help. I had asked for brochures on Selangor and Penang in the German language so that these could change the mindsets of a minority who still believe they have to cover their bodies from head to toe will learn something different and stay in their hotel rooms because there is no nightlife and no liquor.
"Sorry, Sir," he said. "We don’t have anything in German except one which gives a little bit of everything on Malaysia."
"Anything on Penang? Anything for my German-speaking friends?"
He went into the office and came back with a few brochures, all in English. However, there was one which caught my eye. It was on eating out in Penang and the photographs and illustrations were attractive. But then, it was in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese!
What were such brochures doing in Frankfurt? These languages are not widely spoken in Germany? But you would argue that it is not uncommon for such "mistakes" in our system. But then, in view of the austerity drive, it was apparent that there was another use for them. It was then that I knew that Wan Zawawi needed help and plenty of it. If he was indeed luring the gastronomy tourists from Taiwan and Japan, shouldn’t such brochures be shipped from Frankfurt to Tokyo or Taipei where they would be more useful?
Oh! That involves another cost besides shipping it from Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt in the first place! It won’t be easy finding a company belonging to someone’s uncle’s sister-in-law’s nephew’s wife’s cousin! But then there are Malaysians residents in Germany who could do with a bit of duit belanja! It could be like the promotional video tapes which was produced by the same agency for Taiwan where it was claimed that the costs were inflated.
But then thoughts went back to the aftermath of the events March 8 when it was decreed that tourism money won’t be given to the five Pakatan Rakyat-ruled states. And at the Dewan Rakyat two months later, documents were presented to suggest that orders were given out that those five magic words – Penang, Selangor, Perak, Kedah and Kelantan – be deleted from the Tourism Malaysia websites. Questions linger whether the brochures for Penang were deliberately sent in the wrong languages or if orders were being carried out to the letter.
Could it be because after that historic day, didn’t someone change our slogan to "Visit Malaysia minus Five States."?

Officially no, but on the quiet, it is "yes". The whole nation waits for answers with bated breath, but they will never be forthcoming. There’s much more to do than answering questions from the media on tourism because people are busy finding excuses for another tourism product called the World Youth Cup which is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons!

R. Nadeswaran is amazed at how money is wasted on such enterprises at a time when the government is asking taxpayers to tighten their belts. He can be reached at .