Wednesday, August 6, 2008

ASSTROfornication - a world on repeat mode

One afternoon, just about one or two months away from my MCE (now known as "SPM") examinations, all of us Form Fivers were called into the hostel dining room for some kind of prep talk. On the raised platform in front were 4 young lecturers from UKM, apparently invited by the school to give us advice on the impending examinations. A question was asked during the Q&A session by a friend who wanted to know why some students managed to remember everything they read about as opposed to some who did not manage to do so. One of the lecturers answered that question by posting a rhetorical question. "How do you remember that the grass is green? Do you memorise it?", he asked.

He then asked why was it that we managed to remember the grass is green even though we did not make any effort to remember that fact. That is the power of repetition, according to him.

Thinking about it, repetition, is indeed a powerful tool. In the olden days, information would be repeated by the King throughout his kingdom as a matter of propaganda, especially during a war. In peaceful times, information would be repeated on perhaps the necessity of paying taxes or perhaps also to put the citizenry on notice that such and such a person was being sought after by the King for whatever offence. No matter what the purpose of the repetition of the information was, the process of repeating was laborious, to say the least. It will perhaps involve men on horses, riding from one village to the other, shouting the information repeatedly.

The oldest hobby of homo sapiens is perhaps the participation in the oldest form of chain e-mails, namely, the act of gossiping. This is of course during the time before gossiping was elevated into an industry worth billion of dollars. Gossiping is, in itself a form of repetition, where a certain unproven matter or matters about something or somebody, which is normally of a very scandalous variety, would be whispered into the ears of a set of people. The recipient(s) would then repeat the same to another set of people, but of course with a certain latitude of additions or omissions, as the repeater deemed fit for his or her purpose. And this process would be repeated over and over again, each time to a different set of audience. The obvious element of this act is of course, first of all, secrecy of the originator. The design of this act is almost always to scandalise or at least embarrass the subject of the act, which could be a person, a household, an institution or a group of people.

Malay folklore are replete with tales of vicious schemes undertaken through the act of gossiping, which almost always ended tragically. The beautiful Mahsuri, for example, died impaled by bamboo sticks because of an unfounded gossip. Hang Tuah was sentenced to death by the King after being gossiped of having an affair with one of the King's female servants. He luckily survived. Hang Nadim, a boy, was sentenced to death and executed, when it was gossiped that he was too smart so much so that he could overthrow the palace!

Thus was the power of repetition in the olden days.

The need to repeat a certain act is also perhaps owed to the nature of human beings, who are of course, blessed with memory, albeit at varying degree. The ability to memorise or to remember results in human beings' fondness to indulge in the act of reminiscing, which is a form of natural recreation. Before the advent of technology, the act of reminiscing was of course restricted to the act of closing one's eyes and projecting images of the acts or things being remembered or reminisced about. When human beings were able to draw or paint, these images would be drawn or painted in some caves or on some stone tablets. The Pharaohs, for instance, would decree that a whole history of their rules be painted on a whole plain of rock to ensure that they do not vanish from the Earth without being remembered. The Incas would paint or inscribed the whole picture of their irrigation system on a plain of rock, just for posterity sake.

When human beings began writing, of course, some of them began recording events on paper which could be in written form alone, or sometime, even accompanied with drawings or paintings. These were borne out of the necessity to revisit events, whether out of personal attachment to the events, a learning activity or curiosity. Whatever it was, the act of repetition was then becoming mildly sophisticated.

The printing business revolutionised the whole act of repetition. The common people could now revisit events just by re-reading the printed material. By this time, technology had also made it possible to record an event in pictorial form. Together, these abilities brought to the world a new economics gadgetry called "advertising". By this time, the masses could already store their nice remembrances in printed forms. So were articles, stories, literature and learned works. All these could be read repeatedly, at one's own time during one's leisure or period of necessity. Repetition became an act done with relative ease as compared to the time when men on horses going about shouting repeated information for the King. The act of mass repeating, other than the act of gossiping, was at last available to the masses at relative ease and cheapness.

If the act of publishing prints of articles, stories etc gave the amenity to repeat reading or visual visitation of events, stories etc, the act of advertising exploited the power of repetition and human beings' ability to memorise and remember, albeit in subliminal and/or subconscious form. The media of communication would be used to print short articles about certain product with a certain message and publish the same repeatedly. These short articles, coupled with images of the product, or the lifestyles to which the product was related to, would be placed at certain strategic places in the publication where it was deemed inescapable from the view and attention of the masses or readers. Subliminally or subconsciously, these articles and their images would "stick" in the minds of the masses or readers, who would later purchase the subject of the advertisements whenever necessary or even unnecessarily. The true power of repetition was, at this stage of civilisation, almost realised.

Just after this, the radio and television, as well as the cinemas, would provide endless avenues for the masses to indulge in repetitive enjoyment of stories, movies and songs. Favourite songs could be played over and over again on the gramophones while movies could be shown, and watched, numerous times. While at first, the images were in black and white, later they were able to be projected in colours. While at first, the gramaphone was an odd looking piece of steel with rotating table which had to be manually turned via a handle, it was later replaced with a motor driven turntable driven by electric motors. Later this gadget became mobile with the advent of cassette tapes. The transistor radios replaced the humongous valve radios and later became mobile too, with radios shrinking in sizes. Repetition, at this time, became so easy to perform and its technology easy to purchase and own.

The digital revolution however pushed the frontiers of repetition to a new level. The masses could not only repeat a certain media at his or her own leisure time (and needs), they could also repeat a particular segment from within that media with modified intensity or speed. Thus, one could repeat a scene in the movie "Untouchables" for umpteen times in slow motion, at a rate up to 8 times slower than the original speed. (I must confess I am one of those who repeated the scene where Sean Connery was assassinated interspersed with the images of De Niro crying at the opera house 89 times, in slow motion too!) The same could be done to songs, although there is not much fun in repeating a song at a slower speed unless one is playing it backwards in order to find subliminal satanic messages. If before, the liberty to repeat at one's whims and fancy was only possessed by the industry, the digital age has altered that to give more power to repeat and to decide in what manner the repeat is to be done to the masses. Pornography, at this time, is taken to a new height, and depth (pun not intended).

Elsewhere, computer games gives the masses to the ability to "interact" with the games they are playing on the computer enabling them to repeat the game by trying out varieties of responses and reactions to a given set of situations provided by the game, each of the responses and reactions coming with a different set of counter-responses and reactions and ultimately, results. Images and stories, articles and works, learned or otherwise, are now not only available via the print media, but also stored in digital form in cyberspace, ready to be accessed at a click of a mouse.

At macro level, a whole new approach to story making, as well as digital gossiping, were taking place. The ability to repeat a scene, whether in "motion" pictures or still pictures has now empowered the industry to create a whole new scene which would be entirely different from the original scene which was being repeated through a process known as "digital editing". At micro level, the masses could also do this, albeit, through less sophisticated methodology and means via a process popularly known as "photoshop". The industry now is equipped with technology to repeat a scene from a series of pictures, splice up some of them, cut them out and "paste" them on a particular scene, doctor them, mutate and morph them out into an entirely different scene altogether. Thus, in the movie Forrest Gump for example, the character Gump was shown to have shaken hand with JF Kennedy. This of course had never taken place. But employing digital editing, this entirely new, and untrue, scene was there for all to see. Repetition is by now elevated to an art form.

The masses was not to be left out either. The "cut and paste" methodology was widely, and cheaply, available. A whole new dimension of digital gossiping ensued. Thus we could see for example, a picture of Najib Razak dining with Altantuya Sharibu on the internet, although it was admitted later that that picture was "doctored" or "digitally processed", to use the digital linggo. The digital camera, which is now cheaply available in every mobile phone, could also be easily and instantly called into service by the masses when events which necessitate or deemed justified for a recording (for future repeats of course) take place. Thus we could now see a proliferation of recording of sexual acts between consenting adults on the computer. These acts (the acts of recording the events and uploading the recording onto a website) is fueled by the knowledge that the recording could and might be repeatedly watched by the masses. Repetition is now a cause of self exhibitionism. Self exhibitionism, on the other hand, is enhanced by repetition. They co-exist in an inter-dependent and inter-beneficial world called the cyber world, the e-world, the world wide webs.

Acts of gossiping has become borderless. Where before, gossiping entails words passed from a person to another, with the minds projecting images as described by words, digital gossiping would come complete with words, pictures and sounds. Chua Soi Lek found that to his chagrin. Invasion of privacy is now just a click away. Voyeurism is now almost too easy and has therefore, probably, lost its sinister edge.

Digital recording and editing has made the act of prying into and revealing a person's private life in all its sordid details all too easy and almost convenient. On the other hand, while digital editing and recording has caught many a person with their pants literally down, it has also provided the masses with a defence whenever they are caught in such situation. Thus we have Ida Nerina saying in her defence that the sexual video showing a woman who looked like her (although we do not know whether she sounded like her) in it is not genuine. Linda Rafar defended herself from allegation of sexual misconduct after pictures of someone looking like her naked with a KRU member appeared in the net by saying that those pictures were a "cut and paste" job. The whole digital editing and recording liberty even managed to cause a Royal Commission to be established in Malaysia, the results of which I am sure is within everybody's knowledge. The same tactic is employed here, namely, the decrying of such recording as a work of ingenuity. Others, like Paris Hilton or Pamela Anderson, on the other hand, reveled in joyous celebrations and probably even benefited both financially and publicity wise after their sexual recordings and pictures appeared. It is obvious that the masses are now in control of repetition and will not be afraid or even hesitate to utilise it depending on their respective needs.

At macro level digital recording technology provides another dimension to security services. The private sectors install CCTV in order to monitor the masses on their premises for security (or might also be for commercial) purposes. The streets and highways of Great Britain have more cameras littered around than a Holywood studio, all in the name of security . Big Brother is now watching every step taken by the masses.

Elsewhere, sports analysis are made through repetitive display of an opposing team's performance. Tactics, strategies, weaknesses and strengths of the opposing numbers are looked into, with minute details, from repetition technology. So are the tactics, strategies, weaknesses and strengths of one team being ascertained and addressed by the same technology, in reverse order.

The world now revolves around and from the employment of repetition. If knowledge is power, repetition is therefore knowledge in itself.

However, nothing can beat the perfection of the power of repetition by Astro. Just the other night I was watching "Death Wish" by Charles Bronson for the 77th time. And that is in this year alone. I have also watched "Home Alone" 35 times. Two weeks ago, in July, they were showing reruns of "The Champion's League Updates" which was originally shown in March this year. And it was repeated complete with March promos which were encouraging me to watch the Champion's League sudden death round! All in July mind you. Here is a company, which turns repetition into a multi million ringgit business. Repetition is now a business on its own. Astro - selling repeats!

Repetition now exists, and justifies itself, by itself. That's what I call ASSTROfornication!

But then again, just imagine the power of repetition being used, and abused, by political powers for non other than political gains. I think I will write about this next...


Ryn said...

I like the your introduction, examples of malay legends, gossips and some how tying all of them together with astro. astro probably doesnt want to buy new programmes la or we have run out of ideas, some movies and lots of songs nowdays are remakes anyway.

Hmm.. have u seen Children of the Corn? I remember vaguely but I think the movie showed how an advert that eventually brainwashed the children. The story is not far from the truth because something similar did happen in Japan many years ago. The Japanese children did not go and kill people but they did get sick.

Scary right and coming back to your repetition issue, are we being brainwashed by repetition?

Samantha said...

"Great topic & it has covered several points regarding
subliminal messaging technology. It was fun reading your article. You might want to check out as they have a whole range of articles and programs related to subliminal messages."