Was KONY 2012 a Success?

These days, you can’t go anywhere without seeing this video on Twitter and Facebook.

The first time I saw it, I didn’t even give it a glance. I mean, it’s pretty long!
But then as I saw my friends sharing it, I knew that I had to watch. So I did.

For those of you that haven’t seen the video, please do. Otherwise, you won’t understand anything I’m about to say.

I myself had never heard about Joseph Kony before until this 30-minute film came out.
Invisible Children has made it clear that their main goal is to spread awareness about this man, rather than to aid the victims of the warlord’s actions directly. They’ve certainly accomplished this goal, I think. 80,000,000 views is a feat.

Several factors contributed to making this video viral:

1. It aroused emotion.
The overall tone evoked sympathy. The interviews conducted with Jacob were very moving, and I really felt the urgency of the situation. Points were clear-cut and easy to understand. Many video-viewers felt that they needed to take action now.

2. Simply support by sharing. 
At the end of the video, Jason Russell (the narrator) kept on stressing that the viewer could support the cause by sharing it online via social networking sites. If the video had asked to fill out a form, donate money, or take a survey, things may have been different. All of these things require more time and money. Instead, all they asked you to do was to click the “Share” button, and notify friends of the video.

3. High quality video
There was a lot of sophisticated video-editing. Graphic images and diagrams were used to make sure that the main intent of the organization is conveyed. (Like the domino effect used from 21:41~22:24) Also, the video was persuasive. Russell and his team must have spent hours thinking of the script. Anybody, after watching this video, would know about a man named Joseph Kony, and what can be done to stop him.

It’s heartbreaking to see all the children, some the same age as me, getting abducted overnight and being told to kill people. I don’t know what I would have done if I were them. Joseph Kony’s acts are an absolute violation of basic human rights.

On the other hand, there is criticism out there. Many people feel that the Kony 2012 video is oversimplifying the facts, so much that a majority of the viewers only have a vague conception that there is a “bad guy” called Kony, and that he needs to be captured. Since the video is centered on a Ugandan boy named Jacob, some even have misunderstood that Kony is still in Uganda (he has actually moved onto neighboring countries). Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi released a video on Youtube a few days ago, trying to correct part of the information given in the “well intentioned video”. Uganda is “not in conflict,” he says.

Others say that there are far more important things for the U.S. to do than to dispatch troops to catch a warlord in Africa. Health care and unemployment are huge problems that the country faces, and some just feel that now is not the time to be doing this.

Jason Russell recently became mentally unstable, running around naked in his neighborhood. One can imagine the emotional stress that he has had to endure following the release of the video.

Then what should be done? After all, the video has been receiving some negative reviews, but of course we can’t ignore the child soldiers. At this moment, I don’t know what to say. The options definitely are not black and white, or to “help them” and to “not help them”. It’s really a difficult matter, one that links directly to the historically long-disputed issue of human rights.

Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot

Please just watch this video.

I used to live in America, and now I’m in Japan. I’ve moved multiple times, and every occasion was a sad experience, having to part with my friends. And it affected a large part of my life.

Yet, if you think about it, I’ve only moved from one fraction of a dot to another fraction of a dot. The universe sure is big.

To know that we are here, “living on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” is fascinating. What was the possibility that I would be born as me, having the same DNA I have now? What was the possibility that I would end up on Earth, out of all the other planets out there?

The world is large. And yet it’s small. It’s just a matter of our sense of perspective :)

“Art is Explosion”: Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum

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Last weekend, our whole family went to visit the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum in Tokyo.

Okamoto was a Japanese sculptor and painter. His creations are abstract and colorful, making him recognized worldwide.
He is most famous for designing the Tower of the Sun, which became a symbolic image for the Japan World Exposition held in 1970 at Osaka. Okamoto is also known for the quote “Art is Explosion”.

Celebrating 100 years since his birth in 1911

Some of his works on display

A miniature model of the "Tower of the Sun". The actual sculpture is about 70 meters tall.

Sculptures created by Okamoto

A sun? :D

A very unusual bell. Each spike emits a different sound.

A recreation of Okamoto's studio

Syrian Uprising marks its first anniversary

I don’t know what it is, but March seems to be full of anniversaries. And not all of them are good ones.

Today, Syria marks the one-year anniversary of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and his oppressive rule.

In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, dictators have either been ushered out of their thrones or killed. With that, democracy has arrived for its people. In the midst of all this, Assad continues to rule his country’s people with force and violence.

Sanctions have been imposed by other nations worldwide, and there is no doubt that the Assad administration is losing strength and support. As I use the internet to write this blog post, some courageous Syrians are using the same tool to speak out against the dictatorial regime.

Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter have helped to organize many of the demonstrations that have been led in the Arab Spring. People in Syria are now trying to do the same by exposing videos and photos, while knowing the consequences they will face if caught.

Let’s hope that the confusion in Syria ends as soon as possible, so its citizens can receive the same freedom that neighboring nations have fought for.

More information:
Syria marks anniversary of uprising, violence grows | Reuters.

Quakes in Japan Today… Again

EARTHQUAKES.

I wrote about them in my last post, and now it looks like we have to be prepared for more.

Today, we had two large ones.

One had a magnitude of 6.8, striking the coast of Hokkaido prefecture. A tsunami warning was released, and some people living along the coast were advised to evacuate their homes. Waves of up to 20 cm were observed.

Another magnitude 6.1 quake came later, or should I say a few hours ago, off the coast of Chiba prefecture. I was watching soccer when this one came, and boy was it big!

Japan has just started to recover from the earthquake last year, and yet the shaking and swaying doesn’t seem to stop.

Here’s an excerpt from an article written about this quake:

The temblors were considered aftershocks of last year’s massive quake, Meteorological Agency official Akira Nagai told a news conference, warning residents to stay away from buildings and plots already loosened by that tremor and the thousands of aftershocks that have followed.

After the first quake on Wednesday, the town of Otsuchi in Iwate prefecture, where more than 800 died in last year’s tsunami, issued an evacuation order to coastal households as a precaution, said prefectural disaster management official Shinichi Motoyama. No damage or injury was reported, he said.

Iwate was heavily damaged by last year’s tsunami. Nearly all of the thousands of aftershocks since then have been of minor or moderate strength.

I have no idea how long these after shocks are going to continue. Luckily, nobody was hurt in today’s quake, nor were there any damages. With current technology, it is impossible to predict earthquakes. However it can definitely be said that the world as a whole is increasing its seismic activity, considering that there have been large earthquakes in Haiti, New Zealand, Japan, and Turkey.

Japan Earthquake: One year has passed

Pavement in Urayasu, Chiba destroyed due to soil liquefaction. There are still many roads like this that are yet to be fixed.

Pavement in Urayasu, Chiba destroyed due to soil liquefaction. There are still many roads like this that are yet to be fixed.

One year ago, buildings collapsed, towns turned into piles of debris, and thousands of lives were lost.

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the March 11th earthquake.

I watched a TV documentary of that day, which mainly consisted of footage taken by victims of the earthquake. It was in chronological order, and there were clips taken by all sorts of people, from professional videographers to teens. Some of them were recorded using high definition cameras, others with cell phones. The thing that they all had in common was that every video recorded the horrors of that day.

One of them captured the moment of a ceiling collapsing, while another gave an insight on the tension that was building as the tsunami warning was released.

There was a certain video that rendered me speechless. It was taken by a man that had reached the top floor of a high building. The video showed people running for their lives down below, as the tsunami grew closer and closer to them. One woman seemed to be a little behind the others. The tsunami was literally on her heels. Then, someone screamed, and she was swallowed by the waves.

The woman in the video most likely did not survive. The same can probably be said for many others that were caught on tape.

At a time like this, a single mistake can decide the fate of a person, whether they live or die.

I happened to experience that very same earthquake, though at a much smaller level. At 2:46 PM, I was riding a train, on my way home from school. Class had ended a little early because we had a whole week of end-of-the-year exams. I was chatting along with a few friends when the train started to tremble. The movements were so subtle that I thought there was some trouble with the engine. The train didn’t slow down.

The trembling gradually changed into more of a swaying, and at this point almost everyone in the train including me had realized that this was an earthquake. But earthquakes are common in Japan. Nobody was expecting anything.

Then things started to get worse. The swaying turned into a shaking, which became more vigorous by the second. We heard the sound of the train braking. The windows rattled like mad, and the lights turned off. The doors automatically opened without warning, as if telling us wordlessly to GET OUT.

So we did, leaving our backpacks on the train. (We just happened to stop at a station, not in the middle of nowhere)

I quickly found out that the epicenter of the quake was off the shores of Miyagi prefecture. The station announcement told me that every train in Tokyo has suspended operation, and will continue to do so for the whole day. There was no possible way that I could get home.

Luckily, my friend let me stay over at his house in Urayasu, Chiba. And luckily, we happened to be at the station nearest to his house.
Now, Urayasu is an artificially made strip of land, so it is very prone to earthquakes. I really felt that when I stepped out of the station. The whole area was a mess. Soil liquefaction had left cracks in the ground, from which seawater and sand was spurting out. Mud was everywhere and it was hindering traffic. Taxis like the one below were stuck in the mud. Literally.

An unfortunate taxi stuck in the mud

We had to make so many detours that it took us a whole hour to reach his house when normally it would take 20 minutes.

I was even more shaken by tsunami footage on the TV when we finally arrived. Things started to sink in and I was able to get the big picture. It was very, VERY shocking.

The gas lines had been cut off, so our dinner consisted of things that could be eaten cold. I was grateful even for that. What would I have done if my friend hadn’t been there with me? Then I would be truly alone, and I would either have had to walk home (which would take hours), or camp out at a facility accepting commuters unable to do so.

While I was fretting over how not to get my shoes muddy, people up in Miyagi and Iwate prefecture were losing their lives. While I was looking at videos of whole towns being destroyed by tsunamis, there were people that had gotten swallowed by them.

The most important thing to do right now is to not forget. Remember the fear, the sadness, the horror of having your house washed away with the blink of the eye. We can use the lessons we have learned from this event if something similar happens in the near future.

Memories fade away. That’s how the human brain works. I guess that’s the reason why so many people took videos that day, even when their lives were in danger. They did it so we would not forget.

Soon, the “Tohoku Earthquake” will become a thing of the past for people worldwide. Look at what happened to Haiti. It’s only been 2 years since a Magnitude 7.0 quake struck the country. For a while, it was all over the news. Now it’s fading from people’s minds, yet there are thousands of people still without homes.

Do not forget.

That’s the one message I have for everybody here. Remember that day, so that we can pass the memories onto future generations. That way, less lives will be lost if the same thing ever happens again.

All of these thoughts raced through my mind yesterday as I dropped a coin into the donation box, on my way to school.

A damaged elevator. A fissure has developed between the ground and the elevator itself.

A sign at a supermarket after the quake saying: "This product is unavailable due to the earthquake." Many stores had similar signs, because roads leading to the Tohoku area were cut off.

Road or river?

This used to be a road as well. Now mud has piled up to create a mountain.