Archive for 9 November 2017

Ups and downs of the internet and the Dallas umbrella man

9 November 2017

(Reprinted from The Edge – Options pullout, 6 November 2017 issue)

Dear Kam,
My son has persuaded me to get onto Facebook. Is it my imagination or is everything just paranoia and misery?
Man in the Net

Does the internet make you feel happy or miserable? In its early days, the internet promised to be a mind-expanding tool for personal education. I vaguely remember seeing a billboard advertisement in the 1990s with a child looking at a computer screen and an arrow was pointing directly at his brain that was literally getting bigger. If you can avoid any of the disinformation coming out of Russia (that stuff makes your brain get smaller), then the internet is indeed a great source for news, commentary and fast research. But I find that social media can create so much misery, both intentionally and unintentionally. Personally, I find that looking at the happy, exciting and successful lives of others just makes me feel miserable. I didn’t know that the internet was invented so that my “friends” could show me that they are on yet another glamorous holiday while I’m stuck in Ampang. But if I tear myself away from the internet for a moment, then I realise that I am actually quite happy in Ampang.

The internet’s anger and bitterness reflect our dark times at home and abroad. It’s a useful valve for releasing otherwise pent-up rage and I do take part in it, which leads to me feeling equally energised, defiant and defeated. And so, it always comes as a relief whenever I find people who take it upon themselves to use the internet as a gift to others, not necessarily for some cause or for any conceivable profit but just because they want to and, with the internet, they can.

There are many examples of internet selflessness, but I like a guy on YouTube who calls himself Nacho Video and has dedicated himself to finding every last scrap of footage from the 1970s of David Bowie in concert. I am a big fan of Bowie and I have spent so many, many hours on YouTube watching his performances, but these have been mostly from the 1990s onwards when, quite honestly, he was past his glory days of the 1970s. Bowie had countless legendary concerts in the 1970s, but there is precious little footage of these performances that I wish I could have seen.

And then Nacho Video came along with a gift. He has managed to create a handful of convincing concert videos by somehow sourcing footage shot by fans on the now-defunct film medium of Super 8, as well as grainy filmed rehearsals and from what snippets remain of news and promotional films, and then tying them together with excellent sound recordings from a completely different concert. The available raw film runs at a different speed to the sound, but with the clever use of new software, he has managed to perfectly sync the sound and vision. Each video must have taken hours, even months, of work but the result is a seamless evocation of events that I never thought I would get to see.

There are many people on the net who are like Nacho Video, creating content nobody has asked for, but that enlivens the day and brings back the hope that the internet can indeed be both mind-expanding and entertaining. I enjoy reading and watching their content because of their enormous effort and the professionalism of their product. This stuff is not Pewdiepie brainlessly playing a video game; this stuff took research and skill.

I suppose I should be wallowing in the misery of Donald Trump and the gerrymandering of electoral districts and I will return to that. But first I am going to watch again the 15 glorious minutes of Bowie’s Station to Station from 1976, when he was the coolest man who ever lived.

Dear Kam,
The old JFK files have finally been opened. Now we can find out who did it, but we probably won’t because the Deep State will never allow the truth to emerge.
Mr Love Field

The US National Archives recently released some documents from 1963 about the assassination of President John F Kennedy. No single event has created more conspiracy theories than the assassination in Dallas, especially after Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie, JFK, which came out just as the internet was being invented. The movie perhaps single-handedly introduced the concept of a “false flag” event that has gripped the imagination ever since. Now, just about everything is considered to be a false flag — an event that is a fiction manufactured by dark forces to distract us from the truth. Nothing, it seems, can ever be as simple as it simply appears to be. Instead, everything must be impossibly complicated.

One person present at the JFK assassination fascinates me. The grainy amateur film shows that as the motorcade went down the Dallas street, there was one man who mysteriously opened an umbrella just before the fatal shots were fired. Unlike Asians, who want to avoid developing a suntan, it is not common for Americans to open umbrellas on fine, sunny days. So, who was the man with the umbrella? Was he creating a signal or a distraction and was he, therefore, part of a conspiracy?

It turned out that the man was making a silent, bizarre and totally ineffectual protest. He was associating the umbrella with the 1930s British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his notorious appeasement or capitulation to the aggression of Adolf Hitler. The man with the umbrella was trying to make the point that Kennedy was a coward who had given in to the communists, but because of a freakish coincidence of timing his act was suddenly thrown into a world of conspiracies that continues to this day.

I am fascinated by the man with the umbrella because he illustrates that strange coincidences do happen and that things are usually as simple as they appear to be. I also find him fascinating because his act of protest was so small, oblique and strange that nobody would ever have seen or understood it if it had not been captured on film on the day the president was assassinated.

That man opening his umbrella makes me wonder if any act of protest ever amounts to anything. But he felt better as he opened his umbrella, and that is probably the point.

Reprinted with the kind permission of