Bringing Our Zoo To You

I remember last year reading this strangely macabre article about how the Neumünster Zoo was planning on feeding its animals to each other if they didn’t get enough visitors to sustain their operations.

Great way to attract visitors, I’d say. I’d pay good money to see a grizzly bear hunt an elephant. (Just kidding. Do I look like a Roman to you?)

But anyway, all this realisation that zoos basically have the same operating costs whether they’re opened or closed made me think: is there a way to ensure that they remain profitable even in Covid times?

Searching around, I did see that zoos were trying out various programmes to engage people. Live streamed zoos. Entertaining images where zookeepers showed exotic animals to each other.

But all of them had the same problem: you still weren’t physically in contact with the animals, which is the whole point of zoos.

Now, of course as I say this I realise that most zoos don’t actually allow you to touch the animals. (Might I remind anyone of Harambe?) But you know what I mean. What’s the point of watching zoo animals on the Internet when you can literally watch wild animals on the Internet?

Continue reading “Bringing Our Zoo To You”

The Melancholic Art of Breadmaking

Back in January I was chilling in class, enjoying life and generally thinking about nothing when our lecturer dropped a bomb on us.

He said, “Make a ninety second video set at a location.”

We looked at him. “And then?”

He looked at us. “Oh yes, it needs to have a mood.”

We looked at him.

He looked at us. “That’s all.” Eventually, he added, “Feel free to add a story if you want to, but it’s not required.”

And then, the killer:

Continue reading “The Melancholic Art of Breadmaking”

No, the Bible isn’t a long book—and other interesting facts about the world’s number one bestseller

Really, it isn’t.

If you have Christian friends (or are a Christian) you’ve probably heard people talk about how the Bible is soooo long, and indeed, most people who set out to read it take a year or two to do so.

Some years ago I decided to actually find out how long it was, and to my surprise, The Authorised Version is a mere 788,000 words.

Now, yes, that’s long, except, except, guess what’s longer?

Photo by Liam Truong on Unsplash

Harry Potter.

The unarguably most popular children’s book of the last two decades comes in at a whopping 1.084 million words. Read that again. Everything after the decimal place? That’s a whole extra novel.

I finished them all in two weeks.

In fact, I checked again, and the Order of the Phoenix, book number five, clocks in around 257,000 words.

The New Testament? 184,600.

I finished one of them in two days, and it certainly wasn’t the shorter one.

Continue reading “No, the Bible isn’t a long book—and other interesting facts about the world’s number one bestseller”

People need cool face masks and I’m here to help with that

You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it.

The need for face masks has never been greater.

Whether you need one to slow the spread of Covid-19, or because you live in a smog filled city, or to wear over your eyes to block out reality, you need a mask.

A unique mask.

Not just because I’m trying to sell you something (if “sell” applies to things that are free), but because having a unique mask means you don’t accidentally take someone else’s gross mask. You know, the one they were using as a napkin after eating spaghetti.

But where can you find unique masks?

Ahhh, now I’m going to start selling you things. (Just kidding.)

Threadless.com, an online business that does printed shirts (and other stuff), has recently begun doing prints for masks, and to kick that off they’re running a mask design competition, where they’re going to decide the winner by vote.

So of course I entered the competition, and here’s my mask:

This Mask of Avoiding Awkward Conversations gives you Health +2, Volume -10, and Stealth +10, and +5 on rolls to avoid awkward conversations.

The Mask of Avoiding Awkward Conversation is a very special mask. Unlike your run of the mill masks which simply try to protect you from Covid-19/regular flu/smog, this mask is meant to deflect unwanted conversation. How? By making your voice so muffled no one can sustain a conversation with you.

And, of course, if you’re a Munchkin/D&D/any RPG geek, this mask also gives you a +5 to meet people of like humour and/or mind, which is always a bonus (unless, of course, you don’t want to, in which case you can just wear the mask inside out, but that’s not the point).

Of course, all of this only happens if the mask gets printed. But thankfully, all it needs to get printed is your vote.

So if you could all do me a favour and stuff the ballot box in my favour, I’d be delighted. You can vote for it here. A nice “5” would be appreciated. (Or a 4. Or a 3. Beggars can’t be choosers.)

Thanks for the support, and stay stealthy, my friends.

Lord of the (Toilet) Rolls and other books to read during your quarantine

As the Covid-19 pandemic rages across the globe and more and more people are isolating or quarantining themselves, the question is being asked, “What on earth do I do cooped up for 14 days?”

The first two days might seem like a holiday. Sleeping in, bingeing Netflix, shuffling around in pyjamas (or out of them) and endless scrolling through coronavirus memes on Instagram. The recipe for a perfect weekend.

But it gets old. And then you hear how Newton invented calculus during and outbreak of the black plague while on quarantine. And how Shakespeare apparently wrote King Lear under similar circumstances.

And suddenly, wearing matching clothes for three consecutive days doesn’t seem like such a great achievement.

And that, my friend, is where reading books comes in.

There are a whole host of reasons to read books, but there are particular bonuses to reading during a quarantine:

  1. It passes the time. (Of course, TV does that too, but books somehow give you less guilt. I don’t know why.)
  2. No pseudo-intellectuals who disparage light reading that you will meet in your commute/workplace can give you a long look down their heavy glasses that hang of the edge of their nose and say, “hmm? You call that a book? I thought it was a rag with words on it.”
  3. Your Internet bill is spared.
  4. Taking hip Instagram photos of a good book and a drink looks sooooo much better than taking an Instagram photo of your coffee and your Netflix login page.
  5. Saying, “I read two/three/ten novels while in isolation” basically trumps anything your colleagues can say about their quarantines. (Unless, of course, someone really did invent another form of calculus. Or paint the next Mona Lisa. Or write the next Man Booker laureate.)

And of course, publishers, eager to help, have updated many classics with a modern, 2020 twist.

Here’s the catalogue.

Yes, before anyone asks in the comments, this is a joke. Please take it lightly.

Now, unless you’re an insane speed reader, this collection of books will last you far longer than two weeks of quarantine, so to help you narrow down your selection, here’s a brief summary of each. (Full disclosure, I read maybe 0.85 of the 9 books above, so if my description is off, blame the Wikipedia summary.)

Continue reading “Lord of the (Toilet) Rolls and other books to read during your quarantine”

18 Walls by Teo Xue Shen: a review

The release of The Hunger Games triggered a renaissance for dystopian literature. In its wake came a wave of books like Divergent, the Maze Runner and many others.

And Teo Xue Shen’s 18 Walls.

Its premise is simple: humanity is fighting a group of half-human half animals called the “Savages” whose hobby is to bash people’s faces in. Ren, our hero, is a child soldier part of the global coalition to stop them.

With plenty of action and adventure, twists and turns, Teo’s debut novel is an impressive work.

But the fact stands that it’s a debut novel by a developing author, and Teo still has a way to go. (Read it anyway though. Preferably before you read the SPOILERS BELOW.)

Continue reading “18 Walls by Teo Xue Shen: a review”

“Doing what you love means you’ll never work a day in your life”. Erm, yeah right

If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

—some over-privileged neophyte to real life that probably wasn’t Confucius

Have you ever heard this phrase and felt your blood (a) boil at the utter inaccuracy of this statement or (b) chill at the utter ignorance of the speaker?

If you’re some dewy-eyed high school kid, this statement might seem rather true. I mean, look around. People are making money in more and more unconventional ways. As long as people are paying you to do it, you can do whatever you want. We live in a world where you can literally make money by opening packages/watching videos and filming your reactions.

But to say that they’re not doing work simply because they love it is to be mistaken. (Okay, I’ll admit I look at pro video gamers with an eye of “is it even okay to be making money like that?” but I’m not denying the work that goes into their jobs.)

Why? Let me explain.

Continue reading ““Doing what you love means you’ll never work a day in your life”. Erm, yeah right”

Yes, we know, many classics had racist stereotypes. That’s not a reason to stop reading them

Every year, it seems, another classic is under scrutiny for containing negative—usually racial—stereotypes, and as a result, is thrown out of classrooms.

A classic case of this, among others, is Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, which has been banned and reinstated repeatedly over the decades in various school districts, most recently in Virginia.

But it isn’t just racially charged books that have come under fire. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s oompa loompas and The Chronicles of Narnia‘s Calormen have been targeted as caricatures as well, and it seems the latest target is Dr. Seuss’s work, which, as it turns out, when not completely white and male, contains a handful of stereotyped Asian and African characters.

As these books are thrown out of curriculums, they’re being replaced by “works about and by people of colour”.

Which is perfectly fine. It’s time people expanded their reading horizons.

But not, I think, by throwing out what’s already there. (Because that doesn’t expand your horizon, it just shifts it.)

I mean, it’s great people are reading stories by people of colour, or “minorities”, or whatever the fashion is to call “those other people” are these days. (Being Asian, I’m not up to date on our latest non-offensive classification. Sorry about that.)

And I understand why westerns schools are so concerned with trying not to mock the rest of us, and thus are so conscientious about culling books that misrepresent us.

But honestly, I think the problem has been blown out of proportion. While it has been “proven” that racism and prejudices get ingrained young and absorbed unconsciously through media like books, I think with a trained specialist around to help the kids, we can still read such books without absorbing the racism in them.

Continue reading “Yes, we know, many classics had racist stereotypes. That’s not a reason to stop reading them”

Are words cheap? Well, of course they are.

Just today I was chatting with a friend of mine about writing, and he said it was one of the easier arts to get into, because “words are cheap”.

Suffice it to say that as a writer, I probably (read: did) take it in all the wrong ways once I heard it. But I (diplomatically) replied, “What do you mean?”

He told me that words, unlike paints (and other such equipment), were free, because besides maybe a pen/paper/word processor, it was relatively easy to begin writing.

Which might not seem like a deep insight at first, except, of course, that it is.

Because, first of all, it is true. Words are cheap. I’m not spending money for every letter I type (well, if I’m doing it with a pencil, I guess I am, but the money is infinitesimal).

Which leads to some interesting insights, which I will discuss. But first, let me find a thesaurus, because I want to find synonyms of cheap.Continue reading “Are words cheap? Well, of course they are.”