6 more accurate titles for children’s books

Naming things is a messy business.

I’m not talking about naming children, or pets, or countries. Those names can be changed. Kids can get nicknames. Pets only respond to the word “food” anyway. And there is no such thing as Swaziland anymore.

However, it is much harder to change the name of a good book.

Let’s pick a famous book: Dracula. While I’m not really sure what Bram Stoker’s readers thought of the name when it first came out, it sounds a lot better than the alternative name he considered: The Dead Un-dead.

But consider this: while Dracula sounds a lot cooler, isn’t The Dead Un-dead a much better explanation of the plot?

Why can’t we try changing the titles of books in order to make the plot clearer?

Well, this is a blog. Of course we can. Here’s some. (FYI, I picked children’s books because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s reading list. And to all the children reading this, I am truly sorry.)Continue reading “6 more accurate titles for children’s books”

How I sold my homework on the Internet

A few weeks back I was telling one of my classmates about this deal I found online. It concerned a literary analysis website that bought people’s old essays.

Here’s what the deal looked like.

Grade Saver

Now, my average for essays was something like 97%, and my friend’s was pretty good too, so I suggested that we make an easy hundred bucks by selling our papers (which we were going to throw away anyway).

Being smart and all, I said this while sitting right in front of our career advice teacher.

That got us a five minute lecture about plagiarism. To cut that story short, I never sold any of my essays online. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Yet.

But my teacher’s advice came too late. Because while I didn’t sell any essays, I had already sold homework online. In a completely legal fashion.Continue reading “How I sold my homework on the Internet”

What to do with all your school notes after you graduate

Just a couple of days ago, I tried to sell my math teacher this epic deal: if she paid each of us students in her class two dollars, we would each memorise two questions from the state-administered diploma we were taking the week after and reassemble the test once we were done and give it to her, which would give our school, and her class, an advantage over other schools in revision in the upcoming years.

She just laughed and ignored my deal. (But then again so did all of my classmates, who probably weren’t too keen on memorising any questions at all, let alone remembering the test.)

She then proceeded to hand out stacks and stacks of old diploma questions released by the government themselves in an effort to get us prepared for the exam.

After I finished them, I thought to myself, “Great. Another stack of paper I’ll have to deal with.”

Now that I’m actually graduating from high school, I have to seriously think about what exactly I’m going to do with a stack of school paper I’ve been collecting off and on since I was thirteen, which stands approximately my height.

Of course, there are several options my classmates already showed me:

  1. Chuck everything in the bin the moment the final exam is over (in the sight of the teacher who gave the papers to you).
  2. Burn it (metal ring folder and all, in a bonfire the size of a school bus).

Actually, that was pretty much the only two options presented to me. I guess anyone who actually recycled their paper didn’t consider it a badge of honour (or audacity) that they did so.

But looking at that stack of paper, it dawned on me that all these pieces of paper I had ever used was all for the purpose of attaining that one piece of paper that counted: my diploma. (Kind of a ridiculous exchange rate, if you ask me.)

But still, if all this paper was technically carried the same worth as my diploma, then it needed to be disposed of in a way that at least made me feel that my twelve years of school wasn’t just being, well, recycled.

I came up with a list of disposal ideas:Continue reading “What to do with all your school notes after you graduate”

Dear Guardian: thank you very much, we know Sentosa had a dark past. So what?

Watching the U.S. and North Korea plan the Trump-Kim summit on June 12 distinctly reminds me of [insert generic on-again, off-again couple from generic TV show].

There’s too much drama, and there’s not enough happening.

But of course, this time next week, Trump and Kim are expected to be in Singapore for their long anticipated summit. In Sentosa no less.

Sounds like fun. Maybe they can go to Universal Studios.

Of course, that’s big news. The fact that the summit is “back on” should be news enough.

Not big enough for some newspapers, apparently.

So our friends at The Guardian decided to spice things up with this title:

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.52.50 PM
Gee, thanks for calling our holiday resort the “Island of death from behind”.

I mean, okay. So maybe it is just one journalist who had too much time and wanted to document Sentosa’s history of massacres and mishaps, because that would make everyone’s day.

But then the BBC did it too. Of course their title was a little more neutral, but if you read the article, it literally describes every single major mishap that happened on the island.

I mean, do these newspapers have nothing better to do?Continue reading “Dear Guardian: thank you very much, we know Sentosa had a dark past. So what?”

Why Stephen King’s The Body makes a great grad gift

I’ve heard that a common gift to graduating students is Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

For, obvious reasons, it’s an appropriate choice. Besides its skilful second person narrative, the book is literally about going out and succeeding (or sometimes failing) in life.

But as one of my friends pointed out, “It’d make a nice gift… except that it’s eighteen dollars for a book that thick——” (No, those em-dashes were not me interrupting. That was the thickness of the book. But eighteen dollars? Not quite sure where she was looking for it.)

But as great as the rhymes, drawings, and the wit and wisdom in the book are, I’ve always felt another book that would make a better grad gift.

Even if it’s rather depressing. (Which explains why no one gets it as a grad gift.)

2016-09-20-1474405828-3402435-differentseasons

I’m talking about Stephen King’s The Body (which is found in the collection Different Seasons, which, by the way, also contains Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.)

The book (and its film adaptation, Stand By Me) is about four twelve-year-olds who are looking for a dead body in the forest.

While it’s a great read whether or not you’re graduating, there are three incredibly thoughtful lessons I thought would be mighty appropriate for graduates.Continue reading “Why Stephen King’s The Body makes a great grad gift”

Why [Insert Book] should not be made into a movie

Recently I read The Cellist of Sarajevo and was discussing the story with a friend. And he said, “It’s so great it should be made into a movie!”

And I thought, how?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book. But try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to capture the spirit of The Cellist of Sarajevo on camera. Making a film would be the easy part. But making a good film of the book? Good luck.

But why is it so difficult to translate some stories from one medium to another?Continue reading “Why [Insert Book] should not be made into a movie”

What’s the difference between art and science?

I’ve often heard it said: “[so and so] is so skilled at [such and such] that they’ve almost gotten it down to an art.”

Sometimes, though, they replace the word art with science.

Why are the two words interchangeable? No one confuses arts with sciences, so how is it that in this phrase, art can be replaced with science, and vice versa?

But if you really think about it, arts and sciences are incredibly similar.

Before you troll me in the comments, consider this: while it seems absurd these days to find artists who are scientists, is it not equally odd to find dancers who are also directors? Or psychologists who are also physicists?

What I’m saying is that within the arts and the sciences, there are numerous sub-fields that people spend their entire lives in. However, as you step back in time, these fields meld. Biology and chemistry join in the work Melvin Calvin, a biochemist who discovered the Calvin Cycle in photosynthesis. Physics and chemistry merge with Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics and the discoverer of the atomic nucleus. Both of these scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, though neither was usually called a chemist.

The further back in time, the more the sciences merge into one study. But if even further back, it will become apparent that art is simply another discipline of science. Or is it science that is a discipline of art?Continue reading “What’s the difference between art and science?”

Here’s how I created an app—without knowing a single line of code

I used to think that designing apps was a job that was both difficult and long, requiring lots of skill and dedication.

And for the most part, it’s true.

However, in the course of my internet surfing, I discovered—serendipitously—a way to make apps without even knowing the word “JavaScript”. Or “C#”. Or “Swift”.

Well, to be clear, it’s not a full blown app. I discovered how to make sticker packs: an app that works within the iMessage framework to add images to chats. And so I made one: Birds of Play—Animated Stickers!

Birds of Play—Animated Stickers! Logo

The relative ease with which I managed to make it got me thinking. Why doesn’t Apple broadcast more about the fact that you don’t need to know any code to make a sticker pack? There are tons of artists and animators out there far better than I am who would certainly be able to make cooler sticker packs than I have.

And anyway, as I will detail, the process was really fun.Continue reading “Here’s how I created an app—without knowing a single line of code”

The Electric Sheepdog

The Electric Sheepdog PosterMy favourite thing about writing my own stories and animations is the freedom to be wacky.

The wackiness in my most current short film to date, The Electric Sheepdog, comes from two aspects: quirky characters, and the set design.

From having a plastic bottle cap as a soup bowl and using toys (why else do people do stop motion?) for characters, to our strange sets, we literally turned our basement into a full studio, with three different sets sitting around the basement at any one time, and the space between devoted to set construction or film editing. (Great thing to do during school exams.)Continue reading “The Electric Sheepdog”

Why don’t animated films receive as much recognition as live action films?

Recently, IMDb compiled their “Top Ten” films of 2017, based on user ratings.

Can you guess what was number one?

Pixar’s Coco. It led the pack at with an 8.8/10, a full 0.4 ahead of the runner-up, Blade Runner 2049.

And yet, no animated film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture this year.

Why is that?

Why is it no matter how good the animation, critics continue to sideline them in favour of more traditional live action films?Continue reading “Why don’t animated films receive as much recognition as live action films?”