Teaching English in Indonesia is something I never expected to be doing, but find myself doing it anyway. It is quite different from graphic design, which is what I studied at university, but teaching is very skill-based and you definitely learn a lot on the job. How to speak when everyone in the room is looking at you, how to improvise and how to pass on information to children who don’t necessarily want to learn. The more you teach, the more you learn.
I often get asked this question: “how do you teach English using English?” It’s a fair question. I mean, if the students can’t speak English then how do they understand what on earth you’re talking about? Well, here in Indonesia, English is taught in schools from a young age, so almost everyone at least has a very basic English ability. Nevertheless, when you’re teaching, you have to try all sorts of techniques to get your message across, such as using hand gestures and simple words as well as speaking loudly and clearly. Doing things like pointing at your eye when you want the students to “look” or putting up five fingers followed by two fingers when you want the students to go to “page fifty-two”. As long as the students understand about 60-70% of what you’re saying, it’s generally fine. And then when you’re conveying knowledge and information, you as a teacher have all sorts of media to do the actual teaching; flashcards, videos, diagrams and things like that. I mean, if you signed up for a Spanish class, and the teacher showed you a picture of an apple, pointed to it and said “una manzana”, you’d immediately understand, right? That the Spanish word for “apple” is “una manzana”. That’s kind of how it works.
Although, when I’m teaching, I’m fairly confident that a lot of the time the students do understand what I’m saying, it’s still good teaching practice to make sure the students have understood. The thing is though, as a teacher, it’s generally not a good idea to ask “do you understand?” Why? Because if you ask that, children will generally just nod and say yes — even if they haven’t understood. A better idea is to use “concept checking questions” or CCQs, for example: if the activity is to choose five animals and write short descriptions of each one, rather than asking “Everyone understand?”, it’s better to ask “Okay, everyone. How many animals do you choose?” or “are we writing short descriptions or long ones?” to check that the students know what to do.
With higher-level students and more complex grammar and stuff, a lot of it is about getting the students to learn through doing rather than listening. It’s why a lot of my job is coming up with activities and games for students to do in class. Unsurprisingly, a lot of teenage kids come into class with no motivation whatsoever and just want to sit there and play first-person-shooter games on their phones. And therein lies the most challenging aspect of the job — for me, anyway: how do you get teenagers to care about something that they don’t even have to be at? Because the thing is, I don’t teach at a school. I teach at a private language course where the kids come in after school or on a weekend. So they don’t have to be there; they’re usually there because their parents force them to come. One approach, I’ve found, is to make it competitive. It can, quite remarkably, make otherwise inactive students get out of their chairs and be totally engaged in the lesson. I mean, I know they’re only engaging in the game or activity to beat the others in the class, but at least they’re engaging. And through that engagement, they might actually learn something, albeit indirectly. It beats them sitting there staring at me blankly for the whole class, anyway.
Still, I do think being a teacher in a country like Indonesia is amazing. Not just because you get a whole bunch of benefits and perks, but also because teachers are very respected in Indonesia. I have never ever had a student act rudely or aggressively towards me. I mean, they’re kids, so of course they will mess around, but they’ll never do anything that would disrespect me as the teacher.
It can be hard to find your thing in life. I did graphic design at uni — which I chose to do after a very catastrophic career at high school/college and I wouldn’t even say “chose” because I basically had no other choice other than go all-in and risk a career in art — and my degree was fun, however when I graduated I didn’t really feel ready for the world. I did all sorts of internships and went to interviews all over the place, but overall was not very successful. It felt like my skills weren’t good enough and employers were looking for something more. So, after a series of events involving me going on a soul-searching trip through the misty mountains of... nah, I’m joking. I basically just decided to switch careers again and go all-in with something else. This time teaching English in a far away land. I had been to Indonesia before, but it was for the most part an alien country. And I think it worked out fine. So, my advice — even though it’s not like I’ve got life all figured out yet — is that you should always go out and try. Just try anything that comes to you because sitting there and waiting for opportunities to come to you will never, ever work out. And if opportunities don’t come, then make your own opportunity. Which is what I did with this magazine that you’re reading right now.
So being a teacher is, indeed, a very interesting experience. And I hope that you find this issue of Kanis Majoris equally interesting. In this issue, we’ll be resuming the fun that started last time in Kanis Majoris No. 1 and learning more about all sorts of weird and wonderful things, talking about music and short films and, of course, solving more riddles. Welcome back.
The place that I’ve spent more time than anywhere else is the capital of the United Kingdom, London. When you think of London, you probably think: Big Ben, red buses, Tower Bridge, black cabs and that square with the tall column and all the pigeons. Yes, that is London. My hometown. You’ve heard of it, for sure. Maybe even seen it in a movie or on a postcard. But there is actually another city inside London, and it’s called the City of London.
So, way back when, the Romans came to England. They went around conquering different places because, you know, that’s what people did back then. They came and formed a small city on the northern bank of the River Thames, named it Londinium built a wall around it — because that was also what people did back then. This walled city, even after the Roman Empire eventually faded away, survived, became independent and incredibly wealthy with trading and whatnot. The walled city went on to become known as the City of London, a self-governing city run by a corporation and a hub for finance and business.
At some point, another city was made to compete with the City of London. The second city was founded right next to the City of London and it was named Westminster. Kind of like how you sometimes see two rival cafes located right next to each other? I guess it was kind of a medieval version of that. The second city, Westminster, grew in size, slowly absorbing the nearby villages and towns and eventually grew larger than and completely surrounded the City of London, becoming the London we know today. So if you look from above, the entire metropolitan area is London with the exception of a small, one-square-mile piece near the centre which is the City of London. Though most people just call the whole thing “London”, even though it technically consists of two cities; the walled city and the other, unwalled one.
When William the Conqueror invaded England, he tried to take the walled City of London. He wasn’t very successful — I mean, the City of London had been around for many centuries at that point. I’m pretty sure they figured out how to protect themselves during that time, right? An agreement was ultimately made that the City would acknowledge William as king so long as William would acknowledge them and their rights and, basically, leave them alone. And that’s how it’s been since. Every monarch that sits on the throne of the United Kingdom has to not only acknowledge the City’s rights, but also is not allowed to enter the City without permission. So the current queen, Elizabeth II, would have to ask permission before entering the City of London if she wanted to, I don’t know, take a look at the gold in the underground bank vault or something.
I know I’ve said a lot about the City of London being separate to London, but it’s not like when you’re going from London into the City of London you have to cross some old, gothic-looking border and state your purpose to some elaborately-dressed guards. From a practical point of view, as a tourist or even as a resident of London, you can barely even tell where the boundary really is and you’ll be mostly unaffected by the “separate cities” thing. I guess most of the “separate” stuff is mainly for politics and taxes and stuff like that. When you’re in London, you can barely even tell where London ends and the City of London begins. Although look out for small monuments such as the Temple Bar, which depicts a dragon standing on a plinth, that tell you that you are now entering the City of London. You can also look out for the double-dragoned-crest of the City of London, which probably means you’re in the City of London and not London. Or you’re near something that the City of London owns, like the aforementioned Tower Bridge.
By the way, Tower Bridge is the cool-looking bridge with two towers and the road that opens up in the middle when a ship wants to pass through. It’s mistakenly referred to as London Bridge sometimes, so as a Brit, I’m just setting a record straight. There is actually a bridge in London called London Bridge, but it’s nowhere near as interesting-looking as Tower Bridge. It’s is pretty much just a boring old bridge. However London Bridge has had to be rebuilt a number of times over history. Once because of a tornado — which, I would never have guessed that there were ever tornadoes in England, but apparently there was one in 1091. Who knew? — once because of the bridge actually being sold and shipped off to America and once because of too much congestion and probably a bit of that it’s-been-a-while-since-we’ve-rebuilt-London-Bridge feeling. London Bridge also suffered a lot of fire damage, including during The Great Fire of London.
We have a lot of landmarks in London. Another famous one is, of course, Big Ben. Although the clocktower known as Big Ben is actually named the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben is just the nickname for the bell inside the tower, usually the entire thing is just referred to as Big Ben. Even by Londoners. In any case, the bell in Big Ben is going to be a bit quiet for a bit while they do some renovation work on the tower until 2022.
Another landmark London has — well, it’s not really a landmark, but — is Heathrow Airport. The busiest airport in the world. But it’s not the only airport in London. Many big cities have more than one, but London actually has seven. Yep. This is because, during the World Wars, a lot of airfields were made all over London for military planes and after the wars ended, they were either shut down, continued to be used as military bases or turned into airports. The two main airports in London are Heathrow and Gatwick and although Gatwick isn’t even in London (it’s like half an hour outside the city), it still counts as a London airport.
From London’s St. Pancras International station, you can also get a train to Europe. Not new information to anyone, I’m sure, but the Channel Tunnel that links the UK to France — and by extension mainland Europe — is pretty cool. Although I remember going from London to Paris by train through the Channel Tunnel when I was around twelve years old thinking the tunnel was actually going to be see-through and going to go through the water, allowing us to see all the fishes and stuff. It was around five minutes before the train was to enter the tunnel that my mum told me that the tunnel is actually buried under the seabed and we’re not going to be seeing anything except total darkness. I can’t have been the only one who was disappointed.
Imagine if someone woke you up at 4am and told you to get ready in ten minutes. You’d unzip yourself out of your super-expensive, thermal, not-sure-it’s-even-worth-the-price sleeping bag, sleepily put yourself into your these-better-keep-me-warm layers, pick up your why-should-I-even-bother backpack and head out of your is-this-even-thermal-or-did-I-just-get-ripped-off tent out into the cold, dark dawn of the Everest Base Camp. Your buddies, after seeing the grumpy look on your face, would tell you to “seize the moment” and “get in the spirit of things”. You’d all then commence the hike up to the summit of the world’s tallest peak, plowing through snow, ice and rock with ropes, oxygen masks and those boots with spikes under them until you’d finally get to the top and face a breathtaking view stretching on for miles; endless, beautifully crafted peaks of white, blue and grey, with wisps of cloud floating somewhere beneath you as the sun begins to rise to bring in a pool of pure, golden light as you take in the cold, fresh air and realize it was all worth it.
But then, as you stood looking out at the view, what if someone told you that Mount Everest wasn’t actually the tallest mountain on Earth? Huh? What? No. You’re joking. No, I’m serious. The peak of Mount Everest is just the highest point above sea level. It isn’t actually the tallest mountain in the world. That honour goes to Mauna Kea in Hawaii. See, the reason why we all know Mount Everest to be the tallest mountain is because it’s the highest mountain on land whereas Mauna Kea is mostly underwater. But if you measure Mauna Kea from bottom to top, it’s a lot taller. Also, Mauna Kea is actually a volcano.
Okay, so what? You’d have climbed Everest, the highest point on Earth. That would be a big accomplishment. And unless NASA replies to your emails, you’d now be the closest you’ll ever be to space. Right? Wrong. The mountain with the peak closest to space is actually a mountain in Ecuador called Mount Chimborazo. Wait, how does that make sense? Shouldn’t the highest point on land also be the point that’s closest to space? Yes, well let me tell you a little something about this thing we live on called Earth — it’s not exactly perfectly round. The Equator bulges out slightly, like a beach ball that someone’s sitting on for some reason. So this mountain, Mount Chimborazo, which is actually a lot shorter than Everest, is quite close to the Equator — only about 100 miles away — and takes advantage of this outward bulge, allowing it to be closer to the stars than the mighty Everest.
So what is so great about Everest? Well, Everest is the tallest point on land. That’s a fact. So climbing it is definitely an accomplishment. Oh, and when you come down from the summit of Everest back down to your tent, be sure to pack up all your I-hope-I-still-have-the-receipt-for-this gear, because a lot of people don’t actually clean up after themselves and leave behind all sorts of trash and litter on Mount Everest. And as you strap on your backpack and look forward to a hot shower and sleeping in your own bed, don’t miss the prayer flags on your way out.
Strange things happen in the sky all the time. I once saw the spectacular spectacle of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn being aligned in the sky for one night. I mean, people always talk about the planets aligning, but it’s just cool to have actually seen it. It was on a cold winter morning a few years ago while it was still dark and as I lived near a beach at the time, I saw the five planets up in the pre-dawn sky whilst being stood on the seafront as ice-cold waves crashed onto the rocky shore. What did it look like? Oh, it was indescribable. Just kidding, it was just five dots in the sky all in a line as straight as a razor.
You’re probably thinking, “Um, yeah. So what?” Alright, let’s talk about something a little more spectacular, then: a meteor shower. Has anyone seen one before? I have. And you can too. They’re actually more common than you might think, happening many times a year. Not convinced? Well, check out the calendar below for the year of 2021. Some of these might have already passed, but there are still plenty more that are going to happen.
2 — 3: QUADRANTIDS meteor shower
26: TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE
10: ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE
11 — 12: PERSEIDS meteor shower
19: PARTIAL LUNAR ECLIPSE
4: TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE
13 — 14: GEMINIDS meteor shower
So the main three meteor shower events are the Quadrantids in January, the Perseids in August and the Geminids in December. They always happen at roughly the same time every year, but you can look up the exact dates and stuff online. For each one, there is a direction that you’ll need to follow in order to know which part of the sky to look at when viewing the meteors. Also there’s the best time to be looking up at the sky for the best shooting star viewing experience.
Let’s take the Quarantids, for instance. The direction is north, so you’ll need to look towards the north from where you are — using your smartphone, or compass if you’re old-school — and find the space between the horizon and the zenith. What’s the zenith? The zenith is the point in the sky that’s directly above you. So between that point and the horizon is the piece of sky you’ll be looking at whilst facing north. It’s a large area to be looking at all at once, you may be thinking, but as the meteors come, your eye will automatically sense the quick movement and then you’ll be able to see more as they come.
There are other meteor showers too throughout the year, but the Quarantids, Perseids and Geminids are the three main ones. The Geminids in December is the best one to view out of them all since it has the highest number of average meteors per hour (also known as the zenithal hourly rate, or ZHR). When witnessing a meteor shower, you’re not just going to see tons of shooting stars flying by like a bunch of fish swimming away from a barracuda. Based my experience, it probably entails sitting by the window — or outside, depending on cold-resistant you are — for hours with your eyes fixed on the night sky. Everything will be still and quiet, but every once in while, you’ll see just a glimpse of a white streak pass quickly across the black sky.
Of course, you’ll need a clear view, so not too many buildings or trees in the way and skies that are preferably clear so you can see well. The meteors will all seem to be originating from one particular point in the sky called the radiant. The radiant will move through the sky as the night goes on, but should still be able to see meteors so long as you look in the right area of the night sky.
Now, you’ll notice that meteor showers aren’t the only thing on the space-calendar above. There are a few eclipses happening this year. There are two types, as you may know. Lunar eclipses affect the Moon (or part of the Moon) when the Earth casts a shadow onto it. Lunar eclipses are also known as a blood moon because when the Moon is in the Earth’s shadow, it gives the Moon a reddish appearance. Why is it red? Good question, hypothetical person. Light from the Sun refracts around the Earth due to the Earth’s atmosphere. It basically means that because the Earth is a big ball of fun and wonder, light going around the Earth bends. And when visible light bends, it can change colour. There’s also a partial lunar eclipse, which is when the Moon is only partly in the Earth’s shadow, making it just look partially red or partly hidden. And lunar eclipses can only be seen at night (obviously).
Now, solar eclipses are different. Solar eclipses affect the Sun when the Moon gets in the way in front of it. They can only be seen in the daytime (obviously) and can be a little frightening. Like that scene in Apocalypto. There’s also a story of when Columbus was on one of his voyages and used a solar eclipse to scare a group of people into giving him food and resources. Solar eclipses cause everything to go dark because the Sun’s been blocked by the Moon. And yes, never look at a solar eclipse directly. Or the Sun at all, for that matter. But you probably already knew that.
Another strange thing you must have seen before is a supermoon, which is when the Moon appears super-large in the sky. Okay, “super-large” is probably an exaggeration. It’s a little bigger than usual. But it does look really wild when it happens. For this one, you won’t need any special eyewear or have to camp out all night. You can just look up at wherever the Moon usually is in your part of the world (usually in the sky) and... that’s pretty much it.
You know, it’s actually all very curious. The Moon is 400 times smaller than the Sun, but the Sun is also 400 times farther away from us than the Moon is, which is why when the Moon does pass between the Earth and the Sun, it’s able to cover the Sun completely. And this is the curious part. The Moon and the Sun are the perfect size and distance away from Earth for solar eclipses to happen. Pretty cool.
I don’t mean to scare you, but there is a lot of stuff out there that can kill you. Plants, for example. A well-known one is monkshood, a purple-ish coloured flower that can be lethal if ingested. You might have seen it being used as a poison in a movie or something. Then there’s the lily of the valley flower — which you might have heard of if you’ve seen Breaking Bad  — which can also be deadly if consumed. There are quite a number of plants such as these, however, gympie gympie is a plant native to Australia that can be potentially lethal even if touched. The plant possesses these small stinging hairs that can cause extreme pain that could go on for several hours or days, potentially even months or years. If it doesn’t kill you first.
Doesn’t sound good. But is it worse to get stung by a plant or an insect? The bullet ant, native to Central and South America, has the most painful sting of any insect. The ants are around 2cm in length (about ¾ of an inch) which is quite long for an ant, if you ask me. These ants are used by the Mawé people of Brazil as a rite of passage for young men who must wear a glove lined with eighty of these bullet ants on the inside. But a bullet ant probably won’t kill you, though it has been named the hormiga veinticuatro which is Spanish for twenty-four ant, so named after the amount of hours the agonising pain lasts. No, but if you’re looking for something more poisonous then I’d suggest a jellyfish. The box jellyfish, as seen in the movie Seven Pounds, is one of the most venomous animals in the world. Although Wikipedia is telling me that some species of the box jellyfish pose no serious threat at all. So who knows.
Okay, enough talk about death and stuff. Let’s get back to plants. There once was a tree growing in the Sahara desert and it was known as the Tree of Ténéré in Niger. What was interesting about this tree is that it was known as the most isolated tree in the world, being over 400 km (250 miles) away from any other tree. Although this was later proven to be untrue, it makes for an interesting story. The Tree of Ténéré (yeah, I’m not sure how to pronounce it either) survived for decades in the middle of the desert until it was hit by a truck in 1973. There now stands a metal sculpture where the tree once was and we of course have photos of it online.
Any other tree facts? Let’s see… the tallest tree in the world is General Sherman in California, around 80 metres tall. The oldest tree in the world currently is a little hard to say, but there many trees out there that are around 5,000 years old. One of the oldest clonal tree systems, however, is named Pando, located in Utah. It’s not one tree, but instead an entire colony of around 40,000 trees all connected by one system, making it one of the largest organisms in the world. The age of Pando is, again, disputed (come on, it’s not easy to figure these things out) but the lowest number I found was 14,000 years old. That’s pretty old. It’s also on the list for one of the oldest-known living organisms. Well done, Pando. You made it.
Although, you know what’s longer than 14,000 years? Forever. That’s right. There is a species of jellyfish — yes, we’ve come full circle — that is immortal. How, you ask? Well, the jellyfish — known as the immortal jellyfish, for obvious reasons, or turritopsis dohrnii, if you want to get technical — can basically kind of turn back time and transform its body back to how it was at an earlier time in its life. Now that’s nature at its best, don’t you think?
They all run to the entrance of the shop and look inside. The bull stands with a standoffish stance, breathing heavily, whipping its tail nervously from side to side. Shards of smashed-up cups and plates along with remains of wooden display cabinets lay all over the shop floor. They get ready with the ropes. The bull sees them through the shop window and, at once, charges through the glass, shattering it instantly. They all rush to get out of its way as it leaps out onto the Victorian-era street and gallops off through the city and out of sight, never to be tormented again.
True story. Well, it might be. But here’s the thing: what if the bull didn’t make it? What if the humans caught it with the ropes and, well, the bull was forcefully made to meet its maker and mysteriously manufactured into meat? What would it be called then? Well, yes, a dead bull. But the meat would be called beef.
Which reminds me — did you do the homework assignment I asked you to do? It’s okay if you haven’t. I’m like one of those cool teachers back in high school that sets homework and doesn’t even check to see if you did it or not. Besides, some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Okay, so in the last issue, I asked you to go and research why, in the English language, we have different words for the meat and the animal. And the examples I gave last time were beef and cow (or bull), chicken and poultry, pig and pork. I promised I would tell you the answer, so here it is.
But first, a history lesson. Oh, come on; you knew this was coming. Back in the day — and I mean way back — Britain was populated with the Anglo-Saxon people. A lot of them had come from present-day Germany and they spoke a Germanic-derived language. Then, out of nowhere, this guy called William the Conqueror invades Britain and takes over everything. William was from Normandy, in present-day France, and the language he and his people spoke was derived from French and other Romantic languages which all came from Latin. “Romantic” comes from “Rome”. So now in Britain, there were two types of people; the Anglo-Saxons with their Germanic language, and the Normans with their Latin-derived one. Now, the Anglo-Saxons were mainly farmers that tended to the animals, so they used Germanic-derived words for the animals, like cow, pig and deer. And the Normans — I think you get where this is going — were the more upper-class type who ate the meat. So for the meat, the Latin-derived words were used. Beef, pork, venison.
Now for some other animals. Two animals in particular, that I’m sure you’ve heard of: the quick brown fox and the lazy dog. These two have been the subject of font specimen files and people testing out their new keyboards with the sentence: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. It contains, as you know, every letter of the English alphabet. But it’s not the only sentence that does. These sentences are called pangrams and there are dozens of them, such as: Grumpy wizards make toxic brew for the evil Queen and Jack. Or: Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz. Take your pick.
Also, a similar thing known as a lipogram. What’s a lipogram, you ask? This paragraph is a lipogram. Can you find out what’s so unusual about this paragraph? Think about it. Got it? No? If you look, you might find out. It looks so ordinary and plain but in actual fact it has an atypical quality.
Alright, here it is: the paragraph above is a lipogram on “e”, because it doesn’t contain the letter “e” anywhere in it. Pretty cool, right? Okay, yeah, it’s lame and dull. I know. But sometimes lame things can be fun, especially when it comes to language. Here’s another riddle — I guess it isn’t really a riddle, actually. More like a linguistic thought exercise? Anyways, here it is — for you: How would you pronounce “ghoti” in English? Many of you probably would say “goatee” or “gotty”, but what if I told you that it’s actually pronounced “fish”? Intrigued? Good. That means you’re ready to learn. From teaching English I’ve learnt that there is basically no consistency in the English language at all with most things. So to say that “ghoti” is pronounced as “fish” wouldn’t be that far fetched seeing as we in English pronounce letters so differently all the time. Let’s take the first two letters: “gh”. How would you pronounce that? Like the “gh” in “ghost”? Or put more stress on the “h” like in “ghastly”? Well, how about if we pronounce it like the “gh” in “cough”? Then it would make an “f” sound. Okay, now for the “o”. It’s usually pronounced “o” as in “omelette” or “oh” as in “moment”, but “o” can also be “i”, can’t it? Like the “o” in “women”. So now, finally, the “ti” can be “ti” as in “tin” or “tye” as in “titanium”, but let’s use the “sh” sound that “ti” makes in a word like “action”. Now, let’s put it all together: “f”, “i” and “sh” make “fish”. You may applaud now.
And for my final trick, I’ll need a volunteer from the audience. No, really. This part is all about audience participation because we are going to have a quiz. Don’t worry, don’t worry. This won’t be part of your final grade. What we’re going to do is I’m going to give you a word in English and you’ll just have to tell me which you think came first. For example, which came first for orange: the fruit or the colour? Have a think. You’re too tired to think? Alright, fine. So the fruit actually came first. The colour orange was named after the fruit.
Okay, next one. Come on, please. Just do it. It’s multiple choice! All you have to do is choose (a) or (b) every time. Okay? Here we go. Which came first for turkey? (a) the bird or (b) the country? How about for kiwi? (a) the bird or (b) the fruit? And for china? (a) the country or (b) the material that plates and cups can be made from sometimes before some aggressive bull barges in for some unknown reason and smashes them all up? The answers are below.
Tonight on Kanis Majoris, we learn the basics of the Indonesian language. Personally, I find it a little dull to start learning a language from “hello”, “how are you” and “my name is...”, so we’ll just jump straight into the grammar and learn different bits of language which we can put together to make sentences.
including the listener
not including the listener
Indonesian, or Bahasa Indonesia, has a very simple word structure and pronunciation is not too difficult. Mostly, the letters are always pronounced the same — unlike English.
a is pronounced “ah” as in “farmer”
e is pronounced “uh” as in “mother” or “ey” as in “their”
i is pronounced “ee” as in “taxi”
o is pronounced “oh” as in “more”
u is pronounced “oo” as in “flute”
The rest of the letters are pretty straightforward to pronounce, although the “c” is usually pronounced like “ch” in “children” and the “g” is pronounced like “g” in “glass”. Also in Indonesian, the “r” is always rolled.
We can use the above to talk about different people and in Indonesian, like a lot of languages, they have formal and informal for “I” and “you”. Although they have another interesting feature for “we”: there are two different words depending on whether you’re including or excluding the listener. What does this mean? I’ll give you an example. Let’s say you go to the bank and when you get there you find out they’re closed and on the door there’s a sign that says “Sorry, we are closed today. We are sorry for the inconvenience.” And now imagine another scenario where you’re with three other people in an elevator and all of a sudden the elevator gets stuck. You might say something like “I think we are trapped in here.” Did you notice the difference between the use of “we” in both (kind of depressing) scenarios? That’s the difference between “kita” and “kami” in Indonesian and although it seems like a strange concept to English-speakers, it can be quite a useful feature and is used constantly in Indonesia.
Here we have the days of the week. Quite straightforward. By the way, the word for Sunday, “minggu”, is also the word for “week”.
Some simple verbs and nouns. So all of these can be used quite easily with the pronouns we learnt earlier. Just put the pronoun first then the verb. So “I eat” is quite simply “aku makan” or “saya makan” if you’re being formal. “He wants to eat” would just be “dia mau makan”. “They’re going to the office” would simply be “Mereka pergi ke kantor”. Easy. You can even sometimes shorten “pergi ke” to just “ke”, so “saya ke kantor” also makes sense. Quiz: what would “Kami mau makan di kantor” mean?
Answer: We want to eat at the office. But what shall we eat at the office? Fruit is always a good, healthy option. And Indonesia has plenty of it.
Another piece of pronunciation: the “ng” like in “pisang”. It’s not as strong as in some English words like “bang” where we really exaggerate the “ng” sound. No, in Indonesian it’s more of a softer “ng” sound, kind of like the first “ng” in “singing”. Try to focus more on the “n” sound than the “g”.
Alright, last one. Some more fruits for your healthy, nutritious meal. And now you should be able to put together all the pieces we learnt and translate the title of this section.
A lot of people don’t see Pakistan as a place for tourism, but there is a lot to see in the northern parts of the country. Northern Pakistan’s natural beauty is kind of a well-kept secret — that I know I’m making unkept by spilling the beans here — that I’m fortunate to have witnessed first hand. And I’m not just saying this because I come from a Pakistani family, I genuinely mean it. The region has very little tourism, other than locals and a place that isn’t dominated by tourists means that if you like quiet places that aren’t just full of market stalls selling cheap, tacky souvenirs then northern Pakistan might be the place for you. I don’t know about you guys but I personally love those kinds of quiet places where there aren’t a lot of people about.
The region of Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan is abundant in mountains, lakes, glaciers, forests and rivers. Sweet apples, pink tea, hand-crafted goods made by locals and an incredible footbridge crossing. The region is well kept and clean, picturesque and affordable. One of the lakes in the area, Saif-ul-Maluk, has a rather strange name for a lake. It’s not named after a place or region but rather after an Egyptian prince from local folklore. The story goes that the prince dreamt of a fairy and a lake, and then left his homeland to go in search of the fairy, who he apparently had fallen in love with. Interesting story, kind of similar to The Alchemist in a way. The lake itself is either a rich blue or a deep green colour, depending on which photograph you look at, and has a serene, calm look to it as it sits amongst the mountain peaks of northern Pakistan. You could stand on the shore of the lake, take a boat ride, even camp out for the night under the stars.
The Baltit Fort in the Hunza Valley near the town of Karimabad is some 700 years old and is inspired by the architecture of nearby Tibet. The fort suffered a little damage over the years causing it to now be preserved and nominated to be UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also go all the way up to the Khunjerab Pass, where Pakistan ends and China begins. Also home to the world’s highest ATM.
What's the weather like? Quite cold. Even in summer, the temperature can be less than 5 degrees celsius. And in the winter, it can drop to well below freezing. So make sure to bring a coat.
Is it safe? Although the region is technically disputed territory, Gilgit-Baltistan is generally quite safe and you can pass through freely. Closer to the Afghan border there have been conflicts in recent years, but the area more towards the east should be nice and peaceful. Most of the places I’ve mentioned are along what's known as the Karakoram Highway (also known as the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway): a long road that goes from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, all the way through the northern region and into China. So if you stick to this highway, you should be okay.
I’m going to stop talking now and just show you some photos of the region that will better describe what I’m been talking about. Because what’s that thing they say about pictures and a thousand words?
In Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, we have a rather odd name for Thursday: jumme raat. Literally translated, it means “Friday eve”, meaning the day before Friday. Kind of like Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas. I know the reason why is probably because Pakistan is a Muslim country and Friday is the holy day in Islam, but I’ve always thought about how there is no actual word for Thursday in Urdu. It’s just “Friday eve”. It’s like Thursdays got cancelled or something.
Names of the days of the week in Portuguese are quite interesting. Segunda-feira, terça-feira, quarta-feira, quinta-feira and sexta-feira are the days in order from Monday to Friday with Saturday and Sunday being sábado and domingo. Those of you familiar with Romance languages like French or Spanish might be noticing a pattern and wondering: “What happened to prima-feira?” Well, there was. Sunday used to be called prima-feira before it became domingo, meaning “day of our Lord”.
In Ghana, they have this fascinating tradition of naming children based on the day of the week they were born on. For example, someone named Kojo means they were born on a Monday. Kwaku is Wednesday, Kwame is Saturday. And Adwoa, Akuma and Ami respectively for females. Wait, so does this mean the whole country of Ghana only has 14 names? Not quite. There are a number of choices with the names for each day of the week. For example, boys born on a Friday can be called Kofi, but they can also be called Fifi, Fiifi, Yoofi or Kwoi. I guess it’s up to the parents to decide which name they want. And the tradition isn’t followed by all Ghanaians; some families decide to do it, some don’t. Other places in Africa also have similar traditions, like the Zulu people who give names based on situational things, for example the weather at the time of the baby’s birth.
Other cultures also have really interesting naming traditions. You might already know that in a lot of Latin/Spanish cultures, they have two last names; one from their mother and one from their father. In Vietnam, they have a very popular last name: Nyugen. It’s estimated to belong to around 40% of Vietnamese people as a family name. Some names have equivalents in different languages, like Charlie in English is the same name as Carlos in Spanish. Colin in English and Klaus in German. Aaron in English and Harun in Arabic. I have always been curious about the name Jordan. Like what came first, the country or the name? Well it turns out, it’s neither. Actually the country Jordan gets its name from the River Jordan which flows between Jordan and Israel. The first name Jordan most likely came from this river, which has significance in Christianity, and during the Crusades water from the river was brought back to Europe to baptise children with.
In Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Iceland — along with a few other countries — names for babies have to be chosen from an approved list. Speaking of Sweden, did you know that IKEA has an elaborate naming system for its products? The seemingly nonsensical monikers for the products might seem strange to English speakers, but they actually originate from various parts of Scandinavian culture. BRASA, for example, is the name of a floor-standing lamp, and is Swedish for “fireplace”. MINNEN, a bed, gets its name from the Swedish for “memories” and KATTRUP, a rug, gets its name from the Danish village of the same name. No, that information was not important at all. But isn’t it interesting? I mean, you should be used to it by now. Kanis Majoris is full of fascinating-but-ultimately-kind-of-useless information.
Even the name IKEA itself has a story behind it. It’s actually an acronym: the first two letters stand for Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, with the E and A standing for Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd which were the farm and the village he grew up in. He started selling furniture at the age of 17 by mail order. This was back in 1943, when mail was a big thing. And have you ever wondered why IKEA seems so different? The minimalist style and design of the products, the quirky names, the self-assembly furniture, even the layout of the store. It may also have something to do with the IKEA effect. A phenomenon where people value products more that they contributed to make. You’re more likely to value an armchair that you assembled yourself rather than one that you bought already made. Even if all you did was buy the box with the premade parts and wordless instructional diagrams and put it all together, we as humans seem to value our efforts a lot. Well, obviously. Who doesn’t?
You read it over again. And again. You check the attachments, and then, at long last, you press send. Off it goes with a swoosh. Is it actually gone? You wonder. You go to the outbox folder to see it off, like watching an airplane taxiing down the runway, about to take off. It disappears from the outbox, meaning it must now be on its way through the vast, complex realm of the internet which in reality is probably just a bunch of wires and large, cabinet-sized computers. You go to the sent folder. You read your email again. It feels pretty complete and you feel satisfied. Then … a ping. A new email. A response already? You think. That was fast. Back to the inbox. The new email is not what you expected. It’s an email from The Postmaster. Great, you think. And I put so much hard work into that three-paragraph email with two spreadsheet attachments. You open the email from The Postmaster and read through it. “Hello,” he writes. “Your last sent email was quite unsatisfactory. As a result, I have gone ahead and blocked it from reaching your recipient. I mean, three paragraphs? No one’s going to read that. Also, you need to work on your spelling. I honestly don’t understand; the email service automatically checks your spelling so I don’t even know how someone can send a misspelt email in this day and age. And what are these attachments all about? You know what? I don’t even need to know. Probably some spreadsheets or presentation or something that whoever’s looking at it is just going to skim over for a total of thirty seconds before closing it for the first and last time. Now, I want you to hit that ‘compose’ button, remember what I’ve taught you and get cracking on a second draft. I’m giving you some tough love because I care. And because you pay me to teach you how to email. Alright. Off you go. Don’t reply.”
He’s right. I can do better. You take a deep breath and press “compose”.
As bright as a star, as hot as a fire.
This glass ball won’t ever tire.
Just hope the tightrope doesn’t snap,
flip the switch and watch it nap.
A watchful guardian that never sleeps.
Stands taller than a man and never weeps.
On duty in all seasons and is the enemy of birds,
its name is made up of the sum of two words.
A shapeshifter with which you can arrange
to transform into anything with a simple exchange.
Everyone wants it, and use it to bet
The more you collect, the more you can get.
Here at Kanis Majoris, we’re all about sharing skills that may or may not be useful in this weirdly beautiful and oddly abstract journey known as life. Here’s something you can try at home: this is a method that will allow you you to figure out the day of the week for any date this year. That’s right. Without a calendar. Using maths. Yes, maths. That thing you had to do at school with numbers and shapes and Greek symbols — when you wanted to get fancy.
For today, we’re going to need the values below. Take a look at them. And don’t worry if this looks a little random, it will all make sense in a second.
Alright. So what were all those numbers about? Well, with this method, each month and year has its own code. And to find out the day of the week for any date all you have to do is apply the formula: date + month code + year code, divide the answer by 7 and figure out the remainder.
Okay, let me break that down. Let’s say we wanted to find out what day of the week the 16th of October 2021 is going to be. We’d have to do 16 + October month code + 2021 year code. Which would be 16 + 6 + 5. And we get… anyone? Yes, you may use a calculator. And the answer is? 27. Now, all we do next is take this answer, 27, and divide it by 7. Now, we don’t need to divide exactly, what we need to do is divide with a remainder. Remember back in primary school when you had to do long division and write a remainder after dividing two numbers? Well, this exact moment is what all that was for. So, 27/7 would be 3 remainder 6 (you know, because 3 x 7 = 21 and 21 + 6 = 27). So now, you basically ignore the first number and only focus on the remainder number. And apply that number to the days of the week below.
That’s all. We’ve done it. We’ve now calculated — using maths — that the 16th of October 2021 will be a Saturday.
By the way, you can of course use this method to calculate any date of any year ever. All you have to do is know the year code. The year code for 2021 is 5, as above, but you could always try to figure out dates for 2022 (year code 6), 2023 (year code 0), 2024 (year code 2) or any other year. You probably won’t need to go any further than that. Unless you want to somehow impress people by calculating what day of the week the 30th of June 2057 will be or something like that.
And there you have it. Try it yourself. I know it’s a bit complicated, but seriously, if you really applied yourself you could practise it and master it in no time. All it takes is a bit of simple maths and memorisation. You are capable of more than you think.
Yeah, it would probably be quicker to just whip out your phone and open the calendar. Alright, moving on.
To recap (IN CASE YOU WANT TO actually learn the method):
Add date, month code and year code.
Take the answer and divide it by 7.
Bear in mind the remainder.
Use the remainder to determine the day of the week.
Listen, I love what you’re doing out there. But you gotta do more. I don't know, just do more, okay? I’m just the coach. It’s my job to “bring it in” and give you a pep talk every now and then. Truth be told, I don’t know what I’m doing, either. If I knew what I was doing, you think I’d be a coach? I would have become a pro myself if I knew the first thing about... whatever this sport is called. But that’s besides the point.
The point right now is: if you’re reading this and you’ve made it this far, I’d like to thank you for doing so. Each issue of Kanis Majoris takes around six months to make — hence the Kanis schedule that you can access here so you can see when the next issue comes out — so, yeah, thank you, thank you, thank you for reading.
Alright. Now, look alive and get back in there. Make me proud, kid.
THIRTY SIX ALBUMS THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE WORTH LISTENING TO
From music streaming apps to MP3s, CDs to cassette tapes, vinyl records all the way back to gathering around the vintage-style radio playing some oldie tunes that filled the room while the fireplace crackled and popped in the background, music has changed in style, message, sound as well as the way we listen. Now, for the first time in history, we have millions of songs at our fingertips in our magical wireless devices. All we need to do is pay a subscription service and we get pretty much every song ever. Gone are the days when you had to download MP3 files — legally, of course — and sync them to your iPod before you left the house. And far behind us are the days of recording a song off the radio and onto a blank cassette tape for later listening. Whether it’s flipping through vinyl at a record store or using Spotify to listen to an album that was made decades before you were born, there have been some amazing albums across all decades, genres and styles that I am a big fan of that I’d like to share with you. Oh, and please bear in mind that I have not heard every album ever. Nor am I an expert in anything. Alright, let’s begin.
Constant fun. Every song has a kick-ass riff and a head-banging beat. Although it may not seem like it, this album also has a quirky sense of humour and strong messages about police brutality, war, the environment, drugs and control.
An absolute masterpiece. This album is a mixture of so many genres that I think it’s best not to put a label on it. It has sounds of guitar, accordion, horns and other electronic-type sounds that I don’t even know where they come from but they all blend together so well in a loveable and sentimental way. I also like the calming soundscapes paired with the horns and acoustic guitar in tracks like Communist Daughter. There is a lot to say about this album, but at the same time, it’s really hard to put it all into words, so I think I’ll just let the musical craft of Neutral Milk Hotel do the talking.
This was actually the first Foo Fighters album I ever heard, after which I became a fan of the band. The album, although it mainly consists of heavy-ish rock tracks, has some powerful, heart-and-soul moments in songs like Walk and These Days.
A legendary album, in my mind. The mystical and folk-y sound of the Fleet Foxes is a beautiful blend of vocals, instruments and lyrics. Listening to this album gives you a feeling of walking through a meadow on a fresh, bright winter morning.
A strange, fun and random album that is a throwback to 2007 and 2008 with songs like Electric Feel and Kids. Oracular Spectacular has a lot more good tracks, though, like Weekend Wars, Pieces of What, The Handshake and … okay, I think I like every song on this album. Oracular Spectacular is very hard to describe, but let’s just say it’s an indie-pop-ish sound that can be enjoyed over and over.
Justin Vernon isolated himself for the winter in his father’s cabin, and recorded For Emma, Forever Ago in his heartbroken, depressed state. The album embodies notions of melancholy, love, heartbreak, the cold of winter and a hint of cheerfulness that make this a beautifully touching album.
I’m never able to figure out which Led Zeppelin album I like the best. Led Zeppelin IV, — which is the more common title that I actually prefer over Untitled — however, is a strong contender (for me, it’s usually between I, IV and Houses of the Holy). The opening track to this album, Black Dog, is probably my favourite Led Zeppelin song (and I think it was actually the first Led Zeppelin song I ever heard) which is followed by Rock and Roll which is perhaps one of the most bad-ass rock song of all time.
This album was revolutionary when it came out. Well, I don’t quite remember the time that it actually came out, but I do remember how much people loved it shortly after in the early 2000s.
This album has a fresh-sounding pop sound with indie-electronic, jazz and soul vibes. It’s romantic, stylised (I really like the album art for this one) and has some great instrumental sounds.
A beautiful 4-track EP by Daughter with feelings of beautiful sadness, poetic misery and cheerful heartbreak. I especially like the last track, Switzerland, which is an instrumental with the main instrument being an accordion. And, my God, does that accordion bring out some feelings.
The deep, chilled and dynamic music on Coexist presents some of the best of The XX’s work in this unforgettable album.
One of the most legendary rock albums of all time, Nevermind is well-crafted and nuanced while also having memorable and catchy rock riffs and a long-haired Dave Grohl banging furiously on the drums.
A fun, romantic-themed, indie-pop album with a good variety of sounds. Some tracks are catchy and memorable, others are slightly more experimental. Although the album as a whole does have only a few memorable moments, every track on Ocean does have something to contribute to the overall sound.
A really solid EP from British indie surf rock band CLAWS. This band has had a really good track record with every single one of their releases and they always manage to hit the mark with keeping things consistent as well as bringing out something fresh every time. This EP is no different. Listen, you know if you like surf rock or not, so it's simple; if you like, then you'll like Daydream and pretty much all of CLAWS' other music. If not, then I guess you can press “skip” on this one, so to speak.
Led by Jimi Hendrix, one of the best guitarists of all time, The Jimi Hendrix Experience had a classic 60s sound with elements of blues, rock and roll and Hendrix's mind-bending solos.
A southern, country-ish album with an incredibly 70s throwback sound. Well, I guess it isn’t really a throwback to the 70s if it actually came out in the 70s. It’s got all the classic elements that you’d expect; distorted guitar riffs, organs in the background, and a bit of acoustic delicate-ness here and there.
A four-track EP by The Peach Kings, Mojo Thunder will be enjoyed by anyone who likes that southern-esque, blues-inspired sound with kickass guitar riffs and a feeling of riding through the desert on some sort of mission.
Beautiful, dark and atmospheric, Ultraviolence exhibits the best of Lana Del Rey. Poetically melancholic lyrics, soft, echoed vocals, and a stylized, old-school vibe. You can definitely expect yourself to be favourite-ing this album on your chosen music subscription service after an initial listen.
One of the most underrated songs ever. This should have been on the Billboard-Tip-Top-Best-40-Chart-thingy as right-at-the-top number 1. The track is deep, layered and populated with all sorts of sounds and instruments. There is an instrument in the beginning and throughout the track that I love the sound of, but I don’t know and can’t find out what it is. It sounds a bit like a string instrument, but I can’t be sure. I think this mystery actually adds to the vibe, strangely enough.
A somewhat weird album for those not familiar with Vampire Weekend. This album was a good one as it had some great lyrics, some varied songs and some really quirky song lyrics — “You torched a Saab like a pile of leaves” — which probably have some sort of meaning or symbolism behind them, but I haven't really looked into it. I prefer to take this album at face value and enjoy the themes it presents at its forefront. Probably one of the most main themes of this album is religion. There are lyrics that include Zion, worship, Babylon, “zealous hearts” and much, much more. The musical style is similar to Vampire Weekend's other work giving it a familiar feel, although with the imagery, themes and lyrics it makes it feel the album feel a little more ...meaningful? I'm not sure if that's the right word. But it's nice to see the music of Vampire Weekend have some sort of context to it as, in my opinion, their previous music has had a kind of random senselessness to it. So this is a refreshing change. I'd like to see more of this from Vampire Weekend.
A folk-country album with a great dynamic range where some of the songs are dark and gothic-y and others are delicate, melodic ballads.
For some reason, I've always called Fleet Foxes' first two albums, Fleet Foxes, and Helplessness Blues in my head as Fleet Foxes I and Fleet Foxes II. Probably because they seem to me as two chapters to the same story. The overall mystical vibe and experimental instrumentation carries on in Helplessness Blues, although it does sound a lot more grand, heavy and varied in the second album. Helplessness Blues has some great musical moments with songs that create an atmosphere that you can fill with your own imagination such as Heard Them Stirring and The Cascades. I'm not sure what you guys see when you hear this album, but I always see a legendary, far-away fantasy land with strange creatures lurking in a dark forest. The lyrics have all sorts of imagery; kings, orchards, shrines, green apples (I know it sounds silly. But it totally works for this album), stars in the night sky and memories of a lost love. Well, all of this is open to interpretation, I guess. But that's what makes this album so cool. There's so much to listen to, imagine, analyse and discover in Helplessness Blues.
Do I even need to write anything here? You clearly already know about the amazing musical talents of Adele and you've most likely heard at least one of the songs in 21. There's no way you've heard of Kanis Majoris and you haven't heard of Adele. No way.
A folk album which on the surface is probably very similar to a lot of folk albums out there, but is brilliant in some of the songwriting and musical composition. The vocals of Sam Beam are soothing and calm, giving Our Endless Numbered Days — as well as Iron & Wine's other stuff — a very warm, likeable tone. The style of this album shifts from song to song, which is why I say that this album is different to a lot of other folk albums I've heard where every song is basically the same. Some songs are more dainty, quick-fingerpicking-on-the-guitar melodies whereas others are deeper, down-and-dirty country-ish songs.
If you're reading this and you used to be a fan of the anime Bleach, you'll probably have heard of Asian Kung-Fu Generation as their song After Dark was used as one of the opening themes. A few years before that, however, is when AKFG released Sol-Fa, an album that really exhibits the talent and musical craft of Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Being a Japanese band, their songs are entirely in Japanese for the most part with a few English words here and there. Every one of the songs in this album is dynamic and energetic, making AKFG a memorable and likeable band.
Below, the tracks are written with their English names, original Japanese as well as Hepburn (the system for sounding out Japanese words in English letters).
This album was so well-crafted and memorable, it showed that Kings of Leon have still got it. I was expecting the album to not be so great, given the fact that this is Kings of Leon's seventh studio album and around this is the time when bands start to lose their charm and slide into a state of mediocrity, but Kings of Leon are still pulling off great music with a fresh, new sound and style as well as keeping similar elements from their previous stuff. Although I would say that this album is a lot less southern-sounding than Kings of Leon usually are.
Last Fleet Foxes review, I swear. So this EP was actually released before their first album way back in 2008 and although it is quite similar to Fleet Foxes, it feels almost like an epilogue (or I guess a prologue?) to their first full album. That's all I have to say, really. Oh, and I think Drops in the River is one of the most beautiful songs of all time.
What a jump Bon Iver made in his style with this album. When I first heard 22, A Million, I was a little creeped out at what Bon Iver had become. After a few listens, however, I started to like it. Although it is an album that, to me anyway, makes absolutely no sense with its themes, visual art and song titles (trust me, the song names are pretty crazy) perhaps it's not supposed to make sense. The music style is unusual to say the least, especially for Bon Iver, but it is a great album in my opinion with some interesting, experimental, glitchy sounds and soundscapes which kind of make you wonder what exactly it is you're listening to.
An ambient, dynamic, deep and layered album by M83. Their sound is dream-like, cinematic and most definitely re-listenable. Listening to this album feels like floating in space, looking out at the colourful nebulae and clusters of stars whilst reflecting on life and then, every once in a while, a shower of comets will fly by to bring up the energy. This kind of moving music is amazing as background music for productivity, road trips or writing an online magazine to.
I usually don't listen to rap. But when I do — nah, just kidding. Okay, so Kendrick Lamar has won all sorts of awards and stuff, but is his work that good? I don't know, but if it can get someone who never really listens to rap/hip-hop music to actively listen to rap/hip-hop and actually write about it in his online magazine, then you tell me.
I was blown away by this album when it first came out. A sixteen-year-old me sitting there, listening on my iPod Shuffle. I had always been a big Linkin Park fan and although I was initially a bit surprised at how they had changed up their musical style with A Thousand Suns, after a few listens I began appreciating how well crafted this album is and they took what they always did well and applied it in a new way. The album is deep, powerful, moving and — especially with The Messenger — emotional. Although I do feel like some of the songs in this album are just filler, and I do prefer Linkin Park's old stuff, the album does deliver on its high points making it feel new and refreshing.
I think the main reason why I like Led Zeppelin so much is that, across their entire discography, they've done so many different things musically and their style varies so much. Even within their first album, Led Zeppelin, their style bounces from hard, classic rock with Good Times Bad Times and Communication Breakdown, blues-inspired jams like You Shook Me and I Can't Quit You Baby and acoustic-folk instrumentals like Black Mountain Side. Led Zeppelin really exhibited their musical craft with their debut album all those years ago and, as we now know, the only way for them was up.
This album has a warm and whimsical feel about it. The loveable vocals and light, soft tone makes the music feel dream-like and deep in some parts and delicate and folk-y in other parts.
A Zamrock album from 1973. What is Zamrock, you ask? Zamrock, dear reader, is Zambian rock; a type of music that became popular back in the 1970s. It sounds very similar to Western psychedelic rock music, and this is a great listen for those who like 70s rock and funk. The band's name stands for “We Intend To Cause Havoc!”, by the way. Also, a side note: this album came out in 1973 and was followed by a few more albums which were all reissued (is that the right word?) in 2011. Which basically means that if you search for this album on Spotify — and possibly other streaming platforms — you'll find that Introduction has been mixed in with a bunch of their other albums into one mega album called WITCH: We Intend To Cause Havoc!. You can find the original album on YouTube, though.
So, I'm not sure why, but there are some people who don't like instrumental music or music without any lyrics. I mean, it's fine, but I really don't get why. I've asked a few people about this and I've received answers like “It's boring” or “I kept waiting for the singing to start but then ten minutes went by and nothing happened”. Anyhow, if you're one of those people, then this album or even this band is not for you. The music of 75 Dollar Bill is certainly not for everyone. Their seemingly endless soundscapes with repetitive melodies and absolutely no lyrics might put some to sleep or desperately reach for the “next track” button. I, however, really enjoy the psychedelic-rock-ish guitar and dynamic percussion that is 75 Dollar Bill. I say seemingly endless because some of their songs are a bit long. I mean, this is a four-track album and it's 39 minutes long. The longest song is about fifteen minutes. Yeah. I mean, I'm not saying this is a band that I listen to every day, I'm just saying that I think this is a good band that is definitely underrated.
Back before the smash-hit Your Body Is a Wonderland, John Mayer released an EP which, I think, is just as strong if not the strongest of all his work. Although pretty much all the songs on this are acoustic ballads and all kind of similar in a way, I think Mayer is able to carve out each track differently and in some cases, like No Such Thing, Back To You and My Stupid Mouth, I actually prefer the low-key acoustic version to the heavier, electric version that was on Mayer's next album, Room For Squares. In my opinion, the acoustic style actually makes this album good as a package.
You’ve seen this before: somebody walking into a diner or a restaurant, ordering something and then having to leave without even waiting for their food. Or sometimes the food will arrive and the person will take two bites out of it before getting up, throwing some money down on the table and walking out. I mean, I know you’re the main character and you’ve got stuff to do, but I’ve seen this so much that it’s become annoying. I mean, what a waste of food.
I've noticed this one a lot in movies and shows. And, I mean, it's not that big of a deal (like most of the stuff on this list) as it's only between characters but I feel like people in movies and stuff are really like... blunt with each other. You know what I mean? Like if people behaved like that in real life, it would be considered really rude, impolite and not socially acceptable. For example, here's a classic scene. Main character walks into his office. He's a successful businessman and he's got stuff to do. As he's walking in, his secretary comes up and says something to him like, “Mr. What's-His-Face is on line two, sir.” The guy will, without even looking at her, just go, “Get out of my face, please, Tracy. And tell Mr. What's-His-Face I'll call him back.” And then he'll just go into his office and slam the door shut. Now, if you were at work and your boss behaved like that, would that be considered okay? Not in my world.
You must know what I'm talking about here: people with regular jobs and absolutely giant apartments. From watching movies as a kid, I used to think that having an apartment like the ones we see on screen would be affordable when I became an adult. Nope. Apartments, especially in big cities, can be mighty expensive. And some shows — like Friends or How I Met Your Mother — have characters with normal jobs that live in massive apartments in Manhattan which is so, so unrealistic.
A car is speeding down the road — usually in a car chase or something — and then all of a sudden it skids and breaks through the barrier on the side of the road, causing it to roll down a steep drop and land at the bottom next to some shrubs all smashed up and bent out of shape. What happens next? If you've seen as many movies as I have you'll know that it explodes. Why does that happen? I'm not a scientist or a special effects expert, but why does a car explode into a thousand flames after rolling down a hill? Or sometimes in movies, all a car will do is turn too fast, roll over and then explode. Just by rolling over. What's with that?
Yeah, so I don't know if America just has massive air vents in all its buildings, but it seems like anyone can travel through any building in America simply by ripping off the plastic cover and climbing into the squareish tunnel which just happens to be big enough for a Bruce Willis-type character to freely crawl around in. I don't know. All I can say is every air vent I have ever seen has been barely big enough for a cat to fit into and has a grill on the front that seems pretty securely fixed onto the front.
It's the middle of the night. She hears a noise. She goes to investigate. She opens the door to the creepy room and peers in when her roommate taps her on the shoulder causing her to jump (and us, the viewer). So people in horror movies have all had like ninja assassin training where they can sneak up on people silently? No footsteps, no creaking floorboards? Horror movies seem to have creaking stairs, doors and floorboards all the time. But not when there's an opportunity for a jump scare. Also, why doesn't the person just call out, instead of tapping their shoulder? If you woke up in the middle of the night and saw your roommate or family member standing in the hallway, peering into the dark of one of the rooms, wouldn't you just say to them like “Hey, what are you doing?” or something like that? I mean, that's what normal people do. Unless you want to sneak up on them to intentionally scare them as a practical joke. In which case, go for it.
This is one I noticed recently: people have so many lamps in their apartments! From a production point of view, yeah it makes total sense; you need good lighting and lamps make for a good aesthetic. But the amount of lamps people have dotted around their apartment in movies and shows is seriously unrealistic. I would not want to look at their electricity bill.
So this also makes sense in terms of production, but people's houses and apartments are so clean in movies! Like, I don't know about you but my place always has dishes in the sink, laundry on the floor and garbage next to the bin rather than inside it. The only time my apartment looks like one in a movie or a show is if I've literally just cleaned up. And it stays that way for maybe a day and a half before getting messy again. But people in movies? They're always so busy going about solving their problems according to the plot of the movie, but they still manage to find time to vacuum the floor and polish the furniture.
It's funny to me how agents and hitmen are able to sprint, fight and jump whilst wearing full suits including ties. Has anyone here ever worn a suit? It's definitely not the right clothes for any sort of extensive movement. But these assassins seem to do fine with their white gloves and guns with the silencer on the end. Fun fact: I read somewhere once that they actually make special suits and trousers made of flexible, stretchy material so the actors do their thing easily. Also, how do cops, detectives and people doing heists always seem to know where the “north-east corner” of the building is, for example? I know they've seen the map of the building before, but they don't even take a second to get their bearings and be like “Right, hmm, north-east ... that's ... okay, so north must be this way so ...” They're able to translate the map they saw earlier and just immediately apply that to their surroundings like they have a compass installed in their head or something.
HOW AMAZING IS BREAKING BAD?
I think Breaking Bad is a perfect show. Not very often does something come along that starts well, goes well and ends well, but Breaking Bad not only hits all the points well but is flawless in its execution and achieving what it set out to accomplish. A plot-heavy story about a chemistry teacher who gets involved in the drug world that’s interwoven through many arcs and plotlines. And although it’s a layered and complex story, it’s easy to pick up and follow along.
The style of the show is memorable and likeable. The odd camera angles, orangey-yellow tint and soundtrack choices make Breaking Bad have its own visual and acoustic identity. Another unique thing I find really amazing about Breaking Bad is the level of attention to detail throughout the show. Visual details, camera angles, metaphors and bits of dialogue all have a detail-oriented approach applied to them. The storytelling style is also interesting in the sense that it shows you a glimpse of what’s going to happen a little ways down the road and then slowly works its way to that point. Part of the fun of following the show’s plot is when the ball drops and you suddenly realise that what you saw before now makes sense and you connect the dots in your mind.
Breaking Bad is full of visual metaphors, foreshadowing and tons of other small hints that allow you to enjoy the show on many different levels. You can enjoy the story and characters at only face value, peel back a few layers and look into some of the foreshadowing and dialogue, or strip the entire show completely and analyse every single detail the show has. Any of the approaches can be done with a show like this, which I think make it a brilliantly accessible and watchable show for almost anyone — which probably explains the show’s success. I personally think that with any kind of media, it’s up to you as a viewer to go as far into it as you choose in terms of analysing and theorising. There’s no right or wrong way.
So, here’s the thing: at this point, if you are the kind of person that would enjoy Breaking Bad, odds are you’ve seen it already. However, if you are someone who would potentially like the show but just haven’t got round to seeing it yet — there’s probably only like a few dozen of you out there — here’s my advice for you: watch the show. The first season or so is a little slow, however, that pacing does definitely improve and makes the later seasons seem all the more hectic and eventful. There are also a lot of you out there, I’m sure, that have seen the show and didn’t like it. And to that, I say: fair enough. This is not a show for everyone. Breaking Bad does have a rather distinct style and it will not be appreciated by everyone.
Although it is a show about drugs, that’s not all that it’s about. It’s got crime and a bit of action for sure, but I would say it’s definitely more of a drama with well-defined characters going through various arcs brought out by exceptional acting and dialogue that sets the tone and tells the story in an understandable and clear way. I’d say to anyone who likes movies by Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers or Martin Scorsese might like Breaking Bad. You might also like Breaking Bad if you like Narcos, House of Cards and, of course, the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul.
TWENTY FOUR AMAZING SHORT FILMS
Yes I do, actually. Short films are films that are, well, short and some of them are actually pretty damn good. Almost ironically, a lot of the time these short films have more in them than feature-length movies — perhaps it’s the fact that short films are often made independently and are passion projects, or maybe just that the makers of these short films have to say what they need to within the short run time. Anyhow, these short films are all under 60 minutes and can all be found on either YouTube or Vimeo. There are also links to each film, and most of them are shorter than the amount of time it takes to gather a pile of sticks and set it alight — so there's no excuse to not watch them, really. I mean, why would you need to have a bonfire in the place where people park their cars to go and get groceries anyway?
A brilliant short film about time travel, destiny and the occurrence of various events unfolding as they should. Beyond was exceptionally well-made, had an incredible ending and an amazing message.
This sentimental short film had an animation style that really fit the story and world of the film well. It’s no surprise to me that La Maison en Petits Cubes won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film the year it came out as it’s a must-see if you like unique animation movies that have as much emotion and imagination as a Disney or Pixar film.
Well-made and simple, this short film was emotional and has some very relatable social commentary.
This one was different, for sure. Featuring a monologue of a refugee telling his story while simultaneously showing footage of mannequins in a factory, this short films has a lot of metaphors, visual symbolism and, you know, stuff like that.
I know I’ve already talked about Whiplash (the 2014 feature-length edition) in Kanis Majoris No. 1, but I was actually totally unaware that it was based on a short film of the same name until I stumbled upon it recently. The short features the “We have an out-of-tune player” scene which, arguably, is one of the best, most tense scenes in the feature-length version. Still crushing it with the killer performance, J.K Simmons, along with a few other actors, are the same as the feature-length Whiplash, and this amazing short film absolutely deserved to be adapted into a feature-length film.
Short and sweet. The Black Hole is a very short short film that presents a strange story with an ending that wraps it up nicely.
This beautifully made short was dark, mysterious and had a well-written voiceover-style story that was imaginative as well as realistic, with watching it seemed like it could probably happen. I guess that’s what realistic means, right?
Kind of a strange title, you might be thinking. It is. However, this short animation — I'm not even sure this one can be called a short film, to be honest. But, well, what actually defines a short film, really? — is a horrifying yet somewhat comedic take on the intro to The Simpsons set in Russia depicting a tragic, seedy, depressing atmosphere. The animator, Lenivko Kvadratjić — known as Lazy Square — has an incredible art style and a way of creating dark humour in short animations with all sorts of intricate and subtle details that you notice only after multiple viewings.
I really loved the charming art style — that kind of reminded me of The Amazing World of Gumball — and the story that made this go from a story of crime to one that we're all familiar with.
This one was hilarious. Similar in concept to Afternoon Class, it gets its name from the word used to describe the act of stretching and yawning — so it should make you yawn plenty of times while watching it.
A clever love story told entirely through ads. Yes, ads. The life of a young man working for an ad agency is presented in this clever, one-of-a-kind short film that probably has a message about consumerism somewhere in there, but we'll just appreciate this one for the clever storytelling device.
A creepy, unsettling, hilarious parody of children's shows that takes an unexpected turn. I had seen Don't Hug Me I'm Scared many years ago when it went viral, but as it's actually intended to be a short film I think it more than deserves to be on this list. The fact that it became sucessful as a viral video is just a testament to how good it is. One thing to note, if you are going to watch it: do not watch it with children.
This one by Gobelins had an amazingly adorable animation style and retro, throwback vibes. Throwback to what? Well, watch and see for yourself. It’s imaginative, has elements of comic-book-panel-type visuals and a story about growing up and the objects and possessions have in our lives.
An animated short that shows us the meaning of what someone seems like on the outside against what they truly could be on the inside.
A charmingly funny one-minute short film that is extremely relevant and, despite being literally only sixty seconds long, has a lot in it like subtle details and jokes that you notice on your second or third viewing. I really would like to find more short animations like motivational video movie (the all lowercase letters in the title add to the vibe and style, I guess).
Translating to “A devil in the pocket”, this short was stylized, metaphorical, haunting and beautiful. A story of seven children and the events that ensue when a strange event puts their morality and innocence into question. The abstract art concept and poetic narration makes this a unique and memorable short.
This one's got a very memorable visual quality to it. The claustrophobic, striking art style combined with the messages of consumerism, capitalism and, despite featuring rats, humanity make this animated short a great watch. Although my phobia of rats does make this kind of hard to watch for me. Nah, I'm kidding. The rats are animated, so it's totally fine. Would be a total horror show if the rats were live-action, though.
A brilliantly unique animated short about a former teacher and the events that ensued when one of his students started making rumours about there being a man in the woods.
One of my favourites by Gobelins. Depicting characters and a story that I, personally, want to see more of in a full-length feature, Colza has a very Studio Ghibli-esque style and an incredibly imaginative world that really deserves more attention.
This four-minute wonder has an alluringly clever art concept, extremely simple story with minimal dialogue and a friendly, calm and somewhat sleepy vibe (you'll see why when you watch it).
This one was actually made by Walt Disney Animation Studios, so you know what to expect; amazing animation, well-timed pacing and a story that's going to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Paperman's a romance that gets a little sappy, but hey, what else do you expect from Disney?
Simple and funny. Lie Detector is a dialogue-based short that has a simple concept and has a sense of humour sort of similar to The Office. The US version, I mean.
With an unsettling animation style and a concept that is surreal yet has a realistic edge to it, this short film depicts a stand up comedian on stage when his set doesn't really go as he'd planned.
Okay, this one was odd, intriguing and amazingly entertaining. I'm a huge fan of riddles and although I'd already heard the one featured in Albatross Soup before, it was still gripping in its concept and acid-trippy art style.
So you’ve probably seen this in movies: a character, usually searching for something or someone, goes into a phone booth and opens up the dense-looking book hanging by the telephone. He flips through, and upon finding the listing he’s looking for, just tears out the entire page and walks away. I mean, now it seems funny to us, but back in the pre-Google days, that was pretty much the only way you could look up information like people and local businesses — I mean the book part, not the ripping part.
I know what you’re thinking, those of you who are young enough to be unfamiliar with the concept of a book with local listings: “So how would you get up-to-date information? I mean, it’s not like there’s a ‘refresh’ button on a book.” Very true. What they used to do is basically update the whole book every few months or so (I can’t remember if it was every three months or every six months, but it was something like that) and then send the new one to your house. What was it like? Well, it was just a big, fat, yellow book with very thin pages (kind of like the paper used in newspaper, or maybe even a little thinner) and the cover was bright yellow and made of thin card. I remember when I was a kid, it used to have around 1,000 pages, but as I got older and phone directories started getting more and more obsolete, the number of pages got lesser and lesser. I think the last yellow pages I remember was perhaps half or even a third the thickness of what they had been a decade or so earlier — making it easier to interleave two yellow pages books. On the inside, everything was arranged alphabetically and every page basically had adverts for various businesses. So some ads would be bigger than others, probably depending on how much the business paid the yellow pages people.
So, speaking of yellow pages, there was this other thing that was huge back in the day and isn't really around anymore: telephone. Telephone was everything, once upon a time. Talking to your friends and family meant you had to go to your telephone which was somewhere in your house and dial the other person's phone number. Now, me being born in the mid-90s, I feel like I can kind of speak from a place of first-hand experience, because although the telephone was mainly used by the generations before my time, I did witness the use of the telephone in my childhood — even if it was on its way out. In our house we had a cordless phone — it had a base that was connected to the phone line but the receiver was wireless so you could pick it up and walk around within a certain range without tied down by a curly plastic wire — and I remember it had this giant, brick-sized receiver that you put up to your ear. On our phone, you could set up speed dials for important numbers, and then on the back of the receiver was this space where you could write which speed dial was for which person. For example if you pressed speed dial 1 it would call my dad's office, if you pressed speed dial 2 it would call my grandma, etc. Remember this was the late 90s/early 2000s, so this was all considered quite modern technology at the time.
A common sidekick for the telephone was the answering machine. You probably already know about these things; you could record an outgoing message that would play every time someone would call while you were out (or ignoring people). I guess we still kind of have this with voicemail, but even calling on a mobile phone is kind of old now that you can talk to people through the internet with apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, LINE and whatnot. The answering machine was actually a little before my time, I would say, because although people did have them in the early 2000s, mobile phones had started becoming more and more popular so there wasn't really as much of a need to have an answering machine.
There was also this thing where, if you had two telephones in the house connected to the same landline, you could listen in on the conversation going on on one of the phones. So, let's say the upstairs phone rings and you pick up. Oh, it's grandma. Hello, grandma. Yes, I'm well, thank you, how are you? You'd like to speak to mum? Alright, hold on. At this point, you yell out to your mum to pick up the downstairs phone. She picks up. And now on your upstairs phone, you can hear your mum get on the line and talk to your grandma. Now, if you didn't hang up and stayed on the line, and were really quiet, you could potentially eavesdrop on the entire conversation without them even knowing. I mean, most likely they'd probably not be talking about anything interesting, but wasn't it kind of exciting as a kid to secretly listen to grown-ups talk?
In the time of binge-watching and smart devices, I rather miss the time when TV used to be, you know, on TV; this magical thing in your living room — maybe also one in the bedroom or kitchen, if you wanted to get fancy — and it had these channels that showed programmes that you watched. You didn’t choose the content, the channel did. You had to watch what was on. Now, in the time and place that I was growing up — London in the 90s and early 2000s — there was Sky, which was basically this box you plugged into the TV that was connected to a satellite installed to the side of your house and you got hundreds of different channels. All sorts of variety from movies, dramas, sports, documentaries, you name it. But you had to know when your shows were on, and for that, there were these things called “TV guides”; a small booklet of schedules for all the major channels, telling you what was going to be on and when. In my day, we didn’t use TV guides as much due to the fact that the Sky boxes had advanced enough to be able to remind you about your shows and even record them for you. But I remember when I was really young, before we got Sky, having TV guides and checking them every now and then to see what was going to be on.
The experience of watching TV was also very different from streaming content online through some monthly subscription. There was, first of all, the logo of the channel constantly lurking in the corner which you had to just learn to ignore. Then, there were advertisements. And these were non-skippable, unlike the ads we now see on YouTube and those annoying mobile games. The TV adverts went on for about 5-7 minutes usually, and they would occur every 30 minutes or so. There were also these “narrations”, I guess you could call them? Like, say you were watching a movie on some TV channel. As soon as the movie finished and the credits started rolling, a voice would come on and tell you what was coming up next on the channel. Kind of like a radio DJ announcing what song's going to be playing after the current one. Finally, I'd also like to mention the drama of deciding on the channel when watching TV with your siblings. Since there was only TV, you had to fight to be able to watch your show. I’m talking wrestling on the living room carpet over who got the remote that night.
Those were the days. And I miss it. I mean online streaming is amazing, but there's so much choice that's presented to us nowadays that sometimes you can spend ages looking for something good to watch. You have literally tons and tons of content at your fingertips, to the point where you don't know what to pick that's actually going to be good and not a waste of time. Back in the TV days, however, you could just fire up the TV and start watching whatever was on. Sure, it was you who chose the channel, but as there was less choice, you usually just got into whatever was being shown. Less choice meant less pressure. Sometimes, it didn't really matter what was on; you just needed something to look at as you ate dinner at the living room coffee table. And it was during these times that we'd watch pointless, fun TV shows such as Braniac, Pimp My Ride and game shows. More on that after the break.
So, the types of shows we watched back in the day were a little different, too, and there was a lot of stuff we’d watch when there wasn't much else on. I always enjoyed watching game shows, where people just get on and answer questions to win money. Or two families go head-to-head to win a new car or a set of new patio furniture or something. I know I mentioned The Crystal Maze last time, but it really was the best. It was great because the contestants (of which there were usually about nine or ten) weren't really competing against each other — instead they had to all work as a team and collectively acquire as many crystals as they could so they could all win prizes. Another great one was Takeshi's Castle; a Japanese game show from the 80s where the games were just so absurd and random that it was hilarious to watch. I also liked Who Wants To Be A Millionaire as a kid because I'd pick up all sorts of this-probably-won't-ever-be-useful-but-I'll-remember-it-anyway information as well as scream at the TV when I knew the answer and the person in the hot seat didn't. Being informed on game shows actually helps quite a bit as a TEFL teacher when making activities for class. For example, I often play a Jeopardy!-styled game with students as a fun warmer activity or do a Family Fortunes-type quiz where you name the top five things in a certain category. Except the students don't get to win a gleaming, brand new station wagon with wood around the side.
Remember when you could transfer stuff via Bluetooth? Before phones had internet — well, mobile internet actually existed at the time but it was super expensive and slow — people would use Bluetooth to send stuff to each other on a phone. In reality, this would mainly be teenagers circulating useless audios and photos around school via Bluetooth. That was my first-hand experience, anyway (I was in high school when Bluetooth was all the hype). Having Bluetooth on your phone meant you were cool. It was universal, too. No matter what brand your phone was, you could send and receive stuff to and from anyone as long as you had Bluetooth. Not being reliant on the internet meant there were no issues with signal or buffering. But it was quite slow, of course. Anyone remember? Okay, now for something even more old-school: infrared. Yep, there was a thing called infrared which was like an even more retro version of Bluetooth. The main issue with it was that it had a really, really short range; you basically had to hold the phones so close that they were almost touching in order to send your files. Now, however, Bluetooth on phones is pretty much only used to connect to peripherals like wireless headphones or speakers. And infrared has been long, long forgotten.
Now, the last thing I'm going to talk about is cheques which used to be a way with which you could pay people. Back in the day, when you opened a bank account, you'd get this long, rectangular notebook of sorts from the bank which would have, on every page, a template of a cheque. For those not familiar, you can easily Google it to see what it looked like, but if I were to describe it in words I guess I'd say that it was this long slip that would have all these boxes and forms all blank and ready to be filled in. There would be a space for the payee's name, a place to write the amount (in numbers and in words. So if it was for £200, you'd have to write it in numbers: “£200.00" as well as in words: “two hundred pounds only”. The “only” I guess was so that no one could add anything after it), the date, and there was a space for your signature. It would be how you'd pay bills, people and basically anything that we use our electronic payment systems for today.
Now, you're probably thinking, “so what if someone wrote me a cheque for ten thousand dollars even if they didn't have ten thousand dollars in their bank account?” What would happen then is that the cheque would “bounce”. And I don't mean “bounce” as in “aight, I'mma head out”, I mean the money wouldn't be paid because the writer of the check didn't have enough funds and they'd probably get a fine from their bank. Which is why sometimes you'd have to, when you wrote a cheque, ask the person you gave it to to not cash it until a certain day when you knew you would have enough money in your account — like payday, for instance. You might have seen this before in movies and stuff. Or sometimes there'd be a thing where someone got a cheque from someone and it “bounced” so the payee would call the payer — on the telephone, of course — that “The cheque didn't clear and you still owe me money, buster.” Ah, the good old days. When you could pay someone with a single piece of paper with strange numbers along the bottom that I always thought were kind of cool.
There was also this thing called “balancing a chequebook” which was when you'd have to sit down once a month or so and make a list of all your transactions in a month based on your cheque stubs. So when you wrote a cheque, there would be a perforated bit where you could tear off the cheque you just filled out and hand it to the person you were paying and what you'd be left with in your chequebook was a tiny piece which would have all the essential information as to keep a record of who you paid and for how much so that you could “balance” the incomings and outgoings. Kind of like the electronic statement we see now when we log into our online banking. Back then, it all had to be done on paper and manually. Seems so complicated and unnecessary, right? Yes, it does. Luckily for me, cheques started to become rather obsolete by the time I opened my first bank account. I did actually get a chequebook from the bank, as cheques were still kind-of-sort-of relevant, but I never used it even once. So I'm a little foggy on the details with this whole cheque thing as most of my first-hand experience with cheques came from watching my parents fill out cheques when I was a kid. And from watching Leonardo di Caprio get through life forging cheques in Catch Me If You Can.
You open Google Chrome as you need to look up something really important. It opens, but then promptly displays a black screen with a small illustration of a dinosaur and says No internet. Ah, man. Wi-Fi’s out again. Damn. You look at the dinosaur. What does a dinosaur have to do with no internet, anyway? Maybe because they didn’t have Wi-Fi back in the prehistoric days? You refresh the page. No luck. You get annoyed. You have a lot of work to do and it’s already 2pm. You slam your hand down onto the keyboard in frustration. Your finger hits the “up” arrow key on the keyboard and the dinosaur suddenly jumps to life. It begins running across what looks like a desert landscape and you suddenly become intrigued. What is this? The dinosaur runs towards a cactus. My God. This is a game, you realise. You quickly press the “up” key again and the little dinosaur jumps over the cactus, just in time. You feel excited. You haven’t played a game in years. Maybe even a decade. With adulthood and responsibility taking over, deadline-ridden projects and endless productivity is all this laptop has been used for. Until now. The dinosaur keeps running across the desert as numbers go up in value on the top right hand side and you tap the “up” key over and over, dodging cacti and raking in points. Suddenly, a pterodactyl flies overhead the dinosaur. Your gaming instincts left over from your teenage years kick in out of nowhere, and you immediately know not to jump when the pterodactyl is around. You play. You feel so alive. You’re almost at 500 points when, suddenly, the page buffers, the game disappears and you’re sat there staring at the Google homepage. Your Wi-Fi has reconnected.
I was in the cereal aisle at Carrefour when I saw it; the dark, gruesome, long-tailed vermin scurrying about from one side of the aisle to another. My stomach turned over, and I couldn’t believe what I’d seen. Or perhaps it was that shock that kicks in when you encounter your phobia.
It was a rat.
I’m not quite sure where this phobia comes from, but I think it was when I saw this movie called The Witches as a kid. I forget the story and who’s in it, but it’s basically about these witches that turn children into mice. It’s bloody disgusting, and they call it a kids’ film.
Yep, I can’t even stand the sight of mice. We had mice in my parents’ house; small, grey things that crawled around on the floor with their black eyes and long tails. You would usually encounter them late at night, if you came down to the kitchen and turned on the light, you would see one hurry away and hide behind the washing machine. Like that scene in Ratatouille. After every encounter, I could think of nothing else for hours. My mind would repeat the same images, of the little grey mouse running along the kitchen counter and sniffing into our food left on the tabletop. It would make me feel sick.
Deep down, I realize this whole musophobia — you guessed it: the fear of rats and mice — thing is silly. A mouse is not going to harm me. It’s way more terrified of me than I am of it. But I can’t stand the feeling it’s going to run up my leg and bite the side of my neck. I know it’s irrational. But I guess that’s the definition of a phobia, right?
So you can imagine what kind of impact seeing a rat in a supermarket in broad daylight would have had on me. Let’s just say I wasn’t ready for it. Even though I didn’t see the whole thing; I just caught a glimpse of it hopping down from the bottom shelf onto the floor, then crawling across the empty aisle before jumping up and disappearing behind some cereal boxes on the other side of the aisle. At the speed that rats move, this all happened pretty quickly. Like within half a second. I looked around and for some reason, I felt like I was the only one that saw it. Like a rat running around was orchestrated only for me — the guy with the rat-phobia.
It was even worse when, a lot more recently, I got trapped in a taxi with a rat that had been hiding under the seat. I don’t want to talk about it.
Let’s change topic. Has anyone ever had an unexplainable spell of insomnia out of nowhere which then went away just as mysteriously as it came? Yeah, okay, I see a few of you with your hands up. Now hands up for those of you who tried a white-noise machine or chamomile tea or something like that? You know I did. If you’re looking for soft and strange soundscapes to soothe you to sleep, white noise isn’t the only “coloured noise” out there. There’s also pink noise and brown noise. You can search them on YouTube or Wikipedia to hear the difference, but they’re just all various combinations of different frequencies. So white noise kind of sounds like static on the radio, but pink noise sounds more like heavy rainfall. Brown noise is a little deeper and sounds like a waterfall or the humming on an airplane.
So yeah, for about six months, while I was at uni, I had a bit of insomnia. I’m not actually sure if it technically was insomnia, to be honest. I didn’t go to the doctor or anything, but about 3-4 nights every week I would just be unable to sleep until the early hours of the morning, and I'd only sleep for a few hours before waking up to go to uni. Is that insomnia, technically? I would use the extra time I had at night to complete assignments and watch movies, drink herbal tea or go look at the stars, until slowly but surely, my sleeping pattern got back to normal. It’s happened a few more times since then, but usually goes on for a few weeks or a month at most.
And on that note, that is the end of Kanis Majoris No. 2. I would like to thank you again for reading my work and — oh, wait. I forgot to talk about my favourite podcasts in this issue! Podcasts have always helped me to fall asleep when I'm having a bit of insomnia. Ah, well. I guess I'll talk about them next time, in Kanis Majoris No. 3. See you then.
Okay, I didn't actually forget to talk about podcasts in this issue. It was always going to be in Kanis Majoris No. 3, anyway. I just said that as a kind of segue into the teaser for the next issue using the thing about sleep and insomnia. Did you like it? What did you think? I know; segues are kind of overrated. Not everything needs to have a smooth transition that's like stepping onto a travelator and gliding through the airport terminal.