Get the f*** away from me

I, like millions of others, am going to be trapped in my own home for possibly the next few months. I know I’ll be fine – you see, I am the master of self distancing and my bedroom has always been my isolation station. Perhaps this entrapment will make me start hanging out with my family downstairs – Oh wait… no, it hasn’t.

We all should have seen the virus coming. It was written in every fictional book – coincidence or not, it was still a possibility. Margaret Atwood said ‘History doesn’t repeat, it rhymes’, which is true. Here we are, obeying authoritarian orders, locked in our homes with no freedom of movement, rationing our food and slowly turning back into the selfish animals we once were. This whole thing is very dystopian; the incompetency of the current government shining through, mass hysteria, and the collapse of a rising society.

About 6 months ago, I read ‘Station 11’ by Emily St John Mandel. It described the collapse of society overnight. Billions died from a flu, and the remaining lived the rest of their lives in fear. I used to say ‘Station 11’ was exaggerated, but now I think otherwise. Eventually, when we run out of food, we’ll be scavengers. It’ll turn into sin city – stealing, killing, losing a sense of morality because all you are doing is surviving.

If you haven’t stocked up already, do so now. Help the vulnerable around you. Daily televised news from the Prime Minster won’t help you survive. Learn to ration, practice yoga, medicate. The internet will get slower, perhaps we’ll even get power cuts from time to time. Remember, this is a war. Eat cleanly, exercise and don’t lose your sense of morality. Most importantly, don’t lose hope.

The rise and fall of Nintendo

Nintendo actually started off as a company which specialised in just playing cards until one of its Japanese owners decided to make games consoles. The colour TV 6 was released in 1977, shortly followed by the game boy in 1989. The most famous of all and most successful to take however, was the Nintendo DS (2004) next to the Wii in 2006.

Now when I was growing up, the latter two consoles defined your social status at school.

‘What colour do you have’ (black, of course),

‘What games do you have?’

Best of all we would have toy day; an afternoon at the end of the school year where the entire class would huddle around the reading corner, backs humped and eyes fixated onto the screen of Chatroom A. There was always that one kid who would be drawing phallic objects, and the rest of us would try to remove is off the screen as fast as possible in case the teacher walked by.

The DS was the most entertaining device I ever owned back then. It did not require internet and it was mobile, meaning my childhood mainly consisted of me, my Sim, cooking mama and Mario.

I stopped playing, however, after the age of 12 and my console remained neglected for the next six years. When I was 18, my best friend started the DS craze in my school – where we reminisced and replayed old childhood favourites. We went back to playing Mario kart during every spare time and it almost turned into the scene of the old reading corner – except this time with 15 teenagers, fighting it out to see who was best at drifting.

Over the years, Nintendo have come out with revolutionary consoles – but of course some have missed the mark every once in a while. The 3DS was meant top be the new upgrade. Instead, it made everyone feel quite nauseous whilst playing some of the games. Then came the Wii U which sold only 13 million hardware units, compared to the original Wii which sold 101 million in the first year.

In 2018, Nintendo released the switch. The sleek, modern and colourful version of the Nintendo DS and Wii combined. The Joycons being made to absolute ergonomic perfection, accessible for all ages and capable of doing single and multiplayer games on one console. It’s the DS of the younger generation, and really won’t be letting them any time soon.

Welcome to the 20s

The last 10 years have been a rollercoaster. I passed exams and went to one of the best schools in the country. I made friends, lost friends, almost committed suicide over it and then met the most amazing people who I now call my family. I had a go at the dating game – one, two, three, four, five and my favourite number six – isn’t that impressive? I got my first job, learnt to drive and kickstarted my career as a writer. I even managed to graduate with a diploma in violin – a skill which I still struggle to find any use for. Like I said, it really was a rollercoaster. There were as much ups as there were downs, I’m sure, but most of it was just a learning curve – the elements which makes up the concrete, to set the foundations of my life. I learnt the value of friends, family and charity. I understood how incredibly lucky I am with all of the opportunities that were handed to me. A supportive family, caring friends, a safe home, freedom to travel, freedom to speak. I learnt to be decisive, control emotions and let go of things that were mere distractions.

The next decade will be completely different. I intend to have a successful career, perhaps a home or a family that I can call my own. All I know is that I’m prepared; the foundations have set, now its just time to build the tower. 

The undeveloped side to Japan

Last week, Japanese companies came under criticism after introducing a new company policy; banning women from wearing glasses at work. This came just months after protests all over the country to put an end to mandatory high heels in the workplace. 

Over the years I’ve grown to love Japan in all its culture and history, so disappointment struck when I came across this news article. The first thing I do when I wake up is reach for my glasses. I put them on and suddenly everything becomes high definition. It’s my routine. Heels though, I’m not so fond of – I can barely walk a metre without twisting my ankles so having to wear them all day would end up with me on a hospital bed. 

So why did these rules come about in Japan? 

Firms say that wearing glasses ‘gives a cold impression’ and that high heels look ‘professional’, both of which aren’t good enough excuses considering the rule makers were probably middle aged men. In that case, all genders should be forced to wear glasses and high heels. It was never a matter of professionalism or looking friendly. It’s pure discrimination coming from people with ‘traditional’ views. 

One person told to remove her glasses was a nurse in a beauty clinic. She was forced to wear contact lenses all day, drying out her eyes and causing her work to be disrupted. I don’t know about you but I would definitely not want a nurse jabbing things into my arm when she cannot see what she’s doing. Likewise, a working as a receptionist was also forced to remove her glasses whilst her male colleague was allowed to keep his own. 

You would think an innovative, fast paced country like Japan would do more to solve gender equality. But no. In 2016, the world economics forum ranked Japan 110th of 149 countries for gender equality, coming after Liberia and Azerbaijan – places where women have less access to education and where female genital mutilation is still a problem – suggesting the gender gap is worse than we think. Women working full time in hotels are required to wear skirts and high heels despite long hours and hard labour.

Japanese actress and KuToo founder, Yumi Ishikawa, started a petition after being made to wear heels whilst working in a morgue. The petition attracted thousands of signatures yet there has still been no change. Japanese officials say that a uniform is essential for employees to remain safe – so far, I can’t imagine a single scenario where my blurred vision and high heels will get me out of any situation. 

If a woman wants to wear glasses in any way shape or form, let her do so. If she wishes to wear contacts or get laser eye surgery, it’s her choice. Perhaps you should evaluate yourself if you think a woman wearing glasses gives a ‘cold impression’ It simply informs us of the dangers and curiosities of the outside world. Similarly, if a woman wishes to wear high heels, let her do so – but don’t make it a necessity. If her job requires her to move around often she would most likely want to wear trainers – for ease and efficiency. Finally, if you had any trouble reading this article and are currently thinking, ‘Why is this a big deal?’, try walking around on tiptoes for a day whilst looking through a kaleidoscope. 

Once upon a time in Hollywood: a true story

When I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest blockbuster, Once up a time in Hollywood, I was completely oblivious to its original story. My confusion led me to believe that this was just another one of those movies which made absolutely no sense but was a hit due to the big names involved. I couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, the movie was based off a true Hollywood story, the Tate murders. 

The film is introduced to us through the fictional characters of the actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Dalton struggles to find any work other than westerns, meanwhile his stuntman spends his days driving around Hollywood in his bosses expensive car.

The film is as much about the late 1960s Hollywood than it is about the murders. The story follows 2 days of the life of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), who at first is documented going to the cinema to watch her own movie. Robbie portrays her character as gloriously dreamy and almost ‘not with it’. One of Sharon Tate’s final films was ‘The wrecking crew’, in which Tarantino places brilliant homage to the actor by not digitally replacing her with Robbie. August 8th, the second day and the real date of which Sharon Tate was murdered; but Tarantino changes this legacy. The real events occurred as the Charles Manson family snuck into the Tate family home and murdered the now 8 month old pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends .  

Tarantino’s version of events spared the lives of everyone but the murderers themselves. I was fascinated when Tex Watson (Austin Butler) comes up with preposterous in the middle of the night to ‘kill the ones that taught us to kill’. Tate and Dalton were neighbours on the Hollywood hills and this time, the killers approached the home of Rick Dalton. After a drunk night together, Dalton had set off on a walk encountering the murderers on his way and Booth had taken his long saved acid type cigarette whilst trying to do the mundane task of feeding his dog. This ridiculous yet chaotic scene involved the killers bursting through the front door and immediately attacking the residents. It was a bloody fight, with gruesome scenarios and the last killer to be burnt alive in the swimming pool by Dalton with his flamethrower. Tarantino humorously gave the alternative version of events of what could have happened on the night of August 8th 1969, but with underlying references of the true story such as blood filled rooms and a pregnant wife.

The film ends with a calm after the storm, Booth is taken to hospital whilst Dalton finally interacts with his neighbours. Sharon Tate’s dreamy voice is heard over the intercom, this being Tarantino’s way to show continuing legacies even when one is not present in a physical form

Gossip guru

Once a day my family and I gather around the TV to watch the Indian spin off of Big Brother. This version is by far more entertaining than any western episode I’ve seen to date, which is probably why we’ve been watching every episode of every season since the show began 3 years ago. We were now on the 80th day out of 100 and this week was family week, a chance for each of the contestants to get a visit from their friends and relatives. 

This year’s season was much relatable to me than the previous two as now there were Sri Lankan contestants; an actor/model and a newsreader. The newsreader and another actor in the house had fallen in love, and were making their relationship very public. She ignored warnings from her fellow housemates about the actor using her for votes against eviction (as she had much greater support from the audience than he did). Despite all this warning, to me, they definitely felt like a genuine couple and not acting for the screens.

The newsreader’s mum and two sisters came to visit in family week from Sri Lanka. They warned her about how she was being used wasn’t truly loved. They told her how she had lost any sense of her true self and was in fact being manipulated by the others, especially her so called lover. There was also another surprise for her; her father whom she hadn’t seen in 10 years.

However the rekindling was not how anyone would have expected. He stormed into the house and passed his now sobbing daughter in anger. Her father went to greet everyone in the house and then turned to his daughter to say “Is this why you came in here, to fall in love or win the game, this is not what I bought you up for.” My family and I sat in shock. This was not the greeting any of us had thought to see, especially after 10 years of seeing each other.

Then he said something which I really was not expecting:

“Everyone we know are talking, what will they think?”

This got me thinking; In this day and age, the times you can truly express yourself, why does it matter what others think? In the Sri Lankan community, there is still a stigma around falling in love and opening up about our feelings. Most marriages are arranged, depending on caste, religion and social standing. This still did not make it okay to build your opinions around what you hear through the form of gossip.

After visiting a Sri Lankan village last year, I became more understandable to why gossip had become something that everyone did. With a few houses, a church, temple and a small school on a small beach, there wasn’t really much to do. We had arrived on a Sunday night and by the morning, the entire village had acknowledged our arrival even though we had only met one person. But this was harmless. It was only truly toxic when someone it’s used to spread false news. The fact that the newsreader’s father had been so worried about the whole town talking, just shows the extent to which this can be used to manipulate and humiliate an individual.

My only true hope is that the next generation of individuals discards what anyone thinks or does. It’s better to strive for your own goal than follow in the lives of others.

Quitting caffeine for a week

Anyone who knows me will remember that I cannot start my day without a cup of tea. It cannot be made by anyone other than me in order to achieve the perfect colour and taste (2C for sure). Ive been drinking tea for about religiously for about 10 years, having between two and three cups a day. I always assumed that tea is much healthier to drink than coffee, but only recently read that in fact that tea contains more caffeine than tea, which can lead to unwanted health risks. This lead me to wonder how I would cope without my morning caffeine burst for an entire week. Here’s how it went.

Day 1 – ‘Oh God’, I thought to myself as I lay awake on my bed. It was 7.30 in the morning and I was already yearning for my daily tea and porridge. Of course my dreams came crashing down at an instant, and my only beverage was a water. At 9:3o I felt a mild headache coming on. I had heavy eyelids and not having the feeling of being completely awake. I had a driving lesson at 10:30 which couldn’t have gone worse if I tried. After my awful attempt at reverse parking into a bay, even my instructor was questioning me. I then went grocery shopping, which is usually my favourite activity of the week. Bu things took a turn when my head started throbbing – it was a not so mild headache anymore, in fact it had taken over my entire head and down my face. I couldn’t take it anymore. I took an ibuprofen which made my day more desirable again. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Day 2 – I had quite a disturbed sleep, waking up multiple times during the night which is unusual for me. I woke up feeling luggish and munched on two croissants for breakfast and an orange. As I got through the day, I started feeling more tired than I normally would, but there were no signs of a major headache like yesterdays. That was until my maths student had arrived and I spent the majority of the lesson frowning. I had a minor headache for the remainder of the day but nothing I couldn’t manage.

Day 3 – I remember reading other articles about people quitting caffeine and it mentioning that day 3 is the hardest part of the challenge. I woke up at 9:30am, much later than normal – this was probably due to my overall tiredness for the past couple of days. I made sure to keep extra hydrated throughout the day, drinking more cups of water than usual. I then headed to my aunts housewarming party where we chilled in the beaming sun for the for the entire day. Despite what the other articles said, I didn’t have a tough day at all, no tiredness or headaches. In fact I felt much more awake!

Day 4 – By the fourth day, my headaches had disappeared and I was back to my normal energetic self. That’s not to say my need for tea and gone completely, I was still craving for one sip of it. I tried having warm milk but even still it did not fully satisfy my needs.

Day 5 – My mum came back from a long trip and asked me to make her a cup of tea. Now I was going back to my favourite cabinet in the kitchen, taking out the container with all the loose tea leaves. This was a mistake. As I opened the lid, the sweet aroma punched the air and lingered, enough for me to give in and make a cup for myself – something I don’t regret.

Even though I didn’t last the entire week, a 5 day gap after years of drinking routinely was a big challenge. Quitting had many negative effects on me such as headaches and just having an overall tiredness during the day. On the other hand, the withdrawal symptoms were not as bad as I thought they would be with only the first day being the hardest overall. In fact, without drinking tea in the mornings, I was not full after my meals and ended up snacking more often. I am certainly going back to drinking tea, unhealthy or not, but at least I know that if there was ever a shortage in tea bags, I would be fine.

Mary Poppins returns (2018)

Disney’s new venture to modernise and reintroduce famous characters to younger audiences and bring nostalgia to everyone else is certainly a great money making scheme. With the likes of Beauty and the beast and Maleficent; Mary Poppins (directed by Rob Marshall) is also one to undergo a transformation as this iconic magical nanny comes floating back onto our screens. 

Julie Andrews’ career defining character was now replaced by Emily Blunt, who was accompanied by Lin Manuel Miranda as Jack, a lamplighter who was said to have apprenticed Bert in his younger years. Screenwriter David Magee had big shoes to fill, but only really half did the job. The storyline was fairly weak and unoriginal, with the Banks’ children grown up and not even shining a glimpse of their exhilarating childhood left inside of them. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), a widow and father to three independent children now face being evicted from their homes unless they find lost documents. Along the way, Mary Poppins appears, Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) falls in love whilst the bank’s corrupt chairman, William Wilkins (Colin Firth), sabotages the plot. 

Despite the feeble script, Blunt did an exceptional task at putting herself aside from Julie Andrews. Her accent was now more received and much sterner. All in all, the magic of Mary Poppins remained the same with the numerous times she looked into the mirror, the magic of tidying up as well as pulling ridiculously large items out of her doctors bag. That’s not to say that Blunt didn’t add her own touches. With her ever pointed out toes, conversations becoming more sarcastic and cheekier, Blunt really showed how versatile of an actress she can really be. Miranda’s performance as Jack was also delivered very well. His experience in theatre and complicated choreography paid off well as he used the stage to the fullest of his abilities, using Dick Van Dyke’s original as inspiration. The film, as always, broke away from traditional separations between class as the fate of the working class lamplighter was to fall in love with Jane Banks. Although Miranda’s take on a cockney accent was interesting, it can be argued that his performance was certainly a touch more friendly than Van Dyke’s original. 

The music in the original 1964 film was certainly memorable, with ‘step in time’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, ‘a spoon full of sugar’ and ‘chimchim cher-ee’, written and composed by the Sherman brothers and all being nominated or winning academy awards. Unfortunately, there weren’t any of those in the remake and its fair to say that although the songs were catchy, they were certainly forgettable. The 2018 soundtrack consisted of ‘A Conversation’, ‘Can you imagine that’, ‘ The royal Doulton music hall’, ‘A cover is not a book’, ‘Turning Turtle’ and  ‘Trip a little light fantastic’. With some of them containing euphemisms and dramatic choreography, they could have been just as unique and wonderful as the original. Although the performance of each song was visually entertaining, composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman failed to take a risk and capture the weirdness and originality of the Sherman brothers. From Michael Banks’ melancholy solo in ‘A Conversation’ to the theatre scene in ‘A cover is not a book’, the detail in the set and costumes was practically perfect in every way. Like the original, there were collaborative scenes between animation and real life such as the ceramic pot where costumes designed by Sandy Powell were made to look hand painted with extreme precision.

The use of CGI was done very effectively as there was more magic in the bathtub scene than in the entirety of the film itself. It consists of Blunt performing her own stunts by falling backwards into a bathtub which leads to a sea of creatures. Another song with brilliant stunts and choreography was ‘Trip a little light fantastic’, equivalent to ‘Step in time’. With the same simulatenous choreography, with all the lamplighters standing on a ledge, dancing under the moonlight. 

There were many cameos from actors from the 1964 edition. With Karen Dotrice (old Jane Banks), making a short appearance where she plays an elderly lady asking for directions. Another cameo we see is Dick Van Dyke himself who plays Mr Dawes senior, the uncle of the corrupt bank chairman. Both acts were not necessary to the story and did not add any depth, however, seeing old familiar faces gave a definite sense of nostalgia. There was also an appearance from Meryl Streep, who played Mary Poppins’ eccentric cousin. Streep is not a novice for playing unusual characters and her role as cousin Topsy did not disappoint. 

Although many people were sceptical of the remake of Mary Poppins, it’s fair to say that Marshall made a good attempt in providing magic for the younger generation. It did not live up to the 1964 version and certainly did not require villains. However, the emotional depth that lacked in the first film was added here, with subjects such as struggles with money and grieving that were touched upon. As always, Mary Poppins provided hope and made sure to teach the lesson to put family before anything. Now its time to wait half a century for Poppins’ next venture. 

– …. . / .- .-. – / — ..-. / — — .-. … . / -.-. — -.. .

Try to uncode the title

When Samuel Morse was commissioned to travel to Washington to paint a portrait of a military officer, he received a letter by a messenger informing him that his wife’s health illness had worsened. When Morse rushed back to his home town in Connecticut, it became a great shock to find out that the message had taken so long to be sent that his wife had not only died in that period but had already been buried. This motivated Morse to invent an ingenious system which started the evolution for effective communication systems.

Morse code is essentially a series of dits and dahs (dots and dashes) assigned to each letter of the alphabet. For example; the letter ‘E’ is a single dit (.) whereas the letter ‘L’ is dit, dah, dit, dit (. — ..), the same stands for numbers and punctation. Where there may be no obvious pattern of dots and dashes for the alphabet, the numbers are fairly simple to learn. Zero consists of five dahs (—————), one consists of one dit and four dahs (. — — — —), two is two dits and 3 dahs (. . — — —) and so forth.

Morse code is mostly used in the navy by transmitting radio signals or using flashlights to communicate with other ships or to send distress signals. In some instances, it has been extremely useful when passing on subtle messages. When an American Colonel was captured during the Vietnam war, he was forced to participate in a Vietnamese propaganda video, telling the audience of how well he was being treated by his captors. This in fact was completely untrue as he was seen to blink out the word ‘Torture’ in morse code (—  — — —  .—.  —  ..—  .—.  .).  Another instance happened during the second world war, when a British Soldier was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. During his time in captivity, he was allowed to sew. One particular needlework he did impressed the Nazis so much that it was allowed to be hung in every other concentration camp. What the Nazis didn’t see, however, was a slight detail in the work which read ‘God save the King’ and ‘F*** Hitler’, all written in Morse code. 

Image result for god save the queen needlework concentration camp

Learning Morse code is very simple. Most people use mnemonics which helps determine the length of the letter and the number of dits and dahs it contains. ‘BOOT to the head’ is a common phrase used to learn the letter ‘B’ ; It consists of one dah followed by three dits (— . . .). However, the most effective way is learning morse codes through sounds, which makes the entire concept much easier to understand

Morse code is an extremely useful skill and essentially its another way of learning a new language. Although modern communication methods may be faster than Morse code, it is certainly a language that is understood in every country. Some people important phrases in morse code, the most obvious being dit dit dit dah dah dah dit dit dit, commonly known as ‘SOS’ (. . . – – – . . .).

TITLE: The art of morse code

Radio show

Supposedly, this could’ve been my first ‘Mum, I’ve made it’ moment, or not quite since I never actually told her. Last December, I was chosen to be on episode one of ‘First’. A podcast dedicated to your first time experiencing something as a teenager. This is how I recall my experience:

As I walked into the recording studio on Great Portland street, I felt as nervous as ever. I had never opened up to people about my relationships before, and now it was to be broadcast for the entire nation to listen and relate to.

The producer introduced me to the host and the other two people I’d be sharing the show with. This made me relieved on one hand but I soon realised that more people would be watching me talk as we were recording. This unnerved me a little; the only way to calm myself down was by taking deep breathes and eating many of the mince pies that were on offer at the table.

Stomachs filled, we were taken downstairs to a series of corridors which lead to different recording rooms. The studio was exactly how I imagined; through a triple sound-proofed door lead a small room with a large round table. On top of which were a series of microphones connected to gigantic noise cancelling headphones. Behind me was a tinted window which took up the entire width of the wall. This would be where the producer and technician would sit behind, talking to us through our headphones and saying things such us ‘Can you repeat that?’ or ‘Slow down’. (The intimacy was real).

I was still quite nervous when the recording started, but I slowly began to find my place in the conversation as the recording started. The topic was about my first heartbreak, a story I knew off the back of my hand. Even though I was way out of my comfort zone, in the end I realised that it’s easier to talk about something you already know as there is always so much to say. Now time to record the next episode.

You can listen to ‘First’ on: