Image photo credit: Liam Wong.
Winter is Coming (a Nebula Winter that is)
Nominated by Amala Pillai, senior business writer
What was it that killed off Barney’s ancestors again? An asteroid? An ice age? This insightful article provides one exciting theory for what snuffed out the dinosaurs.
Why it Works
The author paints a fascinating picture with clarity and verve: maybe, they write, it was a dense interstellar cloud that passed through the Earth, effectively freezing it. The global cooling, thought to be linked with a decrease in the diversity of fossils, eventually led to mass extinction.
So how big was this cloud? Big — 300 light years across kind of big.
The evidence? A 16-feet thick deposit of iridium Japanese scientists found in the Pacific Ocean of extra-terrestrial origin, which cannot be explained by an asteroid. The iridium is postulated to have been picked up from the massive cloud it passed through.
History Meets Hip-Hop
Nominated by Joseph Jones, Director of Content Strategy
I'm both a massive history nerd and a huge fan of 90s gangster rap. In Epic Rap Battles from History, two of my passions combine.
Why it Works
Each show, two comedians get together as towering figures from history to rap battle. What elevates it though, as well as the actually excellent raps, is the historical accuracy and the laugh-out-loud comedy.
Watch Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi try to aggressively 'out-pacify' each other.
MLK: “We’ve got more beef than one of your sacred cows, but I’m about to forgive you so hard right now”
Gandhi: “I’m passively resisting the fact that you suck, I’m celibate because I don’t give a f**k”
Other brilliant battles include sporting legends Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali, (Ali: “What’s wrong with you? You fight like the little girls that make your Nike shoes”).
As well as a coterie of Russia’s leaders, including Lenin dissing Stalin: “Josef you were supposed to be my right-hand man, but you shrivelled up like your right hand man” (Stalin actually had one withered hand after an accident that he kept hidden from view).
Then there’s Vladimir Putin’s, "The last man who attacked me lived a half-life, so comrade, come at me!” is a darkly comic reference to the murder of a prominent critic of Putin — where the assassins poisoned the victim with radioactive ‘half-life' material.
An Epic Biography of Cancer
Nominated by Chin Wei Lien, Senior Writer
If cancer is a humongous mountain range, then Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer will tell you exactly how tall it actually is.
Why it Works
This is not the kind of book to which I usually gravitate. However, there is something, as much as I hate to say it, alluring about cancer and cancer research. I only figured that out halfway through the book, and the reason is this: learning about cancer is like reading a true crime novel with an unsolved mystery at its core.
The story is constantly writing itself as more people join the field, and there isn't an end to this long, arduous journey. Why? Because cancer is unlike any other disease out there, simply because we've got most of the top killers figured out, more or less.
Every time he introduces a patient, you want him/her to survive. Some do and some don't, and you feel the author's anguish through the pages.
The same cannot be said of cancer. No matter how much we learn about the disease, we find ourselves against an even higher wall. There is a sense of hope mixed with helplessness in the last chapter of this book, where Mukherjee describes the journey as a constant battle. The fight to understand and treat cancer will never stop because, as long as humans have cells, mutations will occur.
Like he says: it isn't a matter of if we get cancer, but a matter of when we get cancer. It is 'a new normal', as one of his patients says.
Back to the book — it isn't something that I'd usually want to read up about. However, cancer is fascinating, and I wanted to learn more. Maybe it is because everyone knows a cancer patient or two, whether it is a friend or a relative. When cancer is so commonly associated with the top killers in developed countries, I figured I should learn more about it.
And this book is the best place to start. Yes, it has some shortcomings, chief of which is that it is focused on efforts in the US. However, if you want to have a basic understanding of the history — or the biography — of cancer, then this is the place to start.
And don't expect this book to read like a textbook either, because Mukherjee filters scientific and medical concepts through his passion, relaying the information to us in a palatable and accessible way. Things unravel like a mystery or an equation and, as long as you follow the steps, you will come to the answer at the very end. Some may be put off by the hand-holding tone, especially if you already have some basic understanding of cancer. However, for the vast majority of us, this book is probably as good as it gets.
What makes this heavyweight especially hard-hitting is the way Mukherjee injects the story with his own experiences with cancer patients. Every time he introduces a patient, you want him/her to survive. Some do and some don't, and you feel the author's anguish through the pages.
If Mukherjee decides to quit oncology and become a fiction author, I think he will have a pretty good career.
Tokyo at Night
Nominated by Daniel Seifert, Assistant Editor
How dare photographer Liam Wong fill me with such wanderlust it’s like a kick to the essentials? I want this guy’s life and creativity, and not just because he’s a graphic design director at Ubisoft. He also takes achingly beautiful shots of soft, rainy Tokyo cityscapes at night.
Why it Works
As Wong writes, wandering Tokyo “was like […] living in the cyberpunk world that Syd Mead had created in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.” Each shot is like light made tangible, so feather-soft yet detailed I could stare at them for hours.
I’d make one of these my desktop screensaver but then I’d never get any work done.
Batman vs Superman in 4DX
Nominated by Cherlin Chan, Art Director
Experiencing kicks from a jolting cinema chair when a character gets punched and special effects such as wind, fog, lightning, scents and sprinkles of water that enhances what you see on the screen.
Why it Works
If you are a big fan of roller coaster rides, it's worth the two hours spent watching Batman being less than stellar, especially (spoiler alert!) at the last fight scene where he is powerless. Were it not for the effects, I would have fallen asleep during the movie.
Confessions of a Comedienne
Nominated by Andrea Edwards, Director, Content Marketing & Training
I am reading Australian super star Magda Subanski’s book Reckoning and I can’t put it down. Probably one of Australia’s most beloved, admired and funny comedians, not to mention Kim’s second best friend in Kath & Kim, this is a beautiful and heart wrenching book.
Why it Works
A migrant to Australia as a little girl, she tells her story in such an eloquent way, featuring a powerful father who escaped Poland after the war (and was an assassin during it), a depressed mother, and siblings who were much older.
It’s a magnificent exploration into growing up in an Australia I remember, which means it’s packed full of memories of what it was like at that time. Equally, it’s a journey into her complicated mind from a very young age, it’s about self-discovery, and it’s the painful story of her personal struggle with her sexuality. Incredible. Honest. Powerful. Beautiful.
I loved it and wish the world would read it. Magda is a gift to the world.
To give you some context of Magda, here’s some of her finest early comedy — I said love, I said pet. I love this woman, and I’ve known women who are exactly like the character she portrays in these skits. Enjoy.
A Drool-worthy Cutlery Project
Nominated by Chrizette Larin, Client Services Manager
I stumbled across this recently: edible utensils from India.
Why it Works
Simply amazing! We need more innovations like this. Warning: the video itself may make you rather peckish.