The Humor of Melvin Durai
TALENTED CHICKEN CAN TEACH US A LOT
If you've been on the Internet a lot lately, you're probably familiar with Jokgu the chicken. Jokgu is a musician and as close to being a celebrity as a chicken can get. Jokgu is the Taylor Swift of chickens, except that Jokgu does not sing about ex-boyfriends.
Jokgu's talent isn't in singing - it's in playing the piano or keyboard. Jokgu recently appeared on the show America's Got Talent and amazed everyone by playing the tune of "America the Beautiful" on a keyboard. Members of the audience just couldn't believe their eyes. Was it really possible for a chicken to have more musical talent than half the audience?
It turns out that it is indeed possible, as long as chickens are given an opportunity to learn music at an early age. Jokgu, a two-year-old chicken of the Buff Brahma Bantam breed, lives in a Maryland coop that is well-stocked with toy musical instruments, such as a keyboard, drums and xylophone. Some of the chickens in the coop have even formed a band. Tour dates will be announced soon. Perhaps they'll even make a trip to India, like Justin Bieber did recently.
Jokgu, in case you're wondering, didn't learn to play "America the Beautiful" all by herself, although she did come up with a tune called "America the Wormful."
It was her owners who trained her to peck at the keyboard in a deliberate pattern, playing the notes of "America the Beautiful."
"It took about two weeks to get her to this level through clicker training," Shannon Myers, co-owner of the coop, told Huffington Post. "Just about 10 minutes to get her to peck the keys initially."
Clicker training is a method of training animals through positive reinforcement. After performing a task, the animals hear a click and then receive a reward, such as a morsel of food.
"Because you can click faster than give a reward, they immediately associate the click with the wanted behavior which then leads to reward," Myers said.
This is exactly how my wife trained me to do the laundry. Every time I put clothes in the washing machine, she made a clicking sound and handed me a reward: the TV remote.
Jokgu is obviously a talented chicken, but I can't help feeling a little sorry for her. Perhaps I misread her body language on America's Got Talent, but I don't think she really wants to be a celebrity. I don't think she wants to pose for selfies with all her fans. I don't think she wants to learn how to write autographs. And most of all, I don't think she wants to go on a concert tour.
Chickens, in general, do not like to travel, whether it's in the cargo hold of a plane or on a tour bus. They're especially leery about performing at venues that serve food. Imagine being on stage, trying your best to entertain everyone with your musical talent, and some rude person in the audience is eating fried chicken. It's just not right.
Whatever she does with her career, Jokgu should serve as an inspiration to everyone. If a chicken can play a musical instrument, what excuse do humans have for not even trying?
Jokgu shows that not only are we failing to maximize our own abilities, we're also failing to harness the abilities of the animals around us. Take my dog, Legacy, for example. What does she do at night? She sleeps. What does she do in the morning? She sleeps. What does she do in the afternoon? She sleeps.
Imagine if I could teach her to play a musical instrument or two. Instead of sleeping all day, she could entertain me.
But even if a musical instrument is too much for Legacy to learn, surely I could get her to master the washing machine. It would be a great service to our family - as long as my wife doesn't reward Legacy with the TV remote.
DEEPAK CHOPRA OFFERS TIPS ON HOTEL ROOM HEALTH
I recently spotted an article in the New York Times entitled "Deepak Chopra's Tips for a Healthier Hotel Room." I was quite excited to read it. After all, Chopra is a New Age spiritual leader, as well as a doctor who specializes in alternative medicine, so isn't it about time that he shared his expertise on hotel room health with us?
When I think about hotel room health, I mainly think of two things: (1) bed bugs; and (2) dangers to children.
Bed bugs have been a major problem in recent years, but if you stay in a good hotel, you probably have nothing to worry about. If you aren't sure whether a hotel is good or not, here is an important tip: Good hotels change bedsheets after every guest stay. Bad hotels change sheets after every guest complaint.
Guest: "There are several stains on my sheets."
Hotel manager: "That's just a pattern, sir. Many people like our patterns."
Guest: "You have a pattern of poor hygiene!"
Manager: "No need to get angry, sir. Art is in the eye of the beholder."
Thankfully, I haven't encountered bed bugs in any of my hotel stays, but I have been concerned about dangers to my children. That's partly because my kids have a tendency, whenever we check into a hotel room, to explore it thoroughly.
The first thing they do, of course, is jump on the beds. I'm not sure why they do this, but I don't complain, because it probably helps to get rid of any bed bugs.
Exploring a hotel room also involves crawling under the bed, tapping on the windows, pushing the buttons on the air conditioner or heater, testing the shower in the bathroom, and, of course, turning on the TV. These may seem like the harmless actions of inquisitive minds, but something unexpected could happen to hurt them. For example, the shower might be too hot, a loose spring might poke them under the bed, or Donald Trump might suddenly appear on the TV.
Chopra does not address potential harm to kids in his hotel health tips - and neither does he mention bed bugs. But he does say that we should be concerned about germs. Many hotels have duvets - soft quilts filled with down, feathers or synthetic fibers - with removable covers that are easy to wash, but if you're staying at a hotel that doesn't have such duvets, Chopra suggests requesting that your bedspread be washed. I've never done this, but I'm going to give it a try next time.
Me: "Has the bedspread in my room been washed recently?"
Hotel manager: "Recently? Yes, it has been washed recently."
Me: "This century or last?"
Manager: "This century, of course, sir. We opened only 12 years ago."
Chopra also suggests using anti-bacterial wipes to clean objects that are handled often, such as TV remotes, door handles and telephones. This can be a little bit of a hassle. Instead of following Chopra's advice, I'm going to make sure that I don't touch remotes, door handles and telephones in hotel rooms. I'll let my wife do all the touching.
To improve air quality in a hotel room, Chopra advises opening a window and letting in some fresh air. Letting in some fresh air is a good idea, but in certain parts of the world, including Delhi, you might also be letting in a few monkeys. Next thing you know, it's not just your kids jumping on the beds.
Chopra also advises us to maximize natural light when staying in a hotel room, partly by requesting a room that faces the street rather than another building. We should also unplug the alarm clock and other devices that produce artificial light, he says. This is good advice. Next time I stay in a hotel, I'm going to immediately unplug the alarm clock and TV. I may also unplug my laptop computer - as long as my battery is well-charged.
MAN KAUR INSPIRES US TO RUN
Most people dream of retiring in their sixties and taking it easy. Some of them might want to keep working, but by the time they reach their seventies, they're ready to relax, drink tea and reminisce about the good old days. Ask them if they'd like to do any running and they might nod their heads and say, "I've thought about running. In India, you're never too old to run, as long as you're running for office."
But ask them if they'd like to do the other type of running and they'd probably laugh and say, "Only if a lion is chasing me."
That's why Man Kaur, the 101-year-old world champion from Chandigarh, is so amazing. She took up running when she was 93! Most people that age have trouble walking, let alone running.
Just pick a 93-year-old woman in India at random and ask her if she runs. She'll probably smile and say, "I ran once, but it was a long time ago....Oh yes, it was during the partition. I ran from Pakistan to India."
Kaur started running upon the urging of her son, Gurdev, who is now 79 and competes in Masters events, like his mother.
"I asked her. 'You have no problem, no knee problem, no heart problem, you should start running,' " he told The Canadian Press. "She could become prominent all over the world."
She has indeed become "prominent" all over the world. If people in Burundi see a newspaper article with a headline such as "Man From India Wins Another Gold Medal," they know right away that it's all about Man Kaur.
Kaur, as you've probably heard, was the only female centenarian competing at the recent World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand, and won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash by completing the race in one minute, 14 seconds. Well, it wasn't exactly a "dash" - it was more like a "stroll." But when you're 101 years old, any type of measurable movement is worth applauding.
Competing only against herself, Kaur was both the first runner to cross the finish line and the last runner to do so. But it's not her fault that no other centenarians decided to show up. What was she supposed to do - go to a retirement home and challenge all the residents in their 100s to a race?
Kaur: "Who wants to race me?"
Hundred-year-old woman: "What will I win if I race you?"
Kaur: "A silver medal!"
Hundred-year-old: "How long do I have to run?"
Kaur: "100 meters. One meter for every year you've lived on this earth."
Hundred-year-old: "That's too long. Let's do one meter for every decade I've lived on this earth."
Kaur didn't just win gold in the 100-meter race; she also won gold in 200 meters, shot put, and javelin. She threw the javelin 5.12 meters and heaved the shot put 2.1 meters. Can you believe that - a 101-year-old woman heaving a shot put that far? Most people her age wouldn't be able to lift the shot put off the ground - and if they succeeded in doing that, they'd probably fall backwards under its weight, shouting, "Help! Someone get this heavy round thing off me!"
Kaur is truly a marvel. She has now won 20 gold medals at World Masters events around the world and shows no sign of slowing down.
"I feel really good winning all four gold medals, and this is not it, I will come back and compete again at the Master Games 2021 in Japan," she told the Indian Weekender.
In 2021, she will be 105 years old. Imagine how many people she will inspire to take up running.
Seventy-year-old woman: "Look at her run. I'm really inspired. Do you want to go for a run with me?"
Seventy-two-year-old woman: "Yes, but not now. We still have time."
Seventy-year-old woman: "That's true. If she started running in her nineties, we still have 20 years to relax."