Avatar Newsboost – Zany Zoo Zig-Zag

Thailand has opened a brand new zoo and it is one that has garnered the attention of the world’s media for offering a different kind of experience.

The ‘Khop Khun Animal Sanctuary’ based outside of the city of Phuket is revolutionary in its approach to animal captivity, if you can even call that. The entire park is open with no walls or barriers keeping the animals in one singular place. Instead, in order to keep visitors safe, every member must wear their very own human cage, placed around their head, body and legs to prevent any unwanted attention from the most rambunctious of residents.

Originally the idea of billionaire John Cho, it was fully realised, albeit with the help of Cho’s money, by Anastasia and Lloyd Botham, a couple originally from Milton Keynes. It was these forward-thinking biologists who designed the layout of the attraction with the animals in mind, more than the people.

“We wanted it to be outside inside, or more appropriately, we didn’t want the animals to know they were being kept inside something,” wittered Lloyd, “Their sense of freedom is much more important than anything else. They need to believe that nothing is stopping them from living their best life and though it may not be the habitat they are normally used to, it is much more humane than tiny cages in dingy corners of draughty warehouses.”

Anastasia was the one who crafted the “human cages” as they have come to be known as. “I was inspired by robots. I love the movement of robots, the style and look of robots. It then occurred to me that when people get close to sharks they lower themselves into the water in a giant cage for protection. Why not do the same thing on land? Not with sharks though because they’d die, unless they were put in a giant tank. I reckon it wouldn’t be the same though.”

After ten minutes of waffling she returned to the point. “We have several cages available for use. The family cage (AKA the “Bernard Manning”) is our most popular, allowing two adults and two children to wander through the park in tandem. The couple cage (AKA the “Howard and Marina”) is another favourite, for those who don’t want to chance it on their own. The solo cages (the “Katie Hopkins”) are also available although you’d be surprised at how often they are not used. People would prefer to travel in groups.

The controversy surrounding the sanctuary was deepened when several of the animals took it upon themselves to try and eat the paying patrons by pushing the cages over and clawing at the people like they were trying to scoop the last of the Pringles from the very bottom of the tube. Mike Sore and his fiancee, Klara Onspott, barely made it out alive.

“It was the most terrifying experience of my life,” rustled Mike, his wife-to-be shaking nervously at his side, “you never expect it to happen to you. There we were, laughing at the marmots when these two gorillas pushed over our cage and viciously swiping at us. Had we not flattened ourselves at the very bottom and called for help we wouldn’t be here today. Thank God gorillas have never had a box of Tic-Tacs.”

It’s fair to say that once the animal kingdom does learn about shaking that last chocolate-covered raisin from the bottom of the packet into the mouth in one seamless movement, the human race is doomed.

Avatar Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite!

I had two ideas for another post this month albeit they both stemmed from the same prospect of enraging Kevin and there is no way that I am going to post them within a few days of each other. I do like to space these things out so that Kevin’s wrath does not come down on my like a ton of spiky, explosive bricks. Also, you may as well milk this for all it’s worth because everyone loves winding Kev up as much as I do. With this in mind, let me present you with a little review of the Gameboy Colour game ‘Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite!”

Hamtaro is a hugely popular Japanese series of anime, manga and video games. It follows the adventures of a group of SD (super-deformed and very cutesy) hamsters and it’s utterly insane. I want to pretend that this is completely normal but it’s not. I have played through the entire game and I am convinced it was designed by the deranged. Even I, with my bat shit crazy view of the world, found myself exclaiming out loud, not in my head, actual audible sounds, of “Eh?” and “You what?” whilst playing it. It is everything that I was hoping for and an extra box of chocolate carpets to boot.

In it you play the titular Hamtaro, a lovable hamster with a heart as huge as his eyes. The boss of your hamster clubhouse has tasked you with locating all the other twelve hamsters and bringing them back for a special surprise. As a small rodent, the human world is big and full of items that would appear normal to you and me. How are you to convince your peers to abandon whatever they’re doing and head back to he clubhouse? You do this using Ham-Chat. Ham-Chat is the secret language of the Ham-Hams whereby instead of using sensible words to describe and communicate they use slight variations or muddied portmanteaus of colloquialisms. It does seem rather odd that this fully-grown hamster does not understand basic words for ‘happy’, ‘tired’ and ‘hungry’; how has he been getting by all this time? Has he been writing down words on a pad and showing them to friends and family? Where did he buy this pad of paper, from a tiny WH Smiths? Who designed and built a WH Smiths so small only small animals can get in? There are so many questions.

So you get given a few to begin with and set off into the world to learn more words. The more words you learn the more puzzles you can solve. When I say “puzzles” what I mean is… what do I mean? You meet other Ham-Hams and they tell you things such as stories or other Ham-Chat words. You pass these on to other Ham-Hams to help them with whatever problem they’re dealing with. Occasionally you won’t be able to proceed in the area you’re in until you find the right word and backtrack to that point. Occasionally you’ll go through every word you have until you do the right thing. Occasionally you’ll have to play a mini-game where you position Hamtaro in the right place so he can head a strawberry like a football. Fruit sports.

The game is relatively open so you can wander around until you find the right thing for the right place. It’s a series of fetch quests hidden behind a brightly-coloured world of absurdity. There are eighty-five words to find in total. As this is a kid’s game, you are also given the choice of purchasing clothes and items for Hamtaro from specialist shops hidden in the game. Fancy yourself a bit of a dance guru? The words from the back of the box say it all:

“You can create dances with Ham-Chat. Every word gives you a dance step – string words together to make your own original Ham-Jam dances then link up and share with your friends.”

I didn’t get this. I mean I understand hamsters dancing but I didn’t see the point of it meaning I ignored this aspect of the game completely and went back to picking up acorns and rocks.

Though I am a little ashamed to admit it, I am still to complete my Ham-Ham Notebook having only found seventy-six of the eighty-five words in total. I appear to have hit a bit of a block where it seems as if I need to do the tiniest of little things before carrying on with the rest of the game and my poor eyes, all sets of them, don’t have the energy to go scouring through the same levels again and again trying to find whatever it is I need to do.

That said, it is a very engaging and silly game, and I enjoyed the majority of it. I first learned of it at the turn of the century and it took me until this year to play it. Twenty years of anticipation. Twenty years of sometimes looking for it on Ebay and then getting distracted by a box of hammers. As it is quite rare I could only find the game and instruction booklet so I bought a reproduction box from Etsy to house it in. Now it looks all complete and shiny the way it should. Look at it, Kev, bask in how great it looks. That repro box was well worth the money. I only wish everyone could experience the comic mischief of ‘Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite!” although the chances of an HD remake or remaster are practically slim to none.

It’s a good job then that there are three (count ’em!) three other Hamtaro games on the Gameboy Colour for me to source and play. Life is good.

Avatar Four Word Reviews: Tenor at the Movies

I cannot explain how Four Word Reviews work. The CDs just arrive, I don’t choose them, and they arrive by their own mysterious schedule. Right now I have a lot of them stacked up. Being in a position where I had a lot to choose from, I took a punt on Jonathan Ansell’s Tenor at the Movies, basically because I’d never heard of him. Here he is, look.

Read More: Four Word Reviews: Tenor at the Movies »

Avatar Four Word Reviews: Voice of the Violin

Plan A for this month’s Four Word Review was Cher Lloyd, obviously. But there is no Cher Lloyd on the CD in that box. So, with some reluctance, I have had to change my plan. I couldn’t face Kavana. Not yet. So where else is there to turn? What might soothe my frayed nerves and calm me after this disconcerting change of plan? I turn back to the pile of dreadful CDs, once again growing at an alarming rate. I pass on Pete Waterman’s Motown collection. Ah yes, here we go. This guy. This guy will do nicely.

Read More: Four Word Reviews: Voice of the Violin »

Avatar King for a Day

Early. Bleary-eyed. Rummaging through emails before work and there it is.

Now I have my fair share of luck like everyone else. I’m not swimming in lottery wins yet occasionally the cosmos chucks me a bone and a I manage a few numbers in the Chunderball. It’s a balancing act no doubt due to my years of annoying people and general sanctimonious behaviour. Yes, me.  Look at me.

“Congratulations! You’re our Mastercard Competition WINNER!”

I’m your what the what now? This email sat in my inbox is telling me I’m a winner. It is praising me for winning more than anyone else. I am a winner. I have won a VIP trip for two adults to attend the UEFA Champions League Final Madrid 2019. I would rather stick my eye sockets in a paste of pepper and lemon juice than have anything to do with fucking football but even so, it does come with hotel accommodation and a £250.00 prepaid card so I can stick twos up at the final and go off to get hammered in some squalid Spanish bar, where the locals can pick my pocket when I am stumbling back to my hotel room around 7pm or however long it takes for me to get wasted these days.

This is pushed to one side by my acute distinct overwhelming sense of pessimism. “What do you think you’re doing? You actually believe you’ve won a competition? When did you enter this competition”

“I… I erm I don’t er… I didn’t?”

“Well done, genius! You didn’t. Why on earth would you have entered a competition to win tickets to the UEFA Champions League Final? It’s clearly a sham. It’s a fake. They’re trying to scam your sorry ass for a quick buck.”

Having checked the details, even though it looked like a genuine email I was inclined to agree with my pessimism that it was some hoodlums attempting swindle the last few pennies from my account. Like with all great phishing scandals, I sent a message to Zavvi saying that I had received an email that looked about as legitimate as a Smidge Manly Coco Loco advertisement from Spain, and asked them to verify if this was the case. I received a response a few hours later, two responses in fact. It seems as though a lot of people had received the same email I had because the first reply was a mass-produced email from Zavvi apologising for their error. This was further confirmed by the poor customer service adviser who had to message me back to say that I had not won the tickets, as well as several tweets from people on Twitter who had gone through the same highs and lows as I had.

So in one sense I have missed out on the chance of flying to Spain to live out a brief fantasy of downing alcohol in a foreign country. On the other hand though I have avoided a poxy holiday based around a shit game of football.

Hotter Otter out.

Avatar Interlude

Ladies and gentlemen, we have now reached approximately the mid point of this website, so this is a suitable time to take a short break. Please feel free to take this opportunity to visit the bathroom or step out into the foyer to avail yourself of our wide range of beers, wines, spirits and snacks.

Part two of Pouring Beans will begin in a few minutes. In the meantime, please enjoy five minutes of gleeful silliness that everyone of sound mind ought to have in their lives.

Avatar Trekkin’ Abroad: Norman D.

So many posts in so few days. It’s almost like it’s the end of the month and people have one eye on the Bean Counter.

No matter. This isn’t just any post, this is important. Listen carefully.

I am posting to the Beans from a foreign location. I am, literally, Trekkin’ Abroad at this exact moment. I am within a country apparently called Norman D., though as yet I have been unable to ascertain its surname. However, armed only with this rudimentary information, I’ve narrowed down some likely suspects.

Norman Dodgin

An English footballer, who mainly played defensive positions, Norman Dodgin’s professional career lasted from the late 1940s to the early 1950s and he died in 2000.

Norman Douglas

An author, most famous for his 1915 book South Wind, Norman Douglas died in 1952 – interestingly, at a time when Norman Dodgin was at the height of his professional football career. A coincidence? Unlikely.

Norman Dyhrenfurth

Confusingly born in Breslau, a German city that no longer exists because it’s now called Wroclaw and in Poland, Norman Dyhrenfurth was a cinematographer who produced movies for National Geographic in the 1960s and is apparently also known for a film released in 2007, which is two years after his death. He was born on May 7th, the same as me. Another coincidence? Unlikely.

Clearly these are the three most eminent Norman D.’s in the world, and so logically if I am in a place called Norman D. then I must be in one of them. All three are dead, which brings the unsettling but inevitable conclusion that I have gone on holiday to a corpse. However, it seems to be a reasonably nice corpse, with a pleasant apartment that has a balcony and a short walk to shops and bars around an attractive harbour front setting, so if this is life inside a dead body it’s not all bad.

I am due to leave this place on Sunday and if any further information about the location or identity of Norman D. comes to light, I will share it here.