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Addicted to YouTube? Watch this, not that
ADMIT it. It's not something you're proud of, but each night, you stay up way later than you should - lying in bed in your darkened room, face eerily lit by the glow of your iPhone, powerless against the pull of yet another random YouTube video (which really is the last one for the night, you swear).
As a fellow miscreant, let me just say that I get it… And that I have more lobang.
For as much as I'd hate to push anyone further down the binge-watching rabbit hole, you know what they say: good things must share.
So in this week's Offbeat - and true to this column's spirit of celebrating things all things quirky - I discuss two unique YouTube channels that shouldn't exist, but do (and I mean that in the best way possible). Forget "influencers"; these videos are definitely not your average cooking show, episode recap, or makeup tutorial.
Because let's be honest - if you're going to sacrifice sleep for YouTube enslavement, those late-night videos had better be special. Enjoy!
- Emmy Eats by Emmymadeinjapan
Long before BuzzFeed began making people try unfamiliar foods for the first time on camera - real specimens include "People try durian (the smelliest fruit in the world)" or "American kids try breakfasts from around the world" - Emmy, an Asian-American YouTuber, was already taping herself doing just that, as early as 2010.
Unlike other foodie vloggers, Emmy stays away from reviewing food that can be found in the vicinity. In fact, the bulk of what she tastes is sent to her via airmail, from fans all over the world - so much so that her video posts are titled "Emmy Eats ".
In "Emmy Eats Singapore", for example - a two-part series spanning almost 30 minutes - she tries Singapore snacks like Prima Taste's laksa ("mmm, wow that's delicious"), kaya ("it's nutty, and coconuty, and sweet, and egg-custardy"), and haw flakes ("they're not that great").
She receives so many morsels for testing that the current wait time for videos is around a whopping five months - meaning a video she's just uploaded showcases food sent to her close to half a year ago.
My favourite videos of hers, though, are pretty specific. They're the ones showcasing military ration packs, also known as MREs (shorthand for "Meals, Ready-to-Eat"). These are plastic-sealed, individual food rations given to soldiers in combat or in field conditions where it's virtually impossible to access conventional food facilities.
These MRE posts are fascinating to watch, not least because they deal with food that's so obscure (at least to a civilian like myself). And while a lot of the meals look like the gloppy messes one would expect, there's so much to admire, too. The neat packaging is every OCD person's dream - sealed sachets upon sealed containers upon sealed packets - and some of the cooking methods are pretty ingenious (like self-heating packs for hot soups and stews).
Her MRE taste tests aren't just limited to those from the US, either; she's also tried combat rations from places like Britain, Canada, Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Russia…as well as one 26-year-old MRE of meatballs in barbecue sauce ("they don't taste off at all!").
It's an exercise in vicarious eating, for sure.
- Man at Arms by AWE me
You don't know it yet, but you're actually into metalsmithing. At least I'd wager as much, once you watch your first Man at Arms video.
Since 2013, Man at Arms has been showcasing the work of talented blacksmiths - showing how they turn fictional weapons and armour into reality, by forging them from scratch. The first episode, for example, focuses on Jaime Lannister's sword from the HBO series, Game of Thrones.
Man at Arms is hosted on the YouTube channel, AWE me - a geek's paradise (with more than 5.3 million subscribers) that aims to "amaze, wow, and educate".
And awe it does. In its early days, Man at Arms was hosted by Tony Swatton - a British-American self-taught blacksmith and trained jeweller, with over three decades of experience under his belt. You've probably already seen a tonne of his work without realising it; he's made weapons and props for more than 200 feature films, including The Matrix, The Last Samurai, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
These days, though, the web series is hosted by swordsmith brothers Matt and Kerry Stagmer. Along with their team of blacksmiths, engineers, machinists, engravers, and craftsmen, the Stagmer brothers continue to make fictional weaponry come to life - whether they're from books, movies, or video games.
A must-watch episode is the one where they forge a Hattori Hanzo katana (or traditional Japanese sword) from the movie, Kill Bill. Keen to use traditional methods to produce the sword from scratch, the Stagmer brothers employed an old Japanese technique to smelt raw limonite iron ore into steel. (Yes, they made their own steel; these guys don't kid around.) Other builds include weapons from Assassin's Creed,The Lord of the Rings, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
So sit back and marvel at the painstaking process required to curve a sheet of metal for Captain America's shield, or admire the beauty of a hand-etched engraving on Harry Potter's Sword of Gryffindor. Either way, Man at Arms provides a stunning feast for the eyes.
What I love most about Emmy Eats and Man at Arms is the fact that these niche, slightly batty channels even exist. After all, one wouldn't ordinarily think that millions would enjoy watching someone taste decades-old combat rations, or build fictional weaponry.
And yet, they do. And for that, we have the glorious (if sometimes bizarre) Internet to thank.
- Kelly Tay is an ex-BT journalist who now works in the finance industry. She is contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org.