Year of the Ox, US snow storms, Finnish snowflake art, ancient conch

Feb 17, 2021 Episode 34

What the Year of the Ox means and how it’s celebrated, winter storms grip US, Finnish artist makes huge snowflake and 17,000-year-old conch is played – all that and more!


This week’s art is courtesy of Edie Cizeika Bower.

Episode Transcript

OPENING STING – LEELA: “Newsy Pooloozi!”




LEELA: Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of Newsy Pooloozi – a whirlpool of news and information!


I’m your host, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt. And this is… my mama and big story explainer…


MAMA: Hello, I’m Lyndee Prickitt. And since this week is the start of Chinese New Year…


MAMA/LEELA: And… Xin nian kuai le!


MAMAM: That would be “happy new year” of course! (We hope!)


LEELA: Yep, well over a one-and-a-half billion people around the world are celebrating the Year of the Ox – we’ll tell you exactly what it means and why it’s celebrated in February.


In the US the Year of the Ox is already creating trouble – with record-breaking winter snow… storms sweeping across half the country…


And while snow can create chaos, it can also create art… at least it did for an artist from Finland, who created a humungous snowflake out of… snow…


Over in the US you won’t believe what one teenager did when she won a car – she gave it away! But not just to anyone…


As if that weren’t odd enough – have a listen to this… Would you believe it’s the sound of a 17-thousand year old musical instrument? Indee-dee-deed!


Hear the whole story (if not the whole song) – by staying tuned…


First up, we begin with the…


BIG NEWS STORY STING – LEELA: “The big news story of the week!”


MAMA: Yes, we mentioned it last week in the run up to the big day, but it’s now officially the Year of the Ox. According to the Chinese New Year, that is, which is celebrated by millions and millions of people from China and Taiwan to Vietnam and South Korea, never mind people from those countries who live around the world.


LEELA: Around 1.5 billion people.


MAMA: by some estimates, or rough calculations, yes. Which is over a fifth of humanity.


LEELA: That’s a lot of people.


MAMA: Indeed. It’s a huge holiday. The question is…


LEELA: Ummm…. Why are they celebrating a new year in February…?!


MAMA: Seems confusing, doesn’t it? But The holiday is based on the ancient Chinese lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon, as opposed to the solar calendar, which is based on the sun’s position in the sky.


LEELA: And that’s what most of the world officially uses.  But because these holidays are so old, they’re based on the old Lunar calendar.


MAMA: And that’s why Chinese New Year can also be referred to as the Lunar New Year AND the Spring Festival  – because the first new moon of lunar year occurs sometime between the end of January and the end of February.


LEELA: So this year it was February 12th.


MAMA: Indeed. And because that’s the night of the new moon –


LEELA: It’s dark!


MAMA: So – you light lanterns and set off fireworks to banish the darkness and ward off evil. And by the way, only happy thoughts please – no crying or arguing over the whole festival, which is about two weeks. Even using scissors is discouraged, because it’s seen as cutting ties. And this is a period to be reunited with family.


LEELA: As our very own correspondent, Yuching Liu, is about to tell us!




Yep – Chinese New Year is a BIG deal for us.


Markets and shops are usually shut all over China and Taiwan, as people visit their families.


We usually travel to my grandparent’s house for a special hotpot feast.


That’s when a big simmering pot of stock is placed on the table, with all the ingredients laid out on special plates around it – so everyone can create their own noodle soup combination.


For dessert we have Chinese radish cake and sticky rice cake too – yumm!


But, of course, since the coronavirus is here, we couldn’t go anywhere and had to celebrate on our own this year… bummer!


But we did put a red diamond-shaped paper, with Chinese words on it about fortunes and blessings on our door.


Come the 15th day of the month, we celebrate the “Lantern Festival.”


We would usually buy or make paper lanterns, release them in the air,  guess lantern riddles, and my uncle would set off firecrackers.


Oh, and of course, we’d eat rolling dumplings called “yuanxiao.”


I love Chinese New Year, because I can have fun with family I don’t get to see very often, eat delicious food and  – oh, yeah! – get the red envelope filled with MONEY!


I’m Yuching Liu, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi


LEELA: Thanks, Yuching! I can see why you like this holiday! So, Xin nian kuai le, or,  happy new year!


MAMA: Ooooooo, nice one. I guess.


LEELA: And… Out with the rat, in with the ox!


MAMA: Oh, yes, and that’s the other thing – every year gets something called a zodiac sign – there are 12 Chinese zodiac signs – named after an animal with its own unique characteristics.


LEELA: Well,  I’m happy to see the back of the rat.


MAMA: Yes… well, the rat symbolizes optimism and friendliness.


LEELA: Uhhh, that didn’t happen!


MAMA: Well, the year is meant to say a bit more about individuals born that year than how the world plays out necessarily, but still… the Ox is considered a natural leader who is bright, patient, and cheerful. Jolly good.


LEELA: Indeed… Though try telling that to the poor citizens of your home state, Mama.


MAMA: I know… Winter weather is taking its toll everywhere, especially in the US where a massive winter storm is sweeping across the north and south of the country with a 150 million Americans under weather warnings – that’s almost half the country!


LEELA: And, we know it’s winter and that cold weather is to be expected… But down Texas?


MAMA: Yeah, my home state is more known for sunshine and sweat. Not to say we don’t have to dress warmly and turn on the heating over the winter months, but we aren’t usually dealing with inches of snow or temperatures – in some parts of the state – colder than, get this, Anchorage, Alaska.


LEELA: Exactly how cold, are you wondering? Well, the capital, Austin – which is in the middle of the state, so not that far north at all – is facing temperatures in the single digits. That’s less than ten degrees!


MAMA: Yep in Austin it’s been 9 degrees Fahrenheit and further north in Dallas went down to minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit – that’s minus 18 degrees Celsius!  As you can imagine, it’s making conditions on the roads – where people aren’t used to driving in this weather – really dangerous and leaving many stranded at airports where flights aren’t taking off. Not just that, but people all over the country are without electricity as the grids just can’t keep up with demand.


LEELA: Two million people in Texas alone have been without electricity already. Like our Austin reporter, Olivia Mitchell, who’s trying hard to keep warm. Over to you, Olivia.




You said it, Leela.


I’m here dressed head-to-toe in my ski  gear!


No, there’s not that much snow – but my thick snow-suit is the warmest outfit I have!


I just want to go outside and play.


Because all this snow is pretty unusual for us here in  central Texas.


But my parents are worried I’ll get too cold and won’t be able to warm back up.


You see, we have no electricity at the moment.


Not because of the snow storm.


But there were just too many people needing electricity all at the same time!


The electricity grid just can’t handle all of us.


Luckily my home has gas, so we can keep making cups of tea and hot chocolate to keep warm.


But it is a little scary…


Still, I like to keep thinking of a saying we have here in Texas: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it’ll change!”


In Austin Texas, I’m Olivia Mitchell, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi


LEELA: Thanks a lot, Olivia! Stay warm! The cold weather shows no sign of letting up.


MAMA: And stay home! A dozen people have already been killed on the icy roads – and authorities are urging people not to go out unless they absolutely have to. As the governor of Kentucky (Andy Beshear) put it, “We did not make it through almost a year of a pandemic to lose people to a snow or ice storm.”


LEELA: Staying with cold weather… but the more beautiful aspect of snow rather than its dangerous side…


ACE STING – LEELA/MAMA: “Now it’s the ace part of our podcast: Arts, Culture and Entertainment. Darling.”


LEELA: Yep, move over paint and pastilles. Move over paper even. Who needs such artsy supplies when you have Mother Nature, giving us the beauty of snow?


MAMA: Oh – I know – are you talking about the snowman we built? With the artsy flowers for its eyes and nose…?


LEELA: Mama… It’s not all about us…!


MAMA: Oh. Then are you talking about those gorgeous sculptures made out of ice?


LEELA: Nope. Snowflakes. Massive, giant snowflakes, that is. Made out of, well, snow.




LEELA: For more let’s go to Finland, where Ameyaa Kholi has this report.


AMYEAA: Here in Finland, like all the Northern countries, we get a lot of snow.


So much snow that the Finnish language has way over 50 words for snow!


Some people say there are more than a hundred words.

One creative artist, called Janne Pyykkö, is so inspired by the beauty of snow… that he used it for his art.


He rounded up 11 people, who put on their special snow shoes and walked around the snow near the capital, Helsinki in a very set pattern.


It was a design he had created on his computer.




So that their footprints could create a massive, detailed snowflake!


The humongous snowflake pictures are all over the internet.


But in real life, they’re probably covered by new snow now.


I’d be sad if my art was ruined.


But the artist loves snow so much, he said he didn’t mind.


In Finland I’m Ameyaa Kholi, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi


LEELA: Thanks a lot, Ameyaa, for that super chill report. Get it? Chill…


WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… it’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”


MAMA: The US is divided over the Senate’s verdict of not guilty in the impeachment trial of the former US president, Donald Trump.  While the reality-tv-star-turned-politician is celebrating the verdict, a big power struggle is underway as moderates try to claim back the Republican party from Trump’s staunch supporters.


It’s a party on Mars… NASA’s next Mars Rover – and most ambitious to date – Perseverance – is ready to land on the red planet, joining spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates and China – which both reached a few days ago.


In the category of good things to come out of the bad pandemic… The Kenyan Wildlife Service says hunting rhinos is at an all-time low, as travel bans in many African countries means for the first time in two decades no rhinos were poached in the last year.


Some exciting baby news for British Royals – the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – that would be Meghan and Harry – are expecting their second child. Meghan’s due date hasn’t been revealed, but her bump appeared prominent in a recent photo.


And people in Amsterdam are rummaging through their attics to find their skates… Yes, the deep freeze that’s gripping the Netherlands is reawakening the national obsession with skating on frozen canals – as ice fever sweeps the nation.


LEELA: Weeeyeeew –  thank you very much for that wrap around the world……… And now…


LEELA: Thanks for that whippity-dippity zip around the world of news. And now we find out why it’s cool to be kind by stepping into the… Kindness corner.


MAMA: Yep when a 17-year-old from the US state of Wisconsin won a car in a big raffle organized by her work, the fast-food-chain Chik-fil-A, she did something unusual.


LEELA: A car? That’s a big raffle prize!


MAMA: I know. It’s worth several thousand dollars. But that didn’t stop Haley Bridges from giving it away.


LEELA: Wait – she got the top prize in the raffle… then gave it away?!


MAMA: Yep! And, no, she didn’t give it to her parents or a sibling… but to a friend and colleague, Hokule’a Taniguchi, who usually cycles to work. For two hours. Even in winter – and it gets super-duper cold and snowy up in Wisconsin. So that’s some pretty tough peddling.


LEELA: But not anymore.


MAMA: Nope, apparently there’s a whole group of work friends who’d bought the raffle tickets in hopes of winning it so that they could give it to Hokule’a. But, you know, doing it for real, when YOUR name is actually called out, is another matter. So – good on ya, Haley!


ODDBALL STING – LEELA/MAMA/JACKSON: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? And odd ball, no doubt!”


LEELA: Not an odd BALL, but a VERY old conch (pronounced konk).


MAMA: Konk?


LEELA: You know – the SHELL of a sea snail – try saying that five times in a row!


MAMA: Shell of a sea snail, Shell of a sea snail… OK, OK.


LEELA: The shell of a sea snail is the one with a siphonal canal – if you please. In other words, the shell comes to a point at both ends, though it bulges out in the middle.


MAMA: Ah, right. Some people say konk and others conch. You’ve got loads of those in your seashell collection.


LEELA: Yep, and as any good seashell collector will know, konks make great musical instruments – especially if they’re the big ones, like as big as your hands, or bigger.


MAMA: Right – Mother Nature’s trumpet.


LEELA: Well, guess what? Listen to this…




LEELA: Archaeologists have managed to get sounds out of a conch that’s more than 17,000-years-old!


The foot-long conch was found in a hunter-gatherer cave in southern France almost a hundred years ago, way back in 1931.


But – get this – excavators back then thought it was just ceremonial drinking cup.


But now a team led by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) says its way more precious than that.


They re-examined it and think it’s been altered by the cave humans to be played like a horn.


MAMA: What???


LEELA: Yep – it was not only decorated with a red color, but also carefully drilled and shaped to hold a mouthpiece, to get a better sound.


Part of the shell also seems to have been trimmed, perhaps to allow a player to insert his or her hand to modulate, or change, the sound.


Clever cave people, or what? And to prove their theory – guess what they did?


MAMA: Go on.


LEELA: They got a skilled horn player to play it and produce clear near perfect notes – C, D and C sharp, in fact, giving us a haunting hint of how it might have sounded back in the Palaeo-lithic days.




LEELA: Hey mama


MAMA: Hey, Leela


LEELA: What do you call a cave human that just wanders off?


MAMA: Ummmm…


LEELA: A meander-thal!


FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top… five fab facts heard today… Here goes…”


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1: Happy Chinese New Year! By some estimates, or rough calculations, how many people celebrate this big holiday?

About 1.5 billion people – which is over a fifth of humanity – from China and Taiwan to Vietnam and South Korea.


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2: The Chinese New Year can also be called the Lunar New Year AND the Spring Festival. Why is that?

The Chinese New Year is based on the ancient lunar calendar – which is based on the cycles of the moon, usually towards the end of winter.


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3: The Chinese New Year is on the first new moon of the lunar year, which occurs sometime between the end of January and the end of February. Which means it’s dark, inspiring people to do what…?

On the eve of the new year people light lanterns and set off fireworks to banish the darkness and ward off evil.


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4: An artist from Finland made giant snowflakes with footprints in the snow, because it snows so much in Finland – so much that the Finnish people have how many words for it?

It’s snows so much in Finland that the Finnish language has way over 50 words for snow – though some people say there are more than a hundred words for snow.



Archeologist have played one of the world’s oldest known musical instruments – the conch – what we like to call Mother Nature’s trumpet. But what is a conch?

A conch is the shell of a sea snail, which has a siphonal canal – which is a fancy way of saying the shell comes to a point at both ends – though it bulges out in the middle.


LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!!!!!




MAMA: But first we wanted to give a shout-out to Emily Dang from the Fort Worth area of Texas, who wrote to us saying that she really enjoyed listening to our podcast and convinced us to focus on the Chinese New Year story this week, too. Let us know how you liked it, Emily.


LEELA: And anyone else too – go on we LOVE hearing from you! You can drop us a line at contact@newsyjacuzzi.com  or visit our website, newsyjacuzzi.com.


And, as ever, if you enjoyed this dip…. in the whirlpool of news and information… then do subscribe to our podcast on…  Apple Podcast, Spotify, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts. While you’re at it… Give us a good rating. Or better still, leave us a review!


Alrighty then… see you next week in the Newsy Pooloozi!