Modern dictators just don't have the style and panache of olden tyrants. At an international exposition in his country in 1956, Rafael Trujillo crowned his 16-year-old daughter as "Queen Angelita," and gave her a court of 150 ladies-in-waiting.
Sti-Yu-Ka, a well known tradition at Springfield College, started as a variety of activities planned in celebration on the eve of Stepping Up Day, Springfield College’s way of marking the academic accomplishments of students as members of each class advance a year in their college careers. It is held during the end of the school year. Sti-Yu-Ka was founded in 1961 by Dr. Irving Conrad, then president of the Student Government Association. The name Sti-Yu-Ka seems to have come from the Springfield College club Hosaga, a club that performed Native American traditional ceremonial dances and songs. The name seems to have come from a dance that was performed on the eve of the achievement of adulthood and meant “The Coming of Age,” an appropriate name for an event on the eve of Stepping Up Day.At the time of its creation, Sti-Yu-Ka events started on Saturday at around 1 p.m. and went until the late night/early morning hours on Sunday. Conrad tried to create events that would take the focus away from alcohol. Such activities included a pig roast, canoe races, pie eating contests, square dancing, egg tossing, Jell-O wrestling, roller skating, a greased pig chase, fireworks on Rally Hill, and even the act of smashing a car. However, drinking did become a part of these activities and over the years the Office of Student Affairs increased the official Sti-Yu-Ka events from one weekend to one week, its present length. Again, this was done in an effort to keep students on campus doing activities that were social in nature, and to allow students to spend time with their peers and to try not to focus on alcohol. Although new events are thrown into the lineup, some staple events that have remained as Sti-Yu-Ka tradition over the years are the comedian on opening night, the Campus Activities Board’s Midnight Bingo, Residence Life’s Taste of SC, and the Greased Pole Climb and Oatmeal Pass.
No, these pictures don't show Sasquatches. They show people participating in the Bulgarian Kukeri ritual, meant to scare evil spirits away from villages. Though if I saw someone dressed up like this wandering through a forest, I might think it was Sasquatch.
Young people (traditionally only men, but now of both sexes) dress up in elaborate, animalistic and celebratory costumes, usually made of goat skin in some way representing the goat. At the culmination of the festival, a kukeri is strapped to a plough, 'dies', and then sprinkled with seeds and is 'reborn'. His goatskin costume is then buried in seven different fields.
While it might be fairly common for couples to get a divorce in the United States these days, it's certainly not easy. There are questions of support, custody issues if there are children involved, and bitter arguments over who gets to keep what; all of which can drag a divorce into months of stress. But what is it like in other cultures and in other times? In centuries past, in China, a divorce could be granted for any number of reasons, so long as the bride's family agreed to take her back. Aborigine women in Australia can convince their husbands to grant a divorce but if that's not working, then all they need to do is elope with someone else. The ancient Athenians and modern-day Eskimos share an extremely simple divorce process - live separately as though they were never married. In the UK, a man tired of his wife could slip a halter around her neck, lead her into town to the cattle market, and sell her to the highest bidder. Japan had a much more advanced view, however. Marriage was not sacred and divorce was not immoral - it was merely a mismatch between families. Women's dowrys were returned in the hopes of encouraging re-marriage. You can read more on Purple Slinky, and on Hope's Blog, and in this review.
First up, apologies if this post contains more typos than usual, I'm sending it from my new ultra-small netbook and I'm still getting used to its itty-bitty keyboard. Which brings me nicely to my first story. That according to a survey for satellite channel SKY-HD, British consumers waste £52 billion a year on hi-tech features they don't use. For example, half of the people polled did not know their high definition television also required a hi-def signal source such as a blu-ray player or HD satellite receiver – like the ones sold by SKY-HD perhaps (Telegraph).
And it's not just the the British, military officials in Russia recently discovered 100 front-line battletanks parked and forgotten by the side of the road near Yekaterinburg in the Urals. Locals say the tanks, which were unguarded and unlocked, have been there for several months and lack only ammunition and the all important starter keys (Reuters).
Someone who might have had a use for those tanks were guests at a wedding in New Delhi in India recently. The Hindu ceremony was somewhat marred when an elephant hired for the event went on a rampage after becoming aroused by the smell of a nearby female in heat. The amorous pachyderm then proceeded to crush 20 limousines, smash through a nearby mall and mount a truck before it could be tranquilised (Orange).
Also losing it this week was the man on the RyanAir flight who found he had won 10,000 euros on a scratchcard he bought on the budget flight from Poland to the UK. Furious that the airline had not seen fit to equip all their planes with the requisite amount of cash onboard, hence he could not be given his prize there and then as he demanded, the unnamed passenger ate the winning card rather than wait to claim it at his destination (BBC News).
First up, a UK judge has spoken out to say children should be allowed to take knives to school. Not all children mind you, just Sikh children. Justice Mota Singh, a Sikh himself, is talking about the kirpan, a ceremonial three-inch knife worn as a show of faith by devout Sikhs, the wearing of which by one boy was banned by a North London school earlier this year. Singh later supported the boy's family's decision to withdraw him rather than accept their compromise offer that he carry a 'disabled' equivalent claiming the school's refusal was discriminatory (BBC News).
Meanwhile another UK court last week ruled that particularly pious Hindu Davender Kumar Ghai can have the open-air cremation he fervently desires. It's been a long battle for Ghai, who found his proposal to site traditional funeral pyres on land outside Newcastle blocked by the city council in a decision later upheld by England's High Court. Now the UK Court of Appeal has said that the open-air ceremonies can go ahead, and that the requirement that all cremations occur 'within a building' could be met by any reasonable structure and did not dictate that structure have walls or a roof. Davenda Kumar Ghai, who is 76 and in poor health, can now go ahead and build his roofless crematorium, once he gets planning permission to do so, from Newcastle City Council (Times).
And in yet another landmark decision, the councillors in Reading, England have given the local Muslim community permission to carry out their own burials in the borough's cemeteries at weekends, which council gravediggers do not work. Many Islamic traditions favour burial very soon after death, and the delays caused by the weekend closures was cited as a significant cause of stress for relatives. In response, the council have agreed to dig some graves beforehand for later use in a pilot scheme expected to last one year, or until the first Saturday night drunk falls in one and sues (GetReading).
Mind you, even once you're in the ground you're not always safe. A row over the siting of a new museum on a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalen has boiled over this week with families who claim to have relatives buried there petitioning the UN. The cemetery, which dates back several hundred years, is due to be excavated to make was for a new “Center for Human Dignity – Museum of Tolerance” being built by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who dispute the families' claims. “The Museum of Tolerance project is not being built on the Mamilla Cemetery. It is being built on Jerusalem’s former municipal car park, where every day for nearly half a century, thousands of Muslims, Christians and Jews parked their cars without any protest whatsoever from the Muslim community,” said founder Rabbi Marvin Hier (Telegraph).
When I think of the Olympics, I rarely consider that each event has both a mens and a womens division. I tend to focus more on the sport itself regardless of who is competing. After all, the Olympics is supposed to encourage the spirit of friendly competition, and not highlight major flaws, such as gender bias. Unfortunately this year's winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, is doing just that. Women ski jumpers have petitioned to join every Winter Olympics since Nagano in 1998, and each time they have been denied by the International Olympics Committee (IOC). So what's the deal? Well, the IOC is sidestepping the issue. They've issued a written statement that reads "Women's Ski Jumping does not reach the necessary technical criteria and as such does not yet warrant a place alongside other Olympic events." Yet female ski jumpers argue the point (read about it here). Lindsey Van, current world record holder for the longest jump, is quick to point out that they meet the necessary criteria. But it may be a long time before we see women flying off the end of a ski jump in front of Olympic judges. IOC member Dick Pound is quoted as saying "If in the meantime you're making all kinds of allegations about the IOC and how it's discriminating on the basis of gender," he warned, "the IOC may say, 'Oh yeah, I remember them. They're the ones that embarrassed us and caused us a lot of trouble in Vancouver, maybe they should wait another four years or eight years.'" Yes, you read that right. He is publicly threatening female ski jumpers to keep them out of the Olympics for years if they persist. So much for the spirit of friendly competition.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.