Friday, December 28, 2012
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Twitter / SwedishCanary: Husband: I don't know if I ...
Husband: I don't know if I want to watch golf or porn Wife: Watch porn you already know how to play golf.
— Swedish Canary (@SwedishCanary) December 28, 2012
The letter came in a box of Halloween decorations purchased at Kmart, but for a year Julie Keith never knew. It gathered dust in her storage, a haunting plea for help hidden among artificial skeletons, tombstones and spider webs.
Keith, a 42-year-old vehicle donation manager at a southeast Portland Goodwill, at one point considered donating the unopened $29.99 Kmart graveyard kit. It was one of those accumulated items you never need and easily forget. But on a Sunday afternoon in October, Keith pulled the orange and black box from storage. She intended to decorate her home in Damascus for her daughter's fifth birthday, just days before Halloween.
She ripped open the box and threw aside the cellophane.
That's when Keith found it. Scribbled onto paper and folded into eighths, the letter was tucked between two Styrofoam headstones.
If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever."
The graveyard kit, the letter read, was made in unit 8, department 2 of the Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, China.
Chinese characters broke up choppy English sentences.
"People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month)."
Ten yuan is equivalent to $1.61.
"People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others."
The letter was not signed.
Shocked, Keith sat down as her mind reeled.
Wow, that's daring, she thought. She imagined the desperation the writer must have felt, the courage he or she must have mustered to slip the letter into that box. If caught, what would happen?
Like a message in a bottle, the letter traveled more than 5,000 miles over the Pacific Ocean. It could not be ignored.
Unsure of where to start, Keith turned to Facebook.
"I found this in a box of Halloween decorations" she typed beneath a photo of the letter. She wanted to spread the message.
The Facebook post sparked a slew of responses. Her friends had heard of labor camp horrors. But a letter from one of those camps? Never.
"I'm sure that person feared for his/her life to include that letter in the products, but it was a chance they were obviously willing to take," one friend wrote. "We take our freedom for granted!"
"What's weird to me is someone is actually thinking about, and praying something comes of this ... every day of their life since they sent it out," another wrote. "Makes me sad this even happens"
Some friends offered help, others asked for updates.
The anonymous letter evoked skepticism, too. Written largely in English scrawl, it was almost too bold of an act to seem plausible. Still, U.S. authorities on China took note.
"We're in no position to confirm the veracity or origin of this," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. "I think it is fair to say the conditions described in the letter certainly conform to what we know about conditions in re-education through labor camps."
China's re-education through labor is a system of punishment that allows for detention without trial. Various reports allege followers of the banned spiritual group, Falun Gong, are sent to the reform camps – claims supported in the letter – but the facts are difficult to confirm.
Masanjia labor camp is located in the industrialized capital of the Liaoning Province in northeast China. A Google search of the camp yields pages of grim results.
"If this thing is the real deal, that's somebody saying please help me, please know about me, please react," Richardson said. "That's our job."
If truly created in a forced labor camp, the Halloween graveyard kit from Kmart's "Totally Ghoul" product line could bring a blow to the U.S. chain of discount stores.
Title 19, section 1307 of U.S. Code generally prohibits the importation of all items "mined, produced or manufactured" in any foreign country by convict labor, forced labor and/or indentured labor.
After the Oregonian informed the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the letter, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations began looking into the case, public affairs officer Andrew Munoz confirmed.
Sears Holdings Corporation, which operates Kmart, released a statement on the matter:
"Sears Holdings has a Global Compliance Program which helps to ensure that vendors and factories producing merchandise for our company adhere to specific Program Requirements, and all local laws pertaining to employment standards and workplace practices. Failure to comply with any of the Program Requirements, including the use of forced labor, may result in a loss of business or factory termination. We understand the seriousness of this allegation, and will continue to investigate."
Daniel Ruiz, section chief of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center's commercial fraud unit, said it would be difficult to predict the length of an investigation like this, which would involve American and Chinese authorities. Investigative findings would be released, he said, only if the agency takes action.
Julie Keith now checks the label of everything she buys, down to the Gingerbread house she purchased for the holidays. Her friends, she said, do the same.
"If I really don't need it, I won't buy it if it's made in China," she said. "This has really made me more aware. I hope it would make a difference."
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Why did the Vikings call Jesus the White Christ?
Dear Viking Answer Lady:
Jesus is often refered to by the Vikings as the "White Christ". Thor was called "Red Thor." Thor is easily enough figured out. He has a red beard. But Christ? Certainly not all that "white". He was a Palestinian! I've heard Christ got his nickname "White Christ" for the white robes Christian converts wore. Is that true?
(signed) Questioning the Color Controversy
The term for "White Christ" or Hvítakristr came into currency among the heathen Icelanders at the time when pagan and Christian religions were in conflict with each other. A direct reference to this is made in the Flateyjarbók: "Þeir sem þann sið hafa, taka nafn af þeim guði, er þeir trúa á, er heitr Hvítakristr."
That the Christian god was called Hvítakristr was originally probably due to the fact that the newly baptized converts were obliged to wear white robes (i hvítaváðum) during the first week after the baptism.
The adjective hvítr when applied to Christ was not meant to describe his physical appearance. At one time in the development of Old Norse, the term was used of either sex to denote someone who was blonde and/or pale-complected.
However, by the Viking Age, the term hvítr had acquired a perjorative connotation. To call a man hvítr was to say that he was cowardly, effeminate, and guilty of argr. (See the Viking Answer Lady's article on homosexuality in the Viking Age for more information on the term argr and how it was related to to the concept of cowardice by the Vikings). A related phrase was to say, "your liver is white" meaning again, a coward... which is almost identical to modern English usage, "lily-livered" with the same meaning. (Modern usage also uses "yellow" in this sense.)
In stark contrast to the peace-loving Hvítakristr, who was considered by a pagan warrior culture to be effeminate or cowardly, the Vikings revered their manly, virile god Red Thórr, red not only for his red beard and flashing red eyes, but likewise for the blood that a warrior spills.
The conflict between pagan and Christian views crystallized around the dichotomy of Hvítakristr and Red Thórr, becoming a recurring theme in saga events near the time of the Conversion, as in this scornful poem by Steinunnn, mother of Refr Gestasson, describing how Thórr wrecked the ship of a Christian priest, Thangbrand, showing to Steinunn that Christ therefore was the weaker god:
Þórr brá Þvinnils dýri
Þangbrands ór stað longu,
hristi borð ok beysti
barðs ok laust við jorðu;
munat skíð um sæ síðan
sundfært Atals grundar,
hregg því at hart tók leggja,
hánum kennt, í spánu.
[Thórr altered the course of Thangbrand's
long horse of Thvinnil 1,
he tossed and bashed
the plank of the prow 2 and smashed
it all down to the solid ground;
the ski of the ground of Atall 3
won't later be buoyant on the sea
since the baleful gale caused by him splintered it all into kindling.
Braut fyrir bjollu gæti
(bond ráku val strandar)
móstalls vísund allan;
hlífðit Kristr, þá er kneyfði
knorr, málfeta varrar;
lítt hygg ek at Guð gætti
Gylfa hreins at einu.
The killer of ogresses' kin 4
pulverized fully the mew-perch bison 5
of the bell's guardian 6
(the gods chased the steed of the strand 7)
Christ cared not for sea-shingle stepper 8
when cargo-boat crumbled;
I think that God hardly guarded
the reindeer of Gylfi 9 at all.
It was during this period of conflict between religions that amulets of Thórr's hammer, Mjollnir, increased in popularity as ornaments,perhaps in response to Christians weraing the symbol of the cross. Jewellers at this time were hedging their bets by making molds for casting crosses and Thórr's Hammer's simultaneously, as is shown by this tenth-century soapstone mold, found at Trendgården, Jylland, Denmark.
Other amulets were hybrids representing the Cross and the Hammer simultaneously, as in the silver pendant, found near Fossi in Iceland, shown below.
The perjorative sense which became attached to hvitr was not associated with other words meaning white, including bjartr, "bright", bleikr, "wan, pale" or ljóss, "light".
For a full discussion, see:
Sturtevant, Albert M. "The Contemptuous Sense of the Old Norse Adjective Hvítr, 'White, Fair'." Scandinavian Studies 24(3): 119-121, 1952.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Monday, December 17, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
You’re never too young to rupture your ear drums. Hevisaurus is a Finnish heavy metal children’s music band, who dress in dinosaur costumes. The band was started by Thunderstone drummer Mirka Rantanen. Their first album, Kings of Jurassic Metal, was on the Finnish Album charts for 10 weeks.
Now, you’ll never guess where this band came from. According to the Hevisaurus back-story, the band members were hatched from five metal eggs that had lain buried in a mountain from 65 million years in the past. Lightning and witch spells apparently unearthed the eggs and brought them to life.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Sitar maestro dead at 92
By Evan Minsker on December 11, 2012 at 10:28 p.m.
Shankar began studying sitar in 1938 around age 18. His international fame grew in the 1960s when he befriended George Harrison. Shankar appeared at Woodstock in 1969 and participated in Harrison's 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. He was active right up until the end of his life -- he was just nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award.
Here's Shankar at the Concert for Bangladesh:
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Friday, December 7, 2012
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Monday, December 3, 2012
Saturday, December 1, 2012
BAMAKO, Mali — Khaira Arby, one of Africa’s most celebrated musicians, has performed all over the world, but there is one place she cannot visit: her native city of Timbuktu, a place steeped in history and culture but now ruled by religious extremists.
One day, they broke into Arby’s house and destroyed her instruments. Her voice was a threat to Islam, they said, even though one of her most popular songs praised Allah.
Northern Mali, one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent, is now an artistic wasteland. Hundreds of musicians have fled south to Bamako, the capital, and to other towns and neighboring countries, driven out by hard-liners who have decreed any form of music — save for the tunes set to Koranic verses — as being against their religion.
The exiles describe a shattering of their culture, in which playing music brings lashes with whips, even prison time, and MP3 and cassette players are seized and destroyed.
“We can no longer live like we used to live,” lamented Aminata Wassidie Traore, 36, a singer who fled her village of Dire, near Timbuktu. “The Islamists do not want anyone to sing anymore.”
In Malian society, music anchors every ceremony, from births and circumcisions to weddings and prayers for rains. Village bards known as griots sang traditional songs and poems of the desert, passing down centuries-old tales of empires, heroes and battles, as well as their community’s history. In this manner, memories were preserved from generation to generation, along with ancient African traditions and ways of life.
In current times, lyrics serve as a source of inspiration and learning, a way to pass down morals and values to youths. They have also been used to expose corruption and human rights abuses, and have helped eradicate stigmas and given a voice to the poor.
“In northern Mali, music is like oxygen,” said Baba Salah, one of northern Mali’s most-respected musicians. “Now, we cannot breathe.”
In March, amid a military coup that left the government in disarray, Tuareg rebels who once fought for Libyan autocrat Moammar Gaddafi joined forces with secessionists and Islamists linked to al-Qaeda. They swept through northern Mali, seizing major towns within weeks and effectively splitting this impoverished nation into two. Soon afterward, the Islamists and al-Qaeda militants took control.
They have installed an ultraconservative brand of Islamic law in this moderate Muslim country, reminiscent of Afghanistan’s Taliban and Somalia’s al-Shabab movements. Now, women must wear head-to-toe garments. Smoking, alcohol, videos and any suggestions of Western culture are banned. The new decrees are enforced by public amputations, whippings and executions, prompting more than 400,000 people to flee. The extremists also destroyed tombs and other cultural treasures, saying they were against Islamic principles.
The death of music was inevitable. It is, perhaps, Mali’s strongest link to the West. Musicians such as the late guitarist Ali Farka Toure, the Tuareg-Berber band Tinariwen and singers such as Salif Keita exported their music to the United States and Europe. They often collaborated with Western musicians.
Since 2001, Western artists such as Robert Plant have performed at the Festival of the Desert, outside Timbuktu, transforming Mali into an international artistic and tourist destination. In January, U2 frontman Bono performed with Tinariwen. This February, though, the festival will be held in neighboring Burkina Faso. The international recognition helped spark a new generation of young artists in the north.
Some fused songs in their native Songhai and Tamashek languages with Arabic and French. Others melded traditional rhythms of the desert with rap, hip-hop, reggae, funk and blues. Bands weaved traditional Malian lute and fiddles with electric guitars.
In recent times, the lyrics have addressed social and political issues. In “Waidio,” Arby sings about the plight of women trapped by war. She has also sung about Fulani cattle herders and the hard labor endured by salt miners.
‘Music is against Islam’
Today, in the city of Gao, 39-year-old singer Bintu Aljuma Yatare no longer listens to music on her phone. The Islamists will confiscate it, she said. Five musicians in her band have fled to neighboring Niger; two others are in Bamako. She cannot leave because she has to take care of her aging parents.
Every evening, she risks being sent to prison: She shuts the windows and doors of her house and sings in her native Songhai language. “Sometimes I lie in my bed and hum my songs softly,” she said. “The only way for me to survive this nightmare is through music.”
The other day, she wrote a song about the drivers who take people out of northern Mali to safer pastures.
For reggae musician Alwakilo Toure, his home in Gao was not a sanctuary. He was strumming his guitar when six armed militants barged into his compound. With guns pointed at his head, one Islamist grabbed the guitar and smashed it to bits with his foot. “The guitar was my life,” Toure recalled. “I had nothing else to do.”
Two weeks later, he fled to Bamako.
In a telephone interview, one of the Islamists’ top commanders declared that his fighters would continue to target musicians.
“Music is against Islam,” said Oumar Ould Hamaha, the military leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the three extremist groups controlling the north. “Instead of singing, why don’t they read the Koran? Why don’t they subject themselves to God and pray? We are not only against the musicians in Mali. We are in a struggle against all the musicians of the world.”
Artists without a home
In a cramped apartment in Bamako, about a dozen young artists were recording a song, a fusion of rap and traditional melodies. In one corner, there was a microphone and a computer to mix the tracks. Next to that was a synthesizer.
All the artists were from northern Mali, and none were playing with their own instruments because they had either been burned or shattered by the Islamists. The group included Toure, who was coaching a singer.
But their escape to Bamako is bittersweet.
It has been difficult for the musicians to earn money in the capital. They sing in the languages of the north, but most people in Bamako speak only the southern Bambara language.
“In Bamako, people don’t understand what we sing,” Toure said. “It really hurts us that we can’t perform. Most of us don’t have jobs. Many of us now rely on our relatives for money.” But even in exile, they have found a way to take a stand against the Islamists.
“We feel like soldiers,” said Kiss Diouara, a 24-year-old rapper. “This is our way to fight our war.”
A few minutes later, he played his group’s most recent creation. The video included a collage of news clips and photos of Islamists destroying ancient mosques and asserting their power. In the video, Diourra raps:
Free the North
We want peace in our land
We want to go back to our homes
Arby understands. For the past eight months, she has lived out of a suitcase.
Arby knows she could easily travel outside Mali for work. Her 2010 album, “Timbuktu Tarab,” was widely acclaimed in the West. She had opportunities to settle in the United States, she said.
But Mali is where she is most inspired, specifically in Timbuktu, she said.
“When I think of Timbuktu, I am lost,” said Arby, wiping a sudden tear that trickled down her cheek. “When I dream of Timbuktu, I wake up. When I think of Timbuktu when I am speaking, I stop speaking. My heart is broken. Timbuktu is everything to me.”
Slaughterlinks (Aug 2015)
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