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Hope Springs Eternal: The Mary Wheeler Interview

Mary and Tim Wheeler, with son Christopher.  Courtesy Mary Wheeler. Prepare yourself(s) for an amazing interview with a largely u...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We adore you too

"While Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or images to offend anyone, we recognize that it has created offense, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies."

"The image is not and never was intended to portray the Virgin of Guadalupe or any other religious figure. The intent was to reflect a Renaissance-like mood on the cover."

So reads Playboy's mea culpa after this cover enraged Catholics everywhere.

Our response: "Yeah, right." The Playboy response is such obvious backpeddling bullshit. Larry Flynt would have just told everyone to suck eggs.

The stained-glass, the robe, the December timing, "We adore you Mary"....only an idiot would believe no reference to a the Virgin was intended.

But like the people who've already purchased over 80,000 copies of the issue, we're not offended. We're more offended by the easy self-righteous editorializing exemplified, for example, by the Los Angeles Times.

Uncensored version here.



Book Cover Hall of Fame

Perhaps you once dreamed of writing the Great American Novel. As the years rolled by you began to settle on just a novel, any novel. As more years rolled by you decided that writing the annual PTA newsletter was good enough.

Well, don't give up those dreams just yet. Take heart from the example of Sophie Feodorovna Rostopchine, aka La Comtesse de Ségur. She published her first novel in 1857 at the age of 58 and over the next 15 years published 13 more. The last one came out on 1872, two years before she died.

From a family of Mongolian origin, her father was a Russian general and later a foreign affairs minister. Some claim it was he who set Moscow ablaze in 1812, forcing the retreat of Napoleon. No hard feelings lingered against the French, it would seem, for the family ended up in France in 1817 under the Bourbon Restoration.

Sophie married into the aristocracy and an unhappy marriage with infrequent conjugal visits. Each one apparently resulting in another child. She had eight in all.

If you could judge a book by its cover Un bon petit Diable (1865) would qualify as a doozy. Presenting this cover, purchased for 30 cents at an ubiquitous vide-grenier, a yard sale, is the whole reason for this post.

And what is the book about? It takes place in Scotland beginning in 1842. A Dickensian tale, young Charles is raised by a greedy and tyrannical woman called Mac'Miche. To avenge his mistreatment he and a servant, Betty, begin to play devilish tricks on the woman. During the course of the novel he meets a young blind girl named Juliette, who becomes the good little angel to his good little devil.

The theme of child abuse and rehabilitation via kindness and Christain virtue was apparently a theme common to many of the Countess's books.

This cover from the 1930 edition is probably the best of all the book's many editions.

We can't vouch for the book itself, though you may have a go at it if you read French....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sixth Foot Ashore


Only 3 days after discovering "meatometers", LoS has learned of a sixth human foot apparently washed ashore in British Columbia.

A brief timeline of the BC6:
  1. 8/20/07 – male right foot; size 12 Campus near Jedidiah Island
  2. 8/26/07 – male right foot; size 12 Reebok on Gabriola Island
  3. 2/2/08 – male right foot; size 11 Nike on Valdez Island
  4. 5/22/08 – female right foot; size 7 New Balance on Kirkland Island
  5. 6/16/08 – male left foot; size 11 Nike on Westham Island
  6. 11/11/08 – female left foot; New Balance on the Fraser River
DNA match feet # 3 and 5.

Curiously, all six feet were found in running shoes. The confirmed five were disarticulated (not cut) and clad in shoes made between 2003 & 2004, with the exception of the 1999 shoe on foot # 4. CNN suggests this is evidence that the feet belong to victims of a plane crash, but local news reports that this theory has been discounted by the RCMP.

One more grisly clue: a lustrative, footless body (male 5'10'') washed ashore on the Orcas Islands approximately 4 months before the first foot was found. As far as LoS can tell, the body has not been definitively linked to any of the feet.

We are still waiting confirmation that foot # 6 is not a hoax. On June 18, 2008, police were japed by an animal paw stuffed in an Adidas human shoe on the Campbell River.

CNN has a nice interactive map.

_____________
Previously on LoS:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jape Meatometer Lustration

HEY, HO, LET'S GO! Act 1:

"Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." - Jonah 1:17

jape, v.
  1. To trick, beguile, befool.
  2. To seduce (a woman); to know carnally
  3. To mock, deride, insult.
1382 Pol. Poems (Rolls) I. 270 Sle thi fadre, and iape thi modre, and thai wyl the assoile.

HEY, HO, LET'S GO! Act 2:

"Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly" - Jonah 2:1

meatometer, n.
  1. An instrument for measuring the urethral meatus.
1898 A Handbook of Genito-urinary Sugery and Venerial Diseases ... an ounce of a five percent solution of cocaine, and a tube of sterilized vaseline ... the patient is put upon his back, legs slightly seperated, the meatus is measured with a meatometer (fig. 60.)

HEY, HO, LET'S GO! Act 3:

"And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." - Jonah 2:10

lustration, n.
  1. A rite of purification, especially washing.
  2. The restoration of credibility to a government by the purging of perpetrators of crimes committed under an earlier regime.
1875 Contemp. Rev. XXV. 256 The Saxon expends his lustrative energies upon his street and stairway, but never thinks of washing his own shirt.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fish Eats Man

Well this certainly caught our eye: "Researchers have been dispatched to the Great Kali river in India to study whether a form of giant catfish called “goonches” have taken to preying on humans. The Indians traditionally burn their dead in the river, which, according to local lore, has led in two ways to the fish attacking humans."

Growing up in back-county Kentucky, I remember tales of divers working on dams and scared sh*tless after stirring up fish bigger than school buses ... which sounded like baloney until I moved up to North Country and witnessed the mighty fresh-water sturgeon, which, to my untrained eye, reminded me of tall tales of Florida gar.

Fresh-water fish big enough to eat men?

That's a believable fish tale to this Canadian neighbor.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What We're Doing on the Internet--Right Now

Right now, we are doing four things on the internet:

  1. Learning: more about the traditional Ghanaian ritual murder (and consumption?) of hunchbacks.
  2. Using: beta Chrome, which is buggy (but beta, so expected & forgiven) -- but which also causes us to consider privacy.
  3. Playing: chess (but not on Chrome, yet) -- probably the only thing of value on the internet today. (Hint: set the "Difficulty" to "Hard". If you win on "Easy", I'll shake your hand, but you'll be left questioning the value of your victory.)
  4. Wondering: how one becomes nominated to run for the Vice-president of the United States of America? a) Call your future boss "articulate"and "clean" -- for an African-American; b) Sell a plane on eBay c) All of the above

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not exactly what we're looking for

Googling "Canadian feet" didn't exactly bring up what we were looking for......

"If you are here to find adult hardcore imagery or other imagery that takes away from the beauty of the models and their feet then you have come to the wrong place. This is a celebration of the female foot."

But you still must be 18 to enter.

And it wasn't hardcore imagery we were after.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Piss Christ

From our friend in Argentina comes this comical story about an image of Christ found in a dog's pee-stain on a corner shop wall. The original article is presented here below with a translation following.

For those who understand Spanish, there's a brief video clip about the "miracle" if you follow the link. Apparently everyone buying lottery tickets at the store is now playing the number "33" after the Jesus' age.

No word yet on whether the dog is up for sainthood.

------

El Litoral Edición Online 14-08-2008 15:38
Última actualización 17:45

Insólito: Santa Rosa de Lima

Perro orina y deja la imagen de Cristo

Grande fue el alboroto de los vecinos de Santa Rosa de Lima, al oeste de esta capital provincial, cuando descubrieron que un canino al terminar de hacer un “pis” había dejado grabada una supuesta imagen de Cristo.

El hecho ocurrió en la calle Aguado al 2500, entre La Rioja y Tucumán. Al parecer un vecino divisó una imagen rara luego que el perro hiciera su necesidad en la vereda de un comercio, la misma era muy similar a la silueta de la cara de Cristo, según confesó.

Muchos vecinos se juntaron para ver la imagen, la que califican de “milagro”, prometieron asistir al “santuario” para rezarle y prenderle velas, “es una bendición para todo el barrio” declaró a EL LITORAL una vecina.

------

Dog urinates and already the image of Christ

There was quite a hubbub among the residents of Santa Rosa de Lima, to the west of the provincial capital, when they discovered that after taking a piss a canine had marked a supposed image of Christ.

The event occured on the 2500 block of Calle Aguado between La Rioja and Tucumán. Apparently a resident discerned a strange image after the dog finished doing his business on the sidewalk in front of a store; the image was very similar to the silhouette of Christ’s face, according to his testimony.

Many residents gathered to see the image they qualified a "miracle", promising to frequent the "sanctuary" to pray and light candles; "it’s a blessing for the entire neighborhood" a resident told El Litoral.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Swedish police say human foot on beach identified

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — A human foot that washed up on a beach near a Swedish tourist resort belonged to a 59-year-old man who went missing on the southwestern coast last year, police said Wednesday.

Full article here

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Another foot washes ashore....this time in Washington

Just follow the link above until someone more clever comes along to shed light on this baffling mystery. LoS has posted on this a few times before. When we first wrote about it in May there were only four feet. Now there are six, not including one hoax one one foot found on the Swedish coast. There is also apparently a footless body in Washington state.

Two of the Canadian feet come from the same body and another has been identified as that of a "depressed" man who disappeared some time ago. All but one of the feet are from men. All were found in athletic shoes. None are said to have been "severed" and bodies coming apart in water is said to be quite normal.

If it's normal that feet come apart from their bodies then why are so many being found now, in more or less the same place, all them in athletic shoes? Doesn't anyone die near the water wearing espadrilles or fisherman's Wellingtons? Doesn't anyone die in the water in Florida?

Interesting fact from the article:

"Her [Simon Fraser University forensic scientist Gail Anderson] experiments last year showed that it takes scavenging crabs, seals, sharks and fish about 28 days to fully devour a decomposing pig carcass, which is similar to a human carcass in its bacteria and rates of decomposition."

Also, from the Peninsula Daily News:

"One early theory that Canadian authorities broached early in the investigation of the five severed feet has been debunked.

The RCMP in British Columbia said that none of the feet belongs to the five men who died in a plane crash in the Strait of Georgia in February 2005."

Post Script Aug. 6: This article has some good observations, including:

"Although the similar footwear may seem like a strange coincidence, it actually explains why these feet have been found.

"Most body parts would sink," Shields said. "Because the feet have running shoes on them and running shoes consist of a spongy sole that contains air, it makes the foot float."

The other parts of the body, and other feet wearing different kinds of shoes, would sink and never be found, he added."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Why not?

So there's enough LoS-type sniffers hoodling about on the yahoo and the google tonight to merit a kind of samedi soir News Roundup! Yippee-ka-yay! Yee-haw! The sound of two hands farting. Cannon balls a-roaring! Muskets ablaze, the call of the bugle! Charge!!!!

OK, calm down now. It's just three measly stories hubbled and frothed over so many times. With one pithy and probably not-so-witty remark each.

Are you Roman tonight? England's Daily Mail lobs this weird grenade into the barbecue toot sweet with a report on an "acroterion - a kind of architectural ornament often found for decoration on the corners of a sarcophagus, a stone tomb or burial chamber...."

Yup! Looks like Elvis? Darn tootin' it does. It's part of the collection of Graham Geddes and is up for auction in October. Second Century AD. Originally predicted to sell for around 30k sterling, the hubbub over the Preseleyan bouffant has pushed expectations higher.

Tim Goodman, chairman of the Bonham and Goodman auction house:

"The Elvis angle has added great humour. It is a significant piece in itself, but the resemblance to the King has added at least 100% to the price."

An strange piece and a very clever marketing strategy, to boot.

Voodoo doll doesn't sway Deltona commissioner Florida. Volusia County. Deltona. A voodoo doll found in the hedge of a town commissioner.

"The doll was stuck with many pins and included a photo of the commissioner's face pinned on the doll's head. The doll, inside a black plastic tray, was found by Denizac's husband next to a periwinkle plant near the base of her mailbox Saturday afternoon."

A periwinkle, people! Is nothind sacred anymore?

Zenaida Denizac is reported to have "'no fear' of the cloth doll."

Finally:


I want to believe, as the tagline goes, but does some of the wind behind this story's wings slacken when taken in light of his apparent belief that he was healed of kidney cancer by remote healing? "I had a sonogram and MRI that was consistent with renal carcinoma." (But he never had a biopsy) After six months of remote healing the irregularities on his scans had disappeared.

What else does Mitchell believe?

Check out Quantrek:

"Promoting and accelerating the advancement of knowledge about the ultimate nature of reality utilizing the scientific method for the betterment of humankind."

In addition to Quantrek, Ed Mitchell was one of the founders of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Its history page is most interesting.

Mitchell: "The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes. . . . The knowledge came to me directly."


"We invite you to join our organization and get involved as we continue to actualize Dr Mitchell's vision of deep exploration of consciousness, self, and society."

The organization has three levels of membership:

Basic Membership, the Shift in Action Program and the Circle Members Program, in which "More benefits are available as the annual gift level increases."

"When you make a donation to IONS above and beyond your regular membership or Circle membership dues, you help mobilize a global movement devoted to personal and collective transformation."

Interesting that his org has a three-level structure, perhaps influenced by his membership in Freemasonry. (Artesia LodgeNo. 28. Artesia, New Mexico)

What are Noetic Sciences? you may wonder. It seems to be more or less a kind of exploration of the inner self, of intuition and other non-rational ways of knowing. Their mission has a decidedly "New Agey" ring to it: they speak of the "inner cosmos" and the "frontiers of consciousness." There is vague talk of "energies" and a lot about "healing."

Mitchell is definitely influenced by estoeric traditions; the final stanza of his poem "Insight" demonstrates:

"A mind that is free, reaches out to destiny
Holding thoughts filled with awe and with love;
To allow Nature’s plan to unfold in every Man
For here below is just like that above."

Ahh, the old "As Above, So Below" doctrine. And what is that? The Mystica puts it best:

This phrase comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. "'That which is above is the same as that which is below'...Macrocosmos is the same as microcosmos. The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man, man is the same as the cell, the cell is the same as the atom, the atom is the same as...and so on, ad infinitum."

IONS: "Noetic sciences explore the "inner cosmos" of the mind (consciousness, soul, spirit) and how it relates to the "outer cosmos" of the physical world. "

So. For some people, this is all part and parcel of a man open to all possibilities. An explorer of psychic and physical space whose credibility is supported by his (shared) record time walking on the moon, over 9 hours.

Other people might wonder if he's still there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Strange things are afoot

Had enough of mysterious disembodied human feet? Too bad; another human foot has washed ashore, this time in Tylösand, a tourist destination in south-western Sweden.

Swedish police spokesman Christer Harplinger says a shoe was found "containing a sock, with a foot inside it." An odd way of putting it.

Although no crime is suspected at this time, the foot has been sent to a laboratory and the police are combing through lists of missing persons.

According another spokesman,it's "far too early" to make any connections with the Vancouver 5. On the Canadian side, intrepid media relations mountie Annie Linteau told the press: "We have not been in contact with the authorities over there and vice versa, they have not contacted us either. We are just continuing our own investigation."

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stray Photos

Every once and a while a story comes along which we'd like to comment upon but for various reasons don't. The following slideshow contains two kinds of photos. Those that were sought out to accompany an aborted story and those that were simply so curious they had to be snagged. By following the link above you can see the shots with captions explaining the context.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Left Foot

VANCOUVER — Yet another human foot has washed ashore in British Columbia waters – the fifth such gruesome discovery in the past year. A few weeks ago, LoS reported on four shod feet--all *right* feet--that washed up on British Columbian shores. (The National Post has a map of the found feet.)

This left foot removes some whimsy from the mystery.

Unless, of course, this left foot is not a match to any of the four right feet.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"...an outrage of notable proportions which bespeaks unutterable squalor..."

Cesena, Italy. Around 7am.

After being alerted by a parishioner who heard "rustling and groaning" from inside a confessional booth, authorities checked it out and found a pair of "goths" having oral sex. During Mass.

Quote of the day: “One of them was kneeling but neither was praying.”

Apparently a Mass of Reparation was or will be held to "purify" the cathedral, because sex is so, you know, filthy.

LoS thinks these young libertines should be either stoned, racked or drawn and quartered immediately. Not for licking pee-pees in a Cathedral, but for being goths. This blasphemous contretemps simply demonstrates why God Hates Goths.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Telectroscope


"Hardly anyone knows that a secret tunnel runs deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean. In May 2008, more than a century after it was begun, the tunnel has finally been completed. An extraordinary optical device called a Telectroscope has been installed at both ends which miraculously allows people to see right through the Earth from London to New York
and vice versa."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Smiley Face Killers

Some nine months back, the LoS reported on the Mississippi River's apparent appetite for death.

And now we learn with fear and sadness that Christopher Jenkins, supposedly a victim of accidental drowning in the Mississippi near downtown Minneapolis on Halloween of 2002, was perhaps a victim of the Smiley Face Killers:




From CNN.com:

In all, the investigators say they've connected the bizarre drowning deaths of at least 40 college-age men across the country ... connected by a creepy symbol left near the water's edge: a smiley face painted on trees and other surfaces ... The most sinister was found in Iowa ... drawn in red with a devil's horns. Next to the smiley face was a note that read, "Evil Happy Smiley Face Man." ... The detectives say the string of deaths could be the work of more than one killer because some of them took place on the same day in different states. "It's so widespread. We have so many different victims in so many different areas," Duarte said. "It would, in my view, be impossible to be one person."

Let's repeat that last statement from Detective Duarte: "It would, in my view, be impossible to be one person."

Now let's jump west to British Columbia, where four sneaker-wearing severed right feet have washed to shore in British Columbia in less than one year.







What the?!? Four severed *right* feet washed to shore!?! Four?!?

Let's repeat, again, that last statement from Detective Duarte: "It would, in my view, be impossible to be one person."

An astute blog-reader recently noted this pair of quotes from Charles Manson and David Berkowitz (Son of Sam):

What about your children? You say there are just a few? There are many, many more, coming in the same direction. They are running in the streets -- and they are coming right at you! -- CM

There are other 'Sons' out there -- God help the world. --DB


With that in mind, consider the gruesome case of the Happy Face Killer, currently incarcerated for eight murders, a string of crimes committed while the killer taunted the police with notes inscribed with a smiley face.

Again, Detective Duarte: "It would, in my view, be impossible to be one person." Say it three times and it's true.

Thank you, Detective. I will sleep soundly as I dream of the Happy Face Killer bilocated, roaming and killing while quietly incarcerated.

The face of the LORD is against them that do evil -- Psalm 34:16

God help us.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The King of America

On March 23, 2004, the Reverend Moon--George Bush's Paraguayan neighbor (see Bush & the Doomsday Compound)--was crowned by Congressional Representatives during a coronation in Washington, D.C., at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.



The Washington Post reported that some of the attending Congressional members later expressed outrage at the event, claiming they were tricked, but given Moon's history, how surprised should they have been? This was, after all, the man who founded a cult (his follower are, of course, the Moonies); was the subject of a Congressional investigation; served eighteen months in prison for conspiracy and for filing false federal income tax returns; and has ties to South American drug trafficking.

Moon's political influence is deep. In 1982 he founded the Washington Times, a right-wing newspaper. He has supported the presidential bids of Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43. He has enjoyed an especially cozy relationship with the Bush family: George Bush 41 has received over two million dollars from Moon and has spoken on his behalf on multiple occasions in numerous countries, and Neil Bush has spoken to the Paraguayan president Nicanor Duarteon on Moon's behalf.

All this talk of the Moon, politics and South America brings to mind the Iron Sky, an upcoming film wherein the Nazis, having established a moon base in 1945, return as conquerors in 2018.

To the curious, we recommend John Gorenfeld's fine reporting, including this film (a two-parter):

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bush & the Doomsday Compound

Are the Bush's preparing a doomsday compound at the ends of the earth?

Ken Layne scoffs at the idea:

The story goes like this: George W. Bush and/or George H.W. Bush bought hundreds of thousands of acres in Paraguay, adjoining a similar spread owned by the Unification Church's Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Both massive parcels are hidden within a remote South American wilderness atop the world's biggest freshwater aquifer adjoining a secret U.S. military airbase. Oh, and there's a special non-extradition law to protect the Bush/Moon families as they enjoy their old age and run drug/weapons smuggling rings, safe from American justice. And they'll own all the drinking water in the world, or something.


But Mr. Layne never disputes the facts.

So what exactly does it mean when the leader of the free world ppurchases 100,000 acres in a remote corner of Paraguay sitting on top of the largest freshwater aquifer in the world, conveniently adjacent to the self proclaimed Second Coming of Christ and a secret military base with full immunity from the local law?

You draw your conclusions, and we'll draw ours.

The curious may read more on the Wonkette.



___________________
Update: May, 8, 2008: See "The King of America" for more on Moon.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Nazi Space Aliens Want our Senior Citizens

In an ealier post, Laws of Silence discussed the minorly infamous swastika-shaped barracks at the Coronado naval base.

It seems now that the same guy (almost always referred to as "researcher" Avrahaum Segol in the AP stories) is kicking up a fuss about another architectural offense, this time a retirement home in Decatur, Alabama.

The Wesley Acre Methodist retirement home is considering ways to diguise the building's offensive shape, visible only from satellite images, in the most inexpensive manner possible.

According to the AP, the center, "designed in the mid-1970s and completed in 1980, underwent a $1 million alteration in 2001 with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development following complaints by Democratic Sen. Howell Heflin."

As you can see from the AP photo, the two awkward extensions do little to hide the shape.

Most responses I've come across fall into the "good grief" category (i.e. here and here) and decry the waste of money which has and will continue to result from swastika-hunting on Google Earth. There's a rather terse response from Yisrael Medad's blog "No, not 'Heil Amerika'. Just a retirement home. In Alabama." Just in case you think everyone who finds this all a bit ridiculous is a closet anti-Semite.

It's understandable that people are offended by these shapes, but Segol loses a lot of sympathy points by proposing that this Alabama building is a "sister swastika" to the Coronado barracks and is part of a wider government plot to honor Nazis.

Again to quote the AP: "Segol claims the swastika shape of Wesley Acres in Decatur pays homage to the German scientists who came to nearby Huntsville after World War II and designed the rockets that put Americans on the moon."

Good grief indeed. Who is this Segol guy anyway? To be continued....

Links:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23633404/
http://www.abc3340.com/news/stories/0308/503800_video.html?ref=newsstory

Friday, May 2, 2008

Actually looks kind of fun....

Villagers throw babies from temple roof


(CNN) -- In a ritual that would terrify most mothers, Indian villagers have cheered as screaming babies were dropped from a 50-foot temple tower.

For 500 years, worshippers at a Muslim shrine in western India have continued the tradition -- a rite considered to bring good health and good luck to the children.

The infants land and bounce on a bed-sheet held taut by men 50 feet below, and are quickly passed through the crowd to their mothers.

Villagers say no babies have been injured during the ritual, which is practiced by Muslims and Hindus in Musti village in the district of Solapur, in the state of Maharashtra.

It also takes place elsewhere in the country, mostly in smaller villages, on special occasions.

Parents who want their infants to participate in the event first take a vow at the Baba Sheikh Umar Saheb Dargah, or temple. Villagers say the ritual is a way of giving thanks.

But critics want the practice banned, with many saying it's unsafe.

"The state has to interfere," said Sanal Edamaruku, founder and president of Rationalist International and the Indian Rationalist Association. The group supports secularism and freedom of expression.


That's the entire CNN article above, but the real gem is this raw footage on CNN Video without commentary. Interesting bit about this ritual is that it's practiced both by Hindus and Muslims. No further comment at this time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Procession de la Sanch, Perpigan



The Procession de la Sanch has its origins in the middle ages. As condemned prisoners were led to their deaths, both prisoner and executioner were hooded. In order to protect their identities and perhaps in a show of solidarity with the principle actors in these dramas, the groups of men who accompanied them also wore the distinctive peaked hood. These Penitents were there to give solace to the person about to die, remembering that Christ too was condemned and that through his sacrifice even the lowliest of sinners could be saved through penitence.

Over time the drama developed into a regular, annual religious procession. The original purpose dropped by the wayside but the garb remained, and the Penitents' purpose evolved exclusively into a commemoration of the most famous condemned man in Christendom. Thus, on his day of execution, Good Friday, they march through towns in a somber display of mourning.

These are some photos from from my visit to see the Procession in Perpignan:

Procession de la Sanch, Collioure


Photos:  Procession Collioure

In Collioure, a scant 20 kilometers from Perpignan, the procession is held at night, in a much more intimate setting.

Oh, and don't go thinking this has anything to do with the KKK.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What Would Brian Boitano Do?

"The torch as always represented hope, peace and unity. To extinguish the flame of hope is the wrong thing to do."

So says Dean Karnazes, a torch relay runner in this year's Olympic Torch relay, quoted in a CNN article on the protests planned for the leg in San Francisco following the disasters in London and Paris.

All good and well, Dean. Perhaps your right.

For others the Torch relay is an overblown spectacle leading to yet another overblown spectacle--the opening ceremony--all of it naiive feel-good jingo designed to spur interest in what amounts to the world's greatest advertising opportunity, complete with product tie-ins and juicy product endorsement deals for Olympians who through a combination of charm and athletic prowess capture the hearts of millions. Who better, then, to sell these adoring fans Wheaties and Jeep Cherokees?

Two interpretations, both true, both false, neither complete. One political and idealistic, another cynical and economic. The only thing missing thing missing is the athletes.

No matter what your take on the Olympics as an event, it's hard to deny that the athletes posess rare combinations of talent, skill determination and courage. Some of these young athletes have trained practically all of their lives for a shot at Olympic gold and deserve a lot better than a farcical and cowardly abbreviated relay aimed at avoiding the legitimate protests in support of the right to free speech and self-determination, not to mention the right not to be invaded and massacred.

They deserve, in short, a whole lot better than China.

Not only will these young Olympians have to worry about each other and the folks back home as they step into the arena, they will have to contend with possibly tainted food, sub-standard housing and terrible air pollution. But that's not all. They're stepping into a police state where the Chinese have maintained their right to limit live broadcasts, pursue vigorous elecronic surveillance and tight control of all expressions of protest by athletes. No 1968 style Black Power salutes here, Jack. Anything like that might cost them their hard-won medals. Everything will be tightly controlled and orchestrated in an attept to give the impression that everything and everyone is fine and happy in the totalitarian shopping mall.

Fitting then, that this supposedly ancient tradition was in fact devised by Leni Riefenstahl for her film Olympia, an admittedly beautiful film documenting the 1936 Berlin Olympics, exploited as a propaganda opportunity to glorify the Third Reich.

From the Times:

The torch relay is a celebration of the ancient fires that burnt through the original Olympiads but the idea of carrying the flame from Olympia to the host city each year was invented by the organisers of the 1936 Berlin games.

The relay, captured in Leni Riefenstahl's film, "Olympia", was part of the Nazi propaganda machine’s attempt to add myth and mystique to Adolf Hitler’s regime.

Hitler saw the link with the ancient Games as the perfect way to illustrate his belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich.

Fitting, really, for a regime equally as brutal, equally against the ideals the Olympics purports to represent. The Times reports that the flame was extinguished only twice before during the relay, both times by weather. It was put out three times in Paris before officials had to call it quits and sneak the fractious firebrand along the rest of the Paris leg in a bus.

The origin of the relay was first brought to our attention by the Washington Post blog The Lede, which quotes Times columnist Mary Beard saying the tradition should be "stamped out." In our opinion, the Nazi origin doesn't necessarily mean it should be abolished, if it can truly represent not totalitarianism, but opportunity, hope and global competition in a fair and inspiring context. By promulgating the antithesis of fascist ideology, the Olympics can at least make an attempt to represent something positive in a world increasingly devoid of anything worth aspiring to.

But as long as these Olympics take place in Beijing, they haven't a chance; they're simply perpetrating the same thing Hitler represented in 1936. China is not simply a cheap supermarket and a low-cost labor pool, and Tibet is only the tip of the iceberg. Appeasement didn't prevent the Second World War. Kow-towing to Beijing will only embolden and legitimize something potentially far worse.

P.S.

from Washington diary: China's crisis (10 April):

For China, the Games are a coming-out party for an emerging super-power, a chance to prove to the world that it deserves to be respected, that it has finally shaken off the yoke of Communist isolation or colonial occupation.

The Games will put a human face to all those economic statistics that the world has marvelled at for so many years. In Beijing, the Olympics will not just be a sporting event. They will be a national celebration.

The claim that this is just another international sporting event simply does not wash. The Chinese themselves do not see it that way. The Olympics have always been prone to political meddling. They are after all a competition between nation states and not individual sportsmen and women.

President Bush told me in February that he does not support any boycott. He knows better than anyone how much Chinese investment now underwrites the US economy, how many billions of dollars in US treasury bonds are owned by
China.

And let's face it: you do not pick a fight with your banker, especially when your economy is in trouble.


Turned Off by Torch Guards (11 April) is an article about the strong-arm style of the Chinese Sacred Flame Protection Unit, the tough-looking phalanx of fellow guarding the relay in spiffy blue and white tracksuits. "The special squad was made up of losely vetted volunteers from the special forces academy of the paramilitary People's Armed Police, state-controlled news media reported."


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

(Pre) Zeus on the Loose

NYT article about excavations at Mount Lykaion, in the region of Greece known as Arcadia. Digging in a sactuary to Zeus, archeologists have come across the remains of sacrifices estimated to date from around 3000 BCE, nearly a millenium before the arrival of the Greek-speaking peoples who established Zeus as the pre-eminent deity of the land.

The article makes some interesting observations about how cultures adopt and transform pre-existing religious traditions as their own.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Gauchito Gil Redux



Our Argentine correspondent sends us this article from Santa Fe daily El Litoral dated 8 Janary 2008. Gauchito Gil was previously discussed here. Translation forthcoming. Until then try your luck with an online translator.
....
Update 13 January. The following translation was made with the assistance of http://www.freetranslation.com/; Cassell's Spanish-English Dictionary (1978); and Ximena Faya.
....
Miraculous powers are attributed to him
Thousands of pilgrims in Corrientes to honor Gauchito Gil
Today is the anniversary of his murder, according to legend, by a police patrol.
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Thousands of pilgrims arrived at a site located in the neighborhood of the city of Mercedes in Corrientes where they paid homage to Gauchito Gil. Today is the anniversary of the day on which, according to legend, he was murdered by a police patrol and since which time miraculous powers have been attributed to him.

Municipal and police sources reported that the faithful have come from all corners and since yesterday have occupied the installations adjacent to the place where Jesus Antonio de la Cruz Gil, best-known as Gauchito Gil, is buried.

In this place a kind of oratory was built and has since given rise all manner of pilgrimage-based commerce, converting the popular rite into a lucrative business.

The sanctuary of Gauchito Gil, located at some 8 kilometers from the center of Mercedes and some 275 kilometers from the city of Corrientes, each year at this time harbors devotees from different points of the country and even neighboring countries.

In 2007 more than 120 thousand people came on January 8 "to salute" Gauchito.

An increased presence of provincial and National Police has been mounted in the zone since last Sunday. It is a matter of preventing not only accidents or fights, somewhat common due to the conglomeration of people and to the excessive consumption of alcohol, but also other types of crime such as contraband merchandise and drug trafficking that in previous years have proliferated in a significantly.

In the early hours today the bulk of the pilgrims arrived, above all from the delegations of other provinces, that arrived together in order to pass "a few hours" in the sanctuary.

A legend that grows

According to popular tradition, Gaucho Gil lived in the period between end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. For his followers he was responsible for bringing a little justice to the disparities of the epoch, stealing from the wealthy to help those in need.

Nevertheless, for the authorities of that time, Antonio de la Cruz Gil was a dishonorable gaucho, a deserter from the Army and a murderous thief. They searched for him intensely until he was trapped in an ambush and killed. The "legend" indicates that in the moments prior to his death he managed to speak with the policeman who wounded him; Gil indicated that his son, seriously ill, would be cured when he returned to his home.

Apparently, when the policeman returned to his dwelling, he found his son cured of his pain and from this the belief in Gaucho Gil’s miraculous powers was born.The legend grew over time, winning increasingly more followers and becoming one of the most popular rites in all the Argentine territory.

A little history

For Félix Coluccio, investigator of the American folk tradition, the gaucho Antonio Mamerto Gil Núñez, or Antonio Gil, or Curuzú Gil had in the middle of the last century a band that "divested money from the rich to give to the poor". The denomination "curuzú" signifies cross.

His greater significance dates from between 1840 and 1860, an epoch of small guerilla bands and their leaders. His life is wrapped in thousand tangles; it is said that he was an exploited laborer that became cunning, that he participated in the war with Paraguay under the orders of one General Madariaga, and that he was executed as a deserter.

According to Mrs. Anabel Miraflores, her mother Estrella Díaz of Miraflores, a rich land owner, had an affair with Gil at the same time she was the intended of the local police chief. This, and the hatred of her brothers, caused Curuzú to flee Pay Ubre and he enlisted in the Paraguay War.

After the fall of Rosas the federal litoraleños [residents of the Littoral, a region of Argentina] were divided into two factions: Reds (traditionalists of the divisa punzó or autonomistas) and Celestials (liberals) According to the legends, Gil was recruited by the Celestial colonel Juan de la Cruz Salazar, and as the gauchito was sympathetic to the Reds, took advantage of an opportunity afforded him by the negligence of his unit and deserted with mestizo Ramiro Brown and the criollo Francisco Gonzalez; companions whose path led them to become famous brigands.

His companions were killed by shots from a blunderbuss and the gaucho was put under arrest and taken to Goya. In spite of the intercession of one Colonel Velázquez, he was hung upside-down from a carob tree (on the way to Goya, at some 8 kilometers from Mercedes) and beheaded. Apparently he was hung that way to elude his reputed hypnotic powers and to avoid the influence of the payé (talisman) of San la Muerte that he had hanging around his neck.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mouse Problem? Call....Lucifer?

What obviously strikes one's "WTF?!" button first is the name of this here product, a standard mousetrap, that quaint killing machine whose efficient simplicity has given rise to an expression to describe useless endeavors. (No, not "blogging") "Building a better moustrap." Squaring the wheel, essentially. The one pictured here was found at a rural supermarket for a euro, hanging out among lightbulbs and bottles of butane.

But yeah, wtf indeed? "Lucifer?" Can you imagine that flying in the US of A? Procter & Gamble used to use the man in the moon and thirteen stars as a logo and as of 1995 were still trying to shake off charges of Satanism. They've even got a current webpage with info on how "To contact Procter & Gamble about the trademark rumor." Get behind me Satan!

Conveniently, Lucifer's makers have burned their web address on the face of the product. A sign o' the times somehow both incredibly odd and perfectly logical at the same time. Why wouldn't you put it on there?

So, according to the site:
The Compagny Masy Père et Fils is a family company with around 20 employees. [Why don't they know the exact number of employees?]

Based at Nouvion le Comte since 1920 (Aisne department) it has been in business for over a century and is the originator of the design behind the registered trademark "LUCIFER".

Its core business activity is manufacturing mouse traps. It is the only French manufacturer of this product, and supplies 80 % of the national market.

In addition to an assortment of traps and other rodent-busting products, the company makes "food safes" and trestles. Satanic ones.

Post Script: A stumbled-upon article by the improbably-named Texe Marrs points out that there is in fact an American company in the US called Lucifer Lighting. A web search confirms it. "We find our inspiration in many places. But at Lucifer, it all comes back to lighting." The name is so self-evident yet so blatantly provocative in a land where the likes of Texe Marrs are roaming about one can't help but wonder.... (insert Vincent Price laughter here)

Texe pictures an "Illuminati Eye" as seen in a Starbuck's window on his page but neglects to include the Starbuck's logo itself in his list of suspicious icons. It always struck us as a bit darewesay "occult" and lo! maybe there's a good reason for that after all. This oldy but goody traces the origin of the logo to a 15th century engraving of a two-tailed mermaid certainly of alchemical provenance.