Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guitar and Bass Flip/Swing/Spin Fails

Yes, some people spend hours practices whirling their guitar or bass guitar around their backs for dramatic stage action. And sometimes, such actions fail and really make people look like fools. First, the practice fails.

Bass Swing practice fail:

Especially nice are the live performance fails.

Guitar flip fail:

Bass flip fails:
This one is probably my favorite.

Turf Feinz Incredible Dancing in the Rain

Been out there a bit, getting some love and I'm happy to jump on board because it's wonderful:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Orleans' Gender Bending Rap: NYT on "Sissy Bounce"

Long story in NYT Magazine.

July 19, 2010
New Orleans’s Gender-Bending Rap

If “gay rapper” is an oxymoron where you come from, how to get your head around the notion of a gay rapper performing in a sports bar? What in most cities might seem plausible only as some sort of Sacha Baron Cohen-style provocation is just another weeknight in the cultural Galapagos that is New Orleans. Sometime after midnight on the sweltering Thursday before Memorial Day, the giant plasma-screen TVs at the Sports Vue bar (which “proudly airs all major Pay Per View events from the world of Boxing and Ultimate Fighting”) were all switched off, and the bar’s backroom turned into a low-lit, low-ceilinged dance club, where more than 300 people awaited a return engagement by Big Freedia, who by day runs an interior-decoration business and who is, to fans of the New Orleans variant of hip-hop music known as “bounce,” a superstar.

At 1 a.m., though, Freedia (pronounced “FREE-da”) was still a mile or so away, fulfilling a paid celebrity-hosting gig at Club Fabulous. The fabulousness of Club Fabulous, on this night at least, seemed a function mainly of its Mardi Gras-themed décor, conceived and executed by Freedia herself. Otherwise the crowd was sparse, largely straight and listless. Freedia looked weary as she leaned back against the bar with her dyed, diagonally cut bangs over one eye, holding a cordless microphone. (Freedia, who is about 6 foot 2 and very powerful-looking and dresses in a fashionable but recognizably masculine style, is genetically a man; but neither she nor anyone who knows her uses masculine pronouns to refer to her.) When “Rock Around the Clock,” one of her signature songs, came on the sound system, a few women walked over to Freedia and stood with their backs to her, but the atmosphere wasn’t quite electric enough for them to really start dancing, and the men just continued playing pool. After a while, Freedia’s D.J. and de facto manager, who goes by the name Rusty Lazer — a whippetlike 39-year-old white man with a salt-and-pepper beard — let Freedia know that it was time to move on to the next show.

The two of them had just returned from three nights at three different venues in New York, with a stop for another show in Philadelphia on their way home. These days Freedia performs five or six nights a week, often more than once a night — and increasingly, not just in New Orleans.

“Girl, I’m tired,” Lazer said as he drove them to the Sports Vue in his minivan, which was full of boxes of hand-screened Big Freedia T-shirts he sells at $10 a pop.

“Really?” Freedia said laconically. “I’m just starting to get my energy back.”

At the first sight of the commotion outside the Sports Vue, everyone’s energy level picked up. Lazer pulled the minivan into a long maze of cars parked haphazardly all up and down the grass median on Elysian Fields Avenue. Outside the metal detectors at the entrance, cops were pretending to listen to the grievances of two women who had just been thrown out of the bar. “Every night,” Lazer said fondly. While patrons were being patted down by bouncers inside the door, he and Freedia disappeared into the crowd; a few minutes later, the music stopped, and a loud, excited voice yelled into a mic a brief introduction — so brief the longest part of it was the polysyllabic participle between the words “Big” and “Freedia.”

And then something remarkable happened. The crowd — just about evenly divided between men and women — instantly segregated itself: the men were propelled as if by a centrifuge toward the room’s perimeters, and the dance floor, a platform raised just a step off the ground, was taken over entirely by women surrounding Freedia. The women did not dance with, or for, one another — they danced for Freedia, and they did so in the most sexualized way imaginable, usually with their backs to her, bent over sharply at the waist, and bouncing their hips up and down as fast as humanly possible, if not slightly faster. Others assumed more of a push-up position, with their hands on the floor, in a signature dance whose name is sometimes helpfully shortened to “p-popping.”

Freedia did “Rock Around the Clock,” which begins with a sample from the Bill Haley classic but departs pretty drastically from there, as well as her longtime club hit, “Azz Everywhere,” a title as perfectly high-concept in its way as “Snakes on a Plane.” Softspoken in person, Freedia has an onstage voice as deep and exhortatory as Chuck D’s. Her older songs sometimes had choruses that were actually sung (“I got that gin in my system/Somebody gonna be my victim”), but in her recent work, the beat is too fast to permit much more than short, repetitive chanting. Not that it mattered much in the context of the less-than-state-of-the-art sound system at the Sports Vue, where an occasional obscenity was pretty much as audible as any of the lyrics got.

A Big Freedia set generally lasts only four or five songs (which is why she can book two or three of them a night), but the energy brought to, and generated by, those songs is astounding. So, 20 cathartic minutes later, it was all over. Freedia left the stage, the men gravitated back toward the women and the sexual balance at the Sports Vue was restored. “Well,” Lazer said with a grin as he gave me a lift back to my hotel in his minivan, “I’ve lived in New Orleans a long time, and I know a lot of people, but you’ve just seen something that about 95 percent of my white friends will probably never see.”

Bounce itself has been around for about 20 years. Like most hip-hop varietals, it’s rap delivered over a sampled dance beat, but it has a few characteristics that give it a distinctively regional sound: it’s strictly party music, its beat is relentlessly fast and its rap quotient tends much less toward introspection or pure braggadocio than toward a call-and-response relationship with its audience, a dynamic borrowed in equal measure from Mardi Gras Indian chants and from the dawn of hip-hop itself. Many, if not most, bounce records announce their allegiance by sampling from one of just two sources: either Derek B.’s “Rock the Beat” or an infectious hook known as the “Triggaman,” from a 1986 Showboys record called “Drag Rap.” (That’s “drag” not as in cross-dressing but as in the theme to the old TV show “Dragnet.”) Just as the earliest New York rap records featured compulsory shout-outs to the boroughs, lots of bounce songs will demand (especially when performed live) audience acknowledgment of the city’s various neighborhoods and housing projects (“Shake it for the Fourth Ward/Work it for the Fifth Ward”), even those that have been razed. Otherwise the lyrics are mostly about sex and are so habitually obscene that they have helped keep bounce from spreading too far beyond its New Orleans borders. The success of bounce-tinged New Orleans artists like Lil Wayne and Juvenile notwithstanding, at least one New Orleans record-company executive speculates that major labels consider unadulterated bounce too hard to distribute, because it can’t be played on most radio stations or even sold in many venues.

The overwhelming majority of bounce artists are, of course, straight. But 12 years ago, a young drag queen who goes by the name Katey Red shocked the audience by taking the mic at an influential underground club near the Melpomene housing project where she grew up, and in that star-is-born moment, a subgenre of bounce took root. It is a sad understatement to say that homosexuality and hip-hop make for an unlikely fusion: hip-hop culture is one of the most unrepentantly homophobic cultures in America, surpassing even its own attitudes toward women in bigotry and smirking advocacy of violence. But New Orleans’s tolerance of unlikely fusions is legendary, and today Katey Red, along with a handful of other artists — Big Freedia (who grew up four blocks from Katey and started out as one of her background vocalists), Sissy Nobby, Chev off the Ave, Vockah Redu (who was captain of the dance team at Booker T. Washington High School) — are not just accepted mainstays of the bounce scene but its most prominent representatives outside New Orleans. Katey recently received a New Orleans consecration of sorts when she appeared as herself, unidentified, in an episode of the HBO series “Treme,” with her song “So Much Drama” playing in the background.

Some part of this subgenre’s popularity is surely due to the catchily discordant name by which it has become known: sissy bounce. The term is problematic, because the artists themselves do not care for it at all — not because they object to the word “sissy” but because they consider it disrespectful to bounce music. Even when their lyrics are at their frankest (“I’m a punk under pressure/When we finish, put my money on the dresser”), they rush to point out, correctly, that they’re just drawing from the life at hand in the same way virtually every rapper does. They have no desire to be typed within, or set apart from, bounce culture; and indeed, within New Orleans itself, they mostly are not — even as their bookings elsewhere in the country are founded increasingly on the novelty of their sexual identities.

The term “sissy bounce” is one for which a young New Orleans music writer named Alison Fensterstock takes very reluctant credit....

Check the original story for the rest, including images and video clips, which you can find HERE.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Often-abused Cardiff surfer statue attacked by great white shark


Often-abused Cardiff surfer statue attacked by great white shark

By Terry Rodgers, Special to the Union-Tribune

Originally published July 24, 2010 at 2:24 p.m., updated July 24, 2010 at 3:09 p.m.
An often-abused statue of a surfer on Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas was turned into a Jaws-dropping artwork early Saturday morning by a group of unknown pranksters.

Crowds of gawkers and picture takers nearly created a traffic hazard, as they gathered around the bronze statue, which, sometime in the early morning hours, was entombed inside a 15-foot tall papier-mâché version of a great white shark’s massive snout.

A San Diego County sheriff’s deputy briefly stopped by to pluck two 2.5-foot tall papier-mâché fins that had been placed in the traffic median. The deputy declined repeated pleas from camera-laden onlookers to pose with the Jaws-like tableau.

Nearby campers at San Elijo State Beach said they heard a ruckus near the statue about 4 a.m., but didn’t see or hear how the pranksters were able to put the giant shark around the surfer.

They said the shark’s didn’t appear without warning. Large sharklike fins had been placed on the other side of the highway, along San Elijo Road, earlier this week then, over the course of the past two days, the fins were moved closer to the statue, as if the shark was circling in on its prey.

Read the story HERE.

For an earlier prank on the statue, see HERE.

For the original controversy regarding the statue, see HERE.
and here is the original:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Westborough Baptist Church vs. Comic-Con

and Comic-Con wins.

You know the Westborough Baptist Church, the hate group that holds up signs saying "God Hates Fags" as they protest soldier's funerals? Well, they came back to San Diego to protest Comic-Con. And while the best way to deal with these lunatics often is to ignore them, the colorful contingent that met them today was pretty damn excellent. How you gonna win an argument against a cartoon robot, a Vulcan, a princess in a steel bikini, a wizard, an anime nymph, and a Jedi? (Oh, and Robin, who is most probably gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

More at San Diego Comic-Con and Comic Alliance.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Slate on Women's Vigilante Gangs in India

Wear a Pink Sari and Carry a Big Stick
The women's gangs of India.
By Amana Fontanella-Khan
Posted Monday, July 19, 2010, at 10:01 AM ET

In March, the Indian upper parliament passed a historic affirmative-action bill. If approved by the lower house, the law would reserve 33 percent of all parliamentary seats for women. You might think this would be well-received by rural women in India. But they long ago gave up on the government and have taken things into their own hands. India is witnessing a rise of vigilante groups, the most sensational of which is the gulabi, or pink gang, operating in the Bundelkhand district of the Uttar Pradesh state, one of the poorest districts of India. Some gangs have started what Indian journalists describe as a "mini-revolution" on behalf of women.

The founder of the gulabis is the fearless Sampat Pal Devi, 40, who was married off at the age of 12 to an ice-cream vendor and had the first of her five children at 15. The gulabis, whose members say they are a "gang for justice," started in 2006 as a sisterhood of sorts that looked out for victims of domestic abuse, a problem the United Nations estimates affects two in three married Indian women. Named after their hot-pink sari uniforms, the gang paid visits to abusive husbands and demanded they stop the beatings. When obstinate men refused to listen, the gulabis would return with large bamboo sticks called laathis and "persuade" them to change their ways. "When I go around with a stick, it's to make men fear me. I don't always use it, but it helps change the mind of men who think they are more powerful than me" says Pal. She has assumed the rank of commander in chief and has appointed district commanders across seven districts in Bundelkhand to help coordinate the gang's efforts.

Pal's group now has more than 20,000 members, and the number is growing. Making her way from one far-flung village to another on an old rusty bicycle, she holds daily gatherings under shady banyan trees, near makeshift tea-stalls selling the sweet Indian drink chai and other popular village hangouts to discuss local problems and attract new recruits.

Pal has a long list of criminal charges against her, including unlawful assembly, rioting, attacking a government employee, and obstructing an officer in the discharge of duty, and she even had to go into hiding. Her feistiness has secured notable victories for the community, however. In 2008, the group ambushed the local electricity office, which was withholding electricity until members received bribes or sexual favors in return for flicking the switch back on. The stick-wielding gulabi stormed the company grounds and proceeded to rough up the staff inside the building. An hour later, the power was back on in the village.

While the gulabi use a mild level of force, more violent strains of vigilantism have been reported elsewhere in India among dispossessed women. In 2004, a mob of hundreds of women hacked to death the serial rapist and murderer Akku Yadav, after the courts failed to convict him over a period of 10 years. After the deed was done, the women collectively declared their guilt in the murder, frustrating police efforts to charge anyone with the crime. This kind of violence has generated concern among some Indian commentators, who say that while many vigilantes have noble intentions, too many of them are brutally violent.

What's the context for this phenomenon? The Indian press often points to a host of ills plaguing modern India, such as honor killings, dowries, child marriages, and female feticide. These account for female despondency but not for the gangs as an outlet for it. In the past, many Indian women would have taken these pressures out on themselves, through self-immolation or hanging, for example. As women have gained political power, through initiatives like the affirmative-action bill, dispossessed rural women have realized that they can instead respond boldly and collectively to abuse. Why aren't they turning to political activism as opposed to vigilantism? To begin with, the gangs offer more immediate benefits than politics does. Another reason is that female politicians rising to power from the lower castes have been dismal role models. These politicians have the potential to inspire poor women more than dynastic leaders like Sonia Gandhi, but they have disappointed the women they claim to represent by being as corrupt and criminal as the male politicians they despise.

Read the full story HERE.

Street Sign Posted in Klingon

I love it. Comic-Con is getting ready to drop in San Diego, so in the spirit of that the city changed one of its public transit signs to the Klingon language to encourage Klingons to use public transportation. See original UT story HERE.

New book on "Black National anthem"

Professor at historically black college questions 'black national anthem'
By Liane Membis, CNN

(CNN) -- "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is an uplifting spiritual, one that's often heard in churches and popularly recognized as the black national anthem. Timothy Askew grew up with its rhythms, but now the song holds a contentious place in his mind.

"I love the song," said Askew, an associate professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black college. "But it's not the song that is the problem. It's the label of the song as a 'black national anthem' that creates a lot of confusion and tension."

The song and its message of struggle and hope have long been attached to the African-American community. It lives on as a religious hymn for several protestant and African-American denominations and was quoted by the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration.

After studying the music and lyrics of the song and its history for more than two decades, Askew decided the song was intentionally written with no specific reference to any race or ethnicity.

Askew explains his position in the new book, "Cultural Hegemony and African American Patriotism: An Analysis of the Song, 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,'" which was released by Linus Publications in June. The book explores the literary and musical traditions of the song, but also says that a national anthem for African-Americans can be construed as racially separatist and divisive.

"To sing the 'black national anthem' suggests that black people are separatist and want to have their own nation," Askew said. "This means that everything Martin Luther King Jr. believed about being one nation gets thrown out the window."

Askew first became intrigued with "Lift Every Voice and Sing" while working on his master's degree at Yale University. He was a Morehouse College music graduate, young, passionate and hungry for knowledge about African-American culture. A fellow classmate suggested Askew explore Yale's collection on James Weldon Johnson, an early civil rights activist who wrote the song decades earlier.

Johnson first wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as a poem in 1900. Hundreds of African-American students performed it at a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday at Jacksonville, Florida's Stanton School, where Johnson was principal. Johnson's brother, John Rosamond Johnson, later set the poem to music. By 1920, the NAACP had proclaimed the song the "Negro National Anthem."

"I remember methodically going into the Yale library every day and sitting there on the floor, rummaging through 700 boxes of James Johnson's work," Askew said. "I became so fascinated in his life and letters, that I wanted to know more about the creation of the song and how it related to our modern understanding of it."

He found letters of appreciation to Johnson from individuals of all different ethnic backgrounds. At that moment, Askew had a revelation: The song he'd known as the "black national anthem" was for everybody.

Some will call his perspective on the song a contradiction, Askew said, especially because he works at a historically black college. But he argues that universities like Clark Atlanta accept students of many races and ethnicities; a national anthem for one race excludes others, and ignores an existing national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key.

"Some people argue lines like 'We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,' signify a tie to slavery and the black power struggle," Askew said. "But in all essence there is no specific reference to black people in this song. It lends itself to any people who have struggled."

He's not the only one who sees fault in a national anthem just for African-Americans.

Kenneth Durden, an African-American conservative blogger, responded to Askew's claims on his blog, "A Free Man, Thinking Freely." He said in an interview that Askew is right to make connections to King's view of one America.

"King always appealed to the American dream for all," Durden said. "He was a patriot and he never wanted blacks to deny or separate themselves from being American. I think claiming an anthem for ourselves as black people is doing just that."

What troubles Askew more is that the song became an identity marker for African-Americans.

"Who has the right to decide for all black people what racial symbol they should have?" Askew said. "Identity should be developed by the individual himself, not a group of people who think they know what is best for you."

Hilary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy for the NAACP, said Askew's ideas might be far-fetched.

"I don't see anything that is racially exclusive or discriminatory about the song," Shelton said. "The negro national anthem was adopted and welcomed by a very interracial group, and it speaks of hope in being full first-class citizens in our society."

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" isn't meant to cloud national identity or persuade African-Americans to be separatists, Shelton said. It's often sung in conjunction with "The Star-Spangled Banner," or with the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance at NAACP events.

"His presumption is that this song is sung instead of our national anthem -- that we are less American and we are not as committed to America because we take pride in the Negro national anthem," Shelton said. "It is evident in our actions as an organization and here in America that we are about inclusion, not exclusion. To claim that we as African-Americans want to form a confederation or separate ourselves from white people because of one song is baffling to me."

Read the full post HERE.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yoruba tribal marks a fading tradition


Tribal scars custom drying up in Nigeria
By Christian Purefoy, CNN
July 20, 2010 12:10 p.m. EDT

Osogbo, Nigeria (CNN) -- In a dark room, the High Priestess used her ceremonial knife to cut two teardrop scars beneath her baby grandson's eyes. As baby Enitan cried out, the marks ran red with blood.

It took only a few moments, but scarred him for life.

In her small mud-brick home in southwest Nigeria, priestess Ifaponle Ogunjinmi performed the Yoruba tradition of giving tribal marks to the youngest member of her family.

"The tribal mark is to identify the family," Ifaponle said. "Everyone in the family must have it."

Ifaponle rubbed the secretion of a snail on Enitan's cheeks and then pressed dark charcoal dust into the open wounds to stop the bleeding. To finish the ceremony, a chicken was brushed across Enitan's head.

"The snail is for cooling the wounds, like water on fire," Ifaponle said. "And the chicken is to clear the body of all illness. It will be sacrificed in two days."

Yoruba tribal scars have a variety of patterns and meanings.

Most obviously, they appear as a series of cuts and lines across the face to identify a person's family and regional heritage. Others, appearing as lizards or scorpions anywhere below the face, are a form of body art.

But they all have spiritual significance.

Meta Ogunjimni, the child's father, led us into another dark, musty room at the back of his home. Sunlight from a small window cast an eerie light on a dark-red costume in the corner of the room, a shrine to the local goddess of Ifa, surrounded by a variety of bottles and blood-stained ornaments.

The costume consists of a large ornamental mask used in local religious ceremonies. It is decorated with three small wooden faces, each adorned with scars across their cheeks.

"I have inherited these facial marks from my grandfather," said Meta, pointing at the scarred wooden faces on the masquerade, "they help protect me."

Though facial scars can be found across Africa, they are becoming increasingly restricted to people in the rural regions.

The Nigerian government has moved to outlaw the practice, but many states have yet to approve the law. Many human rights organizations argue that the scarring of children is abuse and have often associated the practice with female genital mutilation.

However, regardless of their efforts, facial scars are becoming harder to find for a different reason -- displacement of old ways by Western influence.

"Our grandfathers, who made tribal marks compulsory for everyone have died," Ifaponle said. "In the modern world, many fathers don't allow any marks on their children."

In her arms, Enitan suckled on a bottle of warm milk. He will carry his Yoruba traditions with him for life, but he may well be one of the last.

Read the story and view photographs HERE.

Vuvuzela bans in England

Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Tuesday, 20 July 2010 17:57 UK

Premier League and Football League clubs ban vuvuzelas


Vuvuzela: The sound of the summer

A growing number of Premier League clubs are following Tottenham's lead and banning vuvuzelas from their grounds on match days this season.

Arsenal, Birmingham, Everton, Fulham and West Ham are the latest teams to have stated the plastic horns will not be allowed inside stadia.

Some Football League clubs have also banned the horns, which were popular at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Spurs made their decision after talks with police and local authorities.

The Londoners reacted upon suggestions the noise could pose risks to public safety, while Arsenal stated they wanted to "ensure the enjoyment and safety" of fans.

A Spurs statement on the club's official website. read: "We are concerned that the presence of the instruments within the stadium pose unnecessary risks and could impact on the ability of all supporters to hear any emergency safety announcements.

"We are very proud of the fantastic atmosphere that our supporters produce organically at White Hart Lane and we are all very much looking forward to this continuing into the forthcoming season."

The Premier League has refused to implement a widespread ban, stating that "such matters are dealt with at club level".

Following their widespread use during the World Cup in South Africa, retailers across Britain have being selling vuvuzelas in anticipation of their popularity.

However, the horns have been heavily criticised by players and fans alike with many suggesting they are tuneless and block out singing and chanting.

The All England Club banned the instrument from this summer's Wimbledon, amidst fears that they could spoil the event.

Similarly, a spokesman for Henley Royal Regatta stated that vuvuzelas were on a list of items which would not be allowed within the enclosures or the boat tent area.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has said that each Test venue would be able to decide its policy on which items could be admitted.

Read the full post and see video HERE.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Indonesian Muslims have been 'praying in wrong direction'

In retrospect, this should have been discovered sooner:


Indonesian Muslims 'praying in wrong direction'
By Andy Saputra, CNN

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesian Muslims have been praying in the wrong direction, the country's highest Islamic authority has said.

The Indonesian Ulema Council told the country's Muslim populace in March to turn west when they offered their daily prayers. Muslims are supposed to face the Kaaba, the religion's most sacred site in the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

At the time, the council said that the direction of Kaaba from Indonesia laid to the west.

Turns out, it didn't. Africa did.

So, on Friday, the council issued a new edict: face northwest.

"After the first fatwa (edict) a few months ago that stated that the praying direction is west, we have announced that the correct direction for praying is indeed northwest, and we have issued a new fatwa (edict) to correct it," said Ma'ruf Amin, the head of fatwa division in the Indonesian Ulema Council.

"This is important because facing west will mean that people were facing Africa when they pray," he said.

Amin said the new edict does not mean that mosques in the country will need to be torn down. "They (those praying inside) just need to adjust their praying direction slightly," he said.

Some residents of the world's most populous Muslim country took the change in stride.

"I don't really worry about the praying direction," said Riza Irwansyah, an office worker in Jakarta. "The important thing is I prayed to Allah and I believe He will listen, no matter which way I'm facing."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

One Bride for 2 Brothers: A Custom Fades in India


July 16, 2010
One Bride for 2 Brothers: A Custom Fades in India

MALANG, India — Buddhi Devi was 14 when she was betrothed. In India, that is not unusual: many marry young. Her intended was a boy from her village who was two years younger — that, too, was not strange. But she was also supposed to marry her future husband’s younger brother, once he was old enough.

Now 70 and a widow who is still married— one of her husbands is dead — Ms. Devi is a ghost of another time, one of a shrinking handful of people who still live in families here that follow the ancient practice of polyandry. In the remote villages of this Himalayan valley, polyandry, the practice of multiple men marrying one wife, was for centuries a practical solution to a set of geographic, economic and meteorological problems.

People here survived off small farms hewed from the mountainsides at an altitude of 11,000 feet, and dividing property among several sons would leave each with too little land to feed a family. A harsh mountain winter ends the short planting season abruptly. The margin between starvation and survival is slender.

“We used to work and eat,” Ms. Devi said, her face etched by decades of blistering winters, her fingers thick from summers of tilling the soil. “There was no time for anything else. When three brothers share one lady, they all come back to one house. They share everything.”

Polyandry has been practiced here for centuries, but in a single generation it has all but vanished. That is a remarkably swift development in a country where social change, despite rapid economic growth, leaping technological advances and the relentless march of globalization, happens with aching slowness, if at all.

After centuries of static isolation, so much has changed here in the Lahaul Valley in the past half-century — first roads and cars, then telephones and satellite television dishes, and now cellphones and broadband Internet connections — that a complete social revolution has taken place. Not one of Ms. Devi’s five children lives in a polyandrous family.

“Times have changed,” Ms. Devi said. “Now nobody marries like this.”

Polyandry has never been common in India, but pockets have persisted, especially among the Hindu and Buddhist communities of the Himalayas, where India abuts Tibet.

Malang sits in the Lahaul Valley, one of India’s most remote and isolated corners. For six months heavy snow cuts off the single mountain road that connects the region to the rest of the country. In summer, its steep mountainsides shimmer with wildflowers, and glacial rivers irrigate small valley farm fields and orchards, which yield generous crops of peas, potatoes, apples and plums.

Sukh Dayal Bhagsen, 60, is from the neighboring village of Tholang. As a young man he joined his elder brother’s marriage to a woman named Prem Dasi. It was never discussed, but always assumed, that he would do this when he reached marriageable age, he said.

“If you marry a different woman, then there are more chances of family disputes,” Mr. Bhagsen said. “Family property is divided, and problems arise.”

Three brothers married Ms. Dasi, who bore five children.

The logistics of sharing one wife among several men are daunting. All the children, regardless of who their biological father is, call the eldest brother pitaji, or father, while the younger brothers are all called chacha, or uncle.

“Each child knows who his father is, but you call your eldest uncle father,” said Neelchand Bhagsen, Sukh Dayal Bhagsen’s 40-year-old son.

The wife decides the delicate question of who is the father of a child, and her word in this matter is law.

“A mother knows,” Ms. Devi said, unwilling to discuss the sensitive particularities of this knowledge further.

Read the full story plus photos HERE.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

David Fanshawe (1942-2010)

The Washington Post was one of many outlets that ran an obituary of composer and ethnomusicologist David Fanshawe.

David Fanshawe, 68, dies; ethnomusicologist who composed 'African Sanctus'

By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 13, 2010; B06

David Fanshawe, 68, a British musician and explorer best known for composing "African Sanctus," a controversial interpretation of the Latin Mass set against a backdrop of tribal music he recorded on a three-year journey up the Nile River, died July 5 at a hospital in Swindon, England. He had complications from a stroke.

Beginning in the 1960s, long before the craze for world music took hold in the Western world, Mr. Fanshawe traveled thousands of miles in Africa and the South Pacific -- largely on foot, but also by camel, canoe, barge and sailboat -- to record traditional songs and sounds of the world's indigenous peoples.

He weaved those recordings with live performances by singers and instrumentalists to create original compositions that were performed at venues including Washington's Kennedy Center.

The most famous of his compositions was "African Sanctus," an hour-long choral Mass in 13 movements first performed as "African Revelations" in 1972. The piece pairs the Lord's Prayer with war drums from eastern Sudan and couples a traditional dance from Uganda with Sanctus, a hymn from Christian liturgy.

Mr. Fanshawe estimated that "African Sanctus" was performed more than 1,000 times but acknowledged that the work's interpretation of the Lord's Prayer had a polarizing effect on critics.

"Mr. Fanshawe's idea of fusing the ominous sound of Sudanese war drums with the choir's gentle prayer for peace was a masterful touch," music critic Robert Sherman wrote in the New York Times in 1982. "It was a thrilling experience."

However, music reviewer Richard Carter wrote in The Washington Post that the combination of traditional and classical music "simply does not add up to anything more than a work of banal, dreary, jejune, prosaic vapidity."

The composer's efforts raised ethical questions from those who questioned whether his recordings were an aural sort of imperialism that exploited indigenous musicians.

"It's an extraordinary collection of music and images," said Carol A. Muller, a professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Pennsylvania. But "there is an edge to everything he did," she said. "There is a level of complete arrogance, a kind of colonial mind-set, that you can go to Africa and make these recordings and use them at your own will."

He brushed off such criticism, saying that his recordings help the world remember songs that otherwise would be forgotten.

"I've tried to make recordings in remote places that preserve the music honestly. I've paid the musicians what I can," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 2000. "All I can say is that if I hadn't recorded this music, or taken these photographs, nobody else would have."

David Fanshawe was born in a seaside town in Devon, England, during an air raid on April 9, 1942. "My father was born in India, four generations of my family were born in India, all the stories I heard were from India and I was born in bloody Devon," he once said.

His family's history kindled in him a desire to explore the world -- and he did it through music. After working for several years as an apprentice sound engineer in the British film industry, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music.

He said his inspiration for melding the world's musical traditions came from an epiphany he had while hitchhiking around the Middle East in the late 1960s. As he listened to a Latin Mass in a church in Old Jerusalem, he heard from outside the sound of imams calling the Muslim faithful to prayer.

"I heard that cacophony, and I heard that as harmony -- harmony between East and West, harmony between Christian and Muslim, harmony between Christ and Muhammad," Mr. Fanshawe told a Vermont newspaper in 2008. "I heard in my head the duality of both religions singing to the glory of one God."

In 1969, Mr. Fanshawe set out from Cairo on a journey that traced the shape of a cross: south on the Nile to Lake Victoria, then west to the mountains of Sudan and east to the Red Sea. Armed only with a simple rucksack, a tape recorder and a few British pounds, Mr. Fanshawe endured the sort of exotic travails that later made him the subject of BBC documentaries.

Read the full story HERE.

Fanshawe's website is HERE.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Bass solo by Jeff Andrews

Fantastic solo on a blues by bassist Jeff Andrews, with guitarist Mike Stern and drummer Dave Weckl back in the day. If anyone knows the year of this video please let me know.

If Basketball was like soccer

From Erlesque:

Double Rainbow Internet Meme

The original:

The autotune:

and an interview with the creator of the video here at Fast Company.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Beautiful Steampunk

Most of these examples come from the British steampunk blog Brass Goggles.

Check out this functional Steampunk Wheelchair.

How about this beautiful steampunk guitar?

Here's a massive functional steampunk computer that was offered as a contest prize:

And an insane VTR controller:

And better yet, my favorite, the steampunk laptop by Mr. Datamancer (who gets a shout out from the NYT):

Some of the stuff there is lovingly hilarious, completely useless and 100% style, like this steampunk iPad and steampunk Segway:

Check out these goggles, which i found here at Wired: