Adsense Top Bar

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Ded Moroz, and the Defecating Log: Christmas Around the World


One of the fascinating things about travelling and visiting new countries is learning about the colourful and unique festivals that exist out there. Now while I don't travel as much as I used to, I am able to explore the world vicariously, through my job on iTalki, and my online wanderings. It has become clear to me that Christmas is a global event, celebrated on every continent. The way it is celebrated differs starkly, however, depending on the locality. Not every country has a Santa Claus, and Santa doesn't always ride in a sleigh. In Spain the Three Wise Men deliver presents to children, which kind of makes sense, since they gifted gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus in the Bible. In Holland they have a Santa but he lives in Spain and sails to and from the Dutch homeland by boat. Go figure. Russian children send letters to Ded Moroz, a bearded old man who resides in Vologda near the North Pole, and whose name means "Father Frost". He walks with a long magic staff and sometimes rides a troika.

The Christmas Shitter (El Caganer), and El Tio (Australia, 2019)

I believe there is a relationship between Christmas and New Year's Day in that they offer a glimmer of hope in the midst of winter. They both arrive just after the winter solstice, the most desperate time of all, but they promise that the light/sun/Son will return. It might be faint and distant, but the light is there and can be seen, twinkling through the hoary boles. The rebirth has begun... (To read my full account of how Christmas is celebrated around the world, click here.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Remember the One Who Left

I like music which reminds me of places that I have been, or places that I want to go. Listening to Drum&Bass I feel like I am back in London in a council flat, bass-bins throbbing, high hats crackling, the air heaving with hashish. Vietnamese love songs transport me to Mũi Né on a languid evening, waves crashing on a nearby beach, a radio crooning in a fisherman's hut. Vietnamese music always sounds so sad, it must be because they had a tragic history...

I love music's ability to rally our emotions, and take us on a journey. When I got out of my 16 days of detention in Japan, the only one who could really understand what I had been through was Jónsi Birgisson, the frontman of Icelandic quartet Sigur Rós. It didn't matter that I had never met him, it was obvious that he understood. It doesn't matter that his songs are mostly wordless, it is the emotion that counts. In fact, his music speaks of the realm beyond language which we inhabited before incarnation, and separation... (To listen to my curated playlist of music from around the world, click here.)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Entranced by The Entrance

Established at the mouth of Tuggerah Lake, The Entrance is one of those scenic seaside towns you should see on the long road from Sydney to Brisbane. It is called The Entrance, presumably, because it sits astride the outlet of Tuggerah Lake, where the lake enters the ocean (or vice versa).

Life up here revolves around the elements: fishing, surfing, and boating are major pastimes. Every afternoon, hundreds of pelicans descend on the town for a free feed. The pelican is an emblem of the Central Coast, and you can see its likeness everywhere: as the logo of The Entrance Backpacker's Hostel, or a statue in someone's front yard.

There are actually two coastlines to explore, one on the lake, and the other on the ocean. The channel is the place they meet, where they kiss as Venetians might say. Domestic tourists abound, many from Sydney; Lebanese and Koreans are common in the summer months, and you can buy their food in the local Coles. The Red Bus service connects the town with other transport hubs, such as Tuggerah and Lake Haven. It is convenient to just jump on and off, and venture forth in search of new adventures. And there are plenty of adventures to be found, both north and south, east and west... (For more on The Entrance and its affiliated attractions, click here.)

Friday, May 24, 2019

Introducing the Schwa, the Upside Down e

There are 44 basic sounds in the English language, represented by 26 letters of the alphabet. Of these, 23 are vowels, which is quite a lot more than in some other European languages, like Spanish, or Italian.

Because of the mismatch between the number of phonemes in English and the number of letters used to represent them, there are often difficulties in trying to spell English words phonetically. This is actually one of the biggest complaints of non-native speakers when they learn English.

To overcome this problem, phonetic symbols were developed to represent the natural sounds of English in a comprehensive scientific way. The International Phonetic Association has created a system that describes the phonemes which can be used not only in English, but any language in the world (even Klingon, or Sindarin!)... (For more on the schwa and other 43 English phonemes, click here.)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Deconstructing Cannabis

My world expanding, it is comforting how I inherit new windfalls all the time now, assets that I can use in my life right today, not in some speculated future. Long Jetty is in my orbit finally, Morisset is within my reach. Recently I was informed by one of my physicians that I could be eligible for a bit of the old medical marijuana, which is slowly being approved for therapeutic use in Australia. Cannabis supposedly has anxiolytic properties, although I will believe that when I feel it. In my experience, the only substance which reliably reduces anxiety is booze, and the doctors would never prescribe that. In fact, some of my first panic attacks were sparked by the wicked weed.

Call me a sucker for punishment, but it would be great to get back into pot, in spite of the possible anxiety it might provoke. Fortunately, the marijuana that they now dispense here has been stripped of its treacherous tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound which gets you high, and suffused instead with cannabidiol (CBD), a miracle substance being investigated for its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective promises... (For my complete deconstruction of medical marijuana and how it may help with panic disorder, click here.)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...