Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Dragon Boat Racing History

   On the fifth day of the fifth lunar month every year, Chinese communities worldwide celebrate the Duanwu Jie festival, which commemorates the death of the Chinese patriot/poet Qu Yuan.
   As a rival state conquered his home kingdom, Qu Yuan committed suicide, drowning himself in the Miluo river on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.


   His countrymen paddled swiftly out to the middle of the river to retrieve his body, while others threw packets of rice in the water to distract the fish from eating the poet's body.
   These two acts, it is said, are the origin of the festival's two main preoccupations - the glutinous rice dumplings known as zongzi, and the dragon boat races.


Dragon Boat Racing in Modern Times

   Dragon boat racing, despite its roots in ancient tradition, are as exciting a sport as they come. Two or more boats compete against each other in heats spanning distances of about 1 1/4 mile (2000 meters) or less.
   The boats conform to traditional designs, and are extremely eye-catching. Each boat is mounted with a dragon's head and tail, finely carved to meet the traditional Chinese dragon appearance (in case you didn't know, a Chinese dragon has an ox's head, a deer's antlers, a horse's mane, and a fish's tail).


   Each boat is crewed by up to twenty paddlers, facing the front of the boat (as opposed to Western rowing sports, where the rower faces the rear). A drummer sits in front of the boat, facing the rowers, dictating the rhythm for the row team.  A sweep, or tiller, sits aft, steering the boat.
   Strength and endurance are necessary, but not sufficient, for success. Dragon boat racing, as a sport, demands the closest teamwork possible from teams that want to get through the finish line first.


Dragon Boat Racing in Penang, Malaysia

   In Penang, Malaysia, the dragon boat races are especially famous. The region's first dragon boat race was held here in 1956, on the occasion of the 100th founding anniversary of Georgetown.
   Initially, the races were open only to Malaysian teams. Overseas participation was allowed in 1979, attracting contestants from Hong Kong and Singapore.
   Today, the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival attracts contestants from around the globe, including teams from Europe and the USA. Any group affiliated with the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) may join. 62 countries are represented in the IDBF.


A Safer, Controlled Environment

   The Penang International Dragon Boat Festival takes place at the Teluk Bahang Dam, Penang, from May 23 to 24. In two days, a number of races are staged, including races for men, women, and mixed teams.
   Teams come from all over, with some local teams representing government offices, fraternal associations, and corporations. The local teams bring along the most enthusiastic fans, cheering at the top of their voices for their favorites to win.
   The reservoir at the Teluk Bahang Dam has served as the Dragon Boat Festival's venue since 2002, as it provides a safer, more controlled environment than the seafront venue used from the beginning of the race.
   The view, too, is top-notch, as punters get to see the race against the green hills of the Penang countryside.


    It truly does seem that Hollywood has turned to children in a huge effort to make sure people are scared stiff in movie theaters. But this has been done for years. Some of the oldest and scariest films have introduced the ultimate horror via these creepy little guys and dolls. While it may seem that Hollywood is leaning a little too hard on “child labor,” there are some definite reasons why kids seem to scare grown-ups more than other grown-ups. In fact, I’ve got Five Good Examples to substantiate the declaration that Kids are in fact, scarier than adults in horror films.

   They Have “The Sixth Sense”.

   Because adults are so used to being in complete control of situations, it’s unnerving to think that a child is capable of doing things that adult cannot. Sure, grown-ups may be able to drive, buy alcohol, and see Rated-R films with no problem. But the fact remains that when it comes to more sensitive psychic abilities, we grown-ups just happen to fall short. In 1999, Haley Joel Osment wooed nine-year old girls everywhere with his innocently perfected declarations about the afterlife. In fact, his insight in the blockbuster film, “The Sixth Sense” was in many ways scarier than the dead people he proclaimed to see. Certainly, everyone in the theatre was aghast at viewing a teenage “ghost” walk around poor Cole’s apartment with the back of his head blown off. Truth be told, audiences were more aghast at the fact that Cole was privy to the sight instead of his mother. What’s really scary is having an innocent child look at you and reduce all of your complicated adult feelings to one sentence.

They Play "Hide and Seek"

   Little Emily Callaway (otherwise known as Dakota Fanning) was fit to be tied by her imaginary friend, “Charlie.” 2005’s “Hide and Seek” starring both Fanning and Robert DeNiro (as her doting Daddy) did more than startle audiences with the heavy silences and foreboding set. “Charlie” in fact, remained invisible for about two-thirds of the film. His antics were terrifying. Opening windows and leaving foreboding notes in blood around the house is justifiably cause for alarm. But for some reason, it is Emily herself that causes audiences to freak out. Why? Because her delicate face is framed by a wig of dark hair. And that dark hair goes right along with the blank and disturbed expression that lingered on her face for much of the film. Dakota’s terse vocabulary and violent gazes made Emily’s character more ominous than the monster we couldn’t see. By the time we find out who has been playing Hide and Seek with Emily, it just doesn’t really matter anymore.

   They Won’t Die

   When children who have been drowned violently by their parents won’t seem to die, there is a problem. Such is the case with petite “Samara,” the Villainess Supreme whose image on a videotape suddenly came to life to scare her victims into the afterlife. “The Ring,” which starred Naomi Watts and David Dorfman (as equally creepy, “Aidan”), focused on a few subplots—but none of them more frightening than Samara’s. This child, in her videotaped interviews with Doctor, admits that she enjoys her self-imposed evil, and did not plan on stopping any time soon. This very vivid and concrete declaration is enough to give any adult the “willies.”

   They Are Kin To The Anti-Christ

    While most of these recent child ‘terrors’ were tangential in their brushes with evil, Damien WAS evil incarnate. Born the son of the Devil, he never even had a fighting chance. In watching "The Omen", I was always amazed that few of the adults present felt strange around the child, especially the parents. And why is it that no one thought to examine the tot’s skull earlier in life? Surely, the “666” they’d encounter would be a dead giveaway. Instead, the family had to take the long way in discovering that something was not quite right with their perfect little angel. In 1976, child actor Harvey Stephens II, had his blonde tresses dyed black in order to portray the wicked tyke. This did nothing but magnify his already sinister demeanor. His menacing smile into the cameras at the end of the film was actually quite innocently provoked, according to the director of the film: Little Harvey was told not to laugh (a reverse psychology ploy). As a result of trying to withhold his chuckles, a small devilish (pun intended) smile ensued—succeeding in scaring enough viewers to tune into the sequel two years later.

They Vomit Pea Soup

   Without a doubt, the all time scariest child of the century is “Regan”, the focal point of hit 1973 blockbuster, “The Exorcist.” Voted by Entertainment Weekly as the Scariest Film of All Time, one does not have to wonder why. More likely than not, Linda Blair’s (“Regan”) subsequent acting career came to an abrupt crawl after this role. Rumored to have made some audiences faint during the film’s release, “The Exorcist” succeeded in commanding the attention and respect of every adult viewer. Further giving credence to the horror is the fact that episodes in the film are reported to be based on real events. Knowing that somewhere in America, there really was a child who vomited pea soup at the command of the Devil, is the official stamp of Terror.


   Tinku, an Andean tradition, began as a form of ritualistic combat. It is native to the northern region of Potosí in Bolivia. In the language of Quechua, the word “tinku” means encounter. In the language of Aymara it means “physical attack".  During this ritual, men and women from different communities will meet and begin the festivities by drinking and dancing. The women will then form circles and begin chanting while the men proceed to fight each other; rarely the women will join in the fighting as well. Large tinkus are held in Potosí during the first few weeks of May.

  Because of the rhythmic way the men throw their fists at each other, and because they stand in a crouched stance going in circles around each other, a dance was formed. This dance, the Festive Tinku, simulates the traditional combat, bearing a warlike rhythm.  The differences between the Andean tradition and the dance are the costumes, the role of women, and the fact that the dancers do not actually fight each other. The Festive Tinku has become a cultural dance for all of Bolivia, although it originated in Potosí, like the fight itself

Tinku Combat

   The Andean tradition began with the indigenous belief in Pachamama, or Mother Nature. The combat is in praise of Pachamama, and any blood shed throughout the fighting is considered a sacrifice, in hopes of a fruitful harvest and fertility. Because of the violent nature of the tradition there have been fatalities, but each death is considered a sacrifice which brings forth life, and a donation to the land that fertilizes it. The brawls are also considered a means of release of frustration and anger between the separate communities. Tinkus usually last two to three days.  During this time, participants will stop every now and then to eat, sleep, or drink.

Groups Who Participate
   Tinkus occur "between different communities, moieties, or kin groups". They are prearranged and usually take place in the small towns of southern Bolivia, like Macha and Pocoata. Tinkus are very festive, with a numerous audience of men, women and children, who bring food and beverages. Alcoholic drinks are also brought and sold along with food during the tinku.

Methods of Combat

   During the brawl itself, men will often times carry rocks in their hands to have greater force in their punches, or they will just throw them at opponents. Sometimes, especially in the town of Macha in Potosí, where the brawl gets the most violent, men will wrap strips of cloth with shards of glass stuck to them around their fists to cause greater damage. Slingshots and whips are also used, though not as much as hand-to-hand combat. The last day of the fight is considered the most violent and police almost always have to separate the mass of bloody men and women.


   Men attend tinkus wearing traditional monteras, or thick helmet-like hats made of thick leather, resembling helmets from the Conquistadors. These helmets are often times painted and decorated with feathers.  Their pants are usually simple black or white with traditional embroidering near their feet. Often times the men wear wide thick belts tied around their waist and stomach for more protection.

Festive Tinku Dance

   The Festive Tinku, a much more pleasant experience than a ceremonial tinku, has many differences. It has been accepted as a cultural dance in the whole nation of Bolivia. Tinku music has a loud constant drum beat to give it a native warlike feel, while charangos, guitars, and zampoñas (panpipes) play melodies.  The dancers perform with combat like movements, following the heavy beat of the drum.


   For men, the costumes are more colorful. Their monteras are usually decorated with long colorful feathers. Tinku Suits, or the outfits men wear during Festive Tinku performances, are usually made with bold colors to symbolize power and strength, instead of the neutral colors worn in ceremonial tinkus that help participants blend in. Women wear long embroidered skirts and colorful tops. Their costumes are completed by extravagant hats, painted and decorated with various long and colorful feathers and ribbons. Men and women wear walking sandals so they can move and jump easily.


   The dance is performed in a crouching stance, bending at the waist. Arms are thrown out and there are various kicks, while the performers move in circles following the beat of the drum. Every jump from one foot to the next is followed by a hard stomp and a thrown fist to signify the violence from the ceremonial tinku. Many times the dancers will hold basic and traditional instruments in their hands that they will use as they stomp, just to add more noise for a greater effect.


   Is it called Memorial Day or Decoration Day? Many people, especially those in the south, ask themselves this question every year. Compounding the confusion is the fact that both celebrations are often held on the same weekend in May. Most of us have participated in Memorial Day celebrations. I've had the experience of participating in several Decoration Day celebrations as well.
   According to History.com Memorial Day was first celebrated as Decoration Day. This day first happened officially a few years after the Civil Warn ended on May 30, 1868.

   General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic is widely credited for the original proclamation. This held great importance even though the Grand Army of the Republic was a group of former soldiers and sailors and not a governmental organization.

Richard Nixon officially declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday in 1971. It is held on the last Monday in May as a remembrance of those brave men and women who died in war. Traditionally, a wreath is placed in Arlington Cemetery as a way of memorializing those who died.

  Decoration Day had similar beginnings and is in fact the tradition that gave birth to Memorial Day. Even today it is celebrated by many small churches in the south. It began as a way to honor Civil War dead but soon became a time to put flowers or other decorative items on the graves of all the dead.

 Southern churches are famous for having cemeteries on the same land as the church itself. Sometimes, a driveway will separate the two sections but not always. It is very common for the cemetery to be adjacent to the church.
Decoration Day is usually celebrated on the last Sunday in May. Often, this is combined with a church homecoming celebration possibly all day preaching and dinner on the grounds. This is different from a Memorial Day celebration where only the graves of soldiers are decorated.

   Church members will go to great lengths to be sure that all graves are decorated and cleaned. There may not be any living family members for a particular plot but there will be flowers on the grave.
   It is said that "cleanliness is next to Godliness". This is where the church literally shines. Headstones will be scrubbed and cleaned until they shine like new pennies. All debris is removed from the cemetery. The grass will be cut, weeds pulled and all of the cemetery grounds will be trimmed.

    Only then is the cemetery ready for the flowers to be placed. On Decoration day each grave will be decorated to the one hundred flowers stuck in the dirt on any given grave. You may see pots of live flowers, expensive floral arrangements or hand picked bouquets. The graves may also have photos or other mementos placed upon them.
   The commitment to honoring the dead isn't just made in flowers. On Decoration Day, many southern churches will collect monetary donations as people come to tend their plots. These funds go toward cemetery upkeep and play an important role in the continued maintenance of the cemetery.
   Even though the two special occasions occur on the same weekend and share common beginnings the two days are not the same. As more people celebrate Memorial Day fewer are left to celebrate or even understand Decoration Day.