Archive for October 9th, 2010

October 9, 2010

Sheela na Gig

sheela na gig

Sheela na Gigs are carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva found on churches, castles and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Britain. Such carvings are said to ward off death and evil.

Other grotesques such as gargoyles and Hunky Punks are frequently found on churches all over Europe and it is commonly said that they are there to keep evil spirits away. They are often positioned over doors or windows, presumably to protect these openings.

October 9, 2010

Celebratory Gunfire

Yosemite Sam

Celebratory gunfire is the shooting of a firearm into the air in celebration. It is culturally accepted in the Balkans, the Middle East, the South Asian regions of Northern India as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan and Latin American regions such as Puerto Rico as well as some areas of the United States. The practice may result in random death and injury from stray bullets. Property damage is sometimes another result of celebratory gunfire; shattered windows and damaged roofs are often found after such celebrations. People are injured, sometimes fatally, when bullets discharged into the air fall back down. In Puerto Rico about two people die and about 25 more are injured each year from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve.

The mortality rate among those struck by falling bullets is about 32%, compared with about 2% to 6% normally associated with gunshot wounds. The higher mortality is related to the higher incidence of head wounds from falling bullets.  Between the years 1985 and 1992, doctors at the King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, treated some 118 people for random falling-bullet injuries. Thirty-eight of them died. Kuwaitis celebrating in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War by firing weapons into the air caused 20 deaths from falling bullets.

October 9, 2010

Roman Dodecahedron

A Roman dodecahedron [doh-dek-uh-hee-druhn] is a small hollow object made of bronze or stone, with twelve flat pentagonal faces, each having a circular hole in the middle which connects to the hollowed-out center. Roman dodecahedra date from the 2nd or 3rd centuries CE. About a hundred have been found from England to Hungary and to the east of Italy, with most found in Germany and France. Ranging from 4cm to 11cm in size, they also vary in terms of textures.

The function or use of the dodecahedra remains a mystery; no mention of them has been found in contemporary accounts or pictures of the time. Speculated uses include candlesticks (wax was found inside one example); dice; survey instruments; a tool for calibrating water pipes; and parts of a military standard. It has also been suggested that they may have been religious artifacts of some kind.

October 9, 2010

An Gorta Mór

In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It is also known, mostly outside of Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine. In the Irish language it is called ‘An Gorta Mór‘ (The Great Hunger) or ‘An Drochshaol’ (The Bad Times). During the Famine, Ireland’s population fell by between 20 and 25 percent. Approximately one million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland. The proximate cause of famine was a plant disease commonly known as potato blight. The blight ravanged much of Europe but hit Ireland particularly hard due to a number of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.

For example, views of the Irish as racially inferior, and for this reason significantly responsible for their circumstances, gained purchase in Great Britain during and immediately after the famine. Discussion of the British government’s response to the failure of the potato crop in Ireland and the subsequent large-scale starvation, and whether or not this constituted genocide, remains a politically-charged issue in Ireland.

October 9, 2010

Abelardo

abelardo

Abelardo is a green, full-bodied Muppet parrot who appears on Plaza Sésamo, the Mexican co-production of Sesame Street. He joined the cast in 1981 and soon became the show’s most recognizable figure. Abelardo also guest starred on the American Sesame Street on May 5, 1997 as part of the Cinco de Mayo celebration. On the Mexican show, he occasionally keeps contact with his cousin Big Bird via letters and video-chatting.

His character was originally a a tall orange-and-yellow scaled dragon which had a soft, gentle voice and a very particular way of talking, making pauses after every sentence. His favorite treat were pumpkin seeds or ‘semillas de calabaza’ which in Mexico are a very popular snack, also known as ‘Pepitas.’ In later seasons Abelardo the Dragon was replaced by Serapio Montoya, a large parrot-like character with a strong resemblance to Big Bird, of whom he is a cousin. However, children and others continued to refer to Serapio as ‘Abelardo’ and therefore his name was later changed to Abelardo Montoya. The reason the dragon character was dismissed when the series was re-launched in 1982, remains unexplained.

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