Friday, 18 December 2009

Vanuatu is the happiest place on earth, research suggests

You've probably seen this already. It's old news. I didn't. Nice BBC report.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

High 5 a game for cyclists

Submitted by Lottie on Sat, 2008-10-18 12:03.
a game for cyclists: ride around as usual and when you pass a pedestrian with their arm outstretched trying to get the attention of a cab, just reach up and hi 5 them, it helps a lot if you make eye contact and smile first.  From: Street Training
Hi 5 a Game for Cyclists

Young people train 'authority figures' in how to have more fun

"Young people from the Sceaux Gardens Estate Camberwell will be training local councilors, a baptist minister, a police officer, researchers and planners in how to have more fun in streets and in public spaces.
The techniques to be taught include
the swinging gate of fear
shouting out silly words
wind tunnel hair flying
railing squeeze
street magaphone
gravel moonwalk
'yes lets all" game
the session will conclude with a discussion about creative/antisocial uses of public space
o and BTW all techniques have been thoroughly risk assessed :)"

Street Training

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.
Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, 3 December 2009

the world wide may pole

I thought the maypole was just an English thing. Wrong!

Alabama, 1910

Sri Lanka

picture from turningwheel

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Till there was only beer...

Having been banished from the churches between 400AD and the middle ages, 'rituals' became 'festivities' and went to the streets. From the 17th century onwards, then, festivities were banished from the streets.

"In the long-term history from the 17th to the 20th century ... there were literally thousands of acts of legislation introduced which attempted to eliminate carnival and popular festivity from European life." (9)

"A Buckinghamshire resident described the emptying of the commons after the suppression of Sunday recreations as a depressing loss. While formerly the common 'presented a lively and pleasing aspect, dotted with parties of cheerful lookers-on,' it was now 'left lonely and empty of loungers,' leaving the men and boys with nothing to do but hang out in the pubs and drink.(11)"

Quoted in Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich, p99-100

picture source

Good old fashioned fun

"People once danced, drank, feasted, and performed dramas and burlesques within their churches; now [in the middle ages] they did so outside those churches in the festivities that still clung to, and surrounded, each holy day...

"[This] created a world of regularly scheduled festivity that is almost beyond our imagining today. The Church calendar featured dozens of holy days - including Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi, as well as the more familiar Easter and Christmas - on which all work was forbidden, and on most of which various celebration was tolerated. In fifteenth century France, for example, one out of every four days of the year was an official holiday of some sort, usually dedicated to a mix of religious ceremonies and more or less unsanctioned carryings-on. ... Despite the reputation of what are commonly called "the Middle Ages" as a time of misery and fear, the period from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century can be seen - at least in comparison to the puritanical times that followed - as one long outdoor party, punctuated by bouts of hard labour.

"... Great passion and energy went into the planning of festivities, with special organizations, like the French confraternities of young men, dedicated entirely to preparations year-round." Dancing in the Streets, p91-4

pic from turningwheel


"Lillian Lawler, writing in the 1960s, leaves no doubt that ecstatic dancing was indigenous to the mainstream Greek tradition... Within the ancient Western world, many deities served as the objects of ecstatic worship... But there was one Greek god for whom ecstatic worship was not simply an option; it was a requirement. To ignore his call was to risk a fate worse than death or even physical torture; those who resisted him would be driven mad and forced to destroy their own children. This god, source of both ecstasy and terror, was Dionysus or, as he was known to the Romans, Bacchus.

"His mundane jurisdiction covered vinyards and wine, but his more spiritual responsibility was to preside over the orgeia (literally, rites performed in the forest at night, from which we derive the word orgy), where his devotees danced themselves into a state of trance.

"The fact that the Greeks felt the need for such a deity tells us something about the importance of ecstatic experience in their world; just as their pantheon included gods for love, for war, for agriculture, metalworking, and hunting, they needed a god to give the experience of ecstasy a human form and face."

- Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich p 32-33

The Maenads

"The most notorious feminine form of Dionysian worship, the oreibaia, or winter dance, looks to modern eyes like a crude pantomime of feminist revolt. In mythical accounts, women "called by the god to participate drop their spinning and abandon their children to run outdoors and into the mountains, where they dress in fawn skins and engage in a 'frenzied dance.' These maenads, as Dionysus's female cult members were called, run through the woods calling out the name of the god, or uttering the characteristic bacchic cry 'euoi' they toss their hair and brandish their thyrsos - sticks to which pinecones have been attached. Finally, they achieve a state of mind the Greeks called enthousiasmos - literally, having the god within oneself - or what many cultures in our own time would call a "possession trance." These were not solely mythical events; in some times and places, the oreibasia was officially condoned and scheduled for every other year, in the dead of winter. Pausanias, who wrote in the second century CE, tells of a party of maenads who reached the eight-thousand foot summit of Mt Parnassus - an impressive athletic achievement, especially if performed in the winter - and Plutarch wrote of an occasion when a group of female worshippers were cut off by a snowstorm and had to be rescued."

- Dancing the streets, p34-5

picture source

Dance Mania

"The most flamboyant form of what might be called 'ecstatic dissent'," writes Barbara, "was the dance manias that rocked parts of northern Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and Italy a century later. The first outbreak sounds like another cautionary tale about the perils of dancing: in Utrecht in the summer of 1278, two hundred people started dancing on the bridge over the Mosel and would not stop until it collapsed, at which point all the dancers drowned. A hundred years later, in the wake of the Black Death, a much larger outbreak of dance mania again struck Germany and spilled out into Belgium: "Peasants left their plows, mechanics their workshops, house-wives their domestic duties, to join the wild revels." Arriving in Aix-la-Chapelle (now the German town of Aachen), "they formed circles hand in hand, and appearing to have lost all control over their senses, continued dancing, regardless of the by-standers, for hours together in wild delirium, until they fell to the ground in a state of exhaustion."(13) . We have, unfortunately, no testimonies from the dancers themselves, but contemporary observers saw them in a condition ethnographers would now describe as a possession trance.

"While dancing they neither saw nor heard, being insensible to external impressions [with the exception, one might guess, of the music they danced to] .... but were haunted by visions, their fancies conjuring up spirits whose names they shrieked out... Others, during the paroxysm, saw the heavens open and the Saviour enthroned with the Virgin Mary."(14)

"Hence the Church authorities' worry that the "manias" represented a new form or heresy: Nothing is more threatening to a hierarchical religion than the possibility of ordinary laypeople finding their own way into the presence of the gods."

picture source

See also Wikipedia. I particularly like the descriptions of Strasbourg's Dancing Plague of 1518, where local authorities hired musicians to play alongside the dancers and keep them dancing until the dance was danced out of them. The less fun parts are the reports of dancers dancing themselves to exhaustion and death.

In a similar vein, there are some reports of epidemics of laughter.