Merry Christmas to one and all!

'Many ways in which New Yorkers say "Merry Christmas" or its equivalent' (New York Tribune, December 22nd 1907)

However you celebrate and wherever you’re from (and wherever you’re at for the festive season), I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

For lots more seasonal reading, click the links here!

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Beware the Yule Cat!

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I am really very fond of kitties, big and small. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll tell you I’m a mad cat lady in training. But I think I would run away screaming if I ever met the Yule Cat…

The Yule Cat is not your average domesticated feline; the sort who purrs like a lawnmower, and is only really guilty of attempting to pinch your dinner and leaving the odd half-dead rodent in your shoe.

The Yule Cat is, in fact, from Iceland, and it seems certain moggies in this part of the world are a little bit… um… different. The National Museum of Iceland explains further:

It was customary in the old rural society that employers gave the employees in their home a new garment and sheepskin shoes for Christmas. This was done to reward the people for good work as the tasks that had to be accomplished before Christmas were numerous and therefore the weeks leading up to Christmas were characterized by a rigorous workload.

The saying went that those who did not receive a new garment for Christmas would be ‘devoured by the Christmas Cat’ which was a fate to be avoided at all costs – whether this meant that the Christmas Cat would eat them or eat their food. Thus everyone worked zealously at finishing all the woolwork and knitting of garments for the members of the household before the arrival of Christmas.

You have been warned.

Meow…

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If you’re in the mood for lots more festive reading, click here!

The Berlin Wall in London

'Change your life'

I bet you didn’t know that there’s a piece* of the Berlin Wall in London.

You can see it in the photograph above, taken yesterday in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, where it has been since 1991. This small section of the Wall was originally from the area around the famous Brandenburg Gate and, according to the plaque at the foot of it, the striking artwork is by the graffiti artist Indiano.

It’s strange seeing this piece of the Wall here in London – and as history, too. Like so many, I grew up seeing it on the TV news as an ever-present Cold War reality, symbolic of a divided city and a divided nation. Twenty-five years after those vivid, emotional images of Berliners from both sides of the border finally meeting on that dark November night as the Wall began to fall, it still stands as a powerful reminder of those times and of those who lost their lives attempting to cross it.

* In fact, there are actually several pieces in London – the National Army Museum in Chelsea holds a number of segments in its collection and there is also a section situated at the German School in Richmond. Other pieces of the Wall can be found at sites in the UK and around the world.

Mile High Lost Property

I’ve written before about the weird things that people leave behind in places like the Tube network and in hotels (as well as the bizarre items people pinch from said hotels!), so naturally I couldn’t resist when I came across this list of strange things found on planes by cabin crew from around the world. I wonder if any of these items were ever reclaimed by their owners?

Live parrot

Live falcon

Live tortoise

Glass eye

Prosthetic leg

A bag of sand

A clog

Box of dried fish

One shoe

Wedding dress

Bag of diamonds

Wig

Bag of onions

Toupee

Handcuffs

Double bass

One egg (without packaging)

Frog

Underwear

Written marriage proposal

I’m aware how exhausting air travel can be, and I’m pretty sure that some of these items of lost property are probably explained by excitable passengers attempting to join the Mile High Club, but one wonders just how forgetful you would have to be to to leave something like a double bass on a plane? Or a bag of diamonds. Or your wedding dress. Or even a live falcon – although I guess I should be grateful I’m not having to discuss snakes on a plane…

RIP Nelson Mandela

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

A remarkable, inspirational life well lived.

Rest In Peace.

2012: The End of the World?

There are some who said that the world would end today. Why some folk believed this is pretty definitely defined (see below), although nobody seems to be able to agree on just how these end-times were supposed to pan out. Suggestions range from a planetary collision or a run-in with a black hole to some sort of reversal of the earth’s polar axis – or even a zombie apocalypse (I’ll be in the pub if that ever happens…).

These eschatological theories had been circulating online for quite a while, and I was curious as to exactly what they were all about and where they had come from. Predictions giving a precise date for the end of the world are not uncommon even now (anyone remember Harold Camping‘s insistence that the apocalypse was due in 2011?) – and, in fact, there is a long list of such predictions going back almost a millennium.

So what is it that made the 2012 phenomenon different and so widespread? The existence of the internet has certainly helped disseminate these theories far and wide, but as with so many other things what has been said online is not always strictly accurate, and these end-times theories are no different in that respect.

What can be said for certain is that, ultimately, it all comes down to the intriguingly-named Mesoamerican long-count calendar (see here for an explanation of how this type of calendar works), which was widely used in Central America prior to the violent arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century.

Continue reading “2012: The End of the World?”

Quote of the Day: Malala Yousafzai on education

I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.

These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, the 14 year old Pakistani schoolgirl who was, horrifically, shot in the head on her way to school last week. Why? Simply because this brave young woman is an outspoken advocate of education for girls – in a part of Pakistan where the Taliban have closed all girls’ schools and forbidden their education.

As I read Malala’s remarkable blog posts (originally published by the BBC – at the age of 11 – under a pseudonym for her own safety), it really brings it home to me how lucky I am, and how much I, as a woman, still take for granted about acquiring knowledge and educating myself. I may not have enjoyed school for a variety of reasons, but at least I had the opportunity of a formal education – and the freedom of choice to decide what to do with it afterwards. Yet there are so many the world over who still do not have these chances.

I have every admiration for Malala; admiration for her strength and her commitment to what she believes in, despite the obvious danger she has faced as a result. This young woman should be just beginning to really live her life, should be enjoying her education and her teenage years – she should not be lying in a hospital bed, fighting for her life because of the actions of a group of people who can’t see beyond their own twisted beliefs.

I wish you well, Malala – you are a strong, brave soul and I hope you pull through to get the education you so passionately desire.

So where are you from?

Here’s a bit of fun.

WordPress have recently introduced country stats, which means I can finally be nosy and find out where all my visitors are from. The stats go back approximately a month, and, in my case, contain some rather interesting information…

Unsurprisingly for a British-based blog, the vast majority of my readers during that period hail from the United Kingdom, with the United States and Canada lagging a long way behind in second and third.

I also seem to get a lot of European visitors – in fact, during the period covered by the stats, readers from twenty one of the twenty seven European Union member states popped by (I’m only missing hits from Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia, so if you know anyone in any of those countries, send them a link to Another Kind Of Mind NOW!).

But I also get hits from some slightly more exotic, far-flung and, frankly, often unexpected places, including Argentina, Mexico, the Netherland Antilles (where’s that?), Bermuda, Mongolia (wow), Paraguay, Vietnam, Morocco, Japan, Tunisia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

I’d had no idea that Another Kind Of Mind had such an international reach – thank you to all of you, wherever you are, for your visits!

International Women’s Day 2012: Why not celebrate every day instead?

Today is International Women’s Day, which celebrates the lives and achievements of women around the world. So today – and every day – I am celebrating all the amazing, inspiring and wonderful women in my life. Women I know and love. Women who have an impact on my life every day of every week of every year.

I am celebrating my strong and determined mother.

I am celebrating my talented, witty and intelligent sister.

I am celebrating my younger female friends, who approach living with an awe-inspiring passion, joy and strength.

I am celebrating my older female friends, some of whom may be retired but who most certainly are not retiring in their zest for life.

I am celebrating all the female artists, writers, poets, film-makers, musicians and DJs I know – all of whom fill my life with art and music and inspiration.

Continue reading “International Women’s Day 2012: Why not celebrate every day instead?”