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April Fool’s Day March 30, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Pop Culture.
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On Tuesday it will be April Fool’s Day, but instead of writing yet again about what John Kennedy Toole called the “confederacy of dunces” who seem to be running our world, I thought I might ask why this commemoration exists; why is it in April; who are the fools in question and why should we remember them?

It started out in a perfectly mundane way, with spring returning to the Northern Hemisphere. This is signalled by the Vernal Equinox, which usually coincides with Easter. In the old pre-Christian calendars this was where the new year traditionally began. Winter was over, the sun was nearer and life could return to normal.

Spring was a big deal in those days. With no electricity, sewerage or lighting, primitive man had to rough it with fire, candles and rudimentary shelter. History tells us that during winter, many people sewed themselves into body suits made from cloth or animal hide, which stayed on their bodies until spring.

Imagine living in a virtual tracksuit that was never washed and only came off when the warm weather returned? Even worse, imagine what it was like to live in a house with other people wearing similar suits, in rooms clogged with the smoke from cooking fires and flame torches.

When spring came and the survivors could shed their reeking second skins, there was good reason for them to act foolishly. The returning light and warmth seemed like a miracle, giving these poor souls licence to cut loose.

The pagan traditions endorsed this especially. In March the Romans kept the Hilaria celebration, which honoured the resurrection of Attis, son of the fertile earth Mother Cybele. Similar practical jokes and funny disguises also existed in Northern Europe where they observed an ancient festival to honour Lud, the Celtic god of humour.

In India the Holi celebration was held during late February or early March. A festival of colour, it saw street celebrants throw tinted powders at each other, until everyone was covered in a spectacular array of shades. “Spring Fever” was a time of reckless foolishness, exuberant jokes and, inevitably, sacrifices. For the ancient cultures, something living had to die to make the affirmation of life complete.

The people who did the killing called it the mysterious cycle of life and death. The doomed animals and people (prisoners of war, disobedient slaves, followers of a different religion) probably had a different perception, but he who holds the sword makes the rules.

So that’s the remote origin of April Fool’s Day; an essentially pagan ceremony marked by a disrespect for those in power, accompanied by an eager fertility ritual. Babies born in the dead of winter were at risk, so the plan was to breed them early and pop them out before the first winter frosts arrived.

The big switch came in 1582, after Christianity had become the dominant religion of Northern Europe. They created a new annual cycle that involved a switch from the old Julian to the new Gregorian calendar. That shifted the beginning of the year from the end of March to the first of January, causing everything to change.

The Christmas rituals were overlaid onto the Roman festival of Saturnalia, while the Easter rituals were incorporated into the resurrection of Attis. But the rogue spirit of April Fool’s Day seemed unquenchable. It was placed on April 1 and became famous as a day of pranks and folly.

The Fool who ruled the day was not stupid or clumsy, he was a skilled practitioner of satire and mockery. He could deride authority figures, ridicule the pompous, tease the wealthy and turn a blind eye to sexual dalliance.

Ironically, none of that ritual should apply in the Southern Hemisphere, where they are sliding away from the light and into a cold, bleak winter. April Fool’s Day doesn’t reflect their history, culture, or even their agricultural cycles. But it persists nonetheless, allowing them to play the fool and feel what so many of their social and political leaders feel every day of the year.

Decoding… > Roland Emmerich’s new film 10 000 BC has the critics hurling derision at it, but some science geeks are using it to show people the mysteries of the Pleistocene Age. Paleoblog is a website in which fans rub shoulders with academic experts as they celebrate and ridicule all aspects of the period. What did a dinosaur eat? When did modern birds arise? What do you call an 80- million-year-old crocodile? Learn more by visiting www.paleoblog.blogspot.com.

Rousing… > In the style of Bill Bryson’s irreverent, but meticulous observations, comes The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs. This New Yorker spent a year trying to follow the Bible’s instructions . It’s not an anti-religious book, just a quirky, observed study of what the modern urban-dweller has to ponder if he literally wants to live by “God’s word”. It’s an interesting read that’s both funny and provocative. Go to www.exclusivebooks.co.za.

Flirting… > Tired of perfumes marketed by pop bimbos? Is anyone still buying Britney’s fragrance? For the European spring season, and to celebrate its 70th anniversary, Lancôme has reissued a perfume that made its debut in 1950. Magie (French for Magic), was overshadowed in the ’60s by a flood of fragrances endorsed by stars. Now they are reviving the classics. Get it at www.fragrantica.com/perfume/Lancome/Magie.

A new website for Vietnam war launched March 30, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Army Life.
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The US National Archives is joining with a Web site to make historical records of tens of thousands of deceased Vietnam War veterans available electronically for the first time.

The interactive site, http://www.footnote.com is a web re-creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. The site allows access to thousands of pages of casualty records and agency photos. People can search by name, hometown, birthdate, tour date, or dozens of other categories.

Such information now is typically found only at National Archives locations, including the headquarters in College Park, Md., and by poring through files organized by topic. That makes searches a hit-or-miss proposition with long odds of finding relevant information, the agency said.

Hundreds of veterans visit the central research room each year “to examine the documents that may enable them to establish their rights, and, just as with the wall, to honor, remember and appreciate,” said Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States. “And historians increasingly turn to these essential records to explain the significance of the Vietnam conflict in American history.” The site will help “provide ever-greater access to our critical holdings on this subject,” he said.

The interactive wall allows people to post photographs they may have of a deceased veteran and to make comments. The service is currently free for Vietnam War information; the company is deciding whether to charge fees for some of the 50,000 National Archives photos now digitized.

The goal is to tell the stories behind the more than 58,000-plus names on the wall’ polished black granite, with information such as specialty, rank, posthumous decorations, regiment, cause of death and whether the body was recovered, the company said.

“We know that there are many untold experiences represented on that wall and we hope that this interactive version of the memorial helps those affected by the war by sharing their stories,” said Russell Wilding, chief executive officer of footnote.com.

Veterans advocacy groups praised the move as a good way to promote public awareness of the contributions of those who served in Vietnam. But some said they would like to see the effort expanded to provide electronic access of records for living Vietnam veterans. Many of them must go through a lengthy process of searching for records at the Archives and elsewhere to establish a disability claim with the government.

“It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing. We certainly have to do much to honor our dead,” said Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at the Vietnam Veterans of America. “But we continue to press for access for living veterans. The whole rest of the world is digitized, so why not military action reports?”

George Michael’s tour in the US March 27, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Music.
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We have received following information from one of our valued readers, and we are happy to repost same as below, with our thanks for keeping us all alerted!

QUOTE: Hi there,

After checking out your blog, I thought your readers may be interested in this. George Michael’s official fan club site, GeorgeMichael.com, is offering ticket pre-sales and four exclusive VIP packages for the “25 LIVE” tour, George’s first North American tour in 17 years.

George Michael fans can get first access to exclusive ticket pre-sales for the 25 LIVE tour by joining the official online fan club on GeorgeMichael.com. In addition, Club members will receive full access to GeorgeMichael.com content, access to members-only contests for chances to win exclusive autographed memorabilia, and the latest official news on George Michael.

Fan Club Pre-Sales: March 31 – April 5
* Mar 31 @ 10AM local – Exclusive pre-sale launches
* Apr 01 @ 12Noon – Exclusive pre-sale ends
* Apr 05 – Fan club ticket sales end on GeorgeMichael.com

The North American leg of the 25 LIVE tour will kick off in San Diego on June 17th and will continue through San Jose, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York and several other major cities. The tour will incorporate 22 shows over the course of seven weeks and Michael will perform material taken from the entire span of his career, including some classic Wham! tracks. Tickets to the 25 LIVE tour will go on sale to the general public the weekend of April 6th.

Fans also have access to VIP packages available on GeorgeMichael.com. The four VIP packages include:

Deluxe Travel Package > Includes hotel accommodations for two nights, transportation to and from the concert, a premium ticket located in rows 2 & 3 on the center floor, access to the welcome reception and pre/post-show party, exclusive merchandise gift item, and an official George Michael USB media wristband.

Escapade Package > Includes premium ticket located within rows 4-7 on the center floor or rows 2-5 on the side floor, access to the pre-show onsite dinner reception, access to VIP entrances (where available), exclusive merchandise gift item, and an official George Michael USB media wristband.

Gold Hot Seat Package > Includes premium ticket within rows 8-12 on the center floor or rows 6-12 on the side floor, exclusive merchandise gift item, and an official George Michael USB media wristband.

Silver Hot Seat Package > Includes premium PL2 ticket, exclusive merchandise gift item, and an official George Michael USB media wristband.

GeorgeMichael.com also includes all the latest tour information, so keep checking back for announcements and other tour news.
Let me know of any questions.
Best, Shaquanna :UNQUOTE.

George Michael plans first US tour in 17 years March 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Music.
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George Michael has a lot of Faith in his North American fans.

The British pop singer of Greek-Cypriot origins, on Monday unveiled plans for his first tour of the United States and Canada in 17 years, beginning June 17 at San Diego Sports Arena. The 22-date arena trek runs through August 3 at the BankAtlantic Centre in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Tickets for the 25 Live tour go on sale to the general public on April 6th, a week after fan club members get first dibs. Ticketmaster currently lists one show, the July 7 gig at Saint Paul, MN., where the top price is $175.

While his international appeal remains strong, Michael’s profile in the United States has waned over the past decade, although his last album, 2004’s Patience, managed to peak at No.12 thanks to an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Michael, 44, rose to fame in the early 1980s as one-half of the singing duo Wham! and enhanced his popularity with his solo debut, 1987’s Faith, which has been certified for U.S. shipments in excess of 10 million copies. It included the hit singles Father Figure, I Want Your Sex Parts 1 & 2 and the title track.

Subsequent efforts did not sell nearly as well, and Michael’s career ground to a halt in the early 1990s when he unsuccessfully sued Sony to get out of his contract. In 1998, he was arrested for lewd conduct in Beverly Hills, and subsequently disclosed his homosexuality.

The European leg of his 25 Live tour took him to 12 countries, including Greece where he appeared for the first time during his carreer at the Athens Olympic Stadium, where he performed 80 shows for about 1,3 million fans, according to a statement.

The North American tour will promote a double-disc hits set, the second of his career. Twenty-Five is scheduled for US release on April 1, a decade after Michael issued the retrospective Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael.

Nearly half of Japanese bathe with cellphones March 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle, Mobile Telecoms.
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Hi-tech mobile phones and leisurely baths are well-known passions of the Japanese, and apparently they’re not mutually exclusive. A survey released Monday showed that 41.2 percent of people in the country have at least once taken their mobile phones to the bathtub to make calls, type e-mails, listen to music or play games.

The practice extends across all sexes and ages, although teenagers were the most likely to have bathed with their phones, according to the poll of 16,250 people carried out by video-game maker Sega.

The most common reason for taking the phone to the tub was to type e-mails, followed closely by listening to music. The survey will come as no surprise to Japanese mobile phone makers, some of which advertise that their handsets are safe for the bath.

Japan has one of the world’s most advanced mobile networks, with nearly 85 percent of users carrying third-generation phones that allow Internet access and other interactive features. Soaking in the bathtub is a nightly custom for many in Japan, where trips to hot-spring resorts are a popular pastime.