Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Here's a story you might have missed. On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister of Barbados made an important confession. Speaking to members of his DLP Party, Freundel Stuart admitted he finds it "awkward to stand up and pledge allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen" at the beginning of every meeting. He didn't stop there. Next month, he will enter a bill in Parliament to renounce the monarch. Hopefully, the transition to a full republic should be finalized before the 50th anniversary of statehood in November of 2016.
You're asking: Is this blog about Rihanna or Barbados? Well, to understand Rihanna is to understand Barbados. See, she is a very typical Barbadan. A whopping 93% of Barbados' population are descendants from African slaves. From 1625 to 1810, Britain imported over a million Africans to this tiny island. This number is twice as many people as the entire USA imported. But Barbados is half the size of Rhode Island. This legacy of the human genocide has not been forgotten on Barbados.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Last week, the staff of the DUNER BLOG were on assignment in Sacramento. To avoid traffic, we took a short-cut on the Capital City Freeway. Built in the 1950's, the road winds through parks and over a river, with rows of trees on each side. This sparked debate about which California Freeway is the most quaint. Here are our favorites.
Cabrillo Freeway. Route #163. San Diego's first freeway opened in 1948 with great fanfare. It provided a link between Downtown and rapidly growing Mission Valley. To do so, it would bisect Balboa Park. Architects worked hard to maintain the idyllic greenery while still allowing a 45 MPH speed limit. They succeeded. The highlight is passing under the 1915 Cabrillo Bridge, which is modeled after its namesake in Toledo, Spain.
Capital City Freeway. Route #160. Sacramento's first freeway opened in 1947. At first, pedestrian lanes and rows of trees graced the sides. However, the walkways were soon replaced by more auto lanes. Cars...not people...could now zoom from the State Capitol, over the American River and into the rapidly expanding suburbs. Fortunately, the trees still remain.
Richard M. Nixon Freeway. Route #90. Aside from a small city park in Pennsylvania, this tiny three mile freeway in Yorba Linda is the only thing named after America's 37th President. Why only three miles? Well, originally, the plan in 1959 was to build an east-west freeway from Marina Del Rey to Orange County. However, only the beginning (Marina Fwy) and end were built. The Eastern Section was renamed after the only Californian-born President.
West Valley Freeway. Route #85. In the 1950's most of Santa Clara County was covered in orange orchards. Hence, construction began in 1957, orange trees framed most of the highway. Today, housing subdivisions butt up against most of it, but a few sections of fragrant fruit trees still remain.
NOTE: When referring to freeways, Southern Californians always employ the article "The" and the name of the freeway, e.g. "The Orange Freeway." Northern Californians just say the number of the freeway. "Take 580 West."
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Springtime is just ten days away! And no one celebrates the Coming of Spring like Central Asia. Since ancient times, the Spring Equinox is the region's biggest party. Called Nowruz (Persian: New Day), it is an official holiday in fourteen countries including Iran, Georgia, Uzbekistan and...the best STAN of them all...KYRGYZSTAN! Confused? Here are five things you need to know about NOWRUZ.
#1. Spring Equinox. Given the scientific nature of their society, it comes as no surprise that Ancient Persians were advanced astronomers. Priests calculated...down to the exact second...when the sun is precisely over the Equator. BAM! This is when the festival officially starts. Today, Central Asians have digital clocks counting down the days, hours and minutes left to the start of Nowruz. It is much like the New Year's Eve countdowns in the US.
Wind and rain have gone. Lord Nowurz has come.
Friends, convey this message. The New Year has come again
This spring be your good luck. The tulip fields be your joy.
#5 Nowruz and Islam. Up until the year 750 AD, Zoroastrianism was a major religion. It commanded as many adherents as Buddhism and Hinduism and dwarfed the tiny Christian and Jewish populations. But it was no match for Islam. Voracious jihads converted all but the most fervent followers, who were forced to locate to remote regions of Yazd in Eastern Iran (where they still live today!) However, powerful Islam was unable to stop Persians from celebrating their favorite holiday. Today, its popularity is as big as ever. Iran will close down for the next two weeks to celebrate the now-secular NOWRUZ.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Last Sunday's episode of THE SIMPSONS sparked a lot of debate at the DUNER BLOG headquarters. See, the plot involved a Nigerian Princess who comes to Springfield to negotiate a deal with the nuclear power plant. We won't spoil the surprise ending, but the TV show raised the obvious question: Does Nigeria really have Royal Houses with Kings and Princess?
You bet! The region known today as NIGERIA has always been a bustling center of human activity. Thousands of years ago, it was the core region in the famed Bantu Migration. During this epoch, people began migrating south and eastward...eventually settling everywhere. With superior iron weaponry and persistence, Bantu-speaking people overran most of the sub-Saharan part of Africa. Today, the Niger-Congo language family boasts 400 million speakers.
Look at it this way: On an international level, King Alaafin of Oyo isn't very powerful, but on a regional level, the "Obo" is the ultimate authority. British, Islamic and Nigerian armies have all come and gone, but the local monarchy remains constant. In the case of the Oyo, King Alaafin can trace his ancestry back five centuries. Across Nigeria, these royal houses have a palaces, complete with throne rooms. They still serve as courts, and oversee marriages, disputes and the policing of the population.
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