The festivity of imbuing discarded DNA

A friend of mine is studying in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and she recently participated in Loi Kratong, an all-out lantern lighting festival that falls on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (usually November) in which one places some money, a strand of one's hair and a fingernail clipping on a handmade raft (i.e. kratong) to expiate bad luck and incur some good. The kratong is then set afloat in the river with thousands of others, while paper lanterns and fireworks take over the sky.

That got me thinking about rituals, ceremonies, and superstitions involving the application or appropriation of one's DNA...For instance:

  • Superstitions in many Eastern cultures warn against clipping one's nails at night
  • Many spells (of a contested variety) are purportedly enhanced by affixing the hair or fingernail clippings of the spell's subject into the candle; voodoo dolls are similarly manufactured.
  • On the Cook Islands, firstborn sons undergo a "hair cutting ceremony" in which up to 400 friends and relatives attend, each receiving a strand of the boy's hair; the ceremony is a demonstration that the son is not afraid of giving his mana/power over to others, as perpetually long-haired ancestors believed
  • During a Danpatsu Ceremony, a retiring rikishi (i.e. sumo wrestler) will have strands of his chonmage cut by paying fans (chonmages were originally worn for pure function: to keep the samurai helmet in place; finally, a Sumo elder called an okakata will snip the remaining topknot.

And of course there are those who'll analyze your fingernails or hair (or, my favorite, your irises!) for nutritional deficiencies

Afternoon Map
8 City Maps Rendered in the Styles of Famous Artists

Vincent van Gogh once famously said, "I dream my painting and I paint my dream." If at some point in his career he had dreamed up a map of Amsterdam, where he lived and derived much of his inspiration from, it may have looked something like the one below.

In a blog post from March, Credit Card Compare selected eight cities around the world and illustrated what their maps might look like if they had been created by the famous artists who have roots there.

The Andy Warhol-inspired map of New York City, for instance, is awash with primary colors, and the icons representing notable landmarks are rendered in his famous Pop Art style. Although Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, he spent much of his career working in the Big Apple at his studio, dubbed "The Factory."

Another iconic and irreverent artist, Banksy, is the inspiration behind London's map. Considering that the public doesn't know Banksy's true identity, he remains something of an enigma. His street art, however, is recognizable around the world and commands exorbitant prices at auction. In an ode to urban art, clouds of spray paint and icons that are a bit rough around the edges adorn this map of England's capital.

For more art-inspired city maps, scroll through the photos below.

[h/t Credit Card Compare]

China Launches Crowdfunding Campaign to Restore the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China has been standing proudly for thousands of years—but now, it needs your help. CNN reports that the wall has fallen into disrepair and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise money for restorations.

Stretching 13,000 miles across northern China, the Great Wall was built in stages starting from the third century BCE and reaching completion in the 16th century. To some degree, though, it’s always been under construction. For centuries, individuals and organizations have periodically repaired and rebuilt damaged sections. However, the crowdfunding campaign marks the first time the internet has gotten involved in the preservation of the ancient icon. The China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation is trying to raise $1.6 million (11 million yuan) to restore the wall, and has so far raised $45,000 (or 300,000 yuan).

Fundraising coordinator Dong Yaohui tells the BBC that, although the Chinese government provides some funds for wall repairs, it’s not enough to fix all of the damage: "By pooling the contribution of every single individual, however small it is, we will be able to form a great wall to protect the Great Wall," he said.

[h/t CNN]

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