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Rocking the House, the Kasbah and the Yurt

The globalization of everything and anything has pushed heavy metal to the four corners of the earth, and a surprising number of countries are home to burgeoning metal scenes (Namibian speed metal! Israeli stoner rock!) In some parts of the world, playing in "“ or even listening to "“ a metal band is seen as an attempt to tear down the foundations of society. Here are a few instances where loud guitars, black t-shirts and libërally äpplied ümlaüts have caused tension between governments and their headbanging citizens.

Morocco

In March 2003, a Casablanca club promoted a triple billing of Moroccan heavy metal bands. Metal fans arrived expecting to see Nekros, Infected Brain and Reborn tear through their sets. Instead, the nine musicians (and five fans) were arrested for "acts capable of undermining the faith of a Muslim" and "possessing objects which infringe morals." Local media accused them of being "Satanists" involved in an international devil-worshipping cult. The judge, who claimed that "normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie," sentenced all 14 men to jail sentences, lasting from one month to a year.

The sentences prompted immediate protests. A benefit concert was organized and 500 people, many wearing black t-shirts with band logos that the judge found detestable, held a demonstration outside the parliament building in Rabat. The case went to appeal and 11 of the 14 men were acquitted. The remaining three had their sentences cut.

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More than 2,000 years ago, China built the Great Wall to repel invaders from the north. But it didn't do much good in 2004, when the Mongols attempted a modern-day invasion, bearing not swords, but a hit album. Hurd was touring in support of "I Was Born in Mongolia," their latest collection of Mongolian-pride songs, and planned a concert in Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The Wall didn't stop Hurd's tour bus, so riot police descended on the college campus where the group was supposed to play, dispersed 2,000+ fans and detained several of them for questioning. The Chinese authorities spent the next few days shutting down Mongolian-language Internet chat forums to keep a tight lid on the whole ordeal.

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The Chinese-Soviet split in the 1960s separated Mongolia, a Soviet satellite nation, from Inner Mongolia, a region of China. Inner Mongolia is home to four million ethnic Mongolians (double the number in Mongolia), but they're outnumbered by the 18 million Han Chinese that have migrated there and are separated by both physical and abstract borders from their countrymen in Mongolia. Ethnic minorities always make the Chinese nervous, and Hurd, whose nationalism makes them something like the Mongolian version of Bruce Springsteen, are seen as downright dangerous. Their concerts are raided, music shops that sell their albums are shut down and their CDs and tapes are confiscated from fans. Many Mongolians fear a clampdown on their cultural expression, but Hurd soldiers on, and even played a concerts in the US and Europe last year.

Malaysia

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A little over two years ago, the highest Islamic authority in Malaysia up and decided that there should be a ban on black metal"¦sort of. While they decided that the metal subgenre "“ associated with the church-burning hi-jinks of a handful of Norwegian bands "“ was "way against the law" and could "cause listeners to rebel against the country's prevailing religion," the ban is a little confusing to this day. Simply listening to black metal music is not against the law, and the penalties for being in a black metal band or going to a black metal concert weren't clarified. The Malaysian Islamic Development Department, as far as I know, is still working with state religious departments to amend the shariah laws to give power to the government to "act against" those "engaging in black metal culture."

While the specifics are still sort of vague, enforcement started soon after the ban and the government ordered state-run radio and television to play less heavy metal music, and began requiring foreign groups to submit videotapes of performances for approval before playing concerts in Malaysia.

Iraq

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Some people just have bad luck. Take Firas, Faisal, Tony and Marwan, for example. The four Iraqis, joined by a deep love for Metallica and Iron Maiden, formed Acrassicauda in 2001. A mere two years and three shows into their musical career, war came to Baghdad. American forces and Iraqi religious groups, Muslims and Christians, all considered the band bad news. In the US, being in a metal band means complaints about noise, in Morocco, it means arrest, but in war torn Baghdad, it meant death threats and being shot at.

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The band, the only heavy metal group in Iraq, held on for as long as they could and played three more shows in Baghdad as the war went on. Firas and Faisal, though, soon joined other war refugees and fled for Syria. In 2004, filmmakers from VBS.TV discovered the band and began filming their documentary, Heavy Metal in Baghdad, which had its U.S. premier yesterday at SXSW. VBS set up a Paypal account on the film's website, so people could make donations to help get the band to a safe place and continue working on their music. Last year, they raised enough money to escape to Turkey, where they continue to live.

Egypt

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In what is probably the most bizarre government crackdown on heavy metal, the Egyptian government, in 1997, executed a series of late night raids and sent the state security police into private homes to arrest 70 people, from 16 to 25 years old, and confiscate posters, CDs, tapes and black t-shirts. The arrestees were fingerprinted, photographed, strip-searched and interrogated with questions like "Do you skin cats?" and "Do you spit on graves?" and "Do you hold pagan sacrifices?"

Two weeks after the arrests, state prosecutors gave up the case for lack of evidence. But months later, the Cairo Times reported that education ministry officials were still sifting through libraries and video collections in private schools for traces of anything that might promote devil worship.

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Let's end this on a happy note, shall we? For all the trouble it can get you in, heavy metal is still basically about rocking a killer riff and having a good time, and for all the problems of modern life in Israel, the country is home to one of the Middle East's best loved metal bands. Orphaned Land is the originator of what's become known as "Oriental metal," a blend of Asian and Arabic music and metal.
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The band is so beloved in the Middle East that it's possible to find a few Saudi metal heads with Orphaned Land tattoos. Think about that for second. Tattoos are forbidden in Islam, and this Islamic law is strictly enforced in Saudi Arabia. Yet there are Arab men walking around with an Israeli band's logo tattooed on their bodies. It's like Dee Snider said: "You can't stop rock and roll."

Matt Soniak is an intern for mental_floss. You can read his own blog here. And when he's not writing, he dresses like this:
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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
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Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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