Rooms With A View


Banksy.jpgBETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian guest house packed with artwork by the elusive British graffiti artist Banksy unveiled itself Friday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, with a sneak peek of what the owner called the “hotel with the worst view in the world.”

Banksy has made previous forays into the Palestinian territories. In one secret visit, he drew a painting of a girl pulled upward by balloons on the barrier facing his current project. Last year, he is believed to have sneaked into Gaza to draw four street murals, including one on a metal door that depicted the Greek goddess Niobe cowering against the rubble of a destroyed house. The painting, titled “Bomb Damage,” was drawn on the last remaining part of a two-story house that was destroyed in the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

banksy1Wisam Salsaa, 42, said the nine-room Walled Off Hotel will officially open on Mar. 11, but he offered a handful of reporters a tour. The hotel looks directly out at the West Bank separation barrier erected by Israel to ward off potential Palestinian attackers. The barrier, which Palestinians consider to be a land grab that stifles their movement, is heavily decorated by artists, and Banksy has previously painted several murals on a walled segment of it.banksy2The hotel  has the markings of a gentleman’s club from the English colonial period. One small niche accommodates a life-size figure of Arthur James Balfour signing the 1917 letter that came to be known as the Balfour declaration — the basis for the international push for the creation of Israel. banksyThe cheapest room, $30 a night, is a dormitory-style room with bunkbeds.

The whole project took 14 months to complete and was kept under complete secrecy, in accordance with Banksy’s request to protect his anonymity. 

 An Israeli security watch tower is seen from one of the roomsSalsaa said the entire interior was personally overseen by Banksy, to the very last details. The hotel is the largest new body of the artist’s work in years, according to a press release distributed by representatives who attended Friday’s tour.The hotel, several of whose rooms look onto an Israeli security watchtower, is awash in the trademark satirical work of the mysterious artist. The highlight is Room 3, where guests sleep in a king-size bed underneath Banksy’s artwork showing a Palestinian and an Israeli in a pillow fight.

The artist’s satirical stencils — rats, kissing policemen, riot police with yellow smiley faces — first appeared on walls in Bristol before spreading to London and then around the world. His artwork comments on war, child poverty and the environment. His identity remains a mystery, but his works have fetched as much as $1.8 million at auctions. (From the article by NEBI QENA, AP News).

Articles on Banksy’s newest endeavor appeared in The Telegraph (The Walled Off Hotel: Banksy opens dystopian tourist attraction in Bethlehem) and many other publications and internet sources.


Mammoth Hunters

1-Бивень мамонта торчит из земли Photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva‘ s project Mammoth Hunters is a set of fascinating images of the indigenous peoples of Siberia searching for, finding and excavating tonnes of mammoth tusks. I read a Russian article featuring these photographs and was about to retell the story for this post, but found an article in English that pretty much word for word repears the content — Extraction of Mammoth tusks in Siberia.

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Dead In The Sea Of Trees

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Live and learn… how people die, where and why…

Aokigaharathe forest at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan. This is no place for a leisurely stroll. The forest’s trees organically twist and turn, their roots winding across the forest floor in treacherous threads. Because of its location at the base of a mountain, the ground is uneven, rocky, and perforated with hundreds of caves. But more jarring than its tricky terrain is the feeling of isolation created from the stillness; the trees are too tightly packed for winds to whip through and the wildlife is sparse. One visitor described the silence as “chasms of emptiness.” She added, “I cannot emphasize enough the absence of sound. My breath sounded like a roar.”

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Suicide is the leading cause of death for Japanese men between the ages of 20 and 44. It is beginning to look like an epidemic among teens as well. For the elderly, it’s a problem, too, as Japanese life insurance (for the most part) still pays out in suicide cases. There doesn’t appear to be any sector of Japanese society that is not dealing with suicide, and one of the most popular places to do it is in Aokigahara Forest. (From the article by David Mattews)dead4
Since the 1950s, Japanese businessmen have wandered in, and at least 500 of them haven’t wandered out, at an increasing rate of between 10 and 30 per year. Recently these numbers have increased even more, with a record 78 suicides in 2002.

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The forest workers have it even worse than the police. The workers must carry the bodies down from the forest to the local station, where the bodies are put in a special room used specifically to house suicide corpses. The forest workers then play jan-ken-pon—rock, paper, scissors—to see who has to sleep in the room with the corpse.

It is believed that if the corpse is left alone, it is very bad luck for the yurei (ghost) of the suicide victims. Their spirits are said to scream through the night, and their bodies will move on their own. (From the article Aokigahara Suicide Forest.)

Hadaka Matsuri: Get A Shingi

Around 9,000 semi-naked men gathered at the Saidaiji Temple in the city of Okayama to participate in the annual Hadaka Matsuri, also known as Naked Festival, on Saturday.temple.PNG

Naked festivals are held in dozens of places throughout Japan every year, usually in the summer or winter. The participants dressed only in loincloth compete for honorable title of ‘lucky man’. According to the local tradition, the winner gets a year of health, wealth and prosperity. But the men have to struggle fiercely for the lucky year: at first purify themselves in freezing water, then manage to get hold a pair of lucky sticks, known as shingi, preventing others from snatching them away.

What the women do to get a year of health, wealth and prosperity? Try to get a hold of a lucky men, perhaps?