Monday, 26 October 2009

La Tarasque

La Tarasque was a local dragon, 'part land animal and part fish', in Tarascon, Provence. The wood and canvas representation was carried by 5 men, and accompanied by an escort of 'Tarascaires' in cocked hats, sashes, and knee breeches, during processions on Whit Monday and St Martha's Day. Local legend has it that St Martha defeated this dragon when she arrived in Tarascon, but La Tarasque is a proud and living mascot and emblem. This picture dates from the 1920s.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Chako Paul City

Chinese media tempted by fantasy of women-only Swedish town

The town, supposedly founded in 1820 in the northern Swedish woods by a wealthy widow, boasts 25,000 residents and a medieval castle, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

A pair of blonde female sentries stand guard at the unnamed town, referred to in reports as "Shakebao" or “Chako Paul City”, and men wishing to enter risk being “beaten half to death” by police.

In addition, many of the town’s female residents turn to homosexuality “because they could not suppress their sexual needs”, the Chinese news service Harbin News reports. The story also formed the basis of a Shanghai Media Group television report.

But Claes Bertilson, a spokesperson for Sweden’s Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), is doubtful about the claims made by the Chinese media about Sweden’s supposed “women-only” town.

“I’ve never heard anything about it,” he told The Local.

“At 25,000 residents, the town would be one of the largest in northern Sweden, and I find it hard to believe that you could keep something like that a secret for more than 150 years.”

Bertilson was also at a loss as to where the fictitious account could have originated.

“I have no idea where something like this could have come from,” he said.

Accuracy aside, the Chinese press reports provide a plethora of titillating details about life in the mythical Swedish town.

Most of the town’s all-female population is employed in the forestry industry, with many sporting a “thick waist belt full of woodworking equipment”, according to Xinhua.

And women who decide to leave the town to fulfill their carnal desires are only allowed to re-enter Chako Paul City if they agree to bathe and undertake several other measures designed to ensure that their out-of-town trysts don’t negatively affect the mental state of other women in the town.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Xinhua adds that “Chako Paul's tourism industry is increasingly prosperous”.

“Hotels and restaurants are everywhere, to receive women from around the world,” the agency reports.

Although Per Wilhelmsson of the tourist office in Umeå in northern Sweden said he had never heard of Chako Paul City, he did confirm that tourism in the area is bustling.

“Our tourism industry is doing quite well, among the best in northern Sweden,” he said.

He was fairly certain no “women-only” city existed in northern Sweden, adding that the story reminded him of a stunt carried out in the 1980s by Pajala, a northern Swedish town suffering from a different problem.

“They arranged for bus loads of women to come up to this town because there weren't enough of them,” he explained.

When asked what else might be drawing tourists to northern Sweden besides the chance to visit an isolated town filled with sexually frustrated females, Wilhelmsson had a theory of his own.

“It’s hard to say for sure, but I think part of it might be increased interest following our designation as Europe’s Cultural Capital for 2014,” he said.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

La Smorfia

La Smorfia is an Italian system, originally based in Naples, which assigns numbers to images or experiences encountered in dreams or waking life. The numbers can then be used to play the lottery, or for other divinatory purposes. The system comprises both primary and more elaborate secondary tables, the latter being sold in cheap books on the streets. The data below are from the primary tables. The numbers run up to 90 because that is the highest number played in the Italian lottery.

1: L'ITALIA – Italy
2: 'A PICCERELLA – young girl
3: 'A GATTA – cat
4: 'O PUORCO – pig
5: 'A MANO – hand
6: CHELLA C GUARDA 'NTERRA – that which looks at the ground (i.e. vagina)
7: VASE – vase
8: A' MADONNA – the Virgin Mary
9: 'A FIGLIATA – baby girl
10: 'E FASULE – beans
11: 'E SURICILLE – the rats
12: 'O SURDATE – the soldier
13: SANT' ANTONIO – Saint Anthony
14: 'O MBRIACO – the drunk
15: 'O GUAGLIONE – boy
16: 'O CULO – the arse
17: 'A DISGRAZZIA – misfortune/shame
18: 'O SANGHE– blood
19: 'A RESATA – laugh
20: 'A FESTA – celebration/dinner/party
21: 'A FEMMENA ANNURA – nude woman
22: 'O PAZZO – madman
23: 'O SCEMO – fool
24: 'E GGUARDIE – police
25: NATALE – Christmas
26: NANINELLA – Little Anna
27: 'O CANTERO – chamber pot
28: 'E ZZIZZE – breasts
29: 'O PATE D'E CCRIATURE – penis
30: LE PALLE D' 'O TENENTE – the lieutenant's balls
31: 'O PADRONE 'E CASA – landlord
32: O CAPITONE – big-head
33: IL'ANNE'E CRISTO – the time of Christ
34: 'A CAPA – head
35: L'AUCELLUZZ – bird
36: E CCASTAGNELLE – castanets
37: 'O MONACO – monk
38: 'E MMAZZATE – blows
39: ' FUNA N'GANNA – at gun-point
40: 'A PAPOSCIA – hernia
41: 'O CURTIELLO – knife
42: IL CAFFE – coffee
43: 'ONNA PERETA 'O BARCONE – woman at balcony
44: 'A CCANCELLE – jail
45: 'O VINO BBUONO – good wine

46: 'E DENARE – money
47: 'O MUORTO – dead man
48: 'O MUORTO CHE PPARLA – dead man talking
49: 'O PIEZZO 'E CARNE – meat
50: 'O PPANE – bread
51: 'O CIARDINO – garden
52: 'A MAMMA – mother
53: 'O VIECCHIO – old man
54: 'O CAPPIELLO – hat
55: 'A MUSECA – music
56: 'A CARUTA – fall
57: 'O SCARTELLATO – hunchback
58: 'O PACCOTTO – bundle
59: 'E PILE – hair
60: SE LAMENTA – complainer
61: 'O CACCIATORE – hunter
62: 'O MUORTO ACCISO – murdered man
63: 'A SPOSA – bride
64: 'A SCIAMMERIA – dress-coat
65: 'O CHIANTO – weeping
66: 'E DDOIE ZETELLE – two "old maids"
67: 'O TOTARO INT'A CHITARRA – squid in a guitar
68: 'A ZUPPA COTTA – soup
69: SOTT'E 'NCOPPA – upside-down
70: 'O PALAZZO – apartment building
71: L'OMMO 'E MERDA – man of shit
72: 'A MARAVIGLIA – astonishment
73: 'O SPITALE – hospital
74: 'A ROTTA – cave
75: PULCINELLA – Mr Punch
76: 'A FUNTANA – fountain
77: 'E RIAVULILLE – the Devil
78: 'A BELLA FIGLIOLA – prostitute
79: 'O MARIUOLO – thief
80: 'A VOCCA – mouth
81: 'E SCIURE – flowers
82: 'A TAVULA 'MBANDITA – a laid table
83: 'O MALE TIEMPO – bad weather
84: 'A CCHIESA – church
85: 'LL ANEME 'O PRIATORIO – souls in Purgatory
86: 'A PUTECA – shop
87: 'E PERUCCHIE – lice
88: 'E CASECAVALLE – cheeses
89: 'A VECCHIA – old woman
90: FEAR