My instrument, myself
"Forging a deep, intense relationship in which two meld into one can be a difficult, emotionally draining process. But the end result is so worth it," says Pacific Standard magazine. "Especially when that bond is between musician and instrument. That's the conclusion of new research from Finland, which found that musicians who consider their instrument an extension of themselves are more confident and feel less performance anxiety."
Catering the apocalypse
"Ahead of Dec. 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year 'Long Count' Mayan calendar, panic buying of food and candles has swept through China and Russia as the fear spreads that the date will mark some form of apocalypse," reports The Daily Telegraph. "James Blake from Emergency Food Storage, which sells freeze-dried food and survival equipment, says that he has also had British people visiting his warehouse in fear of the worst. For his customers who believe that there will be an apocalypse in a couple of weeks, Blake says he recommends that they buy food packs that can last up to 25 years."
A hard-to-play flute
A group of Chinese Tunivians, an ethnic group who consider themselves descendants of Genghis Khan, have dedicated themselves to preserving the chuer, an ancient flute that comes from the mountains they call home, reports The Shanghai Daily. "The chuer is a lightweight wind instrument made out of lovage, a perennial plant that is plentiful in the area [the Altay mountains]. It has only three holes, but produces a variety of sounds, depending on a player's skills. The flutes are created in accordance with the size of a player's hands. No two chuers or chuer players sound or play alike." Mengkeyi, a budding chuer player, said: "Playing the chuer is truly a difficult job. Our father started learning at nine years old, but could not make any sound until he was 13. … Many quit after considering it impossible."
A new Noah's Ark?
Dutchman Johan Huibers has finished his 20-year quest to build a full-scale, functioning model of Noah's Ark, Associated Press reports. Huibers, a Christian, used Genesis as his inspiration to create a vessel 130 metres long, 29 metres across and 23 metres high. "Gazing across the ark's main hold, a huge space of stall supported by a forest of pine trees, visitors gaze upon an array of stuffed and plastic animals, such as buffalo, zebra, gorillas, lions, tigers, bears, you name it. Elsewhere on the ark is a petting zoo with actual live animals … Johan's Ark also contains a restaurant on the topmost level and a movie theatre capable of seating 50 people … Walking around, Johan points out features such as the curvature of the upper deck, which he said would have been used to collect rainwater for drinking, as well as letting animals such as horses out to exercise where they could run around."
"Atheists and other religious skeptics suffer persecution or discrimination in many parts of the world and in at least seven nations can be executed if their beliefs become known, according to a report," says Reuters. "The study, from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, showed that 'unbelievers' in Islamic countries face the most severe – sometimes brutal – treatment at the hands of the state and adherents of the official religion. But it also points to policies in some European countries and the United States which favour the religious and their organizations and treat atheists and humanists as outsiders."
Thought du jour