TV & Radio
Mardi Gras is global, from Moscow (Idaho) to Moscow (Russia)
The Associated Press
Sunday, February 18, 2007
In New Orleans, people throw strands of beads from parade floats. In Louisiana's Cajun country, they ride from farm to farm, clowning and singing to beg ingredients for a communal gumbo — a local delicacy. Louisiana's Carnival sweet is the king cake, a coffee cake frosted in purple, green and gold. In England, it is pancakes, and the day is called Shrove Tuesday.
Worldwide, hundreds of cities and towns hold a final blow-out on Fat Tuesday before the austerities of Lent — or just because.
In Sydney, Australia, it started as a gay rights protest and is now a huge festival celebrating all aspects of gay culture. In Moscow, Idaho, it started as a foot parade and bar-based fund-raiser for the University of Idaho's art museum and is now a non-parading festival to benefit children's charities.
You can even find it in India — Carnival has been celebrated since the 1700s in Goa, a former Portuguese colony.
Cities and towns throughout Europe and all along the U.S. Gulf Coast have Mardi Gras celebrations. So do Chicago and Vail, Colorado.
The Gulf Coast parades and balls spread east and west from New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, where they started in the 1800s. Mobile claims (to some dispute) to have been celebrating since the 1700s. Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, claims the first celebration in North America: Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville, came ashore there on Mardi Gras of 1699 (March 3).
Although Mardi Gras has been a state holiday since 1872, the celebration itself arrived only recently in Louisiana's oldest city. Natchitoches, founded in 1714 — four years before New Orleans — saw its first Mardi Gras ball about 30 years ago and its first Carnival parade in 1999.
The parade exists largely because Dianne Winningham was itching for something to do after she and her husband retired there from Shreveport, Louisiana.
"I asked about Mardi Gras. They said, 'We don't have one.' I said, 'We're going to,'" she recounted. The city did have a Mardi Gras krewe, the Krewe of St. Denis, but its formal ball and other events all were private.
The Krewe of Dionysos' first parade, in 1999, had three floats, about 120 riders, and a few marching bands. This year's parade will have 10 or 12 floats, and crowds have grown every year, Winningham said.
Moscow (pronounced MAHS-koh) had a parade from the early 1980s until about five years ago, when the highway was rerouted, blocking the parking lot where it had started, said Jerry Schutz, who for about 15 years was a board member for Moscow Mardi Gras Inc.
The Russian capital (MAHS-cow) also celebrates the holiday, known there as Maslenitsa, or Blini Week. For 85 years, there was little or no public celebration, but an advertising firm took it up in 2002. "The people are letting the long-annoying winter out and the long-awaited spring in," the "Maslenitsa Pride" Web site states.
Cold is the reason that Chicago's Karnevalsgesellschaft Rheinische Verein, established in 1890 by German immigrants, has never held a parade, spokesman Hans Wolf said. It has held a masked ball every year since then, even during World Wars I and II.
Nobody's really sure just when Cajun towns began the "courir de Mardi Gras," costumed men riding from farm to farm to sing, clown and collect ingredients for a communal gumbo, says Larry Miller, an instrument-maker and amateur folklorist.
He said the courir in Tee Mamou ("Tee" is the Cajun shortening of "petit," or "little"; Mamou, sometimes called Big Mamou, is in another parish) just west of Iota has been studied by many folklorists because its song and other traditions, handed down in the same families for generations, are well preserved.
It has one non-traditional tradition: the Mardi Gras, as the costumed riders are called, ride in trucks rather than on horses.
"Tee Mamou never stopped running during World War II. Since there were not enough horses, they resorted to wagons and trucks and trailers," said Miller. That enabled each participant to come up with required fee — $2 in those days, now $15 — without having to own a horse, Miller said. "If you're required to have a horse, it's too expensive for the average person."
On the Net:
Sydney, Australia: http://www.mardigras.org.au/
Tee Mamou: http://www.iotamardigras.com/main.html
Japan's foreign minister expresses displeasure over U.S. resolution on WWII sex slaves
The Associated Press
Monday, February 19, 2007
Foreign Minister Taro Aso expressed displeasure Monday over a proposed U.S. congressional resolution seeking Tokyo's apology for the Japanese army's practice of forcing women to serve as sex slaves during World War II.
The resolution, sponsored by several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, calls for Japan's prime minister to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility" for using "comfort women" — a Japanese euphemism for thousands of women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
Aso, speaking at a parliamentary committee meeting, called the nonbinding resolution, which was introduced earlier this month, "extremely regrettable."
"It was not based on objective facts," Aso said, without elaborating.
Three women who say they endured rape and torture at the hands of Japanese soldiers during World War II and a lifetime of mental and physical scars testified last week in written statements at a hearing of the House subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment.
The proposed resolution does not seek Japanese reparations, but demands that Japan formally reject revisionists who say sexual enslavement never happened and educate children about the comfort women's experience. It was unclear when the House subcommittee would meet again to consider whether to endorse the resolution.
Historians say that Japan forced about 200,000 women, mostly from conquered Asian nations such as Korea and China, into sexual servitude. While Japan acknowledged in the 1990s that its military set up and ran brothels for its troops, it has rejected most compensation claims, saying they were settled by postwar treaties.
The Asian Women's Fund, created in 1995 by the Japanese government but independently run and funded by private donations, was founded as a way for Japan to compensate former sex slaves without offering official government reparations. Many comfort women have rejected the fund, seeking formal government compensation.
Japanese leaders have repeatedly apologized, including former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who said in 2001 that he felt sincere remorse over the comfort women's "immeasurable and painful experiences."
But supporters of the resolution want an apology similar to the one the U.S. government gave to Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II. That apology was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
In a letter sent to the congressional panel, Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ryozo Kato, said his country has recognized its responsibility and acknowledged its actions.
"While not forgetting the past, we wish to move forward," Kato wrote.