Saudi Arabia's royal family are planning to demolish a library sitting on the remains of Prophet Muhammad's birth home to make way for the imam's residence and a presidential palace. The Saudi royal family are adherents of Wahhabism, a radical branch of Islam; by their beliefs, they have destroyed many Islamic heritage sites as they consider the preservation of relics of Muhammad's life to be akin to idolatry.
Photographer Travels China, Taking Pictures of Families and All Their Possessions Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people who have sometimes never been photographed to carry outside all their household possessions and pose for him. The results offer glimpses of the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese who, at first glance, appear not to have been swept up by the same modernisation that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities. [more inside]
The art/design blog Booooooom (with 7 O's) held a contest "to remake famous works of art using photography". No Photoshoppery allowed (but ironically, Photoshop was part of the Adobe-provided prize). A couple hundred entries were received and shown off on the blog (all on this big page, some NSFW), and the winner is... [more inside]
Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan. "It is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I want to show Afghanistan's youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived."
On January 11, 2010, Canon David Parrott blessed laptop computers and mobile phones during the Plow Monday service at St Lawrence Jewry Church in the City of London. Plough Monday is the traditional start of the English agricultural year, and the Church was involved with blessing of tools for the coming year. Before it was involved with church services, Plough Monday was a time for folk plays and dancing (associated with other Mummers plays), with regional variations. Some new Molly Dancers have revived the traditions, complete with plow. There were also races to see who would start their work the earliest, to show their readiness to commence the labors of the year. So sing out now and walk your plough (or play a ring tone on your mobile phone). [more inside]
The Music Notation Modernization Association... or possible ways to simplify reading chromatic music (as opposed to diatonic music). Of course, Arnold Schoenberg beat them to it.
The new Islam. Husam Tammam and Patrick Haenni in Le Monde (English version) describe the new forms of Islamic culture taking shape in Egypt. I follow the Islamic world fairly closely, but this was news to me. Does it herald an Islam that can live with the rest of the world (and vice versa)?
This entry, both with the hijab [veil] and the nashid [religious chant], into consumerism and syncretism with non-Arab models, has led to an implicit questioning of the old puritanism of the 1970s and 1980s - and above all a questioning of the principle of the ideologisation of religion. The change is important: we could trace similar patterns in the Islamic economy, increasingly affected by the ups and downs of international finance; or in Islamic charity, which has been rethought, within a framework of neoliberalism, as a security net to replace the state's withdrawal from this area (a withdrawal the Islamists have widely supported).(Via Path of the Paddle.)
The Challenges of Modernizing Mexico, or, How Do We Keep Our Village Elders From Burying People Alive?