(Photo by Sarah Rachael Wainio)
This photograph, taken by an amateur photographer at the 2012 Winter Games in Sarver, PA, seems more than any other to encapsulate the glory and grandeur of the sport of Rutabaga Curling. Featured in the same week on the covers of both Time and Sports Illustrated, it remains the single most downloaded image in the history of the internet, with more than 4 billion worldwide hits in the first 24 hours of its release alone.
With the 2012 curling target as backdrop, a young competitor strolls confidently down the courseway before her first curl.
Norwegian entrant Astrid Egeland carefully weighs the merits of the various rutabagas. Scandinavian tradition holds that the length of the taproot is an important indicator of the tumbling properties of the vegetable: a long-rooted tuber is said to roll as if it had “a weasel at its tail, and three donkeys on either side”.
The Amish, or Pennsylvania Dutch as they are sometimes known, have been masters of the various tuber sports for centuries. While today’s “plain folk” have made some concessions to modernity (as in the nylon athletic trousers seen here), the traditional methods of curling they have practiced for centuries are still very much in evidence. Note the delicate way this Amish curler holds his vegetable—as if it were a newborn baby, or one of the large dumplings favored by his people and known to them as “Möpsenpummelknödeln”.
The light Amish touch with the ‘baga is very much in evidence, as is the pleasure they take in the sport. Contrary to the popular conception, they are not by nature a sober people, and will eagerly seize any opportunity for some light-hearted, good-natured jollity.
The Poles have long been noted for their serious approach to the game. The khaki slacks, black-and-gold hat, and lime green blazer are typical of the colorful Polish sporting attire, and identify this athlete as coming from the vicinity of Bydgoszcz, a region with a long, proud tradition of producing champion curlers. Here, a member of the Wisconsin team carefully studies the form of Polish Team Captain Wydzslaw Vorczynevich.
The Polish Captain performs the traditional pirczna, or “tuber dance”, inviting Wyrczynek, the patron saint of root vegetables, to begin his annual descent from the heavens. A bountiful harvest in the following year is said to result if the dance is successful.
The French approach the sport of rutabaga curling with an almost instinctual Gallic flair. Here, note the exuberant toe kick in the trailing foot of curler Michel Laframboise, and the irrepressible joie de vivre evident in his expression.
In stark contrast to his Gallic predecessor, the style of this American curler is honest, straightforward, and almost painfully direct. He approaches the curl as he does the rest of his life: there is a job to be done, and he means to set about doing it with a minimum of fuss. The cap he wears, of a type favored by his countrymen, is his only apparent concession to style or grace, and even this is simple and unadorned.
Rutabaga Curling has held a place of honor in English sport ever since it was introduced by their Norman conquerers in the 11th century. The British version of the game differs from its continental forebear only in the size of the vegetables used (a 1.5 kilo limit is strictly enforced in the U.K.!) and in the number of “faults” permitted before a curler is considered to have “niggled the line” and is therefore required to leave the field of play.
Diverse tubers seeking the same goal, the vegetables seen here clustered around the target betray no evidence of the national origins of their tossers.
Ambassadors of International Goodwill, the 2012 medalists smile for the cameras as they proudly display their winning rutabagas from the victory stand. From l. to r.: Michel Laframboise, Silver; Levi Bockenstrecker, Gold; Astrid Egeland, Bronze.
For more information on the illustrious sport of Rutabaga Curling, and its origins at the Ithaca, NY, Farmers Market, go to www.rutabagacurl.com. Also see my other rutabaga curling posts: Rutabaga Madness and The Man with the Huge Oblong Rutabaga, which document the 2009 and 2o11 Ithaca tournaments.
15 Things You Can Do to Help Fight Global Warming
Heads too large, and eyes too wide,
they crowd the fringes of a smiling sun.
Grandma helps Grandpa plant a tree,
and a smiling mother hangs clothes on the line
while a man of some kind of color
checks his tire pressure;
and everywhere, people are replacing light bulbs…
Sixteen: Try to think of as many novel ways to sequester carbon as possible. For example, old cereal boxes filled with wood chips can make an attractive and colorful display on an unused shelf. What if instead of taking your leaves and grass clippings to the curb, you just put them in your basement? Does the shredded tissue paper in the bottom of your pocket or purse really need to be cleaned out? Don’t be afraid to be creative!
Seventeen: Invite your friends to a climate-party. See who can catch the most methane molecules between their fingers. Collect the methane in carefully sealed bags, then mail it to the moon.
If I bought the poster
and I hung it in my kitchen,
would that be number eighteen?
Barack Obama said We can’t
solve global warming
because I fucking changed
the light bulbs in my house
It’s because of
Now this was not
because the news media,
did not want
to offend their audience
by repeating the word
but say what you will
about the man
with a couple
around the White House
of oil and gas
he was right about this:
In these Benighted States of America
we’re not doing no fifteen things.
As long as half of the people
and half of the Congress
believe the lie
that it’s all a hoax
that it doesn’t matter
we’re not going anywhere but faster
down this highway to hell.
So let me offer you
not fifteen things,
We can stop.
We can breathe.
We can listen,
if not to the Great Father in Washington
then to the one Mother
of us all.
We can walk that path
down along the river
into the old woods,
to where the big basswood
blew over in that storm.
Collect the inner bark
like the Senecas did
and twist it into strands
like fine dark Asian hair;
plait the strands into braids,
then the braids to a rope,
strong and soft and supple,
then go find a man
named murdoch or koch
and use it to string him up
by his balls
A thick black line goes right through my house
a darkness eating chairs, table, floor.
It splits the roof in two.
Looking out the window, I can see it running off, over the hills
heading straight for Buffalo,
across Lake Erie
a vast shadow
in the shape of a woman
covers the Western plains
Another interpretation here.
–Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, in her closing statement at the Pussy Riot trial
To understand what Pussy Riot is all about, it is not enough to watch the video of their performance. You need to read the word—in this case, the translated transcripts of their closing statements at the trial, available here. This is how Katherine Holt, one of the translators, describes it:
“…they delivered impassioned, philosophically rigorous, and coherent statements about the Russian media landscape, about the co-opting of the Christ the Savior Cathedral as a political stage, about the manipulation of the Christian value of humility, about the need for individuals to think of themselves as citizens, about the role of contemporary art, about the dangers of conformity. And all this was coming on top of all the questions they had already raised (globally) about feminism, punk rock, the limits of public space, the role of cultural forces in political change.
These statements are inspiring to me as a Russia-watcher; they prove that the last nine months of protesting have not been for naught. But I should also add that to me as a person, as a woman, as someone who believes in critical thought and the power of ideas, these statements are acts of heroism.”
I couldn’t agree more. And as a follow-up, I would remind Americans that it is not just Moscow that takes political prisoners—think of Tim DeChristopher, Bradley Manning, or Julian Assange. (Assange is in essence being held captive in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London by the United States Government—against whom Assange’s address from the balcony there was (tellingly) very much directed.)
I really do believe that, at some level, we are all as blameless and innocent as the stars. And I believe in hell not at all. But right now, all I can think of is how much I really, really want this impossibly ignorant man to roast there. Thank you, Eve Ensler, for so powerfully voicing the outrage (WARNING–this could be triggering for some people):