$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!
Arts & Entertainment

Cricket Fans in Pakistan Turn to Night Matches in Ramadan

During Ramadan, when many in Muslim-majority Pakistan do not eat or drink during the day, sports enthusiasts turn to night games. For years, amateur cricketers in the capital, Islamabad, used empty roads or local play grounds — any open space with lights — to fulfill their passion. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem shows how informal tournaments are flourishing.

Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans
Arts & Entertainment

Belgian Monks, Israeli Researchers Tackle Ancient Beer-Brewing Traditions

A Belgian abbey is reviving its centuries-old tradition of beer-making after 220 years. The monks at Grimbergen Abbey are using ancient recipes to offer specialty beers in their new microbrewery. Meanwhile, researchers in Israel have made beer with yeast from jars that are thousands of years old. Beer is one of the oldest beverages, but producers are making new and attractive brews. As VOA Zlatica Hoke reports, there is a growing interest in traditional beers and the history of brewing.

Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans
Arts & Entertainment

‘The Power’ Loss: TV Show Protests Georgia Abortion Law by Leaving US State

“The Power,” an upcoming TV series produced by online retail and entertainment giant Amazon, will no longer film in Georgia, following the state’s near ban on abortion that was signed into law earlier this month, director Reed Morano said.

Morano, who won an Emmy Award for her work directing “The Handmaid’s Tale” — a TV show set in a dystopian world where women’s bodies are under strict male control – is now directing a series in which women are the dominant gender.

“It felt wrong for us to go ahead and make our show and take money/tax credit from a state that is taking this stance on the abortion issue,” Morano wrote on Instagram on Tuesday.

“The Power,” an adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s science fiction novel, follows teenage girls who discover they can electrocute people with their hands and use their abilities to hurt aggressive men and shift power dynamics between genders. Amazon did not immediately comment on the move.

Other production companies, including David Simon’s Blown Deadline, creator of TV show “The Wire,” announced they also would no longer work in the state.

Georgia’s law bans abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks, before a woman may be aware she is pregnant.

Abortion foes say the bills are intended to draw legal challenges, in hopes that a case will land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There, a majority of conservative judges could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

“I realize that some may challenge it in the court of law, but our job is to do what is right, not what is easy,” Governor Brian Kemp said when he signed the bill into law. “We will not back down.”

The film industry in Georgia employs nearly 100,000 people and generated billions of dollars for the state in 2018, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans
Arts & Entertainment

What Baby Names Say About America

“Emma” rules the West Coast, while “Liam” reigns supreme in the American Midwest.

In the southeastern part of the United States, parents prefer the name “William” for boys and “Ava” for girls, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, which compiled a list of 2018’s most popular baby names.

At the top of the list nationwide are “Liam” for boys (for the second year) and “Emma” for girls (continuing a 5-year streak). The names “Noah” and “Olivia” come in second.

While naming a child might feel like one of the most personal decisions a person can make, that choice is often heavily influenced by outside forces.

“Names say more about the parents than the kids,” Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told VOA in an email. “How unique parents want to be, where in the country they were when the child was born, and what influences around them shape their lives.”

Today’s digital media-saturated world means new parents are exposed to a much broader range of potential baby names than ever before. They might be influenced by celebrities or characters from movies and television shows.

For example, the name “Arya,” from a beloved character on the “Game of Thrones” television series, ranked 119th on the list, well ahead of traditional names like “Angela” (264), “Jennifer” (345) and “Alexis” (179).

“Khaleesi,” another iconic character from the hit show, was the 549th most popular name for newborn girls, beating names like “Lisa” (891), “Christine” (926) and “Anne” (599).

“Increasingly, parents may feel that they want to — and are able to — make their own choices about forenames for their children in an expression of their sense of their own individuality and the desire to endow a distinctive and unique individuality in their children as they grow up,” sociologist Jane Pilcher, an associate professor at Nottingham Trent University in England, told VOA via email.

She refers to names as “workhorses” because they can reveal significant information about a person. But that can also have a downside.

“A forename can tell us about a person’s sex and gender, ethnicity and nationality, social class and cohort,” Pilcher says. “These social identities, unfortunately, are each linked to discrimination and inequality. So, a forename can very much impact upon a person’s experiences and opportunities.”

A 2012 study found that when science faculty from research universities were given identical applications for a laboratory manager position, they rated candidates named “John” more highly than candidates named “Jennifer.”

A person’s name often reflects their culture, and is a marker of when and where they lived, and of the prevailing social trends at the time of their birth.

Berger found that names starting with “K” became more popular after Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage in New Orleans in 2005. Parents heard the name on the news so often, that its sounds or syllables became more familiar and therefore more appealing.

“Names are more likely to become popular when other, similar names have been popular recently. So, if ‘Katy’ and ‘Katherine’ have been popular, other names that start with a hard ‘K’ like ‘Kevin’ are more likely to take off,” says Berger. “Hearing a name more often makes people like it more, but if something is too popular, people avoid it.”

So, ultimately parents look for the comfort of familiarity, while also searching for a name that stands out.

American-born Meghan Markle and her husband, Prince Harry, recently named their son Archie, a name which ranked 992nd in the U.S. in 2018. It remains to be seen if that royal seal of approval will influence Archie’s U.S. popularity in 2019.

Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans
Arts & Entertainment

Kenyan Author, LGBT Activist Binyavanga Wainaina Dies at 48

One of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists, Binyavanga Wainaina, has died at age 48, a colleague and friend said Wednesday.

The Kenyan author died Tuesday night in Nairobi after an illness, Tom Maliti, the chairman of the Kwani Trust which Wainaina founded, told The Associated Press.

Wainaina, who won the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing, was a key figure in the artistic community who promoted local authors. Friends and supporters in an outpouring of tributes on Wednesday shared his work including his biting essay “How to Write About Africa.”

“Always use the word Africa' orDarkness’ or Safari' in your title," it began. "Subtitles may include the wordsZanzibar’, Masai',Zulu’, Zambezi',Congo’, Nile',Big’, Sky',Shadow’, Drum',Sun’ or `Bygone’,” Wainaina advised in the piece.

It quickly became one of Granta magazine’s best-loved essays, the magazine said Wednesday. “As a student, he sent the magazine a strongly worded letter condemning our 1994 Africa issue,” the magazine tweeted on Wednesday. “His ironic critique was so incisive and true that we published it.” He became a frequent contributor.

Wainaina also helped to create tolerance for the LGBT community by coming out publicly in 2014 as gay in Kenya, a country where laws still criminalize homosexual behavior. He also revealed he was HIV-positive. He published a painfully honest essay online to mark his 43rd birthday.

He said he came out to help preserve his dignity.

“All people have dignity. There’s nobody who was born without a soul and a spirit,” he said, in an interview with The Associated Press in January 2014. “There is nobody who is a beast or an animal, right? Everyone, we, we homosexuals, are people and we need our oxygen to breathe.”

In the interview, Wainaina, who dyed his hair in rainbow colors, lashed out at laws against homosexuality in Nigeria and Uganda. He also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin, who promoted legislation banning “gay propaganda” aimed at youth.

“I can’t sleep at night because there are people who I may know or who I don’t even know … who may be dying or being beaten or being tortured right now in a Nigerian cell or three weeks ago in a Ugandan one,” he said.

After he came out, Time magazine in 2014 named him one of the “100 most influential people.” Fellow author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote there that Wainaina “demystified and humanized homosexuality,” saying he decided to speak openly after the death of a friend: “He felt an obligation to chip away at the shame that made people like his friend die in silence.”

Wainaina’s death comes just days before a long-awaited court ruling in Kenya on Friday on whether to abolish laws that criminalize homosexual behavior. Kenyan laws, like in many other African countries that outlaw same-sex relations, are vestiges of British colonial rule.

Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans
Arts & Entertainment

Germany Hands Israel Thousands of Kafka Confidant’s Papers

 German authorities on Tuesday handed over to Israel some 5,000 documents kept by a confidant of Franz Kafka, a trove whose plight could have been plucked from one of the author’s surreal stories.

The papers returned include a postcard from Kafka from 1910 and personal documents kept by Max Brod, which experts say provide a window into Europe’s literary and cultural scene in the early 20th century.

They are among some 40,000 documents, including manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks and other writings that once belonged to Brod, which are being brought together again in Israel’s National Library. They had ended up in bank vaults in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, a Tel Aviv apartment and in a storage facility in Wiesbaden, Germany, where police found them tucked among forged Russian avant-garde artworks.

`I think he [Kafka] would really be amused,” said National Library archivist and humanities collection curator Stefan Litt, who helped identify the papers recovered in Germany. “He couldn’t invent by himself a better plot.”

The documents recovered in Wiesbaden have little to do with Kafka himself, but make the Brod collection complete and shine a light on Brod and his circle, which included Kafka and other writers, Litt said.

“This is an important chapter in Max Brod’s estate,” Litt said. “And it’s always good for researchers to have as complete a picture as possible.”

Kafka, a Bohemian Jew from Prague who lived for a while in Berlin, was close friends with Brod, himself an accomplished writer. Shortly before his untimely death at 40 of tuberculosis in 1924, Kafka bequeathed his writings to Brod, reportedly telling him to burn them all unread.

Instead, Brod published much of the collection, including the novels “The Trial,” The Castle,” and “Amerika,” helping to posthumously establish Kafka as one of the great authors of the 20th century. He also brought “Kafkaesque” into the English language to describe a situation evoking a bizarre, illogical or nightmarish situation like the ones Kafka wrote about.

After the Nazis occupied the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Brod fled to escape persecution with the entire collection to what was then British-ruled Palestine.When Brod died, he left his personal secretary Esther Hoffe in charge of his literary estate and instructed her to transfer the Kafka papers to an academic institution.

Instead, she kept the documents for the next four decades and sold some, like the original manuscript of Kafka’s “The Trial,” which fetched $1.8 million at auction in 1988. She kept some of the items in a bank vault in Tel Aviv, some in Switzerland, and others at her apartment in Tel Aviv.

When she died in 2008, the collection went to her two daughters, who fought to keep it but eventually lost a battle in Israel’s Supreme Court in 2016. The court sided with the country’s National Library, whose lawyers had argued the Kafka papers were “cultural assets” that belonged to the Jewish people.

Both daughters have now died, and the documents stored in Israel have already been transferred to the National Library’s care. The documents held in Switzerland should be on their way soon after the National Library won a court case in Zurich last month, which upheld the Israeli verdict and ordered that several safe deposit boxes be opened and their contents shipped to the institution in Jerusalem.

But that left the documents in Germany, which had been stolen from Hoffe’s apartment about a decade ago.

They ended up with an Israeli dealer, who tried in 2013 to sell them to the German Literature Archive in Marbach — the same institution that bought “The Trial” manuscript at auction in 1988. The German archive instead reported the offer to Israel’s National Library, which then got authorities involved, Litt said.

The documents resurfaced at the Wiesbaden storage facility of an international forgery ring that produced and sold millions of euros [dollars] worth of forged paintings, which was taken down by German authorities that same year, Litt said. Since then, they have been stored by German authorities as Litt and others sought to confirm their provenance.

Those being returned include correspondence between Brod and his wife, and even some of his notebooks from high school, Litt said.

“There’s no doubt these materials were part of his papers,” he said.

The manuscript of “The Trial,” however, was properly purchased by the German Literature Archive in the 1988 Sotheby’s auction, and the National Library has no claim on it, he said.

“We’re happy it’s in safe hands,” Litt said.

Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans
Arts & Entertainment

3 Handwritten Wills Found in Aretha Franklin’s Home

Three handwritten wills have been found in the suburban Detroit home of Aretha Franklin, months after the death of the “Queen of Soul,” including one that was discovered under cushions in the living room, a lawyer said Monday. 

The latest one is dated March 2014 and appears to give the famous singer’s assets to family members. Some writing is extremely hard to decipher, however, and the four pages have words scratched out and phrases in the margins.

Franklin was 76 when she died last August of pancreatic cancer. Lawyers and family members said at the time that she had no will, but three handwritten versions were discovered earlier this month. Two from 2010 were found in a locked cabinet after a key was located.

The 2014 version was inside a spiral notebook under cushions, said an attorney for Franklin’s estate, David Bennett. 

Bennett, who was Franklin’s lawyer for more than 40 years, filed the wills on Monday. He told a judge that he’s not sure if they’re legal under Michigan law. A hearing is scheduled for June 12. 

Bennett said the wills were shared with Franklin’s four sons or their lawyers, but that a deal wasn’t reached on whether any should be considered valid. A statement from the estate said two sons object to the wills.

Sabrina Owens, an administrator at the University of Michigan, will continue to serve as personal representative of the estate.

“She remains neutral and wishes that all parties involved make wise choices on behalf of their mother, her rich legacy, the family and the Aretha Franklin estate,” the statement said.

In a separate court filing, son Kecalf Franklin said Aretha Franklin wanted him to serve as representative of the estate in the 2014 will. He is objecting to plans to sell a piece of land next to his mother’s Oakland County home for $325,000. 

Judge Jennifer Callaghan in April approved the hiring of experts to appraise Franklin’s assets and personal belongings, including memorabilia, concert gowns and household goods. The Internal Revenue Service is auditing many years of Franklin’s tax returns, according to the estate. It filed a claim in December for more than $6 million in taxes.

Franklin’s star, meanwhile, hasn’t faded since her death. She was awarded an honorary Pulitzer Prize in April, cited posthumously for her extraordinary career. A 1972 concert film, “Amazing Grace,” was released with much praise from critics.

The estate is involved in “many continuing projects … including various television and movie proposals, as well as dealing with various creditor claims and resulting litigation,” Bennett said. 

Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans
Arts & Entertainment

Women Honored at Cannes as Gender Parity Drive Draws Scrutiny

Movie stars including Salma Hayek and Eva Longoria celebrated the role of women in cinema at a glitzy gala in Cannes on Sunday, amid a drive to promote gender equality in the industry that is still falling short of what many campaigners hoped for.

Cannes’ film festival, the world’s most important cinema showcase, last year signed a pledge to get an equal number of men and women in its top management by 2020 that is gradually gathering momentum at similar European and U.S. events.

Actors and filmmakers participating in this year’s edition have joined activists in warning that while industry attitudes were changing, progress was still slow.

“We have so much work to do and I just think we can’t let up,” Longoria told journalists at the Women in Motion dinner at Cannes, part of a program set up by luxury group Kering to push for gender equality in cinema.

“Whenever we see something improving we can’t just say ‘Oh OK let’s relax, the momentum’s going to go that way’. It won’t continue to go that way, we have to continue to change the industry for ourselves.”

Chinese actress Gong Li, the star of “Farewell My Concubine”, was awarded a prize for her career at the event.

At Cannes, four women are contending for this year’s top Palme D’Or film prize, including Franco-Senegalese Mati Diop and France’s Celine Sciamma, out of 21 entries – or just under 20 percent of the total.

Elsewhere, the proportion has sometimes been higher, with over 40 percent of the films competing at Berlin’s festival in February made by women.

“We hear a lot about how times are changing and improving, and it’s true. The idea is to support that trend. (But) the figures still don’t look good,” said Delphyne Besse, a film sales specialist and one of the founders of 50/50 by 2020, the collective behind the gender parity pledge signed by Cannes.

Of the 47 film festivals that have so far backed the drive globally, 38 percent have female heads, according to the lobby group’s figures.

Short shrift

Industry insiders said the slow progress was reflected in everything from the short shrift female directors still got in the media to their under-representation at industry events.

“Women have been making films for 11 decades now,” British actress and star of zombie movie “The Dead Don’t Die” Tilda Swinton told a news conference earlier this week.

“There are countless films by women. The question is why don’t we know about them,” she said, adding that even obituaries for female filmmakers tended to be dwarfed by those dedicated to men.

Cannes’ organizers have said they were not planning to introduce quotas dictating the gender balance of the films selected to compete at the festival.

“Cannes is only at the end of the chain. This needs to start with encouragement at film schools,” festival director Thierry Fremaux said last week.

The cinema showcase is looking to include more women its board, however, and the festival jury this year was more balanced.

“Atlantics” director Diop said festivals were still a logical starting point to highlight women’s work in the industry.

“It starts with the films, there is no festival without films, so it is an extraordinary exhibition that will give the films much bigger exposure,” she told Reuters in an interview.


Lightning fast hosting for a shockingly low price! 50% off Hosting plans