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Photo: Associated Press
If it’s a heavy metal knitting competition, it has to be Finland. Finland has the world’s most unusual contests.

I love stories about the unique contests the Finns come up with. Remember cellphone tossing, swamp soccer, and wife throwing? So glad the Huffington Post shared this July report from the Associated Press.

“Armed with needles and a yarn of wool, teams of avid knitters danced Thursday to the deafening sounds of drums beating and guitars slashing at the first-ever Heavy Metal Knitting World Championship in eastern Finland.

“With stage names such as Woolfumes, Bunny Bandit and 9″ Needles, the participants shared a simple goal: to showcase their knitting skills while dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible. …

“The competition took place in a packed square in the small town of Joensuu close to the Russian border. An eclectic group of around 200 people watched the performances, from families with young children and elderly to the less conspicuous heavy metal fans donning leather-jackets and swirling their long hair to the fast-paced rhythm of the music.

“A niche musical genre in many countries, heavy metal is more mainstream in Finland, with several bands household names frequently played on the radio. Its popularity grew further in 2006 when the Finnish band Lordi won the Eurovision Song Contest dressed as monsters. …

” ‘In Finland it’s very dark in the wintertime, so maybe it’s in our roots. We’re a bit melancholic, like the rhythm,’ said Mark Pyykkonen, one of three people judging the competition. …

“Said Mari Karjalainen, one of the founders of the event, ‘[Winter] really gives us lots of time to plan for our short summers and come up with silly ideas.’

“Thursday’s competition saw participants from nine countries, including the United States, Japan, and Russia, put on inspired performances full of theatrics, passion and drama and the jury struggled to agree upon a winner.

“Finally, it was a Japanese performance by the five-person Giga Body Metal team that clinched the title with a show featuring crazy sumo wrestlers and a man dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono.

“ ‘It’s a great release,’ said Elise Schut, a 35-year-old nurse from Michigan who performed with her 71-year-old mother and 64-year-old family friend, Beth Everson, who added that ‘knitting is such a meditative activity but now it’s energetic and heart pumping.’ ”

More.

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Photo: Wycliffe College/PA
English school girl
Gracie Starkey wrote a winning haiku. Here she is at the prize-giving ceremony in Tokyo.

I’ve always liked the standard 17-syllable haiku poem and taught the form to fifth graders years ago. Asakiyume remembers one I wrote for her at a business magazine where we worked. It was about a dream she’d recounted, and it referred to the moon as “trending downward” (business jargon we heard a lot).

Of course, most experts are Japanese. Until now. Here is a story my husband emailed me about a young girl in England who won a haiku contest.

Steven Morris writes at the Guardian, “A British schoolgirl inspired by an autumnal stroll across a newly mown lawn has become the first non-Japanese person to win a prestigious haiku competition.

“Gracie Starkey, 14, from Gloucestershire, beat more than 18,000 entries to take the prize in the English-language section of the contest organised annually by a Japanese tea company. …

“As she and a friend took a walk after [her school’s haiku] workshop, grass cuttings stuck to her footwear and the haiku came to her:

“Freshly mown grass
“clinging to my shoes
“my muddled thoughts

“Her poem – a non-traditional form that does not follow the classic five-seven-five syllable pattern – was entered into the competition organised by the multinational Ito En, first held in 1989. For the first 27 years the English-language section was won by Japanese people. …

“Gracie said she was amazed when she heard she had won and had been invited to Tokyo.

“ ‘I could only tell my mum and dad and sister and my Japanese teacher at Wycliffe College,’ said Gracie. ‘I told my friends that I was going to Wales for a week and that I wouldn’t have any phone reception.’ …

“As well as winning the trip, Gracie’s poem was rendered by a famous calligrapher, and she received a cash prize. Most thrillingly, her poem is being reproduced on thousands of bottles of green tea. …

“Previously she had little interest in poetry. ‘This has certainly made me more interested in poetry and in Japanese culture.’ ”

More at the Guardianhere.

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Pat Zacks at the Camera Werks in Providence feels compassion for inner-city kids whose schools can’t offer many enrichment activities. That’s why she volunteers every year to mount and hang 500+ juried photos by Pawtucket, Rhode Island, fifth graders (and a few grownups).

On Wednesday I stopped off at the gallery where the “Calling All Cameras” photos are on display until the end of September. The theme this year,  submitted by Linda C. Dugas, is “Pawtucket’s Color Palette.” Winners of this, the 18th, annual photo contest also get their work featured in the city calendar.

An impressive slate of judges are responsible for choosing this year’s winning photos (Butch Adams, Richard Benjamin, Christy Christopoulos, Jesse Nemerofsky, and Aaron Usher). Winners will be announced September 25.

I wish my photo of a child’s box turtle entry had turned out well enough to post, but I’m sharing a couple other favorites here.

Stop by the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor visitor center, just off Interstate 95 in downtown Pawtucket, to find the box turtle. The visitor center is opposite the historic Slater Mill, birthplace of America’s Industrial Revolution.

And if you are ever in Providence, please check out the Camera Werks on Hope Street. Pat’s Facebook page, here, has more information on the photo exhibit.

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Here’s a nice story by NY Times reporter Dan Bilefsky about a British Muslim bake-off contestant who is a winner on many levels.

Bilefsky writes, “Prime Minister David Cameron praised her coolness under pressure. Bookmakers monitored her performance as they do election candidates.

“Television watchers admired her raspberry mille-feuille and soda-flavored cheesecakes — along with her blue chocolate peacock, and a mountain of éclairs in the form of a nun.

“The victory of Nadiya Jamir Hussain, a petite 30-year-old, head-scarf-wearing mother of three from northern England, in a wildly popular reality show called ‘The Great British Bake Off’ on [Oct. 7] has been greeted by many in Britain as a symbol of immigration success …

“Ms. Hussain’s popularity, bolstered by her self-deprecating humor and telling facial expressions, helped the final episodes of the baking program, in which contestants vie with one another to make a variety of desserts, attracting well over 10 million viewers per show, according to news reports. She has also become a darling of social media, with more than 63,000 followers on Twitter as of [Oct. 8]. …

“Ms. Hussain’s triumphant final dessert, a ‘big fat British wedding cake,’ offered a multicultural message of sorts by fusing her Bangladeshi and British identities. The lemon drizzle cake was decorated with jewels from her own wedding day in Bangladesh and was perched on a stand covered with material from a sari in red, blue and white, the colors of the Union Jack.”

More here.

Photo: Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions, via BBC
Nadiya Jamir Hussain, the winner of “The Great British Bake Off.” 

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If you like trompe l’oeil painting — that sleight of hand that makes you think you are seeing one thing when it’s really another — you will love “invisible” architecture.

Writes Mallika Rao at the Huffington Post, ” ‘Invisible’ architecture isn’t a novel concept … But it’s an evolving one. Given the pace of technological change, an architect is never done finding fresh ways to make a building disappear.”

Consider the picture below.

“The revelation is the technology the architects chose not to use,” says Rao. “No fancy LEDs or futuristic materials are needed to build “Invisible Barn,” as the parallelogram-shaped structure pictured in Socrates Sculpture Park is known. The brainchild of the New York-based architecture firm stpmj, it’s designed to be made of wood and sheeted with mirror film, at a cost of $5,000.

“The idea is to ‘blur the perceptual boundary’ between object and setting, according to a statement sent by the architects to The Huffington Post. Niches built into the structure mean the experience changes the closer you get — up close, you can see where true birch trees turn into reflected ones. …

“If it seems whimsical, that’s because the idea was hatched for the Folly contest, an annual event held by the Architectural League of New York. The name references the age-old concept of the ‘architectural folly,’ a fanciful, small building typically set in a garden as a conversation starter.” More here.

Photo: stpmj, an architecture firm

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Here are a couple of Rhode Island sand castles from Crescent Beach (one made by inverting buckets, one made with the drip technique I favored as a kid) and an elaborate castle that Suzanne photographed when she was in Copenhagen earlier this month.

This website promises to teach you how to make the perfect sand castle. It involves keeping the sand moist at all times so the castle doesn’t crumble.

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Photo of Patricia McCarthy: Agenda

The editor of a small poetry journal in England was desperate for money to keep the magazine going, so she entered a poem of her own in a contest — and won.

The poem came straight from her mother’s memories of World War I. WW I poems — mostly written by young men in service who never came home — are some of the saddest ever composed.

At the Guardian, Alison Flood has the story on Agenda editor Patricia McCarthy’s win.

“McCarthy, who has published several poetry collections of her own, beat 13,040 other entries to win the anonymously-judged prize. Her winning poem, ‘Clothes that escaped the Great War,’ tells of the plodding carthorse who would take boys away to war, and then return, later, with just their clothes. ‘These were the most scary, my mother recalled: clothes / piled high on the wobbly cart, their wearers gone,’ writes McCarthy. …

“McCarthy said winning the £5,000 prize was ‘just extraordinary.’ “I’ve never even won a raffle. I don’t go in for competitions – the only other time I did was decades back, when I got runner-up,’ she said. ‘But I’m really down on my finances – I edit Agenda, and was really struggling, and thought this was probably better than a gamble on the horses.’ ”

More.

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