The Best of 2015 From Around The Web

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

It's that time of year again! 

Everyone is coming out with a list looking at the "the best of" something that happened in 2015. Movies, photos, songs, moments — there are lists for everything.

A lot of them are just click-bait, but a few are actually worth looking at. Here are some of my faves so far: 

I found the Top 10 Logo Changes on TIME interesting to browse through, mostly because I didn't even notice that most of these logos had even changed! Clearly I am not very observant. 

Mashable put together the Top 10 YouTube Videos of 2015. I had not seen any of them. But they are all very entertaining! 

You know how much I love a new discovery, and this list documents the Coolest Archaeological Discoveries of 2015! It includes never before seen tombs, ancient sex toys, sunken ships, and more! 

Photo lists are always my favourite, and this Top 100 Photos of 2015 list is fantastic. There are photos showing natural disasters, war, joy, sports, and simple moments. It is an interesting review of the last year.

Here is a list documenting the major developments in travel this year and how it changed, and is changing the way that we explore! 

The Top Ten Large Scale Art Installations of 2015 are incredible and are taken from all over the world! 

There's nothing better than a good travel destination list, and this one, instead of looking back, looks ahead to the Up and Coming Travel Destinations. I'm already adding a few of these options to my future travel list!  

Have you seen any lists worth taking a look at? Let me know in the comments below! 

How Important Is The First Line of A Book?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

One thing I hear a lot in the publishing world is how important the first line is to a story. Whether it is a short article or a 600 page novel, everything seems to rest on hooking the reader in that first sentence, that first thought, that should (in theory) set the tone for the rest of the piece.

But, how much does the first line really matter? And should it be suspenseful or sexy, long or short, shocking or descriptive?

The following are first lines from some new works, old-favourite, and obscure stories. Would that single sentence entice you to read more? Or would you just pass it by? Scroll to the bottom to see the list of books that each line is from. You might be surprised! 

1. "He sat before the mirror of the second-floor bedroom sketching his lean cheeks with their high bone ridges, the flat broad forehead, and ears too far back on the head, the dark hair curling forward in thatches, the amber-colored eyes wide-set but heavy-lidded." 

2. "Off the coast of Kamchatka, Siberia, bundled up and standing on the deck of a German ship, I gripped the railing with oil-stained gloves to avoid being pitched into a heaving ocean the color of a wet gravestone."

3. "The boy's name was Santiago."

4. "Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet."

5. "When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."

6. "As the man dressed head to toe in khaki turned the corner and began race walking uphill in my direction, I had to wonder: had we met before?"

7. "Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery."

8. "OH SHIT!"

9. "Catherine Tekakwitha who are you?"

10. "The clock read midnight when the hundred-foot wave hit the ship, rising from the North Atlantic out of the darkness."

11. "When you are traveling in India — especially through holy sites and Ashrams — you see a lot of people wearing beads around their necks."

12. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

13. "We named the houses they put us in."

14. "A few summers ago I visited two dairy farms, Huls Farm and Gardar Farm, which despite being located thousands of miles apart were sill remarkably similar in their strengths and vulnerabilities."

15. "I first noticed in several weeks ago."

1. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
2. The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely & Vali Chandrasekaren
3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
4. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6. Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams
7. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
8. Knocked Up by Rebecca Eckler
9. Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
10. The Wave by Susan Casey
11. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
12. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
13. A House In The Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
14. Collapse by Jared Diamond
15. Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy

Culture Quirk: Don't Point Your Feet In Thailand!

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Thai people usually wear sandals or shoes that are easy to slide on and off because they remove them when going into temples, homes, and even some shops and restaurants.

In Thailand, the head is considered to be the most sacred part of the body (NEVER touch a Thai person on their head), and the feet are considered to be the dirtiest. 

Why does this matter to you? 

As a traveller, there are a few things you need to be conscious of so that you don't end up insulting the locals. 

First of all, traditionally, people sit, sleep, eat and entertain either on the ground or on cushions laid on the ground. As a result, Thai people make sure to remove their shoes (don't want to get the floor dirty!) before sitting in people's homes or on raised platforms in restaurants or at the beach. Shoes are removed before walking into temple buildings as a sign of respect. 

It is also very important to never point or gesture at someone with your foot. This can be taken as an insult. 

On the same token, you must never point your toes towards a Buddha statue or symbol. That means that if you are sitting down in a temple, you have to sit with both legs to one side (feet up and pointing backward) or on your knees. Don't sit with your legs crossed. 

Also keep in mind that while chilling out at a beach lounge, in your hotel lobby, or on a train to be careful about propping your feet on the chair beside you. This can be seen as a sign of disrespect, especially if you leave your shoes on. 

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China's One Child Policy Becomes A Two Child Policy

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

China has finally released it's citizens from the strict population control known as the "one child policy", declaring that it now has a "two child policy". This controversial policy has been in effect since 1978 and has resulted in illegal abortions, female infanticide, and other horrific practices to ensure that the one child was male. (Read more about why male children are valued in China and how this policy has affected the country's population here).

According to news sources, this change has come as a result of the quickly aging population that is leaving the work force, and a lack of young people to move into their vacant job positions and take care of them — a dangerous development for the country's economy. 

But, it may be too little too late. Like most modern societies, people are choosing to not have children later than life — if at all. There are fewer marriages occurring in China, and many women are choosing to focus on their career and autonomy rather than on starting a family. This societal shift may not allow for the desired population growth that the government hopes the policy change will incite. 

Either way, it marks the end of a rather disturbing 35 years in the country's history:

"...the one-child policy has been called by experts the “most spectacular demographic experiment in history” and “one of the most draconian examples of government social engineering ever seen.” Its reach has produced an astonishing record of loss. In 1983 alone, China sterilized 20.7 million women and aborted 14.4 million pregnancies. The number of abortions in the past four decades has exceed 336 million." (source)

Who Are The Yazidi People?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

The Yazidi People have been in the news lately as one of the people that are being targeted by ISIS. But why? Who are these people? 

According to my research, the Yazidi are an ancient religious group that first emerged in Mesopotamia before eventually selling into modern day Kurdistan in 3,000 BCE. They believe that they were created separately from the rest of humanity — instead of being descended from Eve, they are descended from Adam. 

Their belief system seems to be the reason that they are being targeted now, and have been in the past. It is a mixture of ancient Iranian, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and (in its most basic form) states that God made the world and put 7 divine beings in charge of running it. The most important being was an angel who fell from grace, was forgiven, and returned back to heaven. 

The "fall from grace" part of this story is considered to be a little too similar to the story of how the Devil came to exist in other religions, and so (even though the angel is forgiven and goes back to heaven), these people are often considered to be devil worshippers. 

Because of this, and the fact that they are not considered to be "People of The Book" (following the Bible, Torah or Koran), they are not protected by Islamic Law and are in danger of being wiped out by extremist groups. 

BUT, as a culture, they seem to pose next to no threat. 

They live in segregated societies avoiding contact with outsiders, military service and formal education. They do not recruit new followers — you can only be born into this group and marry within it — and they have a small population of only between 700,000 to 800,000 people.  

They are small in number, peaceful, and not trying to convert anyone. 

It seems their only mistake is choosing to call home an area of the world where extremist groups are trying to eliminate any influences that they believe are a threat to their own beliefs. 

The Watch List: Boom

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

I recently had the chance to attend an opening night of the one-man stage show Boom, and it was one of the most amazing shows that I have seen in a long time. Now, theatre is not always my cup of tea. I usually enjoy musicals, but I find a lot of plays boring, or feel like it's trying too hard to get laughs or tears. (Sorry to all you theatre lovers out there!)

Why did I go then, you ask? I got free tickets because of my job and decided to use them — and am I ever glad I did! 

I didn't know what to expect when I sat down in the sold-out theatre. A one-man show? Not the safest pick for someone who isn't normally a fan of the stage. But from the minute the curtain lifted, I was completely blown away by the talent, imagery and story that Rick Miller told.  

The story covers the most event-packed years of the Baby Boomer era, beginning in 1945 with the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima and ending in 1969 when the first man walked on the moon. Using the stories of three real Boomers, from very different walks of life, Miller breaks down what life was like through the music, culture, and historical events that shaped this era.

And he does ALL of this himself. ALL. OF. IT.

He changes his voice without skipping a beat to portray multiple characters, he has costume changes, queues up movie clips, and sings famous songs like "Blue Moon", "Hound Dog", and "My Generation" on key. 

Not only did I love it because of the music, multimedia, and Miller's incredible talent, but the history that he covers and connections that he draws are actually quite interesting. It was like watching a 3D documentary unfolding right before my eyes. 

Boom will be touring across Canada, and it is rumoured that it will also be going international. I encourage you to try and catch a performance if it comes your way! 

Welcome to Cowboy Country

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

One of the magazines that I work for is Canadian Cowboy Country, a publication that focuses on the history and modern-day lifestyles of people who live in North America's "Wild West". I normally work more behind the scenes, but for the November/December issue I had a chance to coordinate and style a fashion shoot with Miss Rodeo Canada 2015, Katy Lucas. 

The piece showcases Western fashion, but also highlights the fact that Miss Rodeo Canada is so much more than just a pretty face. Katy is an incredibly talented cowgirl, an advocate for the Western lifestyle, and a really fascinating, intelligent woman. 

The magazine can be found on newsstands throughout North America, and you can find more information on the publication (and some fun, behind the scenes photos of the shoot) here