‘Coolest thing’: Breakdancing wows Asian Games ahead of Olympic bow

South Korea’s Kim Hongyul competes during the men’s round robin group battles for breakdancing at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou on Oct. 6, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 08 October 2023
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‘Coolest thing’: Breakdancing wows Asian Games ahead of Olympic bow

  • Now the acrobatic dance style is at the Asian Games for the first time and will also debut next year at the Olympics
  • It is all part of moves to attract a younger audience

HANGZHOU, China: When South Korean Kim Hong-yul was a teenager in the late 1990s, hip-hop ruled the airwaves and breakdancing was "the coolest thing in the world", he says.
Now the acrobatic dance style, which originated on the streets of 1970s New York, is at the Asian Games for the first time and will also debut next year at the Olympics.
It is all part of moves to attract a younger audience.
But for some of the older "B-boys" and "B-girls", these may be their last -- as well as their first -- chances of a medal and broader recognition, with middle age approaching.
In Hangzhou on Friday dancers in baggy T-shirts, tracksuits and baseball caps flipped, jigged and spun on their heads to a throbbing beat as "breaking", as it is officially called, took centre stage.
A DJ spun tracks and an MC hyped the contestants up. Spectators, who were overwhelmingly young, waved glow sticks and whooped.
The 38-year-old Kim, a full-time B-boy and two-time Red Bull BC World Champion, made it through to Saturday's knockout rounds after multiple dance "battles" against opponents.
He picked up breakdancing as a 13-year-old after seeing his friends show off their moves and told AFP he was thrilled to see what he calls their "culture" get recognition from top sporting events.
"It feels really great. I've been literally staying with my culture and this culture keeps growing up, and I've been keeping watching it, so I'm happy for it," Kim said.
He is among a handful of older dancers at a competition dominated by contestants in their teens and 20s. He can feel the clock ticking.
"When I was young it was almost whole day of practice (every day), but now I'm getting old, two or three hours a day is enough," he said.
Breaking's Asian Games debut is even more special for Kim and his rivals because spots for next year's Paris Olympics are up for grabs along with medals.
Japan's 40-year-old Ayumi Fukushima topped the women's qualification round, outperforming opponents half her age and impressing an international panel of judges with her agility and musical sense.
Kim said there was a "lost generation" of breakdancers between those born in the 80s and the youngest contestants on Friday, as the genre ebbed from prominence in popular culture.
"When I started dancing it was the coolest thing in the world, but maybe it's not anymore," Kim said.
But a recent boom in commercialised breakdancing competitions and breakdance-themed reality TV shows has inspired a resurgence, especially across Asia.
Kim, who dances under the stage name "Hong 10", said he hoped the discipline's inclusion in the Asian Games would result in "many kids trying this and understanding this and evolving this".
"Maybe five years later, ten years later, I wanna see something I never expected."
When asked if breakdancing's recognition by big multi-sports events would compromise its original counterculture spirit, Kim was confident the pros outweighed the cons.
"Just because it becomes a sport, we're not gonna get rid of our previous culture, we're gonna keep this culture... it's gonna be great," he said.


Google Doodle celebrates Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan

Updated 15 April 2024
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Google Doodle celebrates Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan

  • Etel Adnan rose to fame for her 1977 novel Sitt Marie Rose about the Lebanese civil war

DUBAI: Google released its latest Doodle on Monday honoring Etel Adnan, a Lebanese-American poet, essayist and visual artist, considered one of the most accomplished Arab-American authors of her era.

The poet, who rose to fame for her 1977 novel Sitt Marie Rose about the Lebanese civil war, was born in Lebanon in 1925 to a Greek mother and a Syrian father, and grew up in multiple cultures, languages, nationalities and religions. Sitt Marie Rose won the France-Pays Arabes award and become a classic of war literature, so much so that it is taught in American classrooms.

In 1949, Adnan went to Paris to study philosophy at the Sorbonne before going to America to study at Harvard and Berkeley.

From 1958 to 1972, she taught philosophy in California, during which time she also started painting and writing poetry. She developed her literary voice in English and said abstract painting was the entry point into her native Arabic.

Adnan returned to Beirut, where from 1972 to 1976 she worked as the arts editor for two newspapers. She returned to California in 1979, then spent her later years living between Paris and Beirut.

In 2003, Adnan was named “arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today” by the academic journal MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States.

Adnan’s most recent honor was in 2020. Her poetry collection “Time,” which is a selection of her work — translated from French by Sarah Riggs — won the Griffin Poetry Prize.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, earlier this year opened an eponymous exhibition in her honor – “Etel Adnan: Between East and West” –  showcasing 41 of her works. The space at Ithra’s gallery is the first solo exhibition of Adnan’s work in Saudi Arabia, running until June 30.

The works on display span from the beginning of Adnan’s artistic career in the late 1950s through to her final creations in 2021, shortly before her death that year aged 96.

Some of the works are on loan from significant international institutions such as the Sharjah Art Foundation, Sfier-Semler Gallery and Sursock Museum. Some are part of private collections.


‘HELP’ written in palm fronds lands rescue for Pacific castaways

Updated 12 April 2024
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‘HELP’ written in palm fronds lands rescue for Pacific castaways

  • The trio became stranded on Pikelot Atoll, a tiny island in the remote Western Pacific, after their motor-powered skiff malfunctioned
  • A US Navy aircraft saw the "help" sign and a ship came later to rescue the stranded trio, all experienced mariners in their 40s

LOS ANGELES: Sometimes all you have to do is ask for “HELP“: That’s what three men stranded on a deserted Pacific island learned earlier this week, writing the message in palm fronds which were spotted by US rescuers.

The trio, all experienced mariners in their 40s, became stranded on a lonely island after setting off from Micronesia’s Polowat Atoll on March 31 in their motor-powered skiff which subsequently experienced damage.
They were reported missing last Saturday by a woman who told the US Coast Guard her three uncles never returned from Pikelot Atoll, a tiny island in the remote Western Pacific.
“In a remarkable testament to their will to be found, the mariners spelled out ‘HELP’ on the beach using palm leaves, a crucial factor in their discovery,” said search and rescue mission coordinator Lt. Chelsea Garcia.
She reported that the trio was discovered Sunday on Pikelot Atoll by a US Navy aircraft.
“This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location,” she said.
The aircraft crew dropped survival packages, and rescuers one day later dropped a radio which the mariners used to communicate that they were in good health, had access to food and water, and that the motor on their 20-foot (six-meter) skiff was no longer working.
On Tuesday morning a ship rescued the trio and their equipment, returning them to Polowat Atoll, the Coast Guard said.
In August 2020, three Micronesian sailors also stranded on Pikelot were rescued after Australian and US warplanes spotted a giant “SOS” they had scrawled on the beach.
 


Dining hall with Trojan War decorations uncovered in ancient Roman city of Pompeii

Updated 12 April 2024
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Dining hall with Trojan War decorations uncovered in ancient Roman city of Pompeii

  • One fresco depicts Paris and Helen, whose love affair caused the Trojan War, according to classical accounts
  • Pompeii and the surrounding countryside was submerged by volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius exploded in AD 79

ROME: A black-walled dining hall with 2,000-year-old paintings inspired by the Trojan War has been discovered during excavations at the Roman city of Pompeii, authorities said on Thursday.
The size of the room — about 15 meters long and 6 meters wide — the quality of the frescoes and mosaics from the time of Emperor Augustus, and the choice of characters suggest it was used for banquets, Pompeii Archaeological Park said.

A fresco of a mythological character inspired by the Trojan War is seen in this handout picture taken in the ancient archeological site of Pompeii and released on April 11, 2024. (Parco Archeoligico di Pompei/Handout via REUTERS)

“The walls were painted black to prevent the smoke from the oil lamps being seen on the walls,” Gabriel Zuchtriegel, head of the park, said.
“People would meet to dine after sunset, and the flickering light of the lamps had the effect of making the images appear animated, especially after a few glasses of good Campanian wine.”
Pompeii and the surrounding countryside was submerged by volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius exploded in AD 79, killing thousands of Romans who had no idea they were living beneath one of Europe’s biggest volcanoes.
The site has seen a burst of archaeological activity aimed at halting years of decay and neglect, largely thanks to a 105-million-euro ($112 million) European Union-funded project.

A fresco of a mythological character inspired by the Trojan War is seen in this handout picture taken in the ancient archeological site of Pompeii and released on April 11, 2024. (Parco Archeoligico di Pompei/Handout via REUTERS)

The dominant theme of the newly discovered paintings is heroism and fate.
One fresco depicts Paris and Helen, whose love affair caused the Trojan War, according to classical accounts. Another one shows doomed prophetess Cassandra and the Greco-Roman god Apollo.
According to Greek mythology, Cassandra predicted the Trojan War after receiving the gift of foresight from Apollo, but no-one believed her. This was because of a curse Apollo put upon her for refusing to give herself to him.


Bosnian Formula One fan brings speed dreams to the mountains

Updated 10 April 2024
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Bosnian Formula One fan brings speed dreams to the mountains

  • The 36-year-old mechanic bought the car from another racing superfan in the capital Sarajevo last year
  • Since purchasing the vehicle, he has been methodically making tweaks to its exterior, while nursing hopes of one day replacing its engine

KLJUC, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Far from the glitzy racetracks where legendary drivers made their mark in the world of Formula One, Himzo Beganovic has turned his dreams of speed into reality along the dirt roads of northwestern Bosnia.
“I always wanted to own a Formula One car, to have it in front of the house, to be able to go for a spin,” Beganovic told AFP, as he tuned up a replica “Ferrari red” race car outside his home near the Bosnian town of Kljuc.
The 36-year-old mechanic bought the car from another racing superfan in the capital Sarajevo last year.
The replica, which took two years to build, remains a ramshackle mock-up, crafted with sheet metal — a far cry from the advanced carbon fiber used in the multimillion-dollar cars of Formula One teams.
Despite Beganovic’s limited means, he still hopes to make his car more efficient, bit by bit.
Since purchasing the vehicle, he has been methodically making tweaks to its exterior, while nursing hopes of one day replacing its engine.
Along with a more powerful motor, Beganovic hopes to install an automatic gearbox and better tires.
“When you drive Formula One, you feel like you are flying. It is not like a car,” he said.
“It is the only one in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are no others.”
A self-professed lover of “fast driving” and taking “dangerous turns,” Beganovic has been turning heads along Bosnia’s mountain roads where he reaches speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour).
Other times he simply parks the car in a popular area and lets people check it out.
“I sometimes put it on a trailer to take it to other places in the country. People come, photograph it, and ask questions,” he said.
“The feeling is indescribable.”
For Beganovic, there was no question of what color the car would be.
As a longtime fan of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, the Ferrari-red paint pays tribute to the driver who won five titles with the famous Italian team.
Since the legendary German champion’s skiing accident in 2013 in the French Alps, Beganovic said he has yet to find another driver that interests him as much.
With Schumacher in mind, he hopes to put an Audi V-8 engine into his car soon.
“When a German engine and Bosnian ingenuity combine, you get an Italian car,” laughed one of Beganovic’s neighbors.


Istanbul airport provides anxious travelers with paw-sitive experience by hiring 5 therapy dogs

Updated 10 April 2024
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Istanbul airport provides anxious travelers with paw-sitive experience by hiring 5 therapy dogs

  • Meet Istanbul Airport’s therapy dogs — always ready to offer support with snuggles, belly rubs and sloppy kisses

ISTANBUL: Five new hires are selflessly roaming the halls of one of the world’s busiest transportation hubs, hoping to provide a paw-sitively stress-free travel experience for anxious passengers.
Meet Istanbul Airport’s therapy dogs — always ready to offer support with snuggles, belly rubs and sloppy kisses.
The Associated Press caught up with Kuki and Alita, two of the dogs taking part in the pet-friendly airport’s new pilot project aimed at easing stress and anxiety among travelers.
All four-legged members of the program are certified therapy dogs, professionally trained and conditioned to comfort humans.
The “Therapy Dog Team” has been on duty since late February following months of preparation and intensive training, learning desensitization to distracting stimuli, like sounds and people.
“We have to ensure that they are safe and they are 100 percent adapted to all environments,” said Kadir Demirtas, Istanbul Airport’s customer experience manager.
Kuki, a Lagotto Romagnolo, an Italian retriever breed, is team captain. He works hard to please but likes his breaks and sometimes plays hooky.
That’s OK, however.
The team’s veterinarian said each dog’s temperament dictates their hours on the job each day.
“They walk around the airport led by their handlers who are also responsible for their care,” said Volkan Arslan.
The dogs, who are airport employees with official badges and uniforms, have a set schedule and work during peak travel hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Alita, a border collie, is Kuki’s teammate. Her intense gaze and dedication to her handler are striking, as is her ability to soothe and calm nerves.
“We are always surrounded by people who are constantly petting her,” said Volkan Gul, Alita’s dedicated handler, adding that she helps them relax.
Airport officials said they already have plans to expand the pilot project following initial positive feedback from travelers.