"Ugh, she dresses like SUCH an aunty!" is usually not something you'd want to hear about your style, if you're South-Asian.
An "aunty" or "aunty-ji" (depending on where you want to fall on the graph of respect and familiarity) is what you call a lady roughly around your mother's age. So, the family friend who has seen you grow up, your mom's co-worker, the lady next to you in the grocery line or the nosy neighbor whose questions about your love-life you endure because she makes a killer biryani — they all qualify.
While the stereotype makes aunties famous only for food and unsolicited advice, their style — like this salwar-kurta and sneakers combo, a staple — has not always been in the spotlight. Until now.
"Upping the Aunty" is a mixed-media art project started by Toronto-based artist Meera Sethi, who's trying to debunk this myth that aunties don't have swag. In the project's first phase, Sethi took photos of women in Mumbai and Toronto and posted them on her Tumblr and Instagram — kind of a street style series.
"You see such great, such interesting ways of putting things together," she says. "I wanted to capture that — the colors and the patterns and the accessories — the whole package."
For Sethi, the purpose is to question how we look at fashion - what makes something cool? What makes something worthy of attention? And then start looking at "other markers of fashion and other notions of style."
The other goal behind the project was to pay homage to the aunties like the ones that surrounded Sethi herself, while she was growing up in Toronto. They are "cultural figures," Sethi says, who have made many contributions to their societies and communities.
In fact, aunties permeated the lives of Sethi and her South Asian friends to such an extent that even when they weren't physically present, they would often pop up in conversations and jokes.
"(We would) engage in 'aunty-speak' — so using maybe voices and phrases that our aunties have used, with each other, sort of, in jest," Sethi says.
Spurred by these conversations and a plethora of aunty-themed Internet memes and YouTube videos, Sethi started thinking about the cultural knowledge that gets passed on by aunties — especially in diaspora communities.
After a spell of linguistic "pun"-ditry determined the project's title, it all came together. The title isn't just ornamental though. Sethi literally intends to take the project to another level: she wants to collect more photos, have more conversations with aunties about their style and then paint portraits of them embellishing that style.
As she works towards these ambitions, Sethi relishes the individual connections she makes with her muses when she stops them for the picture.
"At first, they might be puzzled or surprised that I want to take their photo but generally, they're flattered," she says. "Some of them have told me I've made their day or given me a hug."
Two volcanoes half a world apart are causing havoc today: Several flights have been diverted around an eruption in Papua New Guinea, and authorities in Iceland briefly put aviation on highest alert (again) due to a temperamental Mt. Bardarbunga, which has been rumbling for the past week.
Mt. Tarvurvur on Papua New Guinea's East New Britain island erupted Friday, sending smoke and ash skyward. There have been no reports of injuries, but some residents in nearby Rabaul town were evacuated and others were told to stay indoors after the eruption, which occurred about 3:30 a.m. local time. Qantas, Australia's flag carrier, says it is rerouting two flights from Sydney, one to Tokyo and the other to Shanghai, that would otherwise have passed close to the erupting mountain.
David Flinn, a resident of Papua New Guinea, tells Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the volcano was emitting steam and occasionally boomed. Flinn said about half an inch of ash covered surrounding areas, according to The Associated Press.
the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory says: "The eruption started slow and slowly developed in a Strombolian [low level] eruption with incandescent projections, accompanied by explosion noises and ongoing loud roaring and rumbling noises."
Australia's International Business Times writes: "The volcano has a record of regular low-level eruptions, but some residents fear that the Friday morning's eruption could be the worst eruption since 1994."
Meanwhile, Iceland briefly raised its aviation alert from orange to red, its highest level, after a fissure eruption at Bardarbunga overnight. The level is now back down to orange. The BBC explains:
"The new alert, the second-highest, means that aviation authorities can now decide if planes may travel over the volcano's airspace.
"Scientists said a fissure eruption 1km (0.6 miles) long started in a lava field north of the Vatnajokull glacier.
"The volcano has been hit by several recent tremors."
Iceland Met Office seismologist Martin Hensch says it was impossible to predict how the eruption might develop, and that "one of the concerns is that the fissure opens into the glacier but presently there is no sign of that happening," he said, according to Reuters. He said the current eruption is 4-5 miles from the glacier.
(Editor's Note: NPR's Michel Martin was invited by St. Louis Public Radio to moderate a community conversation on Thursday around race, police tactics and leadership following the shooting death of Michael Brown. The following story is based on what happened at the event.)
Ferguson, Mo., is a study in contrasts. It boasts spacious Victorians in its historic section, with lush green lawns, many featuring "I Heart Ferguson" signs. Just blocks away, there's a burnt-out QuikTrip. The signs here read "Hands Up, Don't Shoot." In some cases, there are boarded-up windows advertising plans to reopen, or decorated with the town's thanks for the love and support.
Not far from either: A mound of teddy bears and dried flowers marks the spot where 18-year-old Michael Brown fell after being shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Brown's death not only put a spotlight on these contrasts, but has also encouraged people to try to address them.
That was the Rev. Willis Johnson's hope. He's the pastor of Wellspring Church, which hosted a community conversation Thursday night that drew about 200 people. In welcoming the audience, Johnson acknowledged he's "gone from feeling hurt to wanting to hurt," but he said he hoped the event would be a step to healing a "community in trauma."
Over the course of two hours, many members of the audience — black, white, young and old — shared similar reactions.
Ferguson resident Jeff Schultz said the problems that came up in the course of the weeks of disturbances were "invisible to white people like me." He urged the group to find ways to begin to talk about these issues in a way that would keep other whites from getting defensive. But a number of the African-American attendees repeatedly described feelings of being disrespected by institutions and individuals that were supposed to serve them.
"My people are not respected. ... Look at the schools: Which schools are in trouble?" said former Missouri state Sen. Rita Days. "Those are schools with predominantly people that look like me."
She urged the group to acknowledge those divisions.
A panel of community leaders — which included Days; top law enforcement officer Daniel Isom, a retired St. Louis police chief and the incoming director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety; and Kimberly McKinney, a Habitat for Humanity executive — wrestled over questions about the police tactics used during the demonstrations, but also about those used on a regular basis, which some observers have suggested is tied to raising money for fines and fees.
Many people expressed particular disgust at the treatment of Brown's body, which remained on the scene and uncovered for more than four hours after the shooting. Much of the anger was directed at Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and others, who attended the event.
David Jackson, a member of the St. Louis Board of Education, was blunt.
"I am so disappointed in you as a leader," he said. "The buck stops with you. It starts with you."
Among the more remarkable developments of the evening was the emergence of an increasingly vocal group of young people who, prompted by social media and word of mouth, arrived at the event to share their experiences and demand accountability. They spoke of being tear-gassed, spoken to roughly by authorities and shot by rubber bullets.
One of the more dramatic moments came as a young man who introduced himself as Frankie Edwards pulled up his shirt to show the mayor a freshly scabbed scar from a bullet wound he received while protesting in Ferguson. He asked Knowles to apologize on behalf of the police, and asked the mayor whether he would step down.
Knowles pointedly said he would not.
"I'm not stepping down," he said. "The voters have an opportunity to relieve me when the time comes."
But African-Americans were not the only people to express disappointment with Knowles' leadership through the crisis. Emily Davis, a white mother of three who lives in Ferguson, said her first emotion after Brown's death was deep sorrow, "but now I am angry," she said.
She had been out protesting or volunteering daily with her children, but "I still don't see any engagement [from the police]. And my kids are confused. My son said, 'I thought police were the good guys.' "
Another attendee, Geoffrey Higginbotham, said this was his third riot, after the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles following the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"I came here to the city of Ferguson about 2 1/2 years ago to speak about economic development and how we address these issues," he said. "They were not ready for it."
Both Johnson, the pastor, and Isom, the former police chief, concluded the evening on pensive notes.
Isom asked for the community's ongoing engagement in addressing the issues raised over the course of the evening.
"I just feel sorrow. I feel sorry that as a leader in St. Louis, we haven't done a really good job," he said. "I'm redoubling my effort to hold myself accountable, and see what I can do to make it better. But I can't do it by myself."
Johnson added: "I am hurt. Sometimes I feel a little helpless. But I am hopeful, because I know there's a better day."
Last week, we brought you the first half of the live show we recently held at the Bell House in Brooklyn, featuring producer emeritus Mike Katzif and a conversation about what we'll take away from this summer and what's to come this fall. This week, we have the second half, packed full of special guests and good pals and quizzes that are, in some cases, very difficult, apparently. You'll learn more than you wanted to know about television, shoes, teeth, Susan Anton, super dogs, fighting cats, and the deep, deep insecurities that lie within us all.
First up, we have a hard-fought battle between Stephen and Glen of Team PCHH and Ophira Eisenberg and Jonathan Coulton of Team Ask Me Another. Can Stephen and I redeem ourselves from our humiliating performance at an AMA event here at NPR last year?
Oh, you never heard it? By all means, let us share it with you.
Next up, we invite my former Television Without Pity colleagues Sarah Bunting, now the east coast editor of Previously.TV, and Joe Reid, now entertainment editor at The Wire, to answer a bunch of questions about old and obscure television. Will they be able to tell the real variety show acts from the fake ones? Can they guess what a show called Small & Frye was about?
As if that weren't enough, we hold a competition between two media giants: our pal Parul Sehgal, an editor at the New York Times Book Review, and the marvelous Josh Gondelman, web producer (and Twitter voice) for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
Finally, we wrap up with what you all really are eager to hear, which is a very difficult Glen quiz about superhero animals, with which a couple of audience members were kind enough to jump in and help out.
We are eternally grateful to everyone who came to the show, everyone who was in the show, everyone who listens to the show, everyone who helped us put on the show, everyone at the Bell House, everyone at NPR, everyone in New York, everyone in Washington, everyone on the internet, and especially the place where we got barbecue for dinner before the show, because that was really good.
Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: me, Stephen, Glen, Mike, and producer Jessica. We'll be back with regular shows starting next week, despite the fact that I'll be exploring the wonderful films of Toronto, and we hope you'll all be with us.
The Syrian civil war has sparked "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era."
That's according to António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who added that while the world's response to the crisis has been "generous," it hasn't met the needs of refugees.
The U.N. agency released new numbers on Friday and the picture they paint is exceedingly grim. A few data points from the report:
— The total number of Syrian refugees will surpass 3 million people since the conflict began in 2011. For comparison, Chicago has a population of 2.7 million.
— Nearly half of all Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes.
— One in eight Syrians have fled the country.
— 6.5 million Syrians are displaced inside the country.
The situation is also growing more acute, according to the report. More than half of the refugees coming into Lebanon, for example, told the agency that they have moved at least once before. One in ten refugees in Lebanon say they have moved more than three times.
The U.N. also released a report on Thursday that assessed the conflict. As we reported, it found that both sides were indiscriminately killing and torturing civilians.