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In some Alaska villages, hunting and fishing season starts with a “throwing party”

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In some Alaska villages, hunting and fishing season starts with a “throwing party”

For generations, Yup’ik women have gathered for “throwing parties” in the coastal villages of Western Alaska to celebrate firsts (like the first seal caught by a young family member). In late April, a group of women gathered for a throwing party in the village of Mertarvik to help Mildred Tom celebrate her daughter’s graduation and the recent accomplishments of her grandchildren.

 

Emily Schwing for NPR


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Emily Schwing for NPR

Traditionally, throughout many Indigenous coastal communities in Western Alaska, when a young family member hunts their first seal of the season, their family hosts a party to distribute that fresh catch to women and elders in their community. They’re known as “throwing parties,” “seal parties,” or — in Yugtun, the predominant Indigenous language spoken in Western Alaska’s Yup’ik region — “uqiquq.” Over the years, the tradition has expanded to celebrate all kinds of firsts: graduations, the birth of a child or grandchild, a wedding — and the wide array of gifts has also expanded beyond subsistence food to include candy, kitchen and household utensils and little toys and trinkets.

The villages of Western Alaska are roadless, reachable only by airplane and people here rely heavily on birds, fish and marine mammals for food. The season for subsistence hunting and fishing kicks off in the springtime, with the arrival of migratory birds and returning fish runs, and that’s cause for celebration.

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Mildred Tom recently hosted a throwing party in Mertarvik, 12 miles from the Bering Sea coast. After months of ordering and stockpiling gifts in her house, she puts the word out on a Sunday afternoon. Women in the community slowly gather in her front yard.

Tom wanted to celebrate her daughter’s graduation and a few of her grandchildren’s more recent achievements. “This is for all my kids and my grandkids,” says Tom. “For all their first catches… everything, mosquitoes, flies, you name it,” she laughs.

Once the elders find their place in the middle of the crowd, Tom, her daughter Teddy Ann Bell and her niece, Amy Kassaiuli dig their hands down into a blue plastic box on the front porch.

“One two, three,” they count in unison and then lean way out over the porch railing to fling fistfuls of goodies into the air. It all rains down on the crowd of women below. According to elders in Mertarvik, these women’s gatherings have been happening in Alaska’s Yup’ik region in the spring and fall for generations.

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Women enjoy a seal party, 1981
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Before anyone in Western Alaska could order things online, women used to toss out pieces of the first spring catch: chunks of seal meat, some dried fish, strips of hand-smoked salmon. What Mildred Tom’s family gives away is more modern: a rainbow-colored array of candy, little toys, kazoos, socks, gloves and other treats and trinkets. But, she says, some things just aren’t fit to throw at the elders.

“Those wooden spoons, you know I asked my son ‘if I threw this wooden spoon would somebody get hurt?’ and he’s like ‘yeah! …You better not throw them mom.” So, she stuffs canvas tote bags with larger items to hand out: not just the wooden spoons, but also measuring cups and mixing bowls.

While Tom hosted this party to celebrate her family, she also says it was simply something her community needed.

Tom is one of about 200 people who live in Mertarvik. In the years since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom says there have been far fewer gatherings in her community. So, she found this one particularly energizing. “Since COVID, we haven’t gotten used to having visitors or visiting around,” she says.

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After about an hour, all of the gifts are distributed and younger daughters and nieces comb through the slushy snow for any missed bounty. Then everyone heads home with something special, including renewed bonds that will last until the next throwing party, which will likely come in the fall.

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Françoise Hardy, renowned French singer-songwriter, has died at 80

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Françoise Hardy, renowned French singer-songwriter, has died at 80

The French singer and actress Francoise Hardy wearing a fur coat in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. Milan, 1960s (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)

Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images/Mondadori Portfolio Editorial


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Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images/Mondadori Portfolio Editorial

Françoise Hardy, a renowned French singer-songwriter, actress and model, has died at age 80, according to reports. Over her career, she released more than 30 studio albums and appeared in over a dozen films — and enchanted the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Bob Dylan, who wrote a poem for her that appeared in the sleeve notes of his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

“Maman est partie,” her son Thomas Dutronc wrote on Facebook Tuesday, which translates to “mom is gone.” He shared a photo of her holding him while he was a baby.

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While the exact cause of her death was not disclosed, Hardy had battled lymphatic cancer since 2004, and also had laryngeal cancer, according to Variety. In an interview with the French magazine Femme Actuelle in June 2021, she shared that she had been diagnosed with a tumor in her ear, and that her health had become so poor that it took her more than five hours a day to prepare food that she could swallow. In that interview, she also argued for the legalization of assisted suicide in France. The same month, she gave an interview by email to The Guardian because speaking had become so difficult.

The French Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, wrote a personal tribute on social media Wednesday: “French icon, singular voice with a fierce tranquility, Françoise Hardy rocked generations of French people, for whom she will remain anchored in life’s moments,” he wrote. “For me, she is my entire childhood. “Message personnel” [Personal Message], listened to on repeat by my mother in the car. Or “Puisque vouz partez en voyage” [When You Leave on a Trip], which I sang with my sisters: they were Hardy and I [singer Jacques] Dutronc.”

Hardy was born in 1944 in Paris, during an air raid in the Nazi-occupied city, and was raised there by her single mother. Hardy received her first guitar at age 16 as a present from her largely absent father, and immediately began scribbling down songs.

Hardy came to fame when she was still just a teenager; she became France’s It Girl in 1962 at age 18, when she released a song she had written called “Tous les garçons et les filles” [All the Boys and Girls]. Nearly instantaneously, she became one of the most popular figures among France’s so-called “yé-yé” generation – “yé-yé” like the “yeah, yeah,” choruses of anglophone acts such as The Beatles.

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The melancholic lyrics of “Tous les garçons et les filles” belied Hardy’s immense appeal. “All the boys and girls my age walk along the street two by two,” she sang mournfully, her blue eyes flickering out from beneath her dark bangs. “But I go alone along the streets, my soul in pain … because nobody loves me.”


Françoise Hardy “Tous les garçons et les filles” | Archive INA
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Unlike other yé-yé singers, Hardy built a lasting musical career. In distinct contrast to the sunny tunes performed by many of her peers, her songs often kept a pensive edge. She recorded in English, Italian and German as well as French, and employed a mix of her own songs as well as those written by other songwriters.

A fashion icon, she became omnipresent on French magazine covers, and was photographed by the likes of William Klein and Richard Avedon for Vogue and other publications. Bob Dylan refused to go onstage during his first concert in Paris in 1966, until he was sure that she was in the house.

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She also appeared in films including Château en Suède (1963), What’s New Pussycat? (1965) and Grand Prix (1966). Later in life, Hardy began writing books, ranging from titles on astrology to fiction. Her autobiography, Le désespoir des singes…et autres bagatelles [The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles], was first published in 2008. In 2012, she published her first novel and an album that shared the same title, L’amour fou [Crazy Love].

In 1967, she began a relationship with fellow singer Jacques Dutronc; their son, Thomas, was born in 1973. The couple married in 1981 and separated seven years later, though they remained legally married until Hardy’s death.

Hardy told All Things Considered in 2018, before her final health decline, that she was still excited to make new music. “I cannot resist to the temptation of a beautiful melody,” she said. “It’s one of the things which make me really very happy. And if a musician offers me a beautiful melody, I cannot resist.”

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North Texas pastor gets 35 years for stealing $800,000 in church properties

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North Texas pastor gets 35 years for stealing $800,000 in church properties
A North Texas pastor is on his way to prison after stealing real-estate from three churches in a property deed scheme. Dallas County prosecutors on Monday announced that Whitney Foster, a pastor leading True Foundation Non-Denominational Church, was sentenced last month to serve 35 years in prison for the charge of stealing more than $300,000 in property. Foster, 56, who was previously convicted of identify theft and arson, had been leading the…
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'Horror Movie' questions the motivation behind evil acts

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'Horror Movie' questions the motivation behind evil acts

William Morrow


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William Morrow

Paul Tremblay’s Horror Movie is a peculiar horror novel that takes a refreshing look at the haunted film subgenre, while also eliminating the line between novels and movie scripts.

Dark, surprisingly violent, and incredibly multilayered, this narrative is a superb addition to Tremblay’s already impressive oeuvre that shows he can deliver the elements fans love from him — while also constantly pushing the envelope and exploring new ways to tell stories.

In June of 1993, a small group of young people got together and spent a month making a bizarre horror movie titled Horror Movie. With one camera, a skeleton crew, a script that broke a lot of rules, and almost no budget, they managed to make their film after a few setbacks and plenty of blood and accidents. While the film was never released, three scenes and a few stills were made available online, and they became the stuff of legend over the years, collecting a cult following and sparking a frenzy of speculation, online debate, and conspiracy theories.

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Now, 30 years after the original, unreleased film was made and after all the drama —psychological and emotional as well as legal — that ensued, Hollywood wants to make a big budget version and release it. The man who played “The Thin Kid,” perhaps the original film’s most iconic and mysterious character, is the only surviving cast member, and they want him to reprise his role. He still has the mask he used in the movie, and also the scars the filming process left behind. He remembers the strange things that happened on the set, the brutality that quickly became normalized while they shot dark scenes, and the chaos and destruction the film brought to all of them. Still, he agrees to help with the reboot. As things move forward and he deals with directors and movie people, the past comes back to haunt him — but “The Thin Kid” pushes forward, as always.

Reading a Tremblay novel is entering a universe in which confusion and ambiguity —”My answer was not no. I didn’t say the word ‘yes’” — reign supreme. Horror Movie is no different. In fact, this might be Tremblay’s most Tremblay novel to date. For starters, the author once again eschews the traditional novel format, this time in favor of a mix of novel and screenplay in which one bleeds into the other frequently, switching chapters and effortlessly taking readers from past to present and back again. Also, the screenplay itself is unique in format and makes the reader part of what’s happening, constantly shattering the fourth wall an acknowledging that the events are communal, that we are there, witnessing what the characters are witnessing and feeling the same sense of dread and anticipation that they feel.

While the structure of this novel is unique, the narrative itself is very easy to follow — until it’s not. The story is there, but with many purposeful holes. We know bad things happened while the movie was being filmed — accidents, injuries, extreme violence that occurred with consent — and that the whole thing ended up in court, but we don’t know how or why. And the author holds those secrets until the very end, which, as with any other Tremblay novel, holds a few surprise twists.

Most importantly, this is a narrative that questions the motivation behind evil acts. During the filming, The Thin Kid is horribly tortured: The kids who keep him hostage throw things at him, put out cigarettes on his body, and cut off part of his pinky finger. Some of that happens for real, partly to make it look convincing on screen and partly for reasons that aren’t too clear. There are several unsettling moments in this novel, and at the core of each of them are people acting horribly just because they can. Tremblay’s work has often interrogated the nature of horror and bad behavior, but never as clearly and he does here.

While Horror Movie is the kind of creepy narrative that can be enjoyed without much thinking, it’s also a multilayered novel that almost demands intellectual engagement. Besides the way the author studies awful behavior, the story also explores the unreliable nature of memory. The Thin Kid, now the adult who narrates the novel, is self-deprecating and unreliable. He remembers things a certain way, but knows that his memories might not be accurate: “We laughed. I think we laughed, or I choose to remember we laughed. I think we’re in more control of what we remember or what we don’t remember than we assume.” This purposeful lack of certainty is designed to keep readers wondering, and it succeeds at that.

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Horror Movie is strange and unsettling in the best way possible. This is a novel that’s also a screenplay, but the story all blends together perfectly. Tremblay’s unique voice and chameleonic style have made him one of the leading voices in speculative fiction, and this is one of his best novels so far.

Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas. Find him on X, formerly Twitter, at @Gabino_Iglesias.

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