Photo Of The Day: Sumo Wrestlers In Fukuoka

In the hierarchy of Japanese sumo wrestling, the Makuuchi Division is the best of the best. Here, Makuuchi competitors participate in a traditional ring entering ceremony, where they perform a series of actions similar to the moves they use in competition. Flickr user Luke Robinson captured the climax of the ceremony in today’s Photo of the Day, taken at a sumo wrestling tournament at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center in Fukuoka, Japan.

Do you have any photos of fascinating traditional ceremonies? Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

[Photo Credit: Luke Robinson]

Tranquil travel hits Bali as the entire island falls silent during Nyepi

While many cultures around the world celebrate their New Year with fireworks, parades, and loud parties, the island of Bali in Indonesia takes a different approach. In fact, travelers looking to enjoy some peace and quiet in a beautiful setting should consider taking a trip to the island on March 23 to take part in the Balinese New Year, or Nyepi, “Day of Silence”.

During Nyepi, the entire island of Bali falls silent in an effort to cleanse and purify. In fact, shops aren’t allowed to open, vehicles and machinery may not be used, work is forbidden, electricity must remain off, and even the Bali airport closes down.

Just because the island falls silent, however, does not mean you shouldn’t visit. In fact, an array of cultural activities and package deals are offered in honor of Nyepi, making it the perfect time to visit Bali.

AYANA Resort and Spa

For those who would like to experience Nyepi for themselves, the luxury, cliff-top AYANA Resort and Spa allows guests to stay on the property and continue to use the restaurants, spa, and other facilities during the event as long as noise is kept to a minimum. They also take part in the festivities that lead up to the day of silence, including creating a giant paper mache figure called ogoh-ogoh (shown above). On the night before Nyepi, locals from all over the island come out to show off their own ogoh-ogohs, which tend to resemble skeletons and monsters, while live bands play in the background. It is believed that those taking part in this cultural ceremony confront their own negativity and purge it from their souls.

Rates start at $239 per night plus taxes and gratuities. Email or click here to book. The Radiant Hotel and Spa

The Radiant Hotel and Spa is a 5-star boutique hotel that sits on 50-acres of pools, palm trees, tropical gardens, and magnificent fountains. In honor of the Balinese New Year, the hotel is offering a 3 day/2 night Nyepi Package which includes two nights in a Superior room, daily breakfast for two, an evening at the buffet, unlimited soft drinks, a 45-minute foot and shoulder massage, and 10% off beverages. And to help you enjoy the tranquility a little more, you can add-on one of their relaxing spa packages, like a 30-minute Jacuzzi soak followed by a 70-minute full-body natural oil massage, shower, and snack, or a combination that includes a sauna session, massage, body scrub, and facial.

Package rates start at $154 plus taxes and gratuities for the dates of March 22-24. E-mail or click here to book.

Conrad Bali

This contemporary designed, beachfront property is all about creating unique and worthwhile experiences for their guests, from cooking classes to brunches on the beach to tennis lessons. For Nyepi, the Conrad Bali is helping guests cleanse their souls by hosting an array of holistic and healing activities, like yoga and meditation. They are also keeping their spa open so that guests can enjoy treatments like a tea-infused aromatherapy bath followed by a marine mud and sea salt body wrap, or a full-body massage and natural yogurt body mask.

Rates start at $168 per night plus taxes and gratuities. Click here to book.

Sun Boutique Hotel

The Sun Boutique Hotel is a modern hotel with enjoyable features like spacious rooms, soothing wall art, a delicious bistro, and a beautiful rooftop garden. In honor of Nyepi, they are featuring a Sun Nyepi Package which includes a welcome drink, daily buffet breakfast for two, daily tropical fruit basket, two water bottles each day, coffee and tea, and lunch and dinner for two on March 23.

Package rates start at about $174 for a standard room. E-mail or click here to book.


If you love being surrounded by nature in a peaceful setting, this is your perfect hotel. From March 22-March 24, Komaneka will be offering a Nyepi Package, which includes two nights in a Bisma Suite room, a 60-minute Balinese massage, two lunches and dinners, welcome drink, daily breakfast and afternoon tea, daily en-suite cookies, fruits, and flowers, daily entrance and return transfer to Neka Art Museum, free mineral water each day, free activities like cultural offerings, dance lessons, and wood carving, and free shuttle service to and from central Ubud.

Package rates vary depending on when you book. E-mail or click here to book.

Easyjet’s jilted in the sky

easyJet was ready to help passengers walk down the aisle while walking down the aisle. The airlines plans to conduct mile-high marriage ceremonies, however, were stymied by local British bureaucrats who said they couldn’t give the airline permission. Under this unusual program, pilots – like captains at sea – would have facilitated the swapping of vows.

The relevant officials in Luton, which is north of London, has refused to extend these powers to the airline, claiming that it’s not permitted under the law. The airline, of course, is “very disappointed,” as are the imaginary masses ready to run the security gauntlet to seal the deal.

Band on the Run: My First and Last Gig as a Hawaiian Wedding Singer

Ember Swift, Canadian musician and touring performer, will be keeping us up-to-date on what it’s like to tour a band throughout North America. Having just arrived back from Beijing where she spent three months (check out her “Canadian in Beijing” series), she offers a musician’s perspective on road life. Enjoy!

The wedding was beautiful. I sang my songs. There were two white doves that expertly landed right behind the bride and groom during the ceremony. People cried. Then, they were married. My sister is now a wife and I got a brother-in-law in the deal. I’d say I fared fairly well, if you ask me.

People came up to me afterwards and asked if I would be singing at the reception. I said “No, I’m done” and then smiled happily and they looked at me sadly. Relief must have flowed out from the shape of my lips in that particular smile and I mistakenly conveyed to a number of people a series of possible misunderstandings: either I was glad it was all over because I didn’t enjoy it, or was nervous and was relieved to be over the nerves, or was unhappy with my performance or was simply bitter at having had to sing at my sister’s wedding — none of which were true!

“You have such a beautiful voice, dear, we’d love to hear you sing some more.” This was always delivered encouragingly and as though I ought not to deprive everyone of my voice and music for the rest of the day. I realized that I couldn’t possibly explain to anyone here that gigging at a family wedding was the last thing I wanted to do more of. It’s just not my thing. It’s a one-time experience and I am glad it’s done. I was happy to have made my sister happy with the gift of song, but was equally happy that the gift had been delivered.

I thanked them for their kindness but explained that there was already entertainment planned at the reception.

I also silently thanked the universe for not having pre-decided that I’d be it.

The reception was held on a boat. It was a dinner boat cruise called “The Maui Princess” and there were about one hundred and twenty diners, only forty of whom were part of the wedding party.

There, on the main deck, was a woman and a guitar and a device that played the backing tracks for dozens of famous songs. She was installed behind two metal railings and the sound system piped through both the main deck and up to the upper deck where the dinners were served. Her spot was right in front of the restrooms. She played for three hours and I felt increasing sympathy the longer her gig stretched.

And increasing gratitude that it was her and not me who was employed in this capacity.

She played a series of famous songs and chose fairly well. She had to do certain songs like the Hawaiian Love Song (ever heard of it? Me neither, until now) but generally she chose some good songs by Sting, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Nicks, even Bonnie Tyler (and you know the one!) And her guitar chops were pretty good.

Still, I felt for her. In between songs, she was obligated to make announcements about the ship’s progress, to tell people not to bang on the railings, to let people know about the “safety features on the vessel.” For me, this would be the closest thing to truly being a “flight attendant” (which I sing about in my song “Ten Pin” as a metaphor for performing a gig where no one is paying attention to you) although I guess in this case you’d have to call it “doubling as a ‘float’ attendant” (har har) because her job was so multi-faceted.

The cruise was brief but enjoyable. About two hours of beautiful scenery and free alcohol. Well, three per person but there was hardly any moving to get more at the bar as the chairs were bolted to the deck and everyone had a hard time getting around.

I brought my own food (no vegan fare was possible in the set menus) and I ate leftover veggie sushi to my table partners’ envy. Their meals were good too, they said, but mine looked especially appetizing and fresh. I wondered if that was the moment where I should have shared, but I just smiled and said “oh, how rare it is that my fellow diners are jealous of my food! Eat your heart out!” and took a big mouthful. They laughed.

(Once in awhile, it’s nice to have the upper hand when meat eaters so often drill me about how I could possibly have enough energy to survive eating as I do. My answer is generally that I haven’t eaten meat or fish for seventeen and a half years, so I guess I’m surviving. Thriving even! That usually shuts people up unless they are particularly obnoxious…)

Just before we docked, the crew started to dump the unconsumed Mai Tai (mixed Hawaiin drinks) into the ocean. I hated to see this. I mean, sure it’s not toxic waste, but does the ocean really need alcohol and corn syrup and food colouring? I don’t think so. On second thought, do we?

The whole wedding party then headed for drinks at another location where my sister wanted to have the traditional “first dance” with her new husband and then “the second dance” with our father. The restaurant manager heard her say this and was very clear that it simply wasn’t possible. Apparently, if there’s dancing on the premises, it reclassifies the venue as a bar and then changes the nature of their liquor license.

My sister looked crestfallen when she got this news and while the manager was still standing there, I piped in “Well, what if we dance on the sidewalk?” There was a pause and then the manager looked at me thoughtfully and she said, “Uh, you could do that. We don’t own the sidewalk! That’d be fine.” She smiled wistfully at the idea, I thought, and headed back behind the bar.

And so that’s what they did.

A portable music player was brought out and the gathering of wedding goers took to the sidewalk and we all watched my sister and her new husband dance (to “Amazed“) and then my sister and father dance (and simultaneously cry on each other’s shoulders to “I Loved Her First“) and then the night came to a close.

I had made it through a whole day in heels.

And my Hawaiian wedding singing days are over.


(which simultaneously means “hello,” “good-bye” and “love” as well as “mercy,” “compassion” and “peace.”)

Band on the Run: Sister Servant (Pre-Wedding)

This title is tongue-in-cheek. In fact, quite literally; my tongue has found itself being held down between my teeth many times in the “bite your tongue” fashion since my sister decided to get married a year ago, regularly finding itself wedged between my molars and only able to greet the inside of my cheek rather than be used to form words. And, that’s a good thing – really and truly. The motto that I have stuck to (and gratefully) has been to “stand by, offer help and question nothing.”

After all, weddings are for the bride and the groom, right? Some say it’s for the family, but in this case I’d say it’s really for my sister and her husband-to-be. She’s getting married in Maui, Hawaii next week and it’s her dream wedding location. He (the groom) is in love with my sister and knows better than to have any conflicting dream! Together with about fifty family members and friends, we will gather on the beach and enjoy the palm trees and sand while they tie the knot.

No hurricanes please.

Summers are a time of weddings. We just got back from Lyndell’s sister’s wedding in Northern BC and I’ll be off to my sister’s event next week (and be sure to post about Hawaii). The “sister servant” reference is really a reference to what happens to musicians and performers when people in their lives get married.

Quite simply: we get put to work. It goes with the territory.

Whether it be as a wedding band (yikes!); or as an MC at the reception or the various events beforehand like the Stag & Doe party; or as the music that people hear while the church or hall or synagogue or beach area is being slowly populated with attendees; or, quite commonly as the song that is sung during the signing of the marriage certificate. Whatever the particular task is, it surely includes a microphone or the ability to project one’s voice in a cavernous building of somebody’s worship!

I have been asked to do all of these things at one point or another. Usually, it’s a gig. For my family, it’s a gift.

(Do you still have to buy the bride and groom a wedding present if you’re the music and the MC? I’ve been trying to figure this out, but I’ve come up empty. I could use some advice here!)

You see, I’m certainly not a traditionalist. I have been to many weddings and they’re all so different that I really can’t place how it’s done exactly. All I know is that I am often expected to speak to the people, make everyone feel comfortable, program the music for the assembling of people (luckily, I talked her into using a CD for that part) and singing during the signing. Also, happily, I won’t be the music for the reception. There’s no way my band could have afforded the trip to Hawaii – I couldn’t even afford it and so begged a loan to get there next week – and so she will be using the in-house band. Should be fun to watch. Especially because by the time we get to the reception, it will be other people working and not me for once. Phew!

When Lyndell and I arrived in Prince George on the night before her sister’s wedding, we were both prepared to perform together during the signing of the marriage certificate the next day. Lyndell’s sister had asked to learn a song by James Blunt (who sounds suspiciously like Rod Stewart, don’t you think? Maybe it’s Rod’s voice and music with a young hottie in the ad campaigns? I’m just sayin’!) and she wanted Lyndell to play the violin. Well, this song is called “Goodbye My Lover” and it seemed strangely inappropriate for a wedding. The words are about a break-up, but we dutifully sang while I drove and she practiced on the violin. After the many hours on the road, we arrived with the words and melodies memorized.

I’m thrilled to report that I didn’t have to sing. She didn’t want the words to be sung (knowing it wasn’t the right theme!) and so Lyndell just played with her cousin (“once removed,” I might add) who is also a professional musician (pianist) and who was able to find the sheet music in a local music shop. He hadn’t known he was playing until the day before either, but took the task on effortlessly.

I, on the other hand, watched the whole thing by myself in a pew and befriended a little kid named Sammy, the little brother of one of the bridesmaids. We had a great time shooting pictures and trying not to get in trouble.

Now, for my sister’s wedding, I’m planning a few songs so that she can veto the ones that don’t work and choose the ones that do. After navigating a dangerous tryst with my Mother who tried to insert the songs of her choice behind my sister’s back (that’s the equivalent of trying to get me killed by my older sister!), I have narrowed it down to four and she will choose two. That’s my task on this six-day break that I’m on before flying over to the land of the tropics for four days.

Luckily, I arrive a day and a half before the actual wedding day, which gives me just enough time to brush-up on the songs of her choice. I’ll then lounge with a piña colada in the hopes that the beach and the umbrellas in my drinks will help me to forget how much money I’ll owe for the four-day pleasure.

I only have one sister.

I wouldn’t miss her special day for the world.

In servitude,

— the musician, and sister.