Val Kilmer, “King” of Mardi Gras?

It’s Mardi Gras this week, and New Orleans has been living it up in honor of one the city’s most famous holidays. It’s not just Louisiana residents that are getting in on the action however. As Videogum reports, none other than Val “Iceman” Kilmer was on hand to help celebrate, decked out in a white skin-tight leotard and full Mardi Gras “king” regalia.

Mr. Kilmer apparently claimed the ceremonial honor of Bacchus in the city’s annual Bacchus Parade. C’mon guys, let’s not give Val a hard time. He was doing it for a good cause – Mr. Kilmer did stop by a local hospital to visit with sick children. An all-around good guy and quite a Mardi Gras king, don’t you think??

[Via Buzzfeed]

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Can new leader save Thailand?

The King of Thailand, who somehow manages to stay above the country’s constant political woes, has official accepted former opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the new prime minister. He is the 3rd man to hold the post in the past 12 weeks.

Abhisit was formerly the opposition leader in parliament. He brings youth (he’s only 44) and a reputation for honesty to the country’s top job. Like the Illinois governor’s office, corruption is almost expected from Thailand’s leadership. Abhisit’s perceived incorruptibility might be just what the country needs to start trusting its governing body again.

What does this new political era mean for Thailand’s massive tourism industry? Nothing yet. Until the rift between rival political parties and their supporters is mended, more events like the occupation of Suvarnabhumi Airport are entirely possible. The infrastructure is still in place, but until the unpredictable political climate calms down, it would be hard to expect tourists to flock back to Thailand’s beaches and shopping venues.

[via BBC]

Insults against religion in Italy can get you jail time: Just ask Italian comedienne

I just heard about the Italian comedienne who is facing jail time in Italy for insulting the pope. In Italy, there are laws against insulting religion. If you tell a joke that is against the pope, it can land you in hot water.

According to the story, Italian comedienne, Sabina Guzzanti, a presenter at a rally in Rome this past July, made a joke about what could happen in the after-life to popes who are against gay rights. Now she is facing five years in jail.

Italy is not the only country where people mind their Ps and Qs when talking about certain people and regulations or habits are in place to command respect.

In Thailand, for example, before each movie, there is an ode to the king before the feature film. The audience members stand throughout the king’s anthem and photo montage of images depicting aspects of his life. There isn’t a law that says you have to stand, but everyone does–even tourists like me.

If you don’t stand for the king before a movie, you may feel a bit silly sitting in a sea of waists and legs, but that’s about the worst that can happen, I imagine. If you head to Italy, it seems like when it comes to religion, follow the adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

[Here’s an article I came across about the habit of standing up in movies to pay tribute to the king.]

Churches in Saudi Arabia?

Cultural changes in Saudi Arabia have been a frequent topic on Gadling. We’ve talked about advancements such as: Saudi women being allowed to drive, controversial books being permitted distribution, bans on photography being lifted, and restrictions such as men imprisoned for flirting and the banning of red roses for Valentines day.

The latest, and what might be the most significant cultural change in the works is the possibility of building churches in the country. According to the BBC, the talks are the result of Saudi King Abdullah’s meeting with the Pope last November. Allowing churches to be built would give 1.5 million Christians who live there a place to worship — something that they can do only privately at the moment. The last Christian priest was expelled from the kingdom in 1985.

These talks were spurred after Doha allowed for a Catholic church to be built where the first mass was held earlier this year, attended by 15,000 people. Doha has now given the go ahead for Anglican, Orthodox and Coptic churches to be built.

According to the UK Times: “Saudi Arabia adheres to a hard-line Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and is home to Mecca and Medina, the most holy sites of the religion — no faith other than Islam may be practiced.” If churches do come around to being built in the kingdom, it will be a huge feat in Muslim-Christian relations.