Amuse feed for https://amuse.vice.comenTue, 18 Dec 2018 13:49:05 +0000<![CDATA[Big in Japan | How KFC Became the Country's Traditional Christmas Meal]]>, 18 Dec 2018 13:49:05 +0000 Christmas might be the most wonderful time of the year – but it also often feels like the strangest. Pretty much every country has its own quirky Christmas tradition: Slovakian singletons bake the name of their crush into dumplings; Over in the US, you’ll find a pickle ornament on many a Christmas tree; And, come December, every Irish village will be thronged with brave souls attempting the holy grail of the Twelve Pubs of Christmas.

"That's right: The Japanese traditionally eat KFC at Christmas. 'Oh no they don’t,' you might cry..."

That said, Japan must have one of the quirkiest traditions of all: on Christmas Day the country skips out on turkey, ham or what we in the west might consider ‘normal’ Christmas dishes in favour of a box of Colonel Sanders’ finger-lickin’ good stuff. That’s right: the Japanese traditionally eat KFC at Christmas.

“Oh no they don’t,” you might cry. But this is no joke. The KFC Christmas tradition is a longstanding one, dating back all the way to 1970 when Takeshi Okawara, the first KFC manager in Japan, awoke one night with a brainwave. This Christmas miracle? The idea to sell a party barrel of chicken to families for Christmas.

Okawara’s plan went country-wide in 1974, and his “Kentucky for Christmas” slogan was an instant hit. Japan, a country where just one percent of the nation is Christian, had no previous Christmas tradition so there was more than enough room at the inn for the idea of KFC Christmas to catch on.

Since then, it’s gone from strength to strength. Today, the Christmas chicken bucket is so popular among Japanese families that orders are made several months in advance. It’s thought that a whopping 3.6 million Japanese families eat KFC for Christmas every year.

"It’s thought that a whopping 3.6 million Japanese families eat KFC for Christmas every year"

The idea that fried chicken could become the customary food for any occasion, let alone Christmas, might seem odd at first. But when you think about it, it makes a certain kind of sense. Squint sideways at a picture of Colonel Sanders and you could easily mistake him for a certain Mr. Claus. He’s got the snow-white beard and the jovial smile… really all that’s missing is the famous red hat.

And, to be fair, there’s nothing particularly “normal” about our own Christmas culinary preferences either. Turkey is tasteless, takes hours to cook, and is almost always bone-dry no matter how much gravy it’s drowned in. Bread sauce is just plain weird, and the less said about brussels sprouts the better. Compare all that to those succulent strips of the Colonel’s finest fried grease...

We can’t help thinking maybe it’s about time the rest of us cottoned on to this offbeat Christmas custom.

Alanna MacNamee is a writer based in Dublin

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<![CDATA[Sex in Our Strange World | Why Christmas has Always Been About Sex]]>, 17 Dec 2018 10:00:00 +0000In this column, Sex in Our Strange World, sex historian Dr. Kate Lister, of Leeds Trinity University, explores the ways in which people from around the globe approach love, sex, and marriage.

Christmas is a sexy time of year. Having said that, I admit, watching aged relatives lapse into a post-turkey stupor, roused only by intermittent bursts of sprout-fuelled flatulence, is a less-than-erotic scene. But, there is something undeniably sensual about the long winter nights, warm fires, mulled wine, and Die Hard repeats on TV. And what’s more, science can back me up on this one.

According to research at Indiana University, and the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência in Portugal, our interest in sex peaks significantly around cultural or religious celebrations. This effect was noted around the world during their studies, and occurred largely during Christmas in Christian-majority countries, and during Eid-al-Fitr in Muslim-majority countries.

"You could try the Belarusian method of lining single women up on Christmas Day, placing piles of corn at their feet, and then let a cockerel loose"

The scientists believe all this festive frolicking is down to the simple fact that we are generally in a better mood at this time of year. No other holiday in our calendar was found to have quite the rousing effect that Christmas does – not even Valentine’s Day.

A particularly hearty serving of risgrynsgröt. Photo: underthesun, via Flickr

In Greenland, husbands and wives swap traditional roles on Christmas Eve, and the husband spends the day waiting on his wife, who gets to rest before the big day itself. But swapping roles for Christmas has nothing on the Inuits, who used to swap partners as part of the winter solstice celebrations. When Christian missionaries turned up in the Arctic in the late nineteenth century to spoil all the fun, they were shocked to discover the Inuit festival of Quviasukvik that celebrated the sea goddess, Sedna. Anthologist Franz Boas gave a detailed description of what happens at the Inuit winter feast in 1888.

‘The [shaman] solemnly leads the men to a suitable spot and set them in a row, and the women in another opposite them. They match the men and women in pairs… where for the following day and night they live as man and wife (nulianititijung). Having performed this duty, the [shaman] stride down to the shore and invoke the good north wind, which brings fair weather, while they warn off the unfavourable south wind’.

Boas doesn’t give anymore detail than this, so sex is only implied, but it certainly sounds more fun than midnight mass and game of charades. As the Christian missionaries put the nutcrackers on the more carnal aspects of Quviasukvik celebrations, the tradition of swapping partners was the first thing to go. Today, Christmas in the Arctic looks a great deal like it does everywhere else, but with less swinging and more snow.

I could go on – believe me, I really could. Christmas fertility rites and love magic can be found in almost every culture that celebrates the winter solstice (which is most of them). The longest night of the year marks the return to spring, and the renewal of life. It’s no wonder we all start to feel a little frisky. Although most of our more overt fertility Christmas rituals have now been watered down into cute games, decorations, and festive food, make no mistake – Christmas is the sexiest time of the year. Now where’s that cockerel?

Dr. Kate Lister is a sex historian, author and lecturer at Leeds Trinity University. She also runs the blog Whores of Yore. Keep up with her on Twitter.

8xpb8aDr. Kate ListerKieran MorrisusaCzech RepublicScandinaviaitalyPolandPortugalBelarusSloveniaIrelandAntidotegreenlandslovakiasex in our strange world
<![CDATA[Inside North Korea’s Mass Games | The Strangest Show on Earth]]>, 14 Dec 2018 08:44:05 +0000Our guides direct us to our seats as the crowd surges into the stadium round us, jostling for position. People do that meerkat look around as they enter the arena, trying to pick out friends in the upper ranks, while others chat noisily, share snacks, or tut as late-comers make whole rows stand up.

Across the far side of the pitch, things are much more orderly. Rows of identically-dressed schoolchildren - 17,000 of them in total - walk in in single file, and quickly take their seats. A shout rings out, and 2,000 young voices respond in unison. The callers work their way along the length of the stand, taking the register, one whole school at a time. And then the lights dim, the music starts, and our side of the arena falls silent. Let the games begin.

The audience show their appreciation. Photo: Dan Medhurst

Tristan and Dan travelled to North Korea with Koryo Tours. Based in Beijing, they’re one of the oldest and best-respected North Korea tour operators in the business. See for bookings and more info.

Tristan is the editor of Amuse. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram. Dan Medhurst is Amuse's senior photographer. You can follow him on Instagram.

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<![CDATA[Seven-Mile Hikes & Swallowing Grasshoppers | Checking In with Rose McGowan]]>, 14 Dec 2018 08:00:00 +0000In this series, we check in with some of our favourite jetsetters - actors, adventurers, musicians, models, fashion designers, foodies, authors, and activists - and ask them about their favourite stories from life on the road.

Rose McGowan is much more than just an outspoken voice of the #MeToo movement. The activist is also a director, a writer - having recently released her autobiography, Brave - and now, a performance artist. Though you might know McGowan as a star in Charmed, or her recent documentary series Citizen Rose, the former Hollywood actress is making her debut as a performance artist this weekend in Indecision IV, a new video art piece directed by Tonia Arapovic, a commission of HEIST Gallery, which screens December 15 and 16 at The Institute of Light in London.

The nine-minute artwork explores gender roles as McGowan sways around an abandoned church with ballet dancer James Mulford. “It’s about pressing a reset button, which is kind of what my work is, in general,” she says.

"I kept thinking, “I have little legs in my mouth, this is so disgusting”. But then I thought about all the other disgusting things I’ve eaten, and figured it was okay"

She’s also a constant jetsetter. McGowan has traveled so much, she’s lost count of the countries she has visited (“Afghanistan has been the most exotic one,” she says). She recently sold her Los Angeles home to divide her time between the U.S. and London, where she spends time at her partner Rain Dove’s flat in Camden Lock. “I love the canals in that area,” says McGowan. “The flat feels like it’s floating above water.” The budding performance artist spoke to Amuse in London’s Mandrake Hotel about cheesy cocktails, eating grasshoppers, and the time she thought her airplane was being hijacked.

"McGowan is making her debut as a performance artist this weekend in Indecision IV, a new video art piece directed by Tonia Arapovic" Photo: Courtesy of HEIST Gallery

Where should everyone go at least once in their life?

I like going places where you’re not supposed to go. I hiked seven miles through the Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary forest in India. I think everyone should do that. By accident, I met some people, and they said “Do you want to go on a hike?” I said “okay.” I didn’t realize it was seven miles. But the forest is amazing. It was a year and a half ago.

And finally, what’s your favourite ever holiday read?

I love re-reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I re-read it once a year since I was 14-years-old, I usually do it on vacation. When I go to Istanbul for New Years, I am bringing my copy.

Indecision IV starring Rose McGowan screens at The Institute of Light in London on December 15 and 16, get tickets on the HEIST Gallery website here.

Nadja Sayej is a freelance writer based in Paris. Follow her on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[A Sound Idea | But Spain’s First Secret Festival Falls Short of Expectations]]>, 13 Dec 2018 10:00:00 +0000Located in Sant Pere de Ribes, Mas Solers isn’t more than 30 minutes outside of Barcelona. But situated in the seaside town’s rolling hills, on a terrifyingly twisty highway that Google Maps seems to think is walkable, (Pro-tip: It’s definitely not.) just getting out to the countryside felt like an adventure into the past.

The elaborately-decked halls of the farm/estate (“Finca” in Spanish) have previously housed saintly Augustinian monks, hell-bound gamblers in one of the country’s most exclusive casinos, and any number of private weddings and celebrations. However, the premiere edition of Secret Vida was the venue’s first music festival, one which 1,200 people came to witness.

"Big-tent music festivals seem to be multiplying on a near-yearly basis, with carbon-copy line-ups that often say little about the country in question"

The premise of Secret Vida was intriguing. Come to a cool location - which it definitely was; the number of mirrored hallways alone made Mas Solers look like the set of a Quentin Tarantino film. Find out who’s playing seconds before they take the stage. Lather, rinse, and then repeat the following day. Performers weren’t allowed to announce their participation, set lists were hidden, and organizers were so tight-lipped about details that my requests to speak with a musician went unanswered. It was the ultimate case of forcing those who bought a ticket to ride the ride.

Los Mambo Jambo in full flow. Photo: Laura Studarus

But sometimes, it turns out, you are the missing link. Entering a secret festival means you forfeit the right to love everything, and you have to accept the fact you might not love any of it. In that spirit, and unwilling to let my story or night end on a bum note, I weaved my way into the middle of the bar area turned dancefloor where Miqui Puig was spinning Motown vinyl. Having finally found my tribe - or at least a beat I understood - I could cut loose; and after two days, that was a genuine surprise.

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<![CDATA[Death Row Diner | We Went to ‘America’s Most Haunted Restaurant’]]>, 12 Dec 2018 10:00:00 +0000 Since the financial crash of 2008 left Detroit with more foreclosed homes than any other American city, many observers have described Michigan’s capital as a ghost town. One residence in the borough, however - once vacant, now restored to its former glory - is ghostly in a much more literal sense. I visited The Whitney Mansion to investigate, and eat at, what some people have called ‘The Most Haunted Restaurant in America’.

Built in 1894 by one David Whitney Jr., The Whitney mansion isn’t your typical American diner. Estimated to have cost $400,000 - about $9.5 million today (with a further $11 million spent on furniture and interior), it has more in common with the aristocratic manors of England than it does of other dwellings in its vicinity. The restaurant - like many mansions of its kind over the pond - also swirls with rumours of supernatural activity.

"Ghostly tales from the residence include apparitions appearing in windows, and a lift that follows employees from floor-to-floor"

“David Whitney Jr’s wife died during construction of the house” explains John Leach, Sommelier and Director at the The Whitney Restaurant (and paranormal sceptic, until taking his position at the establishment only a few months ago).

The Whitney's interior, bathed in mysterious red light. Photo: Courtesy of the Whitney Mansion

The Whitney definitely has a supernatural air about it. Although a paranormal sceptic with borderline contempt for anyone that believes in ghosts (including my mum - nobody is spared), I must concede that I was weirded out. Maybe it was the context of the evening; my brain, the Beaujolais… But there was something unusual about that outhouse.

If ghosts aren’t your thing, there’s still plenty to like about The Whitney. Its elaborate American cuisine, and interior design, are to die for - and yes, that pun was intended. A visit to The Whitney is a must for any self-respecting, hungry ghost-hunter; just don’t go for the afternoon tea.

Jonathan Turton is a Liverpool-born freelance journalist, based in New York City. Keep up with him on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[Trouble in Paradise | The French Riots Have Whipped Up a Tropical Storm on this Far-Flung Island]]>, 11 Dec 2018 13:34:39 +0000 The fuel tax riots that have swept across France in recent weeks have had far-reaching consequences - quite literally - for the idyllic holiday island of Réunion. Tourism is a huge part of the local economy in the overseas territory, more than 5,000 miles as the crow flies from the French mainland, and widespread looting and rioting has been wreaking havoc for tourists, hoteliers and others involved in the industry.

Hotels in the region reported a large number of cancellations, with disruptions to flight schedules, staffing troubles and a night-time curfew among the challenges they’ve had to contend with. Local anger is directed at the faraway government in Paris. In particular, there’s frustration at the delay in action by French politicians, and their lack of consideration of the collateral damage that’s resulted from their reluctance to address the issues raised by the gilets jaunes protests.

""I lost out on about €45,000, which is about a sixth of the total figure I was supposed to make"”

“From November 17th we noticed – almost straight away – many cancellations,” said Bertran Van Hauw, the general manager of the Diana Dea Lodge hotel on Réunion. “So for the months of November and December, instead of picking up reservations, it was the other way around. Within a week we had started to lose pretty much all our reservations.”

“In November I lost out on about €45,000, which is about a sixth of the total figure I was supposed to make”. And Van Hauw expects that December will be even worse for the industry: as it stands, reservations for the coming weeks are well down year on year.

The imposition of a nightly curfew between the hours of 9PM and 6AM has also caused disruptions. Visitors were unable to visit bars or restaurants outside their hotels, where shortages already limited the options available to them. Van Hauw said customers were disappointed but mostly understanding, though he added that “specifically the Germans and the British were quite shocked.”

Sebastien Jean of the Hotel Bellepierre also found customers understanding, though he acknowledged difficulties with food shortages. “In fact, this was one of the main problems for us during that period. We had to explain to clients that we did not have things, that we could not get the people what they were used to,” he said.

The Cascade Langevin waterfall. Photo: via Flickr

Lynn Hinton, of Onyx Travel, said that circumstances have greatly improved at this stage, saying: “The situation at present, as far as I can establish, is back to normal.” Flights have returned to normal and shops, schools and universities reopened last week.

That said, the revocation of the fuel tax increase by the French government and the cooling off in tensions is unlikely to be of much consolation to those involved in tourism in Réunion, where businesses have already been much affected.

“In terms of how the government has dealt with the situation, they’re not responding to the tourism industry’s needs. People need to hear some answers, people need to understand that the government is here and available for them,” Van Hauw said. He described dealing with the government as like pushing “against a shut door”.

Losses and damages from the disruptions are difficult to fully quantify just yet, and the anger at France’s government remains. But it looks now like the island is getting itself back on track. As Sebastien Jean said: “We hope the next days will get better, and that it will be better [for the rest of] December.” For the sake of all those visiting, and those who work on this tropical paradise island, let’s hope he’s right.

Alanna MacNamee is a writer based in Dublin.

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<![CDATA[Trip of a Lifetime? | The Rise of Magic Mushroom Wellness Retreats]]>, 11 Dec 2018 11:59:58 +0000For most millennials, magic mushrooms evoke full moon parties, music festivals, or the one creepy stoner at uni who always harped on about ‘hallucinogenic exploration’. Except perhaps now, it seems, he may have been onto something. Preconceived notions about psychedelic mushrooms are shifting thanks to the wellness set, who are flocking to all-inclusive magic mushroom retreats in their droves.

Whilst there have been ayahuasca retreats in South America for years, these all-inclusive magic mushroom retreats differ, in that they are popping up in countries where psilocybin (the psychoactive compound) is legal. They are also much more of a luxurious affair, ranging from rustic guesthouses set against the backdrop of Jamaican shoreline, to Dutch coastal hideaways complete with panoramic views, plush furnishing, and fine-dining vegetarian cuisine.

"Psychedelic mushrooms serve as tuning fork for a higher state of being"

These 21st century retreats signal a cross between a luxurious spa and a professional therapy centre, where psychedelic mushrooms serve as tuning fork for a higher state of being. Places where a mind-altering “trip” happens on a wellness holiday rather than at a sketchy warehouse party.

Wild and potent magic mushrooms. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Risks are certainly very real and bad trips can and do happen. Katherine McClean, a research scientist who has conducted legal clinical trials of psilocybin recommends retreat goers ask some serious questions before attending. “Check what kind of clinical and medical training do the facilitators have. If abroad, ask whether the retreat leaders have ever been supervised in apprenticeship with an indigenous elder, and always check the laws in the country where you'll be partaking - don't just believe what the website says”.

This type of “trip” may not be on every traveller’s bucket list, but in an age where rules in wellness travel are changing, it seems that magic mushroom retreats will only continue to emerge from the underground.

Perdita Nouril is a freelance journalist, based in London. Keep up with her on Instagram.

a3myv8Perdita NourilKieran MorrismexiconetherlandsJAMAICAAntidotewellness
<![CDATA[Scar Issue | Jason Fox Survived 10 Years of War, Only to Face His Toughest Battle Yet]]>, 10 Dec 2018 22:52:19 +0000In this series, ‘Lunch With a Muse‘, we take inspirational figures out to lunch in some of the world’s most talked about restaurants, to discuss their lives, dreams, advice and achievements. This week, we speak to soldier, TV presenter, author and mental wellbeing advocate Jason Fox.

“‘Fucking hell, he’s got a gun’ - as I walked into the courtyard, someone actually shouted that. It was night, so I didn’t see it straight away, but the next thing I was aware of was ‘pop, pop, pop’ as he started shooting…”

Jason Fox is describing the closest he’s ever come to dying. Or one of the closest he’s ever come. Because if there’s a constant thread running through his long and varied career (ten years as a Royal Marine Commando, a further decade serving in the Special Boat Service, and then his more recent move into TV, as one of the principles on Channel 4’s hit show SAS: Who Dares Wins) it’s that there have been a lot of close shaves.

"There were intense gun battles - including one where 'we were 30 blokes, surrounded by 400 enemy [and] one of the lads dies straight away'"

There were the helicopter crashes in warzones he can’t name, from which he somehow walked away unscathed. There were the intense gun battles - including one where “we were 30 blokes, surrounded by 400 enemy [and] one of the lads dies straight away”. Then, after he’d left the military, there was the time he and four friends capsized in 60ft waves while trying to row the Atlantic. More recently still, there was the incident during filming for The Real Narcos , his latest Channel 4 show, when Pablo Escobar’s personal hitman “Popeye”, a charming individual who talked proudly about his 257 kills, pressed a pistol to Fox’s temple to demonstrate his technique.

And then, of course, there was that incident in the courtyard. “It was like that moment in the Ali G film, the bullets sort of went around me,” Fox says. Miraculously, he wasn’t hit, but “when I talk about that night with my mates they're like: ‘it looked like you were tap dancing across the yard’. It was quite funny at the time.”

I’m about to point out that being shot at from point blank range with an AK47 doesn’t sound like everyone’s idea of “funny,” but at this point, a waiter arrives to take our drinks order. We (myself, Fox, and Amuse photographer Dan Medhurst) are sitting at the counter of Kiln in Soho, a buzzy Thai-fusion establishment, recently voted the UK’s best restaurant.

Fox's recovery took long, hard work. Photo: Dan Medhurst

Call it mindfulness, call it Buddhism, call it a coping strategy for making it across a courtyard while being shot at with an AK47, but rediscovering that ability to live in the moment, to focus on the here and now, was what got Jason Fox through his darkest hours. The hope now is that by writing about it, and talking about it so openly, he can help other people through theirs.

It’s time to say our goodbyes. We shake hands, and the Maersk crane of his arm shunts those ludicrous shipping container biceps around again. I find myself wondering how much of an impact Jason Fox’s decision to talk like this might have.

In a society where mental health is still under-discussed, and suicide is the biggest killer of men below the age of 45, having a military-grade hardman like him addressing the issues so honestly and eloquently (and on a massively popular TV show to boot) must be making a huge difference. Having survived so many scrapes with death himself, he’s now helping others step back from the brink. To hear his story, you might think he’s on his ninth life, but there’s every chance that Jason Fox’s latest incarnation could be his most significant yet.

Battle Scars: A Story of War and All That Follows, by Jason Fox, is out now on Penguin Books. You can follow Jason Fox on Instagram or Twitter.

Tristan Kennedy is the editor of Amuse. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.

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<![CDATA[If These Walls Could Talk... | Inside Audrey Hepburn’s Alpine Hideaway]]>, 10 Dec 2018 10:00:00 +0000 If These Walls Could Talk… takes a look at the legendary stories behind some of the world’s most famous luxury hotels. This week, we're taking a look around the intensely glamorous Bürgenstock resort, which was sophisticated and secluded enough to charm Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren.

The Bürgenstock Resort: The Legend

Audrey Hepburn liked it at the Bürgenstock so much that she married there. Her home for more than a decade, Hepburn was spotted daily, driving to a local dentist outside of the resort to maintain her pristine Hollywood look. Sophia Loren, too, called the Bürgenstock home. During the middle of last century, the hotel was enjoying a frenzied heyday as Switzerland’s - if not the world’s - most desirable bolthole.

The heartland of Switzerland’s glitterati scene, the hotel’s natural distance from prying eyes was what made it so attractive to the rich and famous. Opened in 1873, the 007 team stayed here to shoot Goldfinger, perhaps the most superbly glamorous of Connery’s Bonds. High in the clouds on a sleepy part of Lake Lucerne, and only accessible by funicular, the hotel has a duality of mystery and opulence that goes unmatched.

"The restaurant uses the same silverware that was used by the hotel in the forties, which was dug out from a whole garage of cutlery”

The hotel fell out of fashion at the end of the last century, but in 2007 was acquired by a mammoth real estate firm who spent a staggering £440 million on its complete and utter renovation. In 2017 the hotel reopened in ode to its past, but with an eye on the future.

The luminous-red funicular that brings you to the Bürgenstock. Photo: Courtesy of the Bürgenstock Resort

The Bürgenstock Resort: The Lowdown

Rooms at the Bürgenstock Hotel start from around £620 per night, with spa access included. Rooms at the Wald Hotel, where Adam stayed, begin from around £325. Day guests are welcomed to visit the resort’s many restaurants and bars, or book into the Bürgenstock spa (£100). Rooms at the four-star Palace Hotel cost from around £290 and rooms at the three-star Taverne hotel cost from around £135.

Adam was a guest of the Bürgenstock Resort.

Adam Bloodworth is a freelance journalist. Keep up with him on Twitter.

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