Author Archives: Alex Aroeste

“Swatting” on the Internet

Swatting is the act of pulling a prank on another by falsely reporting serious threats such as incidences of domestic violence, shootings, and hostage situations to the police. Using altered caller IDs and voice modification devices to conceal their identity, these pranksters use these terrifying threats to mobilize police forces into entering the homes of and arresting the chosen victims.

The term “swatting” was coined by the FBI in 2008, when the phenomenon began gaining serious popularity. Typically, this prank is pulled within the online gaming community while gamers are using Twitch, a website used to livestream a gamer’s playthrough of a game to the entire world. Because these livestreams can be so popular, it has become customary to swat a gamer while he or she is using a digital camera to stream his/her face. This way, thousands of people around the world can watch as a person is aggressively arrested and charged for a horrible crime. Often, the videos recorded from these events are posted onto YouTube, where many who find the prank amusing decide to participate in it themselves.

The informant, Ian, is a 21-year-old university student who considers himself a gamer and internet enthusiast. He knew a victim of this prank in high school, and has since maintained interest in the internet phenomena. While Ian considers the act terrible, he is still fascinated by the immorality of those who partake in it. Although he sees the activity as an awful internet trend, he watches videos of it because he is intrigued by the violence surrounding it.

As someone who has grown up with the internet as its culture has become more advanced and developed, it is quite interesting to see how dark some of its aspects have become. Although the internet can be very personal, the popularity of this activity is likely a result of the lack of face to face contact between those interacting on it. When a prankster cannot physically see the long-term consequences of his or her actions, it becomes easier to commit to the act. This is probably why so many have swatted others.

More information concerning this subject can be found here:

Mench, Chris. “What Is Swatting, and What Does It Tell Us About the Internet’s Worst Qualities?” Complex, 25 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Examples of this phenomenon can be seen here:

CrowbCat. “10 Streamers Get Swatted Live.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

A Panamanian Exorcism

“One day, my friend was very pale and talking in strange voices/tones. She was claiming that she was not herself and not in control of her body. And so, her friends took her to the hospital and they couldn’t find anything wrong. Then, one of the girls thought that getting a curandero was going to help her. He waived some plants over her and said some prayers. The demons quickly left, and she was fine after that. She doesn’t remember anything from when she was being possessed.”

In Panama, exorcisms are still quite common, as many still believe that they may be possessed by demons or The Devil himself. When someone appears to be possessed, a curandero (translates to healer) is hired to force the invaders out of the victim’s body. Usually, they tend to wave various plants and spices over the possessed in order to free them.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. His friend was the one who introduced him to the practice of exorcisms after revealing her personal story to him. Jonathan does not believe that what she claimed is true, but he does know that she becomes genuinely uncomfortable when talking about the subject, as it brings back traumatic memories for her. To him, the whole event is just a remnant of the older and more religious Panamanian beliefs.

The story told by Jonathan is as great look into the folklore that has survived from Panama’s past. While Jonathan and the doctors at the hospital had a hard time believeing her story, Jonathan’s friend was convinced that an evil entity had entered her body and was eventually forced to leave. Evidently, even though certain beliefs may seem outdated, their lack of prevalence does not mean that they are completely gone.

The Australian Dawn Service

According to the informant, there is a traditional service that occurs during the annual Anzac Day holiday (Australian equivalent of Veteran’s Day). Every year, it is traditional to attend a Dawn Service (named after the time of day when it occurs) at one of the many WWI soldier memorial shrines located across the country. The ceremony begins with the playing of a military tune by a bugle player. This is followed by two minutes of silence and several commemorative speeches made by various military officials. Although it is not required, many wear red Poppy flowers on their chests, which were originally meant a sign of respect for the soldiers that were lost during the WWI Gallipoli Campaign. These now honor the deaths of all Australian soldiers, however. Others like to leave wreaths at the shrine to honor the sacrifices that these soldiers made.

The informant, Angus Guthrie, is a 20 year old student who was born and raised in Australia. Because he and his family have been in the country for a very long time, he believes that he is quite familiar with Australian folklore and traditions. Angus claims that it is impossible for any true Australians to be unfamiliar with the Dawn Ceremony, as it is a national holiday that is instrumental to Australian identity. All parents are expected to teach their children to respect the holiday and to participate in its ceremonies. Even when Angus was not in Australia one year for the Anzac Day holiday, he was still encouraged to find and attend a Dawn Ceremony nearby. Angus felt a deep desire to express his strong emotional connection to the ceremony and to the holiday in general, as it is a yearly event that unites all Australians and incites a strong sense of national brotherhood. This is because the ceremony is now used to honor the soldiers that perished during all Australian battles, not just during the Gallipoli Campaign.

The Dawn Ceremony is interesting because it seems far more revered and complex than the Veterans Day ceremonies us Americans usually experience. While we do attend parades and memorial services, we do not wake up early in the morning and travel to shrines in mass numbers like the Australians do. It would also seem strange for an American to attend a memorial service in a different country. While the reasons behind these differences may be difficult to find, what is certain is that national events like the Dawn Ceremony are essential for unifying the Australian nation.

The Drop Bear Prank

“We’ve got a koala bear, which is one of the laziest animals. I don’t know where the tradition came from, but we tell tourist that koalas will drop down from trees and attack people. We like to tell tourists this to scare them. We like to “take the mickey” (make fun of) with people who have never been to the bush before.”

According to the informant, the drop bear is the name of a common prank that is pulled on tourists who have never been to Australia before and are unfamiliar with what life in the country is actually like. Because many of these tourists are afraid of the many poisonous animals that can kill them in the Australian wilderness, Australians like to intensify these fears for their own enjoyment by warning tourists that carnivorous koalas (otherwise known as drop bears) like to drop from trees and viciously attack anyone below. Angus claims that this prank is considered truly successful if a tourist returns home still believing that drop bears exist.

The informant, Angus Guthrie, is a 20-year-old student who was born and raised in Australia. Because he and his family have been in the country for a very long time, he believes that he is quite familiar with Australian folklore and traditions. While Angus does not know where he learned this prank from, he does know that it is a reaction to the stereotype that Australians live on land that is highly unsafe. Australians instead want to be known as a fun loving group of people. Angus believes that this prank helps them spread this image.

This prank is intriguing because it reflects the Australian value of being viewed in a positive light. It is clear that they resent the view that Australians do not live on safe land. What this prank allows them to do is allow foreigners to discover an image that better suits them. When people finally realize that drop bears are not real, that is when they are finally able to see what the Australian lifestyle is actually life.

For a complex example of the drop bear prank, look here: Janssen, Volker. “Indirect tracking of drop bears using GNSS technology.”Australian Geographer 43.4 (2012): 445-452.

The Waltzing Matilda Song

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong.
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee.
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred.
Down came the troopers, one, two, and three.
“Whose is that jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong.
“You’ll never take me alive!” said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

The Walzing Matilda is a popular folk song that is well known throughout Australia. The story is about a man camping alone out in the Australian wilderness by a pond. Seeking companionship, he finds a wandering sheep and puts it in his food bag. The man who owns the land where the camper is staying on soon arrives with three officers, demanding that the sheep be returned to him. Instead of giving in, the camper jumps into the pond and drowns himself. His ghost stays by the pond, hoping to spend time with anyone who walks by. According to the informant, the song is an iconic Australian piece of folklore that is recognized by all Australians. It is often sang at celebrations and large group gatherings, as it unifies all Australians together.

The informant, Angus Guthrie, is a 20-year-old student who was born and raised in Australia. Because he and his family have been in the country for a very long time, he believes that he is quite familiar with Australian folklore and traditions. Angus learned the song from a children’s music album that he enjoyed listening to as a child. Many artists have covered and recorded this song over the years, so he believes that it is nearly impossible for an Australian to have never heard the song. He loves the song because it represents a different time period in Australia, where people walked across the land with few belongings and slept under stars. For Angus, this song evokes a strong sense of national nostalgia that all Australians can relate to.

Because Australian is a nation that was erected after taking over Aboriginal land, it is curious to see folklore that was created by Australians themselves instead of by the natives. Because the Aboriginals have such a rich history of folklore, it would be easy to simply reappropriate it for Australian audiences so that they wouldn’t have to make any folkloric pieces for themselves. Songs like this prove that this is not what occurred, however, as their lack of Aboriginal influence shows that Australians did create folklore for themselves.


The Legend of Ned Kelly

“Ned Kelly came from a very poor family. There are many stories about him and his exploits. The main story is that the police always gave him a hard time. One day, a police officer called Fitzpatrick turned up and was having a go at Ned Kelly’s sister. He tried to defend his sister. It ended in a fight the policeman, which meant that Kelly and his brother had to run away and become outlaws. This forced them to turn to a life of crime to sustain themselves. They started always robbing from the rich people. They would then go back to their community and share the money they stole. Eventually, two others joined him, and they became the Kelly gang. The police hired special trackers to find hunt them down. The gang soon got cornered in this town called Glenrowan. They knew they would get cornered, so they build armor for Ned to wear to protect him from the police’s gunfire. All the gang members were shot and killed except for Ned, who was captured. He was tried and hung for robbery and murder since he had killed some cops. He died very young. Allegedly, his last words were “such is life”.”

The legend of Ned Kelly is one that is often retold all over Australia. During the late 19th century, Ned was a real criminal and outlaw who rebelled against the British forces that had been ruling over Australia by stealing from them and distributing their money to the lower classes. There are many stories that Australians enjoy telling about him, but probably the most famous concerns the suit of armor that he wore to protect himself. The original suit still exists today and is held in a museum in Australia.

The informant, Angus Guthrie, is a 20-year-old student who was born and raised in Australia. Because he and his family have been in the country for a very long time, he believes that he is quite familiar with Australian folklore and traditions. Angus read story of the Kelly gang as a child in an Australian folklore book that had been written for children. He feels that people enjoy the legend because it is a truly fun story that is an integral part of Australia’s cultural history. Many, including Angus, see Ned as a national hero because he is a symbol of the fight against the tyrannical British government.

The story of Ned Kelly perfectly exemplifies the reason why some outlaws can become local legends and heroes. Although Ned Kelly and his gang did kill innocent people and steal property that did not belong to them, their battle against the British forces was interpreted as a futile but courageous stand against their oppressive government. His stoic death only cemented his position as a cultural icon. Because the Australian people had been suffering so much at the time, it is likely that they were seeking a source of strength and hope to make their days easier. Clearly, they found their source in Ned.

For more research on Robin Hood characters (including Ned Kelly), see Seal, Graham. “The Robin Hood principle: Folklore, history, and the social bandit.” Journal of Folklore Research 46.1 (2009): 67-89.

The Traditional Kenyan Greeting

“When you greet someone who you consider reputable or older than you, you greet them by shaking their hands with both of your hands. You keep on holding on until they acknowledge you and say thank you. Usually, you do it with people you don’t talk to every day, like the parents of your friends.”

In Kenya, it is traditional to shake another’s hands with both of your own hands when greeting an elder or a person of high status. Because the other person is meant to have the control, it is they who decide how long the handshake should last. You are only supposed to let go after you have been acknowledged.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. Although Alastair does not remember who taught him how to properly shake an elder’s hand, he does know that he picked it up after observing how other Kenyan children interacted with their superiors. He claims that Kenya has long valued respecting elders, so this tradition is only a reflection of that belief.

It is always interesting to see how ancient values and beliefs are still maintained in today’s modern culture. Even though it may not seem like much, the way young Kenyans shake the hands of their elders says a lot about the country and what they believe in. It reveals that all elders and people of high status must be treated with honor and respect. The fact that Alastair was able to learn this common practice simply by observing others tells us that it is popular and that it is used quite often.






The Kikuyu Tribal Stereotype

“The Kikuyu tribe are known for being very good merchants and businessmen. They are known for coming in, and if they take over another tribes land, they will make it very profitable. They consider this a good trait, but other tribes see them as being greedy and that they will take all of your opportunities to make money”.

According to the informant, Kenya has over 42 historical tribes that can be traced back for many years. Because there are so many, there are several stereotypes about each of them that are understood by the general population. For example, the Kikuyu are well known for being greedy but successful businessmen who will stop at nothing to make a profit, even if they have to hurt others along the way. Many Kenyans resent them because of this.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. He explains that his friends taught him the stereotype as a child because even in the large city of Nairobi, the stereotype still exists. It is common knowledge that the Kikuyu own and run a large part of the city. Many who live in Nairobi dislike them because of this. Alastair does find this stereotype silly because of how silly it sounds when it is stretched, but he does acknowledge that there is some truth to it, since the Kikuyus do have a lot of power and money in Nairobi.

This Kikuyu stereotype originated during more rural times before cities like Nairobi were properly developed and built, so it is interesting to see how it has managed to follow the tribe into the modern era. The current use of it to explain why the Kikuyu are in control of so much of Nairobi’s metropolitan area only strengthens it, as it only gives Kenyans more reasons to believe in its validity. It can be dangerous to believe that stereotypes like this are rooted in actual reality, though, so Kenyans should be careful with them if they want to avoid conflicts between their tribes.




The Kenyan Way to Serve Food

“At any major event, like weddings and parties, the order in which the food is served is very specific. First, all the children are served. Then, the main guests are served. These are like the important people at the party or the bride and groom and their families at a wedding. Once they all have their food and sit down, everyone else gets their food”.

In Kenya, guests at large events where meals are provided are served food in a specific order that must be followed. The events where this tradition takes place are usually gatherings such as parties and weddings. Children are fed first. They are then followed by the significant guests and the rest of the invitees. It is deemed disrespectful to not feed the children first.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. He was taught this tradition by his mother, who was the parent that was responsible disciplining him and teaching him how to act appropriately in public. Alastair believes this tradition comes from the idea that children need the most amount of sustenance out of everyone else, since they are the most vulnerable. Adults want them to be able to have a long and healthy future, so they choose to wait to be served. To Alastair, this tradition reflects how Kenyans were forced to live before they became a modernized nation. Many children died at a young age, so it made sense to feed them first to hopefully prevent their early demise.

Like Alistair said, it is likely that the food scarcity problems Kenyans had to live through in the past influenced this tradition. Parents had to work extra hard to make sure that their children stayed healthy for as long as possible, so this tradition probably developed out of the desire to make this happen. Even though things like hospitals and modern medicine can help extend the lives of anyone nowadays, this idea seems to have stuck.

Panamanian Rain Prevention

“We have this tradition were if you are planning something that involves the outdoors and you don’t want it to rain (if you are having a birthday party outside for example), you fill a cup with water and put a knife in it with the sharp part facing down. The idea is that you are cutting and stopping the water (cutting the rain cycle), making it so that it doesn’t rain outside. The more you think its gonna rain, the more knives you put in the cup. We’ve had up to three knives in a cup in my house.”

The informant explains that placing knives in glasses filled with water is a method that traditional Panamanians use to try to stop incoming rain. Placing the knives in the water symbolizes cutting the rain. This is done with the intention of causing the rest of the day to be filled completely with sunshine. One does not have to acquire absolute evidence that it will rain in order to be able to participate in this activity. One only has to believe that it will rain.

The informant, Jonathan Castro, is a 21-year-old student from Panama. Because until recently, he had spent his entrie life in Panama, he believes that he is well informed in Panamanian folklore. His maid, whose family has strongroots in Panama, was the one who showed him this tradition. She knew that Jonathan’s mother always looked forward to having his older brothers over for their weekly family dinners and that they would not arrive if it was raining outside. With this in mind, she would put knives into a glass before every scheduled family meal to keep everyone together and happy. Although Jonathan and his family did appreciate the gesture, he did admit that most upper-class Panamanians simply believed the act was innefective witchcraft.

This tradition seems to demonstrate the differences in relationsihp to traditional folklore between the upper and lower classes in Panama. Jonathan’s maid, who comes from the lower class, clearly believes in the power of the knives and actively attempts to help others by using their magic. On the other hand, while Jonathan’s upper class family did enjoy the symbolism behind the tradition, they were not as eager to accept it as a viable tool to prevent bad weather. Innterestingly, both parties were able to respect each other’s beliefs, even if they did not line up very well.