Swimsuit-less Miss America enters second day of prelims

Miss Florida Taylor Tyson, left, won the talent competition for a piano rendition of “Mephisto’s Waltz” by Lizst while Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei won the onstage interview competition for her comments on higher education. (AP)
Updated 06 September 2018
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Swimsuit-less Miss America enters second day of prelims

  • ‘It’s sad that it’s gone, but I understand the reasons it’s gone’
  • ‘People are going to get to see what Miss America is all about with these changes’

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey: The second night of preliminary competition in the swimsuit-less Miss America competition will be held Thursday night in Atlantic City.
Contestants from Florida and Wisconsin picked up wins Wednesday in the first night of preliminary competition.
Miss Florida Taylor Tyson won the talent competition for a piano rendition of “Mephisto’s Waltz” by Lizst.
Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei won the onstage interview competition for her comments on how higher education should be more affordable and more widely accessible.
Both said they were excited to be the first winners in the revamped Miss America competition, which has generated controversy for its decision to eliminate swimsuits — a staple of the pageant since it began 98 years ago in Atlantic City.
“Swimsuit is behind us,” Vanderhei said after Wednesday night’s competition ended. “It’s sad that it’s gone, but I understand the reasons it’s gone.”
“People are going to get to see what Miss America is all about with these changes,” Tyson added.
The preliminaries began amid a revolt by state pageant officials unhappy with the way the decision to drop swimsuits was made, and who are demanding that top leadership, including chairwoman Gretchen Carlson, step down.
The current Miss America, Cara Mund, has accused Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper of bullying and silencing her — allegations the two officials deny.
Mund did not reference the controversy in her opening remarks, which followed a prolonged standing ovation. But she did pay tribute to local and state officials without mentioning national ones.
“This only exists because of our volunteers,” she said. “We wouldn’t have any organization if it weren’t for them.”
A spokesman for opponents of the current leadership said 46 state organizations have signed letters calling for Carlson and Hopper to resign; only Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada and Vermont have not signed.
The first of three nights of preliminary competition began with a big change: In past years, one talent and one swimsuit winner were named in each of the three preliminary nights.
This year, instead of a swimsuit winner, the winner of an onstage interview will be named.
Scholarships totaling nearly $506,000 will be awarded, including $50,000 for the new Miss America; $25,000 for the first runner-up; $20,000 for the second runner-up; $15,000 for the third runner-up, and $10,000 for the fourth runner up.
The third and final night of preliminaries will be held Friday.
The next Miss America will be crowned Sunday night in Atlantic City.


Book Review: Standing tall, the rise of the mighty minaret

Updated 19 January 2019
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Book Review: Standing tall, the rise of the mighty minaret

BEIRUT: “The Minaret,” Jonathan Bloom’s superb study of the lofty tower that epitomizes Islamic architecture, was republished in 2018, confirming the book’s importance almost three decades after its original release.

Tracing the origin and development of the minaret, which first appeared toward the end of the 8th century, Bloom reveals that the original structures had little to do with the call to prayer but were designed to be what they are today — a symbol of Islam.

This beautifully illustrated book not only explains when and why Muslims decided to attach towers to mosques but also looks at the evolution of the minaret from Turkey, Egypt, and India to West and East Africa, Yemen, Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

The 2018 edition has been revised and expanded, providing a sweeping tour of the tower’s prominent position in Islamic architecture.

Despite claims that Islamic architecture has stagnated, Bloom uses this book to outline his belief that it is alive and well, telling readers that in the past few decades “Muslims in Islamic countries have built ever taller and more monumental minarets … while Muslims in the West have sought to build mosques and Islamic centers using such traditional architectural forms as domes and minarets.”

The author brings the architectural form to life by detailing the types of minarets found around the world. A number of contemporary minarets are still built in the Ottoman or Mamluk style, but there are notable exceptions such as the futuristic mosque designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange for the King Faisal Foundation in Riyadh.

Bloom also explores the political dimensions of the Islamic symbol. He describes growing opposition to new mosques in Europe, particularly in Switzerland, where a 2009 poster circulated by the far-right Swiss People’s Party showed Ottoman-style minarets piercing the Swiss flag like missiles. This book sheds light on the campaign, and others like it, which have used the symbol of a minaret to oppose immigration.

From the aesthetic charm of the minaret, to its sociopolitical implications, this book is a must-read for those seeking to understand the powerful impact that bricks and mortar can have on society.