Archive for March 19th, 2012

March 19, 2012

Sadistic Mika Band

sadistic mika band

Sadistic Mika Band was a Japanese rock group formed in 1972. Its name is a parody of the ‘Plastic Ono Band.’ Produced by Masatoshi Hashiba on Toshiba-EMI Records (now EMI Music Japan), the band was led by the then husband and wife team of guitarist Kazuhiko Kato, and his wife, singer Mika Fukui. The word ‘sadistic’ is reported to be inspired by her insensitive sense of humor.

Kazuhiko Kato moved to London in 1972 and impressed by the burgeoning glam rock scene led by T. Rex and David Bowie, he set about forming a new group in Japan to emulate the style. Kato passed the album to Malcolm McLaren who at the time had a shop with Vivienne Westwood, and McLaren passed it on to Bryan Ferry, whose band Roxy Music would later support on a tour.

March 19, 2012

Centurion Card


The Centurion Card, known informally as the ‘black card,’ is a charge card first issued by American Express in 1999. The card was initially only available to select users of the Platinum Card. Cardholders are required to pay an annual fee, and in some countries also an initiation fee. In addition to a variety of exclusive benefits, the card itself is made of anodized titanium (although the plastic version is still available in some markets).

American Express created the card line amid rumors and urban legends in the 1980s that it produced an ultra-exclusive black card for elite users who could purchase anything with it.

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March 19, 2012


Banana republic

steel butterfly by allison krumwiede

Kleptocracy (‘rule by thieves’) is a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often without pretense of honest service. This type of government corruption is often achieved by the embezzlement of state funds.

Kleptocracy is most common in third world countries where the economy (often as a legacy of colonialism) is dominated by resource extraction. Such incomes constitute a form of economic rent and are therefore easier to siphon off without causing the income itself to decrease (for example, due to capital flight as investors pull out to escape the high taxes levied by the kleptocrats).

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March 19, 2012

Banana Wars

War is a Racket

The Banana Wars were a series of occupations, police actions, and interventions involving the United States in Central America and the Caribbean. This period started with the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the subsequent Treaty of Paris, which gave the United States control of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Between the time of the war with Spain and 1934, the US conducted military operations and occupations in Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The series of conflicts ended with the withdrawal of troops from Haiti and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy in 1934. Reasons for these conflicts were varied but were largely economic in nature.

The term ‘Banana Wars’ arises from the connections between these interventions and the preservation of American commercial interests in the region. Most prominently, the United Fruit Company had significant financial stakes in production of bananas, tobacco, sugar cane, and various other products throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Northern South America. The U.S. was also advancing its political interests, maintaining a sphere of influence and controlling the Panama Canal which it had recently built, critically important to global trade and naval power.

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March 19, 2012

Banana Republic

united fruit company

Banana republic is a pejorative name for a country which has an unstable government, high corruption and which largely depends on agriculture, such as growing bananas. There are subject to frequent coups. The ‘original Banana republic is Honduras. In the early 20th century the United Fruit Company had much influence in the country, even deposing a president and installing a new one over taxes.

The first known use of the term was by American author O. Henry in his 1904 book of linked short stories, ‘Cabbages and Kings.’ The book is based on Henry’s 1896-97 stay in Honduras, while hiding from federal authorities for embezzlement in the United States. O.Henry used the term to refer to a ‘servile dictatorship’ which directly supported large-scale plantation agriculture in return for payments or gifts.

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March 19, 2012



Molvanîa (subtitled ‘A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry’) is a book parodying travel guidebooks. The guide describes the fictional country Molvanîa, in Eastern Europe, a nation described as ‘the birthplace of the whooping cough’ and ‘owner of Europe’s oldest nuclear reactor.’

It was created by Australians Tom Gleisner, Santo Cilauro and Rob Sitch (of ‘The D-Generation,’ a popular and influential Australian TV sketch comedy show). The book became a surprise success after its initial publication in Australia, sparking a bidding war for the international publication rights. Qantas has even run the half-hour video segment produced in association with the book on its international flights.

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March 19, 2012

Gary Shteyngart

super sad true love story

Gary Shteyngart (b. 1972) is an American writer born in Leningrad, USSR. Much of his work is satirical and relies on the invention of elaborately fictitious yet somehow familiar places and times. Shteyngart spent the first seven years of his childhood living in a square dominated by a huge statue of Vladimir Lenin in what is now St. Petersburg, Russia; (he alternately calls it ‘St. Leningrad’ or ‘St. Leninsburg’). He comes from a Jewish family and describes his family as typically Soviet. His father worked as an engineer in a LOMO camera factory; his mother was a pianist. Shteyngart emigrated to the United States in 1979 and was brought up with no television in the apartment in which he lived, where English was not the household language. He did not shed his thick Russian accent until the age of 14.

Shteyngart took a trip to Prague, and this experience helped spawn his first novel, set in the fictitious European city of Prava. He is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Oberlin College in Ohio, where he earned a degree in politics, and Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Shteyngart now lives in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He has taught writing at Hunter College, and currently teaches writing at Columbia University and Princeton University. Shteyngart’s novels include ‘The Russian Debutante’s Handbook’ (2002), ‘Absurdistan’ (2006), and ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ (2010).

March 19, 2012


Absurdistan passport

Absurdistan is a term sometimes used to satirically describe a country in which absurdity is the norm, especially in its public authorities and government. The expression was originally used by Eastern bloc dissidents to refer to parts (or all) of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Today, the term is most often reserved for Russia and states formerly in the Soviet sphere of influence which have retained Soviet-style authoritarian governments, such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, or Belarus.

The first printed use of the word, in any language, can be found in a 1971 German monthly periodical ‘Politische Studien.’ Later, in Czech, the term was often used by the dissident and later president Václav Havel. This seems to indicate that use of the term began during perestroika (restructuring of the Soviet economy). The first recorded printed use of the term in English was in ‘Spectator’ in 1989, in an article about Czechoslovakia (Czechoslovakians have taken to calling their country ‘Absurdistan’ because everyday life there has long resembled the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’).

March 19, 2012

Mike Daisey

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

Mike Daisey (b. 1976) is an American monologist, author, and actor best known for his full-length extemporaneous monologues, particularly ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.’ The story was subsequently retracted following allegations that many of the events were fabricated. ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’ (2010) is a one-man show. It debuted at Portland’s TBA Festival in 2010

. It purports to examine globalization by exploring the exploitation of Chinese workers through the lens of ‘the rise and fall and rise of Apple, industrial design, and the human price we are willing to pay for our technology, woven together in a complex narrative.’ Excerpts from the show were presented as an exposé of conditions at a Foxconn factory in China on the Public Radio International show ‘This American Life’ in 2012. After it was retracted, Daisey apologized for presenting his work as journalism, saying it is actually theater, but refused to acknowledge that he had lied — even in the face of obvious discrepancies.

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March 19, 2012

Screen Burn

crashburn by steven read

Screen burn-in, or ghost image, is a permanent discoloration of areas on an electronic display such as a cathode ray tube (CRT) display or computer display monitor or television set caused by cumulative non-uniform usage of the pixels. With phosphor-based electronic displays (for example CRT-type computer monitors or plasma displays), non-uniform use of pixels, such as prolonged display of non-moving images (text or graphics), gaming, or certain broadcasts with tickers and flags, can create a permanent ghost-like image of these objects or otherwise degrade image quality.

This is because the phosphor compounds which emit light to produce images lose their luminance with use. Uneven usage results in uneven light output over time, and in severe cases can create a ghost image of previous content. Even if ghost images are not recognizable, the effects of screen burn are an immediate and continual degradation of image quality.

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March 19, 2012

Score Bug

Baseball goobers

A score bug (or, in an expanded form, a score banner or scorebar) is a digital on-screen graphic which is displayed at either the top or lower third bottom of a television screen during the broadcast of a sports game in order to display the current score and other statistics. The first television network in the United States to produce a score bug (digital on-screen graphic) was ABC, which used one on the telecast of the 1994 Purolator 500 NASCAR event. A transparent digit counted down the number of laps remaining in the race.

ABC also incorporated the Sports Bug for their 1994 World Cup coverage, providing the time and score on the game as well as enabling advertiser sponsorship to broadcast games without interruptions. Later that fall, Fox introduced a full-score bug for its NFL coverage, known as the ‘FoxBox,’ as did cable network ESPN. ABC expanded theirs to ‘Monday Night Football’ in 1997. CBS introduced theirs upon returning to the NFL in the fall of 1998, and NBC in 2001 during its coverage of the XFL.