Archive for November, 2013

November 29, 2013

Super AIDS

super aids

Super AIDS is an informal name for multidrug resistant strains of HIV-1, first found in NYC in 2005. The strain is vulnerable to enfuvirtide (a drug from a novel class of antiretrovirals). In 2006, provisional data indicated that 15% of new infections were resistant to one antiretroviral drug, and 3.2% to two such drugs. As a result the Department of Health and Human Services changed its guidelines to recommend testing for drug resistance before beginning antiretroviral treatment in new patients.

Typically, the ‘wild’ type of HIV (the strain of HIV found in individuals not treated with antiretroviral drugs) is much more effective at attacking the human immune system than the types that evolve in the presence of antiretroviral drugs. Thus, by changing the selection pressure (from being infection driven to being drug-avoidance driven) retroviral drug treatment causes HIV to evolve to a more innocuous form, less efficient at infecting T-cells. Super AIDS strains, however, are not only resistant to anti-retroviral drugs, but more effective than ‘wild’ HIV at infecting T-cells.

November 28, 2013

Visual Pun

A visual pun is a pun involving an image or images (in addition to or instead of language). Visual puns in which the image is at odds with the inscription are common in cartoons such as ‘Lost Consonants’ or ‘The Far Side’ as well as in Dutch gable stones (decorative building markings).

For instance the ‘Batenburg’ stone from Amsterdam depicts silver coins entering a castle and gold golds exiting, which puns on the words ‘baten’ (‘to profit’) and ‘burg’ (‘castle’), the name of a village near Nijmegen. European heraldry contains the technique of canting arms, which can be considered punning.

November 27, 2013

Reverse Product Placement

cheesy poofs

So-called ‘reverse product placement‘ is the creation of products in real life to match those seen in a fictional setting. In 2007, 7-Eleven rebranded 11 of its American stores and one Canadian store as ‘Kwik-E-Marts,’ selling some real-life versions of products seen in episodes of the ‘The Simpsons,’ such as Buzz Cola and Krusty-O’s cereal. In 1997, Acme Communications was created as a chain of real television stations; the firm is named for the fictional Acme Corporation of Warner Brothers fame.

The fictional Willy Wonka from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ (1971) was licensed to name a real candy company soon after the film’s release; the brand is now controlled by Nestlé. In the 1984 cult film ‘Repo Man,’ a reverse form of product placement is used, with an exaggerated form of 1980s era generic packaging used on products prominently shown on-screen (these include ‘Beer,’ ‘Drink,’ ‘Dry Gin,’ and ‘Food – Meat Flavored’).

November 27, 2013

Fictional Brand

Fictional brands are used in artistic works to imitate or satirize corporate brands, and/or to avoid trademark or copyright infringement. 

Such a device may be required where real corporations are unwilling to license their brand names for use in the fictional work, particularly where the work holds the product in a negative light.

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November 26, 2013



The Tralfamadorians are a fictional alien race mentioned in several novels by Kurt Vonnegut. Tralfamadore is their home planet. Details on the inhabitants of the planet vary from novel to novel.

In ‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ Tralfamadore is the home to beings who exist in all times simultaneously, and are thus privy to knowledge of future events, including the destruction of the universe at the hands of a Tralfamadorian test pilot. They kidnap Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of the novel, and place him in a zoo on Tralfamadore with Montana Wildhack, a Hollywood starlet.

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November 26, 2013

The Sirens of Titan

sirens of titan

The Sirens of Titan‘ is a 1959 book by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. His second novel, it involves issues of free will, omniscience, and the overall purpose of human history. Much of the story revolves around a Martian invasion of Earth. The protagonist is Malachi Constant, the richest man in 22nd-century America. He possesses extraordinary luck that he attributes to divine favor which he has used to build upon his father’s fortune. 

He becomes the centerpoint of a journey that takes him from Earth to Mars in preparation for an interplanetary war, to Mercury with another Martian survivor of that war, back to Earth to be pilloried as a sign of Man’s displeasure with his arrogance, and finally to Titan where he again meets the man ostensibly responsible for the turn of events that have befallen him, Winston Niles Rumfoord.

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November 25, 2013

James Fallon

James Fallon (b. 1947) is a neuroscientist studying brain imaging as a professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the School of Medicine at the UC, Irvine. He prominently featured in the BBC production ‘Are You Good or Evil?’, where he is revealed to have discovered that he, himself, has the neurological and genetic correlates of psychopathy. Fallon stated that he is not concerned by the findings and believes that his positive experiences in childhood negated any potential genetic vulnerabilities to violence and emotional issues. He categorizes himself as a ‘pro-social psychopath.’

Fallon sits on several corporate boards and national think tanks for science, biotechnology, the arts, and the US military. He is a Subject Matter Expert in the field of ‘cognition and war’ to the Pentagon’s Joint Command. He has made significant scientific contributions in several areas, including discoveries of TGF alpha and  epidermal growth factor, and he was the first experimenter to attempt large-scale stimulation of an injured brain with growth factors. He has also made contributions in the fields of schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and the roles of hostility and gender in nicotine and cocaine addiction.

November 24, 2013



Sungazing refers to staring at the Sun for nourishment or as a spiritual practice.

Proponents claim increased energy levels and decreased appetite, but there is no scientific evidence that sungazing provides health benefits. Looking directly at the Sun for even brief periods of time may cause blindness or severe damage to the eye.

November 23, 2013


jinro chamisul

Soju (lit. ‘burned liquor’) is a distilled beverage native to Korea, typically 20% alcohol by volume. Jinro and Lotte soju are the first and third top selling alcohol brands in the world. It is usually consumed neat. It is traditionally made from rice, wheat, barley, but modern producers of soju use supplements or even replace rice with other starches, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, or tapioca.

Alcohol etiquette is tied to South Korea’s strict culture of respect, particular for elders. When accepting a glass from an older person, the recipient must hold the glass with two hands (left palm on the bottom, right hand holding the side) and bow the head slightly. When drinking the younger person must turn away from the elder and cover their mouth and glass with their hands. There are a few rules unique to Soju: never pour your own glass, and don’t refill your glass until it’s empty.

November 22, 2013

The Fifth Element

fifth element

The Fifth Element‘ (‘Le Cinquième Élément’) is a 1997 English-language French science fiction film directed, co-written, and based on a story by Luc Besson. The film stars Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich.

Mostly set during the twenty-third century, the plot involves the survival of planet Earth, which becomes the duty of Korben Dallas, a taxicab driver and former special forces Major, when a young woman falls into his taxicab. Upon learning about her significance, Dallas must join forces with her to recover four mystical stones essential to defending Earth from an impending attack.

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November 21, 2013


A cryptocurrency is a peer-to-peer, decentralized, digital currency whose implementation relies on the principles of cryptography to validate the transactions and generation of the currency itself. They often use a proof-of-work scheme to guard against digital counterfeiting. While over 30 different cryptocurrency specifications and protocols have been defined, most are similar to and derived from the first fully implemented cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, created in 2009 by pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto

Most cryptocurrencies are designed to gradually introduce new units of currency, placing an ultimate cap on the total amount of currency that will ever be in circulation. This is done both to mimic the scarcity (and value) of precious metals and to avoid hyperinflation. Cryptocurrencies are also less susceptible to seizure by law enforcement than traditional currencies. Early attempts to integrate cryptography with electronic money were made by David Chaum, via DigiCash and ecash, which used cryptography to anonymize electronic money transactions.

November 20, 2013

Cus D’Amato


Cus D’Amato (1908 – 1985) was an American boxing manager and trainer who handled the careers of three boxers who would go on to become members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame: Floyd Patterson, José Torres, and most notably, Mike Tyson.

He was a proponent of the ‘peek-a-boo’ style of boxing, in which the fighter holds his gloves close to his cheeks and pulls his arms tight against his torso. That style was criticized by some because it was believed that a legitimate attack could not be launched from it.

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