Archive for February, 2014

February 28, 2014

Comic Strip


A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, these were published in newspapers, with horizontal strips printed in black-and-white in daily newspapers, while Sunday newspapers offered longer sequences in special color comics sections.

Strips are written and drawn by a comics artist or cartoonist. As the name implies, comic strips can be humorous (for example, ‘gag-a-day’ strips such as ‘Blondie’ or ‘Marmaduke’). Starting in the late 1920s, comic strips expanded from their mirthful origins to feature adventure stories, as seen in ‘Popeye,’ ‘Captain Easy,’ ‘Buck Rogers,’ ‘Tarzan,’ and ‘The Adventures of Tintin.’ Soap-opera continuity strips such as ‘Judge Parker’ and ‘Mary Worth’ gained popularity in the 1940s. All are called, generically, comic strips, though cartoonist Will Eisner has suggested that ‘sequential art’ would be a better name.

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February 27, 2014

Bill Watterson

bill watterson

Bill Watterson (b. 1958) is an American artist and the author of the comic strip ‘Calvin and Hobbes,’ which was syndicated from 1985 to 1995. Watterson stopped drawing the strip at the end of 1995 with a short statement to newspaper editors and his readers that he felt he had achieved all he could in the medium.

Watterson is known for his views on licensing (he refused to merchandise his creations on the grounds that displaying their images on commercially sold mugs, stickers and T-shirts would devalue the characters and their personalities) and his move back into private life after ‘Calvin and Hobbes.’

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February 26, 2014

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

discreet charm

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (‘Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie’) is a 1972 surrealist film directed by Luis Buñuel and written by Jean-Claude Carrière in collaboration with the director. The narrative concerns a group of upper-middle-class people attempting — despite continual interruptions — to dine together.

The film consists of several thematically linked scenes: five gatherings of a group of bourgeois friends, and the four dreams of different characters. The beginning of the film focuses on the gatherings, while the latter part focuses on the dreams, but both types of scenes are intertwined. There are also scenes involving other characters, such as two involving a Latin American female terrorist from the fictitious Republic of Miranda. The film’s world is not logical: the bizarre events are accepted by the characters, even if they are impossible or contradictory.

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February 26, 2014

The Jerky Boys

jerky boys

The Jerky Boys is an American comedy act from Queens, New York, whose routine consists of prank telephone calls and other related skits. The act was started in 1989 by childhood friends Johnny Brennan and Kamal Ahmed (who left in 2000).

The calls were made by ringing up unsuspecting recipients, or in response to classified advertisements placed in local New York-based newspapers. Each call was made in character, usually with over the top voices influenced by the duo’s family members.

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February 26, 2014

Tube Bar Prank Calls

tube bar

The Tube Bar prank calls are a series of prank calls made in the mid-1970s to the Tube Bar in Jersey City, in which pranksters would ask the proprietor of the bar if they could speak to a fictitiously named customer. The fictitious names given by the pranksters were pun-like/homophones for other—oftentimes more offensive—phrases. Recordings of the calls were circulated widely on duped cassette tapes and may have been the inspiration for a running gag in ‘The Simpsons.’

John Elmo and Jim Davidson, later known collectively as ‘Bum Bar Bastards,’ would call the Tube Bar, operated by heavyweight boxer Louis ‘Red’ Deutsch, asking for customers such as ‘Pepe Roni’ (pepperoni), ‘Hal Ja-Like-a-Kick’ (how’d you like a kick), ‘Phil My-Pockets’ (fill my pockets), ‘Al Coholic’ (alcoholic), and ‘Mike Hunt’ (my cunt). Most of the time, Deutsch would call out the names.

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February 25, 2014

Robert Lustig

fat chance

Robert H. Lustig is an American pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where he is a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. He practices in the field of neuroendocrinology, with an emphasis on the regulation of energy balance by the central nervous system. He also has a special interest in childhood obesity.

Lustig came to public attention through his efforts to establish that fructose can have serious deleterious effects on human (especially children’s) health if consumed excessively. In 2009, he delivered a lecture called ‘Sugar: The Bitter Truth’ that spread virally on YouTube, in which he calls fructose a ‘poison’ and equates its metabolic effects with those of ethanol.

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February 24, 2014

Gregory Clark

ancestor by Javier Jaen

Gregory Clark (b. 1957) is an economic historian at UC, Davis. His grandfathers were migrants to Scotland from Ireland, and he was born in Bellshill, Scotland. In 1974 he and a fellow pupil won the ‘Scottish Daily Express’ school debate competition. After school he earned his B.A. in economics and philosophy at King’s College, Cambridge in 1979 and his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1985. He has also taught as an Assistant Professor at Stanford and the University of Michigan. At Davis his areas of research are long term economic growth, the wealth of nations, and the economic history of England and India.

Clark is most well known for his book, ‘A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World.’ He argued that the current divide between rich and poor nations came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution originating in Britain. Prior to 1790, Clark asserts, man faced a Malthusian trap: new technology enabled greater productivity and more food, but was quickly gobbled up by higher populations. In Britain, however, as disease continually killed off poorer members of society, their positions in society were taken over by the sons of the wealthy.

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February 22, 2014


Good Smile Company

Itasha [ee-tah-sha] (literally ‘painful car’) is a Japanese term for a fashion of individuals decorating the bodies of their cars with fictional characters of anime, manga, or video games (especially ‘bishojo game’ and ‘eroge’ – dating and porn games). These characters are predominantly ‘cute’ females. The decorations usually involve paint schemes and stickers. Automobiles are called ‘itasha,’ while similar motorcycles and bicycles are called ‘itansha’ and ‘itachari,’ respectively.

In the 1980s, when Japan was at the zenith of its economic might, Tokyo’s streets were a parade of luxury import cars. Among them, the ‘itasha’—originally Japanese slang meaning an imported Italian car—was the most desired. Since then, ‘itasha’ (as the decorated vehicle) was derived from combining the Japanese words for ‘itai’ (‘painful’) and ‘sha’ (‘vehicle’). ‘Painful’ can be interpreted as ‘painfully embarrassing’ or ‘painful for the wallet’ due to the high costs involved.

February 21, 2014

Backup Singer

Twenty Feet from Stardom

A backup singer (also known as a backing vocalist, background singer, or harmony vocalist) is a singer who provides vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. In some cases, a backing singer may sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist’s entry or a counter-melody. Solo artists may employ professional backing vocalists in studio recording sessions as well as during concerts and other live performance routines.

Working as a backup singer can give a vocalist the onstage experience and vocal training they need to develop into a lead vocalist. A number of lead vocalists such as Ace Frehley, Mariah Carey, Cher, Gwen Stefani, Pink, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Sheryl Crow, Trisha Yearwood, Dave Grohl, and Elton John, learned their craft as backup singers, or singing backup vocals as part of a choir.

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February 20, 2014

Army Man

Army Man


Army Man‘ (tagline: ‘America’s Only Magazine’) was a short-lived comedy magazine published in the late 1980s by George Meyer, the acclaimed writer for ‘The Simpsons.’ The magazine consisted mostly of very short and very surreal jokes, along with some cartoons. Each issue also featured Jack Handey’s ‘Deep Thoughts,’ as well as other pieces written by him. Only three issues were ever published. Although Army Man was never widely distributed, it gathered a lot of attention in the comedy world.

Two of its writers (John Swartzwelder and Jon Vitti) were picked up alongside Meyer to be part of the original writing staff of ‘The Simpsons’ by the show’s developer and show-runner Sam Simon, an enormous fan of the magazine. Eventually other ‘Army Man’ writers would go on to write for ‘The Simpsons’ in later seasons. The writers were usually people Meyer knew from his years at the ‘Harvard Lampoon’ or who worked with him in TV shows like ‘Late Night with David Letterman,’ ‘The New Show,’ ‘Not Necessarily The News,’ and ‘Saturday Night Live.’

February 19, 2014

John Swartzwelder

John Swartzwelder

John Swartzwelder (b. 1950) is an American comedy writer and novelist, best known for his work on the animated television series ‘The Simpsons,’ as well as a number of novels. He is credited with writing the largest number of ‘Simpsons’ episodes by a large margin (59 full episodes, with contributions to several others). Swartzwelder was one of several writers recruited to show from the pages of George Meyer’s ‘Army Man’ magazine (a short-lived comedy periodical published in the late 1980s; Meyer would also go on to become an acclaimed ‘Simpsons’ writer).

Swartzwelder has been animated in the background of several episodes of ‘The Simpsons.’ His animated likeness closely resembles musician David Crosby, which prompted Matt Groening to state that anytime that David Crosby appears in a scene for no apparent reason, it is really John Swartzwelder. Additionally, Matt Groening has stated that the recurring character ‘Herman Hermann’ (the owner of Herman’s Military Antiques) was originally physically based on Swartzwelder–with the exception of his one arm.

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February 18, 2014

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

hybrid tiger by João Fazenda

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother‘ is a 2011 book by Yale law professor Amy Chua. The complete subtitle of the book is: ‘This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.’

Chua reported that in one study of 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, the vast majority ‘said that they believe their children can be ‘the best’ students, that ‘academic achievement reflects successful parenting,’ and that if children did not excel at school then there was ‘a problem’ and parents ‘were not doing their job.” Chua contrasts them with the view she labels ‘Western’ – that a child’s self-esteem is paramount.

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