Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Photo: Holger Rudolph.
A performance of “La Grande Phrase” by French company Campagnie Didier Théron. The idea is to share the fun of dance and draw in new audiences.

I love reading about serious artists reaching out through humor. But what is going on in the picture above? One kid is watching the playful performance and wearing a big smile. Everyone else is looking in another direction with solemnity. Bad choice of illustration?

Celina Lei reports at Australia’s ArtsHub that the “French dance company Campagnie Didier Théron will soon land in Adelaide to upend expectations of dancers’ bodies with a dash of humor.

” ‘Dance!’ Usually when kids hear this cue,” she writes, “they immediately start wiggling their bottoms and shuffling their feet – circling, hopping and swinging their arms.

“But often as we grow, we grow more hesitant, our movements become more restricted and choreographed in fear of embarrassing ourselves. So what if to dance is to be silly?

“Wearing colorful inflated suits and roaming across streets, parks and city centers, La Grande Phrase (The Big Phrase) is a dance-work series by Montpellier-based Campagnie Didier Théron that explores ways to upend stereotypes of what a dancer should look like or do.

“The self-taught dancer and choreographer Didier Théron tells ArtsHub that the work was born from a journey of experimentation and collaboration with international artists and dance companies, allowing dancers the freedom of movement while wearing suits inflated with air. …

“Théron points to the German artist and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer (1888-1943), as well as Venus figurines of the European Paleolithic period, as inspirations for these dramatic bodily forms. The movement of dance and the flow of air within the suits further activate these forms.

“After touring in cities around Europe and taking out the 2013 Grand Prize of Setouchi Triennale in Japan, the company will bring three dancers to WOMADelaide (SA) this March where ‘any space shared with the audience becomes a performance space.’

“In the same way that contemporary visual artists are continually challenging the notion of a hushed, white-cube gallery, dance with a splash of humor can provide multiple access points for different audiences.

“From the time of Charlie Chaplin, who pulled off every sequence with full comic relief, to more recent contemporary experimentations such as the UK’s New Art Club combining dance with stand-up comedy, there are plenty of examples where humor can support choreographic expression.

“Théron says: ‘This project always surprises me in the reactions of the people and how they receive it. The first time we performed it outside was in a suburb of Montpellier. It was not easy to have a cultural artistic project in this area, but we crossed this line with these characters and everybody was laughing or smiling.’

“Taking this performance [onto] the streets also offers the dancers greater freedom, and the audiences more opportunities to interact, adds Théron. …

“Roving performances were also something that had a great impact on Théron as a child, from the very first time he encountered a ritualistic dance parade in his grandparents’ village in the centre of France.

“He says: ‘That was the first dance I saw and members of my family were also dancing (only men at the time), but it was very powerful and filled with a deep joy. This performance allowed me to reconnect with this memory.’ …

“What the company hopes to bring to the audience is an invitation to think about dance and dancers’ bodies ‘beyond the norm,’ and perhaps at some point share the joy of movement.

‘There is something in being this character that [gives] us permission to do many things. I think it’s a real positive body and filled with possibilities that we can experiment with all the time,’ concludes Théron.”

More at ArtsHub, here. No firewall. Funny pictures.

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Photo: Gage Skidmore.
Cartoonist Sergio Aragonés speaking at the 2017 WonderCon in Anaheim, California.

I always feel admiration for people who love their work so much that they keep doing it well into their advanced years.

In today’s post, Michael Cavna of the Washington Post writes about the staying power of Mad Magazine’s oldest active artist.

“Sergio Aragonés had long read Mad magazine back in Mexico by the time he first landed in New York, toting fresh artwork and hope. He stepped through the humor outlet’s front doors 60 years ago, expecting to find the place as wild in spirit as the publication’s satirically hip pages. This was, after all, the home of the staff’s self-anointed ‘Usual Gang of Idiots.’

“Instead, the recent college student was introduced to a relatively staid Madison Avenue office. Where was the whimsy? The Mad-cap frivolity? This was no clubhouse of high jinks.

“ ‘I thought it was going to be a lot of jokes on the walls,’ Aragonés says by Zoom from his home in Ojai, Calif., where he celebrated his 85th birthday last month. After he was hired that day he walked in to sell his work, he suggested to publisher William Gaines, ‘Why don’t we paint one of the doors to make it look like an elevator, putting fake numbers at the top?’ and befuddling visitors attempting to exit. Or perhaps better yet: ‘Why don’t we put a bomb in the roof with the sound effect “tick-tock-tick-tock”?’

“ ‘Bill looked at me like: “Sergio, this is an office of working people.” He wanted the office to be very functional.’

“What cartoonists cannot create in life, however, they are armed to imagine on the canvas. So for a new comic, Aragonés has drawn busy Mad office workers momentarily donning character masks … to entertain kid visitors taking phone photos.

“That strip is among a selection that Aragonés contributed to a special edition of Mad [that] marks the magazine’s 70th anniversary. Although the outlet has predominantly reprinted past material since it ceased regular publication in 2019, most of this special edition will be original content, including a Johnny Sampson back-page ‘fold-in,’ a film parody of Robert Pattinson as ‘The Batman,’ and a mini-essay by fanJordan Peele, whose film Nope features a fictional Mad cover.

“The special edition also spotlights Aragonés’s status as the oldest artist currently drawing for Mad. … He says he has been blessed with six fruitful decades at the iconic magazine, which reached millions of monthly readers at its 1970s peak and influenced writers at such shows as The Daily Show and The Simpsons, as well as Judd Apatow and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

“Aragonés’s high standard for consistent creativity is legendary. For decades, he only missed contributing to a single issue, and that was because the mail from Europe was slow in the 1960s. The cartoonist, who also produces the fantasy comic book series ‘Groo the Wanderer,’ attributes his mental fertility to mixing things up creatively, from narrative stories to the wordless art for the Mad margins, his signature domain. ‘The variety of my field,’ he says with gusto, ‘allows me to never get tired of it.’ …

“ ‘I suspect if Sergio were to go and donate blood, ink would come out of him,’ says John Ficarra, former Mad editor in chief. ‘He is incapable of not drawing.’

“Aragonés acknowledges that he does not suffer writer’s block because cartooning is second nature: ‘Drawing has become like walking.’ …

“Aragonés was born in the Spanish province of Castellón, in Sant Mateu, but within six months, his mother fled the Spanish Civil War — Sergio in tow — while his father fought for the Republic. The family reunited a few years later, but by 1942 they were World War II refugees in Nazi-occupied France. They headed to the North American nation that would take them in: ‘I have a debt with Mexico I will never be able to repay.’ …

“In high school, Aragonés drew his own cartoons (a creative ‘form of escape,’ he says), which a classmate submitted to a humor periodical unbeknown to him. They were purchased and published, sparking his self-belief. …

“ ‘The humor that I do wasn’t popular in the United States because American humor is always based on words, the British inheritance of the punchline,’ he says. Pantomime humor lacked such respect in the States. …

Mad editors, though, valued Aragonés’s work immediately. They bought his cartoons featuring astronauts and asked for a piece on motorcycle cops. …

“ ‘When Mad accepted me, that was a change of life, a change of mind, a change of everything. Somebody liked what I did.’ ”

More at the Post, here.

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William Shakespeare.
Even the Bard made mistakes.

Blogger Asakiyume and I met in the 1990s when we were both copyediting at a management magazine where a witchy person taught us the nitty gritty of the trade. There was another person who would argue with our capitalization, wording, or punctuation decisions by saying she had a PhD in English. As if that had anything at all to do with the work-a-day craft! Those of you who value good copyediting may get a kick out of today’s article from a site called the Millions.

Ed Simon writes that the work of print setter is the old days was “laborious, and for smaller fonts, such as those used in a Bible, the pieces could be just a millimeter across. Long hours and fatigue, repetitive motion and sprained wrists, dim light and strained eyes — mistakes were inevitable.

“The King James Version of the Bible has exactly 783,137 words, but unfortunately for the London print shop of Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, official purveyors to King Charles I, their 1631 edition left out three crucial letters, one crucial word — ‘not.’ As such, their version of Exodus 20:14 read, ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.’ …

“Literature’s history is a history of mistakes, errors, misapprehensions, simple typos. It’s the shadow narrative of expression — how we fail because of sloppiness, or ignorance, or simple tiredness. Blessed are the copyeditors. …

“A 1562 printing of the sternly doctrinaire translation the Geneva Bible prints Matthew 5:9 as ‘Blessed are the placemakers’ rather than ‘peacemakers’; an 1823 version of the King James replaced ‘damsels’ in Genesis 24:61 with ‘camels,’ and as late as 1944 a printing of that same translation rendered the ‘holy women, who trusted God … being in subjection to their own husbands’ in 1 Peter 3:5 as referring to those pious ladies listening to their ‘owl husbands.’

“But not all errors seemed as innocent. … A 1653 printing stated that it was the unrighteous who would inherit the earth, a 1716 edition records Jeremiah 31:34 as telling us to ‘sin on more,’ and a 1763 volume replaces the penultimate word ‘no’ with ‘a,’ so that Psalm 14:1 reads ‘the fool hath said in his heart there is a God.’ … In a 1612 errata … Psalm 119:161 had the first word of the line ‘Princes’ replaced, so that it now read, ‘Printers have persecuted me without cause.’ …

“Depending on whether ambiguity is a mistake or a strength, the law often codifies uncertainty. The U.S. Constitution isn’t particularly long — only a few pages — and yet it’s filled with grammatical and spelling errors, as well as confusing syntax that bedevils contemporary citizens. … Significant are the idiosyncrasies in punctuation: commas are placed between nouns and verbs, errant commas in the Second Amendment makes it unclear as to whether the right to bear arms is reserved for individuals or only ‘well regulated militias,’ and a semicolon in Article VI seems to invalidate the Constitution itself. ‘The Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.’ Strictly speaking, the end stop of that semicolon implies that ‘all Treaties made,’ and not the Constitution, shall be the supreme law of the land, and yet we’ve always just assumed it’s an obvious typo. …

“Theodor Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy describes a pair of lovers as being ‘like two small chips being tossed about on a rough but friendly sea,’ while Daniel Defoe tells us that Robinson Crusoe stripped naked, swam out to his sinking ship and retrieved supplies, which he then stored in his pockets on the returning laps. …

“For all his genius, the Bard was often uninformed or lazy, author of a veritable comedy of errors. The Winter’s Tale references landlocked Bohemia as having a coast. In Julius Caesar, Cassius uses a clock some 14 centuries before they were invented, and in The Two Gentlemen of Verona they sail from that titular city to Milan, a geographic impossibility. …

“In his 1816 poem, John Keats famously compares the experience of his first reading George Chapman‘s Homeric translations to being ‘like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes/He stared at the Pacific,’ except the first European to see the western coast of that ocean was actually Vasco Núñez de Balboa. Did Keats just not know this, or was this intentional? Does the purposefulness or not of the inaccuracy matter to how we read the lyric? …   

” ‘A slip of the tongue can be amusing,’ notes Sigmund Freud in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. … While campaigning for Mitt Romney in 2012, Senator John McCain said, ‘I am confident with the leadership … President Obama will turn this country around,’ inadvertently endorsing the governor’s opponent.”

Some of this is too funny! Read it all here, at the Millions. It’s a long article. No firewall.

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Photo: Morgan Bible, 13th century, via Wikimedia.
In this meme, @artmemescentral captions the art thus: “When I’m drunk and try to take off a turtleneck.”

There’s something entertaining happening on Instagram lately. A goofy look at the art of the Middle Ages.

At Hyperallergic, Alicia Eler writes, “Medieval imagery wasn’t meant to be funny when it was made hundreds of years ago, but all over Instagram it has been remixed, captioned, and somehow reads as peak hilarious — depending on your sense of humor.

“One evening while wasting time on the addictive social media platform, I came across a meme of a medieval battle scene; on the right, a horse was giving the sword-wielding dude some serious side-eye,” she writes.

A perfect caption made her laugh “maniacally, posting it to my Instagram story and sending it to all my close friends. How could this seemingly arcane medieval imagery, previously confined to an art museum or, perhaps, a European crypt, feel so meme-able? …

“ ‘It’s funny for the same reason that Black American Vernacular English is so sticky — because it references a level of servitude that we don’t want to admit,’ said artist Kenya (Robinson), whose work often explores privilege, consumerism, and perceptions of gender, race, and ability. She noted that the text is written in Black American Vernacular English, also known as the language of social media. …

“That’s the text. But what about the image and the side-eye horse? It actually portrays the ‘Captivity of Jeholachin King of Israel, which isn’t particularly funny. Babylonians destroy the Temple of Jerusalem, then lead the Jews into captivity. (As a Jewish person, this makes the meme feel very unfunny, and more like a story my grandma, or bubbe as we say, might have told over a holiday dinner.) … 

“But the fact that the image suddenly appears hilarious in this remixed context struck me. …

“ ‘There’s something about the surprise of the medieval,’ said Sonja Drimmer, a scholar of medieval European art, and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. ‘One of the conceptions about the European Middle Ages has to do with blind piety, prudishness, but when people see imagery that defies that, the disjunction leads to laughter.’ …

“ ‘I think there is something about Western medieval art that seems like a safe target … some of the memes — like the side-eye horse, if it were sub-Saharan Africa — you could imagine meme-ifying it, and then imagine it becoming deeply problematic very quickly,’ said Erik Inglis, professor of Medieval art history at Oberlin College. ‘I think with the very white faces of Western medieval art, it seems innocent. We are pretty willing to condescend to the Middle Ages, [which is] not fraught as it is to condescend to other ages.’

“Most of the medieval art history memes come from broader art meme accounts, such as @artmemescentral or @classical_art_memes_official, though there are some discontinued accounts that focus only on medieval imagery. …

“ ‘Medieval imagery is so phone-friendly,’ explained Cem A., an artist and curator who runs the popular art meme page @freeze_magazine (no association with Frieze magazine), and curatorial assistant at Documenta 15.

” ‘For me, its style is more simplified, representational, and cartoonish than our classical understanding of painting. Figures in these images usually have exaggerated (and therefore easier to grasp) relationships onto which you can build a meme. Its aesthetics works better on the compact screens of smartphones.’

“At the same time, medieval imagery isn’t all just easy fodder for funny memes. It can ‘be racist and quite terrible, and ground zero for white supremacy, said Drimmer. 

“The mob that stormed the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, carried … symbols associated with the Crusades. The far Right’s use of medieval iconography gained steam after the September 11 attacks, with white supremacists picturing themselves as ‘modern Christian warriors fighting to preserve the idea of America as a white, Christian nation,’ according to a report in Teen Vogue

“This is an even more troubling connection for academics and those who study the era, but also speaks to the layers upon layers of racialized remix culture that make up the ever-pervasive American visual pop culture that keeps on spreading. There’s also an impulse to turn almost anything into a meme these days.

“ ‘The funny thing about retroactively searching through history to identify memes is that you start to see memes where they might never have existed before,’ noted Daniel Shinbaum, a Berlin-based cultural critic and memes researcher. ‘Almost anything can start to look like a meme.’ ”

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall.

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Blogger Humor

I love the self-deprecating humor of cartoons about blogging and am thinking that other bloggers might be amused by these. Let me know if you can’t read what they say.

After taking my cartoons off the fridge and photographing them, I got to wondering why people blog in the first place and decided to do a Google search on the phrase “why I blog.” Turns out, quite a few bloggers have posted on that very topic.

At Medium, Rybo Chen lists eight reasons for blogging: to build character and discipline, share thoughts and lessons learned, read more and learn more, have great conversations, become a better thinker, build healthy habits, and build a personal brand. Most of those sound reasonable to me — except that I have no interest in building my personal brand. What would I do with it once it got built?

Melissa at Patheos seems to be using her blog to help her work out the effects of an unusually restrictive childhood. Or, as she puts it, “This is my own little place to think and process stuff. I have found a voice through writing here.” She originally kept her writing from people she knew and considered shutting down when she was found out. I have noticed that the blogging motivations of several visitors to my site are similar to hers.

The blogs Pinch of Yum and Sally’s Baking Addiction have the same origins: the bloggers love sharing recipes. But it’s more than that. Sally says, “That isn’t the only reason why I blog. (It was certainly the reason why I started!) As the years pass and I learn more about blogging – and myself – I’ve grown to appreciate the many blessings that blogging brings to me both professionally and personally.” She lists eight things, including “healing,” which I found intriguing.

Lindsay at Pinch of Yum — a former 4th grade teacher and current full-time blogger who lives in Minnesota with husband Bjork — lists 10 reasons for loving what she does, including helping others start their own blog and sharing photography tips in a food photography eBook.

Lauren Hooker at Elle & Co. gives six reasons she blogs, including that it enables her to share her design work and attract clients.

My reasons for doing this blog have evolved — or perhaps I should say “have clarified” — over the 7-1/2 years I’ve been writing it. At first, the wish to help Suzanne sell jewelry was equal with the pleasure of blogging, which I had been doing at work already. Suzanne and Erik said that they knew I liked it and that having a blog tied to Luna & Stella‘s contemporary birthstone-jewelry business would be helpful.

I don’t think I’ve been all that helpful, but it’s true that one time a woman wrote Suzanne that she didn’t usually like to buy from online businesses that she didn’t know but was reassured after getting a sense of what Suzanne’s Mom was like.

What has been clarified is that I enjoy the routine of writing every day and I love not only reading the curious articles but editing them. After all, I worked for years as an editor because I liked editing. There’s real satisfaction in trying to find the points that are most likely to click with readers. I also like coming up with photos — my own or borrowed — and learning the technical stuff involved in placing them.

Getting to know my commenters is also a treat, but what’s surprising is that it is a pleasure that is somehow separate from the pleasure of writing the posts. I need to think more about how that works.

Since so many of you blog, too, I’d love to hear why you do it and under what circumstances you could see yourself giving it up. I myself expect to keep going as long as I have my wits about me.





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Deltalina was one of the first to introduce a note of humor in an airline-safety video. The question is, Do passengers retain life-saving information better — or worse?

The last place most of us would look for humor is in an airline-safety video, but as Benjamin Schneider writes at CityLab, comedy in safety information has become a thing.

“Ever since the introduction of in-flight entertainment screens in the 1980s,” writes Schneider, “airline safety videos have been a quintessential feature of commercial aviation. …

“But since the late Aughts, these straight-faced public service announcements have almost completely disappeared, to be replaced by spunky pop-culture riffs, irreverent humor, and eye-catching production.

“In an industry governed by such strict regulations, there is very little airlines can do to differentiate themselves from their competition. So, in 2007, when the airline startup Virgin America sought to carve out its niche as the airline that ‘can make flying fun again, … the in-flight safety video was one of the few features that could be tinkered with. …

“In the video, an unlikely cast of characters, including a toreador and a tech-obsessed nun, demonstrate the safety instructions, while the video’s lead animator, Gordon Clark, winkingly describes their mundane acts. … ‘It made people relaxed when they sat on the plane,’ Clark said. …

“Ironically, airline safety virality was first achieved by a relatively strait-laced video from Delta in 2008. The masses became obsessed with the video’s lead presenter, whose theatrical ‘no smoking’ finger wag earned her something of a cult following, and the moniker ‘Deltalina.’ … In the ensuing years, airlines have pulled out nearly every gimmick imaginable to make their safety video a YouTube sensation. …

“No airline has pursued this strategy with the dedication of Air New Zealand, which has released 14 high-concept videos since 2009, racking up a total of 108 million views online. … [Their first] video’s popularity paved the way for ever more ambitious projects, like ‘The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made,’ a Lord of the Rings tribute complete with dwarves, elves, and battle scenes. …

“The contemporary crop of airline safety videos appear to have a contradiction at their heart. On the one hand, they are designed to compel passengers to pay attention to important safety information that they might otherwise ignore. On the other hand, the videos contain so much extraneous data that it can be difficult to catch the actual instructions. …

“[Some observers are] skeptical of their effectiveness. Brett Molesworth, an aviation researcher at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told the Wall Street Journal that people tend to remember the funny parts of these videos, rather than the safety instructions. … Les Dorr, an FAA spokesperson, said that the FAA is in the process of revising their guidelines for these presentations.”

More at CityLab, here.

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Photo: The Economist
A statue of Juha, the wise old fool of Arab folklore.

It’s interesting to me that all cultures seem to have something like a wonton as part of their cuisine. Jewish cooks make kreplach, Italians make ravioli, Polish cooks make pierogis, and so on. We have more in common than we often realize.

The same goes for folktales. For example, most cultures have a wise fool, like the old court jesters or Don Quixote. I just learned about an Arab example.

The Economist comments, “Western audiences have grown used to the marauding heroes of Arabic folklore. Characters like Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba instantly conjure images of hidden treasure and desperate sword fights. But in the Middle East itself, many people prefer a more down-to-earth figure: Juha, a wise old fool, and his long-suffering donkey. …

“Juha first appeared in an Arabic book of the ninth century, though this was likely adapted from an older oral tradition. From there, Juha quickly splintered to the far ends of the Mediterranean world. He followed the Arabs to Sicily, where he became known as Giufà. In Turkey, his legend merged with a Sufi mystic called Nasruddin, while the Ottomans exported him to the Balkans. Some even claim that Juha inspired Cervantes’s ‘Don Quixote.’ …

“In some tales, Juha is accompanied by his faithful donkey and much amusement springs from it getting lost. One story begins with Juha looking for the animal around town; everywhere he goes, he thanks God. People are confused. ‘Why are you praising God?’ they ask. ‘Surely this is nothing to be thankful for?’ Juha smiles. ‘If I were riding the donkey right now, I’d be lost too!’

“Not all Juha’s tales are so innocent. Like court jesters in medieval Europe, his everyman style has proved an ideal vehicle for social criticism. In one fable, Juha is approached by a proud king. ‘All the great rulers of the past had honorific titles with the name of God in them,’ he proclaims. ‘There was God-gifted, and God-accepted. Can you think of a name for me?’ Juha pauses. “God-forbid,’ comes his retort. …

“Ali Ahmed Bakathir, an Egyptian nationalist, reimagined the fable of ‘Juha’s nail’ in 1951 to mock Britain’s obsession with the Suez Canal (just as Juha keeps ownership of a single nail at his old house so he always has an excuse to visit, Bakathir suggested that the British used Suez to justify their occupation of Egypt generally). …

“Amid the confusion of the modern Middle East, Juha is one way people find common ground. Last year, storytellers from around the Gulf met in the United Arab Emirates to celebrate Juha. The internet provides another space for communal appreciation. A popular Reddit page features dozens of volunteers reading a classic Juha story in their native Arabic dialect.”

More at the Economist, including sightings of Juha in unlikely parts of the world, here.

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Gudetama, a gloomy egg yolk in a Japanese cartoon series, is one manifestation of an offbeat sense of humor that some observers see as uniquely Japanese.

Patrick Winn wrote the Global Post story.

“Is it possible to market malaise? In Japan at least, the answer is yes. Meet Gudetama, the anthropomorphic embodiment of severe depression.

“Gudetama is a cartoon egg yolk that feels existence is almost unbearable. It shivers with sadness. It clings to a strip of bacon as a security blanket. Rather than engage in society, it jams its face into an eggshell and mutters the words, ‘Cold world. What can we do about it?’

“Gudetama may hate the world beyond its shell. But the world — within Japan’s borders, at least — sure loves Gudetama.

“The misanthropic egg was introduced last year by Sanrio, a Tokyo-based corporation devoted to creating cutesy characters and licensing out their images. Its flagship character, Hello Kitty, is valued at $7 billion and appears on lunch boxes and pajama sets across the globe.

“Gudetama is following Hello Kitty’s lead. Its distressed little face now appears on fuzzy slippers, iPhone covers, plush dolls and even a themed credit card by Visa. …

“Matt Alt, a Japanese-speaking American and specialist in Japan’s pop culture, [decodes] Japan for Western audiences. [He opines that] in Japan, there’s a long history of personifying and anthropomorphizing inanimate objects.

“Gudetama is the most recent of a long, long lineage of mascot characters. Many Japanese mascots will express emotions that Western mascots would not. In the West, mascots are used almost exclusively to cheer people up. In Japan, they’re often used to get a point across or act as mediators in situations where you wouldn’t want to express yourself directly.” More here.

Some US advocates for people with mental illness object strongly to  humor on the subject (even criticizing phrases like “wild and crazy guy”). Others recognize that there are those who use humor to help themselves get well. Wonder what they would think of this egg yolk.

Photo: Sanrio

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Erik keeps tabs on health-related issues and just got an email that he thought would interest me.

He was right. I was reminded of a visit from a “laugh doctor” back when I was editor of Minnesota Physician. The laugh doctor showed us how we could get ourselves laughing. He talked about the endorphins produced and how good they were for health.

In apparent agreement, a Rhode Island clinic that serves low-income people is putting on a comedy show May 7 and inviting neighbors, patients — anyone who is up for a good laugh and willing to make a donation.

The comedy will be performed by the Providence Improv Guild at the Fête Event Space in Olneyville, RI, May 7th, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Says the Laugh for Health invitation, “Suggested donation for tickets: Giggle $10 – Chuckle $ 25 – Laughing out Loud $100 ($150 per couple). Belly Laugh $1000 and above! …

“Here at Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic — we believe in laughter and joy. We celebrate health. We laugh at ourselves. We applaud our patients. We take joy in volunteering. We consider health, not wealth, to be the most valuable asset in our community.

“And since many of our neighbors do not have the resources to receive proper healthcare, or don’t know where to be seen for their health problems and how they’ll manage to pay for it all, we are there for them.

“Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic welcomes our neighbors in need with open arms. We celebrate health, and with our patients, laugh out loud as they make the journey from illness to good health. … It’s simple to RSVP – click here.”

To learn more about Hope Clinic, visit http://www.aplacetobehealthy.org.

Photo: Hope Clinic
Members of the Providence Improv Guild will perform at a benefit for Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic May 7.

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Four years ago, I blogged about some beautiful manhole covers is Japan. Now I learn that Minneapolis also has discovered the artistic possibilities of heavy, round metal that lots of people see as they cross the street.

Eric Grundhauser writes at Slate‘s Atlas Obscura blog, “Minneapolis has made its underfoot sewer covers a point of artistic pride, with designs that celebrate the area’s art, history, and wildlife.

“In the early 1980s, Minneapolis began asking artists to design iconic manhole covers for the city. … From David Atkinson’s whimsical summer grill design to Stuart D. Kippler’s introspective geography marker, each of the covers turned what was once a mundane city feature into a unique piece of art. …

“[Kate] Burke created sculpted images of regional icons like the Minnesota state fish (the walleye), the state fruit (Halverson apple), and the state bird (loon). The detailed pieces of steel each feature tableaux of their subject that make most municipal equipment look lazy by comparison.

“Some of the covers even feature small hidden details such as a worm in the state apple, or a pheasant erupting from the bronzed image of the state grain (wild rice).” More here.

I love that the Minnesotan sense of humor is part of the artistic effort. Reminds me of Massachusetts sculptor Mags Harries, who is still associated with the bronze banana peels, orange skins, and broken crates she embedded among the produce vendors in the Haymarket in 1976.

Photo: J Wynia/Creative Commons
Manhole cover in Minneapolis.

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Kai the World Traveler and Titan of Industry knows the kind of story that catches my eye. He sent me this one from the New York Times about a street artist who spoofs Banksy, Tom Hanks, and a lot else.

John Leland writes, “This is a story about art in the age of social media

“In April 2011, a law school dropout in Bushwick, Brooklyn, newly arrived from the Midwest, had an idea that he thought might make a splash. He admired the street artist Banksy; he grew up on the movies of Tom Hanks. Why not mash up the two?

“Using simple computer software, he downloaded a Banksy painting of a rat holding a paint roller, then added an image of Mr. Hanks’s face. The whole thing took 10 or 15 minutes to create. He printed a cutout and pasted it on a wall at Mulberry and Kenmare Streets in Little Italy, signing it Hanksy.

“He photographed the wall for his Instagram and Twitter accounts, and emailed it to the Wooster Collective, a popular street art website. Then he went to sleep.

“ ‘And then it just went viral,’ Hanksy said the other day

“RJ Rushmore, who runs the street art blog Vandalog, said he was among many who initially dismissed Hanksy as an opportunist. ‘I thought it was not art, not brilliant, just taking the stupidest ideas and presenting them in ways that were very friendly for Tumblr and Instagram,’ Mr. Rushmore said. ‘It’s not art in the sense of a graffiti writer who spent 15 years developing his style.’

“Mr. Rushmore has since warmed to Hanksy, for comic relief in a scene that sometimes gets too serious. ‘He makes the best cat videos,’ he said. ‘That’s still something to be applauded.’

“Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, said more was at stake in Hanksy’s visual gags.

“ ‘It’s more than a pun,’ she said. ‘Banksy’s work is hypermasculine and serious about its underground, tough, outlaw image. And Tom Hanks is just not that guy. So the humor is putting that identity on this hyper-butch material. It’s the revenge of the nerd.’ ” More.

Photo: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
Street artist Hanksy merged Banksy’s famous rat with Tom Hanks.

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John sent around a funny YouTube series. Have you seen “Convos with My Two-Year-Old”? The conversations are quite professionally produced by a dad, Matthew Clarke, who has written down actual conversations with his daughter so that a fully grown man in the role of the two-year-old can help him reenact them.

The acting is good. I love the costume touches, like the little heart necklace on the actor who plays the two-year-old girl, and in later video, the barrette and fairy wings.

Check out more, here. I’m impressed. I wrote down lots of funny conversations when John was learning language and then when Suzanne was. But carrying it to this level did not occur to me. Of course, everyone wasn’t making videos then, but I could have done Super 8. Or Betamax.

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Asakiyume writes a blog I enjoy a lot, and this week she had an intriguing post on Jackie Ormes, generally considered the first female African American cartoonist. See examples of work by Ormes at Asakiyume’s blog, here.

According to wikipedia, Ormes (1911 to 1985), “started in journalism as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly African American newspaper that came out every Saturday. Her 1937-38 Courier comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club.”

The strip waxed and waned as Ormes pursued her many career interests, bur she always returned to Torchy.

“In 1950, the Courier began an eight-page color comics insert, where Ormes re-invented her Torchy character in a new comic strip, Torchy in Heartbeats. This Torchy was a beautiful, independent woman who finds adventure while seeking true love. …  The strip is probably best known for its last episode in 1954, when Torchy and her doctor boyfriend confront racism and environmental pollution. Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave.”

Being a cartoonist seems harder than writing a blog. You not only need to find daily topics that interest you enough to dwell on, but you have to encapsulate them in a piece of art. Asakiyume sometimes illustrates her posts, but art is one thing you won’t find me doing here. (Unless maybe a collage.)

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