Monday, October 24, 2011

RK Laxman: Happy birthday to an uncommon man

“For half a century, the Times of India has thoughtfully provided an antidote to all the bad news brimming on its front pages. It’s a sketch, a single box, inked by RK Laxman, the country’s sharpest cartoonist and political satirist. Each morning, Laxman’s frazzled character, known as the Common Man, confronts India’s latest heartbreak with a kind of wry resignation. Meek, doddering and with a moustache that bristles like an electrocuted mongoose, he’s a witness to everything: scheming politicians, rapacious bureaucrats and gossiping housewives. What’s common about this character is that like most Indians, he sees his country being forced through endless indignities by its leaders and yet doesn’t even whimper in protest,” said Time magazine, reviewing a collection of Laxman’s cartoons.

Through his editorial cartoons, Laxman has, for decades, been holding up a mirror to society. Unlike many editors, Laxman has been steadfast and resolute in criticism through his cartoons. Former editor of The Times of India, Dileep Padgaonkar said of Laxman, “No editor of the The Times of India would control Laxman. I tried a couple of times to tell him that he might wish to change a word or two in his captions. And he’d fly into a rage! So, I don’t think he would ever, ever would have stood for any pressure from his editor. And I doubt very much — and certainly not during my tenure as editor — I never came across a single instance where there were pressures,” ibnlive reported.

In a conversation with CNBC-TV18′s Anuradha SenGupta, Laxman rejected any suggestion that he wanted to bring about change through his work:

Anuradha SenGupta: As a political satirist, as a political cartoonist, do you see yourself as a moral crusader?

R K Laxman: No, no. No such lessons on anything. I don’t make my cartoons so the people may learn. I have no such – that’s bad.

Anuradha SenGupta: Why do you say that?

R K Laxman: It is not my business. To make people laugh and understand the ridiculousness of the situation, that’s all, nothing more than that. Then you become a moralist. Then it is not a cartoon, it is a poster.”

While Laxman did not see himself as a crusader, in many ways, it was Laxman who drew the attention of readers of The Times of India to issues such as corruption in politics, the neglect of the poor, the class system, financial mismanagement and bungling by the government, and so on. To regular readers, and to his loyal fans, Laxman was a crusader, even if he didn’t see himself as one.

If the politicians had seen him as a crusader — and feared the reach of his influence — Anna Hazare might not be needed today.

Today, as he celebrates his 90th birthday, those who worked (indeed, work) with him at The Times of India will respect his privacy. Though he doesn’t attend office, his corner room on the second floor of the Times of India’s office on DN Road is still ‘his’.

He might have created the common man, but there could be nobody more uncommon that Laxman. For years, as his colleagues started buying the new cars of the post-reform era, Laxman would drive to work in a black Ambassador, feeling no need for change. At office, his only demand was that he be left in peace as he went about his business — conceptualising, drawing and then writing a couple of lines to drive a point home.

But he must know that he is uncommon. Senior executives of the Times of India carry a business card that proudly features the common man; one cannot pass the Worli Seaface without confronting a bronze statue of the Common Man; joggers and walkers get themselves photographed with the iconic cartoon character as if he was a celebrity.

He is, as is his creator.

For fans like me, one cannot imagine the Times of India without a cartoon by him.

There are millions like me.

We know you are a private person. All we can do is to wish you on your birthday.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Cartoons for iOS – The First Cartoons Free Library

Vitzu Ltd. today is pleased to introduce Cartoons by Vitzu, the first cartoons’ free library for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Open up the application and you can enter into a great cartoons gallery where you can find best cartoons ever, from classic animation such as Popeye the Sailor Man to brand new episodes of Beast Wars Transformers or Angelina Ballerina.

This app is very easy to use: you can pick up a cartoon from the library and a specific episode. A TV with the preview of the cartoon you have chosen will appear. Touch “play” on the screen and the application will connect you straight to YouTube.

Sometimes parents are really worried about what their children are going to watch on YouTube, that’s the reason why every cartoons episode is carefully selected. This app has been designed thinking of children and for children without forgetting parents, who can create customised playlists in order to check what children are watching.

Thanks to Cartoons by Vitzu children are going to have fun and learn too. We selected some of the best Learning Songs’ videos such as Alphabet Song, Numbers Song, Colours Song and more!

Cartoons by Vitzu is ideal for kids every age: from youngest children who can enjoy TeleTubbies and Nursery Rhymes, to older kids with Transformers (including the original Japanese version with subtitles and 1986′s Transformers the Movie), the Real Ghostbusters and Spiderman and his amazing Friends.

Cartoons by Vitzu is perfect for parents too: they can check what their children are watching and at the same time have fun with cartoons’ episodes from their childhood, for instance Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny or Sesame Street ‘s episodes from the 80s. If you would like to watch cartoons from your device, but YouTube is not reliable and safe for your kids, Cartoons by Vitzu is the application that can help you have fun. To use Cartoons by Vitzu all you need is an Internet connection!

Feature Highlights:
* Great Cartoons’ Selection
* Free App
* Every episode is carefully selected
* Create custom playlists to check what kids are watching
* YouTube Filter
* Learning and fun for kids of every age
* Ideal for grown-ups as well

Language support:
* US English

Device Requirements:
* iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
* Requires iOS 3.2 or later
* 17.2 MB

Pricing and Availability:
Cartoons by Vitzu 1.0 is free and available worldwide through the App Store in the Entertainment category.

Cartoons by Vitzu 1.0
Download From iTunes
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App Icon

Located in London, UK, the Vitzu team is an independent software company founded in 2008. Current main areas of activity include iOS, Web, and Internet consulting services. With their strong blend of design and development skills, Vitzu’s mission is to design intuitive, efficient, and quality IT-solutions for the automation, protection, and promotion of business. Copyright (C) 2011 Alex Alexeev. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPod, and iPad are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Surgeon Offers Tips On Treating And Managing Knee Pain

For the millions of Americans suffering from knee pain, tips to differentiate between typical aches and pains and when you should see a doctor. NY1 Health and Fitness Reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report.

Two years ago, 70-year-old Marlene Haselbauer's right knee gave out leaving her in an increasing amount of pain and discomfort.

"I couldn't walk my dog. I had to get a dog walker," says Haselbauer. "My apartment is one flight up. I have now counted 30 steps up and down. And living in Washington Heights which are hill up and down I had to think about where I am going to walk which is not going to be hilly, and there's none."

The problem turned out to be arthritis which ultimately led Haselbauer to have knee replacement surgery. While most patients can be treated with everything from medication to physical therapy, surgery was the fix for Haselbauer.

According to her surgeon, Dr. Jeff Geller of New York Presbyterian Columbia Medical Center, knee problems – particularly those associated with arthritis – are one of the top reasons patients head to the doctor.

"Upwards of 90 to 100 million people a year in this country deal with some sort of form of arthritis and some sort of pain associated with arthritis," says Geller. "So by far it is the most common."

Knee problems can range from sprain and swelling to challenges as severe as arthritis where the cartilage protection in the knee joint completely wears out.

Because everyone experiences aches and pains from time to time, one of the biggest challenges patients have is figuring out when to finally see a doctor. Doctor say any pain, swelling or limping that lasts longer than a few days to a few weeks should probably get checked out. There are also preventive measure to strengthen knees too.

"Listen to your body," Geller recommends. "If your knee starts to hurt don't overdo it. Typically keeping yourself active and keeping the muscles in the legs reasonably strong with some sort of light exercise really goes a long way to help protect the knees."


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Plenty of tips available for kids, families at health fair

People of all ages received information on how to live a healthy lifestyle Saturday during the Cascade County Health and Wellness Fair at Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology.

Booths ranged from those offering tips on child nutrition to one representing local assisted-living facilities.

Allison Struber, student wellness coordinator for Great Falls Public Schools, manned the Action for Healthy Kids booth and gave out information about the school district's student wellness website.

"(Action for Healthy Kids) is a community organization that works basically for the health of kids in our community," Struber said.

She also had information promoting Screen-Free Week, April 18-24, including ideas for activities to do in place of watching TV or being on the computer.

Jen Cikanek promoted health for the whole family at the ImagineBALANCE booth, which showcased toxin-free household cleaners.

"The products most of us use everyday that we don't think twice about really do have harmful effects," Cikanek said. "We promote safe naturally derived and effective products."

Men and women of all ages stood in line Saturday for free bone density screenings offered by the Orthopedic Center for Montana. The painless screenings were done by placing a foot in a machine that used ultrasound waves to measure the density of the heel bone.

"It's a screening tool to check people for osteoporosis," said Nora Mazzolini, a registered nurse at the Orthopedic Center.

The test results showed whether a person had normal bone density, osteoporosis or were in a middle range and at risk for developing osteoporosis.

"We have a lot of people in this mid-range where they need to be doing something," Mazzolini said.

Along with the results, those who had the bone density screening received information about calcium supplements and how much calcium is found in certain foods. They also received information on exercises, such as walking, jogging and dancing, which can help improve bone density.

"Really what we're trying to do is prevent fractures," Mazzolini said.

Down the hall, licensed practical nursing students from MSU-Great Falls offered free blood pressure screenings.

It was a good chance for people to check their numbers and ask questions, nursing student Brittany Studeman said.

"A lot of people ... don't go to the doctor regularly," student Jesse Thompson said. "A lot of them are pretty surprised (by their blood pressure)."

The annual health fair, organized by the Cascade County Extension office, has been a way to get health-related information to the community for more than 30 years.

This year's fair featured 80 booths and nine speakers. It also offered immunizations for children and free HIV testing and counseling. More than 400 people had come through the doors by 1 p.m. — about halfway through the event — said Jona McNamee, Cascade County Extension family and consumer science agent.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cartoonist uses art to build childhood imagination

Banana Man and Marshmallow Monster showed up at Gearhart Elementary School on Feb. 8 in the form of cartoonist Mark Kistler, who presented two how-to-draw in 3D assemblies.

Kistler's television series, "Mark Kistler's Imagination Station" has been broadcast for more than 20 years on PBS stations across the nation. The Gearhart Elementary School's Parent Teacher Organization sponsored the cartoonist's visit.

Gearhart Principal Sande Brown described Kistler's presentation as a real hands-on lesson.

"The kids had paper and pencils so that they could participate and not just be observers," said Brown. "The students learn a lot better by doing and not just watching. That's why this presentation had so much more value to it."

According to Brown, Kistler's outgoing personality helps him connect with the students.

"Through this presentation, the children see someone other than a teacher who actually has a career doing something that they could aspire to be," said Brown. "Because we don't have an art teacher here at our school, this presentation also helps the students learn important art skills."

During the presentation, Kistler uses an overhead projector and a computer with the cartoons beamed to two screens in front of the assembly. He leads the students in drawing cartoon images like Banana Man and Marshmallow Monster.

But it is not a basic drawing or cartoon presentation. Kistler actually becomes one of the kids. Adding wild hair on one of the images, he draws and lets out yells. He also uses a small red sound box with crowd applause to reward the students for their drawings.

The students roar with laugher and cheers.

"I loved it, it was so much fun because he had so much entertainment along with it," said fourth grade student Dalton Smith. "He was making all the kids laugh while he was pretending to make the sounds of his (cartoon) characters, like screeching."

Fifth grade student Sami Thornton said she learned a lot at the presentation.

"I thought it was totally awesome," said Thornton. "Actually, I showed my mom, and she thought my drawings were awesome, too. The best part was when he was drawing the craters, I really liked his techniques."

"It was really fun doing the 3-D, because I've never seen a cartoonist before," said third grade student Angela Flores-Reyes.

Kistler noted his 35-year background as a teacher helps him connect to each student during the 3D presentation.

"I've learned by watching other master teachers," said Kistler. "But it is the teachers here at Gearhart School that are the heroes. They have the kids all day. I just have them for one hour. I have such admiration for the teachers here."

Kistler's goal is that each local student would appreciate drawing a little more after his presentation.

"This is like teaching someone how to read," Kistler said. "You know when you read a good book and how you get into that world. That's how drawing is for me. Time and space disappear. It's a joy and a passion for me."

Kistler calls drawing a fundamental human communication skill.

"It's an ability that we all have when we are kids, but at some point we believe we can't draw," Kistler said. "I want to shatter that myth. Everybody can draw."

Kistler acknowledges more and more college students are emerging with the skill to draw and using that skill to enter the entertainment field.

"Yes, I suspect we will see more and more full length 3D cartoon movies," Kistler said. "They are like the Internet. They are here to stay. The young cartoonists are able to hone that excitement they have for technology, for the computer, the social network, or for animation and put it to use using their imagination. But the first skill they must have is that drawing ability."

According to Kistler each child possess an imagination.

"That is the key," said Kistler. "They can use that imagination and go to infinity and beyond."

Kistler, 47, lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and their four children.

"I flew 4,000 miles to draw a screaming marshmallow with these children and their teachers," Kistler said. "Is this a great job or what? It is a dream come true."


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tips on signing up for an exercise program

If you want to look fabulous, feel great, boost your immune system, lift your mood, stay youthful and sleep well, there's something you can do: exercise.

Grab your gym bag -- or get it back out after your already waning New Year's enthusiasm -- and we'll help you through the basics of signing up for an exercise program and sticking with it.

Experts say the No. 1 reason we start enthusiastically and then taper off is because we are not motivated, so pick a reason that gets you going: You want to reduce your risk of disease, you want to lose weight and look better, you want more energy or you love your family and want to be around longer.

Once you have that, you need to skip the excuses: "I'm too tired" or "I don't have enough time," or the classic "I don't like exercise." Then you get to the last step: Make a plan and set your goal. Here's where you plan a fitness routine that includes cardio, strength training and other exercises that you can do with or without weights.

But first you need to find a gym: This is the time to do it. Most area gyms are offering deals right now for the start of the new year.

"The first thing you have to do is to take a good look ... and ask yourself, what has worked for you before? What are your goals? Try and write down what you want to achieve. And then join the gym," said Gregory Florez, 51, spokesperson for the National American Council on Exercise and a health and fitness coach. "Ask yourself if you need a hands on trainer? Or intense aerobic classes? Did you lose weight with high intensity kickboxing before? Then narrow down the choices." "It sometimes costs less than a dollar a day when it's a zero enrollment fee and $24.99 or $29.99 a month, like it is now," said Pat Cuoco-Barber, assistant manager at Gold's Gym in Niskayuna, N.Y. Cuoco-Barber, who has been in the fitness industry for 30 years, says the only foolproof way to ensure that you will like the gym is to sign up for the seven-day pass or the free trial they give out.

"Try out the gym at the time that you have to work out, then you get a feel for what it will be like when you come in, how crowded it will be, can you still work out on the equipment you want, etc.," she said.

"Do the free orientation, meet the trainers. Don't be afraid to ask if the trainers are nationally certified, don't be intimidated." And one more thing, she added, "Make sure it's clean." The time to check everything out is in the initial visit.

Contracts can be confusing. Here's the bottom line you need to focus on: Usually, there is an enrollment fee and then a monthly fee.

Sometimes, the monthly fee is a certain amount for say, two years and then it goes up or it stays at one consistent rate always. You need to check out the small print and check it out before you sign up with the gym.

Gym veterans like Shachi Chandra, 27, have joined one gym after the other and they always go for the small monthly fee.

"It works best for me. I don't want to pay an arm and a leg to work out," said Chandra, who goes to Gold's Gym.

Some gyms offer a flat fee but then have a higher fee that includes classes.

"Find what fits your budget best. Think about location. If you're taking classes up here but you live in New York City or Syracuse, you will then have access to a gym near you when you go home," said Noah Poissant, fitness coach at Bally's in Crossgates Mall in Guilderland.

Make it a point to ask when you join a chain whether they will allow you to work out in different locations.

Bally's will allow you all access all over the state, but most are location-specific. Be sure to check this out first before you join.

But Poissant finds the logistics are not the main thing consumers worry about.

"The biggest misconception newcomers have is that the gym is very crowded and they will have no place to work out, but that's not true, and even when we are crazy packed, there's always machines available," he said.

Make sure you're comfortable: If you want a women-only gym, there are places like Curves, which design 30-minute workouts specifically for women. They go through a circuit of machines twice.

So, no more excuses. Just pick a gym and start the journey to a newer, fitter you.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

10 Classic TV Cartoons

The 10 classic TV cartoons of all time bring back a lot of memories for the people that grew up watching them. Children of any generation seem to flock to the TV to see cartoons, but these classic cartoons capture the feelings and sentiments of the golden era of cartoons. If you have not seen the 10 classic TV cartoons, then rent them as soon as you can, or add them to your movie collection.

  1. "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!" (1953) – Warner Brothers. The "Wabbit Season! Duck Season!" Warner Brothers trilogy of cartoons are all classics and deserve to be listed on the list of 10 classic TV cartoons of all time. In this cartoon, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny get Elmer Fudd so confused that, at the end, he starts chasing a baseball because he was told it was baseball season.
  2. "Rabbit Fire" (1951) – Warner Brothers. This is the first cartoon in the triology of "Wabbit Season! Duck Season!" Warner Brothers cartoons. In this cartoon, Bugs Bunny continually gets Elmer Fudd to shoot Daffy Duck as Daffy is duped into saying it is duck season.
  3. "Rabbit Seasoning" (1952). In this second installment into the "Wabbit Season! Duck Season!" trilogy of Warner Brothers cartoons, Elmer Fudd repeatedly shoots Daffy Duck's bill off of his face. This is the simpler of the three cartoons, but definitely worthy of being one of the 10 classic TV cartoons you have to see.
  4. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965) – Charles Shultz. The story behind this classic cartoon is that producer Bill Melendez called "Peanuts" creator Charles Shultz and told him he had 48 hours to write Christmas special. It was created in a hurry, and never given much of a chance of success. It wound up being one of the top 10 classic TV cartoons ever.
  5. "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966) – Ted Geisel. Most people know Ted Geisel as Dr. Seuss. Geisel had written a popular children's Christmas book called "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" (1957) that the CBS network wanted to turn into a cartoon. The result is one of the top 10 classic TV cartoons of all time.
  6. "The Mouse Comes To Dinner" (1945) – William Hanna / Joseph Barbera. This classic Tom and Jerry cartoon features the first words Tom the cat ever spoke. Tom has a couple of lines in this classic cartoon, and the action within the cartoon is extremely funny.
  7. "Zipping Along" (1953) – Warner Brothers. The Road Runner and Coyote cartoons are some of the best cartoon slapstick ever created. This particular cartoon is a non-stop gag reel of the Coyote getting run over by a truck, shot by shotguns and pummeled by boulders all as he is desperately trying to chase the Road Runner.
  8. "Ship of Ghouls" (1985) – William Hanna / Joseph Barbera. The Scooby Doo series and movies created many memorable moments, but the "13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo" (1985) series had some very memorable episodes. This episode puts Scooby and the gang on a ship full of monsters that turns out to be nothing more than the usual cast of bad guys.
  9. "Bullwinkle's Corner" (1959 – 1964) – Jay Ward Productions. It is impossible to put one episode of "Bullwinkle's Corner" (1959 – 1964) on the list of top 10 classic TV cartoons, so all of them are included. This was a segment of the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" (1959 – 1964) where Bullwinkle would read a fairy tale and something would go horribly wrong.
  10. "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear" (1964) – William Hanna / Joseph Barbera. If you had to pick one Yogi Bear cartoon to call a classic, this would be the one. It was the feature film released after "The Yogi Bear Show" (1961) was canceled after only 35 episodes. The movie sums up Yogi and Boo Boo Bear extremely well and is a classic for all time.