A brief history of… Mario

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I daresay that there are very few people out there reading this who don’t know who Mario is. The lovable little American-Italian plumber is arguably the most iconic gaming character in history and polls suggest he’s even more famous than the cartoon figurehead Micky Mouse. But what do you really know about Mario? Probably a lot more than me, I’ve only played a handful of his games, but for those also lacking, here’s a brief history of the moustachioed star.

Despite being the mascot of Nintendo for as good as three decades, the famous Mario actually started out playing second fiddle as an unnamed character (titled only as ‘Jumpman’) in 1981’s ‘Donkey Kong’ and it wasn’t until a year later he became Mario (in ‘Donkey Kong Junior’ – the only game Mario has ever been an antagonist).

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I have nightmares about this scene. I mean. Just. Another Castle…..

The Mario we know and love today came into being in the 1983 ‘Mario Bros’ which also introduced his long suffering younger brother Luigi. However it was 1985’s ‘Super Mario Bros’ that really expanded on the universe by introducing the Mushroom Kingdom and tasking Mario with saving Princess Toadstool. Today this single branch of the Mario series has sold more copies than any other complete games series.

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Seriously though, there’s something fun about wandering around cleaning things. Note: This is not Mario with an ASBO.

The games led to numerous sequels and spin offs (such as the delightful Super Mario Sunshine which I played on the GameCube where you basically go around cleaning pollutants and graffiti) and there seems little the plucky little plumber can’t do – he’s even been to space. There is literally nothing Mario won’t do to save Princess Peach, especially if it means beating arch-nemesis (and serial kidnapper) Bowser or his childhood rival Wario.

 

Mario has also had several successful trips into Sport-themed games taking on both friend and foe on the race track in the phenomenal ‘Mario Kart’ series, clashing with Sonic (the megastar of Nintendo former-rival Sega) at both the Summer and Winter Olympics as well as knocking seven bells out of other famous gaming characters (ranging from Pokemon’s Pickachu to the lovable ‘Kirby’) in ‘Super Smash Bros’.  As well as being an award winning sportsman in his free time, jumping and plumbing are far from Mario’s only skills and over the years he’s also worked as a soldier, demolitionist, Doctor, Baker and President of Mario Toy Company.

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I have all the Gold cups for every track on Mario Kart Wii. It is a ridiculously fun game.

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For a portly plumber, Mario doesn’t do too badly in the Olympics. Even against a Hedgehog well known for travelling incredibly quickly. Videogame logic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mario has been recognised as one of the most prolific characters in gaming. In 2009, the Guinness World Records found Mario had appeared in 116 distinct titles (not including remakes or re-releases) spanning every single year from 1981 until now (2014). According to Wikipedia, the Mario series of games is the best-selling of any game series with over 445,000,000 sold games; putting this in perspective, the next best-selling series is ‘Pokemon’ which has sold around 245,000,000 so it has a very healthy lead indeed. And all this is without even mentioning the comics, tv shows or film (yeah, FILM) in which he features.

And if you still don’t think Mario is cool, then you clearly don’t know he’s been on the side of lunch boxes for years. And that is the epitome of coolness.

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Post Script: Many thanks to Google for the images.

Post Post Script: I forgot to mention this in the actual article, but please have a moments silence for Luigi. Mario7

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A brief history of: Henry Kissinger

henry-kissinger-speaking-to-senateName: Henry Alfred Kissinger
Occupation: Statesman and Diplomat
Birth date: May 27th 1923
Time in Government: 1969 to 1977
Political party: Republican
Religious Views: Judaism

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Henry Kissinger is a German-born American statesman who was born on May 27, 1923. A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, he served as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he strengthened the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, organised the opening of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and was a major player in the Nixon Administration’s Vietnam policy.

(Should you come accross vocabulary you don’t understand, it may well be in a small glossary at the end of the page).

The Early Years
As a child, Kissinger encountered anti-Semitism daily. An avid soccer fan, he defied laws banning Jews from professional sporting events to attend matches, receiving several beatings at the hands of the stadium guards. These experiences made a lasting impression on Kissinger.

He excelled at the local Jewish school and had hoped to attend a prestigious state-run high school. However, by the time he was old enough to apply, the school had stopped accepting Jews. Sensing the impending tragedy of the Holocaust, aged only 15, Kissinger and his family decided to flee Nazi Germany.

On August 20, 1938, the Kissingers set sail for New York City by way of London. His family was extremely poor upon arrival in the United States, and Kissinger immediately went to work because of it. However at the same time, Kissinger enrolled at New York’s George Washington High School, where he learned impeccable English and excelled in almost all areas of study. He graduated from high school in 1940 and continued on to the City College of New York, where he studied to become an accountant.

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Even at this early stage, Henry Kissinger had a reputation for being a tough negotiator with a very high intelligence

World War 2

In early 1943 Kissinger was drafted into the US army, and in June 1943 he was officially naturalized as a US citizen. Because of his fluency in German and his intellect Kissinger was swiftly moved into military intelligence. During the American push into Germany, Kissinger was given the role as administrator of a City (despite only being a Private at the time) and he swiftly organised a civilian council. Following his administrative successes, Kissinger was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star for hunting officers of the Gestapo.

Harvard
It was during the war that Kissinger decided he did not want to follow Accountancy and instead wished to study the Political Sciences and as such, when he returned to the US in 1947 he enrolled at Harvard. He graduated with his degree in 1950, however he stayed at Harvard to complete both a Masters (1952) and Doctorate (1954) before taking up a teaching position at the same institution. While he was focusing on Academia, he also rose to fame by publishing several books on US foreign policy (particularity regarding Nuclear Weapons) and was a special adviser to both President’s Kennedy and Johnson. Kissinger’s term with Harvard finished however in 1969 when he took the position of National Security Adviser to President Nixon.

Time in Government
Kissinger held two positions in the United States Government: as National Security Adviser from 1969-75, and then as Secretary of State from 1973-77 (and in the process becoming the first person ever to do so who was born outside of the US). A stringent supporter of Foreign Policy always promoting US Interests, throughout the Nixon Administration, Kissinger had three main priorities: creating more amiable relations between the United States and The Soviet Union, the creation of formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and a US victory in Vietnam.

imagesThe first two priorities could be done almost simultaneously as Kissinger planned to put pressure on the Soviet Union to lower hostilities by showing the US thawing relations with China (which I wanted to do anyway, even if it hadn’t had the same result on Russia). Kissinger brought about the closer relationship with China through two groundbreaking meetings between President Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong (in 1971 and 1972) while at the same time he was getting the Soviet Union to sign two pacts limiting the use and creation of Strategic Arms. While Kissinger’s policy regarding China and Russia was arguably a success, diplomatic relations were overshadowed by the Watergate Scandal in the later years of the Nixon Administration. (See Nixon and Kissinger pictured).

The greatest problem which Kissinger faced while in Government was the situation in Vietnam. By the time that Nixon and Kissinger were both deciding policy, the war in Vietnam was already very unpopular, expensive and out of control. In implementing Nixon’s promise to gain ‘Peace with Honour’, Kissinger implemented the large scale bombing of Vietnam and eventually Cambodia while also playing a key part in the creation of Vietnamization. He attempted to mediate negotiations between the US and North Vietnamese for some time before finally being able to issue a ceasefire and withdrawal order to the US troops in Vietnam after the 1973 Paris Peace Talks (however US troops didn’t actually fully leave until 1975 when the North Vietnamese overthrew the South and pushed the US out).

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It was because of the apparent peace that Kissinger and Le Duc Tho (The North Vietnamese Negotiator) were jointly offered the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. Kissinger accepted, while Le Duc Tho refused.

Pictured left: Kissinger celebrates being named jointly Time’s ‘Men of the Year’ with President Nixon in 1972

Following Vietnam, Kissinger also helped resume diplomatic relations between the US and Egypt and he remained in office under President Gerald Ford after Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Kissinger’s role as a main player in the US Government however ended when President Carter beat Ford in the 1977 election.

 The Later Years
Following his role in Government, Kissinger was offered a position at the University of Colombia, however this was met by such strong student opposition that they were forced to cancel the offer. Despite this, the University of Georgetown offered Kissinger a job in their Centre for International Studies which he then accepted. He also continued under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush to serve on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board as well as supporting the Government on various international commissions and investigations.

As well as returning to Academia, Kissinger continues to participate in policy groups, such as the Trilateral Commission, and to maintain political consulting, speaking, and writing engagements.

Only rarely in history do statesmen find an environment in which all factors are so malleable; before us, I thought, was the chance to shape events, to build a new world, harnessing the energy and dreams of the American people and mankind’s hopes.

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Glossary:
Detente: The thawing of foreign relations with another power.
Gestapo: The Nazi Military Police.
Peace with Honour: The idea that the US could back out of Vietnam without losing its international credability.
Vietnamization: The process of training up the ARVN (South Vietnamese Army) to take over from US troops.

PS; Special thanks to Google for the images!

A brief history of: The Yorkshire Pudding

Despite having its origins in Yorkshire, the history of the Yorkshire Pudding, a staple part of any British persons diet, is shrouded in mystery to most.

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The first ever recorded recipe appears in a book, ‘The Whole Duty of a Woman’ in 1737 and it was recorded as A Dripping Pudding – the dripping coming from spit-roast meat.

The next recorded recipe took the pudding from local delicacy to become a nation-wide phenomenon following the publication of ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy’ by Hannah Glasse in 1747. As one of the most prolific food writers of the time, the popularity of the book allowed the recipe to reach every corner of the British Isles. It was in this incarnation that the ‘Dripping Pudding’ which had been consumed in Yorkshire for centuries was renamed and became more recognisable as what we know and love today (although it was still rather flat).

Going on, the Yorkshire Pudding survived both World Wars and the rationing of the 40’s and 50’s. However, as more woman worked, cooking in the home started to fall. The rise of ‘fast’ foods and ready meals has seen the invention of the first commercially produced Yorkshire puddings with the launch of the Yorkshire based Aunt Bessie’s brand in 1995.

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Who doesn’t love a good ‘Toad in the hole’?!

In 2007, Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh, campaigned for Yorkshire puddings to be given the same protected status as French champagne, Cornish Pasties or Greek feta cheese, “The people of Yorkshire are rightly and fiercely proud of the Yorkshire pudding,” she said “it is something which has been cherished and perfected for centuries in Yorkshire.” Despite this, the term ‘Yorkshire Pudding’ was seen as too generic, however businesses in the area continue to hold the pudding in high regard.

Then in 2008, the Royal Society of Chemistry got involved when it declared that “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall.”

Just why this simple combination of flour, eggs, milk and salt became such an symbolic culinary icon is a mystery. The Yorkshire Pudding is up there with the Cornish Pasty, English Breakfast, even Fish and Chips! It is because of its popularity that I have no qualms in saying that there are very few more prestigious foods in the whole British Isles.

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Post Script: All images are courtesy of Google. My two attempts to actually make Yorkshire Puddings were rather flat and wholly unremarkable

A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

A brief history of: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich

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John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was born on November 13th, 1718 and he died April 30th, 1792. He was a British Statesman who held various different military and political offices throughout his life, such as being British first lord of the Admiralty, however he is arguably most recognisable as being the man after whom the sandwich was named.

 

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The Early Years
As a child, Sandwich studied at both Eton and Cambridge while inheriting his title from his grandfather at the young age of 11. Upon leaving education, he travelled around Europe (taking the ‘Grand Tour’ as it was known in the upper classes).

On his return to England in 1739, he took up his seat in the House of Lords.  Like many of his other Parliamentarians, Lord Sandwich was strongly opposed the deployment of British troops on the European Continent to protect it. He gained attention for his speeches in parliament which earned him a reputation for clearly setting out his argument.

The Politician, the Administrator and the Military Man
It was in 1774 that Sandwich was to gain his first military experience and received a place in the administration of the Navy under the Duke of Bedford (whom Sandwich supported in the House of Lords). Despite having a somewhat successful spell in the Admiralty, Sandwich was moved not long later into a position in the Army (which was small by most other European standards); it was in this position that he would catch a fever, become seriously ill and almost die.

Sandwich also spent time in diplomatic circles, and he represented Britain in the Congress of Breda 1746-48 (where he would utilise the British Secret Service to get one over on the French) and he would also be made British Ambassador to The Dutch Republic at the same time.

In 1748 Sandwich was granted the position as First Lord of The Admiralty, however by 1451 the leading politician of the time, The Duke of Newcastle, had become distrustful of Sandwich and had him dismissed from duty. This provoked the Duke of Bedford (a close political ally of Sandwich and rival for Newcastle’s power) into resigning in protest. Despite spending the next few years in solitude on his estate far from politics, upon the new Government forming in 1763, Sandwich was reinstated as Lord of the Admiralty by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute.

From 1763 to 1765 and 1770 to 1771, he also served as Secretary of State for the Northern Department. In this capacity he took a leading part in the prosecution of John Wilkes (1763), the radical British politician and agitator.

Sandwich then served for a third time as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord North’s administration from 1771 to 1782. During this period, his critics accused him of using the office to obtain bribes and to distribute political jobs, however although he was frequently attacked for corruption, his administrative ability was been recognized by his earlier successes. Despite the early administrative success in the role however, during the American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1781) Sandwich insisted upon keeping much of the British fleet in European waters because of the possibility of French attack, and he was subjected to considerable criticism for insufficient naval preparedness. Sandwich was accused of not only having too few ships prepared for an ‘inevitable’ war with France (which began in 1778 when France declared war), but his tactics were also criticised, as well as his ability to counteract both French and Spanish attacks when Spain entered the war on the side of France. Despite criticism however, a planned French-Spanish invasion of Cornwall in 1779 was foiled, perhaps as a result of the primary British ships being in Europe.

The Later Days
Sandwich retired from public duty in 1782, and lived another ten years in retirement; he married Dorothy Fane, daughter of the 1st Viscount Fane, by whom he had one son, John, Viscount Hinchingbrooke (1743 – 1814), who succeeded him as the 5th Earl.

Lord Sandwich was also great supporter of Captain James Cook. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Sandwich approved Admiralty funds for the purchase and fit-out of the Resolution, Adventure and Discovery for Cook’s second and third expeditions of exploration in the Pacific Ocean. As a result of his interest in naval affairs and his promotion of exploration and in honour of Sandwich, Captain Cook named the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) after him, as well as Montague Island off the south east coast of Australia, the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean and Montague Island in the Gulf of Alaska.

The origin of the Sandwich

sandwich-1The modern sandwich is named after Lord Sandwich, but the exact reasons and causes of its invention and original use are still uncertain. One rumour that formed was the popular myth that bread and meat sustained Lord Sandwich at the gambling table. A very dedicated gambler, Lord Sandwich did not take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. As such, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread; a habit well known among his gambling friends. Because John Montague was the Earl of Sandwich others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” and hence the ‘sandwich’ was born.

Another alternative is provided by Sandwich’s biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who suggests Sandwich’s commitments to the navy, to politics and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his work desk.

Either way, while these do show that the sandwich does indeed get its name from The 4th Earl, the fact remains that Arabs had already started stuffing meat inside pita bread centuries before the Earl was even born!