40 years of faulty wiring

The Elixir of Youth? Anti-oxidants Aren’t It

The BBC documentary, Don’t Grow Old, features several scientists who offer unique and intriguing theories about the molecular processes that age us, and possible ways to prevent them. There may never actually be an elixir of youth that comes in a bottle (darn), in spite of scientists’ efforts to package and sell it. In this documentary, a number of scientists claim they have done just that. There are a plethora of theories about what causes aging and what we can do to slow it down.

David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School professor suggests an exciting possibility in the documentary: stay slim, age much more slowly, yet don’t cut calories. Sinclair began experiments ten years ago, using yeast and yeastcellsforwinemice. Yeast is a simple organism with 6,000 genes (about a 10th of ours). Almost all of these genes exist in human being. Even more intriguing, a set of genes were discovered in yeast that increase life longevity that greatly extends the life span of yeast. Adding one extra copy of the gene greatly expanded the lifespan of yeast: about 30%.  The chemical that acted like this set of genes, along with a molecule called resveritrol, were added to a control group of people’s diets, yielding the results he hoped for: high energy and a much more youthful appearance. Sinclair sold his drug for $720 million dollars. However before we get too excited. Resveritrol hasn’t been released onto the market, yet. It is till in its developmental stage. Interestingly, people in the documentary who look much younger than their actual age don’t appear to be taking any drugs: they eat very well and stay active. Rather than the old adage, eat less and exercise more, the new mantra should be eat well and exercise more. Your love affair with food may continue unabated, so long as your menu is a good one. Hooray. Moving right along….

Across the continent Professor Arlin Richardson experimented with anti-oxidants. He set out to prove that the 1950s theory, (not his own), oxidative stress, was a leading cause of aging and premature death. The theory suggests that a faster heart rate while at rest causes the stress, however many scientists now believe that isn’t the case. Oxygen, however, remains a central part of the oxidative stress theory. Surprisingly, after antioxidantten years of experimentation with mice, Richardson discovered that anti-oxidents, the supposed cure-all against aging, wasn’t. Another research scientist has confirmed these results. Oxidative stress doesn’t make a difference in aging. Therefore, eating and using anti-oxidents aren’t the answer to slowing down the aging process. In fact, oxidative stress is probably a cause of the environment, including pollution, rather than a lack of anti-oxidants. It’s going to take a long time for anyone to buy into that one. Don’t let cosmetics companies in on that discovery either: they earn billions of dollars annually by claiming to package anti-oxidants into their products. Regardless, food agnostic that I am, I insist on seeking out skin care products with anti-oxidants, and eating foods that nutritionists claim to have loads of the stuff.  Just in case.

Dr. Bill Andrews
believes there is a fundamental cause of aging: telomes. Every time our cells divide, the tips of the cells, called telomes, become shorter. Eventually they become short enough that our cells no longer divide. Since we can’t produce new cells, we age. Andrews insists there is nothing we can do about telomesl however, telomerase-copyhe discovered a natural enzyme in our bodies called telomerase.  He injected the enzymes into cells and it prevented the telomes from shortening. Andrews sought a drug that would transport telomarese into our cells and prevent aging; however another company, TA Science, beat him to it, developing the product TA65. Andrews began taking TA65. TA65 is on the market for $25,000.00 a year. Seriously. Another scientist argues that telomes are responsible for aging. He worked with children with progeria, a disease that causes extremely rapid aging, and discovered a mutation in a gene called lamin A. Lamin A causes the body to produce an abnormal protein within the children’s cells. The same protein is made at very low levels in healthy individuals who don’t have the mutation. Elderly people’s cells cannot cope with lamin A, which tries to do damage. So much for TA65.

How to Be Slim
Alongside anti-aging documentaries, the BBC documentary how to be slim is another interesting perspective on healthy lifestyle and attractive bodies.  Metabolism is in every fitness aficionado’s Have vocabulary, it slim to fatseems. Yet, none of us use it correctly. In the documentary, an overweight woman named Joan, claimed she ate half of what Becky, her skinny friend, ate, yet she remained fat and her friend remained skinny. An experiment revealed that  Joan actually ate 50% more than Becky.  Mindless snacking throughout the day added significant calories to her diet. Another big surprise (for all of us), Joan burned more calories while sitting down because her body had a faster metabolism than Becky.  What? Her body had a faster metabolism than Becky. Isn’t that contrary to everything you’ve ever learned about metabolism? Aren’t slimmer people supposed to have a higher metab?  Not so. The more Joan ate, the hungrier she got, the more she cranked up her metabolism, and the hungrier she got, and the vicious cycle kept repeating itself. Joan ate Generic illustration of a boy at increasing weights.more than she needed. Period. Extra calories are stored as fat. If this is you, your weight problem isn’t due to your metabolism at all. You eat too much! And you eat unhealthy, unfriendly food. Stop that!

There are hoards of BBC documentaries about healthy eating, slim living, and contrasts between healthy and unhealthy eating. They are informative and interesting. I suggest you check them out.

July 27, 2013 Posted by | Bizarre yet True, Health and Wellness, Human Biology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

we interrupt this program…

  The website modules can wait on this one.  I’ve blogged about this before but I keep reading more and more news headlines about cyberbullying leading to bullycide and yes, being an educator of course I have a vested interest in this subject matter. But more importantly every incident of cyberbullying and bullying that I hear about, whether or not it ends in tragedy, simply tears a hole in my heart.  Right about now my heart feels like swiss cheese.

You’ve heard about the Phoebe Prince case in South Hadley, Massachusetts by now I assume, (if not check out my blog I didn’t learn all I needed to know in Kindergarten – We didn’t have iPods and Facebook when I was 5), the little girl who emigrated from Ireland to MA where she attended SH High School. From the start of the year, this little girl became the target of severe cyberbullying and bullying, inititated by a female student who formed a posse of her friends to do likewise. After a particularly degrading incident, Phoebe Prince went home from school and hanged herself. All because of a little teenaged fun? Well to listen to teenagers nowadays, that’s their excuse. 

That’s what you do at school!” one teenaged girl protested on a document I recently watched as she giggled at the camera. She was referring to cyberbullying, not to bullycide, because this kid apparently hadn’t made the connection between the two. Her father was in the documentary watching what she had just written on Facebook or some such site. He looked somewhat concerned and somewhat drily amused.

“No I don’t approve of this. I didn’t know this was going on,” he mumbled to the camera, when clearly he wasn’t at all perplexed.

You are familiar with cyberbullying of course. No? Well then my friend, crawl out from beneath that cyber rock and allow me to enlighten you.  Cyber means technology of course, and bullying meaning bullying (what else). Put them together and voila, a nasty, obscure new way of bullying people, under cover of a false identity so the bully can’t be traced very easily (although to quote our ever faithful Shakespeare, “the truth will out“). And the verbal abuse that is aimed at victims in high schools (and some elementary schools) is bad. 

Consider this comment from a legal case in CanLii (Canadian Legal Information Institute) – online law cases regarding everything from human rights at people’s places of work to a high school expulsion case (R.T. v. Durham Catholic District School Board).  The direct quote from the perpetrator, known only as V.K. because she was a minor at the time of the offence, was fired off through her facebook account to another high school student:  YOU BETTER NOT MAKE ME MAD BECAUSE I’LL KILL U IN YOUR SLEEP OR AT SCHOOL ON MONDAY”.  Nice.  Hence the reason they call it cyberbullying. 

VK’s mother had the nerve to appeal the expulsion since she wanted her daughter re-instated into the school  the victim attended.  She proposed ridiculous defences, claiming her daughter used Facebook as a “fantasy” and that she had no intention of harming the little girl in question.  I wonder if the victim enjoyed VK’s fantasy.  She insisted that her daughter didn’t fully comprehend what she was doing because she suffers from CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Difficulty).  There is no connection whatsoever between CAPD and intellect. VK knew exactly what she was doing.

And that’s another scary issue here. When parents of bullies defend their children’s actions and argue strongly that their own kids are the victims, that’s where we discover the true origin of cyber bullying: parents who do not acknowledge their children’s guilt in tormenting other human beings, and who proceed to make their excuses.  Wake up mom and dad.  Yes your kid is a bully. Yours.  The child you have been raising and supposedly teaching right from wrong. 

Is it any wonder the kid ends up with a twisted sense of “fantasy” when mumsy and daddy defend their atrocities? 

Cyber bullying and bullying is horribly traumatic, leading to teen suicides all over the North American contintent (more on that later), yet incredibly, here are the parents of these bullies saying “it’s not fair….my kid didn’t mean it.”  Then your kid shouldn’t be doing it. I have questions for the inept father who muttered he didn’t know his daughter was into cyber bullying.  Why didn’t you know that about your own child?  Don’t you communicate with her anymore?  Don’t you check up on her activities, offline and online?  Yes, that is our job to check up on our kids. Kids are kids, and more importantly as long as our child is under our collective roof that means we are entirely responsible for chaperoning and correcting behaviour. No your daughter and/or son is not going to come to you and tell you that he/she thinks cyberbullying other people is hilarious and is the cool thing to do.  Of course not. Would you approach your boss at work and tell him or her what you really think of them?  Didn’t think so.

I’m not advising parents to snoop. I wouldn’t ever read my daughter’s diary (I believe she has one but I don’t ask her about it…..her own personal thoughts she keeps to herself are her business). But I ask who she is speaking to online. I read her Facebook messages with her beside me – both the ones she is sending and the ones she is receiving. I talk to her. A lot. We communicate about what email and facebook is and isn’t for. We talk about what cyber bullying does to people. She knows never to victimize anyone and likewise to come to me for help straightaway if anyone ever tries to turn the tables on her. 

But she also knows that I am prepared to defend anyone she victimizes (I don’t believe she will, of course, she truly is a great kid), rather than her. Still she knows that if there  are consequences to any inappropriate behaviour on her part, I will support them 100 %.  Even if she is expelled.  Even if her Ontario Student Record has a record of expulsion that will follow her throughout her high school and post secondary years.  Fair is fair.  Do unto others.

No one wants to watch their child fail and suffer.  It hurts terribly and I would imagine that seeming like a traitor in your child’s eyes would leave a hole in your heart that might never heal, but we can’t defend or condone pathological behaviour in our children. That is a greater injustice by far to our kids than confusing them with our motives when they screw up.

  Make no mistake bullying of any sort is pathological. It is sick.  It is also opening the door to far worse crimes in the future. Many bullies eventually acquire criminal records. What begins as teenage bullying can grow into adult “bullying”, which is generally known as criminal, sociopathic behaviour. Abusive husbands, fathers and mothers, drug addicts, pimps, and all manner of criminals were kids once. And they were  teenagers. And they were bullies. They bullied with their words and they bullied with their fists. No one responded to their bullying, or if anyone did it was outside the home. The parents of bullies defended them, or were apathetic to their children’s behaviour and didn’t “want to become involved”. And 5 to 10 years later these bullies became criminals and instead of expulsions on their student records, they were handed criminal records and time in jail or even prison. It’s an inevitable process.

In fact the students who bullied Phoebe Prince to death have been arrested and charged on both juvenile and adult charges for her suicide. I hope those students are found guilty. I hope those students do jail time. I hope that cell door stays closed behind them for a long time.

Not all bullies become “career”criminals (whatever that is) insofar as breaking the law goes.  Sometimes teenage bullies grow up to be adult bullies in more covert ways: they become irrascible bosses, conniving co-workers, gossips, cheating spouses, difficult neighbours, and just overall jerks. They behave in a manner that is just shy of breaking the law, or heck, even breaks the law but not to the extreme lengths previously mentioned so they seldom pay the price for their actions. They stay bullies all their lives because no one taught them any differently and in their perspective, this is normal, acceptable behaviour.

There are other extraordinary consequences that result from bullying. Hershel Walker, a retired NFL player for the Dallas Cowboys, claims he developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) as a result of severe bullying during his childhood by classmates. That is a picture of  bullying survivor Hershel on the left. I dare say those childhood bullies would think twice before taking him on again. Whether or not you believe in this particular disorder, there are likely many personality disorders that a victim can develop from bullying.

Do your child a favour. Teach thim or her right from wrong and whatever you do, don’t just talk the talk.  Walk it. Be actively involved in your child’s life, from infancy right up through the teens. Consistently stay alert to your child’s choice of friends, moods, online and offline behaviour, and by all means support your child’s school when unacceptable behaviour is reported.  Don’t get defensive on your child’s (or your own) behalf. Listen to the administrator. Speak to your child. Do your own investigating and know that there is no administrator or teacher on the planet who is out to get your child. Be skeptical when your child tells you (and they will) that your administrator has it all wrong and they are the victim.

Don’t tell yourself that once your child is 15 or 16, he or she is now an adult and can be trusted to make their own sensible decisions. That is patently ridiculous. Your child is an adult when s/he leaves your home for post secondary school, or for work, and is paying their own bills and living a life apart from you. Only then is your child’s behaviour out of your hands and no longer your responsibility. Hopefully you will have taught your children well and the future remains promisingly bright.

And if not, well, you were forewarned. So was your child. Not just through blogs, and articles, and headlines, but by your child’s school, community, the police, neighbours and anyone else who has been knocking on your door with legitimate concerns and complaints for 16 years.

  Oh, and you’ve also been forewarned and informed by your child’s many victims over the years.  Let’s not forget about them. Or Phoebe Prince.

Phoebe, we miss you.

Watch Saddest Thing: 15-year-old Girl Committed Suicide Because of Getting Bullied

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Crime and Punishment, Education, Relationships, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Andy Warhol’s Blow Job Sucks

The first time I saw Blow Job I was at the AGO in Toronto. I was across the room from It, the actual original Blow Job and didn’t get any closer. The AGO was under construction and much of Warhol’s art was crammed into corners and hallways that were more of an insult than a display. Why management didn’t wait until the Gallery was completed to display Warhol I’ll never know. Absorbing so much avant-garde inspiration in one room felt like grabbing for Christmas gifts that weren’t mine: too much greedy splendor to appreciate the moment. Still the unfinished gallery served as a suitable metaphor for Warhol: dying while still in his prime and developing his signature art. Who knows what other social genius he might have achieved?

Years later I happened upon bj on youtube. At first it’s vulnerability and explicit subtlety were painful to watch yet I couldn’t look away. I nearly shut it off but mezmerized that there once existed a young man so socially experimental as to allow himself to be filmed getting a blow I was drawn into the delicious intimacy of the act without actually seeing it; therein lies its artistic power. I’ve seen pornograpy before. This is nothing like it. This is no “acting”, no ridiculously plastic script, or unnecessarily over-sized cocks attached to undesirable, unsexy males. This is purity.

Deveren Bookwalter was the accidental actor in the film, as was the unseen partner, Willard Maas. Initially Warhol booked Charles Rydell, boyfriend of the American filmmaker and artist, Jerome Hill to use as the face of Blow Job. When Rydell failed to show, Warhol stated he used a “good-looking kid who happened to be hanging around the Factory that day”. Fateful chance that Warhol ended up filming what was no doubt the better of the two young men he had in mind. He has the look of a naive small town boy Warhol found and gently exploited in the circus-like atmosphere of the Factory.  

DeVeren Bookwalter became the first person to win three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for his production, direction and performance in Cyrano de Bergerac in 1975. He appeared in a number of films and television soaps. He made an impressive performance in the highly acclaimed The Enforcer, a 1976 film with Clint Eastwood. Bookwalter died on July 23, 1987 at the young age of 48 of stomach cancer. He was married to actress Ruth Kidder. They had a son, County Wilder Bookwalter.

Not surprisingly there is wonderful social and sexual irony behind the scenes. Both Bookwalter and Maas were heterosexual men who later married (women). Straight men disguised as lovers couldn’t drive the point home more poignantly to clueless homophobes. The implied seduction of the film has critics shying away from calling the film what it is: a blow job. They can’t bring themselves to admit Bookwalter is getting sucked off. They can barely allude to the fact that someone is getting him off orally. Peter Gidal writes “he is apparently being given the sex act named in the title”. Apparently? Sex act? Come on Gidal, man up and say it. Sam Ishii-Gonzalès politely suggests a titular activity. Wikipedia uses the medical terminology fellatio.

It is rumoured that Warhol used the notorious big red couch for his set, and that’s likely true since the couch was seen in the majority of Warhol’s sexual experiments, an iconic element in his films, and an apt metaphor for the 60’s, the era of “free” love, the beginning of rampant STDs in North America, rejection of the Establishment and traditional family. You fucked whomever you chose or whomever chose you and you didn’t seek out that person the next day. In fact you were probably a city away by then. Such was the hard core atmosphere of America’s 1960’s, cleverly reflected in Warhol’s Factory and all of the films that it produced. 

Even so, the 1960’s weren’t for everyone. That could be part of the reason Warhol included unforgettable media images of death in many of his works. Some of the most famous movie stars and musicians of the 20th century died in the 60’s or came damned close to it, hapless victims of their own image, unable to prevent the monster they’d unleased upon the 60’s from destroying their own lives. On a much larger scale death and its continual threat enveloped America in endless waves: the Cuban missile crisis, The Vietnam War, and the end of the 1950’s myth of female roles ridiculously punctuated by the fictional, Beaver Cleaver family, annihilated within the second wave of the American feminism movement  . These define what it was to experience the 60’s every bit as much as Warhol and other pop culture geniuses of the time. Bookwalter’s futile struggle to avoid climaxing is a great metaphor for this decade: ready or not here it cums.

 The 60’s remain a fascinating study of post-modern America, enormously oppositional socio-political forces that will never know its historical equal. To be sure in spite of impressive developments in contemporary art, not every artist has the stamina, the ingenuity and the fuck-you-and-your-little-dog-too attitude of Warhol. That at least partially explains why long after the decadence of the 60’s passed, we lost an art visionary who has never been and will never be replaced.

Watch video Brian Goes to Hollywood

October 31, 2010 Posted by | Pop Culture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pop Culture, Andy Warhol and the Origin of Reality TV

Long, long ago in the last millenium Andy Warhol, the controversial cult figure, helped define the notion of “pop culture“through his unique perspective within the visual art movement. Warhol, a painter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, and author defined key aspects of the 1960’s. Warhol’s collection of multi media including silk screen, film and other material, reflected the everyday lives of 20th century society, an approach that is still relevant with the dawn of the new century.

Warhol’s claim to fame lies in his exploitation of the mundane, puzzling and intimate nature of human beings belittled even further by our superficial worship of iconic American products. His laissez-faire attitude towards the outcome deepens the insult.

 Years ago I visited the AGO in Toronto to view a posthumous display of Warhol work. It is as though I just left the Gallery. Suicide, Fallen Body, a silk screen of Evelyn McHale, 23, who’d committed suicide by jumping off the Empire State Building  slid unexpectedly into view. The effect was both devastating and hypnotic: the curve of the woman’s seemingly undamaged body left its imprint atop a luxurious limousine as deeply as her bizarre serenity imprinted itself on the American public. It is a beautiful, deeply disturbing image of desperation and self destruction. She haunts me.

And therein lay Warhol’s genius in a single print. McHale’s flight from the sky apropos of nothing, white scarf streaming softly behind her and the coup de grace of her horrendous end was precisely the effect Warhol had on the pop culture of the 1960’s: unexpected, a startling arrival that echoes fiercely between two millenia. He recognized in the suicide a cry not for help, she was far beyond that, but for her 15 minutes of fame in death if not in life.  Warhol was only too happy to give it to her and in so doing she absconded with more than her 15 minutes. Sixty years on, she remains a hapless princess fallen from her tower without rescue.

As I recovered from the still, silent shock of death, the living ecstasy of Andy Warhol’s Blow Job Movie  accosted me, molten lava ecstasy layered over the frigid cold of Evelyn McHale’s angst.  The film was pornographic yet not pornographic, it’s obscenity lies in what is not seen rather than what is seen. A deliberate mockery of our deliberate intrusion upon this intimate act Andy Warhol’s Blow Job is a classic Warhol signature. Better still, those critics that attempt to dismiss it as mere pornography and unworthy of art reveal their own superficiality: if it’s so unbearable why do they insist on obsessing over the film throughout the decades?

It would appear that long before Valerie Solanas , someone shot Andy Warhol in a drily humorous film of himself in Andy Warhol Eating a Hamburger, a reflection on the mundanity of human biology: sometimes you have to waste precious time eating. The wonderful snub in this piece is his refusal to enjoy the iconic symbols of a Burger King sandwich sweetened by Heinz Ketchup. Pop culture’s futility lies in celebrating its own commercialism on television and other media yet it’s promise cannot ever live up to it’s own premise and vice versa.

Valerie Solanas became an eternal, baffling chapter in Warhol’s life. She worked briefly with Warhol for the purpose of submitting a self-penned film manuscript that Warhol literally and figuratively discarded.  Filled with rage at yet another rejecting male in her life, the schizophrenic Solanas, an American radical feminist and author of The SCUM Manifesto, shot Warhol point blank three times in his chest. Solanas’ desire to decimate pop art was as futile as the SCUM manifesto: Warhol survived, pop culture triumphed, she was jailed and life went on.  

Perhaps Warhol recognized the redundancy of exploiting Solanas’ hatred to the masses. In penning SCUM she’d already told the tale. Yet Solanas’ attack plagued Warhol. Internal damages forced Warhol into a girdle for the remainder of his life. Invisible trauma nearly destroyed him. Nervous and uncertain, a man who jumped at shadows terrified that Solanas might return to finish the job, he was never the same man or artist again. Solanas indeed killed Andy Warhol. 

Warhol’s reality, the shocking and the mundane, were depicted on film and in newspapers long before there was reality tv. In fact it is fair to state that Andy Warhol planted the seeds of reality television last century: consider the film of Warhol eating a hamburger, the blow job, the kiss. He filmed in short segments but he directed, he didn’t script, an unusual approach for its day. 

In today’s reality programs, scenes are shot and re-shot until the director has his take, the exact opposite of Warhol’s approach since reality on film is meant to unfold spontaneously, rather like well, reality, accounting for why today’s shows are banal, lacklustre and of little cultural value.  No doubt he pictured aspiring directors attempting to develop his reality media, envisioning they would come nowhere near the ethereal quality of his work. 

Warhol’s reality film is an intentional irony. Ignorant of his manipulation, we are a living piece of Warhol’s reality.  He offers us the opportunity to spy on ourselves as much as the film’s participants and we do so with hunger rather than appreciation.  We grasp the forbidden opportunity to glimpse the hidden nature of being human among human beings, rather like Adam and Eve suckling the succulent fruit of knowlege at their own expense. This is the art Warhol brought to the screen regardless of his media. It is mangled by 21st century pathos.

A reigning icon of pop culture in Warhol’s era, Ziggy Stardust (aka David Bowie), recognized his kindred spirit. Prompted by their oneness, Ziggy wrote an ode of sorts to Warhol entitled Andy Warhol.

The lyrics describe Warhol’s work with accurate simplicity:

Dress my friends up just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain…
Andy Warhol Silver Screen

Can’t tell them apart at all

Warhol’s raison d’etre.

Watch video A Picture is Worth a Thousand Bucks
Watch video 15 Minutes of Shame

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Pop Culture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment