Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Nothing makes me smile quite like a basset hound, and this guy's a real cutie. Have a fun Halloween everyone.

Red Norvo Trio in "Screaming Mimi" 1958

Screaming Mimi

Every once in a while a psychological thriller comes along that is every bit as delusional and confused as its most disturbed character and that is certainly the case with Screaming Mimi (1958).

Whether intentional or not, the movie abandons logic and the intricately plotted pleasure of a good whodunit to run amok in a nocturnal fantasy world populated by bohemians, strippers, sexual deviants and psychopaths. Amid the endless string of red herrings and outlandish suspects is a final denouement that is beyond absurd.

But don't let that deter you from seeing this flamboyantly unhinged B-movie based on the pulp novel by Fredric Brown; it later served as the uncredited inspiration for Dario Argento's 1970 giallo, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

Screaming Mimi is also an unusually baroque entry in the filmography of Germany born director Gerd Oswald whose Hollywood career was relatively undistinguished with the exception of the 1956 thriller A Kiss Before Dying.

From the opening frames of the film in which a bizarre figurine of a shrieking woman is superimposed over the credits, Screaming Mimi establishes itself as a movie for fetishists and voyeurs, an observation that is reinforced by our first sighting of the voluptuous blonde heroine, Virginia Wilson (Anita Ekberg), emerging from the surf after a swim.

In a matter of minutes, the idyllic beginning with Virginia and her dog returning to a rustic seaside cottage is shattered by the arrival of a knife-welding psycho, an escapee from a road gang. He butchers her dog and then tries to slice and dice the hysterical Virginia in her outdoor shower until her half-brother Charlie (Romney Brent) comes to the rescue and shoots the assailant dead.

The experience leaves Virginia in a state of traumatic shock and she is sent to the Highland Sanitarium to recover. Once there she falls under the Svengali-like influence of Dr. Greenwood (Harry Townes), whose interest in Virginia extends beyond the purely professional. (We can tell by the way he spies on her in her private cell and his obsessive need to control her: "Do you trust me? Would you do anything I say?").

After Virginia is released from the sanitarium, she moves to the city where she assumes a new identity as Yolanda Lange, an exotic dancer at the "El Madhouse" nightclub run by "Your Favorite Hostess Joann Masters," as advertised by the billboard outside the entrance.

Accompanied by her guard dog, a Great Dane named Devil, and her new manager, the former Dr. Greenwood, Yolanda quickly becomes the talk of the town with her provocative nightclub act, a suggestive interpretive dance with S&M overtones involving chains and two dangling ropes as props.

But Virginia soon takes a turn for the worst when she is attacked and wounded by an unknown assailant who could be the same mad slasher that recently murdered another exotic dancer. To tell you any more would spoil the ensuing insanity which involves a hardboiled newspaper reporter (Philip Carey) smitten by Yolanda, a sculptor of disturbing figurines, and an antique dealer who sells the creepy artifacts which become clues to the killer at large.

Anita Ekberg, of course, is the real showcase in Screaming Mimi and she is at the peak of her beauty, her body impervious to the laws of gravity. She would go on to establish herself as an international sex siren in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) two years later but here she is required to alternate between hysterics and a shock treatment-like daze, muttering dialogue like "You're not my doctor, you haven't got a white coat."

In what is probably the most bizarre scene in the movie, we observe her specialty act which is intercut with mute reaction shots of the hipster nightclub patrons (including same-sex couples) and one astonishing close-up of her Great Dane who appears to be licking his chops over her erotic moves.

As Ekberg's would-be rescuer and seducer, Philip Carey projects just the right amount of sleaziness and cynicism for a newspaperman who gets his best news tips in after-hours bars. He was a regular staple in crime melodramas of the fifties, usually playing morally ambiguous cops or leering mashers, and later became a series regular on the TV soap opera One Life to Live (1988-2007).

Harry Townes also lends his sinister presence to the proceedings before being pushed to his death through a glass window by Ekberg's dog! Townes was a prolific television actor from the '50s through the '70s appearing in everything from Alfred Hitchcock Presents! to Magnum P.I..

What most people don't know is that Townes went to seminary school in the '70s and became an Episcopal priest, though he would still occasionally accept acting gigs up until 1988 when he retired.

The real scene-stealer in Screaming Mimi is famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee as the ball-busting lesbian proprietor of "El Madhouse." Her performance has a schizophrenic quality that ping-pongs from fake cheer as she harasses her customers - "Drink up Barney, you're on an expense account. My rent is due!" - to shameless self-promotion - "Popped in to see my new cupcake? I tell you Bill, she is the greatest thing in the history of night club entertainment!"

Whether she is striding into the room, slinging her arms, or angrily chomping on a piece of celery, Lee is hard to ignore. At the time of the film, she was 47 years old and she brings a touch of high class professionalism to her solo number, "Put the Blame on Mame," in which her twirling furs and shimmy-shake dress look rather old-fashioned compared to Ekberg's outre dance number.

There is also a brief, surprising moment - and possibly an in-joke - in which Lee is seen stroking the bald head of a seated patron who remains unseen, proclaiming to all, "Isn't that a beautiful specimen? I built a career on heads like that." From the back the man looks like director Otto Preminger, with whom Lee had an affair that produced a son, Erik.

Unlike other B-movie thrillers of its era, Screaming Mimi is a genuine oddity which revels in the kinky detail and seems a much purer reflection of its pulp fiction origins than most low-budget thrillers.

One reason for this is the striking chiaroscuro-like cinematography of Burnett Guffey which brings a painter's eye to the visual clichés of the genre. For example, in one scene, a flashing neon sign outside Yolanda's bedroom reveals Yolanda and Bill, in almost subliminal flickers, as they embrace on the bed while an outside streetlight illuminates Devil, Yolanda's guard dog, sleeping on the floor beside them.

Guffey, of course, was not your typical B-movie cinematographer and chalked up four Oscar® nominations over the course of his career for From Here to Eternity [1953], Birdman of Alcatraz [1962], King Rat [1965] and Bonnie and Clyde [1967].

Screaming Mimi is also not the sort of film that is usually associated with producers Harry Joe Brown and Robert Fellows.

Brown is best known for his successful collaboration with Randolph Scott on a series of low-budget Westerns for Columbia Pictures. Screaming Mimi was made between Decision at Sundown [1957] and Buchanan Rides Alone [1958].

Fellows, on the other hand, was a frequent collaborator with John Wayne and together they produced seven movies together including the 1954 box office hit The High and the Mighty and the William Wellman Western, Track of the Cat [1954].

Screaming Mimi represented an odd detour for both producers and was barely noticed at all by moviegoers since it was consigned to the bottom of double bills and released on the grindhouse and drive-in circuits.

One final note: The nightclub musical interludes in Screaming Mimi feature the Red Norvo Trio, which provides the appropriate cool cat ambience worthy of "El Madhouse" and also reflects the influence of the West Coast jazz scene that was emerging in San Francisco and Los Angeles at the time.

Red Norvo was a xylophone, marimba and vibraphone specialist whose music followed in the tradition of Lionel Hampton and Adrian Rollini and, during the fifties when this movie was made, he often led a drummerless trio, appearing with such jazz legends as Tal Farlow and Charles Mingus.

Producers: Harry Joe Brown, Robert Follows
Director: Gerd Oswald
Screenplay: Fredric Brown (novel "The Screaming Mimi")
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Film Editing: Gene Havlick, Jerome Thoms
Cast: Anita Ekberg (Virginia Wilson/Yolanda Lange), Philip Carey (Bill Sweeney), Gypsy Rose Lee (Joann 'Gypsy' Mapes), Harry Townes (Dr. Greenwood), Linda Cherney (Ketti), Romney Brent (Charlie Weston), Alan Gifford (Captain Bline), Oliver McGowan (Walter Krieg), Red Norvo (Red Yost).

review by Jeff Stafford

Fanboy Fantasies: Sheena and Elvis

Irish McCalla the exotic looking star the of TV series 'Sheenah Queen Of The Jungle' jokes with Elvis Presley backstage on The Milton Berle Show, 1956.

Queen of Night and Day(Sheena Queen of the Jungle, Queen of Night and Day, Queen of Pin-up)
There were two defining moments that lead Irish McCalla's cult following. First being the first great pin-up queen of post war magazines and one of the three or four definitive cheesecake models of the '50s. Second was her transformation into television's Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Sorta the '50s version of Tarzan meets Xena.

For more pin-up material, visit this great blog:

Art by Dave Stevens.

Knight's Move Thinking

Knight's Move Thinking --- I like the sound of that. Or should I simply add -- guilty? One look at my blog posts and well, maybe it's just creative lateral thinking.... check!

From Wikipedia,

Derailment (thought disorder)

In psychiatry, derailment (also loosening of association, asyndesis, asyndetic thinking, knight's move thinking, or entgleisen) is a thought disorder characterized by discourse consisting of a sequence of unrelated or only remotely related ideas. The frame of reference often changes from one sentence to the next.

In a mild manifestation, this thought disorder is characterized by slippage of ideas further and further from the point of a discussion. Some of the synonyms given above (loosening of association, asyndetic thinking) are used by some authors to refer just to a loss of goal: discourse that sets off on a particular idea, wanders off and never returns to it.

A related term is tangentiality—it refers to off-the-point, oblique or irrelevant answers given to questions. In some studies on creativity, knight's move thinking, while it describes a similarly loose association of ideas, it is not considered a mental disorder or the hallmark of one; it is sometimes used as a synonym for lateral thinking. (whew!)

Examples"The next day when I'd be going out you know, I took control, like uh, I put bleach on my hair in California."—given by Nancy C. Andreasen
"The traffic is rumbling along the main road. They are going to the north. Why do girls always play pantomime heroes."—given by Carl Schneider

Entgleisen (derailment in German) was first used with this meaning by Carl Schneider in 1930. The term asyndesis was introduced by N. Cameron in 1938, while loosening of association was introduced by A. Bleuler in 1950. The phrase knight's move thinking was first used in the context of pathological thinking by the psychologist Peter McKellar in 1957, who hypothesized that schizophrenics fail to suppress divergent associations. Derailment was used with this meaning by Kurt Schneider in 1959.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Thought Disorder

From Wikipedia:

In considering whether an individual has Thought Disorder, patterns of their speech are closely observed. Although it is normal to exhibit some of the following during times of extreme stress (e.g. a cataclysmic event or the middle of a war) it is the degree, frequency, and the resulting functional impairment that leads to the conclusion that the person being observed has a thought disorder.

Alogia (also Poverty of Speech) - Deficiency in content of speech compared to what level of information is normally expected. e.g. in an informal conversation, "Do you have any siblings?" "Yes."

Blocking – Interruption of train of speech before completion. e.g. "Am I early?" "No, you're just about on..."(silence) At an extreme degree, after blocking occurs, the speaker does not recall the topic he or she was discussing. True blocking is a common sign of schizophrenia.

Circumstantiality – Speech that is highly detailed and very delayed at reaching its goal. Speaking about many concepts related to the point of the conversation before eventually returning to the point and concluding the thought.

Excessive long-windedness. e.g. "What is your name?" "Well, sometimes when people ask me that I have to think about whether or not I will answer because some people think it's an odd name even though I don't really because my mum gave it to me and I think my dad helped but it's as good a name as any in my opinion, I think it's a little weird to have the same name as two of my other names, but the fact that I like it is a good thing... but yeah, it's Gordon."

Clanging – Sounds, rather than meaningful relationships, appear to govern words or topics. Excessive rhyming, and/or alliteration. e.g. "Many moldy mushrooms merge out of the mildewy mud on Mondays." "I heard the bell. Well, hell, then I fell."

Derailment (also Loose Association and Knight's Move Thinking) – Ideas slip off the topic's track on to another which is obliquely related or unrelated. e.g. "The next day when I'd be going out you know, I took control, like uh, I put bleach on my hair in California."

Distractible speech – During mid speech, the subject is changed in response to a stimulus. e.g. "Then I left San Francisco and moved to... where did you get that tie?"

Echolalia – Echoing of one's or other people's speech that may only be committed once, or may be continuous in repetition. This may involve repeating only the last few words or last word of the examiner's sentences. This can be a symptom of Tourette's Syndrome. e.g. "What would you like for dinner?", "That's a good question. That's a good question. That's a good question. That's a good question."

Evasive interaction – Attempts to express ideas and/or feelings about another individual come out as evasive or in a diluted form, e.g.: "I... er ah... you are uh... I think you have... uh-- acceptable erm... uh... hair."

Flight of ideas – A sequence of loose associations or extreme tangentiality where the speaker goes quickly from one idea to another seemingly unrelated idea. To the listener, the ideas seem unrelated and do not seem to repeat. Often pressured speech is also present. e.g. "I own five cigars. I've been to Havana. She rose out of the water, in a bikini."

Illogicality – Conclusions are reached that do not follow logically (non-sequiturs or faulty inferences). e.g. "Do you think this will fit in the box?" draws a reply like "Well duh; it's brown, isn't it?"

Incoherence (Word Salad) – Speech that is unintelligible because, though the individual words are real words, the manner in which they are strung together results in incoherent gibberish, e.g. the question "Why do people comb their hair?" elicits a response like "Because it makes a twirl in life, my box is broken help me blue elephant. Isn't lettuce brave? I like electrons, hello please!"

Loss of goal – Failure to follow a train of thought to a natural conclusion. e.g. "Why does my computer keep crashing?", "Well, you live in a stucco house, so the pair of scissors needs to be in another drawer."

Neologisms – New word formations. These may also involve elisions of two words that are similar in meaning or in sound. e.g. "I got so angry I picked up a dish and threw it at the geshinker."

Perseveration – Persistent repetition of words or ideas. e.g. "It's great to be here in Nevada, Nevada, Nevada, Nevada, Nevada." This may also involve repeatedly giving the same answer to different questions. e.g. "Is your name Mary?" "Yes." "Are you in the hospital?" "Yes." "Are you a table?" "Yes." Perseveration can include palilalia and logoclonia and is often an indication of organic brain disease such as Parkinson's.

Phonemic paraphasia – Mispronunciation; syllables out of sequence. e.g. "I slipped on the lice and broke my arm."

Pressure of speech – An increase in the amount of spontaneous speech compared to what is considered customary. This may also include an increase in the rate of speech. Alternatively it may be difficult to interrupt the speaker; the speaker may continue speaking even when a direct question is asked.

Self-reference – Patient repeatedly and inappropriately refers back to self. e.g. "What's the time?", "It's 7 o'clock. That's my problem."

Semantic paraphasiaSubstitution of inappropriate word. e.g. "I slipped on the coat, on the ice I mean, and broke my book."

Stilted speech – Speech excessively stilted and formal. e.g. "The attorney comported himself indecorously."

Tangentiality – Replying to questions in an oblique, tangential or irrelevant manner. e.g.:
Q: "What city are you from?"
A: "Well, that's a hard question. I'm from Iowa. I really don't know where my relatives came from, so I don't know if I'm Irish or French."

Word approximations – Old words used in a new and unconventional way. e.g. "His boss was a seeover."

"High Water Everywhere" Charley Patton

High Water Everywhere sung by Charley Patton with a slideshow of pictures from the 1927 Mississippi Flood.

Pat Boyette Korg, 70,000 B.C. #9 Cover 1976

Don Ivan Punchatz "Pepsi Monster Match" Illustrations

Candy Store 1960s!

Doc Savage by James Bama

The Phantom is Real!

Mad's Maddest Artist Don Martin

Fanboy Fantasies: The Black Widow

Another super-sexy comics redhead, Natalia Romanova, as played by Scarlett Johansson.

Steve Ditko Creepy #11 "Beast Man" Page 1, 1966


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Steve Jobs: The Vintage i-Smirk

Dick Dale "The Wedge" (Live on KEXP) 2009


The Concert for Bangladesh 1971 "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall"

Hermona Soreq Blog: Stress Reactions: Acetylcholine

by Hermona Soreq, Professor of Molecular Neuroscience, The Hebrew University’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences

Do the Stress Reactions of Our Brain Control the Immune System -- Or Is It the Other Way Around?

In the well-known 17th-century text Le Malade Imaginaire, Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) wrote, "the mind has great influence over the body, and maladies have their origin there."

Since Molière, we now know that a diseased body and malfunctioning immune system also affect the mind.

Inflammation of the nervous system has been increasingly recognized as an important factor in multiple conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. New technologies in genetic engineering and drug development are rapidly progressing to implement this knowledge for early diagnosis and creative treatment strategies that take into consideration both the brain and the body.

One area that has benefited considerably from these developments is the study of anxiety.

Historically, human stress reactions enabled our ancestors to survive attacks and protect the body from injury. But even though these reactions aren't necessities like they were for our ancestors, the same response patterns have continued to the present. An unpleasant discussion at work rarely leads to physical attacks, but our body nevertheless prepares for such attacks; it elevates the blood pressure to prepare for running, and produces more white blood cells as protection from anticipated injury.

While such reactions are useful for immediate protection -- since alertness can assist us in reacting to stressful experiences faster and more efficiently -- the consequences of stress responses may also entail long-term damages spanning muscle and nerve cells malfunctions, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and inflammatory diseases.

The long-term and disease-provoking consequences of stress responses may take years to develop. This was not a concern for early humans, whose life span was shorter than ours (by the time stress could take its toll, they were no longer alive). But today, humans live much longer, and as a result, stress-associated diseases -- especially in the elderly -- have become a major social and financial burden.
Over the past two decades, I, along with my colleagues at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have pioneered and developed innovative strategies for investigating the consequences of traumatic experiences and designed new strategies to combat neurodegenerative diseases.

Our work has proven that in both brain neurons and blood cells, the genetic information that processes events are vulnerable to changes under stress. Moreover, we've discovered that both inherited and acquired defects in neurons, as well as traumatic experiences or exposure to a contaminated environment, contribute to delayed susceptibilities to stress-associated diseases.

The consequences may be seriously harmful, affect seemingly unrelated functions (e.g. learning and memory, the day-and-night cycle, muscle fatigue, inflammation), and last over the life spans of individuals and communities.

A good portion of our research has been devoted to a small chemical called acetylcholine, the first known neurotransmitter (a small chemical compound which is capable of activating neurons to send electrical signals) and the primary communicator between the body and the brain.

Discovered 100 years ago by the Nobel laureate Otto Loewi, acetylcholine comes from the brain through the vagus nerve and is responsible for muscle twitching. We've discovered that acetylcholine signals produced in the brain affect psychological stress responses, inflammation, aging, and the recovery from acute ischemic stroke.

As part of our research, we isolated the genes controlling acetylcholine degradation in humans and identified stress-induced changes in their expression in brain neurons and blood cells alike.

To pinpoint the physiological role of these genes, we engineered mice with excess or deficient amounts of the genes' protein products and watched their learning, muscle functioning and behavior. We learned three basic things:

1) Either too much or too rapid degradation of acetylcholine may cause cognitive deterioration, which intensifies anxiety reactions and can also intensify them, creating a vicious cycle;

2) The mice with excess breakdown of acetylcholine suffer constant inflammation, demonstrating the power of brain-to-body communication for our immune system and showing that individuals who carry inherited small changes in these genes are at increased risks for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease;

3) Different products of these genes may either enhance the progression of brain pathology in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease or help protect against them, and they also determine one's prospects to survive and recover from ischemic stroke. Measuring such changes by a simple blood test can hence predict one's prospects for recovery and the risks for post-traumatic stress disorder.

New discoveries in stress-related pathologies are occurring at a quickening pace. Just recently, we've developed a synthetic DNA-based drug for treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

With the help of a $5 million grant approved by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, we hope that such developments will bring us closer to finding more permanent treatments for neurodegenerative and other diseases that have, unfortunately, become all too common.

Happy Howl-oween

Zoe the Zebra: The 2011 champ. Zoe, a Jack Russell terrier, is actually the two-time defending Anchorage, Alaska Howl-oween costume champion. Owner Holly Kennedy dyes the mostly white dog's hair.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Marsden Hartley

Marsden Hartley, Storm Down Pine Point Way, Old Orchard Beach,  Oil on board, 1941-43.

Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughan "They Call It Stormy Monday" Canada, 1983

This goes out to the East Coast and Hurricane Sandy ....

In the Halloween Mood

The grim procession. The Masque of the Red Death, motion picture by Roger Corman, 1964.

Solomon Shereshevskii: Legendary Synaesthetic Mnemonist

From yee Wiki:

Solomon Veniaminovich Shereshevskii (1886–1958) (Russian: Соломон Вениаминович Шерешевский), also known simply as 'Ш' ('Sh') or 'S.', was a Russian journalist and mnemonist active in the 1920s.


Shereshevskii participated in many behavioral studies, most of them carried by the neuropsychologist Alexander Luria over a thirty year time span. He met Luria after an anecdotal event in which he was told off for not taking any notes while attending a work meeting in the mid-1920s. To the astonishment of everyone there (and to his own also, due to his belief that everybody had such an ability to recall), he could recall the speech word by word.

Along the years Shereshevskii was asked to memorize complex mathematical formulas, huge matrices and even poems in foreign languages and did so in a matter of minutes. Despite his astounding memory performance, Shereshevskii scored no better than average in intelligence tests.

On the basis of his studies, Luria diagnosed in Shereshevskii an extremely strong version of synaesthesia, fivefold synaesthesia, in which the stimulation of one of his senses produced a reaction in every other. For example, if Shereshevskii heard a musical tone played he would immediately see a color, touch would trigger a taste sensation, and so on for each of the senses. The images that his synaesthesia produced usually aided him in memorizing. For example, when thinking about numbers he reported:

Take the number 1. This is a proud, well-built man; 2 is a high-spirited woman; 3 a gloomy person; 6 a man with a swollen foot; 7 a man with a moustache; 8 a very stout woman—a sack within a sack. As for the number 87, what I see is a fat woman and a man twirling his moustache.


Shereshevskii had an active imagination, which helped him generate useful mnemonics. His condition often produced unnecessary and distracting images or feelings. He had trouble memorizing information whose intended meaning differed from its literal one, as well as trouble recognizing faces, which he saw as "very changeable". He also occasionally had problems reading, because the written words evoked distracting sensations. Things were far worse when he, for example, ate while reading. An example of the difficulties he faced in daily life:

One time I went to buy some ice cream ... I walked over to the vendor and asked her what kind of ice cream she had. 'Fruit ice cream,' she said. But she answered in such a tone that a whole pile of coals, of black cinders, came bursting out of her mouth, and I couldn't bring myself to buy any ice cream after she had answered in that way ...

His mnemonic associations were so strong that he could recall them after many years. After he discovered his own abilities, he performed as a mnemonist; but this created confusion in his mind. He went as far as writing things down on paper and burning it, so that he could see the words in cinders, in a desperate attempt to forget them. Reportedly, in his late years, he realized that he could forget facts with just a conscious desire to remove them from his memory, although Luria did not test this directly.

Natural Disasters I've Been Through: The Great Alaskan Earthquake, Good Friday,1964

Good luck to our friends in New Jersey with Hurricane Sandy. Natural Disasters reveal just how puny our human plans and timetables really are.

Damage to Fourth Avenue, in Anchorage, Alaska, caused by the Good Friday Earthquake. Collapse of Fourth Avenue near C Street in Anchorage due to a landslide caused by the earthquake. Before the shock, the sidewalk on the left, which is in the ditch, was at street level on the right. The ditch fell 11 feet in response to 14 feet of horizontal movement.

Kathy Freston Blog: Why Do Vegetarians Live Longer?

Nearly a decade of extra life -- that's what you get when you move away from eating animal foods and toward a plant-based diet. This is really exciting science for anyone seeking healthy longevity (and who isn't?)!

According to a recent report on the largest study of vegetarians and vegans to date, those eating plant-based diets appear to have a significantly longer life expectancy. Vegetarians live on average almost eight years longer than the general population, which is similar to the gap between smokers and nonsmokers. This is not surprising, given the reasons most of us are dying. In an online video, "Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death," Michael Greger, M.D. explores the role a healthy diet can play in preventing, treating, and even reversing the top 15 killers in the United States. Let's take a closer look at what the good doctor has pulled together...

Heart disease is our leading cause of death. The 35-year follow-up of the Harvard Nurses Health Study was recently published, now the most definitive long-term study on older women's health. Dietary cholesterol intake -- only found in animal foods -- was associated with living a significantly shorter life and fiber intake -- only found in plant foods -- was associated with living a significantly longer life. Consuming the amount of cholesterol found in just a single egg a day may cut a woman's life short as much as smoking five cigarettes daily for 15 years, whereas eating a daily cup of oatmeal's worth of fiber appears to extend a woman's life as much as four hours of jogging a week. (But there's no reason we can't do both!)

What if your cholesterol's normal, though? I hear that a lot. But here's the thing: having a "normal" cholesterol in a society where it's "normal" to drop dead of a heart attack is not necessarily a good thing. According to the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, "For the build-up of plaque in our arteries to cease, it appears that the serum total cholesterol needs to be lowered to the 150 area. In other words the serum total cholesterol must be lowered to that of the average pure vegetarian."

More than 20 years ago, Dr. Dean Ornish showed that heart disease could not just be stopped but actually reversed with a vegan diet, arteries opened up without drugs or surgery. Since this lifestyle cure was discovered, hundreds of thousands have died unnecessary deaths. What more does one have to know about a diet that reverses our deadliest disease?

Cancer is killer number two. Ah, the dreaded "C" word -- but look at this hopeful science. According to the largest forward-looking study on diet and cancer so far performed, "the incidence of all cancers combined is lower among vegetarians." The link between meat and cancer is such that even a paper published in the journal Meat Science recently asked, "Should we become vegetarians, or can we make meat safer?" There are a bunch of additives under investigation to suppress the toxic effects the blood-based "heme" iron, for example, which could provide what they called an "acceptable" way to prevent cancer. Why not just reduce meat consumption? The meat science researchers noted that if such public health guidance were adhered to, "Cancer incidence may be reduced, but farmers and [the] meat industry would suffer important economical problems..." Hmmm, so Big Ag chooses profit over health; what a surprise.

After Dr. Ornish's team showed that the bloodstreams of men eating vegan for a year had nearly eight times the cancer-stopping power, a series of elegant experiments showed that women could boost their defenses against breast cancer after just two weeks on a plant-based diet. See the before and after here. If you or anyone you know has ever had a cancer scare, this research will make your heart soar. Because there is real, true hope -- something you can do to stave off "the big C."

So, the top three leading causes of death used to be heart disease, cancer, then stroke, but the latest CDC stats place COPD third -- lung diseases such as emphysema. Surprisingly, COPD can be prevented with the help of a plant-based diet, and can even be treated with plants. Of course, the tobacco industry viewed these landmark findings a little differently. Instead of adding plants to one's diet to prevent emphysema, wouldn't it be simpler to just add them to the cigarettes? Hence the study "Addition of Açaí [Berries] to Cigarettes Has a Protective Effect Against Emphysema in [Smoking] Mice." Seriously.

The meat industry tried the same tack. Putting fruit extracts in burgers was not without its glitches, though. The blackberries "literally dyed burger patties with a distinct purplish color," and though it was possible to improve the nutritional profile of frankfurters with powdered grape seeds, there were complaints that the grape seed "particles became visible" in the final product. And if there's one thing we know about hot dog eaters, it's that they're picky about what goes in their food!

Onward to strokes: The key to preventing strokes may be to eat potassium-rich foods. Though Chiquita may have had a good PR firm, bananas don't even make the top 50 sources. The leading whole food sources include dark green leafy vegetables, beans, and dates. We eat so few plants that 98 percent of Americans don't even reach the recommended minimum daily intake of potassium. And if you look at killer number five -- accidents -- bananas (and their peels) could be downright dangerous!

Alzheimer's disease is now our sixth leading killer. We've known for nearly 20 years now that those who eat meat -- including chicken and fish -- appear three times more likely to become demented compared to long-term vegetarians. Exciting new research suggests one can treat Alzheimer's using natural plant products such as the spice saffron, which beat out placebo and worked as well as a leading Alzheimer's drug.

Diabetes is next on the kick-the-bucket list. Plant-based diets help prevent, treat, and even reverse Type 2 diabetes. Since vegans are, on average, about 30 pounds skinnier than meat-eaters, this comes as no surprise; but researchers found that vegans appear to have just a fraction of the diabetes risk, even after controlling for their slimmer figures.
Kidney failure, our eighth leading cause of death, may also be prevented and treated with a plant-based diet. The three dietary risk factors Harvard researchers found for declining kidney function were animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol, all of which are only found in animal products.

Leading killer number nine is respiratory infections. With flu shot season upon us, it's good to know that fruit and vegetable consumption can significantly boost one's protective immune response to vaccination. Check out the short video "Kale and the Immune System," and you'll see there's not much kale can't do.

Suicide is number 10. Oh yes, vegan food even has something good to offer on this one! Cross-sectional studies have shown that the moods of those on plant-based diets tend to be superior, but taken in just a snapshot in time one can't tease out cause-and-effect. Maybe happier people end up eating healthier and not the other way around. But this year an interventional trial was published in which all meat, poultry, fish, and eggs were removed from people's diets and a significant improvement in mood scores was found after just two weeks. It can take drugs like Prozac a month or more to take effect. So you may be able to get happier faster by cutting out animal foods than by using drugs.

Drugs can help with the other conditions as well, but instead of taking one drug for cholesterol every day for the rest of your life, maybe a few for high blood pressure or diabetes, the same diet appears to work across the board without the risk of drug side-effects. One study found that prescription medications kill an estimated 106,000 Americans every year. That's not from errors or overdose, but from adverse drug reactions, arguably making doctors the sixth leading cause of death.

Based on a study of 15,000 American vegetarians, those that eat meat have about twice the odds of being on antacids, aspirin, blood pressure medications, insulin, laxatives, painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers. So plant-based diets are great for those that don't like taking drugs, paying for drugs, or risking adverse side effects.

Imagine if, like President Clinton, our nation embraced a plant-based diet. Imagine if we just significantly cut back on animal products. There is one country that tried. After World War II, Finland joined us in packing on the meat, eggs, and dairy. By the 1970s, the mortality rate from heart disease of Finnish men was the highest in the world, and so they initiated a country-wide program to decrease their saturated fat intake. Farmers were encouraged to switch from dairies to berries. Towns were pitted against each other in friendly cholesterol-lowering competitions. Their efforts resulted in an 80 percent drop in cardiac mortality across the entire country.
Conflicts of interest on the U.S. dietary guidelines committee may have prevented similar action from our own government, but with our health-care crisis deepening, our obesity epidemic widening, and the health of our nation's children in decline, we may need to take it upon our selves, families, and communities to embrace Food Day ideals of healthy, affordable, sustainable foods by moving towards a more plant-centered diet. If we do, we may be afforded added years to enjoy the harvest.

For a plan on how to eat this way, check out The Lean!

Five Mistakes New Vegans Make:

1. Eat The Same Amount As Your Pre-Vegan Days

Always hungry on your new vegan diet? You may not be eating enough, says Lanou.
"What people find when they move to a more whole-foods diet built from plant foods, is they have to eat larger quantities of food," she says. "People find themselves hungry or not feeling full and it's because the caloric density of the food they're eating is lower."
For example, you can't expect to go from eating a sandwich that has meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato, to a sandwich with only lettuce and tomato and expect to feel the same amount of fullness, she says. So you "have to eat more food, and that happens anytime you're taking out, or removing, the calorie dense foods from your diet."

2. Don't Seek Out Vitamin B12

There are a myriad of plant-based options to get most of our body's essential nutrients -- you can get calcium, for example, from leafy green vegetables and tofu instead of milk, and you can get omega-3 fatty acids from chia seeds and flax seeds instead of fish. But a big mistake many new vegans make is not going out of their way to find a plant-based source of vitamin B12, which is vital for proper neurological development and functioning, Sheth says.

The nutrient "primarily comes from animal products, so make sure you're getting it either through things like fortified cereals or plant-based beverages fortified with B12," Sheth adds.
Lanou explains that because the body is able to store up vitamin B12 for a long period of time, you may not even notice that you're deficient until a year or more after you've started a vegan diet.

Older people who are going vegan should talk with their doctors about getting enough vitamin B12, Sheth notes, because the "intrinsic factor" in our bodies that help us absorb vitamin B12
diminishes with age.

3. 'If It's Vegan, It Must Be Healthy'

When some people start a vegan diet, they load up on foods like processed veggie burgers, processed veggie cheese, processed veggie hotdogs, and other, well, processed veggie-based foods. While this can help you to stick to your meat- and animal-free goals, some of these foods aren't giving you the nutritional benefits you would get if you actually ate whole, real, non-processed foods, Lanou says.

"The benefit of going from an omnivorous diet to a vegan diet has to do with what you're taking out and putting in," she says. "If you're putting things in that are too similar, you may not be getting all the benefits you could be getting."

Sheth agrees, saying that she discourages her clients switching to a vegan diet only to rely solely on those processed vegan foods.

"Those are also heavily processed -- high in sodium and fat. But you wont want to live off that either -- it's still a processed food," she says.

4. Always Eat The Nuts/Salad When You Are Out And About

Many restaurants and stores now have plenty of options for plant-based eaters -- but not all of them. So, it's wise to carry some delicious, nutritious back-up options if you find yourself in a place where you have nothing to really eat.

"You can always find a bag of peanuts or cashews somewhere, and that's not bad food, but you don't want to live on that," Lanou says.

And the same goes for restaurants -- don't feel like you always have to have the salad if you're out at a place that serves meat-centered dishes, Sheth says.

"You can customize and say, 'I'll have the grains and vegetables that come with the steak,' but ask if they have tofu or a bowl of chili so you can easily have all the nutrients you need," she adds.

5. Don't Listen To Your Body

Every time you alter your diet pattern, it will take about three weeks for your body to adjust, Sheth says, so don't be discouraged if you're feeling strange or still adjusting your eating habits when you first start. And don't take cravings as a sign that your body "needs" a certain food (a bacon craving doesn't mean your body needs bacon!) as it could just mean you need to reassess what nutrients you're consuming.

"If you're craving meat or bacon, what have you been eating the last few days? Maybe you've just been living off salads, so you may not be getting adequate heart-healthy fats," Sheth says.
"See if you can balance it out. Is it the fat your craving? The salt? Just assess what you're doing and see if you're meeting all your nutritional needs."

Lanou advises people to listen to their bodies, and adjust accordingly.

"If your body is telling you it's hungry, eat. If it's telling you something doesn't feel good when it's in your stomach, buy something else," she says.

Eight Food Safety Tips During Power Outages

As much of the East Coast braces for the impact of Hurricane Sandy, being prepared is on everyone’s mind–and that includes food. Having enough canned and dried foods and bottled water is essential, but so is being informed about food safety. According to the FDA, one of the best precautions to take before a hurricane hits is making sure you have enough cold storage for food and that it will be stored at the proper temperatures–even if the power goes out. Here are eight essential tips to follow for food safety:

1. Make sure you have appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. Freezer temperature should be at or below 0 °F, and refrigerators should be at or below 40 °F to ensure optimal safe storage for perishables. If the power goes out, make sure you only consume foods that have been stored at these temperatures.

2. Freeze containers of water for ice. Do this now. Ice cubes, ice blocks and gel packs will help keep food cold in the freezer and refrigerator if the power goes out. Also, get some large coolers and have those ready, too. You can put blocks of ice in there with perishable foods if the refrigerator gets too warm.

3. Use these blocks of ice for drinking water. If your normal water supply is contaminated or unavailable, you can melt the ice for a supply of drinking water.

4. Freeze as much as possible now. Move refrigerated items such as milk, cheese and meat to the freezer. This will help keep them at a safe temperature longer. Also, group food together in the freezer–it will help the food stay cold longer.

5. Store dry foods off the ground. Move any pantry items to higher shelves so they are safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding. This includes bottled water too.

6. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. This will help maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.

7. Keep your freezer full. A freezer that is loaded with food will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours. If it’s only half full, temperatures will be maintained for just 24 hours–assuming the door remains closed.

8. Cook all foods first. Once the power returns, if you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it’s important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present is destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40 °F for 2 hours or more, you need to throw it out.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Fox and the Crow Specialty Art by Jim Davis 1992

Saul Steinberg

Taking It In The Big Shorts

What, Me Short?
  Excerpted from Matt Taibbi's scathing May 26, 2011 Rolling Stone article The People vs. Goldman Sachs:

"Thanks to an extraordinary investigative effort by a Senate subcommittee that unilaterally decided to take up the burden the criminal justice system has repeatedly refused to shoulder, we now know exactly what Goldman Sachs executives ... lied about.

We know exactly how they ... defrauded their clients. America has been waiting for a case to bring against Wall Street. Here it is, and the evidence has been gift-wrapped and left at the doorstep of federal prosecutors, evidence that doesn't leave much doubt: Goldman Sachs should stand trial."

"How did Goldman sell off its 'cats and dogs'? Easy: It assembled new batches of risky mortgage bonds and dumped them on their clients, who took Goldman's word that they were buying a product the bank believed in. The names of the deals Goldman used to clean its books – chief among them Hudson and Timberwolf – are now notorious on Wall Street."

Goldman specifically designed the Hudson deal to reduce its exposure to the very types of mortgages it was selling. One of its creators, trading chief Michael Swenson, later bragged about the "extraordinary profits" he made shorting the housing market. Goldman dumped $1.2 billion of its own "cats and dogs" into the deal – and then told clients that the assets had come not from its own inventory, but had been "sourced from the Street."

Hudson quickly lost a ton of money. Goldman's biggest client, Morgan Stanley, alone lost nearly $960 million on the Hudson deal, which the bank turned around and dumped on taxpayers, who within a year were spending $10 billion bailing out the bank through the TARP program.

Goldman clients who bought into the deal had no idea they were being sold the "cats and dogs" that the bank was "cleaning" off its books. An Australian hedge fund called Basis Capital sank $100 million into the Timberwolf deal on June 18th, 2007, writes Taibbi, "and almost immediately found itself in a full-blown death spiral."

In February 2007, Goldman mortgage chief Daniel Sparks and senior executive Thomas Montag exchanged e-mails about Timberwolf.

MONTAG: "CDO-squared – how big and how dangerous?"
SPARKS: "Roughly $2 billion, and they are the deals to worry about."

In a conference call on May 20th that included Viniar, Sparks oversaw a PowerPoint presentation spelling out Goldman's concern about Timberwolf. In a later e-mail, he wrote: "There is real market-meltdown potential."

Four days after Goldman sold $100 million of Timberwolf to Basis. "Boy," Montag wrote, "that timeberwof [sic] was one shitty deal."

In the spring of 2010, about a year in to his investigation, Senator Levin hauled Goldman execs to Washington, made them take oaths, and demanded that they explain themselves.
Goldman execs lied under oath

• David Viniar insisted that Goldman's massive bet against mortgages was "not a large short." At work, he'd written an email in which he called Goldman's bet "the big short."

• Daniel Sparks claimed that Goldman expected deadly mortgage deals like Timberwolf "to perform." At work, he'd approved an internal document warning that Goldman expected such deals "to underperform."

• Michael Swenson said Goldman had forfeited profits by refusing to bet against mortgages: "We left money on the table." At work, he had bragged about the "extraordinary profits" he made while betting against mortgages.

"Before the hearing, even some of Senator Levin's allies worried privately about his taking on Goldman and other powerful interests. The job, they said, was best left to professional prosecutors, people with experience building cases. ... But in the case of this particular senator, that concern turned out to be misplaced. A Harvard-educated lawyer, Levin has a long record of using his subcommittee to spend a year or more carefully building cases that lead to criminal prosecutions."

"[The] questioning of the bank's executives was not one of those for-the-cameras-only events where congressmen wing ad-libbed questions in search of sound bites. In the weeks leading up to the hearing, Levin's team carefully rehearsed the moment with committee members. They knew the possible answers that Goldman might give, and they were ready with specific counterquestions. What ensued looked more like a good old-fashioned courtroom grilling than a photo-op for grinning congressmen."

"When it came time for Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein to testify, the banker hedged and stammered like a brain-addled boxer who couldn't quite follow the questions. ... But Blankfein also testified unequivocally to the following: 'Much has been said about the supposedly massive short Goldman Sachs had on the U.S. housing market. The fact is, we were not consistently or significantly net-short the market in residential mortgage-related products in 2007 and 2008. We didn't have a massive short against the housing market, and we certainly did not bet against our clients.'

"Levin couldn't believe what he was hearing. 'Heck, yes, I was offended,' he says. 'Goldman's CEO claimed the firm didn't have a massive short, when the opposite was true.' First of all, in Goldman's own internal memoranda, the bank calls its giant, $13 billion bet against mortgages "the big short."

Second, by the time Sparks and Co. were unloading the Timberwolves of the world on [unsuspecting clients] in the summer of 2007, Goldman's mortgage department accounted for 54 percent of the bank's risk. That means more than half of all the bank's risk was wrapped up in its bet against the mortgage market – a 'massive short' by any definition."

After releasing his report, Levin sent all of this material to the Justice Department. His conclusion was simple. "In my judgment," he declared, "Goldman clearly misled their clients, and they misled the Congress."

Greg Smith’s ‘Why I Left Goldman Sachs’: A Coming of Age Tale, Not a Goldman Exposé

Shameless Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tesifies before the Senate in April 2010.
Here's Greg Smith's Why I Left Goldman Sachs

And here's Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article:

The People vs. Goldman Sachs

A Senate committee has laid out the evidence. Now the Justice Department should bring criminal charges

by Matt Taibbi, May 11, 2011

"...They weren't murderers or anything; they had merely stolen more money than most people can rationally conceive of, from their own customers, in a few blinks of an eye. But then they went one step further. They came to Washington, took an oath before Congress, and lied about it....

... To date, there has been only one successful prosecution of a financial big fish from the mortgage bubble, and that was Lee Farkas, a Florida lender who was just convicted on a smorgasbord of fraud charges and now faces life in prison.

But Farkas, sadly, is just an exception proving the rule: Like Bernie Madoff, his comically excessive crime spree (which involved such lunacies as kiting checks to his own bank and selling loans that didn't exist) was almost completely unconnected to the systematic corruption that led to the crisis.

What's more, many of the earlier criminals in the chain of corruption — from subprime lenders like Countrywide, who herded old ladies and ghetto families into bad loans, to rapacious banks like Washington Mutual, who pawned off fraudulent mortgages on investors — wound up going belly up, sunk by their own greed....."

Read the entire nauseating article at:

Friday, October 26, 2012

'A&G' away till Oct 30th (at earliest)...

Because we are located in the Northeast sector of the US and there's an impending Hurricane Sandy/Nor'easter that seems to be heading its way by early Monday morning with expectations of lingering power losses, we won't be posting anything new until after it passes.

We hope to have things up and running again by Tuesday night at earliest but we also know that is wishful thinking and realistically, it may takes days or even a full week for power to restore if the weather people are correct.

We appreciate your continued support and loyal readership to 'Ants & Grasshoppers' and will shall return posting the soonest we're able...

Thank you...

Rose and the Thorn

Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, and Mike Esposito showcased another sexy comic book redhead in "Rose and the Thorn's" Bronze Age debut in DC's Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #105 (July 1970), "Night of the Thorn."

Howlin' Wolf "Smokestack Lightning" (1964)

...and for an encore, "Meet Me In the Bottom"

Crime and Punishment in Banking

You gamed the washateria system in 1963 with a cardboard dime (and were actually convicted)? --- you're fired!

When it comes to recent banking system justice, this recent Wells Fargo Home Morgage story made me think of Joseph Stalin's infamous quote:

"The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic."

"That's what Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin allegedly once said to U.S. ambassador Averill Harriman. And Stalin was an expert on the topic since his regime killed as many 43 million people. It turns out that the mustachioed murderer may have been expressing an acute insight into human psychology. The Washington Post's always interesting Department of Human Behavior columnist Shankar Vedantam reported on the research of University of Oregon professor Paul Slovic who looked at how people respond to humanitarian tragedies."

Here's the whole Post article:

We can paraphrase Stalin's meme for banking, The loss of one dime is a crime, the loss of trillions of dollars is a shame."

So while disgraced banking CEOs aren't held quite so liable for gaming with billions of dollars (what "crime?") and even award themselves big bonuses and "golden parachutes," after their unethical and fraudulent tricks fail, this WFHM employee was soundly fired for using a cardboard dime in a washing machine -- 50 years ago. Hey, they had to, it's the law.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A 68-year-old Des Moines man fired from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage over a minor crime 50 years ago has stirred national interest.

Richard Eggers was fired in July when a background review sparked by new federal rules for banks revealed a 1963 conviction for putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a laundromat's washing machine. He has since received a waiver from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC, and Wells Fargo offered to rehire him.

But Eggers says he won't accept the bank's offer to return to work unless Wells Fargo changes its background check policy, which he believes discriminates against low-level workers.

Banks have fired thousands of employees like Eggers since new federal banking guidelines were enacted in May 2011. The regulatory rules forbid the employment of anyone convicted of a crime involving dishonesty, breach of trust or money laundering.

The tougher standards are meant to clear out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes – such as identity theft and money laundering – but banks are applying them across the board because possible fines for noncompliance can total in the millions of dollars.

Before the guidelines were changed, banks widely interpreted the rules to exclude minor traffic offenses and misdemeanors.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. said this week that it's disappointed that Eggers doesn't recognize its "responsibility to apply the law equitably and fairly" for all employees.

Oh, really?