Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 13th, 2009

Movies: The Chase and A Matter of Life and Death

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I enjoyed The Chase, with Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Angie Dickinson, Robert Duvall, all of them incredibly young—Robert Redford looks about 19 (he was 30) and has a very different voice, Robert Duvall still had most of his hair. Directed by Arthur Penn with a screenplay by Lillian Hellman, it was easy to watch but didn’t (for me) really have the impact one would be expect from the talent. The cinematography was wonderful, and the story tried for power, but the intensity was frittered away in crowd scenes and too many villains. One thing was clear: movie fight choreography has come a LONG way from what it was in 1966. Perhaps mainstreaming martial arts films has helped in that regard.

The pièce de résistance was A Matter of Life and Death, a 1946 Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger film starring David Niven. This is an amazing film, in a lurid Technicolor, with the scenes set in Heaven/hallucination in black & white. As I was watching it, amazed, I realized I was seeing a larval version of Dennis Potter. If you’re a Dennis Potter fan, when you see this you’ll see where Potter came from. This movie is proto-Potter: you just have to tweak a couple of things, and you have Dennis Potter. I have a biography of him somewhere here, which I’ve not yet read, and I must find it and see whether it has an index. The movie’s well worth seeing.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2009 at 9:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

The relevance of the Trojan War

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From The Atlantic by Brian Mockenhaupt:

Spit flies from the wounded soldier’s mouth and his face pulses, red. “Death! Where are you?” roars Philoctetes, played by the actor Paul Giamatti. “Why, after all these years of calling, have you not appeared?” About 200 military mental-health experts watched him spiral into despair as they worked their way through box lunches, squeezed into a suburban-D.C. hotel conference room. “Earth, swallow this body whole, receive me just as I am, for I can’t stand it any longer,” he moans, breathless. “I am wretched, afflicted, and alone.”

Sophocles wrote these words 2,400 years ago when he inventoried the maladies of combat veterans in his plays Philoctetes and Ajax, which recount two Greek soldiers’ anguish during the Trojan War. Now the Theater of War project has revived these ancient stories, with a plain message for today’s veterans: your experiences are timeless. For as long as men have fought one another, they surely have been psychologically damaged by it. The diagnosis has changed over the years—shell shock, battle fatigue, combat stress, and now post-traumatic stress disorder—but the consequences have remained constant: anger, isolation, guilt, grief, helplessness, and, at the most extreme, wrecked families and suicide.

Most of the many recent plays and films about Iraq and Afghanistan have failed commercially. But the Sophocles readings target a much narrower audience. Director Bryan Doerries has shown his production to five military audiences since August and hopes to expand its reach and perform regularly for returning troops. “I would like to see these plays used to destigmatize psychological injury,” he said.

Indeed, overcoming stigma has been the Pentagon’s trickiest problem in treating PTSD in recent combat veterans, who are trained to suppress discomfort and focus on the mission, and who have difficulty acknowledging mental damage and asking for assistance. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury invited Doerries to its November conference, a brainstorming session on ways to make soldiers more resilient in the face of combat and encourage them to seek help. Ajax and Philoctetes have much to say about both.

“War is war is war is war, and hasn’t changed in 3,000 years,” …

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2009 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Mental Health, Military

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Another benefit of the greens-centered diet

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I find that I keep the dishes washed up better because I need a clean sink in order to rinse the greens before cooking them. I run the sink full of cold water, swish around the greens, then dry and chop. Today it’s kale, and I cut out the stems and chopped those finely. The stems will go into the skillet along with the chopped onion, minced ginger, and kumquats cut in half.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2009 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Lucky accidents in science

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We know about penicillin and the vulcanization of rubber. Here’s another:

Kishor Wasan, a pharmacologist at the University of British Columbia, needed a negative control. It was 2000, and he was investigating a new way to deliver anti-fungal drugs in pill form, generally cheaper and easier to administer than intravenous injections. "I said, ‘Let’s take a drug I know doesn’t work’," Wasan recalls. He turned to amphotericin B, an antifungal membrane disruptor that Wasan had studied a decade earlier for his PhD, and is not normally absorbed by the body when administered orally. He embedded amphotericin B and a batch of other drugs into his newly devised lipid-based delivery vehicle, and fed them to rats. This turned out to be perhaps one of the worst negative control experiments ever – but a lucky break for Wasan.

Compared to the other drug treatments, the rats on amphotericin B had the highest blood levels and lowest kidney levels of the drug, indicating that the body more readily absorbed amphotericin B than any other drug. What’s more, oral amphotericin B seemed to bypass the renal toxicity normally associated with intravenous forms of the drug (Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 47:3339-42, 2003).

Wasan was bewildered: "I thought, what the heck is going on?" Further experiments showed …

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2009 at 11:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

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Getting it wrong

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Source: Media Matters for America, February 10, 2009

"What happens when media monitors mangle journalism in ways far more severe than the work they’re supposed to be appraising?" asks Eric Boehlert, analyzing a supposed critique of liberal media bias by conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg. Boehlert catches Goldberg in numerous distortions and outright falsehoods. In one example, Goldberg falsely claims that Barack Obama walked into a window in the Oval Office, and then criticizes the media for failing to report it. "Poorly sourced and constructed around lazy, clichéd writing — and in a couple of cases, outright falsehoods — Goldberg’s piece simply illustrated how, rather than illuminating shortfalls of the press, conservatives often just create more work for the rest of us," Boehlert writes.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2009 at 11:22 am

Posted in GOP, Media

Out of a macro-economic dark age

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Interesting post by Stirling Newberry. It begins:

Paul Krugman has said we are living in a "Macroëconomic dark ages" where knowledge of the past is "being lost." Specifically he points out how long exploded fallacies are being offered up as deep scholarly truths. To be a classicist for a moment, there was, in fact, a Dark Ages during the Bronze Age when the Greeks lost their knowledge of writing. It was during this post-literate era that Homeric poetry came into being. It was part of a larger transition to the iron age. The fall of Rome hasn’t been the only fall from light.

He repeated those points at the Thinking Big conference yesterday. Which featured a double barreled blast of the case for economic sanity. Highlights included Robert Borosage making a persuasive case that there is no going back to the "old economy" and Larry Mishel laying out how insecurity and broken labor markets have left us at the edge of the precipice. The idea that public good led to higher incomes was something known to "The New Liberalism" of the late 19th century, let alone to the 20th century.

There is empirical evidence from politics of how badly confused the American public is. While as much as 80% of the American public wants some kind of stimulus bill passed, the support for the stimulus bill being placed before them hovers in the mid-fifties. What makes this a sign of an economic dark age is the internals of that number. Only 51% of people in the Gallup poll thought a stimulus bill was "critically" important, and Rasmussen’s tracking poll has support improving but at 44%, still below half of the American public. What’s interesting is that 55% of Americans fear the bill is "too large." The reality is that the stimulus bill, as written right now, is almost certainly too small.

What is going on here is the "family budget fallacy." This is when …

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2009 at 11:19 am

Has Andrea Mitchell actually learned something?

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I will always remember how Andrea Mitchell said on TV that “most people” wanted Scooter Libby to be pardoned, when the same day a poll had found that 69% of the people did NOT want Libby pardoned and only 18% did. Andrea was, technically, talking out her ass and making things up, based on her own opinion and the people she has lunch with. But note in this latest incident how she actually pays attention to the polls and keeps her own opinion silent. From ThinkProgress:

A new USA Today/Gallup poll released today shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans support investigations into Bush era crimes like torture. Asked about the findings on MSNBC this afternoon, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) added his name to a growing list of congressmen endorsing either congressional or Justice Department investigations into Bush administration wrongdoings:

I think we have to seriously investigate allegations of torture. … I think our political system as well as our judicial system is strong enough to conduct these investigations fairly and then to bring those people the law to justice. I don’t think we should be afraid of that.

Watch it:

After Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called for an independent commission to investigate Bush crimes earlier this week, Rachel Maddow noted that Leahy joins party leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in calling for investigations. “I think that what we have stumbled into here is an unexpected but rather blatant emerging consensus among powerful Democrats in Washington that alleged Bush-era crimes should be investigated and if need be, prosecuted.”

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2009 at 10:25 am

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