Thursday, 30 June 2011

Movie Preview: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

This coming December 16, 2011, we will all be privy to Mission Impossible IV, now known under the title Ghost Protocol. While information about the production has slowly leaked out - the trailer is now out - it would seem that who's who and what's what may not be 100% certain. According to IMDb, the story is credited to Tom Cruise and J. J. Abrams and the screenplay to Josh Applebaum and André Nemec. Tom Cruise of course is back as Ethan Hunt along with Ving Rhames who has also been in all of the M:i movies in the role of Luther Stickell. Sitting in the director's chair is Brad Bird whose claim to fame lies with animation notably The Incredibles.

Filming has supposedly taken place in Dubai, Prague, Moscow, Mumbai, and Vancouver. The trailer shows Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's tallest structure at 828 m (2,717 ft).

Details about the movie's plot are negligible if not non existent. While the Wikipedia entry on the film has a section on the plot, this is merely a retelling of what's in the trailer released on June 29, 2011. It contains no other details. MovienewZ writes: This is not just another mission. The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in a global terrorist bombing plot. Ghost Protocol is initiated and Ethan Hunt and his rogue new team must go undercover to clear their organization’s name. No help, no contact, off the grid. You have never seen a mission grittier and more intense than this.

By the numbers
In looking back on the series, the first three films, we see the following figures:

Mission Impossible (1996)
Budget: $80 million
Gross: $458 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%

Mission Impossible II (2000)
Budget: $125 million
Gross: $546 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%

Mission Impossible III (2006)
Budget: $150 million
Gross: $398 million (worldwide)
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%

It's interesting to note the jump in the film's rating on Rotten Tomatoes for number three in the franchise. Was the addition of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the bad guy that much of a plus to change the quality of the entire film in the eyes of the critics? I also note that J. J. Abrams was involved in the creation of the story for number three and directed the movie, his first involvement in the series.


Uploaded by trailers on Jun 28, 2011
Official Trailer



References

Wikipedia: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (also known as Mission: Impossible IV) is an upcoming action film. It is the fourth film in the Mission: Impossible film series. It stars Tom Cruise, who reprises his role of IMF agent Ethan Hunt. The film, directed by Brad Bird, has been written by J. J. Abrams, André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum. It is produced by Abrams, Cruise and Paula Wagner and will be released in the United States on December 16, 2011.

Wikipedia: Mission: Impossible (film series)
The Mission: Impossible films are a series of action films based on the television series of the same name. The films feature Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, an I.M.F agent.

Wikipedia: Mission: Impossible (film)
Mission: Impossible is a 1996 action thriller directed by Brian De Palma and starring Tom Cruise. Following on from the television series of the same name, the plot follows a new agent, Ethan Hunt and his mission to uncover the mole within the CIA who has framed him for the murders of his entire IMF team.

Wikipedia: Mission: Impossible II
Mission: Impossible II (also known as M:i-2) is a 2000 action film directed by John Woo, and starring Tom Cruise, who also served as the film's producer.

Wikipedia: Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible III (also known as M:i:III) is a 2006 action film.

IMDb: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Wikipedia: Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa ("Khalifa Tower"), known as Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration, is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is currently the tallest structure ever built, at 828 m (2,717 ft).

official web site: Ghost Protocol
[This web site as of this writing only has the trailer, nothing else.]

Wikipedia: J. J. Abrams
Jeffrey Jacob "J.J." Abrams (born June 27, 1966), is an American film and television producer, screenwriter, director, actor, and composer. He wrote and produced feature films before co-creating the television series Felicity (1998–2002). He also created Alias (2001–2006) and co-created Lost (2004–2010), Fringe (2008–present), and Undercovers (2010). Abrams directed the films Mission: Impossible III (2006), Star Trek (2009), and Super 8 (2011) and produced the films Cloverfield (2008) and Morning Glory (2010).

Wikipedia: Tom Cruise
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (born July 3, 1962), better known as Tom Cruise, is an American film actor and producer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and he has won three Golden Globe Awards.

official web site: Tom Cruise
[Biography, photo gallery, blog]

2011-06-30

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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Clocking in at 2 hours and 34 minutes with a reported budget of $195 million, expectations seemed to be running as high as per the thrill ride depicted in the trailer which has been making the round these past months. I was out for the very first showing in Toronto in Real 3D at 9pm EDT, Tuesday, June 29, 2011 at Empress Walk in North York in the Empire Extra Theatre. - I'll explain all that in a second. - The showing was not sold out but there were a number of people present. According to the movie posters, the real opening is July 1st so we're all seeing over a couple of days something of a preview?

Before seeing the film, I scanned down the various articles on the Transformer series to confirm I'm not going out to a favourite with the critics. Rotten Tomatoes handed out 57% to the first film Transformers then 20% to the second film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Movie number three in this series wasn't off to the best of starts as I saw a score of 36%. Don't forget than anything under 60% is not considered a winner. In fact, my advice would be to never bother wasting your time, never mind your money for anything less than 60%. At 37%, you're looking at something one step above dog crap.

Michael Bay has managed in this third installment of the Hasbro toy chain brought to life - yes, this is based on a toy - to create a pummel your senses, toyish, brute form of entertainment that is going to be lapped up by the teen slash early twenties demographic. This is a cinematic version of a plate of suicide hot chicken wings. After one, never mind finishing the plate, your senses are so on overload I defy you to be able to detect anything less than a slug of Tabasco sauce.

I saw the first film in the series and had forgotten my reaction to it. It's a toy. For kids. Like really young kids if I'm not mistaken. I'm betting the target age group (males 8 to 14?) are not even allowed into the theatre to see the films. I'm sorry. I'm an adult. I like adult films. Not something based on what an eight year old would like. At least the makers of Toy Story or Kung Fu Panda managed to bridge the gap providing entertainment which works for the two groups of adults and kids at the same time. But this? It comes back to what I've said before: you have to accept the initial premise. Whether it's the X-Men as mutants with special powers or Thor being a Nordic god or Green Lantern with his ring, you have to accept the premise or the rest of the story doesn't cut it. Without the premise the rest of the story makes no sense.

The fan sites are awash with analysis and details about the film. I'm not going to bother to repeat what you can read elsewhere. I'm here to say that you shouldn't bother to see this film unless you're a diehard Transformers fan, you love special effects or you're so desperate for entertainment, you'll go see anything. The American actor John Malkovich has a small part in this film. John Malkovich. What the heck? Why is he in this film? What a sec! This guy can act, really act and he's in this film? Frances Louise McDormand? She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1996 for her role as Marge Gunderson in Fargo. How did she manage to say any of her lines in this film without cracking up? The screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who also wrote Transformers #2, managed to weave the Apollo moon landing into the plot (no spoilers). Who shows up for a cameo? Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history and the second human being to set foot on the moon, following mission commander Neil Armstrong. I have to chuckle though. Who under the age of 30 or even 40 would recognise him?

By the numbers
In looking at the three films of the series, I had to say, "Wow" when checking out some of the figures.

Transformers (2007)
Budget: $150 million
Gross: $710 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Budget: $200 million
Gross: $836 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 20%

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Budget: $195 million
Gross: TBA
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%

Okay, nobody can argue with the grosses. Holy Hannah, are these films money makers or what? I and all the critics in the world can diss these films but nobody, absolutely nobody can criticize how much money they're making. Good lord! Who cares what rating Rotten Tomatoes gives them. The public doesn't seem to be checking with Rotten Tomatoes.

Production Accidents
I quote from the Wikipedia article on the movie:

Filming was temporarily delayed on September 2, 2010 in Hammond, Indiana, when an extra was seriously injured during a stunt. The accident happened when a steel cable snapped from a car being towed, owing to a failed weld, hitting the extra's car and damaging her skull. The extra, identified as Gabriella Cedillo, had to undergo brain surgery. The injury has left her permanently brain-damaged, paralyzed on her left side and her left eye stitched shut. Paramount admitted responsibility for the accident, and covered all medical costs incurred by Cedillo. Nevertheless, on October 5, Cedillo's family filed a lawsuit, which cites seven counts of negligence against Paramount, D.W. Studios and several other defendants (not including Bay), with total damages sought in excess of US$350,000.

On October 11, 2010, while filming a chase scene at 3rd Street and Maryland Avenue, SW, a Washington DC Metropolitan Police K9 Unit SUV struck the CamaroCamaro was severely damaged.

Empire Extra Theatre
We all know IMAX: big theatre, big sound system. The Empire theatre chain has gotten on-board with a new idea to spice up the joint and offer us movie goers a better cinematic experience. Empress Walk in North York has one dedicated theatre, cinema number one, which offers cushier seats, a better sound system and an all digital projection system. Amusing enough, just like IMAX, they have a short "pre-show" designed to show off the capabilities of the theatre. This show doesn't involve lasers but they do have two side projectors to give a bit of a light show.

For me, the big, big feature of this new experience is reserved seating. Yep, I bought my ticket on-line and got to choose my seat. That seat was reserved so I didn't have to worry about showing up early enough to rush in when the doors opened to get the best seat. Now here's something even odder: my ticket was $11.99. What? That's the cheapest I've paid in the evening just about ever. Was this a special introductory price? I don't know but I'm going to keep my eyes open about that one.


Final Word
The CBC published a review of the movie by Eli Glasner. I had never heard of this gentleman so I looked up some of his other work and he seems to do film reviews. He's a good writer. But here's the curious thing: I thought his review of the movie was more entertaining than the movie. Plus, he published his review at midnight oh one so he must have rushed home from the cinema, pounded out his nine hundred words and clicked Send. Heck, I got tired and went to bed. This can wait until the morning. I'm not getting paid for writing a review and I'm guessing Mr. Glasner is.

This film is just dumb, dumb, dumb. - Roger Ebert gave it just one out of four stars. - It is pretty much a pound your senses special effects extravaganza which in the end doesn't leave you wanting more, but leaves you uncaring and wanting to get on with the rest of your life. This is the film equivalent of empty calories. Ten minutes after I had left the theatre, my attention had turned to other things and for the rest of today, I will not be mulling over the film nuances of Michael Bay's subtle handling of the inner struggle of Optimus Prime, the Autobot leader at discovering his former mentor Sentinel Prime having become a baddie. A "baddie"? *laughs* Yes, that's the perfect term for an eight-year-old kid.

Judging by the grosses of the other films, it stands to reason this film is going to make a ton of money. I have to ask myself who is going to see these films. There has to be a lot of eight year old kids at heart who love playing with Hasbro toys and eating suicide hot chicken wings.


References

Rotten Tomatoes: Transformers: Dark of the Moon: 36%
Its special effects -- and 3D shots -- are undeniably impressive, but they aren't enough to fill up its loud, bloated running time, or mask its thin, indifferent script.

Wikipedia: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (also known as Transformers 3) is the 2011 American science fiction/action film in the Transformers film series, directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is the sequel to Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and was released on June 29, 2011. The film is presented in regular 2D, Real D 3D and IMAX, featuring Dolby Surround 7.1 sound.

Wikipedia: Transformers (film series)
Transformers is an American film franchise produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Michael Bay and based on the toys created by Hasbro and Takara Tomy. The series is distributed by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, and United International Pictures. The first film, Transformers, was released in 2007 and the second and latest film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, in 2009, with a third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon released on June 29, 2011. Despite Michael Bay's confirmation on Dark of the Moon being his final installment in the franchise, Hasbro's CEO Brian Goldner has expressed his hopes for further films to be made with or without Bay.

Empire Theatres: Empire Extra
[The theatre has been redone with different seats (spongier, slightly bigger than normal seats), a more powerful sound system, and an introduction somewhat like what IMAX always shows to demonstrate the theatre's capabilities. The big thing, however, is being able to buy reserved seats. Yep, just like a live show you can pick your seat and it's reserved. You don't have to show up early to get a good seat. That to me is a big selling point.]

Dynamic Sound
Our custom designed, multi-channel sound system provides even, balanced coverage to any seat in the auditorium. Lose yourself in the dynamic sound with rich, clear, dialogue.


Optimal Viewing Experience
We offer Digital Projection for the brightest, most vivid image on screen and stunning 3D. Our massive, high-impact, wrap-around screen is curved and positioned for the optimal viewing experience so you always have the best seat in the house.


Reserved Seating
Select your seat in advance with reserved seating and your high back rocker seat will be waiting for you.


2011-06-29

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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Mariah Carey: Touch My Body


MC, uh, uh, uh In the place to be
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah

I know that you've been waiting for it
I'm waiting too
In my imagination I'd be all up on you
I know you got that fever for me
Hundred and two
And boy I know I feel the same
My temperature's through the roof

If there's a camera up in here
Then it's gonna leave with me
When I do (I do)
If there's a camera up in here
Then I'd best not catch this flick
On YouTube (YouTube)
'Cuz if you run your mouth and brag
About this secret rendezvous
I will hunt you down
'Cuz they be all up in my business
Like a Wendy interview
But this is private
Between you and I

Touch my body
Put me on the floor
Wrestle me around
Play with me some more
Touch my body
Throw me on the bed
I just wanna make you feel
Like you never did.
Touch my body
Let me wrap my thighs
All around your waist
Just a little taste
Touch my body
Know you like my curves
Come on and give me what I deserve
And touch my body.

Boy you can put me on you
Like a brand new white tee
I'll hug your body tighter
Than my favorite jeans
I want you to caress me
Like a tropical breeze
And float away with you
In the Caribbean Sea

If there's a camera up in here
Then it's gonna leave with me
When I do (I do)
If there's a camera up in here

Then I'd best not catch this flick
On YouTube (YouTube)
'Cuz if you run your mouth and brag
About this secret rendezvous
I will hunt you down
'Cuz they be all up in my business
Like a Wendy interview
But this is private
Between you and I

Touch my body
Put me on the floor
Wrestle me around
Play with me some more
Touch my body
Throw me on the bed
I just wanna make you feel
Like you never did.
Touch my body
Let me wrap my thighs
All around your waist
Just a little taste
Touch my body
Know you like my curves
Come on and give me what I deserve
And touch my body.

I'm a treat you like a teddy bear
You won't wanna go nowhere
In the life of luxury
Baby just turn to me
You won't want for nothing boy(Nooo)
I will give you plenty joy

Touch my body
Put me on the floor (throw me on the floor) Wrestle me around
Play with me some more
Touch my body
Throw me on the bed
I just wanna make you feel Like you never did.
Touch my body

Let me wrap my thighs (let me wrap my thighs, around your waist for just a little taste)
All around your waist
Just a little taste
Touch my body

Know you like my curves (I know you like it)
Come on and give me what I deserve (Give me what I deserve babe)
And touch my body.

Oh yeah oh yeah oh yeah (Yeah, yeah)
Oh yeah oh yeah (every little way you like to touch my body baby)
Touch my body (yeah Yeah ooh ooh baby... Oh Oh, ooh ooh baby)
Touch My Body (uh Uh ooh ooh ooh)
Touch My Body (come on Give Me what I deserve... Oh)


References

Uploaded by MariahCareyVEVO on Jun 16, 2009

Wikipedia: Touch My Body
"Touch My Body" is a song co-written by American singer Mariah Carey, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Crystal "Cri$tyle" Johnson and The-Dream for Carey's eleventh studio album, E=MC². Produced by Carey, Stewart and Nash, it was released as the lead single of the album. The song is Carey's eighteenth number 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 and it gave Mariah her 79th week at number 1 on that chart.

The music video starts with an employee of a fictional company called "CompuNerd" (with logo reminiscent to Geek Squad) arriving at Carey's mansion, played by Jack McBrayer. As she leads him up the stairs, she removes her robe revealing black lingerie and begins to sing. She warns him that any camera footage is leaving with her and better not end up on YouTube. The following scenes are a fantasy of the computer technician, including a pillow fight, laser tag, frisbee, Guitar Hero, slot cars, a unicorn, and Carey in various sexy outfits. Carey is apparently a willing participant in the antics. The video ends with Carey waking the computer technician from his daydream.

The music video was directed by Brett Ratner. Carey reported that Ratner was commissioned to direct and film the video because he also directed Carey's videos for "I Still Believe," "Heartbreaker," "Thank God I Found You," "It's like That," and "We Belong Together." In an interview with AllHipHop.com, Ratner said, "Mariah is musically at the top of her game and has never looked better... This will be our 6th music video we have collaborated on and definitely the best one yet visually, as well as musically. The video for "Touch My Body" is the perfect combination of fantasy and comedy with Mariah looking more beautiful than she has ever looked, ever." The video was filmed at Lenny Kravitz's house. The video also stars Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock, a show that Carey is a fan of. Carey appeared on MTV's Total Request Live and BET's 106 & Park on Wednesday, February 27, 2008, to premiere the video for "Touch My Body"; BET also played the video all day, every hour on the hour, until 106 & Park. VH1 posted a 45-second sneak peek on their blog on February 26, and subsequently posted the video in its entirety at midnight on February 27, 2008; the video was also posted on the Island Records website. The music video topped the U.S. Billboard Hot Videoclip Tracks chart.

Wikipedia: E=MC² (Mariah Carey album)
E=MC² (abbreviation of Emancipation=Mariah Carey²) is the eleventh studio album by American singer Mariah Carey. The album was released on April 15, 2008 in the United States. It debuted at number 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 with 463,000 copies sold, making it the biggest opening week in sales of her career. It became Carey's sixth number 1 album on the Billboard 200. The first single from the album, "Touch My Body", reached number 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, surpassing Elvis Presley for the most number 1 singles by a solo artist. Other singles include the U.S. top twenty song "Bye Bye", and U.S. R&B top forty song "I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time", as well as the US No. 1 dance hit ballad "I Stay in Love". The album experienced success, selling over 3 million copies worldwide, however it failed to match the sales of its predecessor, The Emancipation of Mimi.

Wikipedia: Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey (born March 27, 1970) is an American R&B/pop singer-songwriter, record producer and actress.

official web site: Mariah Carey

2011-06-28

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Monday, 27 June 2011

Michael Bublé: Haven't Met You Yet


I'm not surprised, not everything lasts
I've broken my heart so many times, I stopped keeping track
Talk myself in, I talk myself out
I get all worked up, then I let myself down

I tried so very hard not to lose it
I came up with a million excuses
I thought, I thought of every possibility

And I know someday that it'll all turn out
You'll make me work, so we can work to work it out
And I promise you, kid, that I give so much more than I get
I just haven't met you yet

I might have to wait, I'll never give up
I guess it's half timing, and the other half's luck
Wherever you are, whenever it's right
You'll come out of nowhere and into my life

And I know that we can be so amazing
And, baby, your love is gonna change me
And now I can see every possibility

And somehow I know that it'll all turn out
You'll make me work, so we can work to work it out

And I promise you, kid, I give so much more than I get
I just haven't met you yet

They say all's fair
In love and war
But I won't need to fight it
We'll get it right and we'll be united

And I know that we can be so amazing
And being in your life is gonna change me
And now I can see every single possibility

And someday I know it'll all turn out
And I'll work to work it out
Promise you, kid, I'll give more than I get
Than I get, than I get, than I get

Oh, you know it'll all turn out
And you'll make me work so we can work to work it out
And I promise you kid to give so much more than I get
Yeah, I just haven't met you yet

I just haven't met you yet
Oh, promise you, kid
To give so much more than I get

I said love, love, love, love
Love, love, love, love
(I just haven't met you yet)
Love, love, love, love
Love, love
I just haven't met you yet


References

Uploaded by Peacepowerify on Jan 21, 2010

Wikipedia: Haven't Met You Yet
"Haven’t Met You Yet" is the first single from Canadian singer Michael Bublé's fourth album Crazy Love, released on August 31, 2009. According to Bublé, the single and its official music video are "about everyone's dream of finding a relationship and love." Bublé co-wrote "Haven’t Met You Yet" with Alan Chang and Amy Foster-Gilles, and dedicated it to his then fiancée and now wife, Luisana Lopilato. Like Bublé’s song "Everything", this song carries an adult contemporary sound. The song has proven successful on the adult contemporary charts, reaching #1 in the U.S. on the chart week of January 30, 2010 and becoming the first song in history to debut at #1 on Billboard Canada's AC chart. It is Bublé's third #1 single on the adult contemporary charts after "Home" and "Everything". It was also a big success on the Billboard Hot 100, where the song reached #24, so far, being his highest single on the Billboard charts. The song entered the United Kingdom Singles Chart on the October 18, 2009 at number 9, making it his first top 10 hit in the UK, eventually climbing up to number 5 in its third week. The song won Single of the Year at the 2010 Juno Awards and was nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 53rd Grammy Awards.

Wikipedia: Crazy Love (Michael Bublé album)
Crazy Love is the fourth studio album released by Canadian vocalist Michael Bublé. After only three days of sales, the album opened atop the Billboard 200 chart with 132,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making the album Bublé's second number #1 album. Spending the first full week at the top, the album increased in sales to 203,000 copies, staying again at the number one spot on its second week. The album has sold nearly six million copies since its release. In Australia, the album debuted at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart and spent six non-consecutive weeks number one. It has been certified 5× platinum. In the United Kingdom, Crazy Love topped the album charts, and has currently sold over 2.4 million copies, with a 8× Platinum certification from BPI. The album was released on October 19, 2009. At the 53rd Grammy Awards (2010), the album won the award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

Wikipedia: Michael Bublé
Michael Steven Bublé (born 9 September 1975) is a Canadian singer. He has won several awards, including two Grammy Awards and multiple Juno Awards. His first album reached the top ten in Canada and the UK. He found worldwide commercial success with his 2005 album It's Time, and his 2007 album Call Me Irresponsible was an even bigger success, reaching number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, the Australian ARIA Albums Chart and the European charts. Bublé has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide.

2011-06-27

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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Suminagashi: Painting on Water

When I saw the words, I at first thought there must be another meaning, a double meaning, or some sort of interpretation of "water". Well no, this is actually what the artist does: he or she literally paints on water. Now there's a canvas I had never considered before.

The artist works with a shallow pool of water in a rectangular container. He drops paint onto the surface and it spreads out in a circular pattern. Using a stick, he spreads the paint out or swirls it around forming shapes. Of course, the results are in no way permanent so the artist spreads a rectangular piece of paper, the same shape as the container on the surface of the water where the paper absorbs the paint. Voilà, you now have a painting which has involved no brush and the most unusual of techniques.

The following video demonstrates this art. Personally, I find this gentleman, coupled with the music, to be quite hypnotic. Enjoy.

Uploaded on Jul 15, 2010 by funfunfunfunfunfive
Painting on Water


Decorating paper with inks in this manner is known as paper marbling and apparently dates back over 2,000 years ago in China. The Japanese technique called Suminagashi, literally "ink-floating", involved dropping ink on water then having the artist blow across the water to create swirls and patterns. The use of a stick to displace the ink came afterwards and seems to be the preferred method in modern times for transforming the circular spots of ink into other patterns.

As a sidebar, the term marbled paper may not be familiar today but was previously used quite frequently in book binding. It served mainly to hide the binding itself. You would find marbled paper on the inside of the front and back covers hiding the spine to give a more aesthetic look.

In following video, the artist takes a different approach to creating his canvas. He creates several intermediary drawings which he then wipes out to create something else. This strikes me as an interesting aspect of some live art. The desired results are not necessarily the end product, the canvas, but the process of doing. In other words, the filming of what the artist is doing becomes the art. We watch him make a drawing; we look at the results; he wipes it out and starts another one. It is only at the end with the final drawing that he lays down the paper to capture this final image.

Uploaded by iamgood119 on May 30, 2010
Chinese Water Painting
Artist: Zhu Lin
Music: 'Blue-White Porcelain' by Jay Chow



Final Word
Off the top of my head, I don't remember if I had ever seen this painting technique before. Maybe I have but I've just forgotten. Whatever the case, this "new" introduction to the art is quite mesmerising. Having an overhead camera film the artist's movements as he drops his inks then swirl them around is delightful. It is surprising to watch these deft actions transform blobs of ink into recognisable objects such as flowers, mountains, and even faces. Ah, how wonderful are the skills of a painter to convert the raw materials of paint and canvas into a picture of beauty.

Take a video of the artist working on his water canvas; add some interesting music and you have a hypnotic and relaxing "new age" film. I have visited various workshops of artists where you can watch them execute their craft and it can be fascinating to watch their skilled hands carry out their creative trade. Watching them do this can be as interesting as the final product, the work of art itself.

I have left some Google searches below, both for web pages and videos. There are a lot of materials out there and numerous videos so you can further explore Suminagashi and while away some hours watching various artists practise this most ancient of paper marbling techniques.


References

Suminagashi
Suminagashi is the ancient Japanese technique of decorating paper with inks. It is believed to be the oldest form of marbling, originating in China over 2,000 years ago and practiced in Japan by Shinto priests as early as the 12th century. Suminagashi (sue-me-NAH-gah-she), which means literally "ink-floating" involves doing just that. Japanese Sumi-e inks were originally used, dropped carefully to float on a still water surface and then blown across to form delicate swirls, after which the ink was picked up by laying a sheet of white rice paper atop the ink covered water.

The practice of Suminagashi remains much the same today, although now artists also use acrylic paints that flow and spread over a liquid water surface. Combining the knowledge of fluid mechanics with artistic talent, the artist controls the floating pigments through the viscosity and surface tension of the water to create images suggestive of mountain ranges, landscapes, clouds and animals before printing them on a sheet of paper. The europeans had their own version of marbling also called Ebru or Turkish-style marbling.

Suminagashi: Decorative Papers
Marbling, as it is known to bookbinders, is a method of making patterned paper by transferring colour from the surface of a liquid to paper. These papers are then used for the endpapers, to hide the lumps and bumps caused by leather turn-ins and cords, or to cover the sides of books where patterned papers don't show marks of wear so easily as plain papers.

The traditional manner of marbling paper is often called "Turkish" marbling or ebru because it originated in the old Ottoman empire of the 15th century. Water-based inks containing ox gall (bile) as a dispersant are floated on the surface of water thickened with gum tragacanth or carragheenan moss (actually a seaweed). The colours are then drawn into patterns by means of sticks or combs, specially-prepared paper is laid gently on the surface, left for a few seconds, and just as gently removed, rinsed (to wash off dirty size or excess colour), and hung to dry. Papers used should be fairly hard-surfaced and treated with alum as a mordant to take the pigment and to improve colour tone and colour fastness.

Wikipedia: Paper marbling
Paper marbling is a method of aqueous surface design, which can produce patterns similar to smooth marble or other stone. The patterns are the result of color floated on either plain water or a viscous solution known as size, and then carefully transferred to an absorbent surface, such as paper or fabric. Through several centuries, people have applied marbled materials to a variety of surfaces. It is often employed as a writing surface for calligraphy, and especially book covers and endpapers in bookbinding and stationery. Part of its appeal is that each print is a unique monotype.

Google search: painting on water

Google video search: painting on water

2011-06-26

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Saturday, 25 June 2011

Movie Review: The Tree of Life

An art film. A psychological drama. A movie which spans time and space and shows the vastness of eternity then stoops to look at the mundane. Okay, and this radish represents man's struggle against the hidden urges of his primordial instincts. You either "get it" or you sit there asking yourself, "What the heck is going on?" You either walk out of the theatre saying to the rest of your group that the film maker is a genius or you let them wax laudatory while trying to follow the aphorism "If you haven't anything good to say, say nothing at all." Then again, you could be keeping quiet out of fear of portraying yourself as an ignorant Neanderthal.

In a nutshell the film covers a period in the life of a family circa 1940 - 1950. It is a different era; it is a simpler time, then again it is probably no different from any "normal" family. The flow of the story jumps between father Brad Pitt and family, the one grown up son Sean Penn, and an interspersed visualization of the eternity of time made up of special effects, photos of the cosmos, erupting volcanoes and some CGI dinosaurs. Oddly enough, about 30 minutes into the film, we went off on a tangent of esoteric abstract filming which so much reminded me of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, specifically the part after Dave goes through the monolith and is transported God only knows where. In 2001, this seemed to fit in with the narrative and served well to impress the audience by visually representing something, some force, beyond our comprehension. Here, well, after - what? - fifteen minutes of this stuff, I started asking myself when it was going to end. In fact, with the running time of the film clocking in at two hours and eighteen minutes, there were a couple of times the word "interminable" came to mind.

Don't get me wrong, the story of the family was superbly done. Brad Pitt as the father and Jessica Chastain as the mother and the three boys doing what boys do reminded me so much of my own upbringing. Yes, it was truly a different time. Fathers and mothers did what they did as parents and there wasn't any training or any manual to guide them through the trials and tribulations of being parents or for that matter, being husband and wife. For a younger movie goer, the era probably seems totally foreign, but for me, I grew up with those cars, that type of house with those clothes. You succeeded and you failed while trying to do your best.

We come back to the interspersed visuals. The film maker is trying to impart the idea of eternity which involved lots of orchestrated choral music. That seems to be the cue we should be feeling the vastness of the cinematic vision. Sorry, it didn't quite come across. In fact, I'd say the film maker could reduce the 2 hours and 18 minutes substantially if he dropped this Ooo and Ah special effects. One minute we're in Waco, Texas in the 1950s, the next minute we're looking at dinosaurs and volcanoes. Yes I get the connection; I'm just saying it didn't impress me.




Final Word
I'm torn. The film is well made. The cast is terrific. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 86% and Roger Ebert decided on four stars out of four, but, and there's my but. Years ago, I saw the film Death in Venice, all two hours and ten minutes of it. This was an art film, a psychological drama and I walked out with the impression that nothing happened. Yes, my recollection was that there was literally no action. Nevertheless, I sat through the film absolutely mesmerised. In The Tree of Life, I loved the scenes with the family but the abstract visuals which broke up the narrative didn't come across at least to me as impressive and thought-provoking as I imagine the film maker intended. Okay, maybe that's just me.

As I said in the beginning, this is more of an art film. You have to have a certain taste and you have to be in a certain mood. If your bag is something like X-Men or Thor, you are probably not going to take to this one. If you enjoyed Midnight in Paris, you should probably go for this one but it ain't no comedy. So, good film, well done, but with a caveat.


References

Rotten Tomatoes: The Tree of Life: 86%
Terrence Malick's singularly deliberate style may prove unrewarding for some, but for patient viewers, Tree of Life is an emotional as well as visual treat.

Wikipedia: The Tree of Life (film)
The Tree of Life is a 2011 American drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick, and starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. Malick's film chronicles the origins and meaning of life through the eyes of a 1950s Texas family, while also featuring sci-fi and surrealist themes and imagery through space and the birth of life on Earth. The film premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and won the Palme d'Or, after being in development by Malick for decades, and experiencing a delay from its original release in late-2009. It later opened in limited release on May 27, 2011 to positive reviews on its technical and artistic merits, yet also received polarizing reactions in response to Malick's directorial style and, in particular, with the film's fragmented and non-linear narrative.

2011-06-25

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Friday, 24 June 2011

Sex: A billion wicked thoughts

In 2006, AOL released on the Internet a single compressed text file containing twenty million search keywords for over 650,000 of their users. The purpose was to generously contribute to the scientific community for research purposes. While the user ID had been changed to a random number, the data contained many other personal identifying marks which enabled people to link the search queries back to real names. While AOL quickly recognised its mistake pulling the data file after only three days, many had copied the file and republished it on numerous sites. This turned into a publicity nightmare for the company as it was labelled one of the biggest and most egregious violations of user privacy. Two employees were fired over the incident and the Chief Technology Officer resigned. (CNET - Aug 21/2006) CNN Money labelled it number 57 on their list of 101 Dumbest Moments in Business for 2006. (An on-line searchable version of this data is available at the web site AOL Stalker)

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, something good always comes out of something bad. Beyond the violation of user privacy was the opportunity to see unfiltered what people were searching for on the Internet. This was a chance to see, truly see, what people were interested in. Think about it. Anything we say is governed by what we think others may approve of or criticise. Consequently anything we do is very much affected by our environment. But with this data, you had people typing search keywords in the (mistaken) impression no one was watching; that it was totally anonymous. So let's ask the question. If you sit down at a computer to search for anything anonymously - yes, nobody will ever know - just what are you going to look at? This is it; nobody will ever know. Type in anything your little heart desires.

A new book entitled "A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire" by the authors Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam delves into this AOL data and apparently other similar information to investigate just what we are interested in, truly interested in when it comes to sex.

Released on May 5, 2011 in hardcover, the book seems to be generating a lot of buzz and controversy. Anything which is about sex gives rise to buzz but the controversy comes from those who question the authors' methodology, their assumptions in interpreting the material and their conclusions. I'm sure the pundits will be at it for some time to come sorting out the veracity and the value of the study but for the rest of us, curiosity dictates finding out just what the heck we're doing when we're sitting at our computers. Considering the headlines about sex addiction and a supposed skyrocketing increase in the use of porn, will this study confirm our worst fears or discount the sky-is-falling doomsayers?

Numerous media outlets have poured over the contents of the book and several have interviewed the authors which gives us all a fairly comprehensive look at our Billion Wicked Thoughts.

The Top Five Interests
While the authors found an instance of just about anything and everything, they discovered there are 20 sexual interests which account for 80% of all porn. The top five searches are youth, gay, sexy mothers, breasts and cheating wives.

In studying the web site PornHub.com, they found out the most popular search term is the word Mom. While the overall popularity of older women surprised them - women in their 40s, 50s and 60s - they did conclude that the older, aggressive, seductive woman remains a source of arousal for men, although men seemingly still prefer young women the most.

The authors explained why cheating wives would be one of the top interests around the world. While men are jealous, they can also be aroused in what biologists call the sperm competition cue. Across the animal kingdom, a male tends to become aroused if he sees other males mating. The idea is that to compete with other males, he must produce more sperm. Applied to humans, if a man sees a woman - even his own partner - with another man, he becomes aroused.

Men are visual, women are cerebral
Ogas and Gaddam concluded as others have that men tend to respond to visual clues, hence their predilection for porn movies, while women prefer stories. Their study found women more likely to be accessing online erotica, fan fiction or romance novels. They saw that men would go after a 60-second porn clip while women were after a 2,000 word story or a 250-page novel.

They explained the difference between the sexes as the male brain responds to any single sexual stimulus while the female brain requires multiple stimuli or in quick succession. This goes back to biology and evolution where men are looking to cast their seed far and wide while women are being cautious, looking for the right partner for their children.

The researchers went on to point out how in fan fiction the main point is to explore the emotions and character of the hero. The emotional process of revealing true character is what's so appealing to women.

Lesbians and Gay Romance
Why do men go for lesbians? It's doubling up on visual cues. And one psychological cue for arousal in men is female sexual pleasure.

Why do some women enjoy watching gay porn? They describe an appreciation of the raw, powerful sexual desire displayed by men. Male desire is a strong sexual cue for women. And some just say that two hot guys is better than one. As an aside, there is book genre called Male Gay Romance which is usually written by heterosexual women for heterosexual women. Once again, we have the two main popular ingredients of women's erotica: the revealing of a man's true character and his raw, powerful sexual desire.

Porn Addiction
With any activity, it would be logical to assume that a certain percent would have a problem with it. After all, we have alcoholics, drug addicts, and problem gamblers, but what constitutes a true problem as opposed to a normal percentage of those with an addictive personality?

World Health Organisation: Global Status Report on Alcohol - 2004
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are about 2 billion people worldwide who consume alcoholic beverages and 76.3 million with diagnosable alcohol use disorders.
The current total world population (2010) is 6.8 billion but in 2004 it was around 6.4 billion. So, in 2004, 31% of all people consumed alcohol. 4% of the drinkers had a problem or 1% of the total. It stands to reason that some people who watch pornography would have a problem but I return to the idea of nobody is proposing to outlaw alcohol.

A recent interview in Time Magazine with the author Ogi Ogas had a reporter asking the question, "Did you find evidence that porn is addictive?"

We looked at individual search histories for half a million people using an AOL data set [which does not identify the users]. It seems to be less than 2% of people, among the people who search for porn, who have a significantly elevated number of searches.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 4% of all drinkers have a problem. Dr. Ogas concludes that less than 2% of the users in their AOL study demonstrated a significantly elevated number of searches suggesting a possible problem such as addictive behaviour. In my posting Pornography: My conclusions, I wrote about those proposing the prohibition of sexual materials with the idea: no porn, no problem.

Alcoholics go to Alcoholics Anonymous. Drug addicts go to Narcotics Anonymous. Compulsive gamblers go to Gamblers Anonymous. Is everybody who takes a drink an alcoholic? No. Is everybody who takes a toke a drug addict? No. Is anybody who lays down a bet a compulsive gambler? No. I think you can see where I'm going with this. Anecdotal cases of men wrapped up in Internet porn and ignoring their wives is indicative of men who have a problem, a personal problem. Let's not bring back prohibition to deal with one man's problem.

If 4% of the world drinkers are alcoholics, less than 2% of the users in the AOL study would clearly indicate that this supposed sky-is-falling epidemic of porn addiction is not in the least bit true. If I may quote Marty Klein, Ph.D. (who got this elsewhere): The plural of anecdote is not data. Just because we all read a headline of some high-profile person like actor David Duchovny checking into rehab because of a supposed addiction to pornography does not mean that pornography is so dangerous anybody who looks at it is going to turn into some sort of ravenous maniac. After all, if 4% of all drinkers are alcoholics that means 96% of all drinkers are not. One of my favourite reads, Shameless by Pamela Madsen, has the author explaining on page 97: When we were feeling adventuresome, Gavin and I picked out porn movies together, got turned on, and made love.

Psychology Today Blog
The authors have offered up in "A Billion Wicked Thoughts" blog supplemental articles exploring some of the points they cover in their book.

In one article, they discuss the biological urges of male primates who expose themselves to females to indicate sexual interest. While all of us have been laughing at some of the recent headlines detailing the escapades of Congressman Anthony Weiner tweeting naked photos of himself, the authors rattle off some numbers indicating the percentage of images of a penis posted by men on several adult networking sites. It would seem this type of action is more primordial than perverted.

In the article "What do shemale porn and slash fiction have in common?", we have a chance to see a bit of the unusual uncovered by Ogas and Gaddam. As odd as it may sound, men have a strong interest in transsexuals, or what is commonly referred to a shemales: feminine bodies equipped with a penis. The authors explain this as combining the sexual cues of a woman with the desire to check out an erect penis. This doesn't mean the man who's watching is gay; it is part of a man's built-in detection of all things sexual.

This same article goes on to discuss the female side of the coin in slash fiction. The term "slash" here doesn't mean anything violent, it refers to the fictionalized sexual coming together of two male figures. Probably the first such literary works came from the original Star Trek where fans wrote stories of Kirk / Spock (Kirk slash Spock) having a relationship. While sex is an element of slash fiction, the main focus is on the emotional side: how two males share their tender side.

In an article discussing various web sites, the authors make some interesting points which emphasize the differences between men and women.

Here is the raw, unfiltered record of one man's sexual proclivities—his private search history from America Online:
* college cheerleaders
* cheerleaders in Hawaii
* pics of bikinis and girls
* pretty girls in bikinis
* girls suntanning in bikinis

* college cheerleader pics in bikinis
* noooooooo
* christian advice on lust


And one woman's:
* orlando bloom as vampire fanfiction
* 321 sex chat
* kingdom of heaven fanfiction
* cinderella wedding dresses
* gossip on orlando bloom
* legolas erotica
* legolas heterosexual erotica
* evil orlando bloom dark fanfiction


The two search histories above are a fair representation of what each sex tends to do online. Men seek out visuals and go straight for orgasm. Women prefer stories and often favor conversation over culmination. The five most popular adult sites for men are all within the top 100 most popular sites on the entire Internet. All are webcam or video sites featuring anonymous graphic sex, such as PornHub, the most popular adult YouTube clone, which draws about 13.9 million visitors a month. In contrast, the most popular adult video site for women, For The Girls, draws a meager 100,000 a month (and up to half of those visitors are gay men). All across the planet, with women free to access any erotic content they wish, they mostly seek out character-driven stories of sexual relationships: romance novels, erotic romance (sometimes called EroRom or Romantica®), fan fiction, slash fiction, gay romance novels, and erotic stories.

The most popular "erotic" site for women is fanfiction.net, featuring more than 1.5 million visitors a month and more than two million stories, about half of which are tagged as "romance." The second most popular story site dominated by female visitors is adultfanfiction.net, featuring 150,000 erotic stories rated NC-17. Many sites dedicated to romance books and romance authors, such as StephenieMyers.com and eHarlequin.com, are more popular than all of the porn sites targeting women.

Final Word
I have stated elsewhere that we all are very much a product of our environment. That is, our family, our friends, our colleagues, all influence are behaviour to the point where the laws of the land, moral codes, even being ostracized from our peer group will force us to conduct ourselves in a way which is not representative of our true inner self. That isn't to say that conforming is always a bad thing but it makes it next to impossible to analyse what is truly going on.

The authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts had unprecedented access to unfiltered, anonymous search data which allowed them to analyse what people were looking at on the Internet. People searched for whatever they wanted without any constraints: no laws, no morals, no shunning from their peer group. This provides a unique opportunity to find out just what's what in our brains. What are we really interested in? What are we really thinking about? It's odd when you think about it that anybody who does a survey, let's say in the street, must consider that the answers given by anybody could be tainted by what the person feels constrained to say. Can you really get the truth? And when it comes to anything relating to sex, one of the biggest taboos in North American society, is anybody going to tell the truth? These two authors managed to do just that: find out the truth.


References

Wikipedia: AOL search data scandal
On August 4, 2006, AOL Research, headed by Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, released a compressed text file on one of its websites containing twenty million search keywords for over 650,000 users over a 3-month period, intended for research purposes. AOL pulled the file from public access by the 7th, but not before it had been mirrored and distributed on the Internet.

AOL themselves did not identify users in the report, however; personally identifiable information was present in many of the queries, and as the queries were attributed by AOL to particular user accounts, identified numerically, an individual could be identified and matched to their account and search history by such information. The New York Times was able to locate an individual from the released and anonymized search records by cross referencing them with phonebook listings. Consequently, the ethical implications of using this data for research are under debate.

AOL acknowledged it was a mistake and removed the data, although the files can still be downloaded from mirror sites.

Wikipedia: AOL: controversies
On August 4, 2006, AOL released a compressed text file on one of its websites containing twenty million search keywords for over 650,000 users over a 3-month period between March 1, 2006 and May 31, intended for research purposes. AOL pulled the file from public access by August 7, but not before its wide distribution on the Internet by others. Derivative research, titled A Picture of Search was published by authors Pass, Chowdhury and Torgeson for The First International Conference on Scalable Information Systems.

The data were used by Web sites such as AOLstalker for entertainment purposes, where users of AOLstalker are encouraged to judge AOL clients based on the humorousness of personal details revealed by search behavior.

Tech Crunch - Aug 6/2006
AOL Proudly Releases Massive Amounts of Private Data by Michael Arrington
The utter stupidity of this is staggering. AOL has released very private data about its users without their permission. While the AOL username has been changed to a random ID number, the abilitiy to analyze all searches by a single user will often lead people to easily determine who the user is, and what they are up to. The data includes personal names, addresses, social security numbers and everything else someone might type into a search box.

The most serious problem is the fact that many people often search on their own name, or those of their friends and family, to see what information is available about them on the net. Combine these ego searches with porn queries and you have a serious embarrassment. Combine them with “buy ecstasy” and you have evidence of a crime. Combine it with an address, social security number, etc., and you have an identity theft waiting to happen. The possibilities are endless.

The New York Times - Aug 9/2006
A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749 by Michael Barbaro and Tom Zeller Jr.
Buried in a list of 20 million Web search queries collected by AOL and recently released on the Internet is user No. 4417749. The number was assigned by the company to protect the searcher’s anonymity, but it was not much of a shield.

AOL Stalker
AOLStalker.com contains data from the AOL search data scandal - where AOL on purpose released a massive amount of private data for all the internet to see. On this website you, the normal user can search this data (just as all the hackers already can). We created AOLStalker.com to make the public aware, not to pry on peoples privacy. If you find anything in this data collection you want removed, please use the report function or contact us with the user id - we will remove it.

Wikipedia: Ogi Ogas
Dr. Ogi Jonathan Ogas (born ca. 1971 in Annapolis, Maryland) is a cognitive neuroscientist, science book author, and game show contestant.

Amazon
A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire
[Hardcover] by Ogi Ogas (Author), Sai Gaddam (Author)
Dutton Adult (May 5, 2011), 416 pages (hardcover)
Two maverick neuroscientists use the world's largest psychology experiment-the Internet-to study the private activities of millions of men and women around the world, unveiling a revolutionary and shocking new vision of human desire that overturns conventional thinking.

For his groundbreaking sexual research, Alfred Kinsey and his team interviewed 18,000 people, relying on them to honestly report their most intimate experiences. Using the Internet, the neuroscientists Ogas and Gaddam quietly observed the raw sexual behaviors of half a billion people. By combining their observations with neuroscience and animal research, these two young neuroscientists finally answer the long-disputed question: what do people really like? Ogas and Gaddam's findings are transforming the way scientists and therapists think about sexual desire.

In their startling book, Ogas and Gaddam analyze a "billion wicked thoughts" on the Internet: a billion Web searches, a million individual search histories, a million erotic stories, a half-million erotic videos, a million Web sites, millions of online personal ads, and many other enormous sources of sexual data in order to understand the true differences between male and female desires

official web site: A Billion Wicked Thoughts
What really turns people on? Men and women haven't been honest—with themselves or each other. What they say they like is often quite different from what they look for when nobody is watching. But how can we learn the truth?

Excerpt: Chapter 1: What do we really like?

Psychology Today - blog
A Billion Wicked Thoughts
[This "blog" contains a number of articles written by the authors on various topics found in their book.

The Globe and Mail - May 12/2011
Sex and the Web: What your search history says about your desires by Zosia Bielski

Time Healthland - May 19/2011
Mind Reading: The Researchers Who Analyzed All the Porn on the Internet By Maia Szalavitz

Freakonomics - May 17/2011
The Neuroscience Behind Sexual Desire: Authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts Answer Your Questions by Matthew Philips

2011-06-24

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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Coffee: our favourite drug

Mr. Colin Gregory Palmer Grey is a time management consultant working out of London, England. As well as his day job, he also produces on occasion short videos about different subjects. Today, I ran across his latest cinematic opus called "Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever". How could I resist? Ah, coffee, my favourite drink. And it would seem just about the favourite drink of a zillion other people as well. Who hasn't regretted not buying shares in Starbucks or Tim Horton's?

Of course, using the word "drug" along with the drink refers to its active ingredient, caffeine. Wikipedia writes:

The stimulant effect of coffee is due to its caffeine content. The caffeine content of a cup of coffee varies depending mainly on the brewing method, and also on the variety of bean. According to Bunker and McWilliams (J. Am. Diet. 74:28–32, 1979), coffee has the following caffeine content:

* brewed: 1 cup (7 oz, 207 ml) = 80–135 mg.
* drip: 1 cup (7 oz, 207 ml) = 115–175 mg.
* espresso: 1 shot (1.5–2 oz, 45–60 ml) = 100 mg


Red Bull has sometimes stirred up a bit of a controversy about its caffeine content; however it contains no more caffeine than coffee. A single can, the normal size, contains 80mg of caffeine (Wikipedia).

I add here about the pros and cons of this drink. Scientific studies have examined the relationship between coffee consumption and an array of medical conditions. Findings have been contradictory as to whether coffee has any specific health benefits, and results are similarly conflicting regarding the potentially harmful effects of coffee consumption.

The same Wikipedia article goes on about cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, etc.:

Coffee consumption has been shown to have minimal or no impact, positive or negative, on cancer development; however, researchers involved in an ongoing 22-year study by the Harvard School of Public Health state that "the overall balance of risks and benefits [of coffee consumption] are on the side of benefits." For example, men who drank six or more cups of coffee per day were found to have a 20% reduction in developing prostate cancer. Other studies suggest coffee consumption reduces the risk of being affected by Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout. A longitudinal study in 2009 showed that those who consumed a moderate amount of coffee or tea (3–5 cups per day) at midlife were less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease in late-life compared with those who drank little coffee or avoided it altogether.


Uploaded by CGPGrey on Jun 22, 2011
Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever
[This short video offers a number of interesting facts about this most popular of beverages. Mr. Grey's web site has the complete script of the video which is reproduced below.]



The web site Just About Coffee says that coffee is:
* The second most widely used product in the world after oil.
* It was worth 6 million tonnes per year in the mid 90's.
* It is worth €30 billion per year to the producing countries.
* It is a living to more than 100 million people.
* It is consumed at the rate of 1400 million cups per day.
* The world's second most popular drink after water.


Coffee Facts from the Gourmet Coffee Zone adds:
Regarded as the largest retail coffee chain, with over 15,000 stores world wide, Starbucks actually sells more milk by volume than coffee. Starbucks has established a brand based on strong, bold dark-roasted coffees. Some even consider the roasting style over-done, pushing the respectable and popular dark-roast preference too far into the burnt category. While the milk products comprise the significant component in the Starbucks coffee drinks (lattes, cappuccinos, etc. ), perhaps another driver behind the volume of milk sold is a customer preference to tame or tone down the Starbucks over-roasted, strong and bold coffee profile.

Final Word
Mmmmmmm.


References

Wikipedia: Coffee
Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted seeds, called coffee beans, of the coffee plant. Coffee beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees in over 70 countries, cultivated primarily in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. 'Green Unroasted' coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world. Coffee can have a stimulating effect on humans due to its caffeine content. It is one of the most-consumed beverages in the world.

Wikipedia: Economics of coffee
Coffee is an important commodity and a popular beverage. Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day.] Over 90% of coffee production takes place in developing countries, while consumption happens mainly in the industrialized economies.

Wikipedia: Caffeine
Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid and psychoactive stimulant. Caffeine was first isolated from coffee in 1820 by the German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge and again in 1821 by French chemists Robiquet, Pelletier, and Caventou. Pelletier first coined the word "cafeine", which became the English word "caffeine".

Wikipedia: Health effects of caffeine
The health effects of caffeine have been extensively studied. Short term side effects such as headache, nausea, and anxiety have been shown as symptoms of mild caffeine consumption. The long term consequences of moderate caffeine consumption can be reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, hepatic diseases, and cardiovascular disease.

Colin Gregory Palmer Grey
http://www.cgpgrey.com
[Mr. Grey is a Time Management consultant working out of London, England. He has an ebook called "30 Days to a More Organized Life".]

YouTube: CGPGrey's Channel
[As well as this video on Coffee, he seems to have put together a number of educational video speechs on a variety of topics

Grey's Blog: Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever

The Script (from the above video)


The world’s largest buyer of coffee, the US, has to import nearly all of this as the coffee trees from which caffeine is harvested will only grow at commercial levels between the tropic of cancer and the tropic of capricorn in an area called the coffee belt. Only a single state, Hawaii, is within the belt.

However, the United States is only the largest buyer because it’s so populous. The most enthusiastic coffee drinkers per capita are, in increasing order, the Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and, the world champions, Finland, where they drink three times as much coffee a day as the average American. All of these countries are outside of the coffee belt and must import 100% of their caffeine supply.

To get this caffeine, first bees must pollinate the flowers of a coffee tree and these flowers develop into bright red berries. Unlike more cooperative domesticated plants, the coffee tree does not ripen all its berries at the same time so they need to be hand picked and sorted.

Once picked, the coffee bean is removed from inside the berry. This young seedling of the tree is then dried, heated, ground and submersed in boiling water to get out the precious, precious caffeine. It takes about 40 coffee beans to make one shot of espresso.

But why is caffeine in the coffee beans in the first place? It’s not like the coffee trees want to have humans cutting bits of them off and committing a holocaust of their offspring.

Well, the trees, of course, don’t want or feel anything and originally evolved caffeine for their own benefit. Caffeine is an insecticide that effectively paralyzes or kills bugs chomping on the tree.

Whether or not the insects go out experiencing the greatest caffeine high ever is not known.

While caffeine is technically lethal, it’s adapted for for 1g bugs, not monkeys 100,000 times more massive. So you’d really have to try to win this Darwin Award.

But, if you must: to calculate the dose of caffeine you’ll need to ingest to have a 50% of death, take your mass in kilograms and multiply it by 150mg.

Or in terms of coffee, for every kilogram of mass you have you need to drink one latte to get a visit from the grim reaper.

That’s a lot of coffee so it’s not surprising that there are no recored deaths in healthy adults from this method and it’s doubtful that it’s even possible. Because, while you’re busy getting the coffee in, your body is busy getting it out by one way or another.

The rare recorded deaths from caffeine are from diet pills, pep pills and crazy people who eat the drug in its pure form.

Poison though caffeine is, you do still develop addiction to the stuff. And it’s is a real physiological addiction not a wimpy psychological addition like people claim for videos games and the internet.

But caffeine isn’t heroine – rapid withdrawal won’t kill you – it might make you cranky and give you a wicked headache – but since caffeine releases dopamine to make you happy and it gets rid of headaches there’s really no reason to ever stop using it.

And who would want to give up the stuff anyway? I mean, aside from converts to Mormonism and Rastafarianism. Caffeine is the world’s most used psychoactive drug – and with good reason it’s pure awesome.

It increases concentration, decreases fatigue and gives you better memory.

This isn’t just a placebo – these are real effects replicable in a laboratory.

And, contrary to popular belief, drinking coffee isn’t a faustian bargain where the devil gives you the ability to work faster but in exchange makes your life shorter.

For normal, healthy humans there are no medical concerns. Coffee and the caffeine within it may even has medical benefits such as protection from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s.

Caffeine can even get rid of migraines, but the amount required and the and method of ingestion is… uncomfortable.

Moving right along…

You know what else you can thank caffeine for? A little thing called the enlightenment. In the 1600s people drank more beer and gin than water. But with the introduction of coffee and tea, people switched from a depressant to a stimulant. It’s not surprising then that this time was an intellectual boon compared to earlier centuries.

Ben Franklin and Edward Lloyd loved their coffee for the same reason that modern workers and students do. It’s invaluable for staying awake and concentrating when you need to finish a TPS report or to get through that boring physics class.

Coffee is the fuel of the modern world, so go grab a cup guilt-free and get working smarter and faster.


2011-06-23

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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

We're wired for gossip

Apparently, our predilection for gossip is built-in and we pay more attention to those nasty things said about people. Unflattering gossip about our friends, family members — even down-and-out movie stars — shapes our visual perception of these individuals and provides a looking glass into how we subconsciously protect ourselves from harm, according to a new study led by a neuroscientist at Northeastern University.

“You are more conscious of a face if you know something bad about that person,” says Distinguished Professor of Psychology Lisa Feldman-Barrett, who led the study. “Gossip,” she says, “has an effect on how the visual system works.”

"The Visual Impact of Gossip" published in the June 17, 2011 edition of the journal Science delves into how people react to faces according to the circumstances surrounding those faces. A team of researchers led Barrett discovered that their test subjects unconsciously paid more attention to the faces of people about whom they had heard in defamatory or disparaging terms. They believe the reason stems from evolution when it was important to know who to avoid and to keep an eye on them. Humans could live in groups and learn from others, not just from direct experience.

Two experiments were performed. In the first, 61 people looked the images of faces. The participants in the study were presented with images of visually neutral faces that were paired with three kinds of gossip: negative (“hit a dog” or “stole money”), positive (“helped an elderly woman cross the street” or “volunteered at an animal shelter”) or neutral (“mailed a letter” or “went shopping”). The faces were then paired with an unrelated image.

The second test saw the researchers using a technique that exploits what's known as "binocular rivalry". This presents each eye with a separate image, and allowing the two to compete for attention — only one of the two images will consciously be seen at any given time. The participants were presented with an image of a face in one eye, and a picture of a house in the other. Compared the faces linked to neutral or positive information, those linked with negative gossip were perceived for longer.

As Barrett puts it, “If gossip helps predict who is friend and who is foe without first-hand experience of that person, then this strategy may have evolved to protect us from liars and cheaters. If we see them for longer periods of time, then we can gather more information about their behavior.”

According to Barrett, we don’t interpret the world through the exclusivity of our senses. “Usually we assume that what you see influences what you feel, but here we have a case where what you feel about someone influences what you see visually. This has immediate use for translational science.”

NPR in a May 20/2011 article reports that other scientists have said the results make sense from an evolutionary perspective.

Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. was reported as saying, "I was actually pretty excited to see this paper. For years, people like me have been saying that our intense interest in gossip is not really a character flaw. It's part of who we are. It's almost a biological event, and it exists for good evolutionary reasons."

We return to the phenomenon of humans living in groups. McAndrew explained that people needed to know things who might be a threat and who might be after a particular mate and learning those things through personal experience would have been slow and potentially dangerous. Gossip was a shortcut.

"People who had an intense interest in that — that constantly were monitoring who's sleeping with who and who's friends with whom and who you can trust and who you can't — came out ahead. People who just didn't care about that stuff got left behind," he said. A brain which pays special attention to negative gossip makes sense. "If somebody is a competitor or somebody is higher than you in the food chain, you want dirt about them. You want negative information; because that's the stuff you can exploit to get ahead." (Gee, this almost sounds like politics!)

Another description of this emphasis on the negative as opposed to the positive is that you're more likely to survive if you mistakenly respond to a stick as though it were a snake than if you make the opposite error. This may be a concrete example of Darwin's theory of evolution. Those who remain today are those who always jumped whether it was a stick or a snake. Those who are no longer with us are those who always thought it was a stick.

Final Word
We love to gossip but to imagine that this behaviour comes from evolution. While empirical evidence shows that we pay more attention to those about whom we've heard bad things, the reasoning behind our selective focus makes sense from our survival instinct. Pay attention to what's bad; avoid getting into trouble.


References

news@Northeastern - May 20/2011
Gossip triggers defensive response

Science. 2011 Jun 17;332(6036):1446-8. Epub 2011 May 19.
The visual impact of gossip.
Anderson E, Siegel EH, Bliss-Moreau E, Barrett LF.
Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
[The full text of this study is only available for a fee.]
Abstract
Gossip is a form of affective information about who is friend and who is foe. We show that gossip does not influence only how a face is evaluated—it affects whether a face is seen in the first place. In two experiments, neutral faces were paired with negative, positive, or neutral gossip and were then presented alone in a binocular rivalry paradigm (faces were presented to one eye, houses to the other). In both studies, faces previously paired with negative (but not positive or neutral) gossip dominated longer in visual consciousness. These findings demonstrate that gossip, as a potent form of social affective learning, can influence vision in a completely top-down manner, independent of the basic structural features of a face.


The Visual Impact of Gossip

Out of sight, but not out of mind

Northeastern University
Lisa Feldman Barrett
1992: Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, University of Waterloo

NPR - May 20/2011
Psst! The Human Brain Is Wired For Gossip by Jon Hamilton

2011-06-22

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