Posts Tagged ‘ The Observer ’

Gardens: the June checklist

June 3, 2012


While the prices of vegetables and fresh fruits continue to rise, so does the desire to get involved with gardening.  Depending on where you live, your gardening season may be limited to just the summer months.  So it is essential to prepare a garden for insects, lack of rainfall, too much rainfall, and many other factors that affect the total yield of your garden.  Now some vegetables and fruits are a lot more easier to grow than others, if you are a novice, it would be best to start off with a variety of plants that grow it easy for your region.  As you develop your green thumb, you can take on the challenge of the more difficult harvest.

Many of the vegetables begin as a seed and you can start them off in small pots to begin germination.  After the plants have grown to approximately 5 or 7 inches, they are ready for transplant into the garden beds.  Be sure to read the instructions on the back of each plant seed packet to determine how much sunlight is required for optimal growth.  Do not use pesticides to control insect or small pests, instead try to find a more natural approach to prevent insects and small animals from destroying your garden.  Work in your garden each day and you will reap the rewards of an organic produce.

That’s my comment, pass it on.
Dr. Anthony

Powered by article titled “Gardens: the June checklist” was written by Dan Pearson, for The Observer on Saturday 2nd June 2012 23.05 UTC

In June the garden reaches its natural high point. Roses are at their best, flowers are in their first flush, and greenery will never look more pristine. Enjoy it – but remember that a garden can peak too early.

Pot training

If you haven’t done so already, plant out summer bedding and plants that will provide for you later in the season. Carefully placed pots can cover for early-flowering shrubs and perennials. Pot-grown dahlias and annuals are perfect fillers if you suddenly find you have a hole after the first flush of perennials are over, so wade in and plug the gaps. Watch out for slugs and snails, and water if it is dry to help with establishment.

Mind the gaps

The early perennials can leave gaps once they are over, and many can be cut to the base to encourage new growth and in some cases a second flush of flower. Oriental poppies are a perfect example, but after providing so handsomely can wither to almost nothing. I often grow a batch of Tagetes or pot-grown sunflowers to cover the gap, but the early-flowering geraniums and plants, such as alchemilla and valerian, will regenerate. Spent growth can be put on to the compost and new growth encouraged with a can of water.

Seedy surrounds

Early biennials such as forget-me-not and honesty can overwhelm summer plants. Leave only as many as you need for seeding next year. Angelica, Myrrhis odorata and valerian can be a delight in the herb garden, but be careful not to let them drop all their seed, as you will be inundated next year. Apply the June cut-back just before the seed drops. Plug gaps with calendula seed, which will be in flower in late summer if sown now.

Veg out

Outdoor tomatoes, courgettes and runner beans should be planted out now. Early June is also the perfect time for sowing runner and French beans, as they tend to sit and rot in cold ground. They will catch up fast with warmer weather even though it may feel late.

Sow far so good

Sow in succession, with two to three weeks between salad crops. Short rows, sown thinly, will keep you in young leaves. I am growing beetroot and peas for their tops and roots. Sowing successionally is like pacing yourself in a meal, taking small portions and going back for seconds.

Weed greed

Little and often is the way to go. If you have rough areas of the garden where the likes of ground elder and nettle are out of control, you can curb their advance by cutting to the base and preventing them from seeding.

Net gains

Though I have only just planted my strawberry bed, I will be netting the plants to keep the birds off. The varieties that fruit all summer, such as “Mara des Bois”, will be grown under cloches to keep the fruit dry, but plants grown under cover need watering, too. Soak thoroughly with a can of water after you have picked the fruit before returning the cover.

Rose tonic

Dead-head, but leave once-flowering roses that go on to produce hips for the autumn. Avoid using chemicals as a means of preventing blackspot and greenfly. Grow companion plants such as calendula to attract hoverflies, which will feed on the aphids, and use a slow-release organic feed and foliar tonics, such as Uncle Tom’s Rose Tonic or SB Plant Invigorator.

Bulb action

Spring bulbs need five to six weeks after flowering to replenish their resources. If you need to clear foliage, it should be safe to do so now.

Looking forward…

Though it may be the last thing on your mind, sow spring bedding for next year. Wallflowers can be sown after the first early spuds are lifted to make the most of the space they leave behind, and primulas can be sown under glass. The Cowichan polyanthus are a selection that indulge rich garnets, indigo blue and deep purple. They can be sown now, too, and grown under glass or in a frame for planting out in the autumn. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Mexican street food in Los Angeles

May 28, 2012

Kogi food truck in Los Angeles

Perhaps you have never experienced ordering food from a truck.  I suppose most people would consider it to be not very hygienic to be eating beside a truck.  But more and more these days, you will find specialized trucks parked along alleys, stadiums, factories,hospitals, and just about anyplace you can imagine.  Food trucks have been around for years, but until recently there has been a huge demand of interest from the unlikely groups, people who have been in the cooking business for years, are now seeing cooking in a truck in a new light.  Many cooks and chefs who have gone to school and completed their intense training in the culinary arts, are now considering managing and operating within these food trucks.  Obviously they see a great demand and profit when it comes to establishing a food truck at a location.  Food trucks are now offering all types culinary foods from Mexican,Polish, Korean, Syrian, Italian, and other ethnic foods.  So if you haven’t been able to experience this type of dining, why don’t you give it a try.
You may just find out how wonderful and delicious to foods that are being offered at a food truck near you.

That’s my comment, pass it on.

Dr. Anthony

Powered by article titled “Mexican street food in Los Angeles” was written by Rebecca Seal, for The Observer on Saturday 26th May 2012 23.04 UTC

Thomasina Miers stands on a sunny petrol station forecourt in Highland Park, a neighbourhood to the northeast of Los Angeles, enthusiastically eating a marinated beef-tongue taco. “It’s so delicious,” she says through a mouthful of corn tortilla, coriander and tomatillo salsa.

This low-rise residential area, an hour and a world away from the Walk of Fame, bristles with signs for cheap loans and fast food. It is not on any tourist map. Star-tour buses don’t pull up round here. But rather than celebrities, we’re looking for Mexican street-food trucks, picking out their vivid orange, blue and pink awnings or distinctive fin-shaped roof vents from among the stucco-covered houses, corner shops and drive-throughs. At the La Estrella and El Pique trucks, we found what we crave. We order more tacos, a beef torta (sandwich) and a buttery hot quesadilla and wolf them as the traffic whizzes past, juices running down our chins.

Miers, former MasterChef winner and co-founder of the Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca, is researching her next venture – a two-year pop-up restaurant opening next month on London’s South Bank with a street-food menu. She’s here because there are 11 million Mexican-Americans living in California, making up 30% of the population.

“LA has such a huge Mexican population,” she says. “In terms of food trends, America, and particularly California, is often five to 10 years ahead of the UK, so it is interesting to see where they’re at, particularly with Mexican, which you can find here as easily as getting a hamburger.”

Angelenos also have more than 100 years of Mexican street-food history – the arrival and popularity of horse-drawn tamale carts caused the same kind of bureaucratic angst in the 1880s as the influx of taco trucks has done in the past couple of years – so residents have exacting standards. They want rich, slow-cooked sauces, chillies of every hue and heat, soft corn or wheat tortillas piled with meaty fillings, and they want them day and night. There are hundreds of hole-in-the-wall taco stands and trucks to keep them happy.

As we work our way round the best of them, Miers grins from ear to ear. Her interest in Mexican food was piqued when she was in her early 20s and ran a bar in Mexico City. She came home to find she couldn’t get authentic Mexican anywhere in the UK and so resolved to open her own casual restaurant. Six years and five Wahacas later, the hunch she and her business partner Mark Selby had about the gap in the market has been proved right and her obsession with Mexico’s food has only grown. Yuca’s is one of LA’s oldest street-food joints – a small shed and plastic awning next to a car park – and she can’t help but order almost every dish, while Selby tries to keep things in control.

“I’m on belt hook three at the moment,” he says ruefully, “and I’d like to stay that way.” Ignoring him, Miers adds a plate of carne asada tacos (grilled beef) to a conchinita pibil (Yucatan-style pork) and machaca (shredded beef) tacos, pickled jalapeño peppers, and a chile verde bean and cheese burrito. This is their first lunch of six today.

Our tour continues to take us to corners of Los Angeles most tourists would miss. We visit Olvera Street in Downtown and eat $3 rolled-up beef taquitos with warm avocado sauce from Cielito Lindo. We hit Las Glorias del Buen Comer in Silver Lake – home to an impressive collection of plastic floristry – for creamy shrimp enchiladas in a green coriander sauce; chilaquiles made with fried stale tortillas, salsa and scrambled egg; and huge poblano chillies stuffed with soft white cheese.

At Grand Central Market we watch tripe being packed into split gorditas, deep-fried maize-dough pockets, and are given carnitas (pork tacos) to try by a group of men leaning on a red Formica lunch counter, swigging coke out of huge old glass bottles. The sawdust-covered walkways lead to stalls selling jar after jar of dried chillies and piles of tomatillos (a fruit resembling a green tomato) and jicama, which look like turnips and taste like water chestnut.

The best dishes of the day are served in Guisado’s, a small, plain shop in Boyle Heights, a Latino neighbourhood east of Downtown. After we order most of his menu, owner Armando de la Torre takes us to the grocery shop next door where, incongruously, he gets his corn cooked, skinned, hoppered and ground, and then hand-makes it into tortillas or adds lard to make masa for tamales (stuffed steamed breads) or conchas (sweet pastries).

His daughter Natalie loads our table with cardboard plates of tacos topped with tinga de pollo (spiced shredded chicken), skirt steak simmered in pimento sauce, fiery grilled fish with chilli diablo, and a chicken mole (a traditional sauce that takes at least a day to make properly). We try chicharron, made with black beans and slow-cooked pork scratchings. It’s much more appetising than it sounds: the fatty pork rinds render down and what’s left is melt-in-the-mouth pigginess.

Only one dish defeats us: a chilli taco with habanero ketchup so spicy that it leaves anyone who tastes it red-faced and gasping. Legend has it one visitor managed four in one go. “Eat one, get another free!” says Armando cheerfully as he pours us a shot each of smooth tequila royale reposado to sip. We are, finally, sated.

Next day, the main aim is to find a Kogi truck. Kogi shot to local and then national fame in 2008 when the first of a fleet of five vans popped up selling a surprisingly successful blend of Korean and Mexican food – a signature dish is soy-marinated short rib tacos with coriander and cabbage – and has since spawned dozens of imitators. Its trucks change location up to three times daily and can only be located via Twitter, where Kogi has 96,000 followers; in 2010 its head chef, Roy Choi, was named best new chef in the US by Food & Wine magazine – quite an accolade for a kitchen the size of a caravan.

We find the truck (and its lengthy queue) outside an office block next to the Fox studios in Century City and feast on kimchi quesadillas, which are sweet, gingery cheese and pickled cabbage tortilla sandwiches, and Kogi sliders: miniature brioche buns with Korean bulgogi-marinated short-rib burgers. We finish the meal with an entirely unnecessary and ridiculously moreish home-made chocolate bar with squidgy chilli salt caramel and peanuts.

“Coming here, you can see authentic Mexican cooking and lots of its famous street food, but you can also see where else this food can go,” says Miers. “This is some of the most exciting, innovative food we’ve tried. This trip is giving me masses of ideas to work with!”

Half an hour later we pull up at Komodo, another Korean-Mexican-Asian-Californian truck, where somehow find room in our stomachs to try delicate fish and grape tacos with pickled cucumber and sesame oil and pork meatballs that are charred and crisp on the outside and pink and lightly spiced inside. Although they’re incredibly tasty, even Miers agrees that ordering two portions of truffled potato fries was a mistake; we attempt to cleanse our palates with lychee juice.

Our final stop of the day is Mariscos Chente, a seafood restaurant where we sample drunken shrimp and chipotle prawns and drink vast micheladas – beer mixed with Clamato (clam and tomato) juice and lime, served in a chilli-salt rimmed glass. Then it’s back to the hotel, where we swim lengths of the pool in a bid to make room for dinner.

Oddly, Los Angeles’s very high-end Mexican restaurants don’t seem to deliver food that’s as exciting as the city’s street food. In the evenings we try two of the best: Border Grill, founded by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, and Red O, which belongs to Rick Bayless. These three chefs have done more than anyone to popularise and legitimise Mexican food in America. But although the meals were fine, it was as though the punchy mouthfuls of flavour we’d been ploughing through all day didn’t taste the same inside, off pieces of fine china and eaten with cutlery; they didn’t give us the same intense sense of the place and its inhabitants as the foods they cook and eat every day could. However good a posh restaurant’s heirloom tomato tostadito or yellowtail ceviche might be, they couldn’t beat those tongue tacos eaten in the roar of the traffic.
Thomasina Miers’ new recipe book Wahaca – Mexican Food at Home is out next month


Rebecca Seal’s accommodation was provided by the W Hotel Hollywood ( and she flew to LA with British Airways (

Food stops

La Estrella and El Pique
Corner of York and Avenue 54, Highland Park, CA 90042
2056 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz, CA 90027 (001 323 662 1214)
Cielito Lindo
E-23 Olvera Street, CA 90012 (001 213 687 4391;
Las Glorias del Buen
Comer 620 Silver Lake Boulevard, Silver Lake, CA 90026 (001 213 484 9090)
Grand Central Market
317 South Broadway, Downtown, CA 90013 (grandcentral
2100 East Cesar Chavez Avenue, Boyle Heights, CA 90033
Check @KOGIBBQ for daily locations
for daily locations
Mariscos Chente
4532 South Centinela Avenue, Culver City, CA 90066 (001 310 390 9241)
Border Grill
445 South Figueroa Street, Downtown, CA 90071 (001 213 486 5171)
Red O
8155 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90046 (001 323 655 5009;

Thomasina Miers’s pork belly carnitas

Carnitas is one of the most mouth-watering dishes in the Mexican repertoire: succulent chunks of pork that are slowly braised in their own fat, just like duck confit

Serves 6–8
pork belly boned
lard 500g
bay leaves 2
garlic 5 cloves, bashed
oranges 2, sliced
peppercorns 1 tsp
cola drink 500ml
thyme a handful of sprigs
sea salt

How to do it
Preheat the oven to 130C/gas mark 1. Cut the pork belly into six roughly equal pieces. Rub with salt and leave to sit for 1 hour. Put the pork chunks into a large casserole pan with the rest of the ingredients and bring to simmering point. Cover well with a tight-fitting lid or foil and cook in the oven for 2-3 hours until the pork is so soft it can be cut with a spoon.
Scoop out the pieces with a slotted spoon and arrange them on a baking sheet. Turn the oven up to 190C/gas mark 5. Roast the pork for about 30 minutes, until the pieces are crispy, golden and caramelised. Roughly chop the meat and serve on a wooden board or heated plate with bowls of coriander, white onion or shallot, wedges of lime, a salsa, and warm tortillas for making your own tacos. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Holiday ideas: tips and trips

May 27, 2012

vintage portsmouth

It’s not easy to plan a great holiday vacation, so you need to start early making arrangements for your destination. Many destinations are in more demand than others,so planning early makes sense in any case. A good travel book with all the necessary information about the country you plan to visit is essentially. The most important element that should be consider is safety, restrict your travels to countries known to be friendly to foreigners.

That’s my comment,pass it on…

Dr Anthony  

Powered by article titled “Holiday ideas: tips and trips” was written by Andy Pietrasik, for The Observer on Sunday 27th May 2012 11.03 UTC

Take me there: Victorious Vintage Festival, Portsmouth

Roll out the barrels and the bunting: it’s street-party time. Portsmouth has embraced the diamond jubilee so wholeheartedly it’s transforming the historic dockyard into a nostalgic theme park over the weekend of 2-3 June. The Victorious Vintage Festival will feature a market selling fashion classics and a makeover salon offering victory rolls and Cupid’s bow lips. There will be tea stalls and screenings of old movies at the No 6 Cinema. Musical headliners will include Dodgy and Mark Morriss from the Bluetones on Saturday and the Lightning Seeds on Sunday. Free entry from 10am-10pm (standard ticketing to dockyard attractions applies). See

Travel clinic: post-Olympic break

The dilemma My husband and I are unable to go on holiday until October this year due to Olympic commitments. We’d like to go somewhere with our six-year-old that’s hot and child-friendly yet not scarily full of package-holidaymakers renewing their vows! Any ideas? Georgie, via email

October is a tricky time to get reliable heat in the northern Med. You’ll find warm sunshine, but it can turn wet towards the end of the month – that’s why there are usually good deals available. However, you sound like you’re in need of certain heat after a busy summer, so I’d aim for north Africa. Temperatures in Agadir, Morocco are in the mid-20s in October and Thomson ( offers 10 nights at ClubHotel Riu Tikida Dunas for £2,016 (two adults, one child), all inclusive with direct flights from Gatwick. It has four huge pools, is close to the beach and there’s a Kid’s Club, plus there’s plenty to do in the vicinity. Marrakech is three hours away but could easily be made into an overnight stop, bringing it into more family-friendly territory. Closer to Agadir is the smaller but still historic town of Taroudant – and en route you can often see goats grazing in trees, which any child will get a kick out of. Tom Hall

Three of the best: late half-term holidays in the sun

The sun’s been on strike. So how do you entertain the kids in the approaching half-term hols? Why not spread a little sunshine their way on a late mid-term break abroad?

1. Turkey
Adakoy Village Beach Club offers sailing and other watersports. Seven nights’ full-board from £629 per adult and £539 per child, departing Gatwick on 4 June (

2. Montenegro
A week at rural retreat Isabella’s House with a private pool and car hire costs £320pp for two adults and two children under 12 (

3. Morocco
Catch the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (8-16 June). Three nights at Riad Maison Bleue from 7 June for £520pp (four sharing), incl flights ( © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Only for deserving patients

May 25, 2012

Female doctor checking man's blood pressure

All patients deserve to have treatment for their conditions no matter the circumstances…doctors are obligated to treat everyone, as long as they are qualified to do so….the patient deserves the best care….unfortunately there are many doctors who don’t deserve that honor…the honor to heal the sick…

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Only for deserving patients” was written by Katharine Whitehorn, for The Observer on Saturday 19th May 2012 23.05 UTC

We’re exhorted to lead healthy lives. (We used to be commanded to lead godly, righteous and sober lives; the sober bit being hard enough without the other two.) Some of the new advice is sensible enough: we should sleep and exercise more, stuff in fewer buns. But it’s more sinister when it’s suggested that doctors should refuse certain treatments to those who are obese and/or smokers until they’ve slimmed or kicked the habit. Of course a surgeon who only treats not very ill patients may have a better record, but the one who gives a really difficult patient a few more years may actually have done a harder job.

What worries me is anything that smacks of the concept of the Deserving Patient, of doctors making what amounts to social judgements. Losing weight may be easy for some but desperately difficult for others, who’ve had a bad enough time being called fatty and failing to find fashions to fit you’d think, without being told they can’t be helped when they’re sick. And yes, smoking’s bad for you – but maybe it’s only the calming effect of fags that stops a social worker kicking her awful “clients” down the stairs.

People shouldn’t drive cars too fast either – but no one is seriously suggesting that doctors should refuse treatment to the survivor of an accident; I’m not sure the moral obligation’s all that different. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Migraines: they are all in the head

May 20, 2012

migraine woman

Migraines are a serious headaches for many people who are afflicted with this disorder. When a diagnosis of migraine has been established, then begins the taunting task of finding the proper management to lessem the severity and frequency of headaches. For some individuals, they are able to link the headaches to environmental factors and others can find certain foods that exacerbate symptoms. In other cases, the culprit behind the migraine eludes doctors and reseachers.  If you suffer from frequent headaches or know of someone that does, please talk to your physician about them.

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Migraines: they are all in the head” was written by Eva Wiseman, for The Observer on Saturday 19th May 2012 23.05 UTC

The first time it happened I was in bed with a book, aged maybe 10. And I remember going over the same line again and again, with rising levels of panic, as I realised I had forgotten how to read. I didn’t think it was something you could just forget. Something that, having picked up, you could then one day drop again. I see now it was my first migraine.

Today migraines are in the news and they’re in my head, tightening around my crown like an alice band. The NHS is considering offering Botox to patients with chronic migraines. They don’t know quite how it helps, but they’ve decided it does. The blocking of muscle contraction, which is what the botulinum toxin does to those stunning their wrinkles, hasn’t been proved to relieve headaches, but two clinical trials did conclude that it led to a 10% reduction in the number of patients’ headachey days. In addition, I imagine, to a laboratory paved with clingfilmed foreheads.

I’m writing now through day four of this month’s headache, one that began (as do many) with a flickering blind spot in the centre of my vision. It starts small, a spinning black penny in the middle of a page. I slump in my seat as it spreads darkly over my sight like jam, and I can’t see, or think, or entirely understand speech. It’s the film melting in my projector – it’s a bit like falling. Smells slay me. Noise, fine, but smells – Angel perfume in a lift, for instance, or that dirty spitting rain you get in cities, the kind that smells of apocalypse – will make me retch. And minutes later the headache comes.

The author Siri Hustvedt wrote about a migraine aura phenomenon called Alice in Wonderland syndrome – the migraineur feels parts of their body ballooning or shrinking. For me it’s often my hand. I’ll lie in bed and under my cheek it’ll swell to the size of a football, or a room, or shrink until it’s dust. These episodes when my reality wobbles are not entirely unpleasant.

I half-enjoy the days preceding a migraine when everything feels like déjà vu. When walking home, a series of sights – a smoking schoolgirl, a chained-up bike – are overwhelming in their impact. Everything I see reminds me of something else, but something just out of reach. It reminds me that it’s reminding me, but not what it’s reminding me of. In its un-graspableness, this feeling is similar to one of the factors that brings these migraines on – the reflections from the Regent’s Canal that play on the ceiling above my desk. Ripples of light lead to ripples in my reality, this warm tightness behind my eyes, a grim ache in my jaw.

The pain is sometimes awful, but more often it’s medicated and so simply… saddening. I take these lovely painkillers, so it’s rare I’ll feel the blinding sharpness. Rather than being slammed into a wall, it feels as if my head is stuck in a closing door. It’s the dull agony of a deadline looming, of a nagging phobia, of going up in a lift as your vertigo builds. But I miss stuff. Parties, dinners, often meanings – I’ll be interviewing somebody in a brightly lit room and will find myself two thoughts behind, my eyes scrunched in concentration, praising Olympus for the reliability of its dictaphones.

I realise, though, that it’s these vibrations on the drum skin of my life that make me me. I see the world through a smoky, migrainous filter. And like somebody teetering on the edge of a depressive episode, not yet fallen, I’m able to stand outside it and look around, curiously. Medicating with Botox seems like an apt metaphor – in ironing out the migraineur’s wrinkles, the doctor smooths their reality. No more hands the size of houses. No more fainting as an effect of sunlight spearing through dark trees. So I’ve learned to embrace this gentle madness. In succumbing to a migraine, I get to test what’s real. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Contrary fashion

April 8, 2012

ripped jeans

Even a good pair of jeans will tear after some years….then its time for a new pair..but now it seems that torn jeans are in fashion…I guess I’ll hold on to mine a little longer or until the fashion ch anges again!

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Contrary fashion” was written by Katharine Whitehorn, for The Observer on Saturday 7th April 2012 23.06 UTC

Fashions are meant to please, we’d all agree about that. But there’s a whole category of fashion with a more complex aim. Think of the “beauty” spots of the 18th century – black moles are normally not considered beautiful but presumably emphasised the pallor of the surrounding complexion. Then there’s deliberately torn or faded jeans, or the carefully trailing shoelace: their wearers aren’t trying to please but to show they’re too cool to care – and if it annoys their stuffy old seniors, so much the better.

The wayward single strand of hair; the bra strap that is actually meant to show – I don’t know where they’d be without disapproving oldies to object to them. People my age keep the partings in their hair the same colour as the rest, to make it all look natural; the young have deliberately dark partings to make it clear that it isn’t. I’m not sure whether the people who actually have their buttocks enlarged – when many of the rest of us ache for the answer “No” to “Does my bum look big in this?” – come into that category, but one of the latest, the T-shirt that is meant to show a bit below the jersey or jacket, certainly does.

The poet Robert Herrick explained how “a sweet disorder in the dress” did “more bewitch him than when art / Is too precise in every part”. Poor sap, didn’t he realise the disorder was a precise art? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Prostate cancer patients given hope by new ‘triple-whammy’ drug

April 1, 2012

blood tests

Good news for prostate cancer patients…especially for those not responding to present day treatments…research has uncovered another potential drug that can be useful in breathing new life in the battle against cancer. With every ground-breaking news …comes hope of a another day to see the sun-rise…keep fighting and never surrender…

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Prostate cancer patients given hope by new ‘triple-whammy’ drug” was written by Robin McKie, science editor, for The Observer on Saturday 31st March 2012 23.06 UTC

A new drug that tackles advanced prostate cancer in three different ways has passed its first hurdle towards being approved.

Scientists reported promising early trial results using galeterone, which is designed to treat cancer that no longer responds to hormone therapy. However, researchers counselled caution as tests on the “triple whammy” drug have been carried out on only a small number of patients.

In their tests, scientists based at Harvard University reported that galeterone reduced levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), a prostate cancer blood marker, by 30% or more in about half of patients. Eleven patients had PSA reductions of 50% or more, and in some there was significant shrinkage in tumour size.

A total of 49 patients took part in the phase one study, which primarily looked at safety and dosing levels. All had “refractory” or “castration resistant” cancer that had ceased to respond to hormone therapy. Currently there is little doctors can do to help prostate cancer patients who progress to this stage.

Galeterone works in three ways: by blocking “receptor” proteins that respond to testosterone; by reducing the number of receptors in tumours; and by targeting an enzyme that is linked to hormone pathways involved in the cancer. Trial leader Dr Mary-Ellen Taplin described the galeterone study as “exciting for those of us in the medical community treating this life-threatening cancer”.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Chicago. A larger phase two trial, focusing on the drug’s effectiveness, is planned later this year.

The results were welcomed by Dr Kate Holmes, head of research at the Prostate Cancer Charity. “This very early stage research, conducted among a small group of men, indicates that galeterone shows potential as a new treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer.

“This new drug is in its infancy and full results have yet to be published, meaning that it is simply too soon to tell whether or not this drug is capable of living up to its early promise.

“Men in the final stages of prostate cancer have very few options available to them and we desperately need to increase the number of effective treatments,” she said.

“The researchers have plans to test the drug in a further trial, to fully investigate the full side-effects and safety of treatment. We look forward to reading the full publication of this study in due course, and await with anticipation the results of further trials.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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It’s a twice in a lifetime moment: the transit of Venus across the Sun

March 25, 2012

Transit of Venus in 2004

If you are into the stars in the sky….then you will not want to miss the show on June 6…that’s when Venus plans on crossing in front of the sun….so make plans for the entire family to participate in this special time…be part of the historical event…reach for the stars..

That’s my comment…pass it on..

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “It’s a twice in a lifetime moment: the transit of Venus across the Sun” was written by Robin McKie, science editor, for The Observer on Sunday 25th March 2012 00.07 UTC

A tiny speck will appear on one side of the Sun in a few weeks and slowly traverse the solar disc for a few hours. The movement of that little black dot may seem insignificant. But it is one of the rarest sights in astronomy, an event known as a transit of Venus. Miss this one and you will have to wait until 2117 for the next.

Earth’s closest planetary neighbour, which is currently in close and spectacular alignment with Jupiter in the night sky, will make its passage across the Sun’s disc on 6 June and can expect to make scientific headlines – for astronomers hope studies of the transit will provide them with key data for studying worlds that orbit distant stars.

“This transit is special because it is the last time in our lifetimes that we will have an opportunity to collect data for a planet as well characterised as Venus,” said David Crisp of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We will have to make the most of it.”

Venus, for all its glittering beauty in the night sky and its association with the Roman goddess of love, is a deeply unpleasant world. It has a surface temperature of 460C, its dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide has incinerated or crushed all robot spacecraft that have landed on it and its surface is shrouded by thick clouds of sulphuric acid. Once thought to be a sister world to Earth, because of their similar sizes and orbits round the Sun, Venus is more like a vision of hell.

Nevertheless studies of the planet, and its rare transits, have provided scientists with crucial scientific data and June’s event will be no exception. In particular, astronomers will use it to test techniques they are developing to study the atmospheres of exoplanets – worlds that orbit other suns – and to spot those that possess life-supporting gases such as oxygen and water vapour.

“This is an incredibly hard thing to do,” said Dr Suzanne Aigrain of Oxford University. “The light from a star is about a billion times stronger than the light reflected by a planet. So just spotting one in orbit round a star that is many light years away is a considerable achievement. Using that light to analyse a planet’s atmosphere is even harder. Nevertheless, the transit of Venus should help us do that.”

In the past few years, the study of exoplanets has gone through a revolution with the launch of spacecraft such as the US observatory Kepler. Its telescopes spot tiny falls in light emissions of stars that occur when a planet passes in front of it. Just as the transit of Venus causes a slight dimming of the Sun’s light, so an exoplanet reveals its presence when it transits a distant star.

That drop in light provides key data about an exoplanet’s size and orbit. However, scientists want to build orbiting observatories that will study tiny changes in the light of a star as it passes through the atmosphere of an orbiting exoplanet. These changes will allow them to assess the composition of that exoplanet’s atmosphere and make estimates of surface conditions. Does it have a thick crushing atmosphere or does it possess only thin levels of gas and is therefore unlikely to support life? Does it contain oxygen or does it have poisonous gases? And that is where the transit of Venus should provide crucial data, says Crisp.

“We are developing techniques that will allow us to determine how different exoplanet atmospheres will produce changes in the light from the stars they orbit.

“However, we won’t be sure our techniques are right unless we can test them on a planet for which we have precise knowledge – and that, of course, is where Venus comes in. Thanks to probes like Europe’s Venus Express, we have precise knowledge about its atmosphere and surface. By studying Venus as if it was an exoplanet we will know how good are our techniques and how much they need to be refined. A whole network of astronomers will be studying the transit of Venus for this reason.”

A transit of Venus occurs when the planet and Earth, whose paths round the Sun tilt at slightly different angles, line up exactly where their orbits cross. This occurs only four times every 243 years, in pairs separated by eight years. Only six transits of Venus are known to have been observed (though claims are made for earlier observations by Persian astronomers) with the last, in 2004, watched by millions who used telescopes to project images of the Sun’s disc and the dot of Venus on to cards or electronic monitors. After this year’s, the next will be in 2117 and then 2125. When the previous pair occurred, Queen Victoria was on the throne.

The first transit of Venus was predicted by Johannes Kepler who calculated one would occur in 1631. However, this was not visible from Europe. The next one occurred on 4 December 1639 when Jeremiah Horrocks became the first person to watch a transit of Venus when he shone an image of the Sun on to a piece of white card and was rewarded, around 3.15pm, with the sight of the black dot of the planet crawling across the solar disc. From his observations, Horrocks used triangulation techniques to make the best estimate then attempted for the size of Venus and the distance of the Earth from the Sun, though in the latter case he was still out by many millions of miles.

The next pair of transits – 1761 and 1769 – got a lot more attention. Expeditions were sent across the globe, including Captain James Cook’s first expedition. He visited Tahiti to observe the transit, from a place that is still known as Point Venus. The aim of these various voyages was to collect as many readings as possible from different parts of the world to calculate the size of the solar system with precision.

The expeditions pushed science and many scientists to the limit, the unluckiest being the French astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil, who set out from Paris in March 1760 but was still at sea on transit day, 6 June 1761. The rolling of his ship prevented him from taking observations. So Le Gentil decided to wait for the next transit in 1769 and built a small observatory in Pondicherry, a French colony in India, where he waited patiently for the next transit on 4 June 1769.

On the day, clouds filled the sky even though it had been clear every morning for the preceding month. Le Gentil saw nothing. On his journey home, he contracted dysentery and was caught in a storm that delayed his return to Paris until October 1771 where he found he had been declared legally dead, his wife had remarried and all his relatives had enthusiastically plundered his estate. He eventually remarried, however, and enjoyed an apparently happy life for another 21 years.

Using the observations from the 1761 and 1769 transits, the distance from the Earth to the Sun was estimated as being 153m km. The correct figure, of 149.59m km, was not achieved until results of the transits of 1874 and 1882 were obtained. Today, a Venus transit is of little direct use to astronomers; it is its usefulness in testing transit techniques that now excites scientists.

They are also intriguing events. In 2004, the entire transit was seen in Britain and watched by millions. This time we will catch only a glimpse, with the best observing conditions occurring in Australia, Japan and south-east Asia. In Britain, it will only be possible to watch the last moments of the transit as the sun rises. After that, there will be a lull of 105 years.

Additional research by Mia de Graaf © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Life is sweet

December 11, 2011

Christine Gillan in Tom Swan's sweet shop

We all have our weaknesses….many of us will succumb to the temptation of candy…it reminds us of our chidhood years..when we didn’t have much too worry about…I would be content with a Hersey’s Chocolate Bar…or a Bazooka Chewing Gum or how about those Jaw Breakers…sure it was a great time…now that the holidays are around the corner, we all have a good excuse to go down memory lane…or should I say the candy lane!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Life is sweet” was written by Audrey Gillan, for The Observer on Sunday 11th December 2011 00.08 UTC

olly Pan Drops, Soor Plooms, Chocolate Italian Creams, Rich Butter Treacle, Cinnamon Balls, Liquorice Comfits. The names of the sweeties reel off my tongue, taking me back to summers spent in my mum’s car, when I “helped” as she sold boilings, toffees, chocolates and fudges to the corner shops and cafés of the west of Scotland.

I was five years old when my mother, Christine, became a “sweetie lady”, selling twinkling jars of sugared delights for Buchanan’s, a traditional confectionery company then most famous for its waxpaper-wrapped toffees the size of an old penny. Each day she’d get up at dawn, meticulously apply her make-up and put on an immaculate suit and high heels. She ate a good breakfast, then, picking up her order book and applying a last coat of lipstick, she’d head out of our Glasgow cul de sac in her company car.

This summer, after 38 years on the road, Mum handed over her car keys and put down her paperwork for the last time. At 65, she was persuaded by my father that she should say goodbye to this life in sweeties – those wet, west-coast Scottish winters were taking their toll and the time had come to relax. It was not something she did with relish. Christine was saying farewell to customers who’d become great friends. It was as if not just a way of working but a way of life was coming to an end.

In an age of iPads and iPhones and PDAs, my mum’s business relied on the personal touch, travelling to find out people’s needs, writing their orders down with a pen and paper, placing them in a stamped, addressed envelope and sending them off to a factory in Fort Matilda, Greenock, where they would be processed, packed by hand and sent out in a lorry that made daily deliveries.

It was a life marked in six-week cycles that took in seaside towns as well as bleak housing estates. Through it my mum built her own community – every six weeks she garnered news of marriages and babies, holidays, first days of school, graduations and, of course, deaths. With only a car as an office, the shopkeepers and café owners became my mum’s “colleagues”, the anchors that helped bring a sense of stability through peripatetic years.

In those early days, a lack of childcare during school holidays meant I sometimes accompanied her, sitting in the back with the jars and piles of paperwork and the folders full of glossy pictures of her wares.

As the days counted down to her dreaded retirement, I wanted to get a sense of what it was about her that made her the company’s salesperson of the year, almost every year as far back as I can remember, and I wanted to meet some of those customers she never stopped speaking about. As I grew older, I sometimes listened to their voices on the telephone, listing the beautiful, mellifluous words as I wrote down their orders for Buttered Brazils and Rich Treacle Perfection. But I’d never seen their faces. I knew that over these six weeks my mum made 500 calls to shops such as Olga Quintiliani’s Sweet Stop and the Tommy Tango Candy Store. Her favourite journey was the one that took an extra 15 miles of driving but brought her to Arrochar and Luss, lying within the shadow of Ben Lomond. On Glasgow’s Byres Road, at the very heart of the lovely West End, lay the Art Deco University Café, where a roll and fried egg and a cup of coffee would be laid out on a narrow Formica table by one of the many members of the Verrecchia family who worked there.

We pull up outside Swan’s Sweet Shop, a small building that’s been in the West Dunbartonshire village of Renton for 56 years. The only shop for miles, it is at the heart of the community. My mum looks in her rear-view mirror at the passing traffic and tells me of the time when she was parked on the same spot and a heavy-goods driver shunted her car along the street just as she was getting some samples out – she ended up in the back with the sweeties while a man shouted “Haw, stop, there’s a wummin hinging oot that boot!”

“I’ve been coming to Tom Swan’s since I started the job, which was April 1973,” she explains. “It’s a quirky wee shop; none of my other calls are quite like this. It’s an excellent place for people to reminisce. They travel from quite far and wide just to get their sweets here.” From the outside, it’s difficult to imagine what makes this place a kind of sweetie mecca. But the smell that sweeps over you as you step inside takes you to a nostalgic place that is soothing. Tom’s is full of memory jolts for the eye and the tongue. Its draw is so strong that there’s even an Official Tom Swan Appreciation Society on Facebook.

I notice my mum scanning the warping shelves, looking for her jars, measuring how full they are and assessing what Tom’s going to need. She liked the jars better when they were glass, she says; the plastic ones don’t look as nice when the light hits them. I can’t see what she means because there is no natural light in Tom’s shop – jam-packed with sparkly wrappers, luminous colours and shouty lettering, the place seems to heave under the weight of all that sugar.

At first Tom, 75, acts the curmudgeon, looking at me with disdain: “So, you’re the wonderful daughter? I’m fed up listening to her going on about you.” But soon he and my mum slip into an ease that comes with meeting every six weeks for nigh on 40 years. She just laughs when he says: “I used to look forward to seeing her when she was younger. She was dressed to kill then.”

I ask Tom what makes my mum so good at her job. “She’s no a good saleswoman, it’s just the stuff that’s good,” he chimes. “If it’s good stuff a monkey could sell it.” Tom tells me that there used to be many more travelling sales people on the road, but my mum was only one of about three “wummin” reps. She nods: “You used to have to stand outside if there was somebody in because there was that many travellers. And that was every shop that you’d go into. There was no cash-and-carries then.”

A woman comes in with her grandchildren, here to buy sweets to take to her brother in Florida. Tom shoogles a jar to loosen the boilings, then comes a waterfall hitting the metal pan of the scales, first in one big crash, then softer as he gently tries to get the right weight. Bagging up some Rhubarb and Custards, Tom explains that men buy the gums, Sports Mixtures, Midget Gems. Women, he says, like fancy chocolates, chocolate creams, mint creams, Italian creams. “The generation under 18 – they’re not used to the hard stuff, the boilings. Young yins look at boiled sweets as if it’s poison if I let them try one. But old people love boilings – it’s helpful for their memories. They don’t mind of their husband, but they mind of the sweets.”

A customer comes in and knows what he wants: “Gie us a Mars Bar and an Aero furra dug.” Tom says he only has the pound Aeros. “That’ll dae,” says the man, unwrapping the bubbly chocolate for the animal tied to the lamppost outside.

I tell Tom our family had a strange relationship with the sweeties. They filled our house and our garage, the back seat and boot of the car and they acted as a kind of sticky Pied Piper, bringing children to loiter round our gateposts, hoping to score some of the samples of new lines or gone-soft toffees that were being sent back to the factory to be disposed off. But we – my dad and I – weren’t allowed to eat them. I remember the warnings: “You’ll get fat, you’ll rot your teeth,” which seemed ironic coming from the woman who made a living selling the bringer of such ruin. Resisting the temptation of the sweeties was my mum’s cardinal rule. “I don’t have a sweet tooth,” she says. “I never have done.”

Buchanan’s was a family business that began when a boy took 7lb jars of his mother’s home-made jam and sold them from a handcart around the Loch Lomondside village of Drymen. Soon the family bought a shop in Glasgow’s Argyle Street but, as Scotland’s addiction to sugar grew, they moved into sweet-making in 1856, producing their concoctions in a five-storey factory in the city centre. They were on to a winner: Scotland now consumes about 8oz of sweeties per week per head of population – the second-highest consumption in the world, beaten only by Northern Ireland. Here, there’s a preference for boilings over chocolate as you get more for your money.

These days Buchanan’s is part of the Golden Casket group, another family business, which operates out of Greenock, a port town on the Clyde coast once known as Sugaropolis because of the number of refineries that took the cane from ships coming from the Caribbean. Tate & Lyle, Walker’s and the other refineries have all gone now. The red sandstone Golden Casket factory is at Fort Matilda, the site of a former torpedo plant, and the very first time I heard its name it took on a mythical status for me. Like Charlie Bucket, I wished to visit the place where they made the world taste good. It took me more than three decades, but my mum’s imminent retirement brought me my golden ticket.

Driving down the M8 towards Greenock, my mum makes an odd confession: she’s never actually been on the factory floor. As we pull into the car park, the air around Fort Matilda smells of sugar, mint and lemons – it changes by the hour, depending on what’s being made inside. Mum is too nervous to notice: her legs are shaking. She’s carrying a box with six bottles of wine for the girls in the office but falls over as she makes for the entrance. She picks herself and the wine up as if nothing has happened. In the boardroom, The Boss, the fearsome Douglas Rae, is waiting for us and my mum is worried: “He’s a stickler for timekeeping.” The Boss is 80 years old, a whippet of a man who still goes out on the road selling, runs the company and holds down the chairmanship of Greenock Morton football club. He can’t believe my mum is walking away from his sweetie empire, so much so he has asked her to stay on for another five years.

“She’s good at the job and she’s too young to leave – that’s what I believe. Nowadays people can last for years. If people have lost their enthusiasm then I am glad to see them go,” he points to my mum’s face as he says this. “Look how it has kept her beautiful, it’s the rain that keeps you beautiful.” At the annual dinner dance, Mr Rae would present my mum with the salesperson of the year award almost every year. But what made her so good at this business? He thinks for a few seconds and says: “She’s a very strong character and she likes to have her own way. She’s a bit of a bully, she bullied all her customers – they were all afraid of her. They couldn’t say no. That’s a quality I admire.”

In the factory, the sweetness and noise is overwhelming; cream-coloured machines thump and judder and conveyor belts carry candy-striped jewels. Men in overalls, aprons, gloves, hats and wellies work between tables of fudge, toffee and tablet. In the boiling section, a batch of striped mint humbugs is being prepared. A man with giant scissors is cutting into a tray of molten sugar. There are 25kg bags of sugar lying all around and behind us two enormous copper boiling vessels are being filled with butter, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, glucose and “secret ingredients”.

“All the pans we have are open vessels because we believe traditional methods are by far the best,” says Crawford Rae, the production director, and son of Douglas. “The real secret is the methodology. That’s why big Gus is turning his back there so you won’t see what he’s trying to do. It’s all intellectual property, the staff are life members of a secret society and there are serious repercussions if they break that code.” As he stirs the toffee, Gus is laughing.

Some of the equipment dates back to the 1920s, but the hand-dropping method is no longer used for the toffees: times change and new contraptions take over. Last year a machine arrived from Italy and since then it has wrapped 61,489,606 sweets. I wonder how long it will be before hand-held computers make the travelling salesperson obsolete. The Boss looks aghast: “It’s not all the people that can download things on the computer. Unless you’re going to teach people things on the computer, the written word, I still believe, is the best.”

From Fort Matilda, we drive to the posh dormitory suburb of Giffnock to meet Willie Wark who, like his father and grandfather, worked for Buchanan’s all his life. Willie, who retired 16 years ago, says: “Long before the days of cars my grandfather would go to, say, Ayr railway station and there would be a traveller for sweets, somebody who sold cigarettes and somebody for biscuits and they hired a gig together and went trotting off round the wee villages in Ayrshire. And they used to stop outside a shop and they would toss up to see who went in first. They would stay away for a week, and they weren’t any further away from here than 20 miles. I bet it was faster with a horse and cart than it is these days.”

We head down towards the Brooklyn Café, which sits at a busy crossroads on Glasgow’s south side. Now, it is one of only 20 Italian cafés called on by my mother, when once she visited more than 80. This year, David Pelosi is celebrating the 80th anniversary of his family’s business and he shows me a picture of his Italian grandfather – a former organ grinder – standing proudly outside a window full of chocolate boxes and jars of sweets. “We had more sweets then,” he says. “Our stocks have diminished now as people buy from petrol stations and supermarkets. But jars are part of our history.”

Saying goodbye to my mum, David tells me he’ll miss her. “I take it a new rep will come in and we’ll build up a relationship with them. But it might go the way other companies have gone where the rep has less and less importance and we do more of it over the phone.”

Across the west side of the city, in Knightswood, Sunil Sood and his wife Fiona are waiting in their post office with a bottle of wine. Christine first called on Sunil’s father 25 years ago, moving on to each of his four sons as they opened up their own businesses. “From Hyndland to Crow Road, from Crow Road to Thornwood and from Thornwood to here, she’s been stalking me since 1986,” jokes Sunil, as he takes a pen and fills out the order form for 720 packets of boilings himself. I ask why he doesn’t just email it in. He looks astonished. “Because I need somebody to talk to, to have my cup of tea with and my biscuit.” As we walk out, Sunil shouts after my mum: “That’s you a senior citizen. Do you want a wee bus pass? I can process it right now for you.”

I think back to the factory and my mum staring in wonderment as the sweets popped off the conveyor belt at high speed and into the cooler. She didn’t look like a pensioner then. Her eyes were bright and wide, just like the kids in Tom Swan’s. I caught her reaching out and taking a sweetie from a conveyor belt, popping it in her mouth and chewing. She had broken her cardinal rule. “The toffees just looked too tempting not to take,” she said. She had such a naughty look on her face.

A Life in Sweeties will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on 28 December at 2pm © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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American horror theatre: ‘A hand slams into my neck and wrenches me through the darkness’

December 4, 2011

Blackout actress and poltergeist you want to be scared…for many it’s an adrenalin rush to be frighten…now you can pay for it..the details to this new amusement are covered in the article below…to be part of “Blackout” you will need to take a trip to New York City…hell just going to New York City is scary enough for me!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “American horror theatre: ‘A hand slams into my neck and wrenches me through the darkness'” was written by Hermione Hoby, for The Observer on Sunday 4th December 2011 00.05 UTC

My wrists are tied, I’m in total darkness and a man very close to my face is shouting: “Get on your knees, bitch!”

I do what he says. It’s when he puts a cold, wet hood over my head, tips my head back and pours water into my face that I start hyperventilating. The cloth clings to my mouth and nose and panic sends my heart hammering and my lungs heaving.

“Scream, bitch!” roars the voice. “Scream louder! You’re not fucking getting out of here until you scream as loud as I want!”

This, I will tell my friends, is how I spent my Monday night: on my knees, being waterboarded and having paid $60 for the displeasure.

This is Blackout, a sold-out attraction deemed the most terrifying of the United States’s estimated 3,000 Haunted Houses, which make up an industry thought to be worth an extraordinary $500m.

This year, for example, New Yorkers could opt for the shlocky – such as Blood Manor with its 37 gallons of fake blood per night; or the artsy, including the Steampunk Haunted House in the hipster-heavy Lower East Side; or, indeed, just the confoundingly expensive: Nightmare, which bills itself as “America’s #1 Haunted House” and is now in its seventh year, offering “Super VIP” tickets for an alarming $100. Clearly, the opportunity to feel terror without danger is irresistible for a lot of Americans willing to part with a lot of cash.

The hottest ticket though, thanks to its infamy, is Blackout, which the New York Times deemed “the extreme theatre event of the year”. But “theatre” seems too genteel a word and Haunted House – with its suggestions of shonky pop-up ghouls – a misleading term for an experience that’s more Abu Ghraib than Scooby Doo. Adult-only visitors must navigate the space alone and in complete darkness, being terrorised and abused in a series of psycho-sexual horror scenarios. Unlike Abu Ghraib, there’s a safety word to shout if things get too much and its organisers boast that around 20% of visitors use it each night. So why would someone pay around £50 to experience something so extraordinarily unpleasant?

“Audiences want to know if they can make it all the way through without calling ‘Safety’,” says Josh Randall, the show’s co-creator. “The fear they experience in that time gives them a rush and makes them feel more alive.”

There have been similar ventures in Britain before, such as Punchdrunk’s 2009 show It Felt Like a Kiss, in which audiences were chased by a masked, chainsaw-wielding actor, but it’s in the Halloween-mad States that the phenomenon of the Haunted House has really taken hold. Like any good subculture, it has its mass conventions – Pennsylvania’s HauntCon, Ohio’s Midwest Haunters Convention – its endless websites and chat-forums and, of course, its droves of horror-happy nerds.

Adam Irlander, 24, is one such nerd. At 6pm on a Monday evening I find a line of men in their 30s, mostly dressed in dark shades of fleece, queuing outside the blacked-out storefront in midtown Manhattan. Adam is at the front of the queue, wearing a T-shirt that bears a phallic, plastic monster erupting from the chest. It wobbles a little when he talks.

“I’m a fanatic,” he says. “I go to three or four houses a night.”

A night? I screech.

“A night,” he confirms flatly. “I drive for up to three or four hours to go to a haunted house. I’ve been to New York, Delaware, Connecticut…”

This is his second visit to the Blackout Haunted House which, he says, “just doesn’t compare. It’s one of the best”.

I’m scared, I say.

“You should be,” he chuckles. His neighbour in the queue trumps him by revealing this is his third visit. Adam and the third-visit-nerd fold their arms with the hard-boiled air of true connoisseurs and begin to trade assessments: “You done Times Scare? The Penitentiary?”

I’m too frightened to listen to a nerd-off. Desperate for a shred of reassurance, I interrupt them and say I’m not keen on the idea of strangers shoving me around. Adam laughs. “Well,” he says, walking his fingers through the air, “you better turn right round and walk out of here!”

But I don’t. Inside, two young guys are seated at a desk in front of a huge black curtain. They’re dispatching waiver forms, a document which reminds me that I am signing up for the following: “Graphic scenes of simulated extreme horror, adult sexual content, tight spaces, darkness, fog, strobe-light effects, exposure to water, physical contact, and crawling.”

Every so often we hear a bellowed, “Get the fuck out of my house!” and a victim is spat out of a tunnel, shaking, panting and bewildered. Some laugh nervously. Most just look plain traumatised. Eventually, Adam and I witness the third-visit-nerd being expelled.

“Dude!” he says, breathless and eyes shining as he shakes his head. “I nearly couldn’t hang in there! I nearly bailed!”

And then Adam is beckoned behind the black curtain. He gives me a little wave: “I would wait around for ya, but I got other haunted houses to get to tonight!”

I have never before wanted to cling to a man with a plastic monster protruding from his chest, but at this moment Adam is the only thing between me and whatever lies behind that black curtain. He ducks behind it and I lose the feeling in my legs.

By the time I step inside I’m ready to throw up. I decide to consider every moment that I don’t wail “Safety!” a triumph. A torch is shone into my face and a voice snarls: “DON’T. FUCKING. MOVE.”

And then the light goes. The darkness seems to get thicker. I stand in complete silence. Am I meant to do something? I can feel presences moving around me, but I could be imagining them. Something feathery inserts itself with sickening slowness into my left ear. Then a huge hand slams into the side of my neck and wrenches me, half-running, half-stumbling, through the darkness. Over the next 25 minutes I lose count of how many walls I am slammed up against, how many bodies press against me and how many mouths pant or suck or roar abuse at my ears. The water-boarding element is terrifying, but so too is crawling through small tunnels with unseen fingers grabbing at your ankles, or waiting alone in the darkness for more rough hands to seize you.

And then there are the plain ridiculous parts. In a Germaine Greer-esque flourish, a lady in a nightie pulls me into her padded cell and orders me to remove and suck her tampon. The gross-out section continues with a naked man in a toilet vile enough to make the one in Trainspotting look like a Glade PlugIn ad. He slams the cubicle door in my face and from behind it come extravagant sounds of bodily expulsion. Then he pulls me inside and demands that I fish a key out of the full toilet bowl.

“Do it!” he screams. I roll up my sleeve with an involuntary whimper. It’s a very convincing texture. I gag a little bit.

“Say, ‘I love it!'” he shrieks as he presses his paunchy nakedness against my leg. I oblige. “Say it’s the best sex you’ve ever had!”

I mutter obediently. Then he shoves me out of his toilet lair screeching, “That wasn’t sex, that was fishing a key out of shit, you sick fuck!”

Finally, I’m being grabbed from behind and someone is running me down a black tunnel, shouting those blessed words: “Get the fuck out of my house!”

My throat hurts from screaming, my vision’s scrambled from all the torch glare, I’m weak and shaking and aching, but I’m ridiculously proud I made it through and coursing with relief and elation to be back in the normal, well-lit, world of mid-town Manhattan.

The next day I experience something even stranger than all the depraved weirdness of those 25 minutes. It’s the creeping realisation that I really, really want to go back and do it all over again. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Now life is beginning again at age 60? Well I guess so….with the divorce rates that have been rising for many years now…people are finding themselves alone. Perhaps its a good thing…rediscover who you really are…try looking on the brighter side of life…you get to start all over again without making the same mistakes the second time around..!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Life begins at 60 for the newly divorced” was written by Yvonne Roberts, for The Observer on Sunday 20th November 2011 00.08 UTC

So divorce has zoomed forcefully into the Zimmer zone now that the only reported rise in the divorce rate – in the most recent, just-published, figures – is in the 60-plus age range. Leave aside the possibility that this is also the group that was most likely to have succumbed to marriage en masse and suddenly the dynamics of family life could begin to take on more subplots than the average soap opera.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but presumably not when your newly “silver separated”, freshly retired, Pilates-proofed and therefore very fit mother is pursuing the same pool of men as you. And Mother may have the added advantage that she comes with no strings attached, since she’s done babies and orange blossom, has no interest in IVF and no longer seeks a househusband to sort out the domestic engineering while she builds her fledgling career.

Of course, men have long shed housewife number one for a younger uber-model. Now, it seems, women too, better prepared by a lifetime of earning their own money and making their own way in the world of work, are happy to take the step from “I do” to “I definitely don’t any more”. While only 5% of divorces are among the over-60s, the rate of disengagement is growing fast.

Of course, for some divorcees, male and female, loneliness and families fractured beyond repair may ensue. But, ironically, if the marriage has had more of the better moments than the bad, if commitment helped to weather the relationship once romance waned a tad, then that’s exactly the kind of apprenticeship that may help to make the most of whatever life serves up next.

So, many of the more affluent ex-wives, rejuvenated by the liberation of divorce (marginally cheaper than Botox and the average pot of anti-ageing cream) will now rapidly shift those experiential years of retirement from boating in Borneo with the old man and driving the people carrier à deux into diverse rivers in South America.

Instead, they can now wander around the wilder shores of internet dating (so long, that is, that they lie about their age: the rules of this market place are going to have to change) or, revolutionary thought this, they set out to enjoy unbounded adventures totally seule.

A whole new scenario for the family Christmas now begins to open up. Start-over-dad (affectionately known by his grown-up offspring as SOD) is nursing his nine-month-old daughter and contemplating what lies under the tree for a 70-year-old man like himself who has everything, including two marriage certificates and a new wife. Mother, meanwhile, is too busy showing the grandchildren the latest pics of her kayaking classes in the Rocky Mountains to bother about her once traditional place as resident housekeeper.

Meanwhile, her sons and daughters argue with their spouses in the kitchen over Delia or Jamie’s way to cook the turkey while mentally calculating just how much of the family heritage has been spent by Her-No-Longer-Indoors and the old SOD’s new thirtysomething spouse who much prefers Moët to prosecco.

“Selfish, moi?” Mother and Father, amicably divorced, might say. Too damn right – and why not after 30 or 40 years toiling at the matrimonial rock face? It’s never too late to put the fun into the ex-factor. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard – review

November 18, 2011


Perhaps IT technology can never replace the power of our minds …but one day it can come very close. I believe  there is a fear that IT technology will take away much of what is accomplished by us and could further obselete more people from current responsiblities. I am an optimist, and whatever advances we make in any field, one thing is constant…the human brain will always be required to control and maintain all technology…now and into the future. How widw is your brain?

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony   

Powered by article titled “The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard – review” was written by Simon Ings, for The Observer on Thursday 17th November 2011 11.00 UTC

In 1610 Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei published Starry Messenger, a book of telescopic observations of the night sky, and opened the heavens to busy and ambitious imaginations. Johannes Kepler imagined a manned voyage to the moon in The Dream (1634). Galileo gave us much to look forward to. But the world never turns out to be what we expected.

Award-winning feature writer Bryan Appleyard reckons today’s neuroscientists are like Galileo. The images they pull from their fMRI scanners, tracing blood-flow in the living brain, are the equivalent of Galileo’s drawings of moon mountains. They are magnificent achievements – but they are the beginning of the story, not its end.

The Brain is Wider Than the Sky is not about the sciences of the mind. It’s about how ideas from those sciences are playing out in the culture at large. Appleyard is scientifically literate, rigorous and intelligent. He is also very good at tracing that perilously faint line where the science of consciousness leaves off and the moonshine begins. Not all moonshine is bad for us. Kepler’s Dream was and is a delight. But a culture cannot live on moonshine alone, and Appleyard reckons we’re consuming more of it than is good for us.

The human brain is the most complex object we know. To describe it, thinkers and writers quite understandably reach for the most complicated thing they can imagine. Four centuries ago the brain was considered a particularly fiendish plumbing problem; later it turned into a steam engine; then a telegraph office. Now it’s “like the internet”. The brain is no more a computer network than it is a heating system. Proper neuroscientists know this. The baseless assumption that the brain is some sort of meat computer has combined oddly with the IT revolution, giving many otherwise rational people the idea that our computers will someday soon acquire consciousness. If mere computational power were enough, of course, then any complex system would be conscious. The weather would be conscious. The oceans would think as they turned.

A new and powerful religion holds sway: a belief in the wisdom of the digital collective. To be saved, we must plug in. Plugging in leads, inevitably, to disenchantment. As humourist Alice Kahn has it: “For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.” Call trees are the least of it. Appleyard gives a voice to the victims, from the tearful teenager drowning in the flood of his own social media, to Cheryl Cole, whose every action is so thoroughly mediated and syndicated, she spends her life patiently explaining to journalists that she is actually a human being.

Appleyard’s central point is that, in our desire to think great things about our IT “cloud”, we’re deliberately oversimplifying ourselves. We’re hammering ourselves into ridiculously reductive boxes. In our desire to be part of something greater, we’re making ourselves small.

Appleyard is not alone, but, philosophically, this book is not quite on the same level as last year’s You Are Not a Gadget, a work of staggering apostasy by one of cyberspace’s founding fathers, Jaron Lanier. A couple of things make Appleyard’s work a valuable companion to the debate, rather than a latecomer to the party. First, his breadth of reference. He’s interviewed actors in his time, and celebrities, as well as geeks and gurus and scientists, and he treats all his subjects with a critical sympathy that looks easy but takes a career to acquire.

Second, he manages to distinguish between the work of individual scientists and the broader philosophical questions science raises. An early highlight is a vivid, concise, down-to-earth description of the workings of an fMRI scanner – a machine that can create maps of the functioning brain. Not many pages later, Appleyard turns philosopher, and offers an excellent explanation of what reductionism is, and why a science that simply anatomises phenomena into smaller and smaller parts misses a vast portion of scientifically explorable reality.

Poor thinking around digital technology is certainly damaging what is human in us, but not completely, and not for ever. Appleyard has a refreshing belief in a culture’s ability to laugh off its absurdities, eventually. He reminds us of one of the finer jokes in US sitcom Friends. Chandler shows off his new laptop, crowing about its staggering speed, immense processing power and gigantic memory. When asked what he’s going to do with it, he sheepishly admits that he might play a few games.

If only we were less gullible, this excellent joke would have lost its currency years ago, and this book need not have been written. As it is, Appleyard’s meditation is essential reading. We’re all Chandler now. And the joke – that a holy Father-figure may be lurking somewhere in the iCloud – is wearing very thin indeed.

Simon Ings’s new novel is Dead Water (Corvus) © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Robert Pattinson interview: Reality bites

November 6, 2011

robert pattinson and kirsten stewart

Many of my students enjoy watching “Twilight”…they know all the names of the characters and the plot of the drama series…when I was in middle school…I would rush home to watch “Dark Shadows” every afternoon with my mom. Television today is not shy about showing more skin or violence…nor is the audience complainting.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Robert Pattinson interview: Reality bites” was written by Sanjiv Bhattacharya, for The Observer on Sunday 6th November 2011 00.04 UTC

When asked about the pressures of fame, Emma Watson (Hermione in the Harry Potter series) said she was thankful she wasn’t Robert Pattinson. “I can’t even imagine what that kind of fame must be like,” she said. “So many people must wish they were in his position and think he has the best life, but actually there are prices you pay. Don’t interpret that from my perspective. It’s not so bad for me. I’m not in Rob’s position: I don’t have people screaming and crying and clawing at me. I’m so grateful for that.”

It says something when the star of Harry Potter thinks that you’re the one who’s too famous. But Pattinson – aka R Patz – seems to have taken it in his stride. He greets the screaming hordes with humour and charm and a willingness to pose for pictures. There have been no drugs or fights with paparazzi. Even the romance he struck up with Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart two years ago has survived breathless coverage in the gossip magazines, a testament to the 25-year-old’s sangfroid.

So today ought to be a breeze. He’s at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the fourth instalment of the Twilight franchise that has been his life for the past four years. When he shows up, however, he’s a mess. His famous hair is ungroomed and his T-shirt has a gaping hole all down one side. It’s not even a fashionable tear – the stitching has just gone. He looks as though he’s just been mobbed by a gang of rabid Twihards.

Happily, Pattinson doesn’t seem to care. In the twilight years of the Twilight juggernaut, his thoughts have turned to what life might be like afterwards. “It’s like being compared to people who’ve been in massive movies who just sort of disappear afterwards, even though they probably had incredibly fulfilling and successful lives,” he says, nibbling on a fingernail. “Like Luke Skywalker.” He scratches his head. “What the fuck’s his name?”

Mark Hamill.

“Yes! People are like: ‘Oh, the Mark Hamill curse.’ And poor Mark Hamill. Jesus Christ.” He tilts back in the chair and laughs, apparently oblivious to the state of his T-shirt. “I mean, I’m sure he did fine.”

It’s easy to forget that this charming shambles of a man commands at least $12m a movie. The cheekbones are a clue, but his eyes seem further apart than you expect – it’s a model’s face, more attractive in 2D. And Pattinson doesn’t have any swagger or strut about him. As tall as he is, he doesn’t impose. His body language is loose, approachable, self-effacing. He’s not at the summit admiring the view so much as peering down and hoping he doesn’t fall off. “I think of impending doom all the time,” he says with a shrug.

This apocalyptic fear stems from the way his career started. One minute he was a complete unknown. And then, out of a clear blue sky, Twilight happened, and he turned into Elvis. Girls on every continent went bananas, as did their mothers. In 2010 Time magazine declared Pattinson one of the World’s Most Influential People. And now the end is nigh.

Breaking Dawn is the last book of the series, but Summit Entertainment, determined to milk the fans down to their last shrieking dollar, has pulled the Harry Potter trick and split it into two parts (the second instalment comes out next year). How they manage to get two movies out of the final book will be interesting to see. The plot of Breaking Dawn, in which the vampire-human romance between Edward [Pattinson] and Bella [Stewart] finally reaches the marriage altar, doesn’t offer quite the all-out action climax of, say, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“In career terms Twilight was like a security blanket,” Pattinson continues. Then he furrows his brow for a moment and corrects himself. “Not a blanket – a safety net. I had a three- or four-month window between each one during which I could do another job. But whatever I did I knew that I’d have another Twilight movie on the way, which is theoretically guaranteed to make a lot of money. So I could always afford to fail.”

Now the net is gone. The stakes have been raised. He once described choosing roles as “crippling”.

“After the last one comes out, you can kind of have two failures – and they’d better be low-budget failures. Because if you have one big-budget failure you’re pretty much done in this environment.”

It’s an odd thing to say, given the circumstances. After all, he’s the second-richest actor in Britain behind Daniel Radcliffe, with a fortune of some £32m. He’s an international sex symbol who need never work again, yet he’s leading the charge of a young Hollywood Brit pack that includes Andrew Garfield, Tom Sturridge, Henry Cavill and Alex Pettyfer. If there’s anyone who should not be nervous about the future, it’s Robert Pattinson. And yet he is.

“It’s different for Kristen, for example,” he continues, warming to his theme. “She doesn’t think about it like that at all, because she grew up gradually, doing independent movies and stepping up the ladder, whereas I was doing progressively smaller movies in England, after Harry Potter… to the point where I was doing nine-day shoots for, like, 20p and a packet of Space Invaders. And then this happened. So I’m not just another actor who’s around and jobbing. When you hire me for a job, you’re hiring…”

Twilight guy?

“Yeah. I’m now this ‘thing’ that’s supposed to be something. And if you then don’t fulfil that expectation, what the fuck are you?”

It’s a fair QUESTION. In some respects, he’s just a nice middle-class boy from a vaguely bohemian household in Barnes, west London. His father imported vintage cars from America and his mother was a booker at a model agency. He had two older sisters, who would dress him up as a doll and call him Claudia (Pattinson has always been subject to the madness of young girls). He started modelling at the age of 12, putting those cheekbones to use – shortly after he was expelled from school for being a bit of a truant. But Pattinson never thought of acting back then. His passion was music, and still is. Those scenes in Twilight where he’s playing the piano? They’re actually Pattinson’s hands.

Then his father persuaded him to join the local amateur dramatic society. A casting agent happened to see him in a production of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and before long he was screen testing as Reese Witherspoon’s son in Vanity Fair (the scenes never made it into the movie). Pattinson, however, wanted to finish school and go to university to do a degree in international relations – he’d toyed with the idea of becoming a political speechwriter – until he landed the part of Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which came out in 2005.

It was a huge break in a global movie franchise, but even though he shone in the role, it didn’t pave the way for better things: the parts he was offered afterwards were smaller; his career went into reverse. There were a few minor indies and made-for-TV features – a shell-shocked war pilot in The Haunted Airman and a depressed musician in How To Be, not to mention an abysmal Catherine Tate vehicle, The Bad Mother’s Handbook, in which the future Sexiest Man in the Cosmos tried to pass himself off as a nerd in bottle glasses and tank tops.

By now Pattinson was living with a friend in Soho, and a career in music had started to seem more likely. He had a rock band called Bad Girls, then started playing solo acoustic guitar gigs under the stage name Bobby Dupea. When he did fly out to LA, to give Hollywood a shot, he spent his days playing music in bars or going to the movies; his agent, Stephanie Ritz, let him sleep on her couch. He felt bad that Ritz had represented him for three years but he’d never nailed an audition. Then the part of Edward Cullen came up. Director Catherine Hardwicke was having a hard time filling the role. She’d tried Orlando Bloom and Hayden Christiansen. She liked Henry Cavill for the role, but he looked too old. She’d auditioned 5,000 boys for the part before Pattinson.

“The audition was at Catherine’s house in Venice,” he recalls of the moment that was to change his life, and his lifestyle, forever – which involved messing about on Catherine’s bed with Kristen, to see if they had any chemistry. “It was me, her and Kristen, and her assistant videotaping it. I was the last one of the day and I was in there for four hours, which was longer than anyone else before me. So I kind of knew. I was like: ‘Hmmm, something’s happened.’

“And it was the first time I’d ever sent an email afterwards, as well. Like: ‘I had a really great experience in the audition.’ You know, kissing the director’s arse. I always thought that was, like, the cheesiest, most pathetic thing to do. But it worked!”

Apparently he had the X-factor Hardwicke was looking for: as far as Pattinson was concerned, that X stood for Xanax. “I’d never had a Xanax before,” he says, looking guilty for a moment. “But I’d started getting so paranoid about messing up auditions all the time that I would actually mess them up. So I took like half a Xanax. And it went really well, so when I had to go and meet the producers I thought: I’m just going to take another Xanax!” He laughs and rocks his chair. “And then I went in and almost fell asleep.”

The producers were not impressed. They thought Pattinson looked scruffy and too old for the part. But Hardwicke pleaded and got him another meeting – this time minus the pharmaceuticals.

“I shaved, like, 50 times before I showed up,” says Pattinson. “I made myself look all neat and tidy, wearing a white crew-neck T-shirt. It was almost not to be. Not a single person wanted me at that thing, only Catherine and Kristen.”

He’s said that he expected Twilight to be a “really serious” indie film – “I had no idea it was going to be this big thing you’d get on Burger King hats” – and as well as mass acclaim, it has, of course, had its critics. (A quote attributed to Stephen King says it best: “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a  boyfriend.”) But you suspect that Pattinson recognised the limits of Twilight long ago. The director of Breaking Dawn, Bill Condon, describes him as supersmart: “That’s the first thing you notice. He’s very thoughtful and analytical. And he’s a cineaste, you know? He loves a lot of genres and actors, so he seems like someone who can’t wait to go explore.”

His choice of roles in the past year bears this out. In May he starred in the Depression-era romance Water for Elephants, as a dashing vet who joins a circus after his parents die. Next year he’ll appear in an adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami, which will involve him being a thoroughly bad egg and sleeping with Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman and Kristin Scott Thomas. And then there’s David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the Don Delillo novel Cosmopolis, a Joycean story about a cheating Manhattan billionaire who loses his fortune in a single day. He has described the script as “insane and difficult”; the cast includes Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti and Juliette Binoche. It’s the big league, by any standard. More the choice of an actor seeking a challenge than a pretty boy looking for safe harbour.

“I think he’s made really smart choices,” says Twilight producer Wyck Godfrey. “He has a deep desire to earn the status he has, and those films both have hardcore directors and quality material. I think it speaks more to who Rob is than the Twilight series, because he comes from a literary background. He shows up to set reading Molière.”

Godfrey has also seen Pattinson’s “crafty and determined” side. During one typically crazed week he had to shoot two days on Water for Elephants prior to the Golden Globes and then return to shooting Twilight. The trouble was, his hair needed to be a lot shorter for Water for Elephants. “I said, you’re going to need a hairpiece [for the 1930s film],” says Godfrey. “You can’t come back with completely different hair. And both he and his agent said: ‘OK, I get it.’ But then he had it cut short anyway. And when he saw me, he said: ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know what happened!’ It was pretty infuriating, but it tells you about the kind of dedication he brings to the movies he works on.”

He inspires affection and admiration among co-stars, who marvel at the way he has handled his sudden superstardom. “He comes to set with no expectations or attitude,” Ricci said after shooting Bel Ami, “none of those things you worry someone of his level of fame is going to have.” Michael Sheen, who stars with him in the Twilight movies, has offered the avuncular verdict that he “seems to have a good head on his shoulders”.

Pattinson has always said he admires Leonardo DiCaprio’s career – he’s even asked DiCaprio for advice on career longevity. At the Four Seasons, his eyes remain fixed on that horizon. “If I do decide one day to stop acting, I just hate the idea of people going: ‘Oh, did you ever do anything else besides that Twilight thing?'”

Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is released on 18 November © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Big Bang Theory fuels physics boom

November 6, 2011

Big Bang Theory

People are now considering taking up physics as a subject in universities…perhaps the Bg Bang Theory show is motivating students or maybe physics is now  “cool” to do…whatever the reason, its refreshing to know that a comedy show is having a positive impact on education!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Big Bang Theory fuels physics boom” was written by Mark Townsend, for The Observer on Sunday 6th November 2011 00.08 UTC

A cult US sitcom has emerged as the latest factor behind a remarkable resurgence of physics among A-level and university students.

The Big Bang Theory, a California-based comedy that follows two young physicists, is being credited with consolidating the growing appetite among teenagers for the once unfashionable subject of physics. Documentaries by Brian Cox have previously been mentioned as galvanising interest in the subject.

One pupil, Tom Whitmore, 15, from Brighton, acknowledged that Big Bang Theory had contributed to his decision, with a number of classmates, to consider physics at A-level, and in causing the subject to be regarded as “cool”. “The Big Bang Theory is a great show and it’s definitely made physics more popular. And disputes between classmates now have a new way of being settled: with a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock,” he said.

Experts at the Institute of Physics (IoP) also believe the series is playing a role in increasing the number of physics students. Its spokesman, Joe Winters, said: “The rise in popularity of physics appears to be due to a range of factors, including Brian’s public success, the might of the Large Hadron Collider and, we’re sure, the popularity of shows like The Big Bang Theory.”

Alex Cheung, editor of, said: “There’s no doubt that TV has also played a role. The Big Bang Theory seems to have had a positive effect and the viewing figures for Brian Cox’s series suggest that millions of people in the UK are happy to welcome a physics professor, with a tutorial plan in hand, into their sitting room on a Sunday evening.”

According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), there was a 10% increase in the number of students accepted to read physics by the university admissons services between 2008-09, when The Big Bang Theory was first broadcast in the UK, and 2010-11. Numbers currently stand at 3,672. Applications for physics courses at university are also up more than 17% on last year. Philip Walker, an HEFCE spokesman, said the recent spate of popular televisions services had been influential but was hard to quantify.

The number studying A-level physics has been on the rise for five years, up 20% in that time to around 32,860. Physics is among the top 10 most popular A-level topics for the first time since 2002 – and the government’s target of 35,000 students entering physics A-level by 2014 seems likely to be hit ahead of schedule. It is a far cry from 2005 when physics was officially classified as a “vulnerable” subject.

The number of those entered for AS level has also increased, by 27.8% compared with 2009, up from 41,955 to 58,190. The number of girls studying physics AS-level has risen a quarter to 13,540 and of boys by 28.6% to 44,650.

A Twitter debate on whether Big Bang Theory had played a role in encouraging more potential physicists provoked mixed reactions. PhD student Tim Green wrote: “I’d say it’s more to do with economics and good science docs than sitcoms with only the vaguest relation to physics.” Markela Zeneli said: “I think the show is hilarious, and it may make physicists seem nerdy and geeky, but what’s so bad about that? ”

Winters identified another more prosaic reason for the rising popularity of physics. He said: “TV shows and news coverage of exciting research both have the power to inspire their audiences but we firmly believe, and all the evidence suggests, that only good physics teaching has the power to convert student’s latent interest into action.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Good year for spiders sparks a surge of arachnophobia

September 19, 2011

Tegenaria gigantea common house spider

Spiders are usually the least loved of the when you fear spiders, think of the word arachnophobia ..but they serve an important link in the chain of life…most important they help keep the insect population at bay…without them ..we would have a bigger problem of controlling those pesky mosquitos…so think twice before passing that duster along corner walls!

Pass it on

Dr Anthony

This article titled “Good year for spiders sparks a surge of arachnophobia” was written by Tracy McVeigh, for The Observer on Saturday 17th September 2011 23.04 UTC

Spiders are a less than welcome seasonal sight for many. But, along with apples, conkers and reddening leaves, autumn brings out Britain’s arachnids in huge numbers.

The bad news, for those who don’t like them, is that this year there are more than ever. A warm spring followed by a wet summer means the eight-legged blighters are everywhere, spinning webs in the garden, getting stuck in the bath and tottering across bedroom ceilings.

That’s just the male spiders, which can be seen running around as colder temperatures send them indoors to seek shelter. The females are inside already but stay fairly still and generally out of sight on skirting boards, so the bad news for arachnophobics is that there are even more of them around than it first appears.

“What’s happened is that the warm spring brought an influx of pollen, so that encourages an influx of insects and crane flies and all the rest of the feeding chain. So it’s more food for spiders and more of the babies from last year survive,” said Angela Hale, a spider expert at Drusillas Animal Park in Alfriston, East Sussex. Along with zoos in Bristol and London, Drusillas is being inundated with calls about its courses on tackling spider phobias, and reports of strange spiders in gardens and homes.

“People suddenly start seeing big spiders everywhere and think they have some exotic breed on their hands. But the reality is that at this time of year they are mating and are pregnant. So you are seeing the males scuttling around looking for the females and then you have the females with great bulbous bodies full of eggs. But they are not a strange foreign spider, they are just pregnant and that makes their bodies not only swollen but also clumsy, so they tend to be again more visible.”

Hale, who is secretary of the British Tarantula Society and keeps between 150 and 200 pet spiders, says they are essential to the ecosystem. “If we didn’t have spiders we’d be inundated with all the flies and others things they eat for us. And then there are the birds, like the wren, which feed on spiders. This year’s abundance of spiders will all work out in the end.”

Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias in the UK, but also the most irrational as no native British spider is capable of causing serious harm. While all spiders carry poison, most British species have jaws too weak to pierce human skin and those that are able to bite do so rarely and usually painlessly.

The latest research, from the University of Queensland, now suggests that even in Australia, where spiders can be deadly, people aren’t born afraid, but learn their fear from others.

Spiders typically like dark, unswept, dusty corners, and will often stay under floorboards. Contrary to popular myth, they are not especially fond of baths, but just can’t get out once they are in.

Britain is home to some 650 species but only one is harmful to humans, the noble false widow, which can deliver a nasty nip.

According to Alan Stubbs of Buglife, a conservation charity for invertebrates, people should cherish the influx of spiders. “Instead of being squeamish, look at how much they do for us, eating the flies. We are possibly the most arachnophobic country in the world but we have no reason to be. I think people are scared because they run so fast, but they are harmless. My wife and I have names for the ones in our house.”

Buglife recently ran a campaign called Love Spiders, which saw a host of celebrities extolling the virtues of the much maligned creatures, and Stubbs appealed to people not to kill spiders they find in their house.

“They don’t do you any harm. Leave them alone and they’ll catch flies and be happy just doing their own thing. If you don’t like looking at them then just have a look at a web with the dew on it and wonder why we bother with the Turner prize when nature can create such a wonderful thing.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Ebola: the solution may be in sight

August 28, 2011

Colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) rof an Ebola virus virion.

Research advancements into the understanding of the Ebola virus and eventually a cure will no doubt lead way to other many discoveries. Science is at the verge of a flood of discoveries that will change the destiny of medicine forever.

Powered by article titled “Ebola: the solution may be in sight” was written by Robin McKie, for The Observer on Saturday 27th August 2011 23.06 UTC

One of the world’s most feared pathogens, the Ebola virus, has a key structural weakness that could be vital in developing drugs to treat the fevers it triggers, US researchers announced in Nature last week. The group say they have bred mice that produce low levels of a protein known as Niemann-Pick C1 which transports cholesterol inside cells. The mice then survived exposure to Ebola, which causes a haemorrhagic fever, and to a cousin pathogen, the Marburg virus.

“This research identifies a critical cellular protein that the Ebola virus needs to cause infection and disease,” said one of the lead scientists in the project, Sean Whelan of Harvard Medical School. “It also improves chances that drugs can be developed that directly combat Ebola infections,” he said.

Ebola fever was first detected by doctors in the 1970s in villages along the Ebola river in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is usually fatal in humans. There have been at least two dozen Ebola outbreaks in Africa though doctors still do not know exactly how the virus is spread. There are no vaccines or drugs to fight it.

The virus is known to interfere with the cells that line the interior surfaces of blood vessels and with the process of blood coagulation. As a result, it causes blood vessel walls to become damaged and to rupture.

The new research announced at Harvard is therefore extremely important. It indicates that the protein Niemann-Pick is used by the Ebola virus to get deep inside cells. “This virus needs this protein,” said Kartik Chandran, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “Mice that have less of this protein are very resistant to being killed by Ebola and the Marburg virus.”

Crucially, Chandran has also been involved in work that led to the discovery, in 2005, of a compound that has demonstrated considerable promise in being able to block the Niemann-Pick protein in human cells, according to a separate paper that was published in Nature last week. “Essentially, this compound can block infection by the virus,” said Chandran.

The compound has not yet been tested in mice, and would still need to show it is effective in non-human primates. Chandran said blocking Niemann-Pick in the long term would probably cause illness.

The researchers involved in the studies say they are very optimistic that the new understanding they have built up about the behaviour of the Ebola virus and the means by which it gets into cells may eventually lead to treatments. However, they acknowledge it will take many years, and possibly even a decade of further research and studies, before treatments would be available for human use. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Matt Damon for president? In US politics, they have seen crazier scripts

August 14, 2011

US actor Matt Damon, founder of H2O Afri

Sure why not? He has the ability and the passion that Americans are looking for…he says what is on his mind without sugar coating it…Americans look for someone they can relate to and they see that in Matt Damon…he is still a person you want to have on your side on the campaign road…good job Matt…say it without hesistation..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Matt Damon for president? In US politics, they have seen crazier scripts” was written by Paul Harris in New York, for The Observer on Saturday 13th August 2011 23.06 UTC

Even in the increasingly wild world of American politics, it seemed an especially crazy idea: Matt Damon for president? After all, the handsome actor, whose boyish good looks belie the fact that he has just turned 40, is still best known for his early role in Good Will Hunting, where he played a working-class Bostonian.

Since then, he has won plaudits in Hollywood for solid work in films ranging from action flicks to Invictus, which told the story of post-apartheid South Africa’s rugby World Cup triumph.

So why is Damon’s name being mentioned in the context of the 2012 race for the White House and a possible liberal challenge to Barack Obama? The simple answer is to blame leftwing firebrand Michael Moore.

Moore, in a discussion with the liberal politics blog Firedoglake, raised the issue as he talked about his frustration with Obama, who many American leftists see as ignoring them while compromising with the Republican party. Moore called Damon’s political stances in recent years courageous and urged him to run, despite there being no hint from the actor himself that he would care to. In a nod to the acting past of two-time Republican President Ronald Reagan, Moore said: “The Republicans have certainly shown the way that when you run someone who is popular, you win. Sometimes even when you run an actor, you win.”

The suggestion quickly spread across the media, generating a lot of chuckles as well as predictable outrage from conservative pundits. But the suggestion showed two things that are not so easily dismissed. First, quietly and with impressive charm, Damon has emerged as an eloquent and fierce spokesman for a slice of liberal America. On everything from the Iraq war to education policy, he has been happy to take a stand and, rather than praise the president, he has come out publicly to say Obama has “mishandled his mandate”.

Second, it showed that America, more than any country in the world, has a fluid boundary between the worlds of entertainment and politics.

From Reagan to Clint Eastwood, Sonny Bono to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al Franken and many more, the list of US actors and performers turned politicians is lengthy and even distinguished. “The kind of character that pursues an acting career in America is often the same kind of character that pursues a political career. You have to stand up and make people like you and be good on TV,” said Professor Robert Thompson, a popular culture expert at Syracuse University. So, Matt Damon for president? In 2012, almost certainly not. But one day? You never know.

Damon is certainly no shallow celebrity, long on good looks but short on brains. The Massachusetts native may have chosen Hollywood as a career, but he is not an actor picking causes with carefully staged press conferences on subjects that no one could dislike, such as stopping African famine.

Instead, Damon has lent his high profile name to the distinctly unfashionable cause of the Working Families Party. The WFP is an obscure leftwing political party that exists as a sort of pressure group in New York state on Democrats and leftists in order to pursue progressive ideals. Attaching your name to the WFP is about as far from trendy as any Hollywood celebrity could get. Yet Damon has been a passionate advocate for the party, appearing in a 2010 campaign video for them in which he urged New Yorkers to shun the Democrats and vote for the WFP as a genuine leftwing alternative.

Damon has won the hearts of many liberals by criticising Obama over policy issues, and standing up for teachers. Speaking at a recent Save Our Schools march in Washington, DC, he angrily denied a reporter’s suggestion that teachers were cosseted. “A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary, and really long hours, and do that job, unless you really love to do it?” he fumed. A video of the encounter went viral, with Damon being hailed a hero by teachers’ groups.

Damon, like Sean Penn with Haiti and George Clooney with Darfur, is one of the few big names who can genuinely say they are activists, not just celebrity brands attached to a good cause. He founded the H2O Africa Foundation, which later became and which aims to bring clean water to disadvantaged people. He has been involved with Darfur. “Matt Damon seems like a real person on these things. He’s running that whole water issue. That actually takes up a lot of his time,” said Richard Laermer, a celebrity expert and author of the book 2011: Trendspotting. On a host of issues Damon has eloquently and publicly spoken on subjects dear to liberal hearts. He has slammed the recent debt-ceiling deal struck by Obama and the Republicans and called for rich people like himself to be taxed more. He has spoken against the Iraq war.

Perhaps one should not be surprised; Damon is highly educated. Though he eventually dropped out to pursue an acting career, he went to Harvard, where he studied English. His mother – who introduced him at the teachers’ rally – is an education professor.

But, experts say, Hollywood has given him what is needed most: name recognition. “An actor has a precious thing in politics. People know who they are and they will pay attention when someone puts a microphone in front of them,” said Syracuse’s Thompson.

Indeed, that power can make a political career out of the unlikeliest of raw material. Look at how former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura became governor of Minnesota, or how comedian Franken became a senator from the same state and – perhaps most bizarre of all – how Schwarzenegger went from playing a killer robot from the future to being governor of California and responsible for one of the biggest economies on Earth.

The road between Hollywood and politics has also produced notable successes. Franken, a former stalwart of Saturday Night Live, has won plaudits for his seriousness as a politician. Schwarzenegger was seen as a joke when first elected, but he easily won a second term and became known for cutting-edge environmental policies. Most successful was Reagan, who went from a B-movie actor to being one of the most influential Republican presidents of the 20th century. Indeed, while most stars who dabble in public life are seen as “Hollywood liberals”, some of the most successful, such as Reagan and Schwarzenegger, have been conservatives.

But the road to political power is not always easy for an actor. On the liberal side of the aisle, Warren Beatty was mentioned as someone who might run for president but never did. And among Republicans, the name of Fred Thompson stands as a salutary lesson in the limits of power. Few people have blurred the lines between acting and politics as much as Thompson, who combined his acting career with becoming a senator from Tennessee. He has played a US president on TV but when he ran for the Republican nomination in real life in 2008, his attempt was a disaster.

So, while Americans are tolerant of actors who want to be politicians, they do not write them a blank cheque. “Celebrity can be a blessing or a curse. You are able to get people to listen to you, but you need to have something they want to hear,” said Robert Thompson. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Final hours of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca revealed

June 26, 2011

Museum dedicated to Federico Garcia, Granada, Spain  - 20 Nov 2008

The thought that a poet would be among those executed by firing squad makes me sick to the stomach. But its refreshing to know that after so much time, there are those motivated enough to uncover the truth behind this unnecessary killing of a great poet.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Final hours of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca revealed” was written by Giles Tremlett in Madrid, for The Observer on Saturday 25th June 2011 20.19 UTC

One of the great mysteries of Spain’s recent history may have been solved by a local historian from the southern city of Granada, who claims to have found the real grave of the executed playwright and poet Federico García Lorca.

Miguel Caballero Pérez spent three years sifting through police and military archives to piece together the last 13 hours of the life of the author of Blood Wedding, Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba, who was shot by a right-wing firing squad early in the Spanish civil war.

He now claims to have identified the half-dozen career policemen and volunteers who formed the firing squad that shot Lorca and three other prisoners, as well as the burial site. And he blames Lorca’s death on the long-running political and business rivalry between some of Granada’s wealthiest families – including his father’s own García clan.

“I decided to research archive material rather than gather more oral testimony because that is where the existing confusion comes from – with so many supposed witnesses inventing things,” explained Caballero, who has published his results in a Spanish book called The Last 13 Hours of García Lorca.

Caballero said his original intention had been to verify information gathered in the 1960s by a Spanish journalist, Eduardo Molina Fajardo, who was also a member of the far-right Falange organisation that supported the dictator General Francisco Franco.

“Because of his own political stance, Molina Fajardo had access to people who were happy to tell him the truth,” said Caballero. “The archives bear out most of what he said, so it is reasonable to suppose he was also right about the place Lorca was buried.”

That spot was said to be a trench dug by someone seeking water in an area of open countryside near a farm called Cortijo de Gazpacho, between the villages of Viznar and Alfacar. The zone is only half a kilometre from the spot identified by historian Ian Gibson in 1971 – which was controversially dug up in 2009, but where no bones were found.

“The new place makes sense because it is far enough from the villages to be out of eyesight and earshot, but you can also get there by car – as they would have needed headlights to shoot people at night,” said Caballero. Caballero took a water diviner to the area, who employed the same divining technique using a twig that was common in Lorca’s time. He detected a possible underwater stream. “It is reasonable, then, to suppose that someone might have dug a trench here looking for streams just below the surface,” said Caballero.

An archaeologist, Javier Navarro, has identified a dip in the ground that could indicate a grave. “It is by no means unreasonable to think there is a grave there,” said Navarro, who has found half a dozen civil war mass graves in other parts of Spain. “It would be very easy to find out. You only have to scrape away about 40cm of topsoil for an experienced archaeologist to say if the earth has been dug up before.”

The half dozen men who formed the firing squad shot hundreds of suspected leftwingers in the summer of 1936, with Lorca just one of them. They were given a bonus of 500 pesetas and promoted as a reward for carrying out the dirty work of the nationalist forces of the future dictator, Franco. “I call them the ‘executioners’ rather than the ‘murderers’ because, while some were volunteers, others were career policemen who risked being shot themselves if they refused,” said Caballero. One was said to have complained that the job “was driving him mad”. Some of the squad probably did not even know who Lorca was. “These were not the sort of people who read poetry. Lorca’s work was largely read by the elites,” he said. “They would have been more interested in the two anarchists shot with him, who had a reputation for being very dangerous.” But both the firing squad commander, a stern 53-year-old policeman called Mariano Ajenjo, and a volunteer member called Antonio Benavides – who was a relative of the first wife of Lorca’s father – would have known who he was. “I gave that fat-head a shot in the head,” Benavides reportedly boasted later.

The rightwing Roldán family, political rivals of Lorca’s father, had persuaded the city’s pro-Franco authorities to arrest and shoot the poet. A member of the Roldán clan, Benavides, formed part of the firing squad. One of his cousins was the model for a rogue character in The House of Bernardo Alba, finished a few months earlier, in which Lorca deliberately took aim at the rival Alba family. “They were angry with the father and took their revenge on the son,” said Caballero.

Apart from Benavides, none of the firing squad seemed proud of what they had done. “They didn’t speak to their families about all this. They are remembered as loving grandfathers who were silent about the civil war,” said Caballero. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Diabetes epidemic affects 350 million as crisis spreads to developing nations

June 25, 2011

McDonald's In India

Don’t wait for the symptoms to appear? Get your blood sugar levels checked to determine if you are at risk of developing diabetes….Are you watching your blood sugar levels? Make an appointment today with your physician to see if your body is controlling your sugar adequately…its a simple blood test…take control of your health today!

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony  

Powered by article titled “Diabetes epidemic affecting 350m – and western fast food is to blame” was written by Robin McKie, for The Observer on Saturday 25th June 2011 15.59 UTC

More than 350 million people in the world now have diabetes, an international study has revealed. The analysis, published online by the Lancet on Saturday, adds several tens of millions to the previous estimate of the number of diabetics and indicates that the disease has become a major global health problem.

Diabetics have inadequate blood sugar control, a condition that can lead to heart disease and strokes, as well as damage to kidneys, nerves and the retina. About three million deaths a year are attributed to diabetes and associated conditions in which blood sugar levels are disrupted.

The dramatic and disturbing increase is blamed by scientists on the spread of a western-style diet to developing nations, which is causing rising levels of obesity. Researchers also say that increased life expectancy is playing a major role.

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for about 85-95% of cases, and is often tied to obesity. It develops when the body fails to produce enough insulin to break down glucose, inflating blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is a separate auto-immune disorder.

“Diabetes is one of the biggest causes of mortality worldwide, and our study has shown that it is becoming more common almost everywhere. It is set to become the single largest burden on world health care systems,” one of the study’s main authors, Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial College London, told the Observer. “Many nations are going to find it very difficult to cope with the consequences.”

This point was backed by Martin Tobias of the ministry of health in New Zealand in an accompanying editorial for the Lancet. As he states, there is “no worldwide surveillance network for diabetes, as there is for communicable diseases such as influenza”. Given the inexorable rise in case numbers that is now occurring, there was now “an urgent need” to establish proper monitoring of the disease, he added.

The study – funded by the World Health Organisation and the Gates Foundation – analysed blood from 2.7 million participants aged 25 and over from across the world over a three-year period. Doctors measured levels of glucose in their blood after they had fasted for 12 to 14 hours – blood sugar rises after a meal.

If their glucose level fell below 5.6 millimoles per litre, they were considered healthy. If their reading topped 7, they were diagnosed as having diabetes, while a result that ranged between 5.6 and 7 indicated that a person was in a pre-diabetic state. Crucially, the study found that the average global level of glucose measured this way had risen for men and women.

The team then used advanced statistical methods to estimate prevalence rates among the participants. It was estimated that the number of adults with diabetes was 347 million, more than double the 153 million estimated in 1980 and considerably higher even than a 2009 study that put the number at 285 million. “We are not saying the previous study was a bad one,” said Ezzati. “It is just that we have refined our methods a little more.”

In percentage terms, the prevalence of male adult diabetics worldwide rose from 8.3% to 9.8% in that period, with adult females increasing from 7.5% to 9.2%. As to the causes, the team attribute 70% to ageing and 30% to the increased prevalence of other factors, with obesity and body mass the most important.

It was found that in the US glucose levels had risen at more than twice the rate of western Europe over the past three decades. In wealthy nations, diabetes and glucose levels were highest in the US, Malta, New Zealand and Spain, and lowest in the Netherlands, Austria and France. Despite its obesity epidemic, the UK’s diabetes prevalence was lower than that of most other high-income countries. In a league of 27 western high-income countries, British men had the fifth lowest diabetes rates, while British women were eighth lowest.

Other badly affected countries included many Pacific island nations. As Ezzati put it: “There has been an explosion of cases there.” In the Marshall Islands, for example, one in three women and one in four men has diabetes. Saudi Arabia was also reported to have very high rates. Glucose levels were also particularly high in south Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, central Asia, north Africa and the Middle East. The region with the lowest glucose levels was sub-Saharan Africa, followed by east and south-east Asia. Eastern Europe’s diabetes prevalence, while not low, also changed little over the three-decade period.

“Diabetes is a condition that is linked to long-term disability and we need to monitor how it is spreading very carefully or face the consequences.”

The Lancet article comes after scientists said type 2 diabetes could be reversed in as little as seven days if sufferers went on a crash diet. Adherence to a strict 600 calorie-a-day diet causes fat levels in the pancreas to plummet, restoring normal function. Professor Roy Taylor, of Newcastle University, called the discovery a “radical change” in understanding type 2 diabetes.

• This article was amended on Saturday 25 June to make clear the distinction between type 2 diabetes, which accounts for between 85-95% of cases and has been linked to lifestyle, and type 1 diabetes, which is a separate auto-immune disorder. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Living with death

June 19, 2011

Victor Fournere

We all have to one day wrestle with the reaper, how we manage to do that is unique with everyone. Have you thought about it? Read about four lives  that are living with death today.

Pass it on

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Living with death” was written by Shahesta Shaitly, for The Observer on Saturday 18th June 2011 23.05 UTC

Victor Fournere, 65, has prostate cancer and was told in 2006 that he had five years to live. He lives in Essex

I thought I had cystitis so I went to the doctor and asked for antibiotics. It went away for three weeks and then came back, so the doctor decided to do a blood test. That afternoon there was a knock at my door. It was my doctor telling me I had prostate cancer and that I needed to go to the hospital.

I wanted to hit someone when I was first diagnosed. I was really, really angry. That hasn’t gone away – I just know how to control it now. The slightest twinge and I wonder if that’s it, if I’m dying right there and then. The doctors said I have a really aggressive type of cancer. They’ve said, “It’ll kill you. You’re going to die from it.” I was given a maximum of five years – and I’m now in my fifth year.

Telling my friends was straightforward. I’m not ashamed of it because it’s not my fault. I’ve got no family, so my friends are the only people I have had to tell. If I’m having a good day I’ll go to the bike club to see them. I’ve been a biker since my late teens – bike rallies, camping weekends. It’s a big part of my life. My friends try to keep it light and breezy. They say things like: “Don’t die yet, we’re coming over for a coffee.”

The second I found out I had cancer I gave up drinking. I don’t think I have any quality of life any more – well, it’s not the type of life I want to lead. My life was extraordinary before; it was very different to the norm. Now it’s all about “being careful”. I take six tablets every morning. They make me feel sick and they’ve bloated me out. I only had a short burst of chemo. It’s unpleasant – your mouth and tongue split, your taste buds go – I couldn’t taste the difference between a jam sandwich and a pork pie. The doctors told me that it wasn’t working so there was no point in having any more – there was “nothing more they could do for me”. That sentence still goes round and round in my head.

Mick, my brother-in-law, is the only family I have. He was married to my foster sister. He’s my carer and a real support. Once a week I visit the Fair Havens Hospice in Essex. It’s where I can release the pressure valve – talk to nurses and discuss any problems. It’s lovely to know that there is somewhere I can go when it all gets too much.

The worst is at night when I am in bed. Lying there on my own I start thinking about funerals and I get the horrors. I’ll be sitting watching telly and suddenly remember that I’m dying. There are moments where my brain swirls and I think of things I’ve done and people I’ve hurt in the past. It’s a suffocating feeling, all jumbled thoughts – it’s 60 years of memories at once. I’ve found a cure though: I just get in the bath. That’s the only thing that relaxes me now.

I worked all my life and retired at 60, then I get told at 61 that I have a few years left and that I’m going to die. I’m pissed off. I wouldn’t want anybody to upset me,, five years of hate would all go into that one person – that’s part of the reason I don’t drink. Losing my independence really gets to me. I worked in demolition all my life and all of a sudden I can’t even paint a wall.

I want to die at home. I have signed a contract saying that no one can take me out of my house and that Mick has the final decision to bring me to the hospice to die if it all gets too much. My funeral is sorted. Margaret, the vicar at the hospice, will be conducting it. She knows me and it feels right. She’s not just going to be saying what someone else has told her to say. In a funny way, I’ve always believed in God. I don’t go to church or anything, but my mum taught me that God is everywhere – he’s even in my house.

I’ve put together a CD of the music I’d like played. It starts with the Biker’s Prayer, followed by “I’m Not Alone” by Boney M and then I’d like to go out to “YMCA” by the Village People – that’s an in-joke between me and my mates. It’ll be the biggest biker funeral in a long time – I’m friends with loads of other clubs. I imagine there will be one hearse for me and the rest will be bikes. I’d like them to remember me and celebrate my life, too.

If I had one wish it’d be to see next Christmas. It would be nice to have more time. I don’t feel ready to go. I’ve been in bands and on the telly. I’ve built my bikes. It’s not fair that I have to go so soon. I value life too much. I’ve lived enough for two lives, but I’d like a third.

Holly Webber, 25, has cancer and lives with her boyfriend and family. She hopes to live for another 20 months

I was 19 and at Brighton University when it started. I had a lot of stomach pain and was constantly bloated and constipated. I had symptoms for four years and saw six different GPs while I was at uni – all of them said I had irritable bowel syndrome. By the time I graduated in 2009, the pain was worse. I remember saying to my dad one morning that something wasn’t right – I’d been up all night passing blood. He said that he’d do whatever I wanted to get somebody to take it seriously. I re-registered with our family GP who referred me to a private specialist in order to speed things up. He sent me for a colonoscopy. I’d never been in hospital before and didn’t know what to expect but I was relieved afterwards because it felt like things were finally happening.

The specialist asked me to come back the next day. I spent that evening panicking, but it never crossed my mind it would be cancer. He said he’d found a large growth in my bowel, which had formed from a “polyp”. There was never a mention of me having the C-word then, but to ensure that the growth and polyps in my bowel didn’t become cancerous in the future (which I was told was likely), my specialist suggested surgery to remove my entire colon.

It took me a week to stop crying because I was so scared. The specialist suggested a CT scan to make sure everything was in order for surgery and this scan revealed growths on my liver. I was referred to a liver specialist who carried out an MRI scan and said: “I think we need to try some chemotherapy,” which was enough for me to understand what was happening to me. It was cancer and it had spread from bowel to liver.

In the first week of July 2010, I had another CT scan which showed all the lesions on the liver and bowel had shrunk considerably. I was so relieved. Everything had been worth it. I’d had 25 growths on my liver in all. Following the success of chemo, the surgeons performed a liver resection and removed 70% of my liver. Three months later I had my entire colon removed. The care I received during these difficult months was incredible.

But I was told at the beginning of this year that the cancer had returned to my liver and spread to both my lungs. Statistically, I should have another 16-20 months if I have more chemo, which I’ll start soon. This next round will make me lose my hair, so it just feels like another huge mountain to climb and something else in my physical appearance that’s going to get knocked. I have scarring all over my body and an ileostomy bag attached to my stomach that I change every day – that in itself takes a lot of mental strength. I spend so long carefully choosing clothes to cover things up.

I have a lot of support – an amazing family, loads of friends and my boyfriend, who lives with me and my family. My local hospice, the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice, has been great. One of my best friends, who is based in Taiwan, quit her job to come and live with us for a couple of months to support me. I’ve gained a perspective on life that is a gift in all its rawness. I’m really quite grateful for that even though the circumstances are awful.

I’ve tried to launch myself into helping others. If I can make people see things about life in a different light, then that’s really quite special. In the past, I never had faith, but this illness has made me more spiritual. I feel much more connected. Everything is just more beautiful to me now, it’s much more valuable. I’ve always been passionate about the environment and nature; now I feel that more than ever.

What’s cruel about this illness is that I’ve been given a time limit. Life is so precious and we all believe we’re invincible, but I know what’s happening to my body. Somebody asked me recently how I cope with despair, and the only answer that I could come up with is that what keeps me going is the hope that everything will somehow be OK. I’ve been told I have a terminal illness, and I get that, but if I didn’t wake up every morning hopeful, then I wouldn’t get out of bed, get dressed, eat or breathe. What’s anyone without hope?

Sometimes I feel like I’m on another planet looking in on this one. I can’t relate to people stressing about work or getting the Tube. People are so wound up, but it’s such a waste of time and energy. Chill out! I hope that by reading this, someone out there will take a second to think, “I’m glad that’s not me. Maybe I should worry less about the things that don’t really matter.”

Help the Hospices is the charity for hospice care, representing and supporting local hospices. For more information, go to

Peter White, 57, has Multiple System Atrophy, a neurological disorder. He lives in Sheffield with his wife Josie

I was an electrician and hardly missed a day of work in 40 years. Then, in 2005, I started losing my balance so Josie, my wife, suggested I see a doctor. It took about a year to get diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). I never felt sorry for myself: if the numbers of people getting ill need to be kept up, then I would rather it was me than any of my family.

As a result of the MSA I’ve developed another condition called cataplexy, which is triggered by strong emotions – laughter in my case. Once I start laughing I can’t stop, and that triggers a seizure. It’s very difficult to keep my emotions on an even keel. Josie says I’ve turned into a miserable sod.

There are things that bother me about having this disease – the fact that there’s no cure being one. The idea of losing the ability to speak is hard. Josie and I are writing cards out so I can hold them up to communicate when the time comes. I’ve been in a wheelchair for about a year now. I can walk with a frame, but it’s getting harder.

I have never believed in an afterlife, but Josie and my youngest daughter are both practising Christians and I’ve been tilting towards their side of things recently. I’m also finding peace in art. I spend most of my time at the hospice painting ties and scarves. I paint a lot of catfish because fishing is something I enjoy and can’t do any more. If I could do one more thing in life, I’d love to catch a really big catfish with my grandson.

I feel lucky in that I’ve had time to prepare. The reality is, we’re all going to die – it’s just I know of what and that my time is sooner rather than later. There won’t be any hymns at my funeral. Hopefully, mine will be the last one of the day and I’ll go out to Eric Clapton’s “Layla” – turned up really, really loud.

Diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2000, Sarah Ezekiel, 42, was told she had three to five years to live

When I was pregnant with my son, I noticed that the index finger on my left hand was slightly bent and my speech was slower, especially at night. I thought I’d had a mild stroke or that my baby was lying on a nerve. My doctor referred me to a neurologist, who I think knew immediately that I had Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed. I went to the doctor’s with my husband, but he got fed up waiting so left me to receive my diagnosis alone. My neurologist didn’t present MND in a negative way or give me a prognosis (it’s three to five years), so I didn’t understand the enormity of it. But the disease progressed rapidly once my son Eric (pictured below) was born. Within one year I was unable to use my hands. It was heartbreaking for me to watch carers do everything for my daughter and son. I want to hug and kiss them, but I can’t. The worst physical aspect was the loss of speech. I can communicate using computers, but I can’t make phone calls or join group conversations. I miss that so much. I divorced my husband in 2004. He’d become abusive – I suppose because he was angry. We didn’t talk for years, but we get on OK now. I miss being married, too.

I thought about committing suicide early on, but I’m pleased I didn’t as I’d have missed some wonderful experiences. Seeing my children grow up is by far the most rewarding reason for living. I believe I’ve achieved more during my time with MND than when I was well. I was in a bad place for the first few years, but in 2005 I got a laptop which I could operate with my chin. That changed everything and I started writing about my experiences. I only read negative stories about MND after I was diagnosed, so I hope I have helped other sufferers.

I thought about death all the time initially, but I rarely do now. I’m too busy getting on with life. I felt hopeless after my diagnosis, but managed to overcome that with support. I’ve attended my local hospice since 2001 and the staff help me with emotional and medical problems. I believe all difficulties can be solved with the right resources – I’ve been fortunate to find them. I suppose that I’m trying to say that however bad life appears to be, there is always hope. I feel as if I’ve been given a window of opportunity, not a death sentence. I’m going to make the most of it.

For information on the Motor Neurone Association, go to Their helpline, MND Connect, is on 08457 626 262 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Stake Land — review

June 19, 2011

Stake Land

Another zombie movie called Stake Land. Well I don’t know about this movie…but it will have to compete with a lot of other movies this summer that are getting better reviews…I’ll wait until I have nothing more important to do before investing my time on this movie…or another zombie flick..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Your Educational Podcast & Video  

Powered by article titled “Stake Land — review” was written by Jason Solomons, for The Observer on Saturday 18th June 2011 23.06 UTC

With its flying stunts and doo-wop jukebox playing in a bar, Stake Land owes much to the movie Top Gun. Strange, then, that it coincides with Kelly McGillis’s first appearance on our screens for more than 10 years. She stars, briefly, as a nun on the run from cannibal rapists in this post-apocalyptic genre exercise, about a vampire killer called Mister journeying through burned-out America with a lad who does a terrible voiceover. Like the film version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, it has quasi-religious overtones and one very good scene, involving a horde of cannibalistic vampire zombie things being dropped on a town from a helicopter. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – review

May 23, 2011

64th Cannes Film Festival - Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I plan on seeing this movie this weekend and I am sure it will be a great experience. So if your a Johnny Depp fan…get out this weekend and watch Pirates of the Caribbean “Stranger Tides”.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – review” was written by Philip French, for The Observer on Saturday 21st May 2011 23.04 UTC

Back in 2003, I thought Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl the best, indeed the only successful thing of its kind since the Burt Lancaster swashbuckler The Crimson Pirate a half-century earlier. The two laboured sequels, subtitled Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, took the franchise steadily downhill, a process only slightly halted by this new one. A poorly scripted film has its forked tongue sticking out of both cheeks. It features the series regulars, Johnny Depp’s crafty old salt Captain Jack Sparrow and his arch rival, Geoffrey Rush’s peg-legged Captain Hector Barbossa, and the two are joined by newcomers lady pirate Angelica (Penélope Cruz) and evil Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane). They’re all competing to discover the lost Fountain of Eternal Youth somewhere on the Spanish Main, and for this they first need to find a map, two silver chalices and a mermaid’s tear. The search begins in London and takes the cut-throat bands from one violent incident to another without providing any coherent narrative to link them.

When you can hear it through the thick accents and dialects, the arch dialogue recalls Tony Hancock’s impersonation of Robert Newton’s Long John Silver. There’s a missionary aboard, which leads to jokes about the missionary position, and Sparrow explains to Angelica that he had ravished her as a nun because he mistook her Spanish convent for a brothel. Keith Richards and Judi Dench make brief guest appearances. Richards is there because his accent, body language and ravaged features inspired Depp’s Sparrow. Dench plays an aristocratic lady who loses an earring to the fugitive Sparrow as, in the film’s best sequence, he scampers through her carriage while being pursued across London by redcoats. The 3D makes every scene darker rather than more dramatic or lifelike. Still, I’m sure it will prove popular, and a shot that follows the endless final credits is virtually a trailer for a fifth film, presumably to be called Pirates of the Caribbean: Plumbing New Depps. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Black students say they feel left out by ‘white cliques’ at universities

May 22, 2011

Black Science Summer School

Black students are still being left out in areas priviledged to whites…is racism continuing to prevent their progress? 

That’s my comment…pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Black students say they feel left out by ‘white cliques’ at universities” was written by Jeevan Vasagar Education editor, for The Observer on Saturday 21st May 2011 23.06 UTC

University coursework should be marked anonymously to deal with concerns that potential bias against a “foreign-sounding name” can cost students marks, a report by the National Union of Students recommends.

The report also urges universities to minimise “eurocentric bias” when drawing up curriculums. “This is critical, not only to demonstrate to black students that their learning reflects their own experience, but to promote understanding among their white peers,” it states.

It is standard practice for universities to assess exams anonymously because of concerns about preconceptions relating to race, sex or previous knowledge of a candidate, but the NUS report calls for anonymity to be extended across all “assessment procedures”, which would include coursework.

The NUS – which accepts that it is not possible to keep every form of assessment, such as presentations by drama students, anonymous – is also urging universities to address concerns about bias by having any contested work reassessed by a different lecturer.

The report, Race for Equality, is based on a survey of 900 students with African, Asian and Caribbean backgrounds. The survey found that, while most students were positive about their institutions, 23% described the universities they attended as “cliquey” and 7% as “racist”. There was also widespread frustration that courses did not reflect non-white backgrounds and views.

A third of black students felt unable to bring a perspective based on their race to tutorials. One student quoted in the report, published today, criticised the university they attended for “not being able to express or hear [our] own experience in learning – especially with a discipline as subjective as English, being told ‘you are wrong’ at the slightest transgression from the norm”.

Many of the students surveyed called for more diverse perspectives in areas such as history, arts and politics. One said: “Britain colonised most of the world and played a heavy role in the slave trade. How can you understand contemporary Britain without acknowledging this history or understanding how the rest of the world shaped it?”

The survey also found that some black students believe they are being “actively excluded” from the Russell Group of leading universities because of institutional racism in the application process. However, others blamed the scarcity of black students at the most prestigious institutions on class, and a lack of achievement at school.

Among black students, just 9.6% achieved the top grades required for entrance to Oxford or Cambridge in 2007, compared with 23% for white students.

The report says: “While widening participation efforts in the last few decades has been successful, these need to extend beyond simply increasing the quantity of students accessing [higher education] towards ensuring that black students are also able to access quality institutions.”

The report notes that in 2007-08, London Metropolitan University accepted 6,115 black students, “almost as many as the 7,815 black students spread between the 20 universities of the Russell Group”.

Some respondents to the survey and the focus groups that accompanied it said they had chosen to attend institutions that were ethnically diverse to minimise the chances of experiencing racism.

The report adds: “There was also a perception among respondents that the probability of experiencing racism in a Russell Group institution would be higher, as there would be fewer black students in these institutions, making the black students who study there more vulnerable.”

Universities should create a “bespoke website” for prospective black students, which could include testimonies from their students and details of support systems and extracurricular activities, the report suggests.

Nearly one in six – 16% – of those who responded to the survey said they had experienced racism in their current educational institution. The proportion was lowest among those aged under 20 – 14% – and highest among mature students. The survey finds that 29% of those aged 40 and over had experienced racism. International students were also more likely to view their academic environment as racist.

The NUS president, Aaron Porter, said: “We have a long way to go to close the participation gap for black students in education. If black students feel unwelcome in classrooms, this must be addressed by tackling the very real racism that still exists on our campuses.

“This report highlights the work that must be done by institutions and government to address the concerns of black students about their learning environment, how their courses are taught, and how their unique perspectives can be brought into the academic environment.”

The survey also found that almost one in three students, 32%, did not trust their institution to deal with complaints fairly. Two-thirds of respondents who had made a complaint were dissatisfied with how it was handled. They cited a range of reasons, including the procedure being too time-consuming or the complaint being ignored.

Some of those who responded to the survey believed that academic staff “stick together” and that making a complaint could therefore jeopardise their prospects. One student said: “It’s staff against you, and your degree is on the line, so you don’t feel like doing anything further that would rock the boat, especially when the person is responsible for marking your work and arranging your placements.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The science of empathy

March 27, 2011


Having a good cry once and awhile is a way of releasing emotions that are bottled up inside of you. Especially if you are not a person who can open up to someone, going home with a blockbuster movie rental and sitting to watch an emotional theme can add years to your life. So take my advice, having a good cry now and then is a good sign of health.

Pass it on…

Dr Anthony  

The content previously published here has been withdrawn. We apologise for any inconvenience.


Isabella Rossellini’s guide to the sex life of the anchovy (and the duck, the snail, the dolphin…)

February 6, 2011

In a series of short films, Isabella Rossellini acts as a range of animals having sex. She just wants to amuse us, she says – and teach us some hard science about the birds and the bees

The year-zero face: is 36 the perfect age for a woman?

January 19, 2011

Lindsay Lohan

Hey I am sure there are a lot of women out there who look much younger than their age! The people in the entertainment industry are under tremendous pressure…going to all those presentation awards…after midnight parties..of course your life style will have some effect on how you look as you get older.

I remember when I was a teenager in high school…my friends thought my mom was my sister! My mom still looks much younger than her age…don’t worry mom…I won’t tell them your age…its our secret…

Past it on,

Dr Anthony    

Powered by article titled “The year-zero face: is 36 the perfect age for a woman?” was written by Eva Wiseman, for The Observer on Sunday 16th January 2011 00.05 UTC

Let me pinpoint the very moment the world first became aware of the ageless, year-zero face: it was under the Louvre at Paris Fashion Week as 2009 drew to a smoky close. On the Ungaro catwalk, jewel-toned bolero jackets and sequinned nipple tassels were shown, before the label’s “artistic advisor” Lindsay Lohan appeared. There were gasps from the front row and a thud of damp applause. It wasn’t just the clothes, though they were difficult, described by the Guardian as “the first [collection] that could be happily summed up on Twitter”, it was Lohan’s face.

She had a forehead so taut and shiny it looked like an iPhone 4. Her lips were inflated to the size of a melting Twix, and her cheekbones looked as if they were climbing her jaw in order to dive to their death. Each change to her then 23-year-old face seemed to nod towards youth, but in fact imply age. This isn’t to say she looked old – as she bounced down the catwalk, her hair streaming behind her, she seemed to have transcended age – she looked like lamb dressed as mutton dressed as duck.

Though traditionally cosmetic surgery has been used to make patients look younger, doctors are noticing a trend for women wanting to simply look “done”. Rather than chase youthfulness with a scalpel, some seem to be choosing instead to fix their faces at a certain age (celebrity dermatologist Gervaise Gerstner suggests many women settle for 36) and maintain the look with injectable fillers and cosmetic treatments.

While few celebrities, Lohan included, will admit to having had cosmetic surgery, the surgeons themselves are outspoken. “It’s a matter of the right procedure on the wrong girl at the wrong time,” New York plastic surgeon Douglas Steinbrech told W magazine. “There’s this new mentality that if you do not look a little bit fake, then the surgeon hasn’t done his job. This used to be a much more prevalent idea on the west coast, but now you walk up Madison Avenue and you see these young girls with that cloned, cougar-like face. Either they don’t know what they look like, or they want to look like they’ve had something done.”

There’s nothing new in celebrities having cosmetic surgery, but the age at which they start is falling fast. Last year actress Charice Pempengco, 18, had Botox to look “fresh” for her role in Glee, and reality star Heidi Montag, 24, famously had 10 procedures in 10 hours. She later conceded that all the surgery makes “hugging” difficult.

In America, patients under 34 account for 20% of Botox procedures and chemical peels, and over 9,000 breast enhancement operations are carried out on girls aged 13 to 19. The move to look ageless though, rather than younger, is recent, with women today encouraged by some practices to get “preventative” Botox injections. But the more you get, some women are finding, the older you look.

British consultant plastic surgeon Norman Waterhouse thinks the year-zero face is the effect of fillers being overused. “When Botox is used with subtlety and finesse, the woman shouldn’t look ‘filled’, she should just look less tired,” he says. “And using fillers expands the skin, so if you use a lot, then as it disappears you eventually need more to plump it out, so you get trapped in a Botox cycle.

Of course,” he continues, “there are a little subset of women who get work that astonishes me, turning themselves into a parody of feminine beauty – the ‘party tits’, the ‘ice-rink Botox’, where your face is completely flat and shiny, but that, I think, is missing the point.”

Those who balance it right, pap photos suggest, achieve the look of the golden, ageless age: 36. “Some people wake up at 42 and realise they need to return to 36,” says Gerstner. Demi Moore is 48, but, having allegedly had £200,000-worth of surgery (including a knee lift) looks at least a decade younger. “But the people who end up looking best have been planning for it all along.” She recommends an expensive programme of Botox, lip fillers, laser skin resurfacing and glycolic peels for maintenance, all of which, administered well, promise to keep even the tautest 23-year-old looking like a 30-something with a year-zero face. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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