Saturday, March 24, 2007

Are You a Nonconformist?

You Are 82% Non Conformist

You're incredibly strange. And a weirdness like yours takes skill to cultivate!
No one really understands you. And you're cool with that. You just hope you never have to understand them!

Satire: White House's Tony Snow Announces Surgery : Soul to be removed

From Unconfirmed Sources:

White House's Tony Snow Announces Surgery : Soul to be removed
by Walid

Wishing you the best...sort of.
Wishing you the best...sort of.
(Washington D.C. : Ucs News) White House press secretary, Tony Snow, said Friday he would have surgery on Monday to remove a growth inside his abdomen. Doctors examined the growth and discovered it was in fact Snows soul returning to his body.

The President demanded the emergency surgery to "Prepare Tony for the last two years on my administration" According to white house staffers a soul would prevent the press secretary from effectively representing the administration during it's final downward spiral.

Dana Perino will be temporarily handling the responsibilities from behind the podium. Doctors expect a full recover with Tony returning to his soulless self in three to four weeks. Speaking off the record Snow is relieved to be missing the next 3 weeks as he was not looking forward to sand bagging the US congress and misleading the public about the legality of congressional oversight.

In his closing remarks Snow said "I'm getting required medical treatment and Alberto Gonzales will fry with or without me."

From the staff of Unconfirmed Sources: Tony we hate you and would generally enjoy seeing you and the President be torn apart by a pack of wild dogs, we do wish you a speedy recovery. And don't worry we will do our best to eviscerate Dana Perino in your absence.

A Note from the editer: It is generally against the Unconfirmed Sources code of Satirical conduct to pick on dead or sick people, but I have used MY Executive Privilege to allow this article. I will allow this because Tony has been advancing the Bush administration's position that Congress has no oversight authority over the President. This position is blatantly UNconstitutional and Tony deserves a stake in the heart, along with our sympathy.

Stuart Hameroff and Sam Harris

Andrew Sullivan has posted parts of an email exchange between Stuart Hameroff and Sam Harris that was inspired by a reader comment at Sullivan's blog. It's an interesting discussion, at least to me, because I am familiar with the Hameroff & Penrose Orch OR theory. Unfortunately, I think Hameroff's reputation in the science world was irrevocably tarnished by his appearance in the silly What the Bleep? nonsense.

Anyway, check it out if you like consciousness studies.

The Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi Whirling Dervishes of Damascus

This is pretty damn cool.
The Whirling Dervishes are a Muslim Sufi order who are known for their famous practice of performing their dhikr (remembrance of Allah) in the form of a whirling "dance" and musical ceremony called the sema. The Sema represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent to God.
Whirling Dervishes

Via: VideoSift

'Where The Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak

I loved this book as a kid.

Via: VideoSift

Daily Dharma: Avoid Doing Harm

The Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Avoid Doing Harm

If you wonder whether evil karma can be neutralized or not, then know that it is neutralized by desire for goodness. But they who knowingly do evil deeds, exchange a mouthful of food for infamy. They who knowing not wither they themselves are bound, yet presume to pose as guides for others, do injury both to themselves and others. If pain and sorrow ye desire sincerely to avoid, avoid, then, doing harm to others.

~ W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Poem: Unconventional Love Sonnet #5

Unconventional Love Sonnet #5

These words should glide gracefully
as a swan riding a high breeze;
they should sing with the passion
of Ella or Bessie, full-throated

and raw. These words should ache
with desire, burn with the ferocity
of wild flame; they should seduce
even the hardest of wounded hearts.

How else to convey this longing?
How else to convey what words
can never hope to touch, never

reveal the way my skin vibrates
to her touch, never even approach
the joyful mystery of her smile?

The 300 Workout as Part of a Fat Loss Program

I've mentioned a couple of times here that at the beginning of the year I set a goal to be as fit as I have ever been by the time I turn 40 in early May. When I began, my weight was hovering between 205-210 with about 16-17 percent bodyfat.

As of this morning, I weigh 187 and my bodyfat is around 9.5 percent. I had stalled for a week or two at around 191, but since having a cheat meal on Saturday (pasta and banana bread -- yum!), and adding the 300 workouts into my program, the fat loss has restarted. I like the 300 workouts because they are time efficient, burn a lot of calories, and (with some minor adjustments) can still work to maintain muscle during fat loss.

Here is a sample week of my training (this week). Below, I will reveal the supplements I have been using to strip the bodyfat and keep the muscle. Please note that I seldom do the same exact workouts from week to week. Most of these workouts are done in 45 minutes to an hour.

25x Pull Ups
50x Squats (185 lbs)
50x Bench Press (135 lbs)
50x Hanging Knees to Elbows Crunch
50x Squat Jumps (2 x 25 lb DBs)
50x DB Snatches, each arm (35 lbs)
25x Pull Ups

300 Total Reps -- 35:20 minutes

Seated Leg Press (395) 4 x 12 reps -- The machine only goes to 395.
A1: Inc Chest Press (195) 3x8
A2: Bent Row (245) 3 x10
B1: Smith Shoulder Press (150) 3 x 8
B2: Shrugs (315) 3 x 10
C1: DB Bicep Curls (40 each) 3 x 15
C2: Dec Crunch (45) 3 x 20

A1: Hack Squat (630) 4 x 12
A2: Hang Clean (185) 4 x 8
A3: Bench Crunch 4 x 30
B1: Dips (80 lbs added) 4 x 12
B2: One Arm Cable Row - Seated (120) 4 x 12
B3: Cable Biceps Curl (120) 4 x 12

Friday -- A New Version of the 300 Workout:
25x Bent Row (185)
50x Deadlifts (185)
50x DB Inc Chest Press (2 x 60)
50x Bench Straddle Jumps
25x Standing Military Press (95)
50x Ab Waves
25x Bent Row (185)
25x Standing Military Press (95)

300 total reps in 30:49 minutes.

After finishing this I did a superset of Pec Deck (165) and Lat Pulldowns (180) for three sets of 10 reps on each exercise.

[Note: A1, A2 means a superset with no rest between exercises. A1, A2, A3 means a giant set with no rest between exercises.]

In today's workout, the bent rows and deadlifts were too light -- next time I'll try 205. The bench straddle jumps start by standing on a bench, jumping down to the floor with a leg on each side of the bench and immediately springing back up to standing on the bench. The military press was the hardest part -- probably a little too heavy.

I've been doing full body workouts three or four days a week since early January. I really believe this is the best approach to fat loss with weight training. I add in racquetball for cardio whenever I have time.

My diet has been around 2000-2500 calories a day, heavy on protein and healthy fats and low on carbs (my only substantial carbs come in my post-workout drink and in a bowl of oatmeal on training days). I take 15-20 grams of fish oil a day. I take at least 1200 milligrams of alpha lipoic acid each day. I also take assorted vitamins and minerals.

Fat loss supplements:
Hot Rox Extreme (2 caps, twice a day)
Green Tea Extract (3-4 capsules, 3 times a day)

Muscle Maintenance Supplements:
Alpha Male -- testosterone booster (2 caps, twice a day)
Novedex XT -- anti-estrogen (4 caps at bedtime)

These supplements are fairly expensive, but it has been worth the investment in the new business it has generated at the gym. A guy stopped me today and asked if I was taking new clients because he had seen me with my shirt off in the locker and said I was the only trainer at the gym who looked like I practice what I preach. Plus, reaching the short-term goal is worth it to me.

Five weeks left to hit 8 percent bodyfat.

Folktale: Raven and Noah’s Ark

I wrote this folktale several years ago. A watered-down version (read: not offensive to Christians) was published by Reading A-Z. I always thought Raven got a bum rap in the flood story simply because he was black, while dove was white. So I wrote my own version of the story. The simple language and structure is due to the fact that this was written for second graders.

Raven and Noah’s Ark

A long, long time ago, before the world was as we know it now, there was a great storm. Blades of lightning cut through the sky and thunder shook the ground. The rain fell, and kept falling, for forty days and forty nights.

Noah was a wise man. He had known the storm was coming and had built a big boat. He named his boat the Ark. He gathered his family onto the Ark. He also gathered one male and female of every animal, bird, and insect, just in case they didn’t survive the storm.

After three days of rain, the ground was completely covered with water. After seven days of rain, the big, heavy Ark began to float. When the rain stopped after forty days and nights, not one patch of ground was visible anywhere. Trees floated by, uprooted by the water. A pod of dolphins swam alongside the giant boat. In the distance, the clouds parted and revealed a blue sky.

Noah found Raven, the smartest of all the birds. “Mr. Raven,” Noah said, “please come here.” He addressed Raven with respect because what he was asking was serious. “I need you to leave the Ark and fly until you find land. When you do, bring back a tree branch so that I know we can start a new life. Wherever we land will be our new home.”

“Caw, caw,” said Raven, agreeing to do this most dangerous and important job.

For three long days, Raven flew over the water, but he found no land. By the fifth day, he noticed the water was receding. Below him he saw the first small patch of dry ground. On the seventh day, Raven saw a whole mountain above the water and flew toward it. He was very tired by now and wanted to rest for a while.

When he landed he found the opening of a cave in the side of the mountain. Raven was a curious bird so he hopped, quietly, from spot to spot, until he was inside. In the darkness he saw a group of people huddled around a small fire.

A man saw him and shouted, “Raven, come here, share our fire. We have stored plenty of wood. You are welcome to join me and my family.”

Raven hopped to the fire and spread his tired wings to the warmth.

“Tell us, Raven,” said the man, “where have you come from?”

“Caw, cahaw, caaaw, ca, ca, caw,” said Raven, eager to share his story. But the people around the fire just stared at him, unable to understand.

But the man nodded. He was a great shaman and knew the language of animals.

“When you have rested, take this deerskin to your master. He must know others have survived.” The man traced the outline of his hand onto the deerskin with a piece of charcoal from the fire. “When he sees this he will know you found us.”

After a short nap, Raven began the long trip back to the Ark. He was excited to share his news. For seven days he flew, as the sun began to dry the waters from the Earth.

When Raven finally found the Ark, he was very tired. Noah was busy chasing the animals onto the dry land. The big boat had come to a rest on the rocks of a big mountain. As the water formed into lakes and rivers, the land below was a fertile valley.

“Caw, cahaw,” said Raven. He dropped the deerskin at Noah’s feet.

“You crazy bird,” said Noah, “Dove found this mountain four days ago. Where have you been?”

Noah bent to pick up the deerskin. He unrolled it and saw the freshly drawn outline of a hand, a human hand.

“We are not alone,” Noah whispered to himself, dancing in a circle. “We are not alone!”

Noah bent down to Raven and whispered, “Thank you, wise bird. But this must remain our secret. The others will want to leave to find these new people. But this is our new home. I can feel it. We must say here.”

Raven knew Noah was a very wise man. “Caw, caw,” said Raven, agreeing.

So Noah and his sons, each with a wife and children, settled the new land. Their crops grew healthy and plentiful. The animals multiplied and filled the land. Everyone was very happy. Raven kept his promise, and his secret. He allowed Dove to be the hero who found their new home. But, in his heart, he knew the truth.

Poem: Li Ching Chao

When Night Comes
To the tune of "Telling My Most Intimate Feelings"

When night comes,
I am so flushed with wine,
I undo my hair slowly:
a plum calyx is
stuck on a damaged branch.
I wake dazed when smoke
breaks my spring sleep.
The dream distant,
so very distant;
and it is quiet, so very quiet.
The moon spins and spins.
The kingfisher blinds are drawn;
and yet I rub the injured bud,
and yet I twist in my fingers this fragrance,
and yet I possess these moments of time!

Neatorama: Heaven and Hell, According to Various Religions

Here's a little Friday fun from Neatorama, courtesy of Mental Floss (both of which are very cool sites, by the way).

6 Versions of Heaven

Ah, heaven. Marx called it the carrot used by the wealthy to keep us working hard for little money. After all, the real rewards are supposed to come much later. But despite what Marx had to say, the notion of a happy afterlife won’t quite go away. Here are six pleasant resorts the righteous can look forward to in afterlife.

1. Heaven: Judaism

Gan Eden, the heavenly Garden of Eden, the final stage of
Olam Haba
[wiki] (or afterlife). (Image credit: Afterlife Folklore: Judaism)

As one of the oldest and most influential religions in existence, Judaism might be expected to be the source of our most profound notions of heaven, but it isn’t. In fact, there is no clear indication of a heaven or afterlife in the Jewish scriptures at all, which leads to a lot of debate on the subject. Two typical positions are those of the Pharisees, who believed that there was an implied notion of an afterlife, and the Sadducees, who pointed out that there was no biblical evidence of such. Over the millennia, Jews have come to believe in various versions of heaven, some of which occur after the Messiah comes and involve the righteous dead coming back to life. Still, overall, Judaism is more concerned with life in the here and now.

2. Paradise: Zoroastrianism

It was the ancient Persians who gave us the word paradise, which means a walled garden or park, and Zoroastrianism in particular gave us notions of the afterlife that were adopted and/or adapted by the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Zoroastrianism is also interesting because, unlike other religions, it claims that everyone will eventually get into heaven, though it might take a while. The paradise of Zoroastrianism is attained the fourth day after death by crossing the Bridge of the Separator, which widens when the righteous approach it. (see the next section for what happens to the wicked.) The righteous soul crosses the bridge and is met by a beautiful maiden who is the physical and feminine embodiment of all his good works on earth. He is then escorted into the House of Song to await the Last Day. On this day, everyone will be purified and live in a new world absent of evil and full of youthful rejoicing.

3. Heaven: Christianity

14th century tapestry depicting John of Patmos [wiki] watching descent of New Jerusalem from God (Image credit: Kimon Berlin, Gribeco, Wikipedia)

The Christian notion of heaven is one of singing and rejoicing before God in a “new heaven and a new earth.” It also reflects Christianity’s roots in Judaism because this new heaven contains a city called New Jerusalem. There are elaborate descriptions of the city in the Book of Revelation. New Jerusalem has a wall and 12 gates, and on each gate is the name of one of the tribes of Israel along with an angel. There are also 12 foundations, 1 each for the 12 apostles. In fact, we even know the size of the New Jerusalem: 1400 miles square with a 200-foot wall. The structure itself is made of all kinds of precious stones, some of which have not yet been identified on this earth. There is a river of “the water of life,” which flows from God’s throne, and trees of life line the banks of the river and produce fruit every month. Believers will have God’s name written on their foreheads, and all pain, tears, and death will disappear forever.

4. Paradise: Islam

16th century Persian miniature depicting Muhammad ascending to paradise on the mystical part-eagle, part-horse Buraq, in the event called the Mi’raj [wiki] or Night Journey. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

The Islamic version of heaven is a paradise for those whose good works have outweighed the bad as determined by the straight path laid out in the Quran. Heaven is a garden where the faithful lie upon couches in a climate-controlled environment surrounded by “bashful, dark-eyed virgins, chaste as the sheltered eggs of ostriches.” They will drink from crystal goblets and silver vessels as “immortal youths” hover about them looking like “scattered pearls.” The believers will be clothed in green silk and brocade and will wear silver bracelets, and they will “drink a pure draught” drawn from Allah’s own source as a reward for their striving and patience.

5. Moksha: Hinduism

Eastern religions don’t really have notions of heaven like those in the West. Instead, they usually offer some kind of release from illusion and suffering in the present world. The Hindu Upanishads are philosophical portions of the Vedas, Hinduism’s oldest sacred text, and in them the notions of the self and afterlife are developed. According to the Upanishads, our actions connect us to this world of appearances, which is in fact illusory. What is real is Brahman, the ultimate reality that transcends our sensory experiences. Unfortunately, we live in ignorance of Brahman and act according to our illusions. This action (karma) causes us to participate in the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara – see next section) from which it’s difficult to escape. Thus, if you can escape your ignorance and realize that ultimately you are not you but Brahman itself, then you can achieve release from the cycle of death and rebirth. This release is called moksha.

6. Nirvana: Buddhism

The Way to Nirvana, a Thangka painting from Dharmapala Thangka Centre

One of the four noble truths of the Buddha is that suffering is caused by desire, the desire to have but also the desire to be. Desire is tanha, or a burning that keeps us caught in the web of illusion that is our ego. The Buddha taught that desire is a flame that burns us, causes suffering, and keeps us tied to the cycle of death and rebirth because the flame continues burning into the next life. What we hope for is Nirvana, or the extinguishing of that flame, which is also the end of suffering.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here: 7 Versions of Hell

Walt Whitman wrote that “the fear of hell is little or nothing to me,” but he was Walt Whitman. For most religious people, the fear of hell is a powerful motivation to believe in a faith, avoid sin, and generally behave. Here are seven pretty effective motivational scenarios.

1. Hell: Judaism

Molech (Image credit: The Story of the Bible (1884) by Charles Foster,
Illustrations by F.B. Schell and others)

As with their view of heaven, Jews have an ambiguous version of hell. The Hebrew Bible makes little mention of it except as a place where the spirits of the dead reside (Sheol). There is, however, the term Gehinnom, which refers to a valley in which children were reportedly sacrificed to the god Molech. Eventually, this valley became a refuse dump that was constantly burning, which provided a powerful metaphor for a place to send sinners. In later Judaism, hell is a place of punishment for unbelievers, but according to the rabbinical texts, they will probably stay there for no more than a year.

2. The Chinvat Bridge: Zoroastrianism

Chinvat Bridge (Image credit:

The Bridge of Separation, as it’s also known, is the one that all people must walk after they die. For the righteous it broadens and leads to a beautiful maiden, but for the less than righteous, it turns on its side and becomes like a razor. The ancient god Mithra is there with a scale to balance the good and evil deeds done during one’s lifetime, and if evil deeds prevail, then the soul is tormented by an old hag before it falls off the bridge into hell. The torments of the evil go well beyond Dante’s imagination and focus on punishment directly related to their evil deeds. Zoroastrian hell may be the most horrific of all, and a text called the Vision of Arda Viraf describes it in all its gory glory. Fortunately, everyone eventually leaves Zoroastrian hell. They are purified and join the righteous in the reign of the god Ahura Mazda.

3. Hades: Greek

The Rape of Proserpina by Joseph Heintz the Elder (1598-1605), depicting the kidnapping and rape of Persephone by Hades.

Hades is actually the name of the lord of the dead and ruler of the netherworld, but the name became so associated with the place that the two merged, so Hades is also the place the dead go. Hades rules this world with Persephone – whom he abducted from the earth-goddess Demeter – and a number of other figures such as Thanatos, Hypnos, Charon, and Cerberus. Hades represents the place of eternal punishment for evildoers, where the sinners are put on horrifying display. Such example include Tityos bound while a vulture eats his liver, Tantalus thirsty and hungry but unable to eat the fruit just above his head or drink the water at his feet, and Sisyphus forced to push a rock up a hill only to have it roll back again for eternity.

4. Hell: Christianity

Hell, depicted in Hortus deliciarum [wiki] a medieval manuscript (c. 1167)
compiled by Herrad of Landsberg.

Christian hells seems at one level to be a combination of the Jewish idea of Gehinnom, where there is eternal burning, and Hades, where there is eternal punishment. In fact, the Greek word for hell in the New Testament is often hades, and Jesus used the word Gehenna (a version of Gehinnom) to indicate the place for sinners where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die. The Book of Revelation indicates that those whose name are not found written in the Book of Life are thrown into the lake of fire. In fact, Death and Hades themselves are thrown into the lake of fire in the end. In addition to these texts, Dante did much to embellish the Christian notion of hell in his Inferno.

5. Hell: Islam

The Day of the Last Judgment, painting attributed to artist Mohammad Modabber - undated, but likely from the late 19th century. (Image credit: Coffee-House Painting by Hadi Seyf, publ. Reza Abbasi Museum, Mohammed Image Archive)

The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, usually speak of heaven and hell in the same passage, perhaps in order to provide a dramatic contrast. Hell is often described as “an evil resting place” and the “Fire.” But fire is just the beginning of the torment in hell because the fire is like a wall enclosing the wicked, and when they cry out, they are showered with water as “hot as molten brass,” which scalds their faces. It gets worse. The unbelievers wear garments of fire and are lashed with rods of iron, and if they try to escape, they are dragged back and told to “taste the torment of the Conflagration.”

6. Samsara: Hinduism

Wheel of Life, depicted in a Tibetan Buddhist painting
(although the concept is similar in Hinduism)
(Image credit: photo by Henryart, Wikipedia)

Again, the Eastern religions have a very different notion of the afterlife, although in some sects of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, there are heavens and hells that are similar to Western ideas of the same. Hindu hell, however, is traditionally a continuation of life on earth called samsara. Samsara is the endless cycle of death and rebirth that is the result of our ignorance of the ultimate reality of the universe. The word means “to wander across,” as in lifetimes, and samsara is the result of karma or actions taken in this life that will determine the nature of one’s rebirth and the caste one is born into.

7. The Bardo: Tibetan Buddhism

Yamantaka [wiki], the Conqueror of Death, the last stop in the quest for enlightenment (Image credit:

One of the most detailed and elaborate depictions of the afterlife is from the Tibetan Buddhist text Bardo Thodol, or the Tibetan Book of the Dead. As the title suggests, the book deals with dying or, more accurately, with the state of Between, and there are many “betweens”: birth and death, sleeping and waking, walking and trance, and three others within the death-rebirth between. The Bardo Thodol teaches that after death, the soul exists in the Bardo for 49 days in a between that can lead to Nirvana or back into rebirth. One of the factors that influences the soul’s ultimate location is the dying itself. A good death tends to push the soul toward enlightenment, while a bad death can move it toward rebirth in the world. Tibetan Buddhists thus spend a lot of time and energy in helping the dying.

Adam Curtis: The Century of the Self

This is an older 4-part series by Adam Curtis, the same guy I posted on yesterday.

Here is the blurb that accompanied the post at Video Sift:
"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." - Adam Curtis

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings profoundly. His influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of Freud's theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their "engineering of consent".

Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the "father of the public relations industry". Freud's daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as well as Wilhelm Reich, the main opponent of Freud's theories.

Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

The business and, increasingly, the political world uses PR to read and fulfill our desires, to make their products or speeches as pleasing as possible to us. Curtis raises the question of the intentions and roots of this fact. He cites a Wall Street banker as saying "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

In Episode 4 the main characters are Philip Gould and Matthew Freud, the great grandson of Sigmund, a PR consultant. They were part of the efforts during the nineties to bring the Democrats in USA and New Labour in the United Kingdom back into power. Adam Curtis explores the psychological methods they now massively introduced into politics. He also argues that the eventual outcome strongly resembles Edward Bernays vision for the "Democracity" during the 1939 New York World's Fair.

To quote the BBC site:

To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?
Part 1:

Via: VideoSift

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist?

You Are a Realist

You don't see the glass as half empty or half full. You see what's exactly in the glass.
You never try to make a bad situation seem better than it is...
But you also never sabotage any good things you have going on.
You are brutally honest in your assessments of situations - and this always seems to help you cope.


Speedlinking 3/23/07

Quote of the day:

"Someday we'll look back on this moment and plow into a parked car."
~ Evan Davis

Image of the day:

~ Video: Floor Wipers from the 300 Workout -- Josh Hillis has posted a video of the elusive "floor wiper."
~ BONUS ARTICLE: Perfecting the Romanian Deadlift -- "Believe it or not the RDL is a very difficult movement to learn, but Mike Robertson's detailed instructions, photos, and video will have you doing a perfect RDL in moments."
~ Ribcage Expansion: Fact or Fiction? -- "Didn't it seem that the bodybuilders of yesteryear had bigger chests? (We're talking chest circumference here and not pec size, mind you.) Ellington thinks so and he knows why - it was all due to the all-but-lost art of ribcage expansion."
~ High cholesterol lowers testosterone -- "Men with high cholesterol or high blood pressure have lower blood levels of the male hormone, testosterone, than men with normal blood pressure."
~ Fortified foods: Too much of a good thing? -- "Promising better bang for the buck, products like orange juice fortified with calcium, called functional foods, are increasingly filling grocery store aisles — and our fridges. But do we really need them?"
~ Clinical Trial to Examine Creatine as Parkinson's Treatment (HealthDay) -- "A large-scale clinical trial to determine whether the nutritional supplement creatine can slow the progression of Parkinson's disease is expected to be launched Thursday by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)."
~ Omega-3 fatty acids linked to denser bones in men -- "Omega-3 fatty acids may help build young men's bone strength, research hints."
~ Vitamin D, Variations In Its Receptor, And Prostate Cancer -- "Results of this study by Haojie Li and colleagues suggest that vitamin D deficiency is common among men in the US, and that vitamin D status and genetic variation in the VDR gene affect prostate cancer risk."
~ Walking, yoga may help during menopause -- "Moderate exercise like walking and yoga may make the transition through menopause a little easier, new research suggests."
~ The nature and nurture of muscles -- A basic primer on the muscles.
~ Practicing Tai Chi Boosts Immune System in Older Adults -- "Tai chi chih, the Westernized version of the 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art characterized by slow movement and meditation, significantly boosts the immune systems of older adults against the virus that leads to the painful, blistery rash known as shingles, according to a new UCLA study."

~ How the Heart Can Rule the Head -- "Many philosophers have argued that people make decisions about what's right and wrong based on moral principles and rational thought. But other philosophers--and more recently, some psychologists and neuroscientists--have argued that there's more to the story. When faced with a moral dilemma, these scholars say, we rely on emotional reactions as well as our powers of reasoning. In a study of brain damage, published today, neuroscientists report evidence that emotions indeed exert a powerful influence on moral judgments."
~ More Specific Definition Needed for PTSD -- "Based on clinical evidence that severely depressed patients also display many of the symptoms falling under the PTSD label, researchers believe that its definition needs to be refined in order to avoid frequently incorrect diagnoses." See also: Doubt cast on definition of PTSD.
~ Teaching Morality -- "Classroom techniques to teach middle schoolers how to "do the right thing" in their everyday lives."
~ Making Happiness -- "The pursuit of happiness is propelled forward by your experiences, not your possessions. Forget about retail therapy - doing things makes you happier than buying stuff."
~ Are You Too Sensitive? -- "Many people who feel deeply, are told they have a problem, that they are too emotional. There is no problem."
~ Novel Study Sheds Light On Imitation Learning -- "A new study from Brandeis University published this week in the Journal of Vision unravels some of the mysteries surrounding how we learn to do things like tie our shoes, feed ourselves, or perform dazzling dance steps."
~ Getting older provides positive outlook -- "Research conducted at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs proves not everything goes downhill when it comes to aging."
~ Think about what you want, not what you don´t want -- "People spend a lot of time thinking about how they lack money, how they feel lonely, how they work at a job they don´t really like, how they are overweight. They get so used to doing it that they almost forget to think about what they actually do want in life."
If only gay sex caused global warming -- "Why we're more scared of gay marriage and terrorism than a much deadlier threat."

~ Nine other oaths Karl Rove could swear to Congress -- "Washington is deadlocked over the Bush administration's refusal to let Congress grill top White House aides under oath. If the impasse continues, it may cause a constitutional crisis between the legislative and executive branches, and Americans may never learn what really led to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year."
~ Can Edwards' Campaign Just Go On? -- "The candidate and his wife stressed that her new battle with cancer will not deter his race for the presidency. But voters and donors have to be wondering how long that will last."
~ Tony Snow: "Congress In Fact Doesn't Have Oversight Authority" -- "Paul Kiel for TPM Muckraker quotes Tony Snow: "The executive branch is under no compulsion to testify to Congress, because Congress in fact doesn't have oversight ability." ABC News has the video."
~ Thanks for Nothing -- "Joshua Kors investigates how the military is misdiagnosing wounded soldiers to avoid paying their medical bills."
~ British leave, battle erupts over Basra -- "Just two days after British troops pulled out of downtown Basra, Iraq's second-largest city and center of the country's oil-rich south, fighting erupted between rival Shiite groups in street battles Thursday."
~ Viral Ads and the New Democratic Moment -- "De Vellis' ad may be the first of many in the era of YouTube politics, but some reporters and bloggers are already wondering about the downside of user-generated political participation. What, exactly, will happen to political campaigns if everyone has the ingenuity and technical know-how to post a video on the Internet?"
~ Why Having More No Longer Makes Us Happy -- " The formula of human well-being used to be simple: Make money, get happy. So why is the old axiom suddenly turning on us?"
~ Judge overturns US web porn law -- "A US federal judge strikes down a law to protect children from internet pornography, saying it violated free speech."
~ Republican Party loyalty in decline since 2002 -- "The survey, by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for People and the Press, found a "dramatic shift" in political party identification since 2002, when Republicans and Democrats were at rough parity. Now, half of those surveyed identified with or leaned toward Democrats, while only 35% aligned with Republicans."

~ NBC, News Corp. Take on YouTube -- "Big media conglomerates challenge Google, announcing their own massive video-sharing network. Breaking news in Epicenter."
~ E-Vote Memo Is a 'Smoking Gun' -- "Activists renew calls to examine voting machines' source code after a document shows the manufacturer knew about problems in advance of a closely contested Florida election."
~ The Year Without Toilet Paper -- "Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation."
~ UFO Sighting Archive Goes Online -- "France opens an online archive of more than 1,600 alleged UFO sightings."
~ White Dwarf Explodes in 3-D Simulation -- "Astrophysicists explode a star in an unusual 3-D supercomputer simulation."
~ MIT study asks: Does BlackBerry equal 'CrackBerry' or career essential? -- "One might expect a doctoral student conducting research on BlackBerry usage to own one or more of the handheld devices. But Melissa Mazmanian, a fourth-year MIT Sloan doctoral student, doesn't own one, and she prefers it this way."
~ Earth's Oldest Chunk of Crust Found -- "Volcanic rocks formed 3.8 billion years ago suggest plate tectonics started early."

~ Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber (book review) -- From elamb at Source of Miracles.
~ Forms of awakening: ordinary, amazing and neutral -- From Per at Mystery of Existence.
~ More on Appropriateness -- From Aaron at Anxious Living.
~ Who Is the Divine Mother? -- From Integrative Spirituality.
~ What's your dream job? Describe it -- From ~C4Chaos.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

David Lynch on Understanding His Films

This is from a BBC article on Lynch posted today:

He added that his advice to people who may find the plot hard to understand - is to rely on what he called "inner knowing".

"I would say that I think they understand more than they give themselves credit for," he said.

"We have this thing called intuition, and we intuit things, and it's an inner knowing. When things get abstract, this can kick in. Words fail, but this is another kind of knowing."
Here is the first trailer for INLAND EMPIRE:

And here is Lynch talking about Transcendental Meditation, which may be how he has developed his intuitive sense of the absurd:

Media: The Evolution of the Postmodern Caveman

Esquire interviews the creative team behind the Geiko Caveman commercial series, which is now rumored to be coming in sit-com format from ABC.
The Evolution of the Postmodern Caveman

How Geico turned Cro-Magnon man into a sitcom star.
By Erin Schulte

In a world increasingly populated by emasculated metrosexuals, the pop-culture caveman -- he of the grunting, stupid and brutish variety -- is a visceral reminder that man's raw sexual urges can't be completely sublimated. (It's why Colin Farrell has so much charm.) There's something sexy about knowing there's a man out there somewhere who wants to grab a fistful of your hair, drag you back to his pit, and have his way with you.

But you won't find him in a Geico commercial.

Enter the age of the postmodern caveman: He whines about his domineering mother in therapy. He orders the roast duck with mango salsa. He sells automobile insurance for Geico.

And now -- he might have his own sitcom. Earlier this month Variety reported that ABC is developing a half-hour show based on the Geico caveman characters. The script was written by Joe Lawson, the advertising copywriter behind the Geico series.

The Geico caveman sprung from the pages of a creative brief sent to the insurer from its advertising agency, The Martin Agency. We sat down with Geico and The Martin Agency's creative team to plumb the appeal of their hypersensitive Cro-Mags.

So what were you smoking during the brainstorming session? Where did the idea for the caveman come from?

Steve Bassett, creative director, The Martin Agency: The Paleozoic era?

But why a caveman?

Ted Ward, vice president of marketing, Geico: Here you have this Neanderthal from hundreds of thousands of years ago, in today's world. We liked the visual juxtaposition of current technology and cave people coming together.

Bassett: We wanted to communicate that was very simple to use, and that people shouldn't be scared to get a rate quote.

People seem to love the lumpy-headed characters. What do you think their appeal is?

Joe Lawson, associate creative director, The Martin Agency: Obviously, it's their incredible sex appeal.

No, really.

Lawson: On a base level, everyone likes humor, and we use dialogue driven humor, whereas most commercials or sitcoms are over the top or slapstick. People are leaning more toward subtle, character driven dialogue. It's why shows like The Office and single-camera comedies, like Extras, do well.

There's no broader social commentary that can be derived from it?

Lawson: The cavemen on a very subtle level are reflecting and commenting on something that's going on in culture, yes. The ad campaign acknowledges the world we live in, and ours is a politically correct country. People seem to feel victimized in some way no matter who they are, and that's reflected in the ad.

When did you know they were a hit?

Lawson: I think we knew they were catching on when SportsCenter used one of the lines from the "Apology," the "roast duck with mango salsa" line. In addition to that, the comments on YouTube were really positive. And the spots were getting a ton of views. But basically there's no real way of knowing whether your audience is responding to the work or not. You just put it our there and hope for the best. Advertising is not a science, nor is it an art. It's an abyss. You learn all you can, you use every tool you have, but in the end, if you're doing what you're supposed to do, you're going where no one's gone before. Regardless, after the second round of commercials came out, we knew we had something. The press and the blogosphere were definitely taking notice.

Read the rest.

The "Apology" ad. Courtesy

The "Airport" ad. Courtesy

The "Therapy" ad. Courtesy

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom?

Another interesting documentary from the BBC. These are parts 1 & 2 of a 3-part series. Here is the blurb with the first video, as posted at Video Sift.
'The Trap - What Happened To Our Dream Of Freedom?' is a new documentary by the BAFTA-winning producer Adam Curtis. It looks at how models of human behaviour shaped by Cold War logic have come to control our lives. The first episode in the three-part series was shown on BBC TV here in the UK last Sunday. If you're curious about the intersection of psychology and politics, and how we got where we are today, then you must see this documentary.
Here is Part 1: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom?

Via: VideoSift

Here is Part 2: The Lonely Robot

As soon as Part 3 becomes available, I will post that one as well.

Daily Dharma: Take Note of Your Mind

Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:

Take Note of Your Mind

It's impossible to take note of your mind all of the time. You would tie yourself up in knots and run off the road. Instead of going to an extreme, begin by concentrating on one particular emotion in yourself. Choose the emotion that bothers you the most, or the one that is most prominent in you.... For many people, anger is a good starting point because it is easily noticed and dissolves faster than most other emotions. Once you begin to watch your anger, you will make an interesting discovery. You will find that as soon as you know you are angry, your anger will melt away by itself. It is very important that you watch without likes or dislikes. The more you are able to look at your own anger without making judgments, without being critical, the more easily the anger will dissipate.

~ Thynn Thynn, Living Meditation, Living Insight.

It's easy to fall into the all-or-nothing trap when we first begin to practice mindfulness. We want to be as aware as possible of what is going on in our minds. I know I made this mistake.

But, as the quote suggests, if we start small and focus on one thing at a time, we can gradually build our awareness and become more mindful of our feelings and thoughts. We do not need to go to extremes in either direction -- being completely unaware or being totally aware. As the Buddha taught, the Middle Way is often the best way.

Speedlinking 3/22/07

Quote of the day:

"Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats."
~ Howard Aiken

Image of the day:

~ 25 Years, 25 Mistakes -- "Coach Boyle's been dragging his calloused butt through the weighlifting business for 25 years. During that time he's made a few mistakes, but luckily for you whippersnappers, he wants to save you from making those same mistakes."
~ Cardio Can Make You Smarter -- "This week’s issue of Newsweek has a cover story about exercise and the brain. Scientists now believe that cardiovascular exercise can make people smarter. The evolving theory is that cardio helps create a chemical in the brain that improves memory and intelligence. The full story is accessible on Newsweek’s web site."
~ Plant foods may cut breast cancer risk -- "Postmenopausal women who eat healthy amounts of plant foods rich in estrogen-like compounds called lignans may reduce their risk of developing breast cancer, according to a new study."
~ Chinese restaurant food unhealthy -- "The typical Chinese restaurant menu is a sea of nutritional no-nos, a consumer group has found." Damn.
~ Dietary patterns linked to type 2 diabetes risk -- "Avoiding meats and fatty foods and eating lots of salads and cooked vegetables appears to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to study findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology." We shouldn't avoid all meats, just fatty meats.
~ Heavy coffee drinkers show no blood pressure rise -- "Coffee lovers who are in good health may have little reason to cut back, at least as far as their blood pressure is concerned, a new study suggests."
~ Living With Fibromyalgia -- "An essay that looks at what Fibromyalgia (FMS) is, and how it effects the lives of sufferers."

~ Spleen can be good for the brain -- "Testosterone-fuelled people seem to enjoy provoking anger in others, according to a study of people's responses to angry faces."
~ Future recall: your mind can slip through time -- "If you thought memory was all about making a record of the past, think again."
~ Risk Taking And Virtual Racing Games Linked -- "Psychologists have taken the "media priming" effects of popular video console and PC-based games on the road, finding that virtual racing seems to lead to aggressive driving and a propensity for risk taking."
~ An Idle Mind, or More? Alpha Oscillations and Consciousness [Developing Intelligence] -- "In the new issue of Seed, Douglas Hofstadter talks about "strange loops" - his term for patterns of level-crossing feedback inside some medium (such as neurons) - and their role in consciousness."
~ Why It's OK To Be Depressed Sometimes -- "The modern Western mindset has it that depression is an abnormal state. That when you're a bit down, it means you have a medical problem that requires treatment. Of course, this isn't necessarily true. While depression is clearly a major problem for many people that does require treatment of some type, do we all need to be treated every time we are down?"
~ Fulfilling Your Potential -- "Maslow studied self-accepting, self-aware, spontaneous people (like Abe Lincoln) who found their calling. Being all you can be is a measurable, attainable goal!"
~ Why Do Bad Things Happen? -- "Learn the three steps you can take when bad things come into your life." Simplistic but useful.
~ 60 Ways to Say I Love You -- "Boosting your relationship in little (but hugely important) ways can help you overcome intimacy issues, develop close connections, and spice up your love life!"
~ Moral judgment fails without feelings -- "Consider the following scenario: someone you know has AIDS and plans to infect others, some of whom will die. Your only options are to let it happen or to kill the person. Do you pull the trigger?"

~ Study Finds 56M Lack Access To Basic Health Care -- "'Access Denied: A Look at America's Medically Disenfranchised,' National Association of Community Health Centers: The study by NACHC and the Robert Graham Center examines access to basic health care among U.S. residents of all races and ethnicities, income levels and insurance statuses."
~ The hostile New Age takeover of yoga -- "Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against yoga—or Eastern disciplines in general. In fact, I've done tai chi exercises for many years."
~ The Executive Privilege Showdown -- "There could be one if Congress rejects the White House's offer to interview aides in private over the U.S. attorneys firings. Would the president's argument win out?"
~ The Evolution of the Evolution Debate -- "The debate over evolution doesn't come down to God vs. Darwin. Many perspectives are somewhere in between."
~ Jimmy Carter's Bible-Study Teachings -- "As a new collection of his Bible-study teachings hits the market, the 39th president speaks out--on his vision of God, the might of the religious right and the fallout from his controversial book about Palestine."
~ Spartans Overwhelmed at Thermopylae, Again -- "A technically exciting videogame of a film, "300" loses touch with a critical and moving event in Greek history."
~ What It Means to Be a Leftist in the 21st Century -- "Professor, culture critic, and social justice advocate Cornel West talks about the need to make radical reformism fashionable among young people again."
~ Indications of Obfuscation -- "Among the many lessons of the Scooter Libby trial is this one: That when the White House issues squirrelly statements under fire, the most cynical interpretations may well be the closest to the truth."

~ Crops Feel The Heat As The World Warms -- "Over a span of two decades, warming temperatures have caused annual losses of roughly $5 billion for major food crops, according to a new study by researchers at the Carnegie Institution and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory."
~ Rating the Best Workplace Democracies -- "Democracy and business seem to operate in completely separate worlds. But that belief is a problem for the corporate world, says Traci Fenton, founder of WorldBlu. Her company studies democracy in the workplace and came up with a list of the most democratic businesses."
~ Will Viacom Kill the Video Star? -- "The media giant's billion-dollar lawsuit against YouTube may change the online video landscape -- and introduce a new interpretation of copyright law."
~ Scientists Study Sacred Sounds -- "Blasting heavenly tunes in hallowed halls, researchers find the acoustic quirks that help churches get the message across."
~ Gore Implores Congress to Save Planet -- "Former Vice President Al Gore testified before House and Senate panels today about a 'true planetary emergency.'"
~ New Service Creates Custom News Sites -- "A new service lets visitors create custom news sites centered around niche hobbies, business ventures and other special interests, pulling stories on the topic from some 25,000 news sources."
~ River Dolphin Closer to Extinction Despite Reports, Experts Say -- "Asia's critically endangered Irrawaddy river dolphin may be in greater danger of extinction than ever—not less, as the government of Cambodia recently announced."
~ Map of relationships among scientific paradigms -- "A map of relationships among scientific paradigms has been constructed based on roughly 800,000 published papers sorted into 776 different scientific paradigms, based on how often the papers were cited together by authors of other papers."

~ Towards an immanent spiritual life? -- From Michael Bauwens at the P2P Foundation.
~ The Glass Ceiling of Enlightenment -- From Vince at Buddhist geeks.
~ He Turned His Awareness to What Was Before Him -- From Mike at Unknowing Mind.
~ Slow Down!!! Serenity Ahead!!! -- From Dharmashanti.
~ Epistemological indeterminacy -- From Ed Berge at Open Integral.
~ Love and Marriage: Going Beyond “You Complete Me” -- "Kimi has some thoughts today on monogamy, marriage, and what we should and shouldn’t expect from our relationships. She does a great job in a single sentence of bursting the Western romance myth: 'We don’t expect one friend to fulfill all our needs for connection and intimacy in our friendships, and yet we demand that of our partners, putting tremendous pressure on that person we love to be everything for us.'"