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September 15, 2011


Think "Run Lola Run" crossed with Tony Scott-style quick cuts, add a dollop of the old ultra-violence a là Bruce Lee, a dash of Cate Blanchett as a murderous CIA officer, unearthly Saoirse Ronan as the star, Eric Bana as her father, set the whole ball of wax in the Arctic, then cut to Morocco and finally finish things up in Berlin, and you've got this very entertaining film, which got bad reviews but hey, you can't have everything.

Using my functional gauge of movie goodness — i.e., how many times I looked at the clock while I was watching it (0) — it's a winner.

September 15, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Two Story High Inflatable Black Cat

Screen Shot 2011-09-14 at 10.38.26 PM

Wrote Flautist, "My kind of Halloween decoration."

She added, "Size does matter."

From the website:


Standing nearly two stories tall, this inflatable black cat is the largest Halloween decoration available.

The cat's underbelly is 9.3 feet above ground at the highest point, allowing trick-or-treaters to walk underneath, and each paw is the size of an armchair.

The cat's head automatically sways side-to-side and it has illuminated, piercing red eyes, a 4.75-foot-wide fanged grin, and 9.75-inch-long claws.

The gargantuan feline's hindquarters and tail are elevated above its head as if she's about to pounce on unsuspecting prey.

An integrated air pump inflates the display in four minutes, and lights in the neck, body, and tail produce an eerie glow.

Made of durable tear-resistant nylon, the cat remains in place with the included stakes and 19.7-foot-long tethers.



September 15, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Laughter releases endorphins and decreases pain

Doctor -- patient - relationship

Finally, a scientific basis for trotting out my tired repertoire of dumb jokes as I start an IV.

Excerpts follow from James Gorman's story in yesterday's New York Times about the new new thing in analgesia.

The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar ha, ha, ha, [Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford] said, trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.

Social laughter, Dr. Dunbar suggests, relaxed and contagious, is "grooming at a distance," an activity that fosters closeness in a group the way one-on-one grooming, patting and delousing promote and maintain bonds between individual primates of all sorts.

In five sets of studies in the laboratory and one field study at comedy performances, Dr. Dunbar and colleagues tested resistance to pain both before and after bouts of social laughter. The pain came from a freezing wine sleeve slipped over a forearm, an ever tightening blood pressure cuff or an excruciating ski exercise.

"The causal sequence is laughter triggers endorphin activation," he said.

To test the relationship of laughter of this sort to pain resistance, Dr. Dunbar did a series of six experiments. In five, participants watched excerpts of comedy videos, neutral videos or videos meant to promote good feeling but not laughter.

Among the comedy videos were excerpts from "The Simpsons," "Friends" and "South Park," as well as from performances by standup comedians like Eddie Izzard. The neutral videos included "Barking Mad," a documentary on pet training, and a golfing program. The positive but unfunny videos included excerpts from shows about nature, like the "Jungles" episode of "Planet Earth."

In the lab experiments, the participants were tested before and after seeing different combinations of videos. They suffered the frozen wine sleeve or the blood pressure cuff in different experiments and were asked to say when the pain reached a point they could not stand. They wore recorders during the videos so that the time they spent laughing could be established. In the one real-world experiment, similar tests were conducted at performances of an improvisational comedy group, the Oxford Imps.

The results, when analyzed, showed that laughing increased pain resistance, whereas simple good feeling in a group setting did not. Pain resistance is used as an indicator of endorphin levels because their presence in the brain is difficult to test; the molecules would not appear in blood samples because they are among the brain chemicals that are prevented from entering circulating blood by the so-called blood brain barrier.

Dr. Dunbar thinks laughter may have been favored by evolution because it helped bring human groups together, the way other activities like dancing and singing do. Those activities also produce endorphins, he said, and physical activity is important in them as well. "Laughter is an early mechanism to bond social groups," he said. "Primates use it."

Next on my agenda: finding someone who's really funny and willing to run alongside me during next month's Marine Corps Marathon — especially the last few miles.

Below, the abstract of Dunbar's paper, published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Social laughter is correlated with an elevated pain threshold

Although laughter forms an important part of human non-verbal communication, it has received rather less attention than it deserves in both the experimental and the observational literatures. Relaxed social (Duchenne) laughter is associated with feelings of wellbeing and heightened affect, a proximate explanation for which might be the release of endorphins. We tested this hypothesis in a series of six experimental studies in both the laboratory (watching videos) and naturalistic contexts (watching stage performances), using change in pain threshold as an assay for endorphin release. The results show that pain thresholds are significantly higher after laughter than in the control condition. This pain-tolerance effect is due to laughter itself and not simply due to a change in positive affect. We suggest that laughter, through an endorphin-mediated opiate effect, may play a crucial role in social bonding.


September 15, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hors d'oeuvres Headband


Shades of Carmen Miranda.

Though these ceramic arches with toothpick holes weren't intended as headgear, they'd perk up any party.

A great way to meet people.

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Set of three (large, medium and small) plus dish for discarded toothpicks: $44 (hors d'oeuvres not included).

September 15, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Little known government and public libraries


"Government and public libraries: national, federal agency, and local libraries; online library databases."

Joe Peach, a long-time member of my crack research team who doesn't get the credit he deserves, wrote, "I found more than a few things of interest here."

Moi aussi.

And no — that does not mean "I'm Australian."


September 15, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Limited-Edition Demi Assiette (Broken Plates)


Created by the artist Arman in 1990.

From the website:


Manufactured in Limoges by Bernardaud, each buffet plate from this set has been cut in half and given a hand-painted deep blue edge relating to the artist's classical works of sliced violins, cellos and other objects.

Each plate is signed and numbered. 

Limited edition of 175 sets.


Set of 6 plates: $1,300.

September 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fresh dates!


They arrived yesterday via FedEx courtesy of my Los Angeles correspondent,


who finally tired of hearing me whine about never having tasted them.


Thank you, kind sir.


Above and below,


Gray Cat investigates.

September 15, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Swiss Army Knife Stone Age Prototype


[via Jay Mug]

September 15, 2011 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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