Better living through chemistry: The NYT’s Gretchen Reynolds touts the potential medical benefits of caffeine addiction. “Participants with little or no caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were far more likely to have progressed to full-blown Alzheimer’s than those whose blood indicated they’d had about three cups’ worth of caffeine.” Factor in all the taurine I consume to boot, and I’m disco.
The Land of Chocolate? Astronomers find sugar molecules orbiting young star IRAS 16293-2422, 400 light years away. “‘A big question is: how complex can these molecules become before they are incorporated into new planets?’ Jørgensen said. “This could tell us something about how life might arise elsewhere, and ALMA observations are going to be vital to unravel this mystery.’”
Two new studies find a correlation between intelligence and a thirst for alcohol. Hey, I buy it – Thank you, science, for lending support to my vices! And, as Bogey said, “The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.”
“Much ink has been spilled on the question of why so many writers are alcoholics. Of America’s seven Nobel laureates, five were lushes–to whom we can add an equally drunk-and-disorderly line of Brits: Dylan Thomas, Malcolm Lowry, Brendan Behan, Patrick Hamilton, Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, all doing the conga to (in most cases) an early grave…In fact none of these authors would write much that was any good beyond the age of 40, Faulkner’s prose seizing up with sclerosis, Hemingway sinking into unbudgeable mawkishness.“
By way of Dangerous Meta, The Economist‘s Tom Shone considers the artistic merits of novelists sobering up. “The radiance of late Carver is so marked as to make you wonder how much the imperturbable gloom of late Faulkner, or the unyielding nihilism of late Beckett — like the cramped black canvases with which Rothko ended his career — were dictated by their creators’ vision, and how much they were simply symptoms of late-stage alcoholism. This suspicion is open to the counter-charge: this contentment and bliss is all very well, but readers may simply prefer the earlier, messed-up work.“
“With Perlow’s Mail Goggles, users can specify which hours they would like to enable the feature. If a user tries to send an e-mail during the self-selected time — say, midnight to 3 a.m. — a screen pops up forcing the user to solve a series of simple math problems before the message can be sent.” Thinking outside the box for new and useful apps, Gmail engineers try to tackle the thorny problem of drailing (drunk e-mailing.) “Perlow created the function last fall when he found himself sending messages to an ex-girlfriend — late at night — asking to get back together.” I feel you, brother.
“Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world, but few use it to maximal advantage. Get optimally wired with these tips.” By way of Follow Me Here and for fellow addicts, Developing Intelligence offers ways to maximize one’s caffeine boost. “1) Consume in small, frequent amounts. Between 20-200mg per hour may be an optimal dose for cognitive function.”
“We have to realize that we are already living in a society where we are already self-medicating with caffeine.” This one’s been languishing in the bookmarks for awhile, but via Drudge and blog-twin FmH, scientists may have discovered a cure for sleep deprivation in Orexin A. “The study, published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkeys’ cognitive abilities but made their brains look ‘awake’ in PET scans. Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is ‘specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness’ without other impacts on the brain.” But is it cheaper than my daily Red Bull?
“I really like my bacon crispy, but I fear it will get burnt too easily. That’s a risk we all take. The price of great bacon is eternal vigilance.” As seen at Looka recently, a very handy bacon decisionmaking flowchart. Hooray for bacon!
“But even those who hailed absinthe saw unsettling shadows. Wilde explained: ‘After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.’” In the NYT, critic Edward Rothstein sings the praises and surveys the notoriety of “the green muse,” absinthe, which is apparently making a legal comeback both here and in the EU. “Absinthe was the premier bohemian drink, as inseparable from the avant-garde of mid-19th-century Paris as was scorn the bourgeoisie. It played the role well; absinthe helped overturn that bourgeois world with seductive visions of another.“
A new minority staff report by the Senate Finance Committee concludes that “[f]ive conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, ‘appear to have perpetrated a fraud’ on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Among the organizations called out are Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (sheah), an outfit created by Norquist and former Dubya Interior Secretary Gail Norton, whose office was already waist-deep in ill-gotten Casino Jack loot. (In fact, Abramoff’s point person in Norton’s office was CREA’s president, Italia Federici.)
Update: In related news, Abramoff flunky Bob Ney pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and making false statements (without, mind you, resigning his seat in Congress.) While he didn’t speak with reporters, Ney’s written statement noted that the “treatment and counseling I have started have been very helpful, but I know that I am not done yet and that I have more work to do to deal with my alcohol dependency.” Ok, one more time, people. Alcoholism means you drink too much. It does not mean that you bilk the public, indulge in bribes, or send teenagers dirty IMs.
More Foleygate fallout: As the representative in question heads to rehab for alcoholism (I always thought alcoholism meant you drank too much…never knew about the whole IM’ing underage folks about their masturbation habits part of it), the House GOP leaders’ story keeps changing about what they knew and when they knew it (apparently, warning signs of Foley’s shadiness go back to 2001), and the Republicans as a whole wonder if this might be the straw that broke their electoral back… Update: As Foley’s story continues to get creepier, his attorney adds childhood abuse by a Catholic clergyman to the explanatory alcoholism. Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion?
In a happy collusion of one of my favorite sports and one of my favorite drinks, the New York Metrostars are now Red Bull New York. Mmm, Red Bull. I’m not usually one for blatant corporate sponsorship, but I think I may have to buy some RBNY paraphernalia close to immediately. Now if only we can get Guinness to buy the Revolution…
“More alarming were Richard Nixon’s last years at the White House. After a good many evening martinis, he would call Henry Kissinger, and the secretary of state would grin silently as he passed around the telephone so that others could listen to their commander in chief’s unbalanced ramblings. Since Nixon was in a position to blow us all up, this suggests a somewhat esoteric sense of humor on Kissinger’s part.” With the fall of Britain’s Charles Kennedy, Slate‘s Geoffrey Wheatcroft very briefly surveys the sordid history of alcoholism in politics. (He could, I think, have done more with The Alcoholic Republic.)
“There’s too much caffeine in your bloodstream, and a lack of real spice in your life…” Death by Caffeine, by way of DYFL. As a daily consumer of Red Bull, I’m comforted to discover that I’d have to consume 128 cans of said energy drink to drop dead on the spot.
Long have I desired to look upon upon the waffle fries of old. Just before the holidays, I’d heard from a few Carolinians in and about the city that, yes, there was in fact one Chick-Fil-A in Gotham. And, sure enough, this morning I found it, in NYU’s Weinstein Hall at the northeast corner of Washington Square Park. (Alas, it was closed until Tuesday, when the new NYU term starts — and it looks like there may be intermittent security attempting to keep displaced non-NYU Southerners like me away from the quality chicken products.)
Lost in a wine-dark sea, Miles (Paul Giamatti) is withering on the vine. His wife left him two years ago and he’s still in the drunk-dialing throes of despair. His novelist aspirations are dying an ugly death in ever-smaller publishing houses. Both oenophile and alcoholic, he drinks too much, eats too much, surveys the world in furtive glances, and cringes with self-loathing every time he looks in the mirror. He’s lugubrious, pedantic, bristling with negativity to the core. In sum, Miles is almost completely beaten down by life…so of course he attracts the attention of a smart, beautiful woman (Virginia Madsen) who shares all his important interests and remains fond of him, even and despite his awful behavior.
If you can get past this one critical and wholly improbable plot point (and I did, eventually), Alexander Payne’s Sideways is a trip to California wine country well worth taking. The movie basically plays like an approaching-middle-age version of About Schmidt (right down to the unfortunate nude scene), but this seemed a more well-rounded and generous film than its predecessor. (I thought Schmidt derived too many laughs from turning Dylan McDermott’s character into a buffoon. That being said, I also think Sideways flinches from reality in the closing moments in a way About Schmidt didn’t.) And, while I’m about as far from a wine connoisseur as you can get (whites with chicken and fish, right?), Sideways also succeeds in making the subculture of oenophilia both accessible and reasonably engaging, a few ham-handed “wine-is-life” soliloquies notwithstanding.
Special nods go to all the actors involved here, and particularly Paul Giamatti for making it so easy to empathize with the easily unlikable Miles…I can’t think of many other folks who could have pulled it off so well (In fact, looking back I’d say Nicholas Cage pulled it off less well in Adaptation.) I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Thomas Haden Church, as Miles’ low-key, horny doofus of a best friend, and Virginia Madsen, as the previously noted underwritten muse of second chances, get some action come award time (which may end up meaning sour grapes for the Closer crowd.)
Along the same lines, Slate‘s Seth Stevenson scrutinizes the return of the (Burger) King.
Slate‘s Seth Stevenson examines how Kentucky Fried became Kitchen Fresh. Hi-carb, lo-carb, no-carb, all-carb…call it whatever you want: I’ll still be a sucker for the popcorn chicken.
“The creepiest on-screen clone army of 2003 wasn’t The Matrix’s league of Agent Smiths at all, but Masked and Anonymous‘s cast of Bob Dylans. He was everybody, everywhere. Or, rather, everybody was him.” Via my friend Mark, an intriguing take on Bob Dylan’s recent run, including M&A, Live 1964, and the new book on Blood on the Tracks. (No Victoria’s Secret, however.) Also in Dylan news, by way of Absolute Piffle, Bob’s apparently also gotten into the wine business. Lingerie, wine…are Dylan-brand scented candles next?