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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Copper caught touring with his heavy metal band while collecting disability checks – pleads guilty to fraud

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Cop-arrested-for-collecting-disability-while-touring-with-punk-band

A former New York police officer accused of performing on tour with his heavy metal band “Cousin Sleaze” during the two years he claimed disability benefits pleaded guilty on Tuesday to mail fraud…

Christopher Inserra, 32, who served for five years with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, faces up to two years in prison when he is sentenced on August 5 at U.S. District Court in Brooklyn…

He claimed he was unable to perform his police duties because of a work-related injury from June 2010 until March 2012, filing for disability while continuing to collect his $90,000 annual salary…

The officer claimed he hurt his right arm in an on-the-job injury that caused excruciating pain and loss of mobility…

During the same time period, Inserra was the lead singer with the Brooklyn band “Cousin Sleaze,” whose “Sick Maniacs” album features such songs as “Infection” and “Walk of Shame,” according to court documents.

Video footage of his band performing in Northeast bars and on an East Coast “Miles of Mayhem” show the muscular lead singer in a tank top slashing the air with his well-toned right arm while gripping a microphone…

The court says he’s started paying back some of the disability checks he received. The record says nothing about the salary he received at the same time. Cousin Sleaze, eh?

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 23, 2014 at 8:00 am

Here’s the silliest “performance art” in the world of let’s-pretend-this-is-art-not-play-therapy or public-masturbation

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Performance art is a joke. Taken terribly seriously by the art world, it is a litmus test of pretension and intellectual dishonesty. If you are wowed by it, you are either susceptible to pseudo-intellectual guff, or lying.

Is that overstating the case? Probably. There have been some powerful works of performance art – but most of them took place a long time ago, in the early 1970s, when the likes of Marina Abramovic and Chris Burden were risking all. Or perhaps the golden age of performance art was even longer ago, in the days of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916. Back then, Dada performance was a real menace to society, when Hugo Ball stood in a wizard costume declaiming words that made as little sense as the world war then raging.

Today, most art that claims to part of this modern tradition of performance is an embarrassing revelation of the art world’s distance from real aesthetic values or real human life. Take, for instance, the latest nude egg layer from Germany.

Performance artist Milo Moiré creates abstract paintings by pushing eggs filled with paint and ink out of her vaginal canal. She does this while standing naked in front of an audience. The nudity, apparently, is artistically essential. As for the act of pushing paint-filled eggs out of her body, it is – as no doubt you perceive – a powerful feminist statement about women, fertility and creativity.

And yet it’s not a strong statement at all. It is absurd, gratuitous, trite and desperate. Anywhere but an art gathering, this would be regarded as a satire on modern cultural emptiness.

And this is the thing about performance art – it has quite rightly become the stuff of satire. When the film director Paolo Sorrentino wants to capture the brittleness of contemporary European culture in his film The Great Beauty, what does he show? Performance art, naturally. A group of arty folk watch as a woman runs towards a stone aqueduct and bashes her head against it. Afterwards she struggles to explain herself in an embarrassing interview.

You cannot achieve any thoughtful goal by measures banal, uncreative and sufficiently self-centered to be a parody of themselves. Egregious to the point of embarrassing is hardly thought-provoking.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Earth Day

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I was at the first Earth Day celebration at UMass in Amherst. A few of us drove out from Boston. It was a delight, a wonder of burgeoning technology that stood little or no chance of succeeding in the land of conspicuous consumption.

That hasn’t changed a great deal.

But, what I enjoyed the most that day was a group of Palestinian musicians who played a fusion of jazz and folk melodies from their native culture. Something I still find appealing in the work of contemporary musicians like Mustafa Stefan Dill and Pray for Brain. I hope someday to see the Palestinian people regain their freedom and land.

And, yes, you notice a couple of Basque flags in the video up top. We Celts are everywhere.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 22, 2014 at 9:30 am

Pic of the Day

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%22Moose%22 Percheron Champion
Click to enlarge

19 hands high and his nickname is “Moose” – Currently the Pecheron Supreme World Champion

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

April 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Common gene variant increases risk of colorectal cancer from eating processed meat

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A common genetic variant that affects one in three people appears to significantly increase the risk of colorectal cancer from the consumption of processed meat…The study of over 18,000 people from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe represents the first large-scale genome-wide analysis of genetic variants and dietary patterns that may help explain more of the risk factors for colorectal cancer.

Dr Jane Figueiredo…explained that eating processed meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and for about a third of the general population who carry this genetic variant, the risk of eating processed meat is even higher compared to those who do not. “Our results, if replicated by other studies, may provide us with a greater understanding of the biology into colorectal carcinogenesis,” said Dr Ulrike Peters…

The study population totaled 9,287 patients with colorectal cancer and a control group of 9,117 individuals without cancer, all participants in 10 observational studies that were pooled in the largest meta-analysis sponsored by the National Institutes of Health…Scientists systematically searched 2.7 million variants to identify those that are associated with the consumption of meat, fiber, fruits and vegetables. A significant interaction between the genetic variant rs4143094 and processed meat consumption was detected…

Colorectal cancer is a multi-factorial disease attributed to both genetic causes and lifestyle factors; including diet. About 30 known genetic susceptibility alleles for colorectal cancer have been pinpointed throughout the genome. How specific foods affect the activities of genes has not been established but represents an important area of research for prevention. “The possibility that genetic variants may modify an individual’s risk for disease based on diet has not been thoroughly investigated but represents an important new insight into disease development,” said Dr Li Hsu, the lead statistician on the study.

Diet is a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer. Our study is the first to understand whether some individuals are at higher or lower risk based on their genomic profile. This information can help us better understand the biology and maybe in the future lead to targeted prevention strategies,” said Dr Figueiredo.

Scary enough. I grew up in an era – and ethnicity on both sides of the family – that consumed a significant amount of processed meat. Whether over-the-counter crap or artisan-crafted salume, keeping such consumption to a minimum – like zero – makes a lot of sense.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 21, 2014 at 2:00 am

Kelpie sculptures illuminated for unveiling

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Scotland’s biggest art installation has been lit up as part of a spectacular launch event.

The massive steel sculptures are part of the Helix, a £43m redevelopment of about 350 hectares of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth.

Wish I was there, now. I know a couple of good mates of mine will be there the whole weekend enjoying a pint or two – or ten. And celebrating history and art.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 20, 2014 at 8:00 am

Wanting a big butt may be deadly!

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The demand for bigger buttocks in Venezuela means some women will even have banned injections to achieve them, putting their health at risk.

It is with tears in her eyes that Denny recounts how she woke up one day to find a bump the size of a football in her lower back…She could not walk or bend down, and the pain was intense.

Even before she saw a doctor, Denny, a 35-year-old Venezuelan lawyer, knew the bump must be a side-effect of liquid silicone that had been injected in her buttocks.

It had moved into her back and was putting pressure on her spine…

Buttock injections are one of many common cosmetic procedures Venezuelan women undergo to achieve what society deems to be beautiful.

The injections were banned by the government in 2012, six years after Denny had them…

But the practice continues in spite of the ban. Up to 30% of women between 18 and 50 choose to have these injections, according to the Venezuelan Plastic Surgeons Association…

The injections are made using a biopolymer silicone. The fact that this is injected freely into the body makes it more dangerous than implants, where silicone gel is contained within a shell.

The big attraction is that they are much cheaper than implants. An injection can cost as little as $318 and the whole procedure doesn’t take more than 20 minutes.

But the risks are incredibly high.

“The silicone can migrate into other areas of the body, because it doesn’t have any barriers. The body can also react immunologically against a foreign material, creating many problems,” says Daniel Slobodianik, a cosmetic surgeon…

Figures are unclear, but the Venezuelan Plastic Surgeons Association fear that at least a dozen women die every year from these injections.

RTFA. Many more personal examples. A decent discussion of the social pressures, the beauty queen ideology that seems to have taken hold across the whole of Venezuelan society.

And, of course, symptoms of the same silliness appear around the world.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm

US Special Forces struggle with record rate of suicides

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Click to enlarge – “Have to trust someone to be betrayed. I never did.”

Suicides among U.S. special operations forces, including elite Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, are at record levels, a U.S. military official said on Thursday, citing the effects of more than a decade of “hard combat.”

The number of special operations forces committing suicide has held at record highs for the past two years, said Admiral William McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command…

It may take a year or more, he said, to assess the effects of sustained combat on special operations units, whose missions range from strikes on militants such as the 2011 SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden to assisting in humanitarian disasters.

He did not provide data on the suicide rate, which the U.S. military has been battling to lower. In 2012, for example, more active duty servicemen and servicewomen across the U.S. armed forces died by suicide – an estimated 350 – than died in combat, a U.S. defense official said.

That trend appears to have held in 2013 although preliminary data is showing a slight improvement, with 284 suicides among active duty forces in the year to December 15, the official added…

Kim Ruocco, who assists the survivors of military members who commit suicide, said members of the closely knit special operations community often fear that disclosing their symptoms will end their careers.

Additionally, the shrinking size of the U.S. armed forces has put additional pressure on soldiers, whose sense of community and self-identity is often closely tied to their military service, said Ruocco, director of suicide prevention programs for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an advocacy group for military families.

It’s my guess that disclosing fear, suicidal tendencies, any questions of survival will absolutely be interpreted as weakness and inability to make “the mission” more important than life itself. Very few military units have ever developed an understanding of human emotions beyond convincing troops that killing folks is more important than anything else.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 18, 2014 at 8:00 am

The US is an oligarchy — not a democracy

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Citizen-United-Corp-Lobbyist

Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population.

A new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that the U.S. government represents not the interests of the majority of citizens but those of the rich and powerful.

“Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” analyzed extensive data, comparing nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 with the expressed preferences of average and affluent Americans as well as special interest groups.

The resulting data empirically verifies that U.S. policies are determined by the economic elite…

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens.

In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

The report consoles that “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association” but goes on to warn that “we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

“You think you’re so clever and classless and free -
“but you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see!” — John Lennon, 1970

You can read the whole study over here.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Research OK — doesn’t say anything about Reefer Madness!

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Correlation does not equal causation, and a single exam cannot show a trend over time. Basic stuff, right?

But judging by coverage of a study just out in the Journal of Neuroscience, these are apparently foreign concepts for many folks in the media.

In the study, researchers at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital and Northwestern University in Chicago performed MRI brain scans on 20 young adult “casual” marijuana users and 20 age- and sex-matched nonusers. They found that, in the users, gray matter densities in the nucleus accumbens were higher than in controls, and the right amygdala and left nucleus accumbens were shaped differently.

Interesting, but remember that these findings only reflected differences between the marijuana users and controls at a single point in time. The researchers did not, could not, demonstrate that the differences resulted from marijuana smoking or even that the “abnormalities” relative to controls reflected changes from some earlier state.

You wouldn’t know that from the media coverage.

RTFA for a small sampling of almost universal crap

…Note that the study did not identify any cognitive or behavioral abnormalities in the cannabis users versus controls — it was strictly an MRI study.

That, however, didn’t stop senior author Hans Breiter, MD, of Northwestern from opining in the SfN press release that the study “raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences.”

Um, no, it doesn’t — not without before-and-after MRI scans showing brain structure changes in users that differ from nonusers and documentation of functional impairments associated with those changes.

Further studies may – or may not – indicate one or another cause-and-effect relationship. That kind of study must be constructed differently than this one. And hopefully the press release and editors who get the email won’t be in a hurry to construe the study as something it isn’t.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 17, 2014 at 2:00 am

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