Monday, 28 December 2015

star gazing is dropping like a meteor

This is a story about are perception of
fame and famous people,that I'm writing
because of an opinion piece by
Catherine Deneuve
who is a famous French movie star
who's been acting and emoting for
about 50 years now.

She seems to think that social media
sites have created a public which is not
interested in stars (like herself).

I have plenty of problems with
such a statement which may or
may not have had bad intentions.

I think there are, objectively, negative implications
hiding behind her claim though.


1 it implies that it's our job to
not just consume  (expensive)
culture, but to believe ,
pseudo-religiously in actors
who are already lucky enough
to be "stars"

2 it implies that intelligence and
independence of thought in
humans is a bad thing

3 it implies that social media
is also playing a part in the
reality show epidemic that
is a festering boil on society.
I tend to agree that reality shows
(which are barely real anyway)
are a festering
boil. But, reality shows could
be so liberating if they would discuss
politics, our lives; some "real reality."
Together with social media they
could give us a true democratic
real-time voice that can counter-balance
the power of the lazy people who lead us
(astray) and their pals in the old media.

4 fame is something that is deserved.
I don't agree. I look at non-famous people
who save lives for little pay, and say they
deserve fame. I don't know what
Catherine had done to deserve
her fame, but let's check
A daughter (and sister) of actors
B started in 1960
C famous by 1964
D was known as "the ice queen"
because she had a cool persona despite
being attractive enough to drive guys
crazy. Could have been just a pretty face?

[1965- Repulsion (she's naked) 1967- Belle de Jour (naked)

Check this Belgian interview with her sister
(different surname. Catherine's is a stage name- her mother's maiden)

5 fame should not be fleeting.
I think it should be fleeting. Actors should
work harder.
People should move onward
and upward, to new challenges
and new levels of self-awareness
and social awareness and not get
stuck on famous people and living

6 social media often gets the wrong
interpretation of things. true, but its
potential for self-expression makes it
an imprecise tool.
It is necessary for
people to find their voice and for
trolls to burn themselves out. Everybody
now has to answer for their actions.
it operates as a decent vox pop. When
the UK gov complains about trolling
on twitter, they present it as if somebody
drew a knife on them, a la Ides of March.
What they're doing is trying to stop the
unstoppable march of social media. As
mentioned in this blog, we cannot trust
the mainstream media, or Charlie Hebdo
(see below).

7 fame means that stars can have a personal
life while acting perversely in public. People
judge their own neighbours and family. So, they
will also judge stars too and enjoy a star's public
downfall, if they feel like it. There's no law
that will save famous people from prying
eyes. In summary, she's arguing both sides
of things by expecting unquestioning fame
from people.

chequer-le: le Guardian (des Goddem)

Catherine Deneuve: 'Social media has stopped people dreaming about stars'

In Cannes for opening night film Standing Tall, the French icon has attacked social media for demystifying celebrities - as well as distorting her criticisms of Dunkerque - while jury presidents the Coen brothers express their disdain for TV

‘I don’t think one negative sentence about Dunkerque, out of context, means I have to justify myself’ … Catherine Deneuve Photograph: Samir Hussein/WireImage


Wednesday 13 May 2015 16.38 BST
Last modified on Thursday 14 May 2015 18.22 BST

Comments 80

Celebrated French actor Catherine Deneuve denounced social media at a press conference for her new film, Standing Tall (La Tête Haute), which has opened the Cannes film festival.

Asked to clarify remarks in an interview in which the star of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Belle de Jour and Repulsion had lamented “there are no longer any stars”, Deneuve, 71, said: “It’s the social networks that prevent people from dreaming any more about stars. Their private life is displayed constantly on social networks; and some even post private pictures of themselves. I find it a pity. Being a star entails glamour and secrecy; it’s hard to keep any degree of mystery nowadays.”

The actor also had harsh words for the response to a remark she made about the coastal town of Dunkerque, where Standing Tall was filmed. In an interview with Elle, Deneuve was quoted as saying she had noticed the “sadness” of the town, and that “cigarettes and alcohol were the only things that worked”. Deneuve told the Cannes press corps that “social networks have blown it out of proportion”. “I am entitled to my thoughts, she said. “I don’t think one negative sentence about Dunkerque, out of context, means I have to justify myself.”

Deneuve was also asked for her view of the unflattering illustration of her on the cover of the new issue of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which she is portrayed as a large cuboid being under the announcement: “Suspect package on the Croisette! False alarm! It’s Catherine Deneuve!” Saying she hadn’t yet seen the magazine, Deneuve said: “You can’t expect Charlie Hebdo to have a picture like a fashion magazine. I hope it’s funny at least, even if it’s a bit nasty.”

The row threatened briefly to overshadow the premiere of Standing Tall, the film occupying Cannes’ prestigious opening slot, which tells the story of a troubled teenager, called Malony, from northeastern France and his progress through the child protection system. Deneuve plays a veteran judge who has to supervise Malony’s case, and develops a familiarity and even affection for him. Malony is played by Rod Paradot, who was 18 when the film was shot, who director Emanuelle Bercot discovered while he was doing his apprenticeship as a carpenter.
La Tête Haute review – Catherine Deneuve rules over solid Cannes opener
An often touching drama about a juvenile rallying against the system makes for a respectable start to this year’s festival

Deneuve said she had spent a considerable period sitting in on tribunals and hearings conducted by real-life judges in preparation for the role, and was impressed by their commitment to their charges’ welfare. “I didn’t expect to see such patience,” she said. “They really listened to the children – it was far less brutal than I thought... You can only do the job if you have a real vocation. These children don’t talk much, they are locked in themselves, they know full well they are in the margins. There are a lot of people involved who do their best to help… but one can’t save everyone.

Friday, 25 December 2015

the gory of war

If you keep the reality of war out of the minds
of citizens, you'll get little protest.
no death 
no blood
no poetry 

The UK, now that it is no longer in charge of an
empire, is trying in different ways to be a world-
changing power. One way in which it does that
is by choosing certain war-like behaviours, like

1. hanging onto the US coattails against "easy" targets
2. selling armaments to other warlike countries

And number 1 helps number 2. The UK is the top
seller of armaments, I believe.

Unfortunately, the Remembrance policy of the
government helps both of these. Remembrance
runs until about 11 November when we
have ceremonies to remember the war dead.
Unfortunately, the UK uses what Remembrance
is, and avoiding what war is, in order to keep
on a proper war footing. Their behaviour promotes:

1.  be thankful for those who fought to keep the country free
2. ignore the fact that we're throwing more soldiers into
unnecessary wars
3. ignore the fact that we sell weapons to countries that
kill civilians in their own countries and neighbouring
4. death & unnecessary sacrifice of soldiers is always
worth the price, even today
5. war is just a memory, not a gory, messy multi-media
gorefest, otherwise most of us would be disgusted by
the UK's continuing wars

We should be revolted by war. When I was a kid, I felt like
the only person who was revolted by WW1 front-line footage.
People were dying by the tens of thousands every day. It's very
easy to be tricked into thinking it's fake. Watch men die, for

[from 2:06 "20 00 British soldiers died on 1st day"]
If we are revolted, viscerally, we'll demand an end to
warlike behaviour.

If you want to hear it from one last WW2 soldier,
follow @harryslaststand. He's still fighting war

checkit: No glory org

How historians today are denying the reality of World War One revealed by the poets
Written by Neil Faulkner on 13 November 2013. Posted in Articles
As the centenary appoaches, historians today are re-writing the story of World War One as a "good war". But the poets had the deeper reality says Neil Faulkner
dead in trenches
As we approach the centenary of the First World War, the war poets are under attack. Military historian Max Hastings explicitly targets 'the poets' view that the war was not worth winning'. Broadcaster Jeremy Paxman contrasts the embittered verse of Wilfred Owen with the willing sacrifice of his own Uncle Charlie, who died at Gallipoli.
'The idea of sacrifice,' says Paxman, 'entirely acceptable at the time, has been lost to us, discarded along with religious belief and replaced with a cost-benefit analysis which deems such sacrifice pointless.'
Remarks like this are revealing. The revisionists – those who argue that the First World War represented 'necessary sacrifice' to defeat 'autocracy' and 'militarism' (of the German Empire, of course, not that of the British, the French, or the Russian) – come close to saying that ignorance was virtuous. The simple-minded deference of another age, they seem to be saying, has been lost. 'Ordinary people were accustomed to being bossed about,' explains Paxman, as if, somehow, in the vanished world of 1914, that was okay.
Middle-class angst?
The poets are left high and dry. They do not represent the norm, the argument runs. It is not just that they were educated and middle-class, officers rather than ordinary soldiers; they were untypical even of their own privileged caste, most of whom were not, so to speak, namby-pamby poets, but patriotic men stoically doing their duty without complaint.
The poets' view is caricatured as a post-war invention, a cultural artefact of the 1920s and 1930s, when a steady stream of published poems, diaries, memoirs, and novels created a new anti-war consciousness. 'That was not the prevailing view at the time,' says Paxman. On the contrary, through four years of unprecedented slaughter, 'the resolve of the British people did not weaken.'
But it did. The war produced a wave of mutinies, strikes, and revolutions which swept the continent of Europe, and Britain was not immune. In 1917, around 200,000 British workers took strike action in 50 different towns, and there was a full-scale mutiny of British troops at the Étaples base-camp on the Western Front. Such was the bitterness engendered by the war that Britain was probably closer to revolution in 1919 than at any time in the last three centuries.
Revolt from below

Harry Patch, the last British veteran of the trenches, was part of that wave of revolt. He and his mates were still in uniform three months after the Armistice. When they refused to parade, an officer threatened them with a gun.
'He came out, click, click, went the hammer on his revolver, and crash, crash, went back about 30 rifle bolts, mine included, before someone shouted, "Now you shoot, you bugger, if you dare." Had he not backed down, he would have been shot, there's no doubt about it. All those rifles were loaded, one round each. Anyway, down went the revolver and he scarpered back to the mess.'
The officer was removed. There were no more parades. Demobilisation followed promptly. 'The army was keen to get shot of us. Most of us were down for immediate demobilisation and we had decided ourselves that we were more or less civilians, and that army rules no longer applied to us.'
So much for the deference that revisionist historians admire.
That so many men had at first gone willingly to the slaughter is nothing to celebrate. That they were gulled by jingoism, black propaganda, and children's stories of glory and heroism – that they were, in this sense, 'innocents' herded to their deaths in a war for empire and profit – should be cause for regret.
Experience was a harsh teacher. The 'old lie' was exposed in the mud and blood of the trenches. Immured in a living nightmare of industrialised destruction, traumatised victims of a world gone mad, men learned to think as the poets wrote. Millions were radicalised. Millions emerged from the abyss to turn their guns on their rulers in the greatest wave of revolution the world has yet known.
Artistic insight
Art often sees a deeper truth than that of political, diplomatic, and military history. The one stands back, observes the whole, and sees – what? Insanity. The other, immersed in the minutiae of cabinet meetings and staff conferences, sees only the foam of history, the self-important bustle of statesmen and generals, missing the deep waters beneath, the industrial cartels, the banking syndicates, the militarised empires.
The poets recorded the micro-experiences of the war, but these were exemplars of something vast in scale, involving immense battlefields, unprecedented firepower, relentless killing.
In previous wars, armies had come into contact only occasionally, and battles longer than a day were rare. Now the opposing armies were locked in a vice-like grip. The ingenuity and productivity of the Industrial Revolution had been harnessed to a beast of apocalyptic destruction. The global economy's fast-rising capacity to abolish human need had been nullified by the division of the world into competing empires and their war-machines.
This nightmare of alienation and reification – of humanity losing control of the products of its own labour – of these products turning on their makers and tearing them apart – is the deeper reality sensed by the poets.
Owen writes of 'the monstrous anger of the guns', of 'the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle', and of 'the shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells'. This is not mere description; it is insight.
He evokes the pity of war in a hundred minor tragedies. The man dying in a green sea of gas, 'guttering, choking, drowning'. The suicide buried with 'the muzzle his teeth had kissed'. The mental cases whose 'eyeballs shrink tormented back into their brains'. The legless man whom women now touch only 'like some queer disease'.
These were not 'necessary sacrifices'. They were, says Owen, the broken bodies and broken minds of a world consumed by 'war and madness'.

domineering non-dom non-democratic media

this is about the sick nature of UK media.

In these troubled times when our savings
are being stolen by zero interest policies
that help the sick banks keep going, we
need sharp journalists to advise us and
warn us of the next trick.

Instead, we have a media that is of two
different kinds-
BBC- state media that, on big issues,
is purely a government tool e.g.
UK economy, UK politics, UK wars
[e.g. Hillary Benn's speech for bombing Syria]

Private media- oligarchs who mostly
pay no tax (registered as non-doms)
[Channel 4 is a "government" channel]
You'll get some truths out of this media,
but nothing which threatens the status quo.

The non-doms make money off their media,
and yet pay no tax, and the media presents
these non-doms' interests as truth, to their benefit
because they're the boss, and their employees
know what they must do.
And the non-doms use their media power to manipulate
the government.

So, the interests of the media are in
direct competition with our need to
know the truth. Thanks to various
online media, we have a chance to
get some truth.

The story below from Private Eye
shows how bent the situation is.

Hold your vom: Private eye

Non-doms and the Street of Sham
Press barons, Issue 1390
SILENT WITNESSES: Evgeny Lebedev, Sir David Barclay, Sir Frederick Barclay and the 4th Viscount Rothermere, whose papers all failed to mention their personal interest in the non-dom question [ALL OF THESE GUYS ARE NON-DOMS WHO OWN UK MEDIA- COS67]
SO consuming was the Tory press’s rage at Ed Miliband’s plan to make Russian oligarchs and gulf petro-billionaires in London liable for the same taxes as British citizens, its hacks forgot to declare their interest.
“London backlash over Ed’s non-dom attack,” boomed the front-page of the London Evening Standard, as if a mob had descended on Labour HQ to defend London’s much-loved oligarchs and hedge fund managers. “Attacking non-doms could backfire on us,” continued an editorial inside. Sarah Sands, the Standard’s Uriah Heepish editor, did not risk her career by saying who the “us” included – namely her boss, Standard proprietor Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian who last year dodged the Eye’s repeated questions over his own domicile (Eye 1370).
Monaco and the Channel islands
Silence infected the Telegraph too, where not one of the reporters who warned that Labour’s “cataclysmic” decision would drive away “tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and business leaders” mentioned that their owners, the weirdo Barclay twins, reside in Monaco and the Channel Islands to avoid British tax.
Instead they quoted James Hender, head of private wealth at Saffery Champness accountants, who warned that the rich may leave. The Telegraph didn’t tell its readers that Hender boasts of his long experience ensuring that “the most tax efficient strategies are adopted for non-UK situs assets” for his non-dom clients.
It was the same at the Mail, which failed to declare that its owner, the 4th Viscount Rothermere, is treated by the tax authorities as a non-dom. And at Sky, political editor Faisal Islam reported that “Baltic Exchange boss Jeremy Penn slams Labour non-dom plans” without declaring that his owner, Rupert Murdoch, does not pay UK tax and that Penn acts for super-rich shipping owners.
Overseas buyers
Jolyon Maugham QC, who has advised Labour and the Tories on tax reform, tells the Eye that any reader silly enough to believe the Tory press and tax avoidance industry should look at what they said in 2008, when Labour introduced the first levies on non-doms.
Back then the Mail said the central London property market would crash as non-doms sold up and moved to Switzerland. In fact, between Labour introducing the levy and 2014, prime central London property prices rose 41 percent. At the end of 2014, Knightsbridge estate agent W.A. Ellis said 54 percent of sales were to overseas buyers.
The Mail was equally certain the City would suffer. On 8 February 2008 it cried that the levy “risks the City’s future”. The British Banking Association warned of “a devastating blow”. The Telegraph of 12 February 2008 said that “the country’s wealthiest individuals are being bombarded with leaflets and letters explaining how easy it would be to relocate to Switzerland, Monaco and a host of other countries”. Not to be outdone, Mike Warburton, senior tax partner at accountants Grant Thornton, said the levy was the “final straw”.
‘A very nice place to live’
If a word of this had been true, there would be no non-doms left for Miliband to tax. As it is, there are 115,000 because, as Maugham says, London remains a “very nice place to live, if you’re wealthy. And that won’t change.” Or as the Financial Times put it: "The many advantages of London as a financial centre do not dissolve simply because of a change in a hitherto generous tax treatment of resident non domiciles.”
The pink ’un has only recently realised the iniquity of the non-dom rule, with an editorial last month calling for its abolition. Editor Lionel Barber modestly claims some credit for Miliband’s stance. But as editor for almost a decade, why was he so late to the party? Surely not because, until 2013, FT owner Pearson was run by US-born Dame Marjorie Scardino, who would certainly have qualified for non-dom status and whose London flat, the Eye revealed, was owned via an offshore company?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

why there are no fat people on Star Trek

It wasn't just a preference for metrosexuals in SoCal tv studios.

On the basis of recent research, some fat people
are destined to be so by genes, and others because
of an invasion of a particular microbe. It's not 
certain what came first, the obesity or the microbe,
but if they can find it, they can eradicate it. Same
could happen for the genetic problem, at some
point in the future. 

For the rest of us, cut the soft drinks. The average 
half litre of their goop has over 10 teaspoons of
sugar, and apparently that does a number on 
your tongue and then your liver.

This is why, if you get my point about futurism, is 
why there are likely no fat people on Star Trek.
They'll have been fixed, if you understand. 
If Star Trek is seen as a 
show of futuristic world, you would expect to 
see some signs of what the future might be like.
They had pieces of plastic to hold data. they
talked to computers. They had bio-readers. they
had mobile phones with skype. 

All of these things have come to pass. 

The show broke the tv race barrier. 
Uhuru, Chekov and Spock

Maybe they boldly went where nobody 
else had dared. To dream of the
the end of Fatness.

[not an ounce of fat, and the green chicks are even better]

If it were only about self-
control, I think fat would be a personal problem.
I don't think it is strictly personal, as you'll see 
below. This is a semi-scientific article, but he's
on the right track about the complexity of 
what people eat. 
I think a lot of it is about not being tempted by
agri-biz, and trying out new theories about 
diet. enjoy.

checkit: Ted
How microbes define, shape — and might even heal us
Rob Knight    
As both a scientist and a human being, I am continually awestruck by discoveries about the power of the microbiome to define and shape us. But what excites me most is the very real prospect that, as we come to better understand and even influence the microbiome, it could have the power to heal us.
We’re already starting to link our microbes to a wide spectrum of specific diseases, from the obvious — like infectious diseases and inflammatory bowel disease — to surprising ones such as multiple sclerosis, autism, and depression.
It’s worth noting that just because we know a microbe is involved in a specific disease, it doesn’t mean the answer — or the cure — is to eliminate that microbe. In fact, doing so might cause irreversible damage. It may turn out that targeting diet or inhibiting an enzyme (that’s a protein that speeds up a particular chemical reaction) might be more effective than attacking the microbes directly. And yet the reason there is so much excitement about the microbiome is the prospect of discovering entirely new mechanisms to treat conditions that have resisted existing therapies.
    susceptibility to essentially every kind of infection hinges greatly on genetics.
But first, let’s ask: How is it we know that certain microbes are associated with particular diseases?
The easiest cases to make are those where one particular microbe has a significant impact on health, which essentially describes the last 150 years of infectious disease research. If you get exposed to a microbe such as Salmonella, or Giardia, or Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the bacterium that causes tuberculosis), you expect to get sick. And then, if you treat it with the right antibiotic (or other drug), you expect to get better.
But wait: Do you always get sick just because you’re exposed?
Actually, our risk of sickness depends on a combination of exposure, genetic makeup, and other factors. Some people are born with resistance to certain diseases. You’ve probably heard of Typhoid Mary, a New York cook in the early twentieth century who carried the bacteria that causes the disease typhoid fever. She infected family after family with her excellent cooking that was laced with a dose of her not-so-excellent microbes. But Mary was never sick. She was naturally immune to the fever she carried inside her. Where does such resistance come from? Well, it’s these questions that make mouse studies popular with researchers: besides the fact that we can more ethically give a mouse an infection, we can also manipulate the mouse’s genome. From these studies, we’ve learned that susceptibility to essentially every kind of infection hinges greatly on genetics. And mouse versions of Typhoid Mary are easy to create in the lab — not just for typhoid fever but also for a whole range of other infections. It’s proof that our genes influence which microbes make each of us sick.
We’re beginning to realize that there may be many more diseases where we’re all exposed to the same microbe, but it’s dangerous only to some of us. We still need more research to explain why.
But in the meantime, what follows is a roundup of the key diseases in which we now suspect that microbes may play a part.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a catch-all diagnosis for inflammation of the digestive tract. The big illnesses that fall under the IBD label are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. What these diseases have in common is an altered relationship between intestinal microbes and the immune system. In an attempt to target the pathogens afflicting you, your body goes to war with all the creatures in your intestines, and the intense pain, bleeding, and all-too frequent trips to the toilet are the collateral damage.
One typical sign of these diseases is an increase in the abundance of certain bacteria. What’s particularly interesting is that the microbes in patients do not appear to be behaving normally: their metabolism is off; they’re eating and secreting different chemicals. We don’t yet know if this altered behavior is caused by the body’s immune response or if microbes are at fault. Your immune system does not so much keep lists of good and bad microbes as it concerns itself with good and bad microbe behavior. Your immune system is not the FBI conducting a manhunt for John Dillinger. Instead, it’s the guard in the bank who freaks out and opens fire when somebody leaps the counter and starts stuffing money into a sack.
It’s also not clear yet if these inflammatory bowel diseases are caused by a change in the microbiome or if there is something in the genes of the afflicted that causes the body’s normal relationship with gut microbes to go awry, and the changes in the microbial population are merely a response. Perhaps it is some combination of both factors?
Celiac disease is related to inflammatory bowel disease and also involves an immune system component: when celiac sufferers eat wheat products, the natural gluten proteins in wheat activate the immune system, which attacks the lining of the gut, shredding it. Celiac was originally identified and named by the Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia in the first or second century AD. But it wasn’t as widely known until Dutch physician Willem-Karel Dicke observed in the “Hunger Winter” of 1944–45 during World War II that when wheat was unavailable, his celiac patients survived much better. (Dicke would go on to pioneer the gluten-free diet.) There has been intense interest in whether celiac is linked to the microbiome, but at this point, the dozen or so studies have found essentially no consistent trends associating microbes with celiac. Although many studies are able to find differences between the microbiomes of celiac patients and healthy people, the bacteria in the celiac patients differ from study to study. Clearly the pattern is complex, and more work is needed to understand whether gut bacteria contribute to celiac or simply respond to the altered, gluten-free diets of celiac patients.
Until a trip to Peru in 2008, I used to weigh quite a bit more. My wife Amanda and I hiked the Inca Trail and then spent a week in the Amazon, where we both came down with really nasty diarrhea — not what you want when you’re in a tent. We recovered, only to both have it flare up again. To treat it, we both took doses of the same antibiotic. When we got home, we resumed more or less the same diets and exercise patterns we’d had before we left for the trip. However, I lost about eighty pounds in a few months, going from obese to a healthy body weight.
The difference was remarkable. I had to buy new pants, and colleagues took me aside to ask if I had cancer or if there was something else they should know about. In contrast, Amanda lost no weight at all. I believe that the difference was related to a radical change in my microbes: we each responded differently to the same disease and the same course of treatment.
    there’s a strong microbial component to obesity.
While we can’t, of course, draw scientific conclusions from a study of one couple, my experience here mirrors what published studies are increasingly showing. We’re learning that there’s a strong microbial component to obesity. Normal-sized, germ-free mice that receive a fecal transplant from an obese mouse become fatter themselves. And the experiment works regardless of whether that first mouse was fat because it had been overfed an unhealthy diet or because it had a genetic mutation that made it fat.
You might wonder if it’s the microbes that are doing this or if it’s something else in the stool? Good question. To answer it, Jeffrey Gordon, a biologist who directs the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, and a team of researchers in his lab, asked whether you could isolate hundreds of individual strains of bacteria from an individual person, grow each strain in the lab (without the rest of the fecal matter), mix them together in similar proportions as in the original sample, and then transfer the differences in weight by transferring those bacteria to a new host. Indeed they could, proving that it was the microbes responsible for the weight gain — not a virus, an antibody, a chemical, or anything else in the stool. Even more remarkably, by isolating bacteria from lean people, we could design a microbial community that prevented a mouse from gaining the weight it would normally gain when housed with an obese mouse and exposed to its new roommate’s chubby microbes.
My lab and others haven’t been able yet to design a microbe community that actually slims down a mouse (or a person), although that’s certainly the goal. But in yet-unpublished research, other groups have reported using antibiotics to target the bacteria that proliferate on a high-fat diet, successfully slimming down the mice even if they still ate unhealthily.
    It’s exciting to think that we could grow ourselves healthier and leaner microbiomes by altering our diets.
Many fad diets for humans are now targeted at improving your microbiome. But the evidence that these actually work is limited. We just don’t know enough about the ways in which particular microbes affect digestion and absorption to make a targeted intervention. In 2011, researchers at Harvard University published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found some foods are associated with weight gain, and others with weight loss. It won’t shock you to hear that fat-rich French fries are associated with weight gain, more so than any other food. But oddly, the two foods most associated with weight loss are yogurt and nuts, even though both can be high in fat. What exactly is going on? Well, microbes might play a role here. We know from studies in mice that particular microbes, or combinations of microbes, are associated with weight gain or weight loss. Could there be a connection between specific foods and the microbes that make us slimmer?
There is plenty of evidence that what you eat alters your microbiome, making it more habitable for some species and less so for others. Gary Wu, a professor of gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania, has shown that diet over the long term — a year or more — correlated very strongly with the overall microbiome. It was his team that demonstrated that people who ate a lot of carbohydrates (pasta, potatoes, sugars) tended to have a lot of Prevotella. In contrast, people who ate a lot of protein, especially meat (a la the Western diet), tended to have a lot of Bacteroides. These two genera of bacteria help us digest and metabolize our food, but they thrive on different foods. We’ve yet to untangle what influence Bacteroides species have on such typically Western diseases as obesity and diabetes, but there are some suggestive correlations. It’s exciting to think that we could grow ourselves healthier and leaner microbiomes by altering our diets.
Some dietary changes can rapidly alter our microbes. Peter Turnbaugh, a systems biologist then at Harvard University, and his colleagues got some hardy volunteers to either go vegan or to eat essentially a meat-and-cheese diet. Veganism caused little immediate change to their gut microbes. But the meat-and-cheese diet caused big changes overnight, increasing the kinds of bacteria linked to cardiovascular disease, such as Bilophila wadsworthia. So a sufficiently extreme diet can have bad effects quickly: an open question is whether there’s one that exerts good effects that fast.
Allergies and Asthma
The idea that reduced microbial diversity leads to asthma and allergies dates back to the work of David Strachan at St. George’s Hospital Medical School at the University of London. In the late 1980s, Strachan noticed that later siblings in larger families tended to have lower rates of hay fever and related allergies, and he suggested that catching infections from older siblings (especially classic childhood diseases) might help train the immune system to target real invaders, not dust mites. This idea, known as the “hygiene hypothesis,” essentially suggests that keeping ourselves too clean can lead to immunological problems, as our idle immune systems — unchallenged by the bacterial and viral pathogens that humans co-evolved with — get restless.
    you still shouldn’t challenge your kid’s immune system by encouraging them to eat tainted meat or lick a hospital floor.
Since Strachan’s time, the focus has shifted away from common infections such as measles, colds, and flu, which are now believed to be strictly harmful. Instead, the modern hygiene hypothesis centers on our squeakyclean childhoods, which keep us insulated from diverse microbes from healthy sources, ranging from soil to leaf surfaces to domestic or wild animals. To understand how this works, think of your immune system as a radio: if you’re dialed into a specific station you can hear the music crystal-clear, but if you’re between stations then random signals can cause loud and unpleasant static. In a similar way, the immune system may find something else to latch onto if there is no signal. If you’re lucky it’ll be pollen or peanut butter that spikes through the “static,” causing allergies, but if you’re unlucky the immune system might latch onto your own cells, causing diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or other autoimmune diseases.
Translation for parents: you still shouldn’t challenge your kid’s immune system by encouraging them to eat tainted meat, lick a hospital floor, approach a rabid bat, or otherwise expose themselves to likely harmful microbes — but the modern hygiene hypothesis says encountering good microbes via dirt and contact with healthy, diverse people and animals may be good preventive medicine.
What’s the evidence for this? Well, it’s been growing rapidly, with more than one in four of the articles on record published just in 2014. Erika von Mutius at the Children’s Hospital of the University of Munich is a pioneer in this area. She has showed that exposure to farming in early life reduces the risk of allergies and asthma substantially, and that some of this effect can be explained by children coming in contact with straw, cows, farm milk, and certain bacteria and fungi. What about the impact of our invariably dusty homes, which seem to harbor all sorts of nasal irritants despite our best efforts with the mop? Contrary to expectations, von Mutius and others have demonstrated that exposure to allergens such as dust mites and cat hair does not explain the incidence of asthma.
Some intriguing recent findings suggest that microbial exposure during pregnancy, not just during childhood, may be important for reducing allergic diseases (although some caution is warranted here because in mice, viral attack or even simulated viral attack during pregnancy can trigger symptoms resembling autism). Other promising, yet still preliminary, results show that:
    several probiotics can relieve atopic disease and asthma (Lactobacillus salivarius LS01, in particular, can reverse atopic dermatitis symptoms in some children).
    changing animals’ microbiota with antibiotics can induce allergic diseases.
    certain microbe species can reverse food allergies in mice or prevent the food allergies from developing in the first place — while others can cause them.
    exposure to diverse microbes, whether through older siblings, pets, or through good old-fashioned playing outdoors, seems to help.
The data on whether breast milk can reduce the incidence of these diseases is somewhat equivocal: the few robust studies that have been done tend to show modest if any effects. Interestingly, simply living in a setting with more diverse microbes (say, a home with a backyard garden rather than an urban apartment far from any parks) seems to decrease risk of allergic disease. And it’s clear that one’s setting exists indoors, not just outdoors. Early exposure to dogs, especially prenatally and in the first year of life, appears to decrease allergy risks later. Surprisingly, we showed that having dogs, but not having kids, increased human microbial diversity for couples living together. However, exposure to dogs and cats in adolescence increases the risks of asthma and eczema.
It’s tricky to add up all this early evidence into a prescription for lowering your child’s risk of asthma and allergies. I’d sum up the recommendations like this: have a dog (but make sure you start early, ideally prenatally), live on a farm where your kids are exposed to cows and straw, avoid antibiotics early in life, and perhaps take probiotics and breastfeed (although the evidence for those last two is preliminary at present). In general, exposure to diverse microbes, whether through older siblings, pets, or livestock — or through good old-fashioned playing outdoors — seems to help, even if scientists are still sorting out the specific microbes involved. It may be that diversity itself is most important.
This text is taken from Follow Your Gut: The Enormous Impact of Tiny Microbes, by Rob Knight, with Brendan Buhler (TED Books/Simon & Schuster), available now. Illustrations by Olivia de Salve Villedieu.

Brits know all about bad sex

...when they read about it.

This is a story about the Bad Sex Literary awards
and I think the trophy is called the Interruptus.

 [nickname: The Shrivelled Rosebud- for female winner]
[nickname: The Rotten Banana- for male winner]

Anyway. I've often described (the majority of)
Brits as insecure, quiet and retiring, but they
do tend to like to read.
So, I suppose they could, vicariously, know what
good sex feels like when they read about it.

After all, the largest sex organ is the brain.

Beyond that, those same Brits are embarrassed
by discussing sex, and giggle or avoid it. So,
the discussion of bad literary sex is a complicated
journey in the UK.
If you look at the Bradshaw text at the bottom, he says
that those who criticise literary sex should basically
get on stage naked and show what good sex looks like.

Therefore, I have enjoyed the discussion of this award.
Some think it's fair game, because authors have dared
to produce a work and have sought public
approbation and lucre. Therefore, their works are
fair game, especially if they make us giggle with
their "view" on the
monster with 8 limbs.
I agree with this "position", wholeheartedly. I think that
some authors may think that they'll make more money
by making a kind of erotica that can be accepted by 
the public, like "50 shades of boring" that 
everybody was talking about 2 years ago. So, fair 
game. I've already trashed "50" previously.

A feminist perspective would also improve the
proceedings by having a Bad Foreplay prize,
called the Doorbell.
[nickname: I'm not ready yet]
This prize is exclusively for men. It's given
with the bons mots: "You haven't a clue, buddy"

I'm not sure who won, but I believe the main
contender was Morrisey. If I'm not mistaken,
I had read, as a young man, that he was
asexual, as in he didn't engage in sexual activity.
Undaunted, as an author, he really put the fiction
into his fiction by trying to describe a horizontal
union of bodies.

Also, the authors, even if they can't separate a
arse from an elbow, can show their creativity
by giving as good as they get. Case in point,
below, is AA Gill, who basically called the
prize creator Auberon Waugh a wanker,
but in the most colourful way. Now, that's
a nasty f&*cker. Too bad he couldn't
transfer that to his fiction.

First, the offending authors' best book-boinking
 (I've actually read one, by Pelecanos- it's a bit crass):

Hold your vom: Guardian
Bad sex award 2015: the contenders in quotes

Eight purple passages are up for the prize every author dreads, the annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award. Can Erica Jong beat Morrissey to the sweetspot?

Her breasts were like like young fawns....
Her breasts were like like young fawns.... Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images
Wednesday 18 November 2015 07.00 GMT
Last modified on Monday 23 November 2015 12.50 GMT

List of the Lost by Morrissey

At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.

The Making of Zombie Wars by Aleksandar Hemon

Then he slid up her body and his cock was inside her, and he was kissing her, the same whetted tongue now inside her mouth. Far in the back of whatever was left of his mind, the light of reason was struggling against being finally extinguished and he was aware that wearing a condom would’ve been a good idea, but there was no way that he was getting out of her, because she took him in and he was with her in every move, in every gasp, kiss, and lick – she let him in so deep he didn’t have to think about her, and therefore he didn’t have to think about himself, but of course he was thinking about not thinking about himself …

Before, During, After by Richard Bausch

She reached up and brought him to her, then rolled over on top of him and began softly to move down. When she took him, still a little flaccid, into her mouth, he moaned, ‘Oh, lover.’ She felt him harden, and she tightened her lips and pulled, and then ran her tongue slow along the shaft, and then straightened and straddled him, guiding him into her, sinking and rising on him, head back, hands gripping his shoulders. It went on. It was very good.

Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen

Her mouth was intensely ovoid, an almond mouth, of citrus crescents. And under that sling, her breasts were like young fawns, sheep frolicking in hyssop – Psalms were about to pour out of me.


“Josh,” I said.

“Vous habillé.”

“Je vais me undressed, clothes off, unhabillé, déshab.”
Fear of Dying by Erica Jong

I slip into bed, amazed that Asher is making the first move – which is unusual for him.

While I lie next to him, astounded by his presence still, he opens my silk robe and touches my cunt as if he were Adam just discovering Eve’s pussy.

‘Beautiful,’ he says.

And then he begins to run his tongue slowly along my labia, gently inserting one finger to feel for my G-spot on the front wall of wet pussy.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

The party was loud. She pushed him back on the sandy tar paper, and he was looking up at her face in the glow, and she lifted her skirt and moved the crotch of her underwear aside, and Lotto, who was always ready, who was ready at the most abstract imaginings of a girl – footprints of a sandpiper like a crotch, gallons of milk evoking boobs – was not ready at this oh-so-abrupt beginning. It didn’t matter. Gwennie shoved him in though she was dry. He shut his eyes and thought of mangoes, split papayas, fruits tart and sweet and dripping with juice, and then it was off, and he groaned and his whole body turned sweet …

The Martini Shot by George Pelecanos

We kissed some more and had a few laughs. While we talked, I slid my hand beneath her sweats, pushed the crotch of her damp lace panties aside, slipped my longest finger inside her, and stroked her clit. It got warm in the room. She lay back on the couch and arched her back, and I peeled off her pants and thong. Now she was nude. I stripped down to my boxer briefs and crouched over her. I let her pull me free because I knew she liked to. She stroked my pole and took off my briefs, and I got between her and spread her muscular thighs with my knees and rubbed myself against her until she was wet as a waterslide, and then I split her.

Against Nature by Tomas Espedal

Héloïse has lost all sense of how she ought to behave, she practically throws herself at Abélard, pulls him to the floor and straddles him as if they’re two boys fighting. She presses him to the ground, pins his hands to the floor. She kisses his face and licks it. She bites his lip. She bites his cheek. She pants in his ear, shouts his name in his ear, she whips his face with her hair. She stops his mouth hard with her hand and takes his breath away. She rides above him the way she’d imagined that one day she’d ride a boy, a man, a beast...

and the award kerfuffle
checkit: Guardian

The bad sex award needs a new sort of climax
Peter Bradshaw

The Literary Review has been a force for good in British public life, and I must sentimentally say that it was the first place I ever had anything published. But in 1993 its editor, Auberon Waugh, created a monster, soon to raise its ugly head again – the bad sex award, a prize for the most embarrassing description of sex in a new novel.

On 1 December the winner will be announced, and the frontrunner appears to be Morrissey – whose debut novel List of the Lost has been widely panned for its silly sexy bits. Well, I haven’t read that. But the bad sex award is a terribly English display of smug, gigglingly unfunny, charmless and spiteful bullying.
Bad sex award 2015: the contenders in quotes

The writers who are baited in this way are of course supposed to grin and bear it, because to object in any way would be gleefully seized upon as evidence of humourless priggishness. It is like a nightmare ritual from the prefects’ room at some seedy minor public school.

When he won the prize, AA Gill, to his great credit, crisply compared Waugh’s own sex life to “the sound of one hand clapping”. I now have a suggestion. Those awarding the prize should be compelled to cite literary passages that they think are good sex: ie, explicit descriptions of sex that are not embarrassing.
And they’re not allowed to get away with airily claiming that subtle literary passages are much sexier – hey, Jane Austen is actually really erotic, etc, etc. No. The bad sex judges should say what explicit sex is good, and thereby risk revealing something about their own private lives.