Monday, August 22, 2016
“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone,” British novelist Anthony Burgess reportedly said. Who hasn’t either been robbed of a night of peaceful sleep or been banished to another room because of snoring?
It is one of the most common sleep problems, at least occasionally affecting about 90 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And while the subject of jokes, snoring can indicate a serious medical problem.
Why Snoring Increases As We Age
What’s more, snoring often worsens as we get older. There are several reasons for that, says Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a sleep specialist and an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California:
- Loss of muscle tone As we get older, we tend to lose muscle tone, including in the upper airway. The soft palate in the back of the roof of your mouth, for instance, becomes more susceptible to vibration. And the movement of those tissues, including the uvula, is what we hear as snoring.
- Weight gain Aging, and the increasingly sedentary lifestyle that often comes with older age, frequently results in extra pounds. Being obese or overweight — particularly in the neck area — goes hand-in-hand with snoring, Dasgupta says.
- Alcohol That nice glass of wine or beer at night, which you may indulge in more often as you get older, makes snoring worse, since it relaxes the muscles even more.
- Medications Many people take an increasing number of medications as they age. In what may seem a cruel twist of fate (at least for your bed partner), an attempt to cure insomnia by taking a sleeping aid can also increase the propensity for snoring. That’s because insomnia medication causes muscles to relax and depresses the respiratory drive, Dasgupta says.
- Hormonal changes for women Post-menopausal women have lower levels of estrogen, which helps with muscle tone. But losing the estrogen means softer muscles, including in the upper airways.
When Is It More Than Snoring?
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
by Peter J. O’Connell
Captain Fantastic. Released: July 2016. Runtime: 118 mins. MPAA Rating: R for language and brief graphic nudity.
A deer is feeding in the forest. Suddenly, a teenage youth, his features smeared with mud, leaps out and slashes the deer’s throat. He then cuts out the animal’s still beating heart and devours a piece of it. His father, also smeared, appears and commends the youth as the boy’s younger siblings—three sisters and two brothers—of ages six to 16, all smeared, look on. Thus we are introduced to the Cash family., the subject of Captain Fantastic, written and directed by Matt Ross.
The family’s name is rather ironic, for Ben, the patriarch of the tribe, is a latter-day eco-hippie/survivalist who, contemptuous of consumer society and concerned about the health of Leslie, his wife and the kids’ mother, took the group “off the grid” ten years before. Since then they have lived in the forests of the Pacific Northwest in a hunter/gatherer lifestyle, dwelling in tepees, tents and lean-tos.
The rugged Ben (Viggo Mortensen) is a loving but demanding father. He has many skills, a fact that has led him to be dubbed “Captain Fantastic.” He teaches both survival skills and scholarly ones to his home-schooled kids. However, despite Ben’s emphasis on family unity, tensions are starting to emerge in the group. Bodevan (George MacKay), the deer hunter, wants to experience the wider world, and Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), injured while climbing a sheer cliff face, is beginning to resent the rigors of the Cash lifestyle outside the money economy. And all the family is concerned about Leslie (Trin Miller), whose physical and emotional problems have led her to be hospitalized in Sacramento, where her sister lives with her husband and kids.
Ben and his brood have to leave their forest home when they learn that Leslie has committed suicide. A t this point the movie shifts from being a sort of study of survivalism to something reminiscent of the “road movies” of the 1960s and 1970s, the era when the ideals that Ben would later follow flourished.
As they proceed to Sacramento in an old school bus, Ben’s kids see much that bewilders or disgusts them. “Why is everyone so fat?” they ask at one point. Some things interest them, though. At one stop Ben uses a faked slip-and-fall as a distraction so that the kids can loot a store. On the way the Cashes also celebrate their version of Christmas—Noam Chomsky Day, in honor of the left-wing linguist.
Arriving in Sacramento, the Cashes stay at Leslie’s sister’s house. The sister (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband (Steve Zahn) are concerned about the way that Ben is raising his and Leslie’s kids, but they can’t help but be impressed by such things as—in contrast to their own kids—the Cash kids’ academic knowledge and their indifference to electronic gizmos.
The movie enters yet another phase, one of family conflict, when Ben and the kids travel from Sacramento to New Mexico. There Jack (Frank Langella), Leslie’s father, a judge, has taken charge of the funeral arrangements for Leslie. He plans a funeral service in a Catholic church, followed by interment of Leslie’s body in a casket in a cemetery. Ben objects, claiming that Leslie was a Buddhist, who wanted to be cremated and have her ashes flushed down a toilet.
Jack’s tightly controlled ferocity in defense of the conventional makes him into, in a sense, a Captain Fantastic, too, as he clashes with Ben, the unyielding defender of the unconventional. The stakes are high and so is suspense as Jack moves to have the kids taken from Ben because of “abuse”—and Bodevan and Rellian grow even more restless. Who will win the struggle for the future of the family? Or can some kind of compromise emerge? What might that be?
Captain Fantastic is, wait for it, a fantastically well done and fantastically enjoyable film—unusual, provocative, satirical yet moving, and fair to all its colorful contending characters. Kudos are owed to writer/director Matt Ross. His cast is remarkable. Veteran thesps Mortensen and Langella just seem to get better and better with each movie that they are in. And the young actors who play the kids are clearly on the road to stardom; they are that good.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Tony Bennett had a pretty good week. The legendary crooner, who turned 90 on Wednesday, talked to Billboard magazine about his upcoming projects, including a memoir (Just Getting Started) and another album with Lady Gaga. As we’ve come to expect, Bennett breezed through it all with his usual grace and class.
“I feel like I have so much more to learn yet,” he told the Today show, while expressing interest in collaborating with Beyoncé. Here are just a few of the other great things he said this week:
5 Great Tony Bennett Quotes
On Twitter: “@itstonybennett: It feels great to be 90! Thanks for all the birthday wishes. I’m just getting started. #Tony90.”
On his next project with Lady Gaga: “She’s busy right now, but at the beginning of next year, we’ll start doing an album. The first one went way over a million, and it’s still selling.”
On his memoirJust Getting Started, co-written with NPR Weekend Edition host Scott Simon and due out Nov. 15: “The whole book is about different performers and just my experience about meeting them and the different things that happened and why they were so popular internationally throughout the world.”
On how he does it all: “Well, I have to pace myself; I’m 90, but I’m in top shape. … I believe the public deserves that.” Click here to continue reading.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
|Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party|
by Peter J. O'Connell
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party. Released: July 2016. Runtime: 106 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, thematic elements and smoking.
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party ends with Dinesh D'Souza being asked by a member of a class of immigrants that he is teaching: “How do I know when I have become an American?” D'Souza replies: “When you become a Republican.”
The entire film, written and directed by D'Souza and Bruce Schooley, has been heading like a laser for this partisan point. D'Souza, the movie's main auteur, is a conservative intellectual, an immigrant from India, who first garnered attention when, along with Laura Ingraham, he battled political correctness while a student at Dartmouth in the early 1980s.
Several years ago D'Souza apparently decided to become a right-wing version of leftist filmmaker Michael Moore, who brought forth Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) and other works of a type that has been labeled “propumentaries”--a mixture of propaganda and documentary. In 2012 D'Souza brought forth the film 2016: Obama's America and in 2014 America: Imagine the World Without Her.
Hillary's America begins with a lively animated credits sequence set to a rollicking “Crappy Days Are Here Again.” It then moves to a reenactment of D'Souza's conviction and incarceration for a donation that violated campaign finance laws. D'Souza, playing himself, feels that his offense was minor, his prosecution politically motivated, and his punishment excessive. However, he decides to learn what he can from his fellow inmates.
A kind of imagined or pseudofactual sequence follows in which D'Souza learns how scams are carried out. He begins to ask himself what if the Democratic Party were a vast scam operation using claims of supporting racial equality, social justice and economic opportunity as a cover for a continuing attempt to gain control of America's wealth and freedom? D'Souza goes to a postulated “Democratic Headquarters” to investigate this point, and there in a basement he comes across the “secret history of the Democratic Party.”
A series of dramatic reenactments follows, with amateurish acting and cheesy costuming and makeup (those wigs!, those beards!) in prominent display; nuance, not. The aim is to shatter Democratic icons, from Andrew Jackson, described as the founder of the party, to John C. Calhoun to Stephen A. Douglas to Preston Brooks to Woodrow Wilson to Ben Tillman to John W. Davis to Margaret Sanger to FDR to Richard Daley.
To a greater or lesser degree, according to D'Souza, such figures either supported or refused to take action against such evils as slavery, segregation, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan—described as the “military wing of the Democratic Party.” When leading Dems, such as LBJ, did take action it was out of hypocrisy and political calculation. The Democratic aim throughout was to get Native Americans onto reservations, African-Americans onto rural plantations or into urban ghettoes—described as “poverty plantations”--and immigrants into barrios or similar tough neighborhoods.
D'Souza's demonization of Democrats is contrasted to his depiction of the “truly democratic” actions of such GOP figures as Abraham Lincoln and Ida B. Wells, a noted anti-lynching activist described as a “gun-owning, black, Christian, Republican woman.” The Civil War, according to D'Souza, was not a war between North and South but a war between Republicans and Democrats. No Republican owned slaves, and Republican legislators overwhelmingly supported civil rights legislation following the war. Democrats overwhelmingly opposed such legislation. This situation continued well into the 20th century.
The tone of the film's reenactments is reminiscent of Victorian melodrama, but the “secret history” becomes more powerful when it simply quotes facts, such as those on slaveholding and legislative votes. And it is perhaps most powerful during its least heated sections, such as the interviews with the impressive Carol M. Swain, an African-American professor of law and political science, who shifted from Democrat to Republican, and Jonah Goldberg, author and commentator. These interviews are interspersed among the reenactments.
When Hillary's America finally gets to Hillary Clinton herself, it presents a mix of reenactments, newsclips, and an interview with Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash. The reenactments depict Saul Alinsky, “father of community organizing” in Chicago and a great influence on both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as a sleazy character linked to gangsters. Reenactments also depict the Hillary of the 1960s as a squirrelly left-liberal. The newsclips present a familiar array of what Clinton critics allege to be shady financial dealings by Hillary and husband and coverups of Bill's sexual shenanigans.
An array of patriotic scenes reminiscent of calendar art, accompanied by familiar patriotic music, follows the film's sequence on the Clintons and leads to the dialogue quoted at the beginning of this review.
Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party is not in the realm of “fair and balanced.” It is more like the experience that many men have had of being lambasted by a wife or girlfriend, who then says, “I'm overstating in order to make things clear.” Does D'Souza's lambasting of Democrats lead to a clarity beyond conventional fairness and balance? See the movie and judge for yourself.