Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Secret of Aging and How to Slow It Down

The Telomere Effect

What makes some people age more quickly than others? What exactly isaging? And can we do anything about the speed at which we grow old? Authors Elizabeth Blackburn, a molecular biologist, and Elissa Epel, a health psychologist, offer answers in a fascinating new book, The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer.
In 2009, Blackburn was one of three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize for their research on telomeres (protective DNA at the ends of chromosomes) and how they protect chromosomes. Epel, one of the 2016 Next Avenue Influencers in Aging, studies how chronic stress accelerates aging, with a focus on telomeres. Both authors work at the University of California, San Francisco. Click here to continue reading.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Movie Review—La La Land

La La Land
A man and a woman dancing beside a rather bright streetlight, a city view stretches out behind them. The woman is wearing a bright yellow dress, her partner is wearing a with shirt and tie with dark pants.

by Peter J. O’Connell                  

La La Land. Released: Dec. 2016. Runtime: 128 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language.

When movies began to talk, in the late 1920s, they also began to sing and dance. Soon musicals became one of the most popular and notable types of film—from Busby Berkeley’s extravaganzas and Rogers/Astaire in the 1930s, to the wonderful Gene Kelly and Judy Garland in the 1940s and early 1950s, to the magnificent screen versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe Broadway hits in the 1950s and 1960s. But then that well of melody and movement seemed to pretty much dry up on the screen for several decades—except in some delightful animated features. But now we have from La La Land La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, which marvelously brings the musical back to lilting life, with some beloved traditions intact and lots of smart innovations.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress working in a coffee shop on film studio grounds. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist who longs to run his own club featuring traditional jazz but instead is stuck in a conventional restaurant playing Christmas carols. Yes, Christmas carols, for the movie has a “seasonal” structure and begins in “Winter.” Of course, as it’s L.A., all the seasons are pretty much the same weatherwise, but the real seasons that the film is dealing with are the “seasons” of the characters’ relationship and the emotional weather of same.

In the tradition of romantic comedy, Mia and Sebastian “meet cute.” They’re each caught in their cars in a mammoth traffic jam high up on one of L.A.’s spaghetti of superhighways. But, as in many romantic comedies, Mia and Sebastian’s meeting cute is more a “meeting cranky.” They feel irritation at first sight rather than love. Sebastian is hot under the collar because Mia’s car is blocking his, and he honks angrily. In return, Mia “flips him the bird.”

In the meantime the other drivers have gotten out of their cars and engaged in a massive, spectacularly synchronized song and dance routine. This is one of the ways that music functions in the movie, as a metaphor for what people are feeling or hoping for—in this case, freedom from the constrictions of life in the congested city. The other way that music functions is diegetic; characters who are performers perform.

As winter becomes spring and spring becomes summer, Mia and Sebastian, both frustrated in their efforts to fulfill their dreams, come across each other several times. As they do, irritation turns to attraction. They do a delightful dance routine together one night at a spot overlooking the city. Later still, one evening they have an ecstatic encounter in the planetarium of the Griffith Observatory, where they literally ascend into “the heavens” there, joining the stars in the drama of burgeoning romance—and their career hopes (to become “stars”).

Of course, the course of true love never does run smooth, as a dramatist once wrote. Mia is at first indifferent to the type of music that Sebastian loves and urges him to be more practical. But over time she becomes fond of his type of music and, ironically, criticizes him for finally joining (to make money to start a club) a more pop-oriented group headed by one of his friends (John Ledger). Irritated at her, as he was at their first encounter, Sebastian makes some hurtful remarks about Mia’s lack of success in acting.

The cycle of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship heads toward “Winter” again. Can their love affair survive the stresses put on it by their career struggles? Can they soar into the heavens again together, or will they walk alone down La La Land’s boulevard of broken dreams?

The movie’s answers are surprising, and the combination of song and dance, humor and poignancy with which it delivers these answers is engaging. The production design, cinematography (it’s even in 1950s-style CinemaScope!), and performances that Damien Chazelle has presided over deserve a hearty round of applause. Particularly appealing is Emma Stone, a transcendentally talented young star. And Ryan Gosling is fine, too. At one point Sebastian says: “This is the dream! It’s conflict, and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!” So is La La Land!     


Monday, January 9, 2017

Yale study: Seniors who go to emergency room at greater risk of decline

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NEW HAVEN >> Senior citizens who are treated in the emergency department and sent home are at higher risk of disability and worsening health within the next six months, according to research published Friday by Yale physicians.
It has already been shown that hospitalizations result in higher disability rates and decline in older patients, but this study focused on what happens after a senior is treated and discharged from the emergency department without being admitted, according to a Yale University press release.
The study said medical and long-term care for newly disabled seniors costs $26 billion a year in the United States, according to the release.
In a study lasting 14 years, information on 700 older adults was examined, comparing those who visited the emergency department and later suffered from disability or were admitted to the hospital with others who did not visit the emergency department. Nursing home admissions and deaths were taken into account, the release said. Click here to continue reading.

Hamden Senior Center renovation to include updated kitchen, outdoor patio

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The outdated facilities at the Hamden Senior Center are scheduled to be updated after the Legislative Council approved a contract with a Durham firm to design the changes.
Rockfall Company LLC will meet with town officials next week to start work on the project that will renovate the center, which is located at the Miller Library complex.
“Hamden has an active senior center with some great programs, including daily lunch, social programs, wellness, nursing and leisure activities, as well as help for seniors, such as fuel and food assistance,” said Mayor Curt Balzano Leng. “These much-needed renovations will give the center an upgrade to the kitchen and bathrooms, upgrade the social hall for multifunctional use, providing code compliance, ADA accessibility and increased safety. We’re also adding small outdoor patio area for our seniors to enjoy.”
The Hamden Senior Center is one of the most popular senior centers in the region, providing services, meals and entertainment for hundreds of seniors who live both in and out of town. Town board and commissions also utilize its meeting room. Click here to continue reading.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Movie Review—Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One
Rogue One, A Star Wars Story poster.png
Theatrical release poster

by Peter J. O’Connell                                                                                                                                           

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Released: Dec. 2016. Runtime: 133 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . actually, American movie screens in 1977 . . . an epic began unfolding: Star Wars. This blockbuster sci-fi film (later subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope) concerned the battle of various rebels against the Galactic Empire and soon was followed by two sequels in the early 1980s and later by three prequels from 1999 to 2005. Then Episode VII came along in 2015, The Force Awakens. Now we have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which, in terms of the development of the epic, comes between Return of the Jedi (1983) and A New Hope (1977). Rogue One, however, is—mercifully—minus much of the magical/mystical mythology of the other films of the epic. 

Instead, Rogue One is essentially a (very) high-tech version of a World War II movie set in, well, a galaxy far, far away. There are versions of such familiar figures from that genre as daring commandos, heroic resistance partisans, stolidly courageous GIs. And, of course, the saga has its stormtroopers, evil emperor and other figures reminiscent of the Third Reich and the Empire of the Rising Sun. The various good guys/gals and bad guys engage in complex (sometimes too complex) maneuverings involving spy intrigues, dogfights in the skies and land battles.

The influence of many classic WWII films—American, British, even Russian—can be seen in Rogue One. For instance, the sprawling, spectacular, culminating battle on a tropical atoll planet pays homage to John Ford’s The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), which starred John Wayne and included documentary footage that Ford had shot during the battle of Tarawa in 1943.   

The John Wayne character in Rogue One is Jyn Erso, not a rough, tough, gruff guy but a beauteous, spunky—make that super-spunky—young woman warrior (Felicity Jones). Jyn’s mission is to work with various rebel factions to recover the secret plans revealing the flaw that her scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) deliberatelbuilt into the super-weapon, the Death Star, that he was forced to design for the Empire.

Jones, last seen in 2015’s Inferno dashing about key locales of Western Civilization with Tom Hanks, here dashes from planet to planet. (The settings are striking, using sites from Iceland to the Maldives.) Jones is quite convincing as Jyn. And the supporting cast is quite competent. We even get (courtesy of movie magic) appearances by Peter Cushing (died 1994) as Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, made to look younger even than she was in the 1977 film.

Michael Giacchino, composer of Rogue One’s music, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, expressed feelings about the film that most who have seen it probably would share: “It is a film that in many ways is a great World War II movie, and I loved that about it. But it also has this huge, huge heart at the center of it . . .. Yes, it’s an action movie, and it’s a Star Wars film . . . but I didn’t want to forget that it was also an incredibly emotional movie as well.”   

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

At year's end your obedient blogger wrote a check. If he lived in Denmark, he's never write another.  Click here to see why.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Hanukkah recipe for potato latkes

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When Jill Silander was growing up, she and her mother would always make latkes together for the first night of Hanukkah. That’s also the night the family would get gifts. “We didn’t get a gift every night,” Jill told me, “only on the first night. With three kids, you can imagine my parents didn’t need to buy 24 presents for Hanukkah when Christmas was around the corner. Yes, I was one of those lucky Jewish kids who got to celebrate both!”
Today, Jill still makes latkes for her family, including her husband who is not Jewish and happens to be a chef and their young son. “My husband likes them with sour cream and sometimes with ketchup,” she said. “Ever since I can remember I have always eaten them with applesauce and wouldn’t eat them any other way!” Click here to continue reading.