Life On The 48th Floor

Water boils faster up here. It\’s true!

Zen Blogger’s Manifesto

Zen Blogger’s Manifesto

Do not follow in the footsteps of others,
seek what they sought and make your own footsteps.
Write not for others, as there are too many.
Write for yourself, as there is only one.
Subtract before you add.
Listen more than you speak.
Give more than you take.
Make but do not measure.
If you want to change the world, love someone.
All manifestos are dung.



20 December 2006 Posted by | Blogging, Stolen Stuff | Leave a comment

18 Tricks to Teach Your Body

(This was forwarded to me without accreditation.)

1. If your throat tickles, scratch your ear.

When you were 9, playing your armpit was a cool trick. Now, as an adult, you can still appreciate a good body-based feat, but you’re more discriminating. Take that tickle in your throat; it’s not worth gagging over. Here’s a better way to scratch your itch: “When the nerves in the ear are stimulated, it creates a reflex in the throat that can cause a muscle spasm,” says Scott Schaffer, M.D., president of an ear, nose and throat specialty center in Gibbsboro, New Jersey. “This spasm relieves the tickle.”

2. Experience supersonic hearing!

If you’re stuck chatting up a mumbler at a cocktail party, lean in with your right ear. It’s better than your left at following the rapid rhythms of speech, according to researchers at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to identify that song playing softly in the elevator, turn your left ear toward the sound. The left ear is better at picking up music tones.

3. Overcome your most primal urge!

Need to pee? No bathroom nearby? Fantasize about Jessica Simpson. Thinking about sex preoccupies your brain, so you won’t feel as much discomfort, says Larry Lipshultz, M.D., chief of male reproductive medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. For best results, try Simpson’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” video.

4. Feel no pain!

German researchers have discovered that coughing during an injection can lessen the pain of the needle stick. According to Taras Usichenko, author of a study on the phenomenon, the trick causes a sudden, temporary rise in pressure in the chest and spinal canal, inhibiting the pain-conducting structures of the spinal cord.

5. Clear your stuffed nose!

Forget Sudafed. An easier, quicker, and cheaper way to relieve sinus pressure is by alternately thrusting your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then pressing between your eyebrows with one finger. This causes the vomer bone, which runs through the nasal passages to the mouth, to rock back and forth, says Lisa DeStefano, D.O., an assistant professor at the Michigan State University college of osteopathic medicine. The motion loosens congestion; after 20 seconds, you’ll feel your sinuses start to drain.

6. Fight fire without water!

Worried those wings will repeat on you tonight? “Sleep on your left side,” says Anthony A. Star-poli, M.D., a New York City gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at New York Medical College. Studies have shown that patients who sleep on their left sides are less likely to suffer from acid reflux. The esophagus and stomach connect at an angle. When you sleep on your right, the stomach is higher than the esophagus, allowing food and stomach acid to slide up your throat. When you’re on your left, the stomach is lower than the esophagus, so gravity’s in your favor.

7. Cure your toothache without opening your mouth!

Just rub ice on the back of your hand, on the V-shaped webbed area between your thumb and index finger. A Canadian study found that this technique reduces toothache pain by as much as 50 percent compared with using no ice. The nerve pathways at the base of that V stimulate an area of the brain that blocks pain signals from the face and hands.

8. Make burns disappear!

When you accidentally singe your finger on the stove, clean the skin and apply light pressure with the finger pads of your unmarred hand. Ice will relieve your pain more quickly, Dr. DeStefano says, but since the natural method brings the burned skin back to a normal temperature, the skin is less likely to blister.

9. Stop the world from spinning!

One too many drinks left you dizzy? Put your hand on something stable. The part of your ear responsible for balance—the cupula—floats in a fluid of the same density as blood. “As alcohol dilutes blood in the cupula, the cupula becomes less dense and rises,” says Dr. Schaffer. This confuses your brain. The tactile input from a stable object gives the brain a second opinion, and you feel more in balance. Because the nerves in the hand are so sensitive, this works better than the conventional foot-on-the-floor wisdom.

10. Unstitch your side!

If you’re like most people, when you run, you exhale as your right foot hits the ground. This puts downward pressure on your liver (which lives on your right side), which then tugs at the diaphragm and creates a side stitch, according to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Men. The fix: Exhale as your left foot strikes the ground.

11. Stanch blood with a single finger!

Pinching your nose and leaning back is a great way to stop a nosebleed—if you don’t mind choking on your own O positive. A more civil approach: Put some cotton on your upper gums—just behind that small dent below your nose—and press against it, hard. “Most bleeds come from the front of the septum, the cartilage wall that divides the nose,” says Peter Desmarais, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Entabeni Hospital, in Durban, South Africa. “Pressing here helps stop them.”

12. Make your heart stand still!

Trying to quell first-date jitters? Blow on your thumb. The vagus nerve, which governs heart rate, can be controlled through breathing, says Ben Abo, an emergency medical-services specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. It’ll get your heart rate back to normal.

13. Thaw your brain!

Too much Chipwich too fast will freeze the brains of lesser men. As for you, press your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth, covering as much as you can. “Since the nerves in the roof of your mouth get extremely cold, your body thinks your brain is freezing, too,” says Abo. “In compensating, it overheats, causing an ice-cream headache.” The more pressure you apply to the roof of your mouth, the faster your headache will subside.

14. Prevent near-sightedness!

Poor distance vision is rarely caused by genetics, says Anne Barber, O.D., an optometrist in Tacoma, Washington. “It’s usually caused by near-point stress.” In other words, staring at your computer screen for too long. So flex your way to 20/20 vision. Every few hours during the day, close your eyes, tense your body, take a deep breath, and, after a few seconds, release your breath and muscles at the same time. Tightening and releasing muscles such as the biceps and glutes can trick involuntary muscles—like the eyes —into relaxing as well.

15. Wake the dead!

If your hand falls asleep while you’re driving or sitting in an odd position, rock your head from side to side. It’ll painlessly banish your pins and needles in less than a minute, says Dr. DeStefano. A tingly hand or arm is often the result of compression in the bundle of nerves in your neck; loosening your neck muscles releases the pressure. Compressed nerves lower in the body govern the feet, so don’t let your sleeping dogs lie. Stand up and walk around.

16. Impress your friends!

Next time you’re at a party, try this trick: Have a person hold one arm straight out to the side, palm down, and instruct him to maintain this position. Then place two fingers on his wrist and push down. He’ll resist. Now have him put one foot on a surface that’s a half inch higher (a few magazines) and repeat. This time his arm will fold like a house of cards. By misaligning his hips, you’ve offset his spine, says Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness, in Santa Clarita, California. Your brain senses that the spine is vulnerable, so it shuts down the body’s ability to resist.

17. Breathe underwater!

If you’re dying to retrieve that quarter from the bottom of the pool, take several short breaths first—essentially, hyperventilate. When you’re underwater, it’s not a lack of oxygen that makes you desperate for a breath; it’s the buildup of carbon dioxide, which makes your blood acidic, which signals your brain that somethin’ ain’t right. “When you hyperventilate, the influx of oxygen lowers blood acidity,” says Jonathan Armbruster, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at Auburn University. “This tricks your brain into thinking it has more oxygen.” It’ll buy you up to 10 seconds.

18. Read minds!

Your own! “If you’re giving a speech the next day, review it before falling asleep,” says Candi Heimgartner, an instructor of biological sciences at the University of Idaho. Since most memory consolidation happens during sleep, anything you read right before bed is more likely to be encoded as long-term memory.

18 July 2006 Posted by | Stolen Stuff | 1 Comment

Blade Runner – Reviewed By Norman Spinrad

(stolen from

Admission number one: my admiration for Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the stupid name-change inflicted upon the film version, the despicable fact that Phil Dick's name does not appear in ads and posters for Blade Runner which manage to plug the sound track album, foolish and insane public statements by Ridley Scott and Hampton Fancher, and bad word of mouth in the science-fiction writing community all conspired to send me into the theater expecting a bummer.

Admission number two: far from being a turkey, a case could be made for Blade Runner as the best science-fiction film of the past decade, and certainly of the post-Star Wars crop.

For one thing, despite Ridley Scott's awshucks-I'm-really-just-doing-a-simple-adventure-film posturing, Blade Runner is very much a film for adults, intelligent sophsiticated adults at that, and runs into most of its troubles only when it, Scott, or the studio forgets this.The plot itself is extremely simple. Rick Deckard is a cop of sorts in a future megalopolis. His job is to hunt down four escaped "replicants," that is, androids with deliberately shortened lifespans manufactured for off-world use. He succeeds in slaying ("retiring") three of them, more or less falling in love with a fifth replicant, Rachel, in the process. Roy Batty, the fourth and most dangerous replicant, has Deckard at his mercy as he, Batty, is about to die, but decides to let Deckard live. Deckard runs off with Rachel. Fade out.

Now if this were really an action-adventure film of the Star Wars or even ALIEN variety, I would have just blown it for you by revealing the whole plot. But that's not what Blade Runner is at all. What Blade Runner is, despite all protests to the contrary, is basically a film verison of Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Scott claims to have never read the book. This may or may not be true, but it is obvious that the screenwriters, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, read the book. Blade Runner is certainly not a literal retelling of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; settings, characters, plot elements, and so forth have all been altered. But the core of the novel, the essential story, is the core of the film. The intellectual level of the screenplay and its perceived audience are both much closer to the intent of Dick than to "action-adventure" and the theme and its mode of expression are intellectually and spiritually true to the novel to an impressive degree. Deckard, the replicant killer, comes to see replicants as human. The replicants themselves, though they are designed to be emotionless, develop human feelings, and ultimately human empathy. What is a human? Answer: a sentient being capable of empathy for other sentient beings. What is a less-than-human android in both Dickian terms and in terms of the film? Answer: a sentient being, whether born of man and woman, or manufactured, who is incapable of feeling empathy for another sentient being.

In addition to being true in essence to the novel despite public statements to the contrary, Blade Runner, despite more public statements to the contrary, is truer to what science fiction is all about than just about any "SF film" yet made. Scott (and here we are definitely dealing with the creative contribution of the director) has created the most dense, detailed, and fully realized future world ever put on film.
The world in question is a peculiar 21st Century Los Angeles, which basically exists in three layers. At the top are huge monolithic megabuildings apparently done by Douglas Trumbull in typical Trumbull high tech style-this is literally upper class corporate country. In the middle is middle class residential territory, seen mostly as interiors. At the bottom is the prole country of the streets, by far the most interesting and densely-realized creation.
Despite the declaration that this is the Los Angeles of the future (and I refuse to believe that any culture would be idiotic enough to attempt building all those 200 floor buildings in an Earthquake zone, or that it would be even possible given LA's geology), it feels like a Japonified version of New York or Chicago, indeed in many ways it seems like a future Tokyo itself. The streets are crowded and grubby, people dressed in many exotic styles, the first multicultural future city I have ever seen even attempted on film. Familiar ads for Coca-Cola, Atari, and Citizen are montaged with exotic oriental neon, exactly like the Ginza or Rappongi. Japanese fast food joints. A disreputable quarter of artificial animal merchants. A Soho-cum-Ginza-bar club you'd just love to debauch yourself in. Detail piled upon detail piled upon detail-a true masterpiece of design which makes any previous attempt at anything like a future city scene simply look ludicrous by comparison.
These three levels are tied together by multileveled walkways, flying cars, elevators, and this huge ponderously hovering ad display vehicle flashing incomprehensible Japanese commercials, Coca-Cola ads, and propaganda designed to persuade people to move off world. Ridley Scott's long experience making TV commercials really works to advantage here; the scenes of this world have the density of detail of a myriad of 60 second commercials all strung together for an effect of incredible cinematic density. The overall cinematic style of the film is also heavily influenced by Scott's TV commercial background. Virtually every shot is framed like a piece of a commercial, with outer angles, bizarre atmospheric lighting, the omnipresent (and scientifically unexplained) rain and gloom, and music designed to highlight key dialogue. There is hardly a shot in the film that is not such a self-contained set-piece, hardly a shot given over to simply photographed interaction between actors, hardly a shot without in trinsic cinematic interest independent of the story. It is a lovely cinematic treat, shot-for-shot.

Which is as good a segue as anything into the flaws that do exist in Blade Runner and from whence they arose, since it is apparent that no one is more aware of this than Ridley Scott himself. Scott has said that he worked closely, "totally," with the film editor, Terry Rawlings, so the ponderous pace of the editing must be laid at least in large part on his doorstep. The montage is virtually flawless, sequentially, but many, all too many, sequences seem to go' on far too long, as if Scott, enamored of his own cinematic brilliance (justly enamored), cannot bear not to linger overlong on the pretty pictures he is painting. This not only makes the overall film move more slowly than it should, it affects the dialogue, making it far too artificial and stagey in places.

It is a curious aspect of the film that there are hardly any scenes where the actors are actually working intimately off each other. The atmospherics, the staging, the cutaways, the music, the cinematics, all seem to get in the way of this. Since this is a film about alienation and finally empathy, it is possible that this is an intended statement for the most part, but surely this does not apply to the stilted and artificial love scene between Deckard and Rachel, nor to the final controntation between Deckard and Roy Batty, shown almost entirely without dialogue twoshots. Scott seems to be trying to tell the whole story cinematically (like commercials) and in general this works. But Scott himself or someone in the studio above him seemed unconvinced of this, adding truly terrible voice-over narration in key areas to "explain" what has already been told cinematically. One example will more than suffice, since it is the ending of the film. After Batty's death, Deckard is confronted by his blade runner partner, a man, who, throughout the film is shown leaving little bits of origami everywhere. "Are you through?" he asks Deckard.


"I hope she's worth it. Too bad she won't live. But then, who does?"

Cut to Deckard's apartment, where he finds Rachel covered by a sheet in such a way that neither he nor the audience can tell whether she is alive or dead. She's alive. They flee. As they do, we see her foot kick a little origami figure left on the floor. We see Deckard pick it up and study it. Cut to the two of them flying over the first green land and blue sky we have seen in the film.

Get it? Well someone thought you wouldn't. One's intelligence is instead insulted by voiceover narration by Deckard explaining that his partner must have been in the apartment and chosen to let Rachel live. Worse, far worse, the narration then goes on the undercut the most powerful line of dialogue in the whole film: "Too bad she won't live. But then, who does?" Deckard explains that in fact Rachel is different from the other replicants in that she doesn't have a preprogrammed life-span, as if the tragedy, which, by a single brilliant line of dialogue has become the tragedy of our human mortality, is simply too real to leave in for the audience.

What went wrong to mar what is on balance a brilliant film? Certainly not the acting. Harrison Ford is fine in the rather undemanding role of Deckard, there isn't a bit player who fails to be convincing, and Rutger Hauer is brilliant as Roy Batty and deserves an Oscar for best supporting actor. When the acting ensemble is this good, you certainly can't fault the director for being unable to extract good performances.
In a peculiar way, the title change epitomizes the problem. Admittedly Do Adnroids Dream of Electric Sheep? wouldn't make it on a theater marque, particularly if the creative team insisted on using "replicants" instead of "androids" because no one involved seemed to know the difference between an android and a robot. Blade Runner was the title of an Alan Nourse novel about smugglers of medical supplies and underground doctors in a future world which has nothing whatever to do with this one. Rights to the title were bought because somebody thought it was snappy. Deckard is called a "blade runner" solely to justify the title, and it makes no internal sense whatever, since he is a hunter, not a quarry, and since no one ever refers to replicants as "blades."

As this nonsense must have been imposed by the studio, or at least by studio-type thinking, so too the narration, which seems to be nothing more than an attempt to speak down to an audience which is perceived as not intelligent enough to understand the film without it. Fancher, the to-author of the screenplay, is listed as executive producer, but he was working on the script through many rewrites directed by Scott, who also controlled the editing. In other words, there does not seem to have been anyone on the creative team with both the insight and power to tell Scott when he was making a mistake. Scott had the screenplay written to his specs, shot the film, and then controlled the editing. The film would have been much improved if another creative talent had sat above Scott in the editing process. And if it wasn't Scott who imposed the voiceover narration, whoever did is a Phillistine. Even now, the film could be mightily improved some day upon rerelease simply by cutting out all the narration.

It remains to be seen how Blade Runner will do at the box office, but if it is not the commercial success it deserves to be, it wild because the dumb title, the cynical commercial tie-in campaign, and the absence of the public imprimateur of Philip K. Dick alieniated the film's real audience-sophisticated intelligent adults, not Star Wars and Star Trek fans.

Perhaps Scott or the studio think they were being clever by trying to publican disassociate the film from "science fiction," from Phil Dick's novel, from being something beyond "action-adventure."
Whether this commercial strategy turn out to be commercially correct or not, it is bloody well untrue. Blade Runner is an essentially true translation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it is a serious film for adults, and it is more of a real science-fiction film than just about anything else has been. Flaws and all, it is a minor masterpiece at the least, and anyone looking for a real science fiction film of truly serious intent should go see it.

31 May 2006 Posted by | Stolen Stuff | 1 Comment