The sound of mega orgasms: the female composers taking music into intimate places

A soundtrack to an erotic feminist film, the crunch of crisps in your own mouth, a composition for strap-on and electric guitar meet the women who are making music and telling stories on their own terms

In the early 1990s, the accordionist and musical improviser Pauline Oliveros wrote the soundtrack for a feminist porn film called The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop. The film is presented and co-directed by Annie Sprinkle, a sex worker turned academic whose lecture covers everything from deep breathing and vaginal bling to STD prevention and mega orgasms. Along the way, we get a spectacular sonic counterpart of drones, glitches, bleeps, twangs and pulsations.

Conventional porn music this is not: no sultry saxophones, no oily bass guitars. Instead, Oliveros made sounds that are fun, tactile and inquisitive. If Sprinkles mission was to confront industry standards of what erotic looks like, freeing viewers to define their own tastes, Oliveros reminded us that the power to decide what music means should ultimately belong to the listener.

This autumn, in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others, a couple of things became urgently clear. We must listen more carefully to womens voices, and we must change the power structures that govern much of public and private life, including the arts.

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A screengrab from The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop (1992) by Annie Sprinkle and Maria Beatty Photograph: Vimeo

Pauline was empowering her listeners, says the writer Ione, the late Oliveross partner and regular collaborator. Sluts and Goddesses was not pornography, not if you mean the word in any pejorative or sleazy sense. It was about sexual freedom, showing that sexuality is a natural and wonderful thing for women. The sounds Pauline made were deeply sensual because they related to the body. Her music was always about the Earth, the body, being human, the cosmos.

The film gets a rare public screening this week at the London contemporary music festival, in a section termed (brace yourself) New Intimacy. Contemporary music has a long and tetchy history of labels, schools and isms, almost all coined by programmers or academics rather than artists themselves. New Intimacy seems a cheeky throwback to the contentiously named New Complexity and New Simplicity movements of the 1980s.

Empowering
Empowering listeners Pauline Oliveros. Photograph: Vinciane Verguethen

There is a particular irony to the new bit, given several of the works at LCMF are three or four decades old. But what about the intimacy? Modernism was about removing the body from art, says festival director Igor Toronyi-Lalic. About removing personal identity and prioritising science, abstraction and objectivity. With postmodernism, the body is reinserted into feminist art, queer theory. That is whats at the heart of the New Intimacy movement.

The series includes a work by Kajsa Magnarsson for strap-on and electric guitar; a piece by Claudia Molitor to be performed by audience members within their own mouths as they chew sweets, popcorn and crisps; and the 1965 film Fuses, in which Carolee Schneemann documents the most intimate moments of her relationship with composer James Tenney. Also in the mix is the pristine and ultra-sparse Second String Quartet by Wandelweiser composer Jrg Frey music so stripped back and delicate it can start to feel febrile, like the tender stuff left exposed after some kind of sonic disrobing. Aesthetically, its probably the diametric opposite to the sparkly dildos and nipple tassels of the film, but maybe the point is how these works share a potential to empower and turn the attention back on audiences.

Claudia Molitor has been exploring the haptic in music for nearly two decades, and welcomes the wide scope of New Intimacy. Its a provocation, right? Most of the time, women arent supposed to express ourselves in certain ways because its considered unbecoming, so maybe its good to put something out there that is unbecoming. If it makes people uncomfortable, thats all right. A lot of women spend quite a lot of their lives feeling uncomfortable. Anyway, its hardly new. Mozart said it with Cosi Fan Tutte: women have the same desires as men.

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Eva-Maria Westbroek in the opera Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage in 2014. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Composer and performance artist Jennifer Walshe likewise uses her work to deal with gender and identity. Her confrontational 2003 music theatre piece, XXX Live Nude Girls, featured Barbie dolls in all manner of sexual positions and scenarios of abuse. If you want to privilege the female gaze, she says, you have to privilege it at every level of production, right down to technical crews. Think of an opera like Anna Nicole. This was a work by Mark-Anthony Turnage, about the Playboy star Anna Nicole Smith. The librettist is a man, the composer is a man, the director was a man. Why arent women allowed to write their own stories?

Walshe also questions the potential in New Intimacy for exploitation or plain voyeurism. Sometimes I feel that women are forced into a position where they are only permitted to have a voice by articulating their most intimate details, she says. Memoirs by musicians like Viv Albertine, Kim Gordon, Carrie Brownstein, Kristin Hersh all of which are books I love get very deep into the personal in a way many memoirs by male musicians dont.

Is there the expectation that in telling their stories, they have to get into these details? That their stories are only worth being heard if they are explicit? Or, as women, is part of dealing with life being forced to deal with gender or sexuality in a way many of their male collaborators dont have to, which means its only natural to talk about it?

One lesson from Weinstein is that his alleged victims didnt speak out because the industry granted him a power that robbed them of their agency. We need to trust ourselves, wrote Mona Chalabi in the Guardian. The sickening allegations have reminded me just how important it is that we trust our instincts.

This also applies to the danger of glorifying artists. For centuries, we built up personality cults around composers made gods out of men like Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Britten and Stockhausen. These genius narratives might have let us believe we were accessing the divine when listening to Tristan und Isolde or Mittwoch aus Licht and so feel somehow aggrandised by proxy but if composers were supposed to be superhumanly talented, their means of production remained unattainable to the rest of us, and their behaviour potentially unaccountable. It was a recipe for alienation, for too much licence, for abuse.

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Red Note Ensemble perform 13 Vices by Jennifer Walshe and Brian Irvine at the New Music Biennial in Hull. Photograph: James Mulkeen

Pauline was very much not into all that, Ione says. All that genius crap. Just look at the collaborative, collegial, supportive way she worked with Annie and the group of women who made Sluts and Goddesses. Look at the way she improvised with anybody.

It seems contemporary music is moving increasingly in that direction. Gone are the towering iconoclasts of the 20th century. Instead, programmers from Huddersfield contemporary music festival to Glasgows Counterflows to LCMF are looking to provide nimbler, more personal experiences.

Its about getting us to relate to ourselves better, says Molitor, whose piece 10 Mouth Installationsincludes an instruction sheet suggesting the best order in which to eat the sweets, popcorn and crisps (Hula-Hoops to be precise). Its about not going for a big public statement where one person declares something and the audience laps it up. Its more of a negotiation: Im an individual, youre an individual, so lets all acknowledge our bodies and our presences in this space.

If contemporary classical music seemed a branch of the avant-garde too erudite for everyday gender politics, too esoteric to deal with the erotic, think again. With its flexible forms, exploratory sound worlds and playful intellectual provocations, this music is proving to have a special potential to redress the way we relate to status, to each other, to ourselves not only for those making music, but also for those listening.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/dec/06/sound-of-mega-orgasms-female-composers-london-contemporary-music-festival-new-intimacy

Bearded dudes pose for merman calendar to raise money for a worthy cause

Behold the “Merb’ys”—a breed of Canadian bearded mermen flapping their fur and fins for a good cause. 

The gentlemen of Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club are posing in nowt but their merman garb for a dudeoir-style calendar to raise money for mental health organisation Spirit Horse NL.

And, the photos certainly don’t disappoint. The calendar—which can be previewed online—features bearded mermen posing in pumpkin patches, pubs, and on various beaches. 

The Merb’ys are thus-named because “the Newfoundland mermen are a different breed,” says Hasan Hai, founder of the beard and moustache club. Hai came up with the idea of a merman calendar after a friend of his posted a photo from a mercreature themed dudeoir shoot on his Facebook wall. 

He decided to organise a calendar, and posted an “open call to the universe” on social media, which received an unexpectedly high response. 70 or 80 people got in touch with Hai, offering to model or photograph. 

Hai knew he wanted to raise money for charity, but hadn’t yet settled on a charity. When he came across Sprit Horse NL and heard the stories of the people they help, he suggested using the calendar to raise money for the organisation. 

“It basically uses horses to provide equine therapy for people with mental illness, people who want to live better lives, people with physical limitation,” Hai told CBC. 

Donning a fin was a challenge for the men during the calendar shoots. “Moving around in a fishtail is not as easy as you would think,” Hai continued, adding that there was “a lot of hopping” and squirming involved behind the scenes.  

The calendar, which has received an overwhelming number of pre-orders, can be purchased online for $25 CAD ($19.70 USD, £14.99) from the Beard and Moustache Club website. 

Major props to the Merb’ys of Newfoundland!

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/10/mermen-dudeoir-calendar-newfoundland/

The Sex Robots Are Coming: seedy, sordid but mainly just sad

The sex-doll industry is going from strength to strength in the drive to make the figures more lifelike, but where will it end?

People say theres no such thing as loving an inanimate object, says James, solemnly. I dont necessarily think thats true. James is a 58-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, and the owner of four life-size dolls. Every morning he carefully gets them dressed and puts on their makeup. One day he might take them for a picnic; on another theyll stay in and watch television. The latter involves a painstaking process where he must bend the dolls into a sitting position and adjust their eyeballs. But thats OK, because theres nothing James wouldnt do for his synthetic companions, with whom he shares a bed and has sex up to four times a week.

James is among the protagonists of The Sex Robots Are Coming (30 November, 10pm, Channel 4), an investigation into the development of animatronic, AI-enabled silicone sexbots, and part of C4s Rise of the Robots season. While Jamess silicone sweethearts remain resolutely inert, change is afoot in the world of sex dolls, with a drive to make them ever more lifelike. First stop is Realbotix, the throbbing heart of the sex doll industry in San Marcos, California, where on workstations spilling over with custom-made nipples and wobbling artificial labia researchers are utilising new technology to persuade their dolls to smile, pout, flutter their eyelashes and tell jokes. Down in the dolls nether regions, heating and lubrication systems are in the early stages of development for a more authentic sexual experience, along with muscle spasms to simulate female orgasm. Pubic hair is making a comeback, offers company owner Matt, running his hand through some plastic pubes.

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Bad hair day Matt McMullen, CEO and creative director of Realbotix.

Matt sees a glittering future in which sex robots are as commonplace as porn and rejects the notion that his dolls are damaging to women, reducing them to body parts that can be modified to suit the quirks of their owners. Its not for everyone, he shrugs, while clearly praying that it is.

This is, its fair to say, not your average dystopian future doc: its less an AI-style vision of evil robot hordes than a fascinating if dispiriting glimpse of what can happen when dysfunctional men are left to their own devices. Still, there are scenes here that are the stuff of nightmares: from the headless plastic bodies each large of breast and tiny of waist that dangle helplessly from the Realbotix walls, to chief engineer Susan reaching roughly inside a doll to remove an eight-inch vaginal insert, prompting women everywhere to cross their legs in agony. And theres James bending one of his dolls, naked save for her pants, face down over a workbench in his garage (to adjust a screw in her shoulder, you understand).

James, it turns out, also has a wife, Tine, who is a living, breathing human, and is the very definition of long-suffering. Two years ago, she left the marital home for nine months to care for her mother; she returned to four new lodgers, distinguishable by their caramel complexions, slim-line figures and willingness to remain silent at all times.

James looks pained when asked what he would do if he had to choose between his wife and his favourite doll, April. I honestly dont know, he says. If, when the cameras ceased rolling, Tine ripped off one of Aprils beautiful limbs and beat her husband to a pulp with it, the makers of The Sex Robots Are Coming have wisely kept stumm.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/nov/25/sex-robots-are-coming-seedy-sordid-sad

She bragged on Instagram about violating her roommate’s belongings, and then she was caught

This was not a welcoming roommate situation.
Image: university of hartford/flickr

If you’re rubbing used tampons onto your college roommate’s backpack, contaminating her eating utensils, spitting into and poisoning her lotions, and abusing her toothbrush, you’re a terrible person, but also, don’t post about it on social media.

Brianna Brochu, 18, was charged Wednesday with “criminal mischief” for allegedly doing all of the above and more to her unsuspecting roommate at the University of Hartford in Connecticut—which was discovered because she bragged about it on Instagram. 

Chenel Rowe, who goes by Jazzy on social media, posted and livestreamed a video this week detailing the terror she endured as Brochu’s roommate since the end of August. Before knowing about the poisoning and tampering, Rowe had already made arrangements to move out. She had been having throat pain and other ailments since moving into her dorm. While she was moving out, she discovered the Instagram post and other evidence that her belongings had been contaminated. 

Rowe showed screenshots of Brochu’s post that admitted the abuse, which said, “yo girl got rid of her roommate!! After 1 1/2 month of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons (on) her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine, and so much more I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie.” The post has been deleted and the account made private.

Rowe, who is black, said in a Facebook video that if the race roles were reversed, she thinks the situation with her white roommate would have been handled differently. Police have added an “intimidation based on bigotry or bias” charge, according to the New York Times.

On Wednesday, the University of Hartford updated a statement about the “deeply disturbing situation” with the news that Brochu “is no longer a student at the University of Hartford. She will not be returning to the institution.”

The day before, the university president wrote a letter about the alleged roommate bullying. He called Brochu’s behavior “reprehensible.”

Rowe posted on Facebook that she was “not holding my tongue any longer about my situation because this is just ridiculous.”

Online supporters are rallying around Rowe with the hashtag #justiceforjazzy.

Brochu appeared in court on Wednesday and the case will continue on Nov. 15, based on court documents. In the affidavit, Brochu told authorities she hadn’t intended to make her roommate sick, but she did admit to licking Rowe’s eating utensils and the other abuse from her Instagram post. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/01/roommate-college-dorm-abuse-instagram-post/

How The Good Doctor became the year’s biggest new TV hit

The new drama, which stars Freddie Highmore as a surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, has engaged millions of viewers but critics remain skeptical

Ever since Greys Anatomy went haywire and hits like House, Nurse Jackie, and ER completed formidable seasons-long runs, folks have been clamoring for the next great medical procedural. This fall, it seems they got their wish with ABCs new drama The Good Doctor, created by Houses David Shore and based on a Korean series of the same name. Is The Good Doctor great? Well, notexactly, but it does enough to fill the void in a genre thats always been less about medicine than the often galactic, always dramatic goings-on at our favorite fictitious hospitals.

Last week, after just three episodes, The Good Doctor became the most-watched show on US television, surpassing The Big Bang Theory, which has held that title for quite some time despite running on pseudo-comic fumes. Yes most-watched is a superlative thats both widely appropriated and, in the age of multi-platform viewing increasingly irrelevant but 18.2 million viewers, which The Good Doctor reeled in last week, is nothing to scoff at, especially as it trounces flashier fall debuts like The Orville, The Gifted and Seal Team and runs neck-and-neck with CBSs Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon. It also received a full-season order at ABC after only two episodes and has found a quietly passionate fanbase on Facebook (the shows official page already boasts over 650,000 likes), where fans praise its depiction of autism and attest that the soapy medical plotlines have reduced them to tears. Theres even talk of an Emmy nod for its star Freddie Highmore, of Bates Motel fame.

The premise is simple: Shaun Murphy, played by Highmore, is an autistic surgeon with savant syndrome. His stream of consciousness speaks the language of anatomy, and when the shows particularly keen on calling attention to his genius, organs and veins and glands float above his head like illustrations ripped from a med-school textbook. Hes not Rain Man, says his main advocate at the prestigious St Bonaventure hospital in an attempt to convince the board that Murphy is hirable and high-functioning. To those in the autism community, the show has deftly done just that. The Good Doctor does a fine job of navigating this razors edge, wrote Kerry Magro on the website Autism Speaks, noting that it shows several characteristics that can accompany an autism diagnosis such as social awkwardness, lack of eye contact, playing with his hands during stressful situations. He adds: Freddies take will resonate with many in the community.

As for its entertainment value, The Good Doctor proceeds the way most medical dramas do: each day brings a new patient in need of life-threatening surgery; the doctors fight for stature and opportunity while romancing one another in the process; we discover that Shauns childhood was marred by the gruesome deaths of both his little brother and pet bunny, and hes disciplined for behaving poorly or erratically in front of patients before saving the day with surgical heroics. Its schmaltzy and sentimental, and its probably no coincidence that as hitmaker Shonda Rhimes (of Scandal, Greys and How to Get Away with Murder fame) prepares to leave ABC for Netflix, the network has pushed a new drama to the forefront of its programming. And like Greys Anatomy, The Good Doctor has accrued a wide fanbase in just a few episodes by weaving the day-to-day tasks of surgeons into the larger framework of its protagonists story. In its first season, Greys brought in roughly 18.5 million viewers per episode, and so far The Good Doctor, with more than half of its audience watching the show live and the rest on DVR, is outperforming both that show at the same stage and others in the same lineage, like House and Private Practice.

But before The Good Doctor and last years network breakout This is Us, a non-linear tearjerker about a family with three children who share a birthday, it had been a while since a debut series on either CBS, ABC, NBC or Fox became a ratings powerhouse. Network television was mostly underwhelming or, like The Big Bang Theory, stagnant and formulaic, and so viewers flocked instead to cable (HBO, AMC, FX) or streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu).

In that sense, network dramas are the new underdogs, at least in relation to the Game of Thrones and Walking Deads of the world. But perhaps they wont be any longer, since both The Good Doctor and This is Us provide the guilty pleasures many people look for in their TV diets: earnest storytelling, very attractive actors doing very noble things, and characters who tug at our heartstrings. Both shows, too, have diverse casts and optimistic outlooks, debuting as the collective national mood called for encouraging, beat-the-odds entertainment in the vein of La La Land, Hidden Figures and Wonder Woman. The recent popular network dramas of the pre-Trump era Empire, Madam Secretary, How to Get Away with Murder, Chicago Med and The Good Wife were somewhat less uplifting in spirit and tone. As David Shore told Indiewire: Theres an honest, unabashed emotionality to this show that I think is very refreshing. It will make you cry in an unembarrassed way. So far, fans agree. Find myself crying every episode, one YouTube commenter wrote. I was kind of getting sick of so many medical dramas but this one stole my heart, says another. In its promotional campaign, too, The Good Doctor, like This is Us, has embraced its emotional resonance: Were not crying. Youre crying, reads the caption to its episode three trailer.

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A still from the pilot of ABCs The Good Doctor. Photograph: Liane Hentscher/2017 Sony Pictures Television

As one might expect, whats made The Good Doctor a hit has made it divisive among critics: despite its ratings, it has a meager 43% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Maureen Ryan, writing in Variety, called it both preposterously tragic and a third-rate Greys Anatomy ripoff. That discrepancy between the shows critical reception and its popularity among audiences is one of the most extreme in the websites history, and like last years blockbuster film Batman v Superman, which spawned a wave of think-pieces about the dissonance between critics and audiences, reviewers like the show about half as much as the 18 million who watch it.

Ultimately, critics may be of little significance to The Good Doctor: its now ABCs most-watched Monday drama in 21 years. Unseating The Big Bang Theory alone brought the show a good deal of press, and should it continue to handle autism as deftly as viewers think it does, The Good Doctor will join This is Us as that rare network hit in the age of streaming supremacy.

  • The Good Doctor is on in the US on Mondays at 9pm on ABC and will start in the UK on Fridays at 9pm on Sky Living

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/oct/23/the-good-doctor-freddie-highmore-abc-biggest-new-show

Leonard Cohen’s last book, finished ‘days before his death’, due out next year

The Flame collects unpublished poetry, as well as notebook entries and song lyrics, and offers an intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist

A book of Leonard Cohens final poems, completed in the months before his death and tackling the flame and how our culture threatened its extinction, according to his manager, will be published next year.

Describing the collection, The Flame, as an enormously powerful final chapter in Cohens storied literary career, publisher Canongate said that the Canadian singer-songwriter had chosen and ordered the poems in the months before his death in November 2016. The overwhelming majority of the book, which will be published next October, will be new material, it added.

Cohen, who died at the age of 82, originally focused his career on poetry, publishing the collections Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1956, The Spice-Box of Earth in 1961, and Flowers for Hitler in 1964. By the late 60s, he was concentrating more on music, releasing his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, in 1967.

Cohens manager and trustee of his estate Robert Kory said that pulling The Flame together had been a key ambition for the singer-songwriter at the end of his life. During the final months of his life, Leonard had a singular focus completing this book, taken largely from his unpublished poems and selections from his notebooks. The flame and how our culture threatened its extinction was a central concern, said Kory.

Though in declining health, Leonard died unexpectedly. Those of us who had the rare privilege of spending time with him during this period recognised that the flame burned bright within him to the very end. This book, finished only days before his death, reveals to all the intensity of his inner fire.

In an interview with the New Yorker last October, Cohen spoke of how my natural thrust is to finish things that Ive begun, and of how he was getting up well before dawn to write.

I dont dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I dont dare do that. Ive got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope its not too uncomfortable. Thats about it for me, he told the magazines editor David Remnick.

In a certain sense, this particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity than when I had duties of making a living, being a husband, being a father. Those distractions are radically diminished at this point. The only thing that mitigates against full production is just the condition of my body At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order.

The Flame will also include an extensive selection from Cohens notebooks, which Canongate said he kept in poetic form throughout his life, and which it promised would offer an unprecedentedly intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist and thinker. The full lyrics of his final three albums, along with those he wrote for the album Blue Alert by his collaborator Anjani, will also be included, along with prose pieces and Cohens own illustrations.

Canongates Francis Bickmore, who acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, called it a towering final book, hulking with morbid wit and lit up with insight This substantial parting work, from a great artist now gone, will speak to anyone who has been moved by Cohens unique voice.

The Flame will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US, and McClelland & Stewart in Canada.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/06/leonard-cohens-last-book-finished-days-before-his-death-due-out-next-year-the-flame

Jimmy Kimmel’s baby may save healthcare for 30 million people

Image: randy holmes/ABC via Getty Images

Welcome to 2017, where the American government has ceded its already crumbling moral authority to the former host of The Man Show.

Don’t you miss the 2016 election now?

Still, the last few days have produced some of the best material late night television has ever had to offer, and all it’s because of former Man Show star, Win Ben Stein’s Money co-host, and late night host, Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel has not only taken on the Senate’s practically homicidal Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill, he’s done it without resorting to lies or distortions (how quaint!). He accomplished this by speaking from a place of deep empathy, and by centering on a character that remains untouchable across the political spectrum: his baby.

Back in May, Kimmel’s newborn son had to undergo an emergency open-heart surgery. It was this hardship that brought America’s perilous healthcare situation into sharp focus for the comedian. And as he’s grown more vocal about the issue, he returns to his own child as the impetus for his outspokenness.

That’s why every counter-attack by GOP politician and pundits against Kimmel has fallen flat on its face: in the symbolic war between sick babies and man-baby Senators, the sick baby will always win.

By positioning his baby at his monologue’s heart and center, he’s created the most sympathetic protagonist imaginable and made anyone who opposes that character a hateful antagonist by extension (which, I mean, is accurate). Everyone who attacks Kimmel’s position, is essentially attacking his baby. 

Not a good position for a politician.

“Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there’s a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition,” Kimmel said in May. “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make … we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do!” 

Babies work. There’s a reason why every politician is required to take a photo with them at some point in their campaign.

When I was a social worker, we talked a lot about “worthy victims” and “unworthy victims.” “Unworthy victims” are people a society has collectively decided are victims because of their own poor choices: the poor, victims of sexual assault, the homeless, welfare recipients, people of color, criminals and undocumented immigrants. “Worthy victims,” by contrast, are folks that society has deemed sufficiently worthy of empathy (and consequently, of charitable donations) including sick children, the elderly and people with *certain* disabilities.

That doesn’t mean that worthy victims are exactly living large in America. Just think of the folks who were cruelly pulled from their wheelchairs by Capitol police while protesting Trumpcare that summer. But it does mean that they, culturally at least, have tremendous worth. I can’t think of a stronger symbolic lead than Kimmel’s son — a sick, wealthy kind with a devastating illness — followed closely by his acerbic father. Is there anything Americans love more than a cynical man, who simultaneously knows his facts and is deeply in touch with his own tenderness?

Of a Fox and Friends host who attacked Kimmel for his monologues, Kimmel had this to say:

“And you know, the reason I’m talking about this is because my son had an open-heart surgery and has to have two more, and because of that, I’ve learned that there are kids with no insurance in the same situation,” Kimmel said. “I don’t get anything out of this, Brian [Kilmeade], you phony little creep. Oh, I’ll pound you when I see you.”

Just look at how these Republican politicians and pundits tiptoed around his attacks, especially as  they relate to Kimmy’s son, and relied on the tired excuse than Kimmel wasn’t smart enough to analyze the bill because’s he’s a late night comedian. 

Remember: these folks voted for a man who recently made up an African country in front of Africans and didn’t realize that Frederick Douglass was dead, so we’re not exactly dealing with “wonks” here. 

All late night comedians have in some ways impacted culture and by extension, politics, but Kimmel might become the first late night politicians to have an immediate, substantive impact on policy. There’s a Jimmy Kimmel test Senator Cassidy once told Congress it has to pass. Kimmel even ended his monologue with a screen full of Senator’s phone numbers, amplifying his personal story and turning it into collective action.

Babies work. There’s a reason why every politician is required to take a photo with them at some point in their campaign. There’s a reason why political ads that include children, like this one of Hillary’s, are far more effective than those that feature rehabilitated criminal — even though both would be endangered by Graham-Cassidy.  Kimmel even admitted that he was “politicizing his baby” for the greater good.  

Doing anything that might directly harm babies is one the last moral lines we have around these broken parts. Let’s see if one man’s 13-minute monologues are powerful enough to keep us from crossing it.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/21/jimmy-kimmel-secret-weapon-baby/

Fireball bagels will make breakfast boozy without the booze

Ever wake up regretting that last shot of Fireball? Well, now you can extend that regret all the way through breakfast.

The Fireball bagel is the latest bizarre offering from The Bagel Nook, a bagel shop in Freehold, New Jersey. Per Delish, the semi-boozy treats are made by pouring a bit of Fireball into the bagel dough itself, then dunking the finished bagels in a glaze made from even more of the liquor (reduced, of course, so it’s not actually alcoholic).

It’s served with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a hearty schmear of apple pie cream cheese. Something tells us it might also be good with hazelnut cream cheese? Someone test this for us, please.

And if it cures any of your Fireball-induced hangovers, please also drop us a line.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/21/fireball-bagels/

No, players aren’t ‘protesting the anthem.’ Fox News’ Shep Smith explains perfectly.

Whatever the topic, you can count on Fox News’ Shep Smith to tell it like it is, and Trump’s feud with the NFL is no exception.

While interviewing Politico’s Rachael Bade during Monday’s edition of “Shepard Smith Reporting,” Smith stated what’s obvious to many: The outrage from Trump and his base isn’t about the flag, anthem, or military.

In recent days, a slew of news organizations (including Smith’s colleagues at Fox) have claimed that the protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick were examples of players “protesting the national anthem,” completely obscuring what’s actually being protested — racism and injustice.

Smith used his show to correct that record.

In August 2016, Kaepernick explained the genesis of the protest. He and his fellow players are not protesting the flag or the anthem but, rather, the fact that we as a country are not living up to the ideals the flag is supposed to represent.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

“We’re complicit,” Smith said, acknowledging the way his own network helped muddle the meaning of Kaepernick’s protest.

Smith points to Trump, his base, and Trump-friendly media organizations as the source of the uproar, twisting the actual issue being protested to distract from the fact that he’s actually had a somewhat disastrous first eight months as president.

Policy-wise, not much has actually gotten done, Smith pointed out, so there’s a need to ramp up phony wars with the press and with the NFL to frame him as a victim:

“It’s very clear that for [Trump’s] base, this is the red meat of all red meat. Because they’re able to reframe this. They’re able to say, ‘Oh, they’re attacking the national anthem, they’re attacking the troops. They’re attacking the flag.’

None of which they’re doing. They’re not doing any of that. They’re upset about racial injustice in the country and they’re upset about the things that the president has said — and yet he’s able to turn it around for his base. Isn’t this all a play to his base and could it possibly be so that they don’t notice there is no health care and North Korea’s the biggest mess since the Cold War?”

So thanks, Shep Smith, for being a the voice of reason here and always keeping it 💯. Watch his clip below.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/no-players-arent-protesting-the-anthem-fox-news-shep-smith-explains-perfectly

The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science

Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleep deprivation is increasing our risk of cancer, heart attack and Alzheimers and what you can do about it

Matthew Walker has learned to dread the question What do you do? At parties, it signals the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will inevitably cling to him like ivy. On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will find himself running an hours-long salon for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. Ive begun to lie, he says. Seriously. I just tell people Im a dolphin trainer. Its better for everyone.

Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute whose goal possibly unachievable is to understand everything about sleeps impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel. As the line between work and leisure grows ever more blurred, rare is the person who doesnt worry about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the shadows beneath our eyes, most of us dont know the half of it and perhaps this is the real reason he has stopped telling strangers how he makes his living. When Walker talks about sleep he cant, in all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths. Its his conviction that we are in the midst of a catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. This situation, he believes, is only likely to change if government gets involved.

Walker has spent the last four and a half years writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book that examines the effects of this epidemic close up, the idea being that once people know of the powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimers disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try harder to get the recommended eight hours a night (sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than seven hours). But, in the end, the individual can achieve only so much. Walker wants major institutions and law-makers to take up his ideas, too. No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation, he says. It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything about it. Things have to change: in the workplace and our communities, our homes and families. But when did you ever see an NHS poster urging sleep on people? When did a doctor prescribe, not sleeping pills, but sleep itself? It needs to be prioritised, even incentivised. Sleep loss costs the UK economy over 30bn a year in lost revenue, or 2% of GDP. I could double the NHS budget if only they would institute policies to mandate or powerfully encourage sleep.

Why, exactly, are we so sleep-deprived? What has happened over the course of the last 75 years? In 1942, less than 8% of the population was trying to survive on six hours or less sleep a night; in 2017, almost one in two people is. The reasons are seemingly obvious. First, we electrified the night, Walker says. Light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and finish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead. And anxiety plays a part. Were a lonelier, more depressed society. Alcohol and caffeine are more widely available. All these are the enemies of sleep.

But Walker believes, too, that in the developed world sleep is strongly associated with weakness, even shame. We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep were getting. Its a badge of honour. When I give lectures, people will wait behind until there is no one around and then tell me quietly: I seem to be one of those people who need eight or nine hours sleep. Its embarrassing to say it in public. They would rather wait 45 minutes for the confessional. Theyre convinced that theyre abnormal, and why wouldnt they be? We chastise people for sleeping what are, after all, only sufficient amounts. We think of them as slothful. No one would look at an infant baby asleep, and say What a lazy baby! We know sleeping is non-negotiable for a baby. But that notion is quickly abandoned [as we grow up]. Humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason. In case youre wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero.

The world of sleep science is still relatively small. But it is growing exponentially, thanks both to demand (the multifarious and growing pressures caused by the epidemic) and to new technology (such as electrical and magnetic brain stimulators), which enables researchers to have what Walker describes as VIP access to the sleeping brain. Walker, who is 44 and was born in Liverpool, has been in the field for more than 20 years, having published his first research paper at the age of just 21. I would love to tell you that I was fascinated by conscious states from childhood, he says. But in truth, it was accidental. He started out studying for a medical degree in Nottingham. But having discovered that doctoring wasnt for him he was more enthralled by questions than by answers he switched to neuroscience, and after graduation, began a PhD in neurophysiology supported by the Medical Research Council. It was while working on this that he stumbled into the realm of sleep.

Matthew
Matthew Walker photographed in his sleep lab. Photograph: Saroyan Humphrey for the Observer

I was looking at the brainwave patterns of people with different forms of dementia, but I was failing miserably at finding any difference between them, he recalls now. One night, however, he read a scientific paper that changed everything. It described which parts of the brain were being attacked by these different types of dementia: Some were attacking parts of the brain that had to do with controlled sleep, while other types left those sleep centres unaffected. I realised my mistake. I had been measuring the brainwave activity of my patients while they were awake, when I should have been doing so while they were asleep. Over the next six months, Walker taught himself how to set up a sleep laboratory and, sure enough, the recordings he made in it subsequently spoke loudly of a clear difference between patients. Sleep, it seemed, could be a new early diagnostic litmus test for different subtypes of dementia.

After this, sleep became his obsession. Only then did I ask: what is this thing called sleep, and what does it do? I was always curious, annoyingly so, but when I started to read about sleep, I would look up and hours would have gone by. No one could answer the simple question: why do we sleep? That seemed to me to be the greatest scientific mystery. I was going to attack it, and I was going to do that in two years. But I was naive. I didnt realise that some of the greatest scientific minds had been trying to do the same thing for their entire careers. That was two decades ago, and Im still cracking away. After gaining his doctorate, he moved to the US. Formerly a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, he is now professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California.

Does his obsession extend to the bedroom? Does he take his own advice when it comes to sleep? Yes. I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night, and I keep very regular hours: if there is one thing I tell people, its to go to bed and to wake up at the same time every day, no matter what. I take my sleep incredibly seriously because I have seen the evidence. Once you know that after just one night of only four or five hours sleep, your natural killer cells the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day drop by 70%, or that a lack of sleep is linked to cancer of the bowel, prostate and breast, or even just that the World Health Organisation has classed any form of night-time shift work as a probable carcinogen, how could you do anything else?

There is, however, a sting in the tale. Should his eyelids fail to close, Walker admits that he can be a touch Woody Allen-neurotic. When, for instance, he came to London over the summer, he found himself jet-lagged and wide awake in his hotel room at two oclock in the morning. His problem then, as always in these situations, was that he knew too much. His brain began to race. I thought: my orexin isnt being turned off, the sensory gate of my thalamus is wedged open, my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex wont shut down, and my melatonin surge wont happen for another seven hours. What did he do? In the end, it seems, even world experts in sleep act just like the rest of us when struck by the curse of insomnia. He turned on a light and read for a while.

Will Why We Sleep have the impact its author hopes? Im not sure: the science bits, it must be said, require some concentration. But what I can tell you is that it had a powerful effect on me. After reading it, I was absolutely determined to go to bed earlier a regime to which I am sticking determinedly. In a way, I was prepared for this. I first encountered Walker some months ago, when he spoke at an event at Somerset House in London, and he struck me then as both passionate and convincing (our later interview takes place via Skype from the basement of his sleep centre, a spot which, with its bedrooms off a long corridor, apparently resembles the ward of a private hospital). But in another way, it was unexpected. I am mostly immune to health advice. Inside my head, there is always a voice that says just enjoy life while it lasts.

The evidence Walker presents, however, is enough to send anyone early to bed. Its no kind of choice at all. Without sleep, there is low energy and disease. With sleep, there is vitality and health. More than 20 large scale epidemiological studies all report the same clear relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. To take just one example, adults aged 45 years or older who sleep less than six hours a night are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in their lifetime, as compared with those sleeping seven or eight hours a night (part of the reason for this has to do with blood pressure: even just one night of modest sleep reduction will speed the rate of a persons heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase their blood pressure).

A lack of sleep also appears to hijack the bodys effective control of blood sugar, the cells of the sleep-deprived appearing, in experiments, to become less responsive to insulin, and thus to cause a prediabetic state of hyperglycaemia. When your sleep becomes short, moreover, you are susceptible to weight gain. Among the reasons for this are the fact that inadequate sleep decreases levels of the satiety-signalling hormone, leptin, and increases levels of the hunger-signalling hormone, ghrelin. Im not going to say that the obesity crisis is caused by the sleep-loss epidemic alone, says Walker. Its not. However, processed food and sedentary lifestyles do not adequately explain its rise. Something is missing. Its now clear that sleep is that third ingredient. Tiredness, of course, also affects motivation.

Sleep has a powerful effect on the immune system, which is why, when we have flu, our first instinct is to go to bed: our body is trying to sleep itself well. Reduce sleep even for a single night, and your resilience is drastically reduced. If you are tired, you are more likely to catch a cold. The well-rested also respond better to the flu vaccine. As Walker has already said, more gravely, studies show that short sleep can affect our cancer-fighting immune cells. A number of epidemiological studies have reported that night-time shift work and the disruption to circadian sleep and rhythms that it causes increase the odds of developing cancers including breast, prostate, endometrium and colon.

Getting too little sleep across the adult lifespan will significantly raise your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. The reasons for this are difficult to summarise, but in essence it has to do with the amyloid deposits (a toxin protein) that accumulate in the brains of those suffering from the disease, killing the surrounding cells. During deep sleep, such deposits are effectively cleaned from the brain. What occurs in an Alzheimers patient is a kind of vicious circle. Without sufficient sleep, these plaques build up, especially in the brains deep-sleep-generating regions, attacking and degrading them. The loss of deep sleep caused by this assault therefore lessens our ability to remove them from the brain at night. More amyloid, less deep sleep; less deep sleep, more amyloid, and so on. (In his book, Walker notes unscientifically that he has always found it curious that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both of whom were vocal about how little sleep they needed, both went on to develop the disease; it is, moreover, a myth that older adults need less sleep.) Away from dementia, sleep aids our ability to make new memories, and restores our capacity for learning.

And then there is sleeps effect on mental health. When your mother told you that everything would look better in the morning, she was wise. Walkers book includes a long section on dreams (which, says Walker, contrary to Dr Freud, cannot be analysed). Here he details the various ways in which the dream state connects to creativity. He also suggests that dreaming is a soothing balm. If we sleep to remember (see above), then we also sleep to forget. Deep sleep the part when we begin to dream is a therapeutic state during which we cast off the emotional charge of our experiences, making them easier to bear. Sleep, or a lack of it, also affects our mood more generally. Brain scans carried out by Walker revealed a 60% amplification in the reactivity of the amygdala a key spot for triggering anger and rage in those who were sleep-deprived. In children, sleeplessness has been linked to aggression and bullying; in adolescents, to suicidal thoughts. Insufficient sleep is also associated with relapse in addiction disorders. A prevailing view in psychiatry is that mental disorders cause sleep disruption. But Walker believes it is, in fact, a two-way street. Regulated sleep can improve the health of, for instance, those with bipolar disorder.

Ive mentioned deep sleep in this (too brief) summary several times. What is it, exactly? We sleep in 90-minute cycles, and its only towards the end of each one of these that we go into deep sleep. Each cycle comprises two kinds of sleep. First, there is NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep); this is then followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When Walker talks about these cycles, which still have their mysteries, his voice changes. He sounds bewitched, almost dazed.

During NREM sleep, your brain goes into this incredible synchronised pattern of rhythmic chanting, he says. Theres a remarkable unity across the surface of the brain, like a deep, slow mantra. Researchers were once fooled that this state was similar to a coma. But nothing could be further from the truth. Vast amounts of memory processing is going on. To produce these brainwaves, hundreds of thousands of cells all sing together, and then go silent, and on and on. Meanwhile, your body settles into this lovely low state of energy, the best blood-pressure medicine you could ever hope for. REM sleep, on the other hand, is sometimes known as paradoxical sleep, because the brain patterns are identical to when youre awake. Its an incredibly active brain state. Your heart and nervous system go through spurts of activity: were still not exactly sure why.

Does the 90-minute cycle mean that so-called power naps are worthless? They can take the edge off basic sleepiness. But you need 90 minutes to get to deep sleep, and one cycle isnt enough to do all the work. You need four or five cycles to get all the benefit. Is it possible to have too much sleep? This is unclear. There is no good evidence at the moment. But I do think 14 hours is too much. Too much water can kill you, and too much food, and I think ultimately the same will prove to be true for sleep. How is it possible to tell if a person is sleep-deprived? Walker thinks we should trust our instincts. Those who would sleep on if their alarm clock was turned off are simply not getting enough. Ditto those who need caffeine in the afternoon to stay awake. I see it all the time, he says. I get on a flight at 10am when people should be at peak alert, and I look around, and half of the plane has immediately fallen asleep.

So what can the individual do? First, they should avoid pulling all-nighters, at their desks or on the dancefloor. After being awake for 19 hours, youre as cognitively impaired as someone who is drunk. Second, they should start thinking about sleep as a kind of work, like going to the gym (with the key difference that it is both free and, if youre me, enjoyable). People use alarms to wake up, Walker says. So why dont we have a bedtime alarm to tell us weve got half an hour, that we should start cycling down? We should start thinking of midnight more in terms of its original meaning: as the middle of the night. Schools should consider later starts for students; such delays correlate with improved IQs. Companies should think about rewarding sleep. Productivity will rise, and motivation, creativity and even levels of honesty will be improved. Sleep can be measured using tracking devices, and some far-sighted companies in the US already give employees time off if they clock enough of it. Sleeping pills, by the way, are to be avoided. Among other things, they can have a deleterious effect on memory.

Those who are focused on so-called clean sleep are determined to outlaw mobiles and computers from the bedroom and quite right, too, given the effect of LED-emitting devices on melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Ultimately, though, Walker believes that technology will be sleeps saviour. There is going to be a revolution in the quantified self in industrial nations, he says. We will know everything about our bodies from one day to the next in high fidelity. That will be a seismic shift, and we will then start to develop methods by which we can amplify different components of human sleep, and do that from the bedside. Sleep will come to be seen as a preventive medicine.

What questions does Walker still most want to answer? For a while, he is quiet. Its so difficult, he says, with a sigh. There are so many. I would still like to know where we go, psychologically and physiologically, when we dream. Dreaming is the second state of human consciousness, and we have only scratched the surface so far. But I would also like to find out when sleep emerged. I like to posit a ridiculous theory, which is: perhaps sleep did not evolve. Perhaps it was the thing from which wakefulness emerged. He laughs. If I could have some kind of medical Tardis and go back in time to look at that, well, I would sleep better at night.

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreamsby Matthew Walker is published by Allen Lane (20). To order a copy for 17 go toguardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Sleep in numbers

Two-thirds of adults in developed nations fail to obtain the nightly eight hours of sleep recommended by the World Health Organisation.

An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention.

A 2013 study reported that men who slept too little had a sperm count 29% lower than those who regularly get a full and restful nights sleep.

If you drive a car when you have had less than five hours sleep, you are 4.3 times more likely to be involved in a crash. If you drive having had four hours, you are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

A hot bath aids sleep not because it makes you warm, but because your dilated blood vessels radiate inner heat, and your core body temperature drops. To successfully initiate sleep, your core temperature needs to drop about 1C.

The time taken to reach physical exhaustion by athletes who obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours, drops by 10-30%.

There are now more than 100 diagnosed sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the mostcommon.

Morning types, who prefer to awake at or around dawn, make up about 40% of the population. Evening types, who prefer to go to bed late and wake up late, account for about 30%. The remaining 30% lie somewhere in between.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/24/why-lack-of-sleep-health-worst-enemy-matthew-walker-why-we-sleep