Coffee 2009 CalendarThere seems to be a lot of conflicting information being published about coffee and its effect on us. Of course that’s not new; some people have always said it’s bad for you to drink coffee and some have said it’s good. I remember as a child it was forbidden to have coffee unless, of course, it was one part coffee to about 6 parts milk. But now science has put its oar in the water and the boat is spinning…

First there’s the good.

Last April (2 April 2008), BBC News ran this article, Daily Caffeine ‘protects brain’. This study basically showed that caffeine helped protect the brain’s blood/brain barrier from decaying. Saying among other things:

The University of North Dakota study used the equivalent to just one daily cup of coffee in their experiments on rabbits.

After 12 weeks of a high-cholesterol diet, the blood brain barrier in those given caffeine was far more intact than in those given no caffeine.

Caffeine is a safe and readily available drug and its ability to stabilise the blood brain barrier means it could have an important part to play in therapies against neurological disorders.

Dr Jonathan Geiger, University of North Dakota

All well and good. Just one cup a day and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be looking at having full mental capacity into my golden years.

Then there was more good news.

On January 16th, 2009 there was a report of a new study in theage.com.au, Coffee reduces Alzheimer’s risk: study.

This was a longitudinal study, meaning it took a long time to gather the data — usually having quite a bit of time between the first set of interviews and the second (in this case about twenty years). They interviewed 1,409 people in Finland. The people were first interviewed when they were in their 50s about their coffee-drinking habits then their memory functions were tested. These same people were re-interviewed when they were between 65 and 79. Again they were asked about their coffee drinking habits and their memory functions tested. What they found was that:

A total of 61 people had by then developed dementia, 48 of whom had Alzheimer’s, the researchers said.

The overall results of the study from the lead research:

“Middle-aged people who drank between three and five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by between 60 and 65 per cent later in life,” said lead researcher on the project, Miia Kivipelto, a professor at the University of Kuopio in Finland and at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm

“There are perhaps one or two other studies that have shown that coffee can improve some memory functions (but) this is the first study directed at dementia and Alzheimer’s (and) in which the subjects are followed for such a long time,”

Note the number of cups of coffee listed — “between three and five cups … a day”. Because here comes the bad…

The Telegraph.co.uk on 13 January 2009 published Three Cups of Brewed coffee a day ‘triples risk of hallucinations’. Researchers looked at the

[Researchers examined the] caffeine intake of about 200 students, some of whom had experienced seeing things that were not there, hearing voices or sensing the presence of the dead. The volunteers were questioned about their caffeine intake from products including coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate bars and caffeine tablets.

So what did they find out from this study. Well:

Researchers found that “high caffeine users”, those who had more than the equivalent of seven cups of instant coffee a day, were three times more likely to have had hallucinations than those who had less than the equivalent of one cup.

Those who have three cups of brewed coffee a day could be at the same risk, they warn, because of the drink’s higher caffeine content.

On average the volunteers had the equivalent of three cups of instant coffee a day, which could still cause an increased risk, according to the study.

Remember, three to five cups a day could possible help protect you from Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, three cups of coffee or more in a day could cause you to hallucinate.

Oh, joy. Conflicting reports. See the problem with science is also what is good about it. Depending on what hypothesis you are testing and what groups you study, you will find different results. The point is that while the good and the bad here are in conflict when you’re trying to decide whether coffee is good for you or not, you can’t make an educated decision based on three pieces of data. You also have to take into consideration your own health. Do you have high-blood pressure? Caffeine can cause it to be elevated. Has your doctor told you to avoid coffee? Why? Have you talked with the doctor about your lifestyle and health history? Are you at risk for Alzheimer’s?

The problem is that people pretty much do what they want no matter what the issue is about. If you want to drink coffee you’re going to like the protection against Alzheimer’s reports and ignore the report on increased hallucinations even if the music in your head is bothering your neighbors. Humans tend to find the facts that backup what we want to do and then feel all happy and righteous about our decisions.

Me. Well, I’ve reduced my coffee intake to no more than two cups a day. By the way did you notice that not one of the studies included a definition of “cup of coffee” in their reports. Perhaps they did in the actual paper presented to their respective scientific conferences but for the lay person well it’s sort of up in the air. My cups are pretty big so reducing my intake to two cups might be the equivalent of five cups in those pretty delicate china cups with saucers. But since I used to have four or five of these big mugs/cups of coffee a day my reduction is pretty drastic. Besides the only times I’ve ever hallucinated has been when I was ill with very high fevers — I called them fever dreams. So, I’ll take my chances with my two mugs a day until the next batch of reports come out and then I may rethink depending on what the results show.

What will you do?

[Hyperion here] This is really interesting … unless, of course, she’s only hallucinating that she read these reports.

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South Carolina State FlagThere are times when good ideas should just be left alone. When you try to implement that idea, especially into law, it often becomes a bad idea. For example: check out the proposed law that South Carolina is considering. Here’s a short snip:

SECTION 1. Article 3, Chapter 15, Title 16 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
“Section 16-15-370.
(A) It is unlawful for a person in a public forum or place of public accommodation wilfully and knowingly to publish orally or in writing, exhibit, or otherwise make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.
(B) A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

SECTION 2. Article 3, Chapter 15, Title 16 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
“Section 16-15-430. (A) It is unlawful for a person to disseminate profanity to a minor if he wilfully and knowingly publishes orally or in writing, exhibits, or otherwise makes available material containing words, language, or actions of profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.

I can almost hear some legislator thinking to himself. People swear too much and we need to force them to clean up their act. But, look at the link to the law or just the snippet I’ve posted above. Now think about it — because obviously the legislature hasn’t…

Evidently, South Carolina hasn’t realized that once this law passes there goes TV, or at least every channel except the Disney and the Family channels and even some of those programs won’t pass this test. Of course profanity is in the mind of the hearer, so with laws you have to think of the worse case scenario. That means no TV or movies (theaters wouldn’t be able to show any current films). Even one of my faves Quigley Down Under has one swear word in it. You’d have to close all those DVD rental places because they distribute and disseminate profanity.

Then of course libraries would have to cull all those books — like the dictionary — which “make available material containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature.” Not going to be much left to read in South Carolina after this bill goes into effect (IF it passes).

Then there’s the problem of what the bill doesn’t cover. If parents buy a film “containing words, language, or actions of a profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or indecent nature” and their children see it. Could they be charged? Sounds to me like they could. Golly gosh, sit down to watch Lethal Weapon (minor language) or Beverly Hills Cop (wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap language) and little Billy gets up for a drink of water,  hears something he shouldn’t, and before you know it Mom and Dad get raided and Billy is in foster care. After Mom and Day pay fines and do their jail time, is anyone better off? I doubt it.

Heck under this law you couldn’t even have a copy of the Bible now that I think a bit more about it. Have you ever read some of the sexier parts of Psalms? Woo. Hoo. There’s some hot stuff in there. Now that I think of it — yup, the Bible has to go.

So, what started as a good idea to get people to clean up their language and keep smut out of the state will have ramifications that I bet never occurred to the writers of this proposed change to the law. At least, I’m giving them the benefit of a doubt when I say they couldn’t have thought about the implementation and consequences. But then maybe they did plan for the big excitement for the population of the state would be getting to watch paint dry — they certainly won’t be able to watch TV, read books, watch movies, or use the internet.

I’m really, really, glad I don’t live in South Carolina. Too bad too because it always sounded like a nice place to visit and I had it on my TODO list but guess I can scratch that one off — I enjoy movies, books, and — well I have been known to utter a few words I shouldn’t once in a while…

Hyperion Avatar This is another one of those cases where someone has decided to legislate morality, and that’s always a mission fraught with disaster. First of all, laws should never be passed if you can’t define your terms. What is “profanity”? Aside from George Carlin’s 7 dirty words, there are a wide host of words that some people believe to be profanity, and others do not. Who gets to decide? Same thing goes for vulgar, lewd, lascivious, and indecent. Is a woman in a short skirt sexy, or lewd? Is a wink flirty, or lascivious? Is a woman breast-feeding her child a natural act, or an indecent one?

The Supreme Court once ruled that there was no way to define profanity, and that legislatures would need to tread very carefully.  In the last few years there have been several laws passed to “protect the children”. Every last one of them has been struck down for pretty much the same reason: Protect the children and you deny the adults their constitutional rights to free speech. About the best anyone has come up with are strange compromises like certain things can only be shown late at night, or only on pay channels, although what these “things” are tends to very from location to location, and year to year. But in every case the freedom of speech must be maintained. This law throws the First Amendment right out the door, which is what the courts will have to do with this law, assuming South Carolina suffers from terminal ignorance of the law and actually passes it.

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Cover of 28 Weeks Later DVD28 Weeks Later is directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and stars: Catherine McCormack, Robert Carlyle, Amanda Walker, Shahid Ahmed, and Garfield Morgan.

Basically, 28 Weeks Later is a sequel to 28 Days Later. The movie starts with a couple hiding in a house with an elderly couple and a young woman and young man. It looks like their running low on food but they’ve managed to stay away from the infected. That is until they hear a young boy calling for help outside their door and they open to let him in. He’d been chased and the infected break in — attacking everyone. When the infected get between the husband and wife, he takes off leaving her. All done in a thrilling chase and the same newsreel-ish documentary jerkiness that was a hallmark of the earlier film. Then suddenly, it’s after the infected die off and there’s an American contingent in London helping to clean up the bio-hazard (bodies) and slowly allow the refugees to come home. One island is cleared and safe and they’re working on the rest of the city. It seems the husband/father has survived and the children (older daughter, young son) had been in Europe during the epidemic and now they’ve returned.

Good basis. As the first movie dealt with strangers coming together to make a family — beginning to trust and hope — as they deal with the loss of all they knew, this film deals with a family trying to make sense of what has happened and to move on. There’s surprises and a few plot twists to keep things interesting.

However, it’s also basically a zombie film so we know things are going to go horribly wrong. Where this film fails is in not having a cohesive and solid plot. Yes, there are all the elements necessary but with holes you could drive a truck through. Most of the action/danger occurs because information is not shared, people with expertise and experience are not listened to, and so on…. In other words the plot goes forward based on people being idiots. Now, I will admit that with the kids some of the idiocy is simply due to them thinking as most kids do that they know better than the adults and that the adults are just being overly cautious (a deleted scene in the Special Features section makes this abundantly clear but it was deleted so watching the movie you don’t know this).

On the other hand, the action of the armed forces were unbelievable. I don’t believe for one minute that in a possible infestation that they would take all their civilians, cram them into a tunnel, turn out the lights and forget to lock the doors. Really? I know we all make jokes about the military mind but really — these are professionals.

So while it was a great concept and the action was pretty much what you’d expect for a sequel to 28 Days Later, it lacked the internal consistency and believability that the first movie had going for it. I mean this is a zombie film, the audience is expecting to suspend belief just to watch it, but that suspension only goes so far. While some people acted as you’d expect under pressure and especially after having survived the first infestation — most just didn’t do more than scream and run and become zombie fodder.

While I loved 28 Days Later and it’s part of my zombie training films library of films, I won’t be buying 28 Weeks Later. It was a great action film but not something with enough redeeming qualities to make it a film I’d want to watch over again and again.

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