Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Sheer Heart Attack? Real Cardiac!

Yes, Love Can Break Your Heart - And in 17 Places!

Love will tear us - and our hearts - apart. That's the heartburn-inducing news about "Broken-Heart Syndrome," according to a November 2015 report published in the American Journal of Cardiology, as reported in today's Wall Street Journal ("Don't Call It a Heart Attack," by Lucette Lagnado, WSJ, January 5, 2016). The disorder was first isolated by Japanese researchers 25 years ago, who named the condition takotsubo cardiomyopathy, "takotsubo" being the Japanese term for "octopus trap," which resembles the ballooning shape of a heart during an attack.

Heart-break can be a painful cardiac episode that mimics a heart attack, but typically without blockage of coronary arteries. It most often affects women in their 60s or older, and can be triggered by strong emotions (grief, anger, anxiety, intense joy or excitement) or physical stress. And how, as the Brothers Gibb once pondered harmoniously, can one mend a broken heart? According to Dr. Harmony Reynolds, one of the report's six authors, recommended prevention strategies including yoga, meditation, guided relaxation and breathing techniques.

"This is the Big One...Elizabeth, I'm coming to join you!"
"It's a romantic notion, but you really can get this from heartache."
- Dr. Harmony Reynolds, American Journal of Cardiology

Here's the WSJ article:
Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, recently led a study that subjected 20 women to a host of tests designed to bring on physical and mental stress.
The study looked for possible reasons some of the women had suffered a mysterious ailment known as broken-heart syndrome, which mimics a heart attack but generally doesn’t appear to be due to coronary artery disease.
In seeking a common thread among the 10 women in the group who had experienced an attack of broken-heart syndrome over the past several years, Dr. Reynolds and colleagues came to suspect they each suffered from an impaired parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for helping the body calm down.
The study led to strikingly different conclusions from what other researchers had previously believed might be behind the unusual malady. It also led Dr. Reynolds to believe that breathing and other relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation should be tested for preventing broken-heart syndrome.
Experts say broken-heart syndrome, which most often affects women in their 60s or older, can be brought on by strong emotions, such as grief, anger and anxiety, or by physical stress. A common trigger is a loved one’s illness or death, while for some patients there is no clear-cut cause for an attack. “It is a romantic notion, but you really can get this from heartache,” says Dr. Reynolds, whose study was published online in November in the American Journal of Cardiology.
Roberta Silver, who participated in Dr. Reynolds’s study, recalls driving in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2007 when she suddenly felt her heart pounding. She pulled over to a cafe, where she became intensely ill. An ambulance took her to a hospital, and she was told she had suffered a heart attack. But a series of tests, including an angiogram, all turned up negative, she says.
“I had no blockage, nothing,” recalls Ms. Silver, who was visiting California from her home in New Jersey. After several days in the hospital, doctors concluded she had suffered broken-heart syndrome. Ms. Silver, who is 70, still isn’t sure what caused the event, and she hasn’t had a repeat episode. But she was ill with an upper respiratory infection and under stress at the time: A cousin she had been close to had died and Ms. Silver was planning to attend his funeral in San Francisco. And preparations for her son’s wedding were proving upsetting.
Continue reading "New Clues Why Women Get Broken-Heart Syndrome" online at Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com).

Heart-Break Syndrome - A Partial Hit List:

Bonnie Tyler - "It's a Heartache"

Neil Young - "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"

Tracey Ullman - "You Broke My Heart in 17 Places"

Queen - "Sheer Heart Attack"

Billy Ray Cyrus - "Achy Breaky Heart"

Bee Gees - "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"

Godley and Creme - "Cry"

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nostalgia for an age yet to numb

The September of My Years: A Weekend Trip Down Memory Lane at the Nostalgia Convention

"Come meet Hollywood celebrities & get their autograph!"

(September 17-19, 2015) - It was the best of times, it was the Fest of times. After a mentally grueling week at the social services factory (aka, The Public Library), I came home Friday night longing for escape from the harsh realities of the Here and Now. Maybe it was the words of one of my library regulars, a Beatles-obsessed middle-aged recluse, ringing in my ears. "I don't care much for the Modern World," she explained, when I asked her that day why she loved the Beatles so much. "Those were happier days back then [when the Beatles were together]." (Hmmm, maybe minus the Vietnam War, the Manson Family murders, and the MLK rioting. I'm just saying, everything's relative...) So it was that I similarly sought solace in a blast from the past, and what better way then to head out for a late-night run through the 10th annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (MANC) being held at the Hunt Valley Wyndham, Thursday through Saturday.

Nostalgia Con merchadise: anything and everything from the past!

Amy and I made a preliminary "recon run" Friday night on the upstairs (free admission, free-range vendors) level of the Wyndham, where a similarly Beatles-obsessed Amy bought 31 (!) Fab Four buttons and guitar picks and a Yellow Submarine postcard from one elated nostalgia vendor. "I have to get Ringo buttons to wear when we go see his All-Star Band at the Lyric in October!," Amy rationalized. (Point taken!)

Fab fare at the Memory mart

Neither Amy nor I go to these conventions to get autographs or selfies with the celebrities in attendance. It's just not our thang. Plus, it's expensive. We leave that to friends like Dave Wright, who took advantage of this year's cinema and TV Land celebrity bounty - Lee Majors, Richard Anderson (89 years old!), and Lindsey Wagner (a youthful-looking 66!) of The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman series; Hammer-and-Bond Babes Martine Beswick and Caroline Munro, as well as Hammer Horror Honeys Veronica Carlson and Suzanna Leigh; and Barry and Stanley Livingston and Tina Cole of My Three Sons, among others (Angela Cartwright, Dean Stockwell, Tempest Storm, et. al) - by bringing his Hammer Glamour book to get signed by the well-preserved, still-sexy starlets.

Marcus Hearn's "Hammer Glamour" book

Of course, Dave couldn't resist the "hands-on" experience of also posing with his film femme favorites, as well (that Dave is such a poseur!):

Caroline Munro & Dave Wright

Martine Beswick & Dave Wright

Dave Wright & Suzanna Leigh

Likewise, fanboy Tim Finnerty (erstwhile drummer and current bassist of Middle River rockers The Krudz) and his fanboy-in-training son Patrick were also there, with Tim scoring a much-coveted selfie with Lee Majors and Richard Andersen. "I had to, because I always kick myself for missing these opportunities," Tim confessed, adding that he missed the chance to get "a Polaroid sitting in the Batmobile with Adam West for just $15!" a few years ago when he unwisely decided to catch an Ace Frehley concert instead. (He's never forgiven himself.)

Bionic fanboys Tim & Pat Finnerty with Six Million Dollar celeb Lee Majors

The Finnertys have Richard "Oscar" Andersen's back

89-year-old Richard Anderson  is still rocking the Celebrity Nostalgia Trail!

The Bionic Man and Woman were definite highlights of this year's MANC, with special edition program guides for sale and some fans ever donning costumes in homage to their idols.

Bionic fans do the Robot Dance

Dave Cawley & Gina Houten get ironic with the Bionics

Steve Austin edition guide

Jaime Sommers edition guide

No, Amy and I prefer posing (for free!) with our fellow nobodies, peeps like Dave Wright (for once not wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt)...

Dave Wright, Tom Warner & Amy Linthicum

...and  Big Dave Cawley, King of Memorabilia (who made sure that he stepped away from the table selling Jerry Lewis memorabilia so that he wouldn't be asked for autographs!)...

The Gruesome Twosome: "Men about town" Tom Warner & Dave Cawley

But Amy and I do love looking at all the toys, games, books, comics, magazines, records, DVDs, movie posters, and assorted memorabilia from our youth that are on sale. For instance, Amy spotted a Shari Lewis and Lambchop word descrambler toy she remembered playing with as a toddler. It was called the Shari Lewis' Magic Answer Cards, though Shari and Lambchop have nothing to do with it except appearing on the box cover.

Shari Lewis Magic Answer Cards

The game asked questions and if you couldn't guess the answer, you placed a cheap piece of plastic with holes in it over the Answer Board to reveal the answer, as shown below:

Automatic Answer Board

It's...it's magic! Oh, the games people play!

And speaking of magic, dinosaur-loving Dave Cawley was amused to see a vendor selling a vintage Strange Change Machine, the late '60s Mattel toy that heated up blobs of goop in a "Time Machine" and turned them into miniature dinosaurs. Or not. "My dinosaurs always came out as blobs!" Dave admitted.

Mattel's Strange Change Machine toy

The Strange Change "Time Machine" created these creatures

Of course, no one needs to create dinosaurs anymore. They're all over the place now - but today we call them "Republicans"!

Watch a 1968 Strange Change Machine commercial.

The same vendor also had a box of "Banned Dukes of Hazzard Confederate Flag Zippo Lighters." Since the Hazzard boys and their General Lee wheels are now politically incorrect, I didn't see any takers. (He'd probably fare much better at the  Dundalk Heritage Festival, where a vendor quickly sold out of Confederate flags this summer!)

Amy looks for good-value rock & roll items at these conventions, like the aforementioned Beatles merchandise, or anything to do with retro music formats, like the Vinyl Forever vendor who "repurposed" records as candy bowls and album covers as handbags.

Vinyl Forever!

I tend towards dumber fare like a bootleg of the 1975 Golden Harvest-Australian Film Development Corporation kung-fu co-production The Man from Hong Kong, starring Jimmy Wang Yu and one-time Bond George Lazenby (who also starred in Golden Harvest's 1974 martial arts movie, Stoner, opposite Angela Mao), and comic book collections like DC's Blackhawk - the latter an ill-advised purchase, as it was the later edition of the racially stereotyped flyboys battling Commies in the 1950s rather than Nazis in their '40s glory days).

"The Man from Hong Kong" was the first Australian-Hong Kong co-production

Blackhawk & Co. battled Commies and killer whales in the '50s

Did I mention that Blackhawk was somewhat racially insensitive? Early version of Blackhawk team member "Chop-Chop"

We spent quite a bit of time chatting with first-time vendor Jennifer Vanderslice of MoonGlow PR and Beatles Freak Reviews, who brought a half-dozen interesting Fab Four books to the convention. I ended up getting the latest book by "Beatles scholar" (doncha just love that term? Who knew in 1964 that one day scholarly tomes would be written about the lovable Liverpudlians?) Robert Rodriguez, Solo in the 70s: John, Paul, George, Ringo, 1970-1980.

Rodriguez's previous critically acclaimed books include Fab Four FAQ, Fab Four FAQ 2.0, and Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll. (Like I need another Beatles book - I still haven't gotten through Mark Lewisohn's Tune In - The Beatles: All These Years! - but, hey, it's an easy and fun read!). Rodriguez's book picks up where FFF 2.0 left off, detailing John Lennon's fight to stay in America against the forces of the Nixon administration, the lawsuits against the Beatles' business associates and each other, unreleased recordings, the promo films, covers of Beatles songs by other artists, bootleg releases, and whatever else is left to say or ponder about the Fabs.

Jennifer Vanderslice with Scott "Son of Dennis" Wilson

Right next to the Beatles Freaks table was another first-time vendor. There, a friendly couple from South Jersey was manning a booth selling books about old-time radio and television stars. I wish I could remember the husband's name, because he was the author of several books about radio stars like Jack Benny, George Burns, and Bob & Ray. We talked about Jersey beaches, Jersey-style hoagies, and even my t-shirt depicting the Dundalk waste treatment facility known affectionately to locals as the "Golden Eggs." (They had never seen such a beautiful shit plant!).

The Golden Eggs

The wife commented that I looked like Matt Smith from Doctor Who.

"Spot on, mate!" Matt Smith approves of the Tom Warner comparison

"Really?" I exclaimed, not used to getting compared to anyone other than Martina Navratilova or Bill Maher. "I think I love you!" (I should have bought all their books just for that compliment alone!)

Jennifer Vanderslice recommended going downstairs into the big dealer's room to talk to Scott Wilson, son of Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, who was there to promote his memoir, the quite sensibly named  Son of a Beach Boy: My Dad, Dennis Wilson. (See Jennifer's review at her blog Beatles-Freak's Reviews.)

The Legendary Chick Veditz

Also downstairs in the big dealer room was Harry "Chick's Legendary Records" Veditz. Chick was once again manning his massive sports and memorabilia trading cards table, ably assisted by his wife Arlene and their son John.

Chick's Legendary trading card table

The recently retired Chick is a true sweetheart. He gave us two "Buying Records Cheers Me Up" Peanuts t-shirts, as well as lady-sized tee for Amy commemorating Chick's Pre-Retirement Party at The Ottobar (see "Of Chick, Coddies & Camaraderie").

Adam Turkle-designed tee commemorating Chick's August 31, 2014 Ottobar Party

After spending way too much time looking over seemingly every item on offer in the dealer's room, we headed back upstairs to head out. But on my way to the exit, I overheard a familiar voice. I'm horrible when it comes to recollection, but something in the voice rekindled memories of my days as a tech writer in suburban Cubicle Land. Looking up I recognized a familiar-looking face.

"Are you Bill?" I asked. "Didn't I work with you at..."

"Tom Warner! How you doing man?" said the familiar face, now recognized as none other than Bill Horn, my old friend and co-worker from the mid-'80s when we worked  for Display Data and, later, Convergent Dealership Group, in Hunt Valley. This was back in the pre-Regal Cinemas, pre-Wegmans, pre-everything era of the Death Valley Mall, when the mall was as dead as vaudeville and you could almost imagine tumbleweeds blowing through its lonesome corridors. Back when Convergent had enough money to hire the Pointer Sisters to sing the "Convergent Theme Song": "We work for Convergent/And the times are urgent...and I think I like it, like it!" No, really. I was there.

Amy looked surprised and I blurted, "We used to work together at a computer company..."

"Display Data," Bill chirped. "Right across the parking lot here at Executive Plaza."

Display Data dudes Bill Horn & Tom Warner

Bill was an IT guy who has since gone on to get two graduate degrees in creative writing. He was helping a buddy out with his table on this fortuitous day. Long story short, we caught up best we could and made plans to get together for a Tech Throwback happy hour with former co-workers at Display Data/Convergent. I miss those days in Hunt Valley. I hadn't seen Bill since I left the company in 1992.

I remember Convergent had a newsletter and one issue had us both getting shout-outs in the "Dubious Achievement Awards of 1989." Bill's 1974 Dodge Challenger got him the nod for "Worst Wheels," while I snared "Too Cool for Words." No, really.

Like I said, it was a weekend of nostalgia for happy days past. Maybe not as far back as the Beatles spinster' lady's "happy days" but good enough for me. Thanks for the memories, Nostalgia Con!

My only regret is missing a special appearance by Jerry Beck, the celebrated Animation Historian and author of such critically acclaimed books as The 50 Greatest Cartoons (1994) and The Animated Movie Guide (2005). Beck presented a history of the Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons at the convention, a talk I'm sorry I missed!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Humans, All Too Humans

Humans (AMC)
Sundays at 9 p.m. EST

OK, I'm all in. Finally watched the first episode (on demand) of AMC's new sci-fi series Humans last night and I'm hooked.

I say new, but this Anglo-American co-production (that's AMC-Channel 4) is actually an English-language adaptation of yet another groundbreaking Nordic TV series, Sweden's Real Humans (Akta Manniskor, 2012-2014), which is as yet unavailable to see unless you have an all-region DVD player.

So why am I in? Well, first off it's a British production filled with a mostly Brit cast (save for William Hurt). Then it's got two Doc Martin alumni in Katherine Parkinson (receptionist "Pauline Lamb," 2005-2009) and Tom Goodman-Hall (Portwenn bartender "Mark Ridge," 2011; Goodman-Hall also had a prominent role in last year's Alan Turing biopic, The Imitation Game), who play a middle-class professional couple, Joe and  Laura Hawkins, with three kids and a need for some help around the house - though Parkinson would prefer a less attractive housekeeper than "Anita." Anita, you see, is a "Synth," a flesh-and-bolts all-too-human-on-the-surface A.I. machine played by the sexy Gemma Chan (who I last saw as a touchy-feely archeology student in Shetland). As you can see in the pics below, she's quite an upgrade from the space-age Rosie the Robot model I grew up watching on The Jetsons.

Rosie the Robot from "The Jetsons"
Gemma Chan cleaning up as "Anita"

Gemma Chan is green with humanoid envy as "Anita"

Her counterpart in Real Humans, Lisette Pagler, is perhaps even sexier, albeit with brown eyes:

Real Humans' "Anita," Lisette Pagler

Synths can be distinguished from humans by their sparkling blueish-green eyes (whoever is providing the colored contact lenses for this series must be making a mint!) and, well, by their politeness (Abe Sherman and Donald Trump would not pass as Synths). But certain Synths are more similar to humans than meets their blue-green eyes; some can actually feel and dream. They are self-aware and start to think of themselves existentially (Cogita ergo sum, anyone?) - but as limited-time-only mortal coils. Yes, they are emo bots.

Seeing as Blade Runner is my all-time favorite movie, you can see where I'm going with this. Yes, these Synths are basically updates on Philip K. Dick's Androids-dreaming-of-electric-sheep, of Ridley Scott's memory-longing "Replicants" who want freedom from their artificial enslavement. They want "more life, fucker." You can make the argument that these robotic wage slaves are metaphors for today's exploited immigrant labor force that toils in sweatshops and farm fields. These are servants that get recharged instead of fed and paid.

In place of Harrison Ford's "Blade Runner" Rick Dekard, we have Hobb (played by Danny Webb, who you might remember as prisoner colony leader Morse in Aliens 3) out to involuntarily "retire" the renegade robots.

Naturally, men being men, when Daddy brings home a sexy skin-job (to use a Bladerunner vulgarism), it's just a matter of time before temptation rears its ugly head. I love the scene where Goodman-Hall looks over his operator's manual and spies an "Adult Options 18+," which he quickly and furtively slips into his back pocket so the family won't see it. Everything in this Brave New World is apparently On Demand. There's already a emo Synth, Niska, who is hiding out in a brothel and looks to be an update on Blade Runner's ass-kicking "pleasure unit" Pris (as portaryed by the athletic Darry Hannah).

William Hurt's character is an aging engineer who may at one time have worked on the technology that led to creating these Synths. He has become paternally-attached to a similarly aging, outmoded Synth, one who retains many of the memories Hurt's character, Dr. George Millican, is slowly starting to lose to dementia. He kind of reminds me of Blade Runner's Tyrell, the father figure inventor whose creations have run wild and out of control.

The show makes a statement about a future that's not all that far away. Don't we already have GPS, computers, and smart phones that talk to us? Robotic voice mail messengers? (You've come a long way, Speak and Spell!). Recent movies like Ex Machina and Her also have trod this familiar ground.

Maybe the novelty will pass. But so far, I am intrigued by the issues and the characters in Humans.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Trio Novo: Never Say Goodbye, Say Ciao!

The Last Trio Novo Show
July 14, 2015
@ Chateau Rieger, Towson, MD

Trio Novo's farewell gig at Chateau Rieger

Trio Novo is:
Paul Rieger: Rickenbacker bass guitar
Robert "Bob" Tiefenwerth: Yamaha keyboards
Tim Taormino: drums

Sunday, July 14th marked the last live performance of Trio Novo. The trio's swan song concert took place at Chateau Rieger in Towson, where friends and family gathered to say farewell to the genre-defying band that may have been Baltimore's Best Kept Musical Secret over the past decade. With keyboard whiz Robert Tiefenwerth and his wife relocating to Houston, Texas, two days later, Trio Novo is no more. To paraphrase Monty Python and a certain dead parrot, Trio Novo has ceased to exist, ceased to be, expired,  kicked the bucket, shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible. This is an ex-Trio Novo.

Departing keyboardist Robert Tiefenwerth is already fading from view in this picture

But, hope springs eternal that the band will utilize the borderless Internet to collaborate on future projects virtually. So, as King of Bling Liberace once sang, "Never Say Goodbye, Say Ciao!"

Formed in 2006, Trio Novo - keyboardist Robert Tiefenwerth, bassist Paul Rieger, and ex-BLAMMO drummer Tim Tourmino - played a variety of what they called "classic jazz" and featured the music of such composers as bossa nova legend Antonio Jobim, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, and Herbie Hancock, among others. But as the band progressed, their setlist reflected an even more eclectic repetoire, adding Martin Denny exotica ("Quiet Village"),  '60s psychedelia (after all, Tiefenwerth and Rieger were veterans of the '80s neo-psych band The United States of Existence), '70s Prog Rock (The Nice's still-epic "America"), secret agent TV theme songs (Edwin Astley's "High Wire," aka "The Danger Man Theme" - the UK series predecessor to Secret Agent Man), and straight up rock & roll (Small Faces, "Barefoot in Baltimore" by Strawberry Alarm Clock, et al).

Paul Rieger (far left) and Robert Tiefenwerth (far right) in U.S.E.

Trio Novo's Dynamic Duo today: Bob Tiefenwerth and Paul Rieger

At Paul Rieger's stately West Towson manor, Chateau Rieger, the trio played all of the above and more to an appreciative crowd of family and music friend fans whose ranks included Dave Wilcox (Chelsea Graveyard), Mark O'Connor (Buck Subtle, OHO, Food For Worms, et al), and WCVT/WVUD DJ Rod Misey (incidentally, Misey's liner notes for The United States of Existence's 1994 CD The Collection provide the definitive history of that band and are worthy of publication in Ugly Things magazine).

A highlight of Trio Novo's farewell performance was their rendition of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," a snippet of which is shown below.

Watch Trio Novo play "Take Five."

Over the years, the trio had enjoyed supporting the local arts (Tiefenewerth is an accomplished artist, as well as musician, and even sold a greeting card on FineArtAmerica.com) and non-profit communities by providing music for events held at Center Stage, Gallery G, the Visionary Art Museum, and the HACbox. And they were supposed to play at the Hamilton Arts Collective this past May, but had to cancel due to the city curfew imposed following the death, in police custody, of Freddie Gray. (But a gig's a gig, and trouper Tiefenwerth posted on social media that he would be playing piano at home alone that night, just as the Baltimore Orioles would be playing the Chicago White Sox in an empty Camden Yards.)

"How's this thing work again?" Robert Tiefenwerth keys off with Trio Novo

Unfortunately, few Trio Novo performances have been captured on video. A Google search turns up only a September 2014 Trio Novo performance at the Hamilton Gallery (5502 Harford Rd, Baltimore, MD 21214) in Northeast Baltimore - that is, they provide the soundtrack to a clip showing highlights from that night's gallery show.

Trio Novo at Hamilton Gallery

And Paul Rieger, Esq., recorded their May 24, 2014 performance for Band Bash 2014: "You're With the Band!", (a private party for "friends, families and others who have suffered through the hardships of repetitive rehearsals, frightening feedback and decor-destroying equipment" over the years with the GOHOG-Toys bands) at Heritage Parkville Gardens Hall in the Parkville Shopping Center. So, there is archival footage of this great band out there (hint, hint, Paul!)

Paul Rieger paints a pretty picture on his Rickenbacker

There may not be a lot of video footage of Trio Novo, but they did record two CDs, one of which (Tribute) you can check out of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's "Local Music" collection (wonder how that happened?).

So while the Novo we all know is no more, the Trio's legacy lives on. Remember: Never Say Goodbye, Say Ciao!

Related Links:

See Robert Tiefenwerth's Art @ FineArtAmerica
Balto Band Bash 2014
United States of Existence @ Discogs.com
United States of Existence on YouTube
BLAMMO - "Sweet Home Balt-Amore"

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