Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Bliss Point

In a new book entitled The End of Overeating, David Kessler - former head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) - suggests that food manufacturers and their scientists devise combinations of sugar, fat and salt to make their products irresistible. Kessler believes that the blame for the rampant increase of obesity and those with weight problems cannot be squared solely at the consumer. Rather, he suggests snacks, cereals and ready-made meals are created by food manufacturers with a specific goal in mind – to act on the reward centres of the brain, triggering the so-called “bliss point” and leaving the unwitting consumer hungry for more.

Kessler was best known for his attacks on the tobacco industry while at the FDA and in an article for The Times Online (UK) by science editor Jonathan Leake, he said that he believed the food industry manipulated their products in the manner that tobacco companies did/do to make their cigarettes more addictive. And while this may not be a new concept to many familiar with the pitfalls of processed foods, that an esteemed member of a former governing body has come forth with such a statement is important. Kessler makes a strong point that society has been shaped so that there is a food outlet on almost every street corner, allowing easy accessibility to unhealthy, “bliss-triggering” products whilst on the other hand organic, healthy foods increase in price and become less available.

By mixing precise combinations of sugar, fat and salt and texture, Kessler believes manufacturers create “hyper-palatable” foods to “stimulate feelings of pleasure”. He lists Heinz tomato ketchup and Starbucks’ Frappucinos as among the thousands of modern foods engineered to trigger the brain’s pleasure centres. Kessler ran the FDA from 1990 to 1997, and is now professor of paediatrics, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California. He says that most people have a “bliss point” where an individual receives the greatest pleasure from sugar, fat or salt.

“As more sugar is added, food becomes more pleasurable until we reach the bliss point, after which it becomes too sweet and the pleasure drops off, “ Kessler told The Times. The same applies with fat and salt. According to Kessler, the optimum point stimulates a person’s appetite instead of suppressing it. By combining certain quantities of sugar etcetera, the ‘bliss point’ can be consistently stimulated resulting in constant craving.

In 2001, the National Audit Office in Britain released a report stating that 20% of adults were obese – a number that has been estimated at 25% today (no doubt a conservative figure). In 2007, the government’s Foresight report said that modern foods “with their increased palatability and ability to heighten sensory stimulation (emphasis added), drive us to reward ourselves with more food.” Following the 2001 report by the Audit Office, England’s chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson was so alarmed that he labelled the situation a “health time bomb”. Of course, given all of the above information, proper nutritional education is also of the utmost importance in a motorised society conditioned to believe that there is little time for one to cook or prepare a healthy meal or snack.

by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)

(Source: The Times Online (UK) – Junk food triggers our ‘bliss point’ by Jonathan Leake)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Misty Mountain Morning....

It's been a long time inbetween photo collection posts for me - it's actually been a while since I did a post of any kind!

Therefore, this morning I decided to rug up and venture out into the country cold and capture some shots of the morning mist. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I enjoyed my morning....

Click on the images to view larger files

by Manz
(To view my other Photo Collections, visit the GritFX website.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crossed Lines

If you’ve ever been disconnected from a phone call made to India, perhaps the photos below will illustrate why. Then again, it’s a wonder those pesky Indian telemarketers can actually get a connection to your home thousands of miles away. These photos, which appeared recently on rense.com, clearly display the shabby state of communications in some parts of the world’s second-most populous country.

by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Zodiac (2007)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny, Elias Koteas, Donal Logue, Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch & Dermot Mulroney.
Written by James Vanderbilt.
Directed by David Fincher.

He was known as the Zodiac – a psychopath who terrorised San Francisco with a spate of murders beginning in the late 1960s. He sent coded messages and taunting letters to police and to the Chronicle newspaper. And he was never caught. From the outset, the case attracted the attention of a young Chronicle cartoonist named Robert Graysmith, and he spent many obsessive years poring over case files eventually penning a best-selling book. Graysmith declared he had cracked the unsolved case, naming the man he believed responsible for the killings. Based on Graysmith’s book, David Finchers’ long and at times difficult film is nonetheless a visually beautiful piece of work. Detailing (and I mean detailing) the exhaustive investigation and the effect on those involved, Zodiac weaves a serpentine story with an astounding nuance. The cast, production design and direction are all first class, with Fincher providing perhaps his most stylistically impressive film to date. This is, however, an acquired taste, but one of those films that gets better with each subsequent viewing.

Sunshine (2007)
Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis, Michelle Yeoh, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong & Mark Strong.
Written by Alex Garland.
Directed by Danny Boyle.

Near-classic sci-fi about a small crew of astronauts charged with delivering a nuclear payload to our dying Sun. When they receive a radio transmission emanating from the idle craft of a failed earlier mission, their decision to investigate and what they discover threatens to sabotage mankind’s only chance of survival. Production details are one of the key elements of this film, providing a consistently believable (if fictional) account of life on a spacecraft. The first half of the film expertly introduces its characters and their environment, allowing the audience to identify and become emotionally involved. This is all thanks to the excellent script from Alex Garland and the dramatic skills of Sunshine’s talented cast. The visual effects are some of the most impressive ever created for a film since the advent of CGI, enhancing the story with subtle power in the deliberate manner of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Director Danny Boyle’s often creeping camera affords instant comparisons to Ridley Scott’s 70’s classic Alien, and I would be seriously in error to not also mention the terrific score by John Murphy & Underworld. In all, Sunshine is a work of art, existing in a genre that rarely offers such treats.

Michael Clayton (2007)
George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Merritt Weaver, Robert Prescott, Terry Serpico & Sydney Pollack.
Written & Directed by Tony Gilroy.

Arthur Edens (Wilkinson) is the leading defence attorney in a major civil suit being brought against United Northfield - a multinational agricultural corporation. When he suffers a breakdown (crisis of conscience) during a deposition, his New York law firm sends their fixer Michael Clayton (Clooney) to render damage control. When a memo surfaces that threatens to unravel the case, and not content with Clayton’s assurances regarding Arthur’s mental state, U-North’s sycophantic lead council Karen Crowder (Swinton) murderously decides to deal with the matter herself. Michael Clayton is a magnificent film – dark, smart and complex. This impressive directing debut from Tony Gilroy is a no-holds-barred examination of the corruption of the powerful juxtaposed with the indelible morality of the righteous. Clooney, Wilkinson and Swinton (she won an Oscar for her performance) are tremendous in meaty roles and are afforded excellent support from the entire cast. Slick, tense and written with clarity and a poison pen, Michael Clayton is one of the finest American dramas of this decade.


If you want to watch any trailers/scenes from films reviewed by Wadrick, visit the GritHouse – the GritFX YouTube Channel – and check out Wadrick's Playlist.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Phoenix & The Dust Devil

Wiltshire in England has long been home to some of the most amazing crop circle configurations ever seen. One way of thinking associates the formation of crop circles to electromagnetic energy – that being, waves of energy moving through the globe or along the Earth’s magnetic field, leaving patterns of its waveform on the planet’s surface. Wiltshire is considered by crop circle enthusiasts to be one such hot-spot of electromagnetic energy that exist all over the globe, leading to the frequent formations in the area. Either that, or the most skilled crop circle hoaxists happen to reside in the Wiltshire region.

A recent crop circle was discovered in a barley field in Yatesbury, depicting the mythical phoenix as it rises, reborn, from the ashes. The 400-foot design has had enthusiasts in a spin, sighting other recent formations that seemingly point toward an apocalyptic event due to occur on or around December 21, 2012 – coinciding with the end of the ancient Mayan calendar, a subject receiving much attention in recent years.

Meanwhile, in some parts of the United States, tornadoes are a way if life and during 2008, over 180 twisters ripped through the state of Kansas. Photographer Jim Reed has been capturing natural phenomena for over 15 years and the picture above appeared in this month’s issue of National Geographic. It shows what is known as a “landspout’ – a weak, short-lived and extremely photogenic tornado.

by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)

(Sources: The Telegraph, UK; National Geographic Society)

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Whilst I don’t usually watch Fox News or put much stock in what its “journalists” have to say, an interesting story did appear on Fox8 regarding the memories and nightmares of a young boy named James Leininger. The 11-year-old had held a deep fascination with World War 2 aircraft since he was very young, seeming to show an intimate knowledge of certain planes. When he began to have nightmares and put disturbing wartime images on paper, his parents started to ask questions.

Eventually, as is shown in the video (see link below), his parents became convinced that their son was the reincarnation of a pilot (also named James) shot down by the Japanese. When they tracked down the pilot’s former comrades, the young boy identified them by name, even though they had never met. Subsequently, when James (the boy) was introduced to the sister of James (the pilot), he recognised her and called her by a name she had not been referred to since she was a child. Finally, Japanese filmmakers became involved, inviting the Leininger family to the Asian island to visit the site of the pilot’s death. It was an emotional experience for the boy.

It is an interesting tale, hailed by some as definitive proof of reincarnation. But to sour the story is the fact that the Leininger family have now transcribed the entire sequence of events into a book entitled Soul Survivor. So, to the cynical mind (or those unable to reconcile reincarnation with their beliefs), perhaps this was some elaborate marketing scheme to sell a work of complete fiction. You be the judge.

Watch the short video here:

by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)

Friday, June 12, 2009


Body Of Lies (2008)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Vince Colosimo, Golshifteh Farahani.
Written by William Monahan.
Directed by Ridley Scott.

In the Middle East, CIA operative Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) chases an Islamic extremist responsible for a spate of bombings. In the United States, an agency analyst named Ed Hoffman (Crowe) tracks Ferris’ movements on the ground through a network of communications systems, feeding information and distorting it on his own terms. When Ferris ingratiates himself into the Jordanian intelligence community by eliciting the help of the smarmy head honcho (the brooding Mark Strong), the lines of trust begin to blur. This exceptional film, based on a novel of the same name by David Ignatius, avoids any propagandist stance and features two excellent performances from its lead actors – possibly cementing Leonardo’s position as (arguably) the greatest actor of his generation. His career since the eternally overrated Titanic has been perpetually strong, choosing the kind of roles that have not only showcased his dramatic chops but have allowed the man to grow as an actor. Director Ridley Scott rarely takes a wrong step and again delivers with an intelligent, dramatic and suspenseful film. Highly recommended.

Valkyrie (2008)
Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann & Terrence Stamp.
Written by Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander.
Directed by Bryan Singer.

As dissent towards the Fuhrer grows, a disillusioned Nazi colonel named Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is enlisted by a group of like-minded individuals to assassinate the German leader and bring an end to World War 2. Whilst plots are organised and foiled, von Stauffenberg realises that loyalties within the Third Reich are not what they seem. This often laughable film is based on true events, but despite some excellent production values, never succeeds to fully engage. Cruise has never been stiffer, and a talented cast are given roles that equate to not much more than clichés (particularly van Houten, who was excellent in the recent Black Book, but whose character here is nothing more than an afterthought). It’s all a little limp really, with a potentially dramatic and serious subject being reduced to the stuff of a poor comic book. Director Singer has again established himself (in my ever humble opinion) as one of the dullest filmmakers in the biz, rendering Valkyrie as unsuccessful as the assassination of Hitler himself.

Gran Torino (2008)
Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Christopher Carley, Ahney Her.
Written by Nick Schenk.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.

Walt Kowalski is a bitter veteran of the Korean War who, when his wife passes, is left to his own devices in the house they shared – all against the wishes and concerns of his family. Initially deriding the advent of Asian immigrants in his once idyllic American street, Walt is eventually won over by their culture and accepted into their community when he saves a young boy named Thao from the will of an Asian gang. Soon, a friendship begins to blossom between Thao and Walt, as the older man attempts to provide direction for the aimless youth – all the while staving off the advances of the boys’ hoodlum cousin. Gran Torino comes close to being singlehandedly sabotaged by its untalented Hmong supporting cast who, fortunately for us, are saved by Eastwood himself. Apparently the goal was to have those of authentic Hmong descent featured in the film, but by insisting on this realism, the filmmakers sacrificed the necessity of acting skill. Yet, despite this distraction, Gran Torino is still a solid film with a wholly satisfying ending and one of the most emotive end credit songs that I have heard in the last few years (co-written, incidentally, by Clint and Kyle Eastwood).


If you want to watch any trailers/scenes from films reviewed by Wadrick, visit the GritHouse – the GritFX YouTube Channel – and check out Wadrick's Playlist.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bird Life (Part 2)

Camera Critters
"Bird Life (Part 2)" is this week's "Camera Critters" post. If you want to participate, click on the image above.

As promised last week, here is Bird Life (Part 2).

To view thumbnails of all of my Camera Critter posts, visit the GritFX website.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tunguska, 1908

On June 30 1908, in a remote region of Siberia near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, something exploded above the Earth levelling an estimated 80 million trees in a 2,000-kilometre radius. Over a hundred years has passed since the explosion, and a definitive answer as to what constituted the event has been elusive. The most common theory regarding the “Tunguska Event” concerns a burst of air caused by an exploding meteor, asteroid or comet at least 5 kilometres above the surface of the Earth – a theory determined by the available evidence. The energy from the event was estimated to be 1,000 times greater than that recorded from the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 - approximately 10-15 megatons. Eyewitnesses to the event were few, with most reporting the sound of the explosion and subsequent tremors. People hundreds of miles away reportedly were knocked to the ground by the force of the ‘impact’. Others saw the sky “split in two” as fire and a massive windstorm ripped across the surrounding area.

In 1921, Russian mineralogist Leonid Kulik led the first recorded expedition to the Tunguska region to investigate the event. Having accepted from local reports that the incident was caused by the impact of a massive meteor, Kulik was surprised at what he found. For there was no impact crater, only a huge area of scorched trees with some in the epicentre that were still standing. Further away, trees were levelled away from the epicentre, lending credence to the theory that an explosion above the Earth had sent an air blast down and horizontally outward. Subsequent expeditions revealed mineral and metal deposits in greater prevalence in comparison to their natural occurrence in the area, meaning that something extraterrestrial had fallen to Earth.

Many theories have of course been expounded in relation to the Tunguska event. A hypothesis put forward in 1973 by two physicists at the University of Texas, made the claim that the event was caused by a small black hole passing through the Earth. However, for this theory to hold water (so to speak), an ‘exit point’ must be determined and discovered at an opposing position on the globe – somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic. In 2007, scientists from the University of Bologna in Italy made the claim that a lake discovered in the Tunguska region – Lake Cheko - was a possible impact point of the event. Whilst agreeing that the explosion happened above the Earth’s surface, they maintain that a fragment of the meteor/asteroid/whatever did in fact hit the Earth and that the lake has formed over the last century. Certain investigations have lent support to the idea, and a one-metre piece of rock was apparently found at the bottom of the lake via magnetic readings.

A few weeks ago, Yuri Labvin, head of the Tunguska Spatial Phenomenon Foundation, released a statement saying that the explosion was caused by an alien craft intercepting an incoming meteorite or asteroid. Labvin explains that the alien craft destroyed the approaching object by crashing into it and in the process, saved mankind from a cataclysmic event. Labvin has said that pieces of quartz inscribed with ‘strange markings’ were found in the area, and are currently being examined by experts. According to Labvin, these quartz fragments are remnants of the alien craft. However, this crazy theory is subject to any of these supposed pieces of quartz being produced or at the very least, photographed and shown to a sceptical world.

by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)

For more information on Tunguska visit: http://www-th.bo.infn.it/tunguska/

American Idol 2009 Tour T-Shirts

Shop for American Idol 2009 Tour T-Shirts!
American Idol has wound down for a large percentage of those who watched and enjoyed the show. However, for some fans, things are just starting to warm up as we draw closer to the 2009 Live American Idol tour - which kicks off on July 5th in Portland, OR.

With the concerts approaching, Idology T-Shirts have begun the process of adding some 2009 Tour T-Shirts to the shop. Idol Man has started the section off by adding some Tour T-Shirts for Kris Allen and Adam Lambert fans (with some for Danny Gokey & Allison Iraheta coming soon).

If you would like an Idology T-Shirts design that is not set-up with your concert date, please contact Idol Man (idolman@live.com.au) with your request.