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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!


We were invited to a New Year's Eve party at a hotel. Although it was fun to usher in the new year with friends and many strangers, I would prefer to have a quiet dinner at home.

Balloons descended as the clock struck twelve......

 Stuck in the massive traffic jam for more than an hour

The authorities like to organize mega events at Marina Bay but they have yet to solve the traffic and human jams that result from such activities. My friends and I were stuck in the traffic jam, sitting in our stationery vehicles for more than an hour. Finally we were able to inch our way slowly out of this mess.

My foreign friends almost had heart attacks watching the fare meter of their taxi rising........ Poor guys.

Lesson learnt : Avoid Marina Bay whenever there is a mega event.  

May the New Year bring happiness and good health to everyone!

First Commenter - Lina

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


All Pictures from Mican Doll Website

Are you still wondering if Tokyo is the factory of the most inventive, craziest, weirdest, surprising artists from our times? You should have no doubt about it. France has a quite long past with ball jointed dolls (the technique has been patented in France by Brouillet-Cacheleux in 1856, Hans Bellmer immigrated to France after Hitler came to power in Germany) but while we were kind of forgetting this art, Japan renewed it pushing out its limits. A lot of the ball jointed dolls I saw in Tokyo were quite annoying and even kind of pervert. A lot of dolls represent children bodies and they are often showed naked. And it’s a fact, ball jointed doll art is related to erotic art ; Bellmer’s doll La Poupée was created to stimulate desire, Kaoru Mori’s dolls have been exhibited in Paris Erotic Museum in 2008...

Nevertheless, some artists took the art to an upper ground, involving much of their personality, dreams, nightmares and troubles also maybe, to create wonderful pieces of art. I had the chance this summer, with my collaborator Alexandre Martinazzo, to visit Pygmalion Doll Space, the most famous school in Japan to learn about ball jointed doll techniques, observing students working on their creatures, shaping legs, bodies, heads, under the severe look of their teacher, Ryo Yoshida, that was in his time a master in that art. And that’s where I had the chance to know more about Mican (I had previously met Mican at Pepper's Gallery in February 2008 for her group exhibition “Do androids dream?V “ after I discovered her work by chance in summer 2007).

Mican - that means, depending on the Japanese readings mandarins (蜜柑) or unfinished (未完) – is one of the doll artists to remember. But if Mican still has the grade of student because she keeps on learning and perfecting her techniques at Pygmalion, her art is far from student looking work. Mican only started studying ball jointed doll art in 2006 and first exhibited in May 2007 at Design Festa. As she learnt 3D art and as she has a taste from drawings, these two combined talents probably helped her in conceiving her dolls and taking them to an average level.

Within 4 years, Mican already created 13 dolls and sculptures, which is something remarkable when you know that a doll can take up to six months to be achieved and probably also understanding that creating such personal looking work can empty an artist. The probably most impressive dolls are the High School Girl, the Dream of the Alien, and Transience. These creations show uncommon sizes for dolls, between 134cm to 147cm. More than simply beautiful dolls, Mican is showing us a world of dream and reflection around themes like evil, death, eternity, … But her work is also inspired by historical facts (Gratia 1563-1600), Japanese culture (Zen disciple in training and a ghost) and personal stories (a thousand winds).

Mican now records 12 exhibitions in reputed spaces like the Tokyu Bunkamura Gallery or Geisai Museum where her work in 2008 has been ranked on the 12th place upon 606 artists. Eyes should be definitely turned on that fabulous artist.

Articles about artists and illustrators on this blog here.
Virginie Ropars, a French doll artist (not ball jointed doll) to also check.

The Mori Girl 60 rules

Pictures from Mori Girl Papier magazine

The Mori Girl community, founded on Mixi social network by Choco a bit more than 3 years ago is not a secret anymore. However, to be called a Mori Girl, one’s should follow some rules. I said some? A lot of rules if we check all the recommendations to be part of Mori Girl Mixi Community… Let's have a closer look at Mori Girl 60 rules.

- You like Q-Pot cake shape accessories
- You like loose looking one piece
- You wear one-piece dress and skirt as everyday dresses.
- You like quirky clothes in a natural looking type fashion (nothing like loudy and or flashy)
- You care about the fabric
- You Like ethnic clothes
- You’re attracted to Nothern Europe and want to travel over there one day
- One of your friends told you “you look like a girl in the forest” (without laughing)
- Your clothes describes a A silhouette
- You like to mix deep colors, dark red, dark green, brown…
- Warm colors fit you well
- You like cushy knits, furs and hats with volume
- You like poncho and bolero
- You’re not into super sweet fashion
- You are a girl with a soft mood (or you’re longing for being one)
- You are a girl that gives the impression of transparency (or you’re longing for being one)
- People say you constantly give the impression of a gentle mood
- You like blouses with puffed sleeves
- You prefer golden accessories to silver ones
- You like leather bags
- You like necklaces with large motifs like loupes.
- You use pochettes for everything
- You’re attracted to old things
- You like fob watch
- You like animal motifs
- You like dots and checks
- You like retro flower prints
- You like tights and long johns
- In winter you put on your ear muffs
- Your perfume has flower essence
- You like lavanda
- You don’t make up a lot but you like round pink cheeks
- You prefer natural buttons made of wood or horn
- Your wear flat shoes most of the time
- You prefer round toes shoes
- If you wear sneakers you turn them into sleepers
- You like to wrap up in stoles and mufflers
- You like hand-made accessories
- You like fairy tales
- You like white color
- In winter you wear turtle neck
- You are loose permed hair Or hair in a bob
- You like laces
- You’re a pale skin complexion
- You’d like to be compared to a Russian doll
- Mori Girls are different from “Lolita and so”
- You’re girly
- Your magazines are Fudge, Spoon, So-En and Spur
- You like brands like Tsumori Chisato, Cocue and Cuccia
- You also like Fellissimo, but especially the labels Syrup and Snow
- You like to spare your time in cafés
- You’re a kind of collector
- You like to take a walk your camera in one hand
- You can spare time in grocery stores
- You feel more at ease with short nails.
- You’re happy to find cute books in bookshops
- Spending time in furniture store gives you pleasure thrills
- You like winter and autumn seasons
- You think that Honey and Clover fits to Mori Girl, and consider Hagu as one of them
- You think that Shizuru Satonaka from “Simply, I love you” is also a Mori Girl

After fitting to these rules, you might be able to enter Mori Girl Mixi Community. But I will add my point of view. I posted previously that Mori Girl is not about a trend and fashion. And it is right, if you refer to the purpose of Choco (Mori Girl moderator) building such a community. And this were the interesting points that attracted me: a girl interested by strange cute things, antiques (my dad’s passion and hobby was to buy antiques so I grew up with this sense and this interest also), the concept of looking like a girl in a forest (with the strange atmosphere it drains), spending time in reading in cafés, who likes furniture shops, and the smell of lavanda (as a French girl raised by my grand-mother, I grew up with the lavanda smell, in the house to make the kitchen bad smells disappear, in the cologne used to warm up my little girl body during winters, used in sachets in wardrobes), animal motifs (I still wear and adore my loose t-shirt with a cat moif that I bought eight years ago) and their taste in magazines (my favorite of all is Fudge and will stay).

But if Japanese are used to often go to far in their hobby, fashion, trends, passion, work and so, we are not European, American, Latino and others used to that behavior and we shouldn’t mistaken rules made by and for Japanese for ours. My friend from Mexico was scared to learn about the now legendary 60 rules… I want to reinsure her and my readers. Feel free to love this style (let’s call it a style rather than a fashion), to find clothes that will fit the Mori Girl mood and make it your own. As you don’t live in Japan, you won’t be able to buy Fudge, Spoon or So-En every month anyway. You won’t be able to buy shoes made by Cocue, long Johns by Fur Fur, long knit by Frapbois, loose dress by Par Avion or Bulle de Savon. These labels are only to be found in Japan. But be free to learn and love the intelligent and wonderful rules about loving antiques, being careful with your clothes, spear your time in café reading, take a walk with a camera. Because in a society that goes too fast, we need to go back to a slower way of living ; we need to learn how to be sweeter; we need to learn from the old ways of living, from our grand-parents. I think that Japanese girls are looking for something that they never knew. Believe me, Tokyo is a too fast megalopolis that tells us about a possible future that turns some people crazy (one month ago I had what they call a jinshin jinkou… Someone running under the train to die), and maybe that’s why, its inhabitants are looking for something different, looking back in time and cherish the old things they have. It’s a lesson to learn. So feel free to look into your country past, to collect old things and cherish your grand-mother accessories. I guess there are different ways to be a Mori Girl.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009 & Happy New Year 2010

Peace in your heart,
Peace to the world,


Joy to all people,
Joy all year through...


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2010...

Best wishes,

ECT in Nixonland

I've just finished Nixonland, Rick Perlstein's history of the 1960s. Some things I learned: Richard Nixon was a genius, albeit an evil one; the 1960s never ended; Rick Perlstein is my new favourite political author.

The book also reminded me of a sad episode in the history of psychiatry.

George McGovern ran against Nixon as the Democratic candidate for President in 1972. He was essentially the Obama of the 60s generation: unashamedly liberal and intellectual, he unseated the "established" candidate, Hubert Humphrey, to clinch the Democrat's nomination after a bitter primary campaign thanks to his idealistic young grass-roots.

McGovern had difficulty choosing his vice-presidential running mate, and eventually chose a little-known Senator from Missouri, Thomas Eagleton (left in the photo). It seemed a safe enough choice. Until Eagleton's first press conference.

Eagleton revealed that he'd been treated in a psychiatric hospital for "exhaustion" - everyone knew he meant clinical depression - three times, and that he had received electroconvulsive therapy twice. McGovern hadn't known this when he picked him.

From there it was all downhill. McGovern initially said he backed Eagleton "1000%". But to some, the idea of putting someone who'd had shock therapy a heartbeat away from the Presidency was unacceptable, and after two weeks of gossip, McGovern dropped him from the ticket.

Perlstein notes that this move wrecked McGovern's image as the idealistic and authentic alternative to politics-as-usual. Polls showed that Americans overwhelmingly trusted Nixon over McGovern, even as the facts about Watergate were emerging. Nixon won a landslide.

TeleMatch at Mountbatten - WW

Residents, young and old, participated in the various games. One game was for a team of 8 to find sweets in a tray of flour. It got the spectators in stitches.

Clouds of white flour flying everywhere! My camera and blouse were not spared.

Teams cheering on the the grannies who gamely completed all the challenges........ the oldest participant is over 80 years old.

I got a sweet!!
.... and a powdered face mask. :P

Flour got into the participants' hair, mouths, even nostrils.....

This little girl is so sporting..... she tried and tried..... burying her head repeatedly into the tray of flour to find a sweet. 

It was a joy to see the elderly people participate and have fun in the games. Usually activities organised for them are rather passive, there are the usual walks, staged shows and eating sessions. The elderly who participated in these games displayed an openness and positive attitude in their lives. The support and concern for one another during the games was heartwarming. They deserve interesting and fun events as much as the young.

First Commenter - Lina

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eastcoastlife's Tropical Christmas - RT/WW

I finally had a chance to sit on Santa's lap!

The young man in the Santa suit was clearly embarrassed....., he was clinging on to Elmo for dear life. Luckily his reddened face was hidden by his 'beard'.  hahaha.....
My Christmas wish? Strike lottery!
Gimme a million dollars! :P

***************** oooOooo *****************

Congratulations to :

Ken Tan

A 14-year-old student living in Woodlands, he won a HP Photosmart Plus All-in-One with TouchSmart B209a (worth SG$269) in the EastCoastLife/ HP Printer Giveaway. Printer delivered on Christmas Day. He was too shy to appear on my blog.

First Commenter -Tekkaus

The Genetics of Living To 100

Is there a gene for long life?

Boston-based group Sebastiani et al say they've found not one but two, in RNA Editing Genes Associated with Extreme Old Age in Humans and with Lifespan in C. elegans.

They took 4 groups of "oldest old" people: from New England, Italy, and Japan, and American Ashkenazi Jews. All were aged 90 or more, and many of them were 100, centenarians. As control groups, they used random healthy people who weren't especially old. The total sample size was an impressive 2105 old vs. 3044 controls.

On the basis of a pilot study, they chose to look at two candidate genes, ADARB1 and ADARB2. Both are involved in post-transcriptional RNA editing, one of the steps in the process by which genetic material, DNA, controls protein synthesis. It's something every cell in the body needs to do in order to function.

What happened? Their abstract makes the exciting claim that
18 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the RNA editing genes ADARB1 and ADARB2 are associated with extreme old age in a U.S. based study ... We describe replications of these findings in three independently conducted centenarian studies with different genetic backgrounds (Italian, Ashkenazi Jewish and Japanese) that collectively support an association of ADARB1 and ADARB2 with longevity.
But read the whole paper and the picture is a little more complex. For ADARB1, they looked at 31 variants (SNPs). In the New England sample, which was the largest, 5 of them were statistically significantly more common in old people compared to the controls. However, none of these were significantly associated in any of the other samples, although for 3 of the 5 variants, there was some evidence of an effect in the same direction in the other samples.

In ADARB2, out of 114 variants, 10 were significantly associated in the New England sample. Of these, 4 were independently significant in the Italian sample, and in the combined New England/Italian sample all 10 were still associated. But the Jewish and the Japanese samples showed a rather different picture: only 1 of the 10 associations was significant in the Jews, although several were weakly associated in the same direction, and in a pooled New England/Italian/Jewish analysis 9 were still significant. In the Japanese sample, one association was replicated but another variant was associated in the wrong direction.

They also did some lab work and found that in nematode worms (C. Elegans), mutants lacking the worm equivalent of the ADARB1 and ADARB2 genes had a 50% reduced lifespan - 10 days, instead of the normal 20 - despite no obvious symptoms of illness. Hmm.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this data. They looked at 4 separate, large samples, which is an excellent size by the standards of candidate gene association studies. The evidence implicating ADARB1 and (especially) ADARB2 variants in longevity is fairly convincing, although the most consistent effects came from the European-ancestry samples, suggesting that different things might be going on in other populations. This is the first research looking at these genes; ultimately, we won't know for sure until we get more. The worm data is a nice touch, but I'd like to see evidence from animals with a bit more similarity to humans, say mice.

Still, suppose that these genes are associated with long life; suppose they they control the rate of the ageing process, protecting you from dying from "natural causes" too early. That doesn't mean that you'll live to an old age - it just makes it possible. If you get hit a truck or fall of a cliff, you're dead, anti-ageing genes or not.

Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, born 1875, died 1997, is the oldest person on record, at 122 years. But we'll never know whether someone with the genetic potential to outlive her died in WW2, or the Cultural Revolution, or just got hit by a truck. Calment presumably had the right genes, but she was also lucky.

So a trait's being genetically heritable doesn't make it pre-ordained and immutable. IQ, for example, most likely has a heritability of around 50% - some people likely have a higher potential for intellectual achievement than others. But if you're born into an abusive family, or deep poverty, or you never get a chance to go to school, you may never reach that potential. There's always that truck.

ResearchBlogging.orgSebastiani P, Montano M, Puca A, Solovieff N, Kojima T, Wang MC, Melista E, Meltzer M, Fischer SE, Andersen S, Hartley SH, Sedgewick A, Arai Y, Bergman A, Barzilai N, Terry DF, Riva A, Anselmi CV, Malovini A, Kitamoto A, Sawabe M, Arai T, Gondo Y, Steinberg MH, Hirose N, Atzmon G, Ruvkun G, Baldwin CT, & Perls TT (2009). RNA editing genes associated with extreme old age in humans and with lifespan in C. elegans. PloS one, 4 (12) PMID: 20011587

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The War on "Interesting"

My New Year's Blog Resolution - no more calling things "interesting".

While writing, I sometimes find myself searching for an adjective to attach to something I've just mentioned, words to explain why I think it's relevant. It's... no... it's kind of... hmm... It's interesting, is what it is! Phew. Now I can move on. Anything can be "interesting" - a book, a blog post, an article, an event, an idea, a movement, a prediction, an argument.

Calling something interesting is effortless; easy; it's a one-size-fits-all term. If you can't think of anything else to say, you can at least say that. Which is why people do. I know I'm not alone in this.

But "interesting" is a cop-out. It adds nothing. If you're taking the trouble of writing about something, it should be taken as read that you think it's interesting. The whole point is to explain why - to tell people what's special about it. Does it present new evidence? If so, is it reliable? Does it introduce a new distinction, a new vocabulary, a new way of thinking? If so, why is it a good one?

Sadly it's easier to just call something interesting than to explain why it is. Partly this is because "interesting" (or "fascinating", "thought-provoking", "intriguing", "notable" etc.) is just one word, and it's easier to write one word than a sentence. More important is the fact that you probably don't know why you're interested by something until you do some thinking about it.

Don't duck out of doing that thinking. It's intellectual laziness. Even more so is to say that you're not sure if something is true, but it sure is interesting. "It's not necessarily true, but it's a fascinating thought" - is it? why?

Are you interested by the possibility that it's true, so if you learned that it was definitely false, it would become boring? Or is it one of those ideas that's interesting "in itself"? If so, why? Because it's an influential idea in a political or historical sense? Because it sheds light on the minds of the people who believe it? Are you sure that your interest isn't a kind of repressed belief? Are you really "only interested", or do you see something you like? If so, why not say so?

So, I'm quitting the habit, cold turkey, as of now. No more will I reach for the "interesting" button whenever I'm stuck for words. With any luck, this will make my writing a little bit more interes... hmm.

Friday, December 25, 2009

12 Chinese zodiac signs - PH

PhotoHunt theme : Twelve

The 12 animals of our Chinese zodiac signs are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and Pig. They are determined by people's year of birth (according to a 12-year cycle) and represent 12 different types of personalities.

What is your Chinese zodiac sign? : Chinese Zodiac Sign Calculator

Find out which of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac represents you :

  1. Rat : Forthright, tenacious, systematic, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, hardworking, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, shrewd. Can be manipulative, vindictive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, scheming.
  2. Ox : Dependable, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, ambitious, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious. Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.
  3. Tiger : Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable.
  4. Rabbit : Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.
  5. Dragon : Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, zealous, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, ambitious, artistic, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.
  6. Snake : Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, ambitious, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.
  7. Horse : Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile - mentally and physically, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.
  8. Ram : Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.
  9. Monkey : Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.
  10. Rooster : Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated, given to empty bravado.
  11. Dog : Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.
  12. Pig : Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naïve, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.
    The year of the Ox is coming to an end.......

    Babies born on or after 14th February 2010 will be a little Tiger. :)

    Personality chart from Wikipedia

    First Commenter -

    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Mori Girl Fashion & Style Book by Choco

    Written by Valerie Fujita
    Images source: Mori Girl Fashion and Style book, by Choco

    It is a fact, this winter Tokyo has definitely acquired the mori girl as a style, like it did with lolita and gothic lolita in its time, showing everywhere in the magazines (Spur, Fudge, Spoon, Mori Girl Papier and others). A special Mori Girl Fashion and Style book directed by Choco, the moderator of Mori Girls Mixi Community, has been published by a big editing company, Mainichi Communications.

    The Mori Girl Fashion and Style Book (森ガール fashion & Style BOOK) is an almost step by step volume, that all the beginners would love to have (unfortunately, this book only exists in Japanese). Choco makes an introduction on how Mori Girl concept and name first appeared, and then guide us through the main Mori Girl everyday and fashion habits: camera to take everywhere, handcraft activities, how they spare their time in café and book shops, wardrobe item by item (from hat to accessories). Choco even opened her own closet to reveal her season by season Mori Girl silhouette.

    By looking at the pictures and silhouettes gallery, one’s understand that Mori Girls are natural, but that the fashion is not as simple as it seems. We can say that they cultivate a real taste for antiques and maybe old fashion way to live, something slower than the high speed way of living in Tokyo.

    Mori Girl Fashion and style Book prologue, by Choco, Mori Girl mixi community moderator
    “Nice to meet you, I’m Choco. About three years has passed since I founded Mori Girl community on Mixi, on the 24th August 2006. The Mori Girl community, I thought was the occasion for me to try to search for people that liked the same clothes as me, that had the same interests as me, people loving a bit strange things, people that don’t choose the common cute things, that have their own taste. I would be happy if, by passing around this book, I could give a bit of my knowledge about what type of girl is a Mori Girl. But, because Mori Girl is not about a new trend or a trend from the past, it is simply about what YOU like and how you look with precaution to the clothes you like, there is not right answer about Mori Girl. I though it was nice if I gave through this book some references and, because it’s enjoyable, some cute pictures.”

    Giving to Choco’s words, in September 2009, the Mori Girl Community counted over 35 000 members.

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Good News for Armchair Neuropathologists

    Ever wanted to crack the mysteries of the brain? Dreamed of discovering the cause of mental illness?

    Well, now, you can - or, at any rate, you can try - and you can do it from the comfort of your own home, thanks to the new Stanley Neuropathology Consortium Integrative Database.

    Just register (it's free and instant) and you get access to a pool of data derived from the Stanley Neuropathology Consortium brain collection. The collection comprises 60 frozen brains - 15 each from people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression, and 15 "normals".

    In a Neuropsychopharmacology paper announcing the project, administrators Sanghyeon Kim and Maree Webster point out that
    Data sharing has become more important than ever in the biomedical sciences with the advance of high-throughput technology and web-based databases are one of the most efficient available resources to share datasets.
    The Institute's 60 brains have long been the leading source of human brain tissue for researchers in biological psychiatry. Whenever you read about a new discovery relating to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, chances are the Stanley brains were involved. The Institute provide slices of the brains free of charge to scientists who request them, and they've sent out over 200,000 to date.

    Until now, if you wanted to find out what these scientists discovered about the brains, you'd have to look up the results in the many hundreds of scientific papers where the various results were published. If you knew where to look, and if you had a lot of time on your hands. The database collates all of the findings. That's a good idea. To ensure that they get all of the results, the Institute have another good idea:
    Coded specimens are sent to researchers with the code varying from researcher to researcher to ensure that all studies are blinded. The code is released to the researcher only when the data have been collected and submitted to the Institute.
    The data we're provided about the brains is quite exciting, if you like molecules, comprising 1749 markers from 12 different parts of the brain. Markers include levels of proteins, RNA, and the number and shape of various types of cells.

    It's easy to use. While waiting for my coffee to brew, I compared the amount of the protein GFAP76 in the frontal cortex between the four groups. There was no significant difference. I guess GFAP76 doesn't cause mental illness - darn. So much for my Nobel Prize winning theory. But I did find that levels of GFAP76 were very strongly correlated with levels of another protein, "phosphirylated" (I think they mean "phosphorylated") PRKCA. You read it here first.

    In the paper, Kim and Webster used the Database to find many differences between normal brains and diseased brains, including increased levels of dopamine in schizophrenia, and increased levels of glutamate in depression and bipolar. And decreased GAD67 proteins in the frontal cortex in bipolar and schizophrenia. And decreased reelin mRNA in the frontal cortex and cerebellum in bipolar and schizophrenia. And...

    This leaves open the vital questions of what these differences mean, as I have complained before. And the problem with giving everyone in the world the results of 1749 different tests, and letting us cross-correlate them with each other and look for differences between 4 patient groups, is that you're making possible an awful lot of comparisons. With only 15 brains per group, none of the results can be considered anything more than provisional, anyway - what we really need are lots more brains.

    But this database is still a welcome move. This kind of data pooling is the only sensible approach to doing modern science, and it's something people are advocating in other fields of neuroscience as well. It just makes sense to share results rather than leaving everyone to do there own thing in near-isolation from each other, now that we have the technology to do so. In fact, I'd say it's a... no-brainer.

    ResearchBlogging.orgKim, S., & Webster, M. (2009). The Stanley Neuropathology Consortium Integrative Database: a Novel, Web-Based Tool for Exploring Neuropathological Markers in Psychiatric Disorders and the Biological Processes Associated with Abnormalities of Those Markers Neuropsychopharmacology, 35 (2), 473-482 DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.151

    Monday, December 21, 2009


    Paintings by Erina Matsui (Yamamoto Gendai Gallery)

    Once again, Tokyo shows that it remains the top spot for art market in Asia (and probably in all over the world). And many of its artists, whether they are man or woman, shows a natural taste for mixing kawaii (cute) and kowai (fear), two notions incredibly melt in Japanese pop culture, such as artists like Junko Mizuno, Mican or Kenichi Koyama, and many, many others, explore.

    Erina Matsui, twenty-five years old, graduated from Tama Art University in Tokyo (like Tomomi Kazumoto), the leading institution for teaching art in Japan, actually began her professional career very early. She started exhibiting at the age of twenty, showed in a collective exhibition of 32 japanese artists in Fondation Cartier in Paris in 2006, became a part of Yamamoto Gendai gallery in 2007, where she sold all of her paintings.

    Erina Matsui definitely plays on the cute and disgusting grounds, using her experience and person, to describe a sort of nostalgic relationship with childhood, a feeling torn by dream and japanese pop culture and marketing, using motifs such as mushrooms, cosmos, toys,... Her art describes self-portraits, tortured, face deformed in expressions such as chaos, fear, surprise, dream, haunted by nostalgia, problems that young generations encounter in expressing themselves (Food Chain - Star Wars!), head filled with dreams and fantasy, picturing herself lost into Japanese pop culture such as manga (eyes size exaggerated in Self portrait EX or Erina ni Kugizuke) and incredibly kept and visible Japanese traditions (Dhooon). This nostalgia is part of the Japanese young generation, becoming a characteristic of the new Japanese society, visible in fashion (gothic lolitas, some aspect of Mori Girls) and in the way young women keep themselves into childhood (over using cute accessories such as ribbons, animal motifs, candy pink, but also speaking with a high tone and weak voice).

    Her work is at the same time seductively cute, and strangely disturbing. No one can help to think that Erina Matsui is describing the suffering of Japanese new generations, using the now unmasking kawaii trend not only invading Japan and Japanese artists works, but also Europe and the United States (gothic Lolita fashion, illustrators like Adolie Day, Lost Fish, Candy Bird, Krista Huot).

    Erina Matsui is exhibiting with other artists at No Man's Land exhibition, at the French Ambassy former building in Tokyo, Hiro-O, until January, 31rst, 2010.

    Keeping Cash At Home, in Biscuit Tins!? - WW

    .......  a suitcase full of cash was found under the bed......

    I was spring cleaning the house when I found some cash inside a couple of biscuit tins. One was hidden under my elderly mother-in-law's bed and another in the kitchen cabinet. My late grandmother used to keep her cash in biscuit tins (remember the rectangular biscuits tins?) too. Some elderly people still do not trust the banks. :)

    This is not the first time someone found my MIL's 'secret' hiding place.Years ago, she lost more than S$3,000 cash when she wrapped it in old newspapers and hid it behind her dressing table. We suspected the maid took it but we could not find the money in her possession.

    We did not know when the money was taken because my MIL usually does not  look for it unless she needs it. Sometimes she forgets where she hides her money. haha..... 

    S$3,000 was a huge sum of money to my thrifty MIL who was in her late 80s. She scrimped and saved, taking years to accumulate the sum of money. My husband and I were so worried she would fall sick over her loss. Luckily she was alright after we counseled her.

    I wish I had found a suitcase full of cash, like the photo shown above, under her bed. :P

    I think I should start digging in the garden. hehehe..... 

    P.S. - The above photo was emailed to me by a friend. It was what Narcotics officers found in a drug dealer's home. Please don't dig up my garden. :P 

    First Commenter -Juliana