Science Saturday – Cleanin’ Out The Chum

I’ve been really busy the last few weeks, and the chum has been accumulating. So I decided it was time to clean some clutter out of the bookmarks. Here’s a collection of science and medicine related articles that I found of interest:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis. My wife, unfortunately, gets to deal with RA. Quite a few weeks ago, I learned about an article that explored the relationship between bacteria in beef and milk and RA: In particular, a strain of bacteria commonly found in milk and beef may be a trigger for developing rheumatoid arthritis in people who are genetically at risk, according to a new study from the University of Central Florida.
  • Artificial Sweetner and Crohns Disease. Another immune system disease, like RA, is Crohns. In another study,  researchers have found that, given over a six-week period, the artificial sweetener sucralose, known by the brand name Splenda, worsens gut inflammation in mice with Crohn’s disease, but had no substantive effect on those without the condition. I’m curious is there is any impact on RA. My wife only uses Stevia.
  • Going Gluten Free. We all know that if you are Celiac (as is my wife), you need to go on a gluten-free diet. Well, it turns out that might not be enough. There are reports on some extreme cases of cross contamination, and there are now tests sensitive enough to test for it. Cross-contact can start at the farm, where gluten-free crops might be grown adjacent to, or rotated with, gluten-containing crops. It can also occur anywhere down the line in processing, packaging and shipping. When Thompson reported the study on her Facebook page, which has over 17,000 followers, worried comments spooled out, ranging from concerns about airborne gluten from the bakery section of supermarkets, to cross-contact from wheat-eating family members, to a report from one woman with a gluten-detection dog able to reportedly detect down to 1 part per million (the dog alerted her to gluten on her shopping cart). A lament from one person with celiac disease seemed to sum it up: “There is no safe place in this world for a celiac. It breaks my heart.”
  • Case in Point: Oat Milk. It appears that a new artificial mylk is about to hit the market: Oat Milk.  They are predicting it will be the next big thing. Oat milk is made by milling oats with water to create a squishy texture. The resulting starch is broken down by added enzymes like malt sugar, which acts as a sweetener. That blend is then sifted to remove whole oat shells, leaving a creamy liquid that’s pasteurized and packaged. It even foams, thanks to a little canola oil. However, whether oats are gluten-free is iffy, and the malt sugar could also be a problem.
  • Having a Heart Attack. Here’s an interesting human interest story about a nurse in the Australian Outback that diagnosed their own heart attack, and saved their own life. Alone at his station, more than 600 miles from the city of Perth and 100 miles from any hospital at all, the 44-year-old man experiences a sudden bout of dizziness and severe chest pain. What he does next is remarkable, life-saving and — to a considerable degree — instructive.
  • Germicide Resistant Computers. Computers are a big problem in hospitals, because they can’t be sterilized or dipped in germicide. Enter HP: with new germicide resistant computers for hospitals.There are three products. There’s HP’s EliteOne 800 Healthcare Edition All-in-One desktop, there’s the 27-inch HP Healthcare Edition Clinical Review Display, and there’s the EliteBook 840 Healthcare Edition notebook. The laptop lets you disable the keyboard and touchscreen while cleaning, so that nothing is accidentally inputted. All three products are built to withstand deterioration from being cleaned with germicidal wipes, which may help reduce the spread of health care-related infections.
  • ADD/ADHC: How the Symptoms Shape Your Perceptions. In this interesting article, it is noted how the textbook symptoms of ADD — inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity — fail to reflect several of its most powerful characteristics; the ones that shape your perceptions, emotions, and motivation. The article then goes on to explain how to recognize and manage ADHD’s true defining features that explain every aspect of the condition: 1. an interest-based nervous system; 2. emotional hyperarousal; and 3. rejection sensitivity.
  • Night Owls. I get up early; my wife is a night owl. According to a recent study, that’s bad for her. A new study of mortality rates of nearly half a million people finds that individuals who strongly preferred to stay up late were more likely to be dead at the end of a six-and-a-half-year period. The findings, described in the journal Chronobiology International, offer the first study linking mortality risk to night-owl sleep habits, according to the authors. The results could help researchers better understand another aspect of the role that circadian rhythms play in human health. Then again, I’ve got the big belly, which is bad for me.
  • After Death. So what do you do with your body after you die, especially if you don’t want the “hole in the ground” that wastes resources and doesn’t decompose. Here are some eco-friendly alternatives.
  • Eyebrows. I find the human face and head fascinating. Especially the odd things, like the shape of our ears (quite ugly, when you think about it), and our eyebrows. There’s some new research out on eyebrows, and how they served to separate us from our Neanderthal brothers. The brow ridge is one of the most distinctive features that mark out the difference between archaic and modern humans. The theory is that eyebrows are a canvas upon which our eyebrows can paint emotions. And as we became an increasingly social species engaged in increasingly sophisticated communication, they helped us survive.
  • Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. A collection of scientific news chum wouldn’t be complete without a belated tribute to Tom Lehrer on his 90th birthday.

The Chai Life | “Bad Jews” @ Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

Bad Jews (Odyssey)Friday night. I could have been at the synagogue, celebrating Israel’s 70th Birthday. But no, I was at the theatre. I’m a bad Jew.

Conincidentally, that was the title of the show we saw at the  Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) — Bad Jews, written by Joshua Harmon. We missed Bad Jews the last time it was in Los Angeles (at the Geffen, in 2015); this time the timing was right for us to make it (and, coincidentally, another of Harmon’s plays, Significant Other, is currently at the Geffen). The description of the show just made it sound so intriguing:

After a beloved grandfather dies in New York, leaving a treasured piece of religious jewelry that he succeeded in hiding even from the Nazis during the Holocaust, cousins fight over not only the family heirloom, but their “religious faith, cultural assimilation, and even the validity of each other’s romances.”

The story itself is centered around the two Haber brothers, Jonah and Liam, their cousin Daphna Feygenbaum, and Liam’s girlfriend, Melody. Their common grandfather — a holocaust survivor — has died, leaving a Chai necklace. The essence of the play centers around who wants — and who deserves — the necklace.

The characters are constructed in — at least from this Jew’s perspective — a stereotypical way. Liam is the typical secular Jew — atheistic in belief, and barely Jewish in heritage, with the typical non-Jewish blond and blue-eyed girlfriend. Davna is the type you meet at a Jewish summer camp: wearing her liberal and Israel-supporting Judaism on her sleeve; she’s strongly proud of it, but you don’t know how deep under the surface that pride goes. Jonah is more of an enigma: quiet, not wanting to make any trouble, the good kid. Melody is the non-Jewish girlfriend of no particular outward religious faith, but perhaps the most religious and moral of them all.

Bad Jews (Cast Photos)The play itself was at times laugh out loud funny, and at times darkly angry. My wife came away from it a bit disturbed. She felt the characterization of Daphna was too much of the “Jewish bitch stereotype”. It wasn’t something that would have been noticed three years ago when the play first arrived in LA, but in today’s #MeToo environment with a great sensitivity of how women are portrayed, it was a bit problematical. I also saw stereotypes in Melody: there was the immediate assumption that anyone blond and blue eyed was non-Jewish. Melody could very easily have been Jewish and just not saying anything; the question was never asked. We both noted that the playwright was a man: could this have been a problem with a man writing a role for a woman, and thus putting his perception of what Jewish women are into the characters, with them being shaped by a real Jewish women. This then raised the question of where the director, Dana Resnick (FB), came into shaping the play. After all, the current revival of My Fair Lady has been slightly reshaped for the modern era and a more liberated Eliza; was there enough directorial leeway to reshape the characters in a more realistic way (or was it forced by the dialogue). It was something we couldn’t answer, but we felt it was an interesting debate.

Other than that, we felt that the debate captured in the show represented a dilemma common with younger Jews today: what constitutes a “good Jew” in the modern era? Which character was the most deserving of the Chai? They all had legitimate claims. It is certainly a play that will leave you asking that question.

The performances themselves were strong. As Daphna, Jeanette Deutsch (FB) embodied the modern Jewish woman esthetic quite well. In other words: I remember her type from camp; I knew them and know them, and she captured it well. I thought she just went to the edge; my wife felt her a bit over-strident.

As her cousin, Jonah, Austin Rogers (FB) was much more in the background, not wanted to get involved. He didn’t scream; he observed and provided the rational foil for the characters around him.

As his brother, however, Noah James (FB)’s Liam was a different story. He was in your face and argumentative, seemingly wanting to pick a fight.  I will never forget the scene of him screaming at Dephna.

Lastly, Lila Hood (FB) captured the outsider nature of Melody quite well. Although all the characters had remarkable facial expressions, hers spoke the most while she watched the other characters arguing. She had an entire dialogue and reaction going on in that face that said volumes. She was just fascinating to watch.

As an ensemble, the four worked well together and had a believable family nature. As I said above for Lila, just watch their facial expressions. These actors are saying loads with their reactions while the other actors go at it. I don’t know if this is direction or something organic from the actors, but it was just a joy to watch.

Turning to the production side: David Offner‘s scenic design was a modern New York apartment, complete with mess, two air beds, and working appliances. It was supported by Josh La Cour‘s properties and Tom Ash (FB)’s lighting. Vicki Conrad (FB)’s costumes captured the characters well, and Marisa Whitmore‘s sound design provided the requisite sound effects. Other production credits: Emma Whitley (FB) [Stage Manager]; Gregory Velasco Kucukarslan [Asst Director]; Matthew Gold  [Assoc. Casting Director]; Ron Sossi (FB) [Producer].

Bad Jews continues at the  Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (FB) through June 17. Tickets are available through the The Odyssey Theatre; discount tickets may be available through Goldstar.


Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, a mini-subscription at the Saroya [the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

The third weekend of April has one more show: The Hunchback of Notre Dame at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) (nee Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)) on Saturday. The last weekend of April sees us travelling for a show, as we drive up to San Jose to see friends as well as Adrift in Macao at The Tabard Theatre Company (FB).

Continuing into May and June: The first weekend in May will bring School of Rock at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), with the following weekend bringing Soft Power  at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). The middle of May brings Violet at Actors Co-op (FB).  The last weekend will hopefully bring a Nefesh Mountain concert at Temple Ramat Zion; the weekend itself is currently open. June — ah, June. That, my friends, is reserved for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), including The Story of My Life from Chromolume Theatre (FB). Additionally in June we’re seeing the postponed Billy Porter singing Richard Rodgers at the Saroya (the venue formerly known as the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)) (FB), The Color Purple at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB), and possibly Do Re Mi at MTW. The latter, however, is on a Sunday night in Long Beach, and so Fringing may win out. Currently, we’re booking all the way out in mid to late 2018!

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.