Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Maria Muldaur Teen Age Crush

Midnight at the Oasis

Back in the 1970s I was quite taken by singer song writer and hippie chick Maria Muldaur. Although I had never seen a photograph of her, didn't really know her name, or even the name of her hit song until years later my teen age imagination and post pubescent sex drive knew that she just had to be "totally hot" based solely upon the way she sang the seductive lyrics of Midnight at the Oasis.

Photo by David Harter - An In Concert Maria Muldaur (1974)

I have a clear recollection of listening to Midnight at the Oasis as a teenage boy while sitting atop the roof of my childhood home. The sun had just set, and there I was listening to her incredible voice. Although I heard the song many times over the years it was that memory that comes to mind first whenever I hear her song. Funny how memory works. I even have the little transistor radio I listened to the song on - and it still works - someone find me a 9 Volt battery.

Rudolf Valentino - Let's Play Son of Sheik

The lyrics of Midnight at the Oasis speak of an offer of a hot romantic interlude in which the woman willingly submits to her man's desires, telling him he needs no harem, because she'll be right by his side. The submission, like the song itself, is cast in a romantic and playful way.

I'll be your belly dancer, and you can be my sheik most certainly brings to mind scenes of the silent picture era's Son of Sheik, or perhaps from the Baby Boomer television series I Dream of Jeanie.

Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman in I Dream of Jeanie

In any case Maria Muldaur's unique meandering style led more than one teen age boy to wonder what it would be like to have Cactus as their friend.

Maria Muldaur - One Hour Mama

I found a video of Maria Muldaur on Youtube made recently. Maria has aged, and put on some pounds like most Baby Boomers, but she's still singing in a unique style that somewhat reminds me of Billie Holiday. While Ms. Muldaur is no longer the hippie chick, but instead an elder jazz songstress - I still find her intriguing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Sangamon County Building Springfield Illinois

Sangamon County Court House Springfield, Illinois

Every great city should have a great building or two. Buildings go a long way to setting the stage upon which the local citizens play out their affairs. Springfield, Illinois isn't a great city. It's a rather small, and rather mundane town that has potential to become much better than it is.

Sangamon County Jail Springfield, Illinois

I guess if I had to make a list of important buildings in the city the Sangamon County Courthouse and Jail would need to be included. Some might object that such a building would be included on the same list as Abraham Lincoln's Historic Home, but I'm really looking at this from a local perspective. Therefore I do include the Sangamon County Building on the list of important buildings in Springfield.

The building isn't really much to look at. It's not ugly, but perhaps that's the best thing that can be said of it. If a gentleman said that of a woman it would be considered an insult, yet that's not how I intend my comment to be taken. Let me just say this, as far as jail houses, and courthouses are concerned it could have been far worse.

Sangamon County Building Springfield, Illinois

Still every time I look at the Sangamon County Building I wonder just exactly what kind of statement was being made by those who decided upon the style of the building for it reminds me entirely too much of some of the barn like churches on Springfield's west side - godly as they may be - still as ugly as sin.

Yet, I've already stated that I don't feel that the Sangamon County Building is ugly. The open spire which has been designed to reflect the sky does make a statement. I'm guessing it has something to do with redemption? The people locked up within this building may be prisoners, but it is God's will - could that be what the shiny spire symbolizes?

I'm an old fashioned kind of guy, and I would have found it inspiring to have some huge granite columns at the sides, and entrances of the building. A classical approach certainly would convey the power, the permanency, and the dignity which a courthouse, police barracks, and a jail house could use to their advantage. I'm guessing that the cost of a building employing classical design would have been prohibitively expensive. Thus we end up with a building that says nothing at all. The Sangamon County building isn't ugly, and it isn't beautiful. It doesn't speak to the community, but it functions - and I guess in a town like Springfield, Illinois we should be grateful enough for that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Todd Rundgren - I Saw The Light

Todd Rundgren - I Saw The Light

I listened to this classic early 1970s rock tune by Todd Rundgren tonight while picking up some ice cream at Schnucks. Yup, that's how I'm going to start this little post About Todd Rundgren.

I recall having the song I Saw The Light stuck in my head many times as a youngster. It is an infectious tune. It comes from a time when guys were wearing long hair, wild clothing, and when mellowing out with friends meant passing the peace pipe while listening to albums with their best friends.

The aspect of I Saw The Light which I like the most is that the song focuses on just that one moment, that one incredible moment when two people become a couple. It's like magic, that moment, and to nicely capture it in a song is something song writers have taken to task for as long as there have been love songs. The moment takes place lyrically in just a glance, a sparkle of light, in a fraction of a second was all it took - and that is what is being shared in this song. Human beings are incredible at communicating their feelings when they want to, and sometimes even when they don't, but the heightened senses present when one walks hand in hand with a date put those communication skills into orbit.

Baby Boomer Rock Dedicated To Love

In the Seventies despite the complex, and strained relationship young Baby Boomers were having with their Greatest Generation parents (i.e., there was a very real generation gap) the one common feature that was evident in the music of both generations was the topic of love, and romance.

Baby Boomer's parent's songs were very romantic indeed, but the expectation for that generation was that holding hands, kissing, and hugging led to marriage first, then to the hanky panky. Baby Boomer rock songs were likewise romantic, and focused upon love, but the necessity of making it to the altar was vanishing , and this change was reflected within the lyrics of rock love songs.

The truth is that Baby Boomer's parents were having premarital sex too, but the Greatest Generation was so stilted by censorship that heavy levels of metaphor, and allegory had to be used to convey anything more than kissing, hugging, and holding hands.

Despite the cultural changes of the Sixties, and Seventies, and the slow demise of the prohibition on references to premarital love making within love songs love itself remained a vital ingredient in rock love songs. Just because couples could admit to premarital conjugation, and songs were written in a more open, and honest way didn't mean that love itself was suddenly obsolete.

One criticism leveled at Baby Boomers by their parents were that their songs were just loud noise with people screaming, another was that Baby Boomers were more interested in letting it all hang out, having sex that is, without taking the necessary step of professing love, and respect for those they were jumping into bed with. Yet, one only need to briefly review the themes of the most popular songs of the Baby Boomers to know that love reigned supreme.

Baby Boomer rock groups even managed to express complex forms of love in songs - philosophical love, love of one's brothers, love of the human race, which had never been expressed in popular Greatest Generation love songs. Many groups during the height of the alternative hippie culture performed songs which could be interpreted as conventional love songs, and also as spiritual love one another songs - just listen to Moody Blues, or the Beatles for examples.

Will Hip Hop Be Totally Forgotten - Probably.

Today (2008) many of the more popular "lyrics", in the more popular "songs" essentially dismiss love all together. There's mention of couplings, but more like that as seen on Animal Planet than anything else. Get down on your Knees B(#TCH! Is the attitude of the day, and romance is hard to find in the most pop of the most popular songs among today's youth. Love is seen as old fashioned, and weak. A lack of compassion, and tendency towards violence has replaced love as an underlying theme.

I don't quite know what will become of the current generation of pop music fans under twenty. Just what they'll be looking back at in those tender moments as middle aged couples is the question. Without catchy lyrics, melded with emotive melodies to help them hold onto such songs what exactly will make their beat driven rap memory worthy?

The pop music industry 0f the last fifteen years has been run by rich white men who have exploited black gang culture to harm black families, promote hatred of women, and mock any values which promote life, peace, and love. Teenagers desperate to prove to themselves that they are unique, and thus different from their parents have been fed a diet of trash, and don't always know enough to reject it for what it is.

This isn't an indictment of every hip hop song ever written. I've listened to many groups, and performers who were heavily influenced by hip hop, and the infusion of heavy beat within lyrics can be enthralling. Hip hop isn't new to the twentieth century, and it will be around for as long as people are, but replacement of lyrics with prose, and replacement of melody with percussion will never happen - not in the long run. Melody, and lyrics together form an emotive bond that helps the process of memory. Mixed with love and strong emotions song will beat rap a million times over again - that's why when you find yourself in a store wandering down the isles in the middle of the night you won't be listening to rap, or ever will - it's truly forgettable.

Love Beats Warner Brothers & Sony Corp Every Time

In the meantime at least I have an occasional chance to learn a bit about an artist from the past by checking out YouTube, and Google. One thing I've learned about Todd Rundgren is that he is on tour. The man has never stopped working in all the years since producing a string of hits in the Seventies. He's been working since the late Sixties. Rundgren appears to have quite a following. He deliberately changed styles, and refused to be trapped into playing just his hits over the years - staying committed to his progressive roots.

Todd Rondgren's I Saw The Light

It was late last night
I was feeling something wasn't right
There was not another soul in sight
Only you, only you
So we walked along
Though I knew there was something wrong
And the feeling got me oh so strong about you
Then you gazed up at me, and the answer was plain to see
Because I saw the light in your eyes

Though we had our fling
I just never would suspect a thing
Until that little bell began to ring in my head
In my head

But I tried to run
Though I knew it wouldn't help me none
Because I couldn't ever love no one, or so I said
But my feelings for you
We're just something I never knew
Until I saw the light in your eyes

But I love you best
It's not something that I say in jest
Because you're different, girl, from all the rest

In my eyes

And I ran out before, but I won't do it anymore
Can't you see the light in my eyes

Todd Rundgren - Sept 2007
Todd Rundgren coming to Chicagoland!

Park West

Tickets are currently available for this show. Price: $52.50

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Treatments for Alzheimer's Not Far Off?

Treatments for Alzheimer's Not Far Off

Are safe, effective, and inexpensive treatments for Alzheimer's Disease just over the horizon? Several major pharmaceutical companies are developing treatments to combat the ill effects of amyloid beta on nerve cells within the brain.

Amyloid beta is suspected of playing a key role in AD. Amyloid deposits attach to nerve cells inhibiting the development of nerve connections responsible for normal neurological activity, including access to memory, and cognitive functioning.

As with any drug intended to treat brain related disorders getting a drug to pass the blood brain barrier is one of the first considerations. Only very small molecules can pass into the brain which makes the task of developing such drugs more difficult.

One approach which seems to hold great potential is employing drugs made with molecules too large to pass into the brain, but which bind to Amyloid beta within the blood. By introducing drugs which bind to, and inactivate Amyloid beta in the general blood stream the level of Amyloid beta within the brain can be reduced. This approach may reduce, or avoid possible adverse side effects within the brain itself.

The following excerpt was taken from the National Institute of Health's website, and reviews just one of many studies being conducted toward a treatment of Alzheimer's Disease:

Previous studies have shown that a protein called amyloid beta is toxic to neurons. Amyloid beta accumulates in the brains of people with AD, forming deposits called amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of the disease. Many investigators are looking for ways to reduce the buildup of amyloid in the brain, with the hope that such a treatment would slow or halt AD.

In the new study, investigators report a way to remove amyloid beta from the brain by introducing another protein that binds to amyloid beta and pulls it from the bloodstream. The amyloid is then removed by the kidneys, liver, and spleen. The investigators, led by Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, compare the treatment to a sink because it essentially drains the toxic protein away. The work was funded in part by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). It is reported in the September 2007 issue of Nature Medicine.

Dr. Zlokovic and his colleagues studied a protein called soluble low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (sLRP). They discovered that sLRP normally binds to and inactivates 70 to 90 percent of the amyloid beta found in the body. However, levels of sLRP were approximately 30 percent lower in blood from people with AD than in healthy people. Much of the remaining sLRP in people with AD was damaged by a process called oxidation. The damaged sLRP was much less effective at removing amyloid beta from the bloodstream than the normal protein. "The binding capability is almost all lost," Dr. Zlokovic says.

The researchers developed a super-potent version of sLRP, called LRP-IV, and injected it into mice to see whether it could mimic the effects of normal sLRP. The treatment bound to amyloid beta and prevented it from entering the brain. It also reduced the toxic amyloid that was already in the brain.

“There is a balance between amyloid beta in the brain and in the rest of the body,” Dr. Zlokovic explains. “If we lower the level of amyloid beta circulating in the blood, the levels in the brain go down, too.” The effect is similar to the way statin drugs remove cholesterol from the bloodstream and help to prevent heart disease, he adds.

Dr. Zlokovic's research should be thought of as a "proof of concept" study in that it doesn't introduce any additional theory to how Alzheimer's Disease works, or how can be treated, but it does confirm that by lowering amyloid beta levels in the blood a drop of amyloid beta in the brain results.

Read below for additional information about the relevance of this study:

The study is the first to show that people with AD have reduced levels of sLRP and that sLRP helps remove amyloid beta from the blood, Dr. Zlokovic says. It is still unclear why sLRP levels are lower than normal in people with the disease, he adds. The researchers tested 40 people with AD for mutations in the sLRP gene and did not find any abnormalities. However, previous studies have shown that AD causes oxidative damage to many proteins. The oxidative damage to sLRP may trigger its breakdown, as well as inactivating it.

The findings suggest that LRP-IV might eventually be useful as a therapy to prevent or stop AD in people. However, the investigators first need to develop a form of the protein that could be tested in humans. They also need to conduct many additional studies to evaluate the drug’s safety and to learn more about how it works.

Taken into context against the backdrop of additional studies it seems reasonable to suggest that successful preventatives, and treatments for AD will be available within ten years.

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