“The Wire” and “ER” Writer David Mills Dies at 48

David Mills, an Emmy Award-winning television writer who contributed to dramas “The Wire” and “ER,” has died at age 48 after apparently suffering a brain aneurysm, HBO said on Wednesday.

Mills fell ill on Tuesday night in New Orleans on the set of upcoming HBO drama “Treme,” people involved in the show said in a statement provided by HBO.

He lost consciousness and died at a hospital, and doctors said it appeared he had a brain aneurysm, according to the statement.

“HBO is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague David Mills,” HBO said in a statement.

“He was a gracious and humble man, and will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved him, as well as those who were aware of his immense talent,” the network said.

Mills wrote for the Washington Post in the early 1990s, reporting on race and popular culture for the Style Section.

He later wrote episodes for TV police dramas “NYPD Blue” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” and hospital series “ER,” all during the 1990s.

Mills wrote episodes of the critically acclaimed series “The Wire” in 2006 and 2007, a show created by writer and producer David Simon that took a gritty look at Baltimore’s drug trade, police force, newspaper business and bureaucracy.

“Treme,” a show about New Orleans in the wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, was Mills’ latest project. The program, which he produced along with Simon, will debut on April 11.

Mills won a pair of prime-time Emmy Awards in 2000 for his work on TV miniseries “The Corner,” another show from Simon, a former journalist who worked with Mills on the student newspaper at the University of Maryland in the 1980s.

Mills, who was born in Washington, D.C. but lived in Los Angeles in recent years, is survived by siblings Blanche Carroll, Gloria Johnson and Franklin Mills.

Reuters

This is why Brian Williams rules!

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Fatty Foods May Cause Cocaine-Like Addiction

Scientists have finally confirmed what the rest of us have suspected for years: Bacon, cheesecake, and other delicious yet fattening foods may be addictive.

A new study in rats suggests that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. When rats consume these foods in great enough quantities, it leads to compulsive eating habits that resemble drug addiction, the study found.

Doing drugs such as cocaine and eating too much junk food both gradually overload the so-called pleasure centers in the brain, according to Paul J. Kenny, Ph.D., an associate professor of molecular therapeutics at the Scripps Research Institute, in Jupiter, Florida. Eventually the pleasure centers “crash,” and achieving the same pleasure–or even just feeling normal–requires increasing amounts of the drug or food, says Kenny, the lead author of the study.

“People know intuitively that there’s more to [overeating] than just willpower,” he says. “There’s a system in the brain that’s been turned on or over-activated, and that’s driving [overeating] at some subconscious level.”

In the study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Kenny and his co-author studied three groups of lab rats for 40 days. One of the groups was fed regular rat food. A second was fed bacon, sausage, cheesecake, frosting, and other fattening, high-calorie foods–but only for one hour each day. The third group was allowed to pig out on the unhealthy foods for up to 23 hours a day.

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Not surprisingly, the rats that gorged themselves on the human food quickly became obese. But their brains also changed. By monitoring implanted brain electrodes, the researchers found that the rats in the third group gradually developed a tolerance to the pleasure the food gave them and had to eat more to experience a high.

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They began to eat compulsively, to the point where they continued to do so in the face of pain. When the researchers applied an electric shock to the rats’ feet in the presence of the food, the rats in the first two groups were frightened away from eating. But the obese rats were not. “Their attention was solely focused on consuming food,” says Kenny.

In previous studies, rats have exhibited similar brain changes when given unlimited access to cocaine or heroin. And rats have similarly ignored punishment to continue consuming cocaine, the researchers note.

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The fact that junk food could provoke this response isn’t entirely surprising, says Dr.Gene-Jack Wang, M.D., the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, New York.

“We make our food very similar to cocaine now,” he says.

Coca leaves have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains (by injecting or smoking it, for instance). This made the drug more addictive.

According to Wang, food has evolved in a similar way. “We purify our food,” he says. “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”

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The ingredients in purified modern food cause people to “eat unconsciously and unnecessarily,” and will also prompt an animal to “eat like a drug abuser [uses drugs],” says Wang.

The neurotransmitter dopamine appears to be responsible for the behavior of the overeating rats, according to the study. Dopamine is involved in the brain’s pleasure (or reward) centers, and it also plays a role in reinforcing behavior. “It tells the brain something has happened and you should learn from what just happened,” says Kenny.

Overeating caused the levels of a certain dopamine receptor in the brains of the obese rats to drop, the study found. In humans, low levels of the same receptors have been associated with drug addiction and obesity, and may be genetic, Kenny says.

Health.com: The real reasons we eat too much

However, that doesn’t mean that everyone born with lower dopamine receptor levels is destined to become an addict or to overeat. As Wang points out, environmental factors, and not just genes, are involved in both behaviors.

Wang also cautions that applying the results of animal studies to humans can be tricky. For instance, he says, in studies of weight-loss drugs, rats have lost as much as 30 percent of their weight, but humans on the same drug have lost less than 5 percent of their weight. “You can’t mimic completely human behavior, but [animal studies] can give you a clue about what can happen in humans,” Wang says.

Although he acknowledges that his research may not directly translate to humans, Kenny says the findings shed light on the brain mechanisms that drive overeating and could even lead to new treatments for obesity.

“If we could develop therapeutics for drug addiction, those same drugs may be good for obesity as well,” he says.

cnn.com, health.com

Oscars Moved Back into Late February for 2011

The Academy Awards are moving back to February.

Awards organizers said Thursday next year’s Oscar ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 27. That’s about a week earlier than this season’s awards show, which was held March 7 to avoid conflicting with the Winter Olympics.

Though the show used to be held in late March, the Oscars have been staged in late February in most recent years to shorten the long Hollywood awards season.

Nominations for the 83rd annual Oscars will be announced Jan. 25.

Whoever gets an honorary Oscar this year will get it on Saturday, November 13.

The decision about giving one or more honorary Oscars will be made in August.

This will be the second time honorary Oscars will be awarded at an event separate from the Academy Awards ceremony.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Beer Label Art Matches Quirky Character of Microbrews

True confession: The first bottle of Black Dog Ale I ever bought wasn’t for the taste or the price or even the reputation. What separated that six-pack from hundreds of others in the 40-foot-long beer case was the black Labrador retriever on the box. There he was — the noble profile, those silky ears, his golden eyes gazing into the distance. And to clinch the deal, behind him rolled a tree-filled alpine meadow, backed by snowy mountain peaks.

I didn’t buy the beer, I bought the label. And it’s not just any label. With the detailed drawing of the dog, the idealized depiction of the place, all rendered in rich colors, with an unmistakably retro vibe, it’s the modern-day version of that other icon of advertising— orange crate art.

The aesthetic of the citrus labels of the early 1900s, with their lush and idealized images of trees and fields and fruit and, of course, beautiful women, are a perfect match for locally brewed beers.

Craft beers, loosely defined as local brews produced by traditional methods, reflect not just specifics of their regions but offer a peek into the psyches of their creators as well. Like any label, those on craft beers bear a brand name and product information and meet the legal requirements of state and federal law.

But the estimated 1,500 craft brewers in the U.S., who sold slightly more than 4 million barrels of beer in the first half of 2009, are an intensely independent lot. Having broken from the conformity of so-called macro-brews, like Coors or Miller or Budweiser, microbrewers naturally take the next step and produce labels as quaint and curious and quirky as the liquid in the bottles.

“The kinds of people who start microbreweries are not your typical entrepreneurs,” says Jonathan Baker, self-described “marketing guy” of the fledgling Monday Night Brewing Co. in Atlanta. “They’re a little wilder, a little weirder, and they have a more artistic slant in general.”

Where the big brewers have the big money to hire branding experts, to research and run focus groups, the little guys rely more on self-expression to make their marketing statements.

“With microbrews, it’s often just a couple of guys making decisions based on what they like,” Baker says. “They marry the words and the art. But when you’re designing a label, you’ve still got to say something, you’ve got to have a message. It can’t just be art for art’s sake.”

At Kona Brewing Co., the message is all about Hawaii. Take Longboard Island Lager, for instance, where surfers backed by Hawaii’s volcanic mountains ride blue, blue waves toward a broad and sandy beach. The logo itself echoes a tribal tattoo, adding to the local vibe.

“Orange crates of the past were trying to deliver a sense of place,” says Mattson Davis, Kona Brewing’s president and chief executive. “Wouldn’t you like to be in this beautiful field? Wouldn’t you like to be eating this succulent fruit?”

Kona’s label is also all about the narrative, Davis says.

“Here we say, ‘Let’s go talk story,’ ” he says. “That’s the social engagement — let’s go relax. Let’s go have a beer.”

Some of the stories beer labels tell turn out to be a bit too provocative for the authorities who oversee the industry.

Nude Beach Summer Wheat Beer, produced by Stevens Point Brewery Co. in Wisconsin, was banned for the mere suggestion that the sunbathers on the bright and playful label were, well, naked behind those strategically placed surfboards and volleyballs.

State liquor authorities in Maine and New York banned the import of Santa’s Butt Winter Porter, a seasonal beer that made a visual pun out of a portly Santa seated on a wooden beer keg — known in the industry as a “butt.”

And here in California, Weed Beer, brewed in the tiny town of Weed, came under fire for its bottle cap, which jokingly urged shoppers to “Try Legal Weed.”

Are beer brewers more adventurous in marketing their wares than their distant kin, the vintners? Yes, says Keith Stevenson, advertising manager for the Mendocino Brewing Co. The company’s beers, like its Red Tail Ale, with a fierce hawk clutching a sheaf of barley in its talons, feature beautifully drawn raptors on the labels.

“Wine — for some reason there’s a certain snobbery attached to wine,” Stevenson says. “A wine ad will have strings and piano and soft lighting. Beer labels reflect the lingua franca of the public. The beer ad is earthier; it will be in-your-face.”

In the end, though, what’s on the outside of the bottle takes a back seat to what’s inside, says Davis, of Kona Brewing.

“It may be the label that makes the beer really jump off the shelf,” Davis says. “But if you don’t deliver me a good liquid? I won’t ever buy you again.”

LA Times

What the NCAA Tournament Taught Me

We’re heading into the second week of the tournament and already millions of people are bumped out of their brackets. I, apparently still am in the game.

If you know me, I enjoy the camaraderie more than the actual sport itself. You feel like you’re a part of something – albeit a view from armchairs, but you get my point.

For reasons totally unknown to me I am currently in first place in the pool I’m participating in. And in third place is my black cat Fleabait.

How do I do it you ask? No idea. Flea has done well for himself the past three years or so we’ve entered him. One of my co-workers actually likes telling people ‘Kellene’s cat is beating ¾ of us.’

In reality, Flea is a small twitball more concerned about screaming at random things than picking winners. He is my alarm in the morning and likes to scream at me while I’m sleeping. How sweet.

Every year I pay attention to teams around January to prepare for my ulcer-inducing bracket decisions. And Flea? He licks himself inappropriately.

Back to my point – this year the tournament has taught me so much.

1. Luck plays a huge part. Who knew that Northern Iowa was going to win against Kansas? No you didn’t! Stop it. Luck is always a huge factor and this year it’s on full display, especially since the powerhouses UCONN, Memphis and UCLA are not even in the tournament this year.

2. Hard work pays off. These teams didn’t get to the tournament by chance. They earned a spot in the Big Dance. If you want to play you gotta work for it. Keep your eye on the prize.

3. Expect surprises. I always say ‘it all comes down to the day.’ And it does. If a player’s game is off, it affects the whole team that day. Rankings are great to have beforehand, but it depends on the players that day during that game.

4. Be realistic. I’ve decided I’ll name next years’ bracket ‘The $5 I’ll Never See Again.’ I’m enjoying my first place moment in the sun right now because it won’t last forever. And I totally expect to lose. I’m no expert, but my cat on the other hand, is beating sportscasters. He’s a master.

5. Go with your gut. No joke, I was going to create an upset bracket this year. But I didn’t. And now look. That idea kept irking me for a long time too, but I ignored it. Goes to show you need to go with your gut. Always.

And lastly – have fun. Yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s true. How many times a year do you see so-called experts eat their own words and co-workers scream at their televisions like they were going to kill it? Besides the World Series and Super Bowl? It’s only money right?

MGM Studio Says Has Received Several Rescue Offers

Struggling Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer says it has received several offers to acquire it or keep it operating as a standalone company and that it will take several weeks to evaluate them.

The offers were due Friday, but the company extended the process until Monday.

Six companies made nonbinding proposals to MGM in January, but fewer than that remain in the running.

It’s not clear which companies submitted offers, but likely bidders included Time Warner, Lions Gate, Access Industries, News Corp. and Qualia Capital.

MGM also says it is seeking the approval of lenders to put off debt and interest payments due this month and next as it works on a recovery plan.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved