Tuesday Reads: The 27 Club, Brain Development, Pot, and Grapefruit

Jim Morrison reading2

Good Morning!!

It will probably be another slow news day today–in fact we’ll most likely have nothing but slow news days until we get past New Years. So I’ve got some non-political and not-all-that-important news to start this post.

If he had lived, Saturday, December 8 would have been Jim Morrison’s 69th birthday. Hard to believe. Of course the way he was going, he probably would have killed himself with alcohol anyway. But I wonder what he would have thought about the world today, if he had lived?

Another rock ‘n’ roll legend who died at age 27–Jimi Hendrix–would have been 70 on November 27. Would he still be “blowing minds” if he were alive today? Maybe.

Instead these two, along with other musical members of the “27 club” are frozen in time, still young and vibrant while the rest of us have aged. Is there something significant about being 27? Is it a year in which a person gets over the hump, so to speak, and begins to move toward adulthood?

According to a study reported by the BBC in 2009, human “mental powers” are greatest at age 22, and the brain begins to decline at age 27.

Professor Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia found reasoning, spatial visualisation and speed of thought all decline in our late 20s….His seven-year study of 2,000 healthy people aged 18-60 is published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

To test mental agility, the study participants had to solve puzzles, recall words and story details and spot patterns in letters and symbols….In nine out of 12 tests the average age at which the top performance was achieved was 22.

The first age at which there was any marked decline was at 27 in tests of brain speed, reasoning and visual puzzle-solving ability.
Things like memory stayed intact until the age of 37, on average, while abilities based on accumulated knowledge, such as performance on tests of vocabulary or general information, increased until the age of 60.

It may be true that certain mental abilities peak at age 22, but we now know that the frontal lobes continue to develop well into the 30s, and the brain can form new neurons even in old age. I guess it depends on which mental powers are most important to you. Personally I’m glad I didn’t check out at 27.

Would Morrison and Hendrix be surprised that it has taken so long for states to begin decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana? Or would the be surprised that has happened at all?

Yesterday, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order declaring that recreational pot use is legal in the state.

“Voters were loud and clear on Election Day,” Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said in a statement, as he signed an executive order to officially legalize the personal use and limited growing of marijuana for those 21 or older. Amendment 64, as it’s called, is now a part of the state’s constitution.

It is still illegal, however, to buy or sell marijuana “in any quantity” in Colorado or to consume it in public.

Hickenlooper, who opposed the amendment in the run-up to Election Day, announced the start of a 24-member task force that would “begin working immediately” to help the state navigate federal laws and establish how citizens can legally purchase and sell cannabis.

Possession and sale of pot are still federal crimes, however. In Washington, where pot became legal last week, at least one bar is now allowing patrons to smoke pot on the premises.

Frankie’s Sports Bar & Grill, owned by one Frank Schnarr, is thought to be the first of its kind anywhere in the U.S.: a bar that lets patrons toke up freely.

“I’m about to lose my business,” the Olympia, Washington-based business owner told Reuters. “So I’ve got to figure out some way to get people in here.”

Just to make sure he’s not chasing off all his customers, Schnarr has set up the second floor of his bar as a private club called “Friends of Frankies.” Interested patrons are charged a $10-a-year fee to access the lounge, where they can smoke marijuana freely. The lounge also serves alcohol, manned by a staff of volunteers paid by tips.

I’m not sure I’d like it if public places in Massachusetts started allowing pot smoking. I guess that would make me into more of a homebody than I already am. I wouldn’t want to smell pot everywhere anymore than I want to smell cigarette smoke. Mary Crescenzo at HuffPo has similar concerns.

I have lots of questions about new state laws regarding weed. With U.S. nonsmoking laws among the most restrictive in the world, I can’t help but wonder if recreational marijuana smokers in Washington and Colorado will regard smoking marijuana as an exception to our nonsmoking rules. In these two states, will smoking marijuana be tolerated in public while smoking cigarettes in public is, for the most part, clearly restricted? A few days ago in Seattle, as people gathered in the streets to celebrate the legalization of the use of marijuana, police asked those smoking pot not to smoke in public. For now, Washington police officers are limited to issuing verbal warnings to smokers but nothing more. Those police requests didn’t seem to dampen the party, though. I can’t be the only one with questions on these new twists and turns in the law.

I have some other worries. I think it’s important for people to understand that pot isn’t completely harmless. A certain percentage of people will become addicted to it. I have seen people in withdrawal from marijuana–it can be problem for people who have addictive tendencies. Smoking a lot of pot may also push vulnerable young people into psychological disorders such as schizophrenia. And a recent study in New Zealand found that smoking pot before age 18 can hinder brain development.

Among a long-range study cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared. Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either, said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University. The results appear online Aug. 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The key variable in this is the age of onset for marijuana use and the brain’s development, Meier said. Study subjects who didn’t take up pot until they were adults with fully-formed brains did not show similar mental declines. Before age 18, however, the brain is still being organized and remodeled to become more efficient, she said, and may be more vulnerable to damage from drugs.

“Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents,” said Meier, who produced this finding from the long term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. The study has followed a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38 and is led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, psychologists who hold dual appointments at Duke and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

About 5 percent of the study group were considered marijuana-dependent, or were using more than once a week before age 18. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems.

I do support legalization, because I think it’s ridiculous that we are putting people in jail for possession of pot. But society needs to be aware of the consequences if more people begin using the drug regularly.

Could Stephen Colbert replace Jim DeMint in the Senate? A new poll shows he would be the popular favorite.

Why not? We already have one comedian in the Senate.

I really liked this piece by Chris Weigant at HuffPo: If We’re Going to Tax the Rich, Then Let’s Tax the Rich.

Due to the political courageousness of President Obama (there is simply no other way to put it), the folks inside the Beltway are finally having a serious discussion about taxing the rich. Obama is not only strongly fighting for higher tax rates on the higher-income earners, but he was the one who put the subject front and center in the election season — when he could easily have punted it to a non-election year.

But the “tax the rich” policies so far being discussed (at least the ones that leak out to the public) are laughably timid and tame, when you really examine the big picture. So far, what is making Republicans howl is President Obama’s plan to end the Bush tax cuts on the top two marginal income tax rates, which would raise them from 33 percent to 36 percent, and from 35 to 39.6 percent. Seen one way, that’s impressive, since tax rates haven’t gone up in such a fashion since President Clinton’s first year in office. But seen another, it’s not all that radical at all.

Consider the fact that nothing Obama is doing is going to “fix” the problem of Warren Buffett paying a lower tax rate than his secretary — a problem Obama has repeatedly said he’d like to tackle. On “entitlements reform,” only a few lonely voices crying in the wilderness are suggesting ending the most regressive federal tax around, by scrapping the cap on income for Social Security payroll taxes. Also seemingly forgotten in this debate is the proposal for a “millionaires’ tax” or a “transactions tax.” The real measure of whether Democrats and Republicans are both selling smoke and mirrors is whether they permanently fix the Alternative Minimum Tax — again, a subject which has barely been mentioned.

Click on the link to read Weigant’s recommendations.

It’s not just the Catholic Church that has a problem with sexual abuse. The New York Times has an article about a Hasidic religious counselor who has been convicted of abusing a young girl.

Sexual abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has long been hidden. Victims who came forward were intimidated into silence; their families were shunned; cases were dropped for a lack of cooperation.

But on Monday, a State Supreme Court jury in Brooklyn delivered a stunning victory to prosecutors and victims’ advocates, convicting a 54-year-old unlicensed therapist who is a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidic community of Williamsburg of repeatedly sexually abusing a young girl who had been sent to him for help.

“The veil of secrecy has been lifted,” said Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney. “The wall that has existed in parts of these communities has now been broken through. And as far as I’m concerned, it is very clear to me that it is only going to get better for people who are victimized in these various communities.”

The case against the therapist, Nechemya Weberman, was a significant milestone for Mr. Hynes, whose office has been criticized for not acting aggressively enough against sexual abusers in the borough’s large and politically connected ultra-Orthodox community.

These creeps are everywhere.


I’ll end with this. I love grapefruit, so I didn’t appreciate this piece at Slate: Grapefruit is disgusting. I think it was intended to be tongue in cheek, but I didn’t laugh once. Katy Waldman objects to her least favorite fruit being given as a Christmas gift.

It needs to stop. This killjoy has already invaded our breakfast routines. Its baleful pink, white, or red flesh shines from thousands of tables. Its pulp gets stuck in our teeth. Its juice stains our clothes. And now, we are asked to inflict the scourge on our relatives, shipping it off in packages of 12 or more in order to demonstrate our love?

No. Grapefruit is unwieldy, disgusting, and in some cases dangerous to eat. It is indisputably the worst fruit anyone has ever put on a plate.
A pause, now, for its partisans to bellow, “But it’s a superfood!” Grapefruit enjoys an exalted reputation, thanks in part to countless magazine stories and nutrition listicles singing its praises. It figures in fad diets, including its eponymous diet, dreamed up by Hollywood sadists. Even its scientific name, Citrus x paradisi—so called because, in 1750, naturalist Griffith Hughes dubbed grapefruit the “forbidden fruit” of the Barbados—implies that it belongs somewhere in the Garden of Eden. It does not. It belongs in the trashcan.

Read her reasons at the link. Dan Amira agrees with me, and some DC bartenders also objected to the “grapefruit bashing.”

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?

35 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: The 27 Club, Brain Development, Pot, and Grapefruit”

  1. Eric Pleim says:

    ” Schnarr has set up the second floor of his bar as a private club called “Friends of Frankies.” Interested patrons are charged a $10-a-year fee to access the lounge, where they can smoke marijuana freely. The lounge also serves alcohol, manned by a staff of volunteers paid by tips.

    I’m not sure I’d like it if public places in Massachusetts started allowing pot smoking.”

    Don’t worry, nobody is proposing allowing pot smoking in public establishments. The same laws that prohibit cig smoking would apply even if pot use were found to be totally legal. The only reason he can even think of allowing pot in his bar is that he converted it to a private club, and he could also allow cigarette smoking there too if he wants. This confused me when I used to go to this little dive bar in CT where people smoked, Connecticut being one of the more rabid Nanny states in the country. Then I found out it is a private club, so they get away with it.

    I thought the grapefruit thing was funny. My theory is that people consider it a superfood due to the principle that everything that tastes good is bad for you, ergo, something that is hard to eat (for most people) must be good for you. Seems to work in most cases.

    I too wonder “What would Jimi do”. I think he’d be a kind of elder statesman mainly of the blues. More innovative than the average practitioner, but not different in kind. So sad what we have missed all these years. Nice tribute.

    • bostonboomer says:

      A grapefruit isn’t hard to eat any more than an orange is, and I love the taste. I tend to prefer sour and tart flavors to sweet. My favorite way to eat a grapefruit is to peel it and then slice it sideways.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Nothing like pulling a grapefruit off a tree & then eating it. Sadly my gigantic pink grapefruit tree, that was over 50 years old, was chopped down by the state. Canker hit the groves & my yard was within the prescribed infection area. That & 3 others were removed, none of which were infected. I still mourn their loss. I prefer my grapefruit with salt sprinkled on it. YUM!

      • bostonboomer says:

        What a shame. My grandmother used to eat grapefruit with salt on it. Cantaloupe too.

      • dakinikat says:

        My mother used to be continually on grapefruit diets when she was in her 40s. Our refrigerator was stacked with them. I’ve never been very fond of them at all but I’m not a fruit person per se except for some odd things like tomato, avocado, and I really love limes.

      • Eric Pleim says:

        I didn’t mean it is hard to eat in that the motor skills required are so challenging. Rather that most people don’t like foods that are too tart and sour, and that makes them hard to eat for them. If you can take sweetness better than tartness, an orange is indeed easier to eat. And I said for most people, just to avoid having to explain myself like this. I guess it didn’t work.

      • bostonboomer says:

        You didn’t have to explain yourself, Eric. I understood what you wrote. I responded with my own personal opinion. I won’t do it again if it bothers you. No big deal.

    • Beata says:

      I like grapefruit but it can interact dangerously with a wide range of prescription medications. No joke. One of my meds has a strong warning against consuming grapefruit while taking it and I know at least two meds my mother takes have the same warning. So giving grapefruit as a present is probably not a very good idea. I suggest oranges instead.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I agree, although I’ve never heard of giving grapefruit as a present. But if anyone gave me oranges as a present, I’d have to give them away or throw them out. Even the smell of oranges gives me a migraine. They have a histamine substance in them that triggers blood vessels to open and close in sensitive people.

        When I was a kid we used to get oranges in our Christmas stockings, because my parents both grew up in North Dakota during the depression. Oranges were rare in those days.

        • dakinikat says:

          My grandparents moved to California and always sent us grapefruit and citrus fruit for holidays. We used to get pecans and dates from them too. Think it is one of those things folks do when they retire and move to tropical zones.

      • My Nana used to love grapefruit so much, she would eat the things non-stop. In fact she was fired from one of her first jobs…at a citrus packing plant in Tampa. She was supposed to slice the peeled grapefruits to pack the slices into jars…she was eating too much of the fruit and got sacked! LOL

    • NW Luna says:

      Secondhand smoke is nearly as unhealthy as firsthand smoke. Any kind of smoke is bad for the lungs. Frankly I wish we had more so-called “nanny” laws so those who want to lower their own health can do that in private without inflicting it on passers-by.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    This man is crazy and a disgrace as a SC justice. Appointed for life, he has made a mockery of the Constitution in denying equal rights based on his religious beliefs rather than an interpretation of the foundation of this nation.


    As long as he remains on the court, along with a few others who follow his belief system, there is little hope of progressing beyond the intolerance this man preaches.

  3. janicen says:

    Here in the Richmond, VA area, home of Altria, formerly Philip Morris, club and sports bar owners have become quite proficient at designing separate smoking/non-smoking rooms to accommodate cigarette smokers. By law, clubs are allowed to have smoking areas but the requirements for separate ventilation and access to rest rooms and common areas are very stringent and expensive. Most places just banned smoking altogether but a couple sports bars I know of set up entirely separated areas for smoking. I would never go to a place where I can smell smoke and I have to say that the clubs’ efforts have been successful.

    While I do agree that there will be some negative fallout from legalization of pot, I think the time is now to completely decriminalize possession and use. Prisons are bursting at the seams with non-violent offenders who have been caught up in our war on drugs. I’d prefer that the government spend my money prosecuting Wall Street con artists and corrupt public officials over non-violent pot smokers.

    • dakinikat says:

      I remember the first Mardi Gras Season that I spent down here in New Orleans. People would smoke pot in some of the more offbeat restaurants and in the streets right in front of the cops. I knew I wasn’t in Kansas any more when I saw that happen. I do have to say that I’ve now had 5 friends down here that have serious marijuana problems. One friend’s son hit his 20s and it was part of his triggering experience into really awful bipolar episodes. Another one gets extremely paranoid when he drinks and smokes pot a lot and we wound up having to put him a hospital on the North Shore for rehab. I’ve also had 3 other friends that just spend their lives in a pot and alcohol haze and their ability to function isn’t good at all. I’ve seen a lot of that since self medicating was big after Katrina. I’ve seen those friends lose their businesses and my friendship among other things. I really don’t want to be subjected to any more bad habits in public places frankly. I’m tired of drunk people and smoking really kicks my allergies into high gears. I just see it as one more way that people with real issues that need real help will be out wandering public areas making themselves nuances. I don’t care they do it. I don’t think that it should be illegal. I’m just not willing to be a party or an audience to self destruction. It’s like religion to me. Keep it the freak home or located in a few places where most of us can avoid. I support the idea of blue zones where people can get their freak on … public and safety officials can baby sit them … and the rest of us don’t have to be bothered with them until they want real help.

      • janicen says:

        You raise some excellent points and I agree that it’s an activity that should occur in the privacy of one’s home but to your point about people wasting their lives being stone all the time I would say that pot being illegal hasn’t helped your stoner acquaintances at all. They are still getting it and apparently have access to enough of it to ruin their lives. I think abuse and legalization are an apples and oranges comparison. Especially when you consider the apparent availability of this illegal substance, it would seem that those personality types are already getting plenty of it and that those who would be dissuaded because pot is illegal are probably not the personality type to abuse it. I have two former friends who are stoned all the time. They work and pay taxes and used to be fun to hang out with but now I just can’t stand to be around them anymore so I’m not. When it comes to addictiveness and life-ruining drugs in my experience nothing holds a candle to oxycontin. Period. And this devastating drug is never mentioned in the drug education programs in schools despite the fact that so many teens are abusing it. It was rampant in the Seattle area and my daughter raised the point that it wasn’t included in the list of drugs from which the students were choose their research topic. The teacher agreed to let her do her paper on oxycontin abuse, but it wasn’t discussed in class as part of the curriculum. I guess my point is that we as a society are handling drug abuse about as well as we are handling healthcare, we are just winging it and hoping things will work out.

        • dakinikat says:

          Oh, I agree that there are far worse drugs to contend with than pot. I just think it’s not as harmless as a lot of people want to make it out to be and that some people just can’t seem to tolerate any kind of substance for some reasons. I just wish we had better substance abuse programs for people when they finally figure out they need help. My point is limiting the obnoxious behavior so the rest of us don’t have to deal with it which is the point of a lot of public laws. We’ve finally pulled down some of the drunk driving behavior but other than that, there’s still a lot of problems with alcohol abuse that we don’t seem to be able to control. Again, I don’t think making the substances illegal is the solution. I prefer the control and regulation methods. It’s just that we need to focus on getting people with issues into some kind of real help rather than have them create havoc in others’ lives. Prescription drugs seem to be a big part of that problem too.

      • janicen says:

        Yes, I think we’re on the same page on this subject.

      • janey says:

        Good points but people who drink alcohol force themselves on us all the time. Restaurants, bars and drunken drivers killing people. A recent case in the news and they say the drunken driver will get two years. Just possessing pot used to get you 40 years. Not equal.

        • dakinikat says:

          I think the prohibition years probably have caused us to go too tolerant on alcohol abuse. Well, at plus the big business aspects. I’m fine with every one staying home and being drunk, stoned, and boorish and out of jail … the problem is when they bother others … no matter what the drug of choice. The fines shouldn’t be on the usage, just the behaviors that result from the drugs.

  4. janicen says:

    About the 27 Club: I had a good friend who was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease at age 27. She died from the various cancers that sprang up years later but initially her treatment was successful. She was in remission for several years. At the time of her diagnosis, she said that doctors told her that our bodies go through hormonal changes from about age 26 through 28 that are almost as significant as those during puberty. The speculation was that could have contributed to her illness. I’m sure the medical professionals here know more than I do on the topic, but I found it interesting and I remember being relieved about turning 30 thinking that I had skidded through the time of turmoil relatively unscathed.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s interesting. There is also a period of rapid brain changes around that time. Of course hormones are brain chemicals too. Psychologists study hormones/brain chemicals too–probably more than doctors do.

  5. dakinikat says:

    CSMonitor.com ‏@csmonitor

    Why George Zimmerman wants his GPS tracker removed http://bit.ly/ZaXHv1

    This guy is sure worried about his safety for being a gun-wielding murderer.

  6. RalphB says:

    The negotiations don’t seem to be going well for Republicans.

    The Hill: White House drops support for major Medicaid cut

    The Obama administration backed away Monday from roughly $100 billion in Medicaid savings it had proposed during deficit-reduction talks earlier this year.

    The move comes as liberals have pressed the White House to take Medicaid off the table in negotiations surrounding the “fiscal cliff” — and it will make any agreement on entitlement spending about $100 billion harder to reach.

    The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said the Obama administration no longer supports a plan to combine the various calculations used to determine the federal government’s share of Medicaid spending.

  7. I’ve always been of two minds about pot. On one hand, I don’t care what people do in private. On the other, the smell revolts me, and I can tolerate most bad smells pretty easily.

    Stoners are every bit as contemptible as drunks, yet our society now seems rather more accepting of the marijuana addict than of the alcoholic. For example, the stoner kid in “Cabin in the Woods” is viewed as an amusing, agreeable fellow. The other kids like him; the audience likes him. Society welcomes his presence. Yet any comic who tried to resurrect Dean Martin’s persona or Foster Brooks’ act would receive an endless series of very predictable harangues.

    I have no trouble believing that IQ scores, on average, suffer from marijuana abuse. Yet the situation is complicated by the fact that some famous pot smokers — Carl Sagan, Bill Maher — are brilliant. There are also tobacco addicts who live into their 90s. The exception should not blind us to the rule.

    As for grapefruit — never cared for it. Maybe with a little sugar. The proper spoons do help.

    • dakinikat says:

      I used pot a lot during my six months of chemotherapy for cancer. I was severely allergic to the anti nausea meds at the time and I was dropping weight quickly and my overwhelmingly response with pot is to eat, nap and drink water which I really needed to do at the time. I smell it and it takes me directly back to puking from chemotherapy. I have no desire to smell it at all.

  8. Beata says:

    Indiana passed a “right-to-work” law earlier this year. Now Michigan has done the same thing. Merry Christmas, you working people!


  9. ANonOMouse says:

    I’m with you BB. I love grapefruit, particularly pink & ruby red.

    The video below is long but I thought those of you who haven’t seen this might be interested. Watching this video meant so much to me. It gave me hope, it made me smile and cry and remember all the friends past and present who dreamed and longed for this moment.
    I hope this video touches you in the way it touched me. Peace Sky Dancers.