Anti vaccine activists are angry about a new study…and they didn’t even bother to read it

Left Brain Right Brain

This is a big piece of what the “vaccines-cause-autism” idea is built on. Really bad analyses. Another study shows up showing that vaccines don’t cause autism. People immediately jump to give talking points to their community: “ignore this study! In fact, it’s just another conspiracy to defraud you!!!!!”*

But they know from history, their community doesn’t check. They don’t test whether the talking points hold up. Either that, or they really are this bad at simple math.

One reason I slowed down a lot on writing debunks of the “vaccines cause autism” community is that it’s very repetitive. It only takes a few minutes to see where they make their mistakes. I admit, I have the training and the time to do that checking, but it leaves me wondering. As in, it’s hard to not ask: “are they really this bad at science? Are they so biased they don’t know…

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Yes, there are a lot more adult autistics than commonly thought. The real question is what we do with this information.

Left Brain Right Brain

What if I told you that there are a lot more autistics born in the 1980’s than 1 in 10,000. And this isn’t me saying “it’s almost certainly true”. This is fact. I’d hope that one of your first reactions would be, “what should we do with this information to make life better for autistic people?”

Hang around online autism discussions, especially those involving causation, and you will undoubtedly read someone claiming “back in the 1980’s, the autism rate was 1 in 10,000.” People base this on studies done back in the 1980’s and they assume or assert, “nothing has changed since then”. Which is odd, since a whole lot has changes in autism understanding since the 1980’s.

What if I told you that there are a lot more autistics born in the 1980’s than 1 in 10,000. And this isn’t me saying “it’s almost certainly true”. This is fact…

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[Metal/Pop] Within Temptation – Resist (70%)

After five years of fairly blackout period from the band, following a lot of introspection and need to solve private issues, Within Temptation finally released their new album “Resist” on February 1st. A lot of mystery was on, a lot of speculation too as Sharon launched about a year ago a solo pop album “My Indigo”. How would the album sound? Will they go back to their roots? Will they continue in the direction taken with their previous album “Hydra”? Well, the release of “The Reckoning” kind of gave a flavor and honestly failed to impress me. However, I wanted to give my respect to the band and bought the album (standard edition, the $5 extra for the instrumental tracks and radio edit are in my opinion overpriced). Well, I am gonna tell you, this has been the most divisive album I have to listen because it is not an easy thing to downgrade a band you have been cherished all these years. Imagine you have admiration for what you think is certainly one of the best band you have ever heard, only to realize now that band have been setting the quality bar so low that it is basically feels like any soup served on the FM station (I only listen to the FM radio when I take my wife car, because I forget most of the time my iPod classic in my car. Seldomly taking my wife car).
Thats how I feel and somehow translated in some interviews by the band. You feel the band is exhausted, is running out of juice. Yet, the band is trying to reformulate itself as a new image, a kind of futuristic sci-fi that I honestly don’t dislike, if the music was better. WT has been betting high on taking full sail on the pop-electronica scene, leaving the original fans pretty dry and bitter. I would be honest, I can gut half of the album and not even regret it. But in the same time, there are some tracks that although being really watered down when it comes to metal (maybe the drums are the only thing left) that have still catchy songs. And Sharon shows us again how talented she is. I can guarantee to you she will eat any of the pop singers addicted to auto-tunes with a swift snap. In the realms of meow-meow pop singers, Sharon is the queen. This is an album holding 10 songs, totaling about 48 minutes.
Lets first get rid of the annoying tracks. They failed to impress me and sounded really what I would listen to a FM radio. Basically an auditory torture. “The Reckoning”, “Holy Ground”, “In Vain”, “Firelight” and “Mercy Mirror”, you are out. About more than half of the album made of fillers.
Now lets focus on the interesting tracks. Let’s start with “Endless War”. At first, it sounds like the opening sequence of an Arabic “mussalssal” which is for me a torture for my ears, but it gets better with Sharon kicking in. And it’s good to hear Sharon singing, with some echoes of the past with some musical arrangements reminding of their previous albums mixed with electronic tunes. “Raise Your Banner”, the third track, is okay and maybe of the few that sounds like Symphonic Metal to my ears. “Supernova”, the fourth track is certainly my favorite, the one that grew up on me over listening. Sharon shows us that she can kick, even with the use of electronica and make some catchy tunes.  Listen to it, and tell me you are not captivated by the catchy tunes:

“Mad World” is the next favorite, with a nice mix of both metallic and electronic giving this industrial vibe. Another one in which Sharon is excelling into giving us catchy tunes. “Mercy Mirror” is a fine one, with some metal elements, sounding more familiar to what we expect from the band. “Trophy Hunter” is the third favorite one of the album, by its industrial tunes and the catchy tunes.
Conclusion? Well I will be honest. Sharon has been talking about how the band was exhausted, tired, bored. The mean half of me would say “time to pull the plug and let go” and let members of the band grow and expand their own musical garden. The nice half of me would say “well the band is rebranding themselves with a new look, new logo more palatable to millennials”. By entering the realms of rock/electronic pop, they surely come with a added bonus and advantage because they were at some point a AAA band in the scene and would eat any meow-meow bands out there as my son eats his cereals for breakfast.
Yet, I feel bad and disappointed to have been served such a half-baked cookie after 5 years. Yes, there are some chunks in it that are yummy but the rest of the cookie tasted bland and lacked originality. Not even mentioning the anemic US tour that is basically ignoring the whole southern half of the US (the closest I can get is Denver, which is a whooping 7 hours drive), which adds an extra layer of salt on the wound. The disappointment left by the album makes me really reconsider investing into a trip to Denver. At least, they could have added Dallas to the tour (14 gigs only in the whole North America, including Canada). I guess this the time what I will let their boat sail, me on the docking pier, while swiping my tissue.

[Sciences/BBB] X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy and blood-brain barrier: latest insights from preclinical and clinical studies

Two studies came out of interests in the last few weeks about the dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier in X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD): an in vitro study from Azarin and colleagues (I know Dr. Azarin as we collaborated on several publications together) using patient derived stem cells to model the blood-brain barrier in a dish (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29615068) and a brief communication from clinical data showing an improved blood-brain barrier function (by MRI) in ALD patients treated with stem cells (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30635285).

Before I go into details, I think it is important to discuss about ALD. ALD is a X-linked genetic disease (it affects mostly boys, as they carry only one copy of the X chromosome) affecting one in 18’000 patients and with a grim prognosis. It usually onset between 4-10 years old children, resulting in their rapid neurological deterioration and eventual death within 2-5 years. As of today, there is no treatment.

ALD pathophysiology is mainly occurring as a demyelinating disease. Myelin is a complex fatty acid acting as an insulant around nerves axons, by ensheathing such axons very similarly as a plastic insulant around copper wires in electrical wires.  In ALD patients, there is an abnormal processing of very long chains fatty acid (VLFCA), resulting in its buildup in the serum and in the brain white matter, resulting in abnormal immune response in the brain and neuroinflammation. About 50% of ALD patients will display a childhood cerebral ALD (ccALD), as displaying the clinical features mentioned. Because it is primarily a disease affecting neurons, a lot of research have been focusing on neurons and ignored non-neuronal cells.

These two studies add to the list of neurological diseases associated with ALD. First, the study by Azarin and colleagues (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) show that brain endothelial cells (BMECs) differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from ALD patients have a deficit phenotype compared to controls, have poorer barrier tightness and maturation. Moreover, they show that such BMECs have lipid inclusions (a cellular feature of lysosomal storage disorders) and express genes involved in inflammation at higher levels than controls. Interestingly, they also identified a polymer (PEO-PPO) can alleviate the dysfunction and partially restore the barrier function. It was interesting to see this study finally out, as I have seen the poster of it at the recent Gordon Research Conference.

Second, the study by Lund and colleagues (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities too) noted an improvement of the BBB (using MRI imaging and gadolinium as contrasting agent) in patients that received an hematopoietic stem cell transplant (bone-marrow transplant) as seen by a reduction in Gd leak by day 30 and improvement of patients outcomes. At this point, there is no clear evidence of how it works (the author speculate that some monocytes from the donor may migrate in the brain and attenuate the neuroinflammation) and if there are an overall improvement of the patient function.

Still, these two articles are interesting as it bring an insight of the contribution of the BBB in the ALD pathophysiology and further demonstrate the importance of the BBB as a contributing factor in several neurological diseases.

[Music/Doom Metal] Swallow The Sun – When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light (95%)

Three years after the release of “Songs from The North I, II and III”, Swallow The Sun released their latest album “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” last January. It has been for a week  spinning on my iTunes while I was working on my grants writing and accompanied me through the pain and sufferance of this Sisyphean punishment shared by any academic researcher.
The band gave us a nice teaser into the album by sharing an off-track composition “Lumina Aurea”, a majestic audiovisual composition, simple but yet deeply intimate. I see this album as Juha marking the last stage of grievance since the passing of Aleah almost three years ago: the stage of acceptance and celebration of love and life. While his contribution in Hallatar super-band album “No Star Upon The Bridge” was intimately fueled with the mourning, the anger and the loss of someone dearest to you, this album felt a majestic escapade of solace, of celebration of life and love via some enjoyable shoegaze-like guitar ballads. The album is a 8-track totaling 53 minutes.
We are greeted by “When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light” which is opening the album with a bang, full of heaviness and guitar ballad, making probably the heaviest song of the album. It sets the tone by celebrating life and love, reiterating that love is stronger than death. The second track, “The Crimson Crown”, introduction appears to me as a continuation of “Lumina Aurea” and taking it where we ended it few weeks ago. It is a just a remarkable guitar ballad, light-hearted and very enjoyable lyrics. The third track of the album is “Firelights”. I personally found it as one of my least favorite ones of the album. You can hear it below.

“Upon The Water”, the fourth track is quickly vanishing “Firelights” out of my mind with a doom track as only Swallow The Sun can write and compose. Majestic track from the album. “Upon the water, song of the birds still echo your silence. The lowtide is gone, forever, forever…“, how can anyone not shed a tear and being rumbled by these lyrics.

“Stone Wings” is another beautiful song to listen, by the combined beauty of the lyrics and the musical arrangement. “And when you speak, words of silence, worlds will crumble in and skies will open“. “Clouds on Your Side”, the sixth track, is a natural flowing song nicely transitioning from the previous track, coming naturally out of the heart “Don’t you ever, don’t you ever close your heart to me?“. I wonder who is the narrator reciting a French poem at the end of the track ending with these words “A travers ton ocean de douleur, le Soleil percera et tu verra un autre jour“. “Here on The Black Earth” is the ninth track, and another beautiful song, typical of Swallow the Sun with a touch of shoegaze. Finally, we conclude the album with “Never Left”, the eight track of the album, that is for me the most sincere, and honest one of the album, because it is about accepting our fate, our loss and hoping that tomorrow we will be reunited again. “It’s too late, to dream again, of tomorrow, without the dark………
What I can say? Well that Swallow the Sun has been perfecting their sound making them unique in the doom metal scene, by their melancholic and richness in the composition. “When A Shadow…..” is a strong album talking about loss, grievance, sufferance but yet about the celebration of love and life. This is the pick of this month, setting the path of being my 2019 album.
“Death is stronger than life. Love is stronger than death”

[Music/Metal] 2018 as seen by my album picks

2018 was, in retrospective, a year in which quality trumped over quantity. Not many albums (and EPs) got picked this year, but a good lot of digging of new horizons, some surprises, some disappointments and some “fairly good” stuff.  I hate trying to set my Top 10 of the year, for many reasons. But here are my album picks for this year, ranked alphabetically.

 

Clouds – Dor

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I love listening to doom metal, because it is a genre that allows me to undergo an introspective meditation, allow some of my melancholy to resurface and think about those that I loved and are no more existent. This album spoke straight into my limbic system and heavily touch my feelings. It is something that rarely musical pieces are capable to achieve. Dor is an honest work from the author that is intimate and sincere.

Ex-Libris – Ann (Chapter 1 EP)

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Dianne strikes back with her prog metal band Ex-Libris and damn it is just pure bliss to listen to her in something more cocky, more proggy, more versatile, in other words more “Ex-Libris”. Sure the EP is only three songs and kind of let you thirsty for more but surely looking forward to listen to the rest. If you like Dianne’s voice and ready to embrace some nicely crafted prog metal, you should grab this EP.

FT-17  – Verdun!

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FT-17 brought in his second album, right on the mark of the 100th anniversary of the final offense of Verdun, as the tide turned on “La Der des Ders”, thanks to the involvement of the American troops on the front, bringing new troops and new warfare. The album continues where we left our private Marcellin Trouve, now fully inside the hellfire of Verdun. The band nicely translated the fury and violence of the trench wars in their second album, that not only will satisfy black/death metal enthusiasts, not without getting a lesson on World War 1, and the atrocity (if not the plain futility) of this war that decimated a whole generation and set the world on fire for the next 100 year.

Ghost – Prequelle

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Ghost. Rarely a band has been so divisive and such a zebra for metalheads. Also, the media firestorm that engulfed Ghost by revealing the identity of Papa Emeritus (identified as Tobais Forge), the fratricide conflict that has hit the band. “Prequelle” was a good album, but honestly I was not as much blow away as I was from their first two albums. There are some good tunes such as “Rats” , “Faith”. Some very interesting and engaging experiments such as “Miasma” bringing 80s synths and jazzy saxophone into the mix. But also a good half of the album I could just toss because “meh”. Is the album good? Yes it is good. Does it deserve being #1 of metal of the 2018 Top 10? I think there are contenders for that position.

Hellight – As We Slowly Fade 

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This was a late-one coming to my ear. Coming from Brazil, an impressive doom metal album. When you think about Brazil, you think about colored beaches, carnaval, sunshine, futbol and samba. Well, you also have a lightbulb turning on with metal bands such as “Sepultura” and “Nervosa Thrash”. But getting into an album that bring the darkest tones of doom from Brazil is almost mission impossible. Yet, Hellight shows us that Brazil can impress us and produce some gems. If you are looking for some doom coming outside the realms of Asgard, you will have a secured pick.

Kalidia – The Frozen Throne

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Kalidia brought us their second album this Fall, showing us that slowly but surely the Italian power metal scene is getting hands on with promising rising star. It is a very nice follow-up of their first album, more focused, harder, louder, faster and full of vigor like a young wolf. You can find a more detailed review in my previous posts.

 

Lux in Tenebris – To A New Eternity

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Marion-Lamita is back, after going through tumultuous and rocky years, into the scene by experimenting new avenues. One of theme is “Lux In Tenebris”, an EP that is pretty good considered the limited access she had. There is some potential to grow here, most of the EP is pleasing to the ears and hopefully can set a ramp to something promising. I wish good luck to her and Thierry for having a transforming and prolific 2019.
https://youtu.be/ODGes7gG5VM

 

Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart

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Oceans of Slumber was another surprise, especially coming from Houston. What I can tell more about? Well nothing much, except to read the review I published on earlier this year. One of my favorite album I have for this year!. A must-listen album!

Ophidian Spell – Nux/Hemera

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This was really a random pick as my SO went visiting my family back home. I asked her to pick me some albums from local bands in my favorite record store in my hometown and this was one of the album pick really just by randomness (my wife hates metal, so it was really random and just guided by genres given). Result? A very interesting prog/technical death album that is a delight to hear. It is fast, it is furious, but it is also nicely set with “dentelles” around, giving a kind of the best of both worlds for me. Give a try to their tunes, this one from their track “Mental Universe”. https://youtu.be/jIr9pWVToOQ

Omnium Gatherum – The Burning Cold

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2018 was the year I kind of embraced Finnish melodic death. First it was Insomnium with their last album “Winter’s Gate” (in complete opposition to critics, I really really loved that one), then my second pick this year was Omnium Gatherum. A very good album overall nicely blending the brutality of death with a good ounce of melodics giving this escapism to Finland forest. You can find my full review on that one too in my previous posts.
https://youtu.be/cydhfda6rXI

Ragana – Let Our Names Be Forgotten (EP)
Another discovery this year. Ragana, coming from Oakland, CA. An interesting pick for sludge metal this year. Rough, dark and primal. I liked it.
https://youtu.be/wCI1Xxus3HI

Sytigian Crown – Through Divine Rite (EP)
Another EP discovered while wandering on Bandcamp. It has this Black Sabbath-esque kind of vibes, coming from the LA scene that I found very pleasant.

Swallow the Sun – Lumina Aurea (EP)
Swallow the Sun simply outdid themselves by releasing an audiovisual wondering experience with Lumina Aurea. Get your best AV equipment and watch this!

Therion – Beloved Antechrist

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Therion. A band that keeps breaking the norms, that keeps experimenting and setting milestones in the metal scene, that their fan like it and not. They know how to do impressive stuff and “Beloved Antechrist” was would an opera metal would sounds like if it was a real theatrical performance. A 3 hour album. What? You did not get it? You have been missing something big. Again, I will refer back to my previous blog post.

Whyzdom – As Time Turns To Dust
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Whyzdom, my go-to French symphonic metal band that is playing now at the same field than juggernauts such as Epica and Nightwish, while having their own “French touch”. It is baroque, well-orchestrated and very pleasant to the ears. Again, you can find my review on this one as well. What? You never heard about Whyzdom? Listen to them and get a catch-up course ASAP.

Wolfheart – Constellation of the Black Light

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My second Finnish melodic death album of the year. A damn good album overall to listen. It is loud, fast, brutal yet again a road to escapism from Finland. Did I ever told you how Finland knows how to blacksmith their metal with such elegance? Enough said!

This was about my 2018 year in music, and the least I can say as I become older I become picky on my choices.  Lets see what 2019 will give me.

 

[Metal/Doom] Swallow The Sun – Lumina Aurea (EP)

Swallow the Sun just released their EP “Lumina Aurea” today, right on the Winter Solstice, the day with the shortest daylight and the longest night. For those who know Swallow the Sun and their epic melancholic doom, we know that this EP would not be a jolly ride. Indeed, with some project like “Hallatar”, they showed us how dark and melancholic they can reach. But this one, oh my, this one is as dark as it can be in a Finnish forrest on a solstice night. It is an outstanding piece of doom to listen, doubled by an excellent photography of Northern Finland/Lapland and production by excellent Italian musicians (Francesco Sosto, Giuseppe Orlando, Gianpaolo Caprino and Frederico Di Pofi) . Never a forrest covered with pure white snow felt so dark and depressing.
It is an outstanding visual and auditory gift given by the band, a 14-minutes introspection to remember about the ones we loved and that are gone. This is the kind of video you want to see in 4K (put your YT setting on the highest quality) with the best audio equipment, to fully appreciate the beauty of melancholy.
Mors Fortior Quam Vita Est, Amor Fortior Quam Mors Est” (Latin translation: “Death is Stronger than Life, Love is Stronger Than Death). My deepest and sincere condolences for the ones we have lost during this year, my compassions and feels for those that have lost their loved ones.