Daily Archives: February 5, 2018

BBC – Culture – The insect that painted Europe red


Although scarlet is the colour of sin in the Old Testament, the ancient world’s elite was thirsty for red, a symbol of wealth and status. They spent fantastic sums searching for ever more vibrant hues, until Hernán Cortés and the conquistadors discovered an intoxicatingly saturated pigment in the great markets of Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. Made from the crushed-up cochineal insect, the mysterious dye launched Spain toward its eventual role as an economic superpower and became one of the New World’s primary exports, as a red craze descended on Europe. An exhibition at Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes museum reveals the far-reaching impact of the pigment through art history, from the renaissance to modernism.

(Credit: Alamy)

Baroque painters used cochineal red in works, such as The Musicians (1595) by Caravaggio (Credit: Alamy)

In medieval and classical Europe, artisans and traders tripped over each other in search of durable saturated colors and – in turn – wealth, amid swathes of weak and watery fabrics. Dyers guilds guarded their secrets closely and performed seemingly magical feats of alchemy to fix colours to wool, silk and cotton. They used roots and resins to create satisfactory yellows, greens and blues. The murex snail was crushed into a dye to create imperial purple cloth worth more than its weight in gold. But truly vibrant red remained elusive.

The Turkey red process took months and involved a pestilent mix of cow dung, rancid olive oil and bullocks’ blood

For many years, the most common red in Europe came from the Ottoman Empire, where the ‘Turkey red’ process used the root of the rubia plant. European dyers tried desperately to reproduce the results from the East, but succeeded only partially, as the Ottoman process took months and involved a pestilent mix of cow dung, rancid olive oil and bullocks’ blood, according to Amy Butler Greenfield in her book, A Perfect Red.

Dyers also used Brazilwood, lac and lichens, but the resulting colours were usually underwhelming, and the processes often resulted in brownish or orange reds that faded quickly. For royalty and elite, St John’s Blood and Armenian red (dating back as far as the 8th Century BCE, according to Butler Greenfield), created the most vibrant saturated reds available in Europe until the 16th Century. But, made from different varieties of Porphyrophora root parasites, their production was laborious and availability was scarce, even at the highest prices.

(Credit: Alamy)

A farmer collects cochineal insects from cacti. The deep red colour, known as carmine, comes from an acid that the oval-shaped bug produces to fend off predators (Credit: Alamy)

Mesoamerican peoples in southern Mexico had started using the cochineal bug as early as 2000 BCE, long before the arrival of the conquistadors, according to Mexican textile expert Quetzalina Sanchez. Indigenous people in Puebla, Tlaxcala and Oaxaca had systems for breeding and engineering the cochineal bugs for ideal traits and the pigment was used to create paints for codices and murals, to dye cloth and feathers, and even as medicine.

Cochineal in the New World

When the conquistadors arrived in Mexico City, the headquarters of the Aztec empire, the red colour was everywhere. Outlying villages paid dues to their Aztec rulers in kilos of cochineal and rolls of blood-red cloth. “Scarlet is the colour of blood and the grana from cochineal achieved that […] the colour always had a meaning, sometimes magic other times religious,” Sanchez told the BBC.

King Charles V of Spain saw in cochineal an opportunity to prop up the crown’s coffers

Cortés immediately recognized the riches of Mexico, which he related in several letters to King Charles V. “I shall speak of some of the things I have seen, which although badly described, I know very well will cause such wonder that they will hardly be believed, because even we who see them here with our own eyes are unable to comprehend their reality,” wrote Cortés to the king. About the great marketplace of Tenochtitlan, which was “twice as large as that of Salamanca,” he wrote, “They also sell skeins of different kinds of spun cotton in all colours, so that it seems quite like one of the silk markets of Granada, although it is on a greater scale; also as many different colours for painters as can be found in Spain and of as excellent hues.”

(Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Circa 1518, Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortés speaks with indigenous people in North America (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

First-hand accounts indicate that Cortés wasn’t overly smitten with cochineal, more concerned instead with plundering gold and silver. Back in Spain, the king was pressed to make ends meet and hold together his enormous dominion in relative peace, so, although he was at first unconvinced by the promise of America, he became fascinated by the exotic tales and saw in cochineal an opportunity to prop up the crown’s coffers. By 1523, cochineal pigment made its way back to Spain and caught the attention of the king who wrote to Cortés about exporting the dyestuff back to Europe, writes Butler.

“Through absurd laws and decrees [the Spanish] monopolised the grana trade,” says Sanchez. “They obligated the indians to produce as much as possible.” The native Mesoamericans who specialised in the production of the pigment and weren’t killed by disease or slaughtered during the conquest were paid pennies on the dollar – while the Spaniards “profited enormously as intermediaries.”

Red in art history

Dye from the cochineal bug was ten times as potent as St John’s Blood and produced 30 times more dye per ounce than Armenian red, according to Butler. So when European dyers began to experiment with the pigment, they were delighted by its potential. Most importantly, it was the brightest and most saturated red they had ever seen. By the middle of the 16th Century it was being used across Europe, and by the 1570s it had become one of the most profitable trades in Europe – growing from a meagre “50,000 pounds of cochineal in 1557 to over 150,000 pounds in 1574,” writes Butler.

(Credit: Alamy)

Cristóbal de Villalpando embraced cochineal red, as in his 1695 painting Saint Rose Tempted by the Devil (Credit: Alamy)

In the Mexican Red exhibition at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the introduction of cochineal red to the European palette is illustrated in baroque paintings from the beginning of the 17th Century, after the pigment was already a booming industry across Europe and the world. Works by baroque painters like Cristóbal de Villalpando and Luis Juárez, father of José Juárez, who worked their entire lives in Mexico (New Spain), hang alongside the Spanish-born Sebastián López de Arteaga and the likes of Peter Paul Rubens.

(Credit: Wikimedia)

In López de Arteaga’s undated work The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, the red smock worn by Christ, denoting his holiness, pops off the canvas (Credit: Wikimedia)

López de Arteaga’s undated work The Incredulity of Saint Thomas pales in comparison to Caravaggio’s version of the same work, where St Thomas’s consternation and amazement is palpable in the skin of his furrowed forehead. But the red smock worn by Christ in López de Arteaga’s painting, denoting his holiness, absolutely pops off the canvas. Both artists employed cochineal, the introduction of which helped to establish the dramatic contrast that characterised the baroque style.

(Credit: Alamy)

Caravaggio used cochineal as an essential element of his style, creating a dramatic contrast in The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, created in 1601-2 (Credit: Alamy)

A few steps away, a portrait of Isabella Brandt (1610) by Rubens shows the versatility of paint made from cochineal. The wall behind the woman is depicted in a deep, glowing red, from which she emerges within a slight aura of light. The bible in her hand was also rendered in exquisite detail from cochineal red in Rubens’ unmistakable mastery of his brush, which makes his subjects feel as alive as if they were in front of you.

(Credit: Alamy)

A portrait of Isabella Brandt (1610) by Rubens shows the versatility of paint made from cochineal (Credit: Alamy)

Moving forward toward modernism – it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th Century that cochineal was replaced by synthetic alternatives as the pre-eminent red dyestuff in the world – impressionist painters continued to make use of the heavenly red hues imported from Mexico. At the Palacio de Bellas Artes, works by Paul Gauguin, Auguste Renoir and Vincent van Gogh have all been analysed and tested positive for cochineal. Like Rubens, Renoir’s subjects seem to be alive on the canvas, but as an impressionist his portraits dissolved into energetic abstractions. Gauguin also used colour, especially red, to create playful accents, but neither compared to the saturation achieved by Van Gogh. His piece, The Bedroom (1888), on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago, puts a full stop on the exhibition with a single burning-hot spot of bright red.

After synthetic pigments became popular, outside of Mexico, the red dye was mass-produced as industrial food colouring – its main use today. Yet while the newly independent Mexico no longer controlled the valuable monopoly on cochineal, it also got something back – the sacred red that had been plundered and proliferated by the Spanish. “In Europe, as has happened in many cases, the history of the original people of Mexico has mattered very little,” Sanchez told the BBC, but in Mexico “the colour continues to be associated with ancestral magic [and] protects those who wear attire dyed with cochineal.”


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Today’s Holiday: Birthday of Johan Runeberg

Today’s Holiday:
Birthday of Johan Runeberg

Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) is widely regarded as Finland’s greatest poet. Schools throughout Finland are closed on Runeberg’s birthday. Busts and pictures of him are displayed in shop windows, particularly in Helsinki. A special ceremony is observed at Runeberg’s monument in the Esplanade, where his statue is decorated with garlands of pine and spruce, suspended between four huge torches. At night the torches are lit, and lighted candles burn in the windows of houses and apartments. More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Today’s Birthday: Belle Starr (1848)

Today’s Birthday:
Belle Starr (1848)

Though her only criminal conviction was for the theft of a horse, Starr associated with numerous criminals throughout her life and was portrayed after her death as a notorious American outlaw, earning the nickname “the Bandit Queen.” Two of her husbands were killed in the course of their respective criminal careers, and days before her 41st birthday, Starr herself was ambushed and shot in the back as she returned to her Oklahoma ranch. Her murder was never solved. Who were some of the suspects? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

This Day in History: The Morecambe Bay Cockling Disaster (2004)

This Day in History:
The Morecambe Bay Cockling Disaster (2004)

At low tide, the sand flats of England’s Morecambe Bay are rich in cockles, or edible saltwater clams. However, gathering them can be dangerous, as the bay is subject to treacherous, fast-moving tides. In 2004, 23 Chinese immigrants who had been at work collecting cockles on the sand flats drowned after becoming trapped by the incoming tide. The leader of the group was later convicted of manslaughter for failing to warn them about the tide. Whose attempt to warn them unfortunately went unheeded? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Quote of the Day: Ambrose Bierce

Quote of the Day:
Ambrose Bierce

Appeal, v.t.: In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw. More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Idiom of the Day: lose (one’s) faith (in something or someone)

Article of the Day:
Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, appear in Roman mythology as the twin sons of the war god Mars and priestess Rhea Silvia. Thrown into the Tiber River as infants, they were found by a she-wolf who nursed them and a shepherd who raised them. The two later built a city on the site where they were saved from the river, but an argument during its construction led Romulus to kill Remus. In its early days, Rome lacked female inhabitants, so Romulus organized the kidnapping of whom? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Idiom of the Day: lose (one’s) faith (in something or someone)

Idiom of the Day:
lose (one’s) faith (in something or someone)

To stop believing (in someone or something); to become disillusioned, embittered, or doubtful (about something or someone). (When said simply as “lose faith,” it is often in reference to losing religious faith in God.) Watch the video…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Word of the Day: spittle

Word of the Day:

Definition: (noun) A clear liquid secreted into the mouth by the salivary glands and mucous glands of the mouth; moistens the mouth and starts the digestion of starches.
Synonyms: saliva
Usage: Her face…was distorted with passion, and in her tumultuous speech the spittle dribbled over her lips.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

From foxnews.com


Michael Goodwin: FBI memo proves the ‘deep state’ is real – and the press is part of it

Now that we know what the declassified House memo says about government misconduct, we also know what it means: The Washington swamp — the deep state — is bigger, more vicious and more dangerous to American liberty than even a cynic could have imagined.

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Because of the memo and previous revelations, we know that swamp creatures are embedded in the top of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Some used their power to try to tip a presidential campaign based on their personal politics.

They conducted a sham investigation of the Democratic candidate and misled federal judges to spy on at least one associate of her Republican challenger.

To block exposure of their misdeeds, these officials falsely claimed that national security would be damaged. Add that despicable lie — issued in the name of the FBI itself — to their shameful records.

Thanks to the battle over the memo, we also know with 100 percent certainty that the mainstream media is part of the swamp. The efforts by The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others, to keep the memo from ever seeing sunshine were appalling.

Before it saw the memo, the Times’ editorial page called it proof of “The Republican Plot Against the FBI.” A Washington Post columnist warned President Trump he would be making a historic mistake in releasing it.

To the Trump haters, these facts don’t matter. He is, in their minds, unfit to be president, so nothing short of assassination is out of bounds.

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“Presidents don’t win fights with the FBI,” Eugene Robinson wrote, seemingly endorsing the blackmailing habits of the disgraced J. Edgar Hoover.

Oddly, the campaign by those papers coincided with the celebration of their roles in releasing the Pentagon Papers nearly 50 years ago, as heroically depicted in the movie “The Post.”

Then, those papers took great risks in standing up for the First Amendment in the face of government threats and financial pressures. Now, those same papers take the side of butt-covering secrecy and demonize those who demand transparency.

Those organizations are betraying their legacies and their duties as journalists. They share with corrupt officials a hatred of Donald Trump and believe that ending his presidency justifies any and all means.

Their motives are as partisan as that of the Democrats who fought tooth and nail to scuttle the memo.

Talk about being on the wrong side of history.

The details of the memo make a strong case that current and former officials committed crimes by misleading FISA court judges in seeking four surveillance warrants against Carter Page, a bit player in the Trump campaign orbit.

Those details seal the sordid legacy of former FBI Director James Comey. He signed off on three warrant requests, reportedly without informing the judges that the essential piece of evidence against Page was the infamous Russian dossier paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Months later, Comey himself told Congress the dossier was “salacious and unverified,” yet was secretly willing to use it in court against Page.

Its author, Christopher Steele, a former British spy, never went to Russia to interview his paid sources, some of whom were Kremlin officials. Did the judges know any of that before letting the FBI read Page’s emails and listen to his phone calls?

Steele was hired by the FBI, then fired when he shared his dossier with the press and lied about it. He also confided to an agent that he loathed Trump and “was passionate about him not being president.”

Did the agent, Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked for the same firm as Steele, Fusion GPS, tell the judges that? Did Comey? The memo says no.

Without knowing that partisan link, the court was deprived of evidence that would have called into question the surveillance request. Indeed, the memo claims that Andrew McCabe, the former deputy FBI director removed for his conduct during the separate Clinton investigation, testified that no warrant would have been sought “without the Steele dossier information.”

Not incidentally, current FBI Director Christopher Wray and his team read the memo before it was released, and did not dispute McCabe’s claim.

To the Trump haters, these facts don’t matter. He is, in their minds, unfit to be president, so nothing short of assassination is out of bounds.

Yet it is a mistake to view the memo’s revelations through the lens of whether you like Trump, or what you think of Carter Page. The ultimate issues are no more limited to them than were other landmark moments in American history limited by the personal interests of the parties involved.

The case in which Nazis were permitted to march in the Jewish neighborhood of Skokie, Ill., was not an approval of Nazis. The issue was whether repugnant speech has the same rights as popular speech.

The Supreme Court effectively said it did in a 1977 ruling that strengthened First Amendment rights for all Americans.

Similarly, the “Miranda warning” that allows a suspect in police custody to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination stems from a case involving a hideously violent criminal. Ernesto Miranda ultimately was convicted of kidnapping and rape, yet all suspects, innocent and guilty, benefit from the 1966 Supreme Court ruling in his favor.

Rulings like those weave the Founders’ ideals of equality into the fabric of contemporary life and make America the beacon of hope to the world.

Something even larger is now at stake. Trump is the great disrupter who has overthrown the established political order like no one in modern history, and many opponents have lost their bearings in resisting his presidency.

In their rage and bigotry, they are willing to abandon fundamental principles. We only know this because he won the election; none of this shocking misconduct would have been revealed under a Hillary Clinton presidency.

The claims in the memo that FBI and Justice officials acted corruptly should concern all fair-minded Americans, regardless of political preference. Those claims force us to ask whether we are a nation of laws that apply equally to all.

If not, we are no longer America. We are a banana republic where it’s acceptable for the government to use its police powers against political opponents.

The choice we face is especially stark given that the case at hand potentially implicates other top aides to former President Barack Obama. Recall that Page and others linked to Trump were accused of having ties to Russia, then their names were leaked to the media in a bid to sway the election and then to topple the president. There may be other flimsy FISA applications covering other Trump associates we don’t yet know about.

The memo is a giant step in uncovering what appears to be an unprecedented conspiracy, but it is not the endgame. More documents, congressional hearings, investigations and criminal prosecutions are unavoidable.

Hysterical Trump haters greeted the memo’s release by declaring that we face a constitutional crisis. They are right — and they are creating it.

To read more Michael Goodwin on the New York Post click here.

Wikipedia Main Page: Today’s featured article


Today’s featured article: The white-breasted nuthatch

Adult male white-breasted nuthatch

The white-breasted nuthatch(Sitta carolinensis) is a smallsongbird that breeds in old-growth woodland across much of temperate North America. It is a stockynuthatch with a large head, short tail, powerful bill, and strong feet. The upperparts are pale blue-gray, and the face and underparts are white. It has a black cap and a chestnut lower belly. The nine subspecies differ mainly in the color of the body plumage. Like other nuthatches, the white-breasted nuthatch forages for insects on trunks and branches and is able to move head-first down trees. Seeds form a substantial part of its winter diet, as doacorns and hickory nuts that were stored by the bird in the fall. The nest is in a hole in a tree, and a breeding pair may smear insects around the entrance as a deterrent to squirrels. Adults and their young may be killed by hawks, owls, and snakes, and forest clearance may lead to local habitat loss, but this is a common species with no major conservation concerns over most of its range. (Full article…)

From Wikipedia: Troponin I

Troponin I is a cardiac and skeletal muscle protein useful in the laboratory diagnosis of heart attack. It occurs in different plasma concentration but the same circumstances as troponin T – either test can be performed for confirmation of cardiac muscle damage and laboratories usually offer one test or the other.


Troponin I is a part of thetroponin protein complex, where it binds to actin in thinmyofilaments to hold the actin-tropomyosin complex in place. Because of it, myosincannot bind actin in relaxed muscle. When calcium binds to the troponin C it causes conformational changes which lead to dislocation of troponin I and finally tropomyosin leaves the binding site for myosin on actin leading to contraction of muscle. The letter I is given due to its inhibitory character.

The tissue specific subtypes are:

  • Slow-twitch skeletal muscle isoform troponin I, TNNI1(1q31.3, 191042)
  • Fast-twitch skeletal muscle isoform troponin I, TNNI2(11p15.5, 191043)
  • Cardiac troponin I, TNNI3(19q13.4, 191044)


Cardiac troponin I, often denoted as cTnI, is presented in cardiac muscle tissue by a single isoform with molecular weight 23.9 kDa and it consists of 209 amino acid residues. The theoretical pI of cTnI is 9.05. cTnI differs from other troponins due to its N-terminal extension of 26 amino acids. This extension contains two serines, residues 23 and 24, which are phosphorylated by protein kinase A in response to beta-adrenergic stimulation and important in increasing the inotropic response.Phosphorylation of cTnI changes the conformation of the protein and modifies its interaction with other troponins as well as the interaction with anti-TnI antibodies. These changes alter the myofilament response to calcium, and are of interest in targeting heart failure. Multiple reaction monitoring of human cTnI has revealed that there are 14 phosphorylation sites and the pattern of phosphorylation observed these sites is changed in response to disease. cTnI has been shown to be phosphorylated by protein kinase A, protein kinase C, protein kinase G, and p21-activated kinase 3. A significant part of cTnI released into the patient’s blood stream is phosphorylated. For more than 15 years cTnI has been known as a reliable marker of cardiac muscle tissue injury. It is considered to be more sensitive and significantly more specific in diagnosis of the myocardial infarction than the “golden marker” of last decades – CK-MB, as well as total creatine kinase,myoglobin and lactate dehydrogenase isoenzymes.

Troponin I is not entirely specific for myocardial damage secondary to infarction. Other causes of raised Troponin I includechronic renal failure, heart failure, subarachnoid haemorrhage and pulmonary embolus.

See also

Watch “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You” on YouTube

My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You
I may say that I don’t care
Hold my head up in the air
Even tell my friends I’m glad that you don’t call
But when the day is through
My heartaches start anew
And that’s when I miss you most of all
And my arms keep reaching for you
My-why eyes keep searching for you
My-why lips keep calling for you
And my shoes keep walking back to you
No matter how much I pretend
I wish I had you back again
For nothing else means half as much as you
My world just seemed to die
The day you said goodbye
And I can’t forget no matter what I do
And my-why arms keep reaching for you
My-why eyes keep searching for you
My-why lips keep calling for you
And my shoes keep walking back to you
And my shoes keep walking back to you
Songwriters: Lee Ross / Bob Wills
My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
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