Daily Digest: Sugar’s sour story, Hugh’s sweet revenge; Planning for creation, and destruction

by Mike Mullen

-Oh, dear. The New York Times Magazine’s next feature, “Is Sugar Toxic?” tells the story of pediatrician Robert Lustig’s war on our sweet, sweet sucrose. Lustig’s argument is that sugar is not only a main cause of obesity through its calorie count, but that it is also, in his words, “poison,” and that its effect on the liver may be killing us in all kinds of ways. For those of you who prefer warm glasses of high-fructose corn syrup, sorry, you’re out of luck. As the Times writes, Lustig posits “that sugar has unique characteristics, specifically in the way the human body metabolizes the fructose in it, that may make it singularly harmful, at least if consumed in sufficient quantities.” The science is still inconclusive, and the sugar lobby (which is also the name of a great club I used to go to in L.A. in the ’70s) will not take accusations like this sitting down. (Hard for them to sit down anyway, they’re so damn jittery.) So for the moment, I’d like to compliment the Times on its ability to make sugar look so damn scary — the second photo, of a gigantic, ominous sugar cube, would only be enhanced if there were a flattened man’s legs dangling out from underneath it. Another visual representation shows just how much high-fructose corn syrup the average person consumes: apparently, the amount over an entire lifetime would fill a jacuzzi, if you’re into that.

– The awful British tabloid “News of the World” has, as the Brits might have it, begun to got its comeuppance. After multiple revelations that the NOTW had been illegally wiretapping… pretty much everyone in London, one of its targets had a rare chance to get back at them. And it was Hugh Grant, of all people. Known in our country as a bumbling charmer (or is it charming bumbler?) and a less-than-discerning consumer of hookers, Grant takes a vengeful turn in the story he tells in the New Statesman. After an incidental bump-in with a former NOTW hack who now runs a bar, Grant went ’round the bloke’s pub, and secretly recording their conversation. (How you like them apples?) After a few probing questions, Paul McMullan, the ex-NOTWer asks, “You’re not taping are you?” Grant denies that he is, and eventually gets to the details, which include police bribery and combing through garbage to “see who Nicole Kidman was shagging.” In perhaps the most revealing part of the conversation, Grant asks why McMullan would help blow the whistle on NOTW, as he had in a recent article in the Guardian. McMullan’s answer? “I said, ‘Well if you put the name of the Castle [his pub] on the front page of the Guardian, I’ll do anything you like.'” Once a hack, always a hack, I guess.

– The Atlantic’s new issue has an interesting little story called, “How Genius Works.” The story offers glimpses of first drafts from a variety of creative types: Paul Simon, the novelist T.C. Boyle, and master portraitist Chuck Close. Perhaps most interesting to me is the look at architect Frank Gehry’s first sketches of the (gorgeous) New World Symphony building in Miami. Gehry is probably the best living architect. But… how do I put this? These drawings are no good. If I saw them out of context, I’d think the first was an obsessive but arthritic bride’s dream wedding cake, and the second would, of course, be a child’s rendering of a UFO. How an idea starts out like this, as a jagged assortment of black lines, and becomes that building, is beyond me. But Gehry’s work speaks for itself. He’s best known around here for designing the Weismann Art Museum — which will finally be completed, as the master designed it, later this year — which is both beautiful and highly reflective. On sunny days, it is the last, breathtaking image temporarily-blinded undergrads see as they wander into the Mississippi River.

– Oh, by the way, ignore all those stories, read nothing ever again, and begin preparing for the catastrophic eruption of the supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park. According to the BBC, the supervolcano — which provides the park’s famous hot springs, and will one day kill us all if the sugar doesn’t do it — “may be bigger than previously thought,” according to a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. (And just when you canceled your subscription.) As the BBC writes, “The more gentle tilt of the geoelectric plume could suggest that the hot region imaged by the seismic wave technique may be enveloped by a broader, underground envelope of partly molten rock and liquids, the researchers say.” Admittedly, this is a bit jargon-heavy. (“Underground envelope” sounds like a sex position.) Allow me to translate: Prepare for the end. There’s no escape. Might as well settle in and enjoy your last few moments on earth. Might I suggest an appropriate soundtrack? Try Damien Rice’s “Volcano.”