Nothing sets off my Modern Prometheus alarms as the most recent interest in gene editing, particularly in that little bit of Crispr that seems to find its way into biological gene forms. Just like Victor Frankenstein creating his creature from dead body parts in Mary Shelley’s novel from 1818, we now have scientists in China working to find the way to ‘edit’ genes like the ones that they suspect cause cancer. Sound like fun? It didn’t turn out so well for Victor, and without actually understanding what’s happening with genetic ‘disorders,’ is it such a good idea to shoot in the dark?
“Modern gene editing is quite precise but it is not perfect. The procedure can be a bit hit and miss, reaching some cells but not others. Even when Crispr gets where it is needed, the edits can differ from cell to cell … Another common problem happens when edits are made at the wrong place in the genome. [oops!] There can be hundreds of these “off-target” edits that can be dangerous if they disrupt healthy genes or crucial regulatory DNA.”
But it’s already happening, right?
A bit of micro-cutting to get those genes back into tip-top shape! Victor Frankenstein eat your heart out. Boris may be closer than you think!
Gene editing – and what it really means to rewrite the code of life
Why should reading be difficult, if not confrontational?
Because reading a book like Ulysses by James Joyce is an accomplishment and a unique experience. It’s not easy and isn’t meant to be. Another example might be Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.
That being said, these example books aren’t for everybody, and not everyone has the desire or wants to climb Mount Everest either. What of literature? When we can get a steady stream of watered-down words, why read it at all? I remember sitting in my English class at university and other students looking for shortcuts and explanations, not enjoying the challenge of chewing on words and trying to figure it out by actually reading the assigned books.
Students (and universities) have changed a lot since then.
When the logic of capitalism means universities are run as businesses, much is lost.
Reclaiming literature is crucial to understanding the times we live in.
‘The difficulty is the point’: teaching spoon-fed students how to really read
by Tegan Bennett Daylight
“Bradbury, who never used a computer or drove a car (and believed automobiles more dangerous than war), could be described by a little-known word in English derived from Portuguese, nefelibata: one who walks in the clouds. For better or for worse, we don’t as yet live in the future he imagined, and his predictions and screeds can feel quaint, if not ingenuous or tone-deaf, today. Yet at its best, his work is so imaginative that I feel able to drift off, up, for a bit, and dream.”
On the Dark, Wondrous Optimism of Ray Bradbury, By Gabrielle Bellot
According to The Independent:
Marshall McLuhan might have been one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. But he was one of its most terrible actors.
As well as being famous for his theories, many of which are known by catchy phrases like ‘the medium is the message, Professor McLuhan was also a guest star in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.
Marshall McLuhan: Remembering the philosopher’s bizarre, unplanned Annie Hall appearance
Here are a few quotable gems from the McLuhan archive:
“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”
This is a good one to think about when you’re texting your friend while walking across a crowded crosswalk in an intersection.
“Art is anything you can get away with.”
The latest David Lynch resurrection of Twin Peaks 25 years later, for example. Or most stuff in art galleries.
“The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.”
Yes, he was the one who came up with the idea of the ‘global village.’ Hello Internet.
“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.”
The ascent of the latest U.S. president has proved Neil Postman’s argument in Amusing Ourselves to Death was right. In a very readable article in The Guardian, Andrew Postman (Neil Postman’s son), gives his take on the similarities of our current reality to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World rather than George Orwell’s 1984. Basically, it’s not about Big Brother watching you, but people chasing entertainment, no matter how infuriatingly ridiculous or ‘fake’ it might be.
As Postman writes:
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture..
Where will we go from here? Postman argues:
Who can be appalled when the coin of the realm in public discourse is not experience, thoughtfulness or diplomacy but the ability to amuse – no matter how maddening or revolting the amusement?
My dad predicted Trump in 1985 – By Andrew Postman
“Daniel Mendelsohn had a particularly modern take on the value of reading Proust’s densely written, heavily detailed, slowly unfolding opus known as In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past).:
Recently I was traveling on a train next to a young man—a recent college graduate, I guessed—who was reading a hugely fat Victorian novel. Since I teach literature, this made me happy. But as I watched him I noticed that roughly every 90 seconds he’d fish out his iPhone to check his text messages. After a while this reflexive tic made me so nervous that I moved to another seat. As a writer as well as a teacher, I found it nerve-wracking to think that this is how some people are reading novels these days—which is to say, not really reading them, because you can’t read anything serious in two-minute spurts, or with your mind half on something else, like the messages you may be getting. Multitasking is the great myth of the present era: you cannot, in fact, do two things at the same time.
Especially if one of them requires considerable resources of attentiveness and intellectual commitment. To my mind, a very important reason to have a go at Proust right now—which is to say, to read him with a mind as receptive as his was large—is to exercise one’s powers of commitment.
Proust as Antidote for Smartphone-Induced Attention Deficit
LITERATURE – Marcel Proust
Here’s some good advice from Drew Christie, the animator and writer behind the video ‘The Emperor of Time‘ and many others:
“I would also say listen to every type of music that exists on the planet while you’re working. I think this is extremely important in stimulating different parts of the brain and creativity. Listen to West African Kora music, Isan Thai folk and pop music, North Indian classical music, Shirley Collins and Anne Briggs from the British Isles, Victor Jara from Chile, Michael Hurley, Abner Jay, Hala Strana, LAKE, and Kate Wolf from the U.S.
Other than that, I say, give your family hugs.”
Well worth a read and watch:
Behind the Video: Drew Christie’s Emperor of Time