Mar 99

cloning is in our genes

lately a lot of press has been devoted to the topic of genetic engineering, and specifically to the efforts of scientists attempting to perfect the techniques of cloning. the moral and religious outcry has been that we are taking on the power of creation, overstepping our bounds in the ultimate heresy.

so we’ve got a sheep, and apparently a bunch of mice as well, that are the direct result of this research. they are clones, exact genetic copies, of their predecessors, their ancestors if you will. they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the drive to perfect cloning.

but why are we trying to perfect cloning anyhow? it’s not as if we can’t just breed sheep and mice until they’re just right. it’s not as if we can’t just engineer them to be the way we like and then let them reproduce on their own – after all, we’ve been doing it for millenia.

where do you think we came up with the dog and the cow? it’s not as if they just evolved to be our companions and food stock – which is which depends entirely on your locale. domestication is the key to our survival. rather than go out every few days to find, then kill, a buffalo, someone decided to keep a few nearby, feed them and keep them happy, protect them from predators, etc. that way, if he got hungry, he could go out back and slaughter one, and save himself a trip.

why we did this with the bovine and porcine progenitors is due to the simple fact that they’re easier to keep than mastodons.

and this leads to finding the most docile, plumpest of the local stock, and breeding them so that the next generation will be more docile and plump then the last. those cows that we don’t take a liking to don’t get to breed. period. why do you think there aren’t mastodons any more?

and the same thing happens among the human herd. whether you like to admit it or not, we are all subject to selective breeding. it’s self-induced, of course, but almost as involuntary as if we were cattle. men and women that are unattractive, uncoordinated, or somehow unfit, never have the same chances to breed as the more successful, attractive people.

ugly people have ugly babies, or none at all.

now, i’ve written before about the problems with selecing the wrong traits, and its effect on evolution, but you must admit that, no matter what traits we selct for, we are being selective. dating is just the way we sample the herd.

mmm. nice udders.

my point, and i do have one, is that we, as a species, have never before been morally opposed to selectively breeding, even among ourselves. shaping evolution has come easily to us, sometimes too easily. all objections duly noted, we still wield the power of creation as if it were our responsibilty, and not the heresy some go on about.

genetic engineering takes selective breeding out of the farmyard, increasing efficiency and effectiveness, but it’s only a step forward in the technology we’ve been perfecting since the last ice age. cloning is the next step, taking a perfect individual and mass producing it in quantity. cloning is the scientific answer to the stud bull.

even Genesis tells us that God gave man dominion over the animals – if you want to justify our anestry biblically. consider if Genesis were written today – would God give us dominion over the bacteria as well as the animals with hooves and wings – or would it say something about their genes?

i guess this all begs the question of human cloning – which is a topic for another rant.

Mar 99

no more barbies

I’ve had a few life-changing experiences in the past couple of weeks. Mostly I’m finally taking my studies seriously, which have led me to some interesting readings. In my Science Fiction class for example, we have been reading several of Ursula K. Le Guin’s works which have had a significant impact on me. She examines many gender issues in her books such as an androgynous human species in “The Left hand of Darkness” and a world where women hold power and men are essentially used as sex toys in her short story “The Matter of Seggri”. Both stories caused me to examine my own situation as a young woman at the eve of the 21st century.

I should pretext this by explaining that I go to a women’s school, Smith College. I have mixed feelings about this decision in my life. I’m generally happy with it, however it has brought me face to face with many complex gender issues. For example, Smith is famed for being a bastion of very liberal, strong, and feminist women. The lesbian/bi/trans community is quite large and many proudly exemplify Smith’s butch stereotype. Yet, as far as being a haven for strong independent intelligent women, I have not found this to be the case, unfortunately. On the whole, I would term the campus apathetic and anti-intellectual. Before I came here I expected to be having stimulating conversations with my house- and classmates late into the night. The reality is students are either locked in their rooms furiously studying to meet Smith’s rigid academic standards or mentally preparing themselves for the weekend parties, which are known for the large amounts of cheap beer consumed, the frat boys, and the easy girls, as well as girls bumping and grinding with each other, or both.

Many people have asked me why I chose a women’s school in the first place. When I was in school I was fascinated by the sciences and I had my heart set on being an astro-physicist. My grades were very good, but not 4.0, which I would have needed to have any hope for the ivies. I knew I wanted to go to a good liberal arts school that could also give me a good financial aid package. After having my ego severely bruised by a rejection from Stanford, my college councilor suggested I apply to one of the seven sisters, which were known for their high academic standards, excellent science programs, and large endowments. So I applied to Smith, Wellesley, and Mt. Holyoke. I was very impressed by Smith’s sense of community, the gorgeous campus, tradition of amazing graduates, and its reputation as an excellent liberal arts school. I was under the impression that at a place like this I could blossom, gain confidence, and hopefully be challenged enough to discover my potential. What I found was a strong community, although it does seem somewhat forced, a gorgeous campus, myself declaring an English major as well as studying international relations, having essentially no confidence my first 2.5 years here, and an amazing liberal arts school that offers so many opportunities and such a rigorous curriculum that one feels smothered. I didn’t take a math class my first year, because I was afraid that after a year hiatus I would be struggling. Now that I’m taking discrete in my 6th semester here, my friends all claim I’m nuts to be taking math and balk when I tell them that its fun. J. Crew quarterly sends its catalogues to all the students on campus, and I constantly watch my friends run to the gym in order to emulate the figures of the women they see on the glossy pages. At parties it’s all glitz and glitter, anorexic bodies, and drunkenness bordering on alcohol poisoning. Granted, I live in the “party area” of campus, but there are only 3000 of us and approximately 40% of the students live in this section.

So, why all the background info? Well, many question the need for women’s schools nowadays, claiming that equality has been achieved. After all, Smith was created in the late 1800’s because at that time women couldn’t get into most colleges, most notably Harvard and Yale where their minds could have mixed with the supposedly best and brightest male minds. It was founded with the idea to provide women with the same quality education. I think the level of excellence continues, but as for shaping girls into strong women who will become leaders, as many of ivies claim to do with their students, I do have quite a few friends who I know are going to rock the world and are wonderfully strong and independent, but I also have many friends who have very little self confidence and do not trust themselves to walk up to a guy, or a woman, at a party. More importantly, they don’t trust or believe in their intelligence, and that I think is the greatest shame of all. There are so many intelligent women around me here, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to convince a friend of how much she’s achieved. A lot of us here because we know a Smith diploma will open many doors for us – a large comfort in a world where the glass ceiling still exists in many places. But, despite that, my classmates and I exist in a bubble. The college watches out for every aspect in our lives, that for many living in the “real world” is quite a shock. Our cushy houses (dorms) and many support services do not prepare us for what awaits us once we leave the college gates. I think many get so caught up in their work that they don’t even recognize what’s around them. I don’t see women who are curious and want to explore the opportunities in front of them, rather, so many are concerned about getting good grades so that they can get into a good grad school or secure a good job. I watched too many friends attempt or consider suicide to not let this concern me.

Have we reached a world of equality? I don’t believe so. If Smith women have trouble respecting their minds and their bodies, what about the many women who don’t live in an environment where it is at least attempted to dispel the myth that most women should look like Barbie. A trip to Germany where I was ridiculed for studying International Relations because I was told I wouldn’t be able to survive in the world of int’l politics taught me how far we still have to go when a woman politician is still considered an enigma. So despite my ranting on Smith I still think I made the right choice and I believe I’m getting the best education I can get in the US, however, I yearn for a world where women’s schools will no longer be needed.

Mar 99

about option8 multimedia

so, what is this whole option8 multimedia thing?

if you’re a mac user, hold down option, and hit the number 8. you’ll get some idea.

for pc users, you’ll have to imagine that you’re sitting at a computer that’s easy to use, and hit the alt key, then type 0149

and for those of you blessed enough to be using linux or some other non-consumer operating system, you can ignore the whole option8 thing, and get down to business. since you’re probably looking at this with the option to load images turned off, or else using lynx, or some other streamlined browser. you haven’t the time for such folly as graphics or silly names.

in any event, option8 is a bullet. a dot. a filled circle. a floating point

option8 is really just an obscure reference to a character used to set off list items.

but option8 multimedia is even more obscure, seeing as i am but one person in an endless flood of billions. and of those billions, it seems like most of them have their own websites, complete with sappy photos of themselves and their families, sonograms of their children, and insipid dancing icons screaming to send them email. most of them also have way too much personal information about the authors.

speaking of which..

option8 currently consists of me, my computers, and my cat. i am charles mangin, male, caucasian, heterosexual. the computers are mostly macs, ranging from a 512k to a g3/400 , also, a good bit of work gets done on a 486/50 running linux. the cat, kudzu, only cares that i feed her.

option8 is not a company so much as an entity.

the first arm of option8 is mental hygiene. the mental hygieneists, myself included, are a random group of friends and acquaintances with varying philosophies, ideas, morals, and attitudes. the only thing that binds us is a shared affinity for the internet and an ability to write at length.

and that’s all it takes to be an internet celebrity. not that any of us are.

mental hygiene is about sharing ideas, creating conflicts, resolving differences of beliefs, and generally spouting off to anyone who will listen.

the other half of option8 is niftee-tron enterprises. that’s where all the creative energy left at the end of the day goes. there will be no philosophy lessons at niftee-tron, but you may find something there to interrupt the mindless tedium of everyday life.

this is all, of course, still just a beginning. things are half finished, under construction, broken, or may never have worked in the first place. be patient. we all have day jobs to keep.

Mar 99

"sell out, with me oh yeah"

so ska’s in gap ads. it’s also in beer ads, car ads, soda ads, store ads, movie ads, etc.
so bands are making money to get their music heard more widely.
so more ppl are hearing it and therefor buying ska cd’s and starting up ska bands with their friends.
so where’s the problem?
here’s some of it:
i was at the zebrahead/reel big fish/they might be giants show in phili the other day, and the crowd durring the reel big fish set was generally a pain. a lot of teens who mostly were into them fer the trendiness and not the ska-ness, and a few really large drunken(?) assholes who were just getting their rocks off pushing ppl around, ’cause it was so crowded that pushing someone was a chain reation (i had to block some of the smaller teenies from getting too crushed, and help a few off the floor), and a couple fights almost broke out even.
durring they might be giants’s set everyone gave everyone else their personal space, and i got to do some good skanking and jumping around to make up for the mad crush durring reel big fish. (durring zebrahead’s set everyone kinda just stood there except me and a few other ppl who were jumping around a bit, mostly just the “get off stage so rbf can play” crowd vibe. icky, but at least pacific.)
now, this isn’t reel big fish’s fault. mind you, i don’t htink their set was all that, but i’m sure if it was a looser crowd they’d of prolly reacted looser. there’s an older rbf concert on my site (www.2tone.com) that shows how this can werk.
i was at a bosstones show in rochester a couple years back that was a similar situation.
they might be giants have a core following and thousands of die-hard fans, tho not neciserilly wide-spread popularity. it’s similar with bands liek the toasters. rudies know them, but not most average joes, therefor the concerts can be crowded, but everyone’s at ease and has their space to skank and jump around.
the crowd is part of the price you pay for getting generally well known. musicians like apreciation. they’re not selling out, bands with tunes in ads are not selling out, they’re just trying to get heard by people and keep food on the table. the music industry is a real bitch to survive in.
another point to remember is that popularised bands like rbf and mmbt help get people into ska, and therefor into the core group that’ll goto other ska shows and be part of the more laid back ska vibe. i was actually talking to one of the guys from the articles (a band everyone should definitely check out) about this a while back, and he felt pretty much the same. i think his words were something along the lines of “fuck it, if they “sold out”, fine, it’s helping the rest of us.”
i’d rather hear ska in the background of an advertisement than a lot of other things. enough ska injected into media, and lives might improve.

Mar 99

more on evolution (moron evolution)

while i’m not a proponent for the complete repeal of human rights, i am a big fan of the book 1984, by George Orwell

however, being written in 1948, orwell’s tribute to british socialism run amok is hardly a scary book any more. what with the discovery of dna, new and more horrible weapons of mass destruction, and advances in computers and information technology, if 1984 were written today, it would be put on the ‘duh’ rack of pulp science fiction that makes stories out of obvious trends

there was a story on the news today that i have been waiting for a long while – the attorney general of the u.s. has actually proposed keeping a dna record of all criminals, much like the fingerprint record started so long ago by scotland yard.

of course, since it’s dna, and the general public links dna tagging with movies like gattaca and books like a brave new world , it’s being called an affront to human rights, privacy, and a million other little things that spoil your day. but then, people potest having their personal histories and fingerprints encoded onto their own drivers licenses – an effort to prevent tampering and falsifying of identity, which everyone should be for, except criminals.

the fbi already has every piece of information about a criminal’s physical appearance, whereabouts, known activiies and associates on file, so why not a record of their dna?

crime scenes are filthy with it, even when there are no fingerprints. and it is an almost 100% conclusive proof of identity. the perfect fingerprinting system, if you will. i suppose people are afraid of having their own dna on record for silly things like traffic violations, or being somehow linked to a crime by leaving a stray hair behind in someone’s apartment.

or maybe they’re afraid of being discriminated against if their dna were to show up as having a genetic disorder, tendency toward alcoholism, cancer, shortened lifespan, or something as yet undiscovered. and that’s what scares the human rights activists

and it all comes back to that, doesn’t it? human rights. what about having children? is that a right? or a privelege? hell, it used to be the duty of every living human of childbearing age to have children. that, of course, was when humanity was actually evolving, becoming better adapted to the envoriment in which we lived.

now, though, it seems that reproducing should be a privelege, since the right is being abused by those who are least suited to procreation: the young, poor, uneducated, and depraved.

and so, it’s time we started enforcing birth control. contraceptive agents in the water, surgical procedures at birth, parenting cerification, something. i have my own ideas as to how it should be done, but i’ll save those for another time. as to the original topic of this rant, dna tagging, it should be obvious that the technology and mechanisms for dna-based discrimination are in place already, and the morality of some areas of society are leaning toward it.

and is that a good thing?

yes. yes it is. dna-based discrimination, in the workplace, in social circles, in reproduction, are all natural occurences already. to bring them out in the open by use of science is ideal, since it is through technology that we stopped evolving , it should be by use of technology that we begin to enforce our own evolution again.

some may see this rant as evidence that i am a racial purist, but they are shortsighted. in reality, racially pure individuals are the least likely to suvive, for many reasons. it takes generations of inbreeding to produce a group that can be so different from the general population as to be called a ‘race’ which results in genetic deficiency, specialization, and a number of unhealthy aspects in their genetic makeup.

the ideal human is a mix of all races, with no ties or affiliation with any one genotype.