TECHNICOLOR DREAMS AND GENETIC NIGHTMARES – BY TOM CURLEY

A few weeks ago my old friend Ben Taylor sent me a very interesting link to a story about archiving technologies . The story was about how all of our storage media eventually degrades. Film, tape, CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and so on all decay over time. Technicolor, the company that makes films so, technically colorful, has figured out a way to encode and store media on a DNA molecule! Here’s the article.

Basically, it’s not complicated. All of our media is now digital, encoded as a really long string of ones and zeros. DNA is a double helix molecule made up of four proteins CGAT. Cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine.

teravivos.com

teravivos.com

They can combine in an infinite number of combinations, which is why DNA is such a handy way to store all of life’s genetic information. We also have machines called genetic sequencers that can both read a DNA molecule and build one.

DNA-O-MATIC! web.uri.edu

web.uri.edu

So, what the TECHNICOLOR people did was figure out how to encode the ones and zeros onto a DNA molecule, then build that DNA molecule. How do you play back the material? Build a player that reads the DNA molecule and converts it back to ones and zeros. Burn it onto a DVD and put it into your Blue Ray player.

The cool part is that you can store over 700 terabytes of information on one DNA molecule! Which is pretty much every movie and TV show ever made. The other reason they did this was because they say the DNA molecule is stable and won’t degrade.

But here’s the problem.

DNA MUTATES!!!!!!!

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

That’s how evolution works!

If DNA didn’t mutate, we’d still be four-legged lungfish crawling up out of the surf, looking up at the sky, land and saying: “Well, this is different. Hey Phil! Come on up here. You gotta see this!”

land fish

youtube.com

Now at this point you could argue that DNA usually mutates when cells reproduce.  Sometimes the DNA copies aren’t perfect and that’s what causes the mutation. But the Technicolor DNA molecules are just sitting in a test tube. They are not replicating.

Technicolor-DNA-Archive-2

That’s true. However — there are other things that can make DNA mutate, like radiation. A stray alpha, beta, or gamma particle could come along, hit the molecule, and knock out a quinine here, a cytosine there. After a while, things could change. Not immediately, but after a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years?

A thousand years from now a group of historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and movie critics could get together to examine a recently discovered cache of late 20th Century movies and TV shows. They were  found buried in a vault archived with a quaint technology utilizing DNA by a long-forgotten company called Technicolor.

theshoreways.com

theshoreways.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: As you all know the discovery of this cache of ancient media has given us an unprecedented opportunity to measure the accuracy of our historical records against actual recordings of history.  You’ve all had a month to watch and review media from the last millennium. What have you found?

SCIENTIST #1: Well, actually some their movies are quite good.  I just watched two fantastic movies, “Ishtar” and “Waterworld”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: Hmmm. Our records indicate they were two of the worst movies ever made.

SCIENTIST #1: I can’t understand why. Did you know that Ishtar was the movie where Betty Davis said “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.!”  It only makes sense since they were all riding camels.  And Waterworld!  At the end, when Kevin Costner helped ET get back to his spaceship? I have to admit, I cried.

HEAD SCIENTIST: I see.  What about “Star Wars’?

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

SCIENTIST #2: I saw the first three movies starting with “The Phantom Menace”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: And?

SCIENTIST #2: They were really good!  And funny! Casting Groucho Marx as Obi Wan Kenobi and Robin Williams as  young Anakin Skywalker was inspired!

HEAD SCIENTIST: And the next three in the series?

SCIENTIST #3: Not so much. Darth Vader and the Emperor win in the end and destroy the rebellion. It was really depressing.  The only rebel left alive was Jar Jar Binks.

twitter.com

twitter.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Citizen Kane”? Our records show that as being one of the greatest movies of all time.

SCIENTIST #4: I don’t know why sir. In the first place somebody named Jackie Chan played the part of Kane. He spent the whole movie kicking people and riding on a sled. But he did do his own stunts!

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Casablanca?”

SCIENTIST #5: Horrible! Ronald Reagan as Rick and Joan Rivers as Ilsa? What were they thinking? No chemistry!

HEAD SCIENTIST: OK, what about television?

SCIENTIST #6: Quite frankly only one show stood out and it was brilliant.

HEAD SCIENTIST: What was it?

SCIENTIST #6: “Gilligan’s Island.”  Orson Welles as the Skipper, Brad Pitt as Gilligan, Marilyn Monroe as Ginger,  Sally Field as Mary Ann, Helen Mirren and John Barrymore as the Howells and  John Wayne as the professor.! Brilliant casting. And who knew Arthur Miller could write comedy!

sitcomsonline.com

sitcomsonline.com

What have you done Technicolor?  What have you done?

OBAMA’S ODYSSEY: THE 2008 RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House – Connie Corcoran Wilson


It wasn’t what I expected and after I started reading it, I had to revise my approach to the book. I had been expecting the author’s journey, starting in Iowa and ending with the 2008 general election. Instead, it’s a compilation of blog posts written by the author over that same time span. It covers the same time period and material … but not as expected.

Obamas Odyssey book

Rather than a continuous, sequential narrative, the book comprises series of snapshots. Interviews and events with candidates, wannabes, politicians, volunteers, voters, support staff, and political operatives. Connie Corcoran Wilson’s posts are witty, amusing, perceptive, and enlightening, especially when she focuses on the realities of life as a working journalist covering a presidential campaign.

I could very easily relate the long hours, the short sleep, the rapid changes of venue. The mental agility required to keep up that grueling pace for all those months. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, being a working reporter is far from glamorous.

Ms. Wilson captures the character of the people with whom she interacts with charm, humor, and grace. But there is, nonetheless, a choppy quality that is the inevitable result of a compilation of posts rather than a story. There is also a bit more repetition of subjects that is, again, the inevitable result of compiling blog entries rather than writing the story as a story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Connie Wilson is a fine writer and she excels at her medium … blogging. I’m a blogger too. I “get” it. But blogging is not authoring. It’s the same church, but a different pew. Blog posts are free-standing, short subjects. You can collect them and put them in a binding to form a book-length volume of material, but it will still lack a continuous story. This lack becomes more increasingly problematic as the book progresses. The jumps between posts are sometimes a bit jarring.

The result? Despite excellent writing, the book doesn’t feel like a book. It feels like what it is: a huge collection of political blog posts. The posts are good, many excellent. A lot of perceptivity and sensitivity raises her writing well above the so-called news writing you find on the Internet … or for that matter, in much of what you’ll find in print or on television. I would have appreciated more “connective tissue” to give the book an easier-to-follow timeline and structure.

The good news? The insider views of the campaign are priceless. The people. The voters. The volunteers. The politicians and their operatives. The process itself with all its quirks. The information is timely and might help you put the current political frenzy in context.

The material and author’s insights make Obama’s Odyssey a worthwhile investment of time. It’s a good, albeit flawed, book that covers the extraordinary 2008 campaign with a rare intimacy.

THANKS FOR THE ANGST – ELLIN CURLEY

THANKS FOR THE ANGST, by Ellin Curley

Scientific studies now exist that defend
Stress as something good which we need to extend
Our productive lives,  as we get on in years.
So perhaps we should fuel, not conquer our fears
And dwell on what is scary in the world today
So we can keep our minds sharp and dotage at bay.

That’s easier today than it was in the past
Thanks to round-the-clock, in your face, varied and vast
News media, that seem to excel at frightening
(But not at their job – informing and enlightening!)

google_watching_you_independent_newspaper_24_may_20071

Whenever we search for what we used to call “news”,
Major world events and leaders’ well-reasoned views,
The depths of human depravity appear
In bold print before our eyes or loudly in our ear.
We get endless non-reporting, in-depth and detail,
Of the endless ways in which the conscience can derail

newspaper1

A killer with a torture device collection,
A kidnapper with a sex slave ring connection,
A pervert who goes way beyond weird and bizarre,
A psycho who hoards, God knows what, in his car!

The news keeps us knee-deep in sickos and creeps,
Who are out there for real, not just made up for sweeps!
We’ve been programmed to be on our guard all the time
So we don’t end up being a statistic of crime.
Instead of relating with trust and with ease
We assume those we meet have a mental disease.
You’ve made everyone in the country paranoid;
We’ve all got PTSD now, according to Freud!

Then there are reports that are billed as “public service”
Which really just want to make sure that we’re nervous
About things in our house that can kill our pet,
Diseases we never heard of we’re at risk to get,
Some food or drink we give our grandkids every day
That’s been reported to sicken or kill in some way,
The “fluke” accidents that seem to daily kill and maim,
The fear we’ll die with a Darwin Award in our name.
“Petty” you may say – but the message is clear –
Vigilance is a must to live out the year.

Darwin_Evolve

Thanks to the media we are also aware
Of all the stupidity and ignorance out there.
Not just IN the world, but running it as well
(Running it into the ground and straight to hell)!
Instead of dealing with the problems we must solve
Leaders argue if man “appeared” or “evolved”.
Rational and civil debate has been hijacked
By arguments whether a fact is, in fact, a fact.
“Discussion” is now defined as “loud, angry yelling”
And there’s little hope of the hostilities quelling.
It feels like we’re devolving back to the cave
Or rapidly digging a species sized grave.
That’s because there are no longer systems in place
To keep PEOPLE from destroying the human race!

It may be true that we won’t lose our edge if the press
Artificially elevates our levels of stress.
But the more we’re exposed to greed and insanity,
Selfishness, prejudice, lying, inanity,
The less we care about our brains getting stronger
And our bodies thriving so we can live longer.

NO!

The bombardment of negativity we endure
Has left us conflicted, hopeless and unsure –
Do we really WANT to keep senility at bay?
Or just let our minds slip peacefully away?
Being connected and well-informed these days
Creates angst and despair in so many ways!
We often think,” Why bother getting out of bed?
Long life is a croc! We’d be better off dead”!

IF THERE’S SMOKE …

“A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”
Terry Pratchett, The Truth

“When you are rich and powerful, no one will challenge you to your face or give you a chance to explain yourself. All the whispers are behind your back. You are left with no means of clearing your own name. And after a while you realize there is no point in even attempting to do so. No one wants the truth. All anyone wants is the chance to add more fuel to the fires of gossip. The whispers become so loud that sometimes you think you will drown in them.”
Amanda Quick, Ravished

“Don’t forget this, too: Rumors aren’t interested in the unsensational story; rumors don’t care what’s true.”
John Irving, In One Person

“Always remember… Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots.”
Ziad K. Abdelnour, Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics


Among the many things we say when we don’t have something witty of our own to offer, there are a few genuinely evil ones.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

This has become everyone’s justification for deciding guilt based on rumor, hearsay, and malice. I’ve heard people say this so many times, in a wide variety of situations, but it always means the same thing:

“I haven’t a shred of evidence, but I’ve heard stuff about you-know-who. He/she/they must be guilty of something, right? Because where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Being unpopular — or accused of wrongdoing — is not proof . Neither is attending a different church, or no church. Or dressing funny, having a bad attitude, failing to mow the lawn, keeping to ones self, being anti-social, holding unpopular opinions, or having bad manners. It is legal to be different.

Shadow of the gallows

Shadow of the gallows

And hey, how about gossip, eh? People say all kinds of shit. It can ruin reputations and careers. Destroy families. All because a guy said something to someone who repeated it to someone else.

Then a couple of other guys in a bar repeated what they thought they’d heard, plus a few embellishments. Their girlfriends passed it to their best friends who tweeted it. Rumor morphed into fact … because where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Everyone knows that.

96-FirepitHP-011

Now, you’ve got everything you need for a quick conviction. Without benefit of judge, jury, or trial. The next thing you know, a lynch mob is forming.

If ever you hear yourself saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” or words to that effect, stop. Think.

Who gave you the right to judge?

FEAR THE MAGIC WIDGET

Our cable company changes their software frequently. They call these upgrades, though nothing improves. The equipment doesn’t work better. It isn’t easier to use. If there are new and useful features, no one tells you what they are or how to use them. You might discover them accidentally while trying to figure out how to do what you did before they removed the menu you previously used.

The newest feature is adjustable recording times. You can set them to before or after the times posted in the guide. It’s trendy for shows to begin and end at odd times, a few minutes earlier or later than on the hour or half hour. If you set up recordings using the default settings from the guide, the end or beginning of each show will be snipped. Annoying. Very.

TinkerizedRemotes

Why can’t developers make the software use actual start and end times? It couldn’t be that hard.

With shows starting and ending at random times, despite how they’re listed in the “guide,” being able to adjust them ought to help. It would if you could just set start and end time using regular time. Start recording at 8:01 PM. End at 9:03 PM. Simple, right?

Nope. Too easy. So you have to use “start earlier” — or — “start later” or “end early” — or — “run over.” We have no problem with clock time, but the “earlier” and “over” thing is fuzzy. We need numbers OR better yet, make the DVR’s internal computer deal with this so we don’t have to.

So. To record shows in a sequence when one airs right after another, is Kafkaesque. You must start with the final show in the sequence, then work forward, adjusting each show in turn so it does not overlap the next or previous or whatever.

Garry has been engaged in combat with the DVR for months. Yesterday, he got so frustrated he was ready to throw the remote against a wall. I wouldn’t let him quit. If you let a computerized device defeat you, news travels and all your widgets will take up arms against you. They will overthrow civilization as we know it.

Today, the DVR. Tomorrow, the world.

Nothing is safe. Snick, whir, beep. Chirp, buzz, click. Ding!  Can the Zombie Apocalypse be far behind?

Show no fear!

NAKED DREAMS

Naked with Black Socks

I have often had “the naked dream,” though it was never about public speaking. My naked dreams are always about final exams and college.72-Marilyn & Garry in studio July 11

I am in a classroom ready to take the test when I realize I haven’t attended any of the lectures and have no idea what the subject is.

garry and tom walpole TV

And … I’m naked.

Nobody notices my nakedness. Maybe they are mentally naked too.

I was a pretty good public speaker. There’s much contradiction in my relationship with performance. I can’t play the piano for anyone. I freeze solid and can’t remember anything. Microphones turn me into a mute. But I can stand in an auditorium full of live people and I’m fine. If I can make eye contact, if I can see faces in my audience, it’s okay.

72-hello-studio-Turk_075

But. Put me in a studio — or in front of a critical musical audience? I’m frozen, like a deer in headlights.

Stage fright is situational and selective.

72-WNEX Radio_018

My husband, who spent most of his life in front of a TV camera, is shy. Except — when the camera is live, he’s live too.

There’s no accounting for it.

THE NEVER-ENDING PLOT – TO BE CONTINUED … ?

I hate it when one of my favorite weekly TV dramas decides to forgo the “new story each week” format and go in for one of those seemingly endless “story arcs”. It usually involves a particularly sinister person or group who is out to get one of the lead characters. Subsidiary characters multiply and plots give birth to sub-plots. Complexity is fine when you watch a movie … or binge-watch a series. The you can follow the twists and turns in a condensed period of time. You don’t need to have a scorecard … or take notes.

Castle-Beckett-crime-fighting-couple

It’s arrogant of TV producers to believe we will remember the details and subtleties of their story not just a week later, but through an entire season of weekly viewing. We have lives (or at least I assume we do).  We may actually miss a show now and then. Maybe we want to keep track of what’s going on in the world around us.

Then there are the even more annoying “to be continued” cliffhangers which assume you’ll still have a clear memory of what was going on five or six months later or whenever the show returns to the air with a new “season.”

ncis-need-to-know

I’m a senior now but my age is not why I can’t remember every detail from the many shows over long periods of time. When I was younger, my life was even busier and more complicated. My mind held onto gigabytes of more information I needed merely to get through the day.

I doubt I’d have had an easier time back then remembering who did what to whom — or why — after weeks or months. I would have been pausing the show to ask my husband “Who’s that guy and why is he back?”

Law-and-Order

I watch weekly dramas, movies, and series because it’s easy and fun to watch familiar characters deal with a new self-contained story every week. There aren’t too many new characters or complex interrelationships to keep track of. I can sit back and relax for the forty odd minutes of the show (minus commercials).

I don’t want to be burdened with long-term, twisting plots. Or have to remember numerous characters who pop in and out at the scriptwriter’s whim. If I want to be quizzed on irrelevant facts, I’ll watch Jeopardy.

Forever_Knight__Nick_x_Janette_by_Lioncourt87

I prefer to save what remains of my brain for really important stuff … like what my husband asked me to get him at the store today, or which mid-eastern country is Sunni versus Shiite.

Give me my a straightforward story with a plot. Characters who make sense. Leave the brain teasers for the 2-hour made-for-TV movies … or bingeable series.