As it’s Saturday I decided to have a library-free day, which in practice simply meant that I read outside rather than indoors. I have reached the Middle Ages with my research reading which is somewhat closer to the present day than what I read at Emory but still pretty far out in terms of everyday relevance – so it was refreshing to read some essays and articles from (and about) this century for a change.
One of the first things that caught my attention was this piece from National Geographic, which tells how scientists are getting close to cloning extinct species – trying to construct a mammoth out of an elephant DNA and such. This all evokes a lot of Jurassic Park themes, but the idea what struck me was that once something like this is possible why would anyone feel limited to simply recreating extinct species? Why not start from scratch? This way we could end up in places a lot more interesting and, in many ways scarier, than Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. In addition to a short-lived Tamagochi craze, there have been computer games around for years that allow players to breed their own pets, at the level of rather simple crossing of virtual cats in Petz to tinkering with the DNA of “norns” in the cult game Creatures and seeing what comes out of it. Think of a lego set for grown men in white coats with the medieval bestiary was an inspirational manual. Or indeed, as the NG article also concludes – where do you draw the line, given that the difference between human and chimpanzee DNA is less than 1%? If you approach the DNA piecemeal, what can you use and what exactly remains off limits, as something surely has to unless we will want to end up with people bringing back their extinct grandmothers.
New Bookforum is out and there’s an article on Africa’s new literary boom – a topic that has interested me for a while. There seems to be a great deal of worthwile reading coming out of the continent in the wake of what would count as already “established authors” such as Achebe, Soyinka, Okri and Gordimer. This reminds me that today I also finished reading a book called Bazaar of the Idiots by Gustavo Alvarez Gardeazábal which was great fun along the lines of his famous fellow Columbian writer – and goes to further prove the point that it actually pays to dig a bit deeper than the front line of acclaimed writers of any given country or period. I will probably did write about it some lines in Varrak’s book blog.
Then, in terms of at least somewhat local news, it turns out that May is a National Masturbation Month in the United States – a tradition (a month, not masturbation) that apparently began in 1995 in San Fransisco. America doesn’t seem to cease amazing me.