Friday, February 27, 2009

World of the Storm, by me

I can see myself in your glasses, dude!

Gay novels. mystery

Mystery novels were among my first not-scholastic readings. And before I studied Classic literature in school, mysteries were the first readings of mine when I saw homosexuality mentioned, sadly mostly unfavorably. Homosexuals were depicted as effete degenerates in the hard-boiled school of mystery novels, and as for the others, homosexuals were the killers, hapless victims, or comic reliefs ( like in Donald E. Westlake's High adventure). To see us GLBT people in an unbiased, objective way,I had to wait till the Seventies. "La Donna della Domenica (Sunday Woman) " by Italians Fruttero and Lucentini by '72 depicted a realistic, matter-of-fact gay couple, that was near breakup (depicting them loving and happy would have been too much, I suppose). Moreover, neither of those two was the perpetrator nor was he presented in a ludicrous way.Sadly, one of them was a victim.
And then came Joseph Hansen with a gay detective! As you read in
"In many ways a conventional P.I. - although he is in fact an insurance claims investigator - DAVE BRANDSTETTER makes for an interesting read partly because he is one of the few convincing (male) gay characters in crime writing. What makes the Brandstetter books very good however, is the way they combine a compelling, well-written 'whodunit' with their evocation of 70's and 80's Southern California, particularly Los Angeles. (...)
And kudos should be given to Hansen for his deft handling of Dave's long-term relationship with young, black TV reporter Cecil Harris with honesty and grace. It's a believable and adult relationship, and that's a rare enough thing, gay or straight, in detective fiction."
Today, gay detectives abound, in novels of various literary merit written by gay authors. My favourite among those is Dorien Grey,with is Dick Hardesty novels

In his first novel Dick Hardesty is not a sleuth but a Public Relation man, whose current task is to organize the electoral campaign of a bigoted homophobic Sheriff.
He's torn in two between his gay nature and his job, whilst an arsonist is picking on gay bars. When an arson claims lives, he becomes an investigator, and the solution is really hitckcockian in nature. Human interest and good mystery make for a very enjoyable series. Issues like gay families and gay marriages are also addressed. But Dorian Grey's most intriguing work is another's sleuth's story

Paranormal and mystery join in this masterpiece of the genre, redolent of Algernon Blackwood dreamy athmosphere in the same Chicago of another famous sleuth, Dick Tracy. Elliott Smith, the protagonist,is not a sleuth, but a builder, specializing in restoring ancient buildings. One day he wakes in an hospital after an accident, and find himself visited not only by family and friends, but by a ghostly visitor, a wistful ghost who knows only hisname: John. John will prompt Elliott to become sleuth after the discovery of an ancient skeleton in a building; from there departs a strange investigations that mixes history, romance and the supernatural. One of the most original mysteries I've read. I recommend it!

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript is considered to be 'The Most Mysterious Manuscript in the World'. To this day this medieval artifact resists all efforts at translation.
It is either an ingenious hoax or an unbreakable cipher.

The manuscript is named after its discoverer, the American antique book dealer and collector, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who discovered it in 1912, amongst a collection of ancient manuscripts kept in villa Mondragone in Frascati, near Rome, which had been by then turned into a Jesuit College (closed in 1953).

The Voynich Manuscript is a cipher manuscript, sometimes attributed to Roger Bacon. Scientific text in an unidentified language, in cipher, possibly written in central Europe in the 15th century.

Based on the evidence of the calligraphy, the drawings, the vellum, and the pigments, Wilfrid Voynich estimated that the Manuscript was created in the late 13th century. The manuscript is small, seven by ten inches, but thick, nearly 235 pages. It is written in an unknown script of which there is no known other instance in the world. It is abundantly illustrated with awkward coloured drawings of:

* unidentified plants;
* what seems to be herbal recipes;
* tiny naked women frolicking in bathtubs connected by intricate plumbing looking more like anatomical parts than hydraulic contraptions;
* mysterious charts in which some have seem astronomical objects seen through a telescope, some live cells seen through a microscope;
* charts into which you may see a strange calendar of zodiacal signs, populated by tiny naked people in rubbish bins.

No one really knows the origins of the manuscript. The experts believe it is European They believe it was written between the 15th and 17th centuries.

From a piece of paper which was once attached to the Voynich manuscript, and which is now stored in one of the boxes belonging with the Voynich manuscript holdings of the Beinecke library, it is known that the manuscript once formed part of the private library of Petrus Beckx S.J., 22nd general of the Society of Jesus.

There is no other example of the language in which the manual is written.
It is an alphabetic script, but of an alphabet variously reckoned to have from nineteen to twenty-eight letters, none of which bear any relationship to any English or European letter system. The text has no apparent corrections. There is evidence for two different "languages" (investigated by Currier and D'Imperio) and more than one scribe, probably indicating an ambiguous coding scheme.

The VM is written in a language of which no other example is known to exist. It is an alphabetic script, but of an alphabet variously reckoned to have from nineteen to twenty-eight letters, none of which bear any relationship to any English or European letter system.

Apparently, Voynich wanted to have the mysterious manuscript deciphered and provided photographic copies to a number of experts. However, despite the efforts of many well known cryptologists and scholars, the book remains unread. There are some claims of decipherment, but to date, none of these can be substantiated with a complete translation.

(to be continued)

There's no "gay Love" or "Hetero Love", there's only LOVE!

Beach Boys


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Master of light, by me

Cloning Neanderthals

Neanderthal Rights

The morality of resurrecting our closest evolutionary cousins

Once the Neanderthal genome is complete, could it then be used to clone an actual Neanderthal? Harvard University biologist George Church thinks so. He told The New York Times that a Neanderthal could be brought to life using present technology for about $30 million. How? Church would modify a modern human genome so that its DNA matches the Neanderthal version. To avoid ethical problems, Church tells the Times, this Neanderthal genome would not be inserted into a human cell but instead into a chimpanzee cell. This chimp cell would be reprogrammed to an embryonic state, and then introduced into a chimpanzee's womb where it would develop into a Neanderthal infant.

But does this avoid ethical problems? Hardly.

Assuming that cloning is safe, would it be ethical to clone a human being? The short answer is yes. Clones are basically delayed twins—and there is nothing inherently immoral about twins. Recent polls, however, show that most Americans still oppose the use of cloning to create human babies. In addition, some religious traditions believe that human cloning is immoral. So I suspect that the proposal to use chimpanzee cells to clone a Neanderthal is an attempt to do a kind of ethical end-run around this "yuck factor" reaction to human cloning. In this case, researchers could argue that they are cloning a different species, not a human being.

But there is another problem with Church's plan to use chimpanzee cells: Neanderthals are human beings, too. The ancestral lineage that led to both Neanderthals and modern humans diverged from the chimpanzee line nearly 6 million years ago. If it is possible to clone Neanderthals using chimpanzee cells, it would also be possible to clone humans the same way. One would insert a human genome taken from, say, a skin cell, into an enucleated chimpanzee egg and then install that egg in a chimpanzee's womb where it would develop. The only genetic difference from a normal human would be that the clone's mitochondria (tiny intracellular power plants that have their own small genomes) would be chimp rather than human. Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA has around 200 differences from human mitochondrial genomes whereas chimpanzee mitochondrial DNA has about 1500 differences. I fear that using chimpanzee cells to clone Neanderthals would likely be taken as an indication from the outset that they are in some sense subhuman, and thus less worthy of moral respect.

But let's set that worry aside and assume that scientists are able to produce healthy Neanderthal clones. What rights would they have? One way to approach the question is to ask if Neanderthals would be able to make and keep moral commitments. One significant clue that they might have this ability is the fact their genomes have the same version of the FOXP2 gene that we do. Our variant of that gene is necessary for articulate speech. The human (both modern and Neanderthal) FOXP2 gene differs from that found in chimps and most other primates by two changes in its genetic sequence. The fact that Neanderthals carried the same version means that it is possible that they could talk and might have been able to make and keep promises. If Neanderthals had this ability it strongly suggests that they would merit the same moral consideration that we give to our fellow human beings. If they can speak, there's a good chance that they can also demand rights.

Archaeological evidence also indicates that Neanderthals behaved in ways similar to modern humans. They controlled fire, wore clothing, made and used tools, and buried their dead. In addition, they physically developed in much the same way as we do. Like modern humans, Neanderthal infants were born with relatively large brains and took a long time to mature into adults. Some researchers believe that modern humans and Neanderthals could interbreed. Does the future hold inter-species nuptials?

Less happily, what if meeting a Neanderthal evokes an "uncanny valley" experience? Many people experience unease or even revulsion in the presence of robots or other facsimiles that look and act almost, but not quite, human. Higher primates such as chimpanzees and orangutans can also induce such uncanny feelings. We won't know if Neanderthals dwell in the uncanny valley until they have been cloned.

Unlike the characters portrayed in Jean Auel's novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, newly resurrected Neanderthals are unlikely to be in the grip of hereditary memories, but they might still have significant intellectual and behavioral differences from us. For instance, they might express a different range of emotions or lack mathematical reasoning skills. The rights they would be accorded would depend on those differences. We do, after all, limit the rights and responsibilities of children and of people whose intellectual deficits make it difficult for them to tell right from wrong. On the other hand, we also have a greater duty to take care of children and adults with diminished mental and moral capacities.

So what if we bring back Neanderthals and it turns out that their intellectual capacities are so dissimilar from ours that they cannot cope successfully with modern life? Should we control their fertility so that they go extinct again? This comes uncomfortably close to the eugenic arguments used to justify sterilizing people who were deemed mentally defective in the 20th century. Or perhaps Neanderthals could be placed in reservations where they would be allowed to develop without further interference from modern humans. Would this be akin to confining them to a zoo?

One science fiction trope says that it is impossible for two intelligent species to evolve simultaneously on the same planet since one would inevitably out-compete the other. This may have happened on our planet. Neanderthals disappeared around the same time that modern humans began to move into their territory. New research suggests that our ancestors killed them off. Perhaps we should use modern science to resurrect Neanderthals in order to right an ancestral wrong.

Just because these moral conundrums cannot be answered in advance is not a good enough reason to preclude future efforts to clone Neanderthals. The only way to find out what rights Neanderthals should have is to bring them back into our world.

Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kyle's bed and breakfast

My favourite books

NAACP Calls for Overturning of Proposition 8, from The Advocate

NAACP Calls for Overturning of Proposition 8

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced support on Monday for California's supreme court to invalidate Proposition 8, the November ballot initiative that constitutionally banned same-sex marriage in California.

The civil rights group not only wants the court to overturn Prop. 8 -- they want California's legislature to go on record against Prop. 8 as well.

"The NAACP's mission is to help create a society where all Americans have equal protection and opportunity under the law," wrote NAACP CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous (pictured) in a letter to legislative leaders. "Our mission statement calls for the 'quality of rights of all persons.' Prop. 8 strips same-sex couples of a fundamental freedom, as defined by the California state supreme court. In so doing, it poses a serious threat to all Americans. Prop. 8 is a discriminatory, unprecedented change to the California constitution that, if allowed to stand, would undermine the very purpose of a constitution and courts -- assuring equal protection and opportunity for all and safeguarding minorities from the tyranny of the majority."

The California state conference of the NAACP has already filed briefs with the California supreme court in the legal challenge against the ballot initiative, which squeaked by with 52% of the vote. California's state court will begin hearing oral arguments to Prop. 8 on March 5.

"The NAACP has long opposed any proposal that would alter the federal or state constitutions for the purpose of excluding any groups or individuals from guarantees of equal protections," said NAACP chairman Julian Bond in a press release. "We urge the legislature to declare that Proposition 8 did not follow the proper protective process and should be overturned as an invalid alteration that vitiated crucial constitutional safeguards and fundamental American values, threatening civil rights and all vulnerable minorities."

Alexander Robinson, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT rights organization, said that the letter represented forward movement for the NAACP. "It's consistent in that they have always opposed constitutional bans," he observed, "but I think that weighing in so clearly on an action that would have the effect of reinstituting marriage given that they still have not taken a position on gay marriage is a significant step forward." Robinson also anticipated that the national organization might get some pushback on the letter from local NAACP chapters. (Neal Broverman,

The man in red

Arrakis, il mondo di "Dune"

Shame on Proposition 8 backers

Proposition 8 is a big, fat LIE! It' based on vicious, false slander on an harmless category of citizens, the gay people, who like all others contribute to society! Marriage Equality for gay and hetero couples won't damage in the slightest the petty terrorists on social harmony who usurp the name of "christians!" What's "christian" in the discrimination on harmless citizens? What's "christian" in homophobic psaranoia? Proposition 8 backers are akin to moslem terrorists, to fundamentalist criminals like tose of 9/11 and Mumbai. Propositoion 8 should never have been advanced in the first place. Shame on those who move only to deny right to others!God forbade us to bear false witness: what falsity bigger than talking of "restoring" a traditional marriage that is and will always be there, gay marriage or not? Proposition 8 supporters are LIARS in the face of God! Imagine a proposition 8 in the sixties against rights of the black people!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Angeli da un'ala soltanto, di Sciltian Gastaldi

"Angeli da un'ala soltanto" di Sciltian Gastaldi è un bellissimo romanzo d'amore adolescente, amore gay, stupendamente evocato dallo stile fluente, melodico, a tratti ironico, a tratti drammatico, di Sciltian Gastaldi. Narra la storia d'amore fra due ragazzi romani, Francesco e Lele, il loro incontrarsi, il loro amore forse troppo intenso per durare, e l'agonia del distacco. Un romanzo d'amore come se ne leggono pochi, una rivelazione letteraria che è anche una promessa di una brillante carriera di un Autore da seguire.
Compra il libro al sito dell'Autore:

Muddy Rainbow

Whitout no love it's a Muddy Rainbow