A new home!

This blog now has a brand-new home: http://doradomagazine.com/. Check it out!

Get ready for the Noise …

Mark your calendar: on Saturday, May 22, at 8:45 pm, Gena Mason & the Noise will perform at the world-famous Cat Club, on Hollywood’s legendary Sunset Strip. Hopefully, the LAPD and others will refrain from interfering this time.

The Cat Club is located at 8911 West Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA. Hope to see you there.

Correction: BIO, not Solazyme, responsible for cloned pigs

After receiving numerous indignant emails today from individuals purporting to represent Solazyme, I’ve done some additional digging and found that it is apparently BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization), and NOT Solazyme, that placed the cloned-human-transplant pigs in the convention hall for last week’s Chicago conference. From Solazyme‘s communications, I’ve gathered that they are “a renewable oil company, focused on converting algae to oil within a sustainable process for use in making biofuels, foods and cosmetics. They do NOT work with livestock.” I apologize for the mistake and for any inconvenience it may have caused.

However, the story stays interesting. The cloned livestock is for real. And it turns out that you can check out the GE (genetically engineered) animals for yourself in September, when BIO holds its Livestock Biotech Summit in South Dakota. From BIO’s website:

“The livestock biotech summit is BIO’s first national industry conference on genetically engineered (GE) animal technologies. This conference will uniquely focus on developing global solutions through animal biotechnology.” 

BIO’s stated motive for displaying its cloned pigs and calves is to prove that

“these healthy creatures do not look different from any other pig or calf you’ve ever seen but these animals, and others like them, are laying the foundation for transforming public health, helping the environment, improving food production and enhancing animal welfare.”

Well, judging from the fact that Solazyme was extremely anxious to distance itself from this technology, BIO will have its work cut out for it in convincing the general public to accept the new genetic advances, however revolutionary.

Just as I predicted, this is a hot-button issue. More later.

Cloned pigs used for human transplants

Wow … while scouring the internet this week, I happened upon a mention of a “bioproducts” company called Solazyme. Word is that, at an intellectual property conference held last week in Chicago, Solazyme proudly displayed in the convention hall one of its new products: a pig that had been genetically modified to grow body parts to be used for transplantation into humans.

Apparently, Solazyme isn’t the first to venture into this territory. In 2002 National Geographic reported that competing teams of scientists had been cloning genetically-modified pigs, to use their organs for human transplantation:

“Pig organs are well suited for transplantation; they are approximately the same size as human organs and have similar plumbing, which makes reconnecting blood vessels much easier. Also, the size of pig litters tends to be large and pigs reproduce quickly, raising the prospect of a large supply of ‘spare’ organs.”

One hitch, however, is that “natural” pigs’ organs are generally rejected by humans, due to an idiosyncratic coating of sugar molecules. The fix: scientists simply created cloned piglets programmed without the sugar-producing gene. This was a significant scientific advance because the researchers were able to “knock out” a targeted gene at a specific location.

Though scientifically laudatory, this work by geneticists — and its subsequent commercialization and marketing by companies like Solazyme — promises to open up a proverbial can of (genetically-modified?) worms. Once fundamentalist Christians, FoxNews, and PETA latch onto this story, I imagine it will stir vigorous debate.

Perhaps that’s why, during a quick visit to Solazyme’s website, I found absolutely no mention of livestock, genetically-modified or otherwise. Maybe they’re planning to break it to us gently. I’ll keep tabs on this story. More later.

William Burroughs knows

Christiaan Tonnis ~ William S. Burroughs / Video / Laserprint / 2006

Until a couple of days ago, I was pretty psyched about the place where I currently live. Luminaries like Ike Turner and Angela Davis have called the Normandie Hotel home. The lobby’s beautiful, the rent’s reasonable (for L.A. standards), and the vibe is pretty hip. But what is decidedly unhip is the fact that there has been no water in the hotel for 6 days now. That means: no bathing, no hand-washing, no using the toilet. Thank god for my gym membership.

I’m not too sure what’s going on with the place. Apparently, one of the new owners moved back to San Francisco to be close to his boyfriends, and the other manager doesn’t seem to know too much about running a hotel. I’m starting to wonder whether the place is going to close down soon. So once again I’m having fantasies about owning my own home.

Coincidentally, yesterday I received a link from Bruce Germinsky, a realtor on the Jersey Shore. It looks like they’ve got some great properties all over New Jersey; and if I had any desire to live in that state, I’d probably get in touch with them.

But America’s getting me down right now. I keep thinking about this quote by William Burroughs:

“America is not so much a nightmare as a non-dream. The American non-dream is precisely a move to wipe the dream out of existence. The dream is a spontaneous happening and therefore dangerous to a control system set up by the non-dreamers.”

I’m a dreamer. I think I need to blow out of the States for a while, to keep my soul alive. Any suggestions as to a destination? Email me at gena@genamason.com.

Brought to you by your friends at http://www.bruce-germinsky-realtor.com.

STEPHEN HAWKING: TIME TRAVEL IS REAL!

“[I]s time travel possible? Can we open a portal to the past or find a shortcut to the future? Can we ultimately use the laws of nature to become masters of time itself?”

In a recent article published by the UK’s Daily Mail, renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking asks these questions and provides some startling answers. For days the internet has been abuzz about Hawking’s essay “How to Build a Time Machine,” in which the universally-recognized genius emphatically concludes that humans can accomplish time travel into the future.

For the means of voyaging through the fourth dimension, Hawking presents several possibilities: wormholes, black holes, or a VERY fast machine.

According to Hawking, physicists now believe in the existence of invisible portals through time (“wormholes”) that can facilitate fourth-dimensional travel:

“There are tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids in time. Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than molecules, smaller than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum world. And they actually link two separate places and two different times.”

One problem, though, is their incredibly small size. But Hawking suggests that wormholes might be captured and enlarged enough for a person or a spacecraft to pass through. If so, a wormhole could take a traveler to distant planets, or to a different time on our own planet Earth.

Even with the help of wormholes, Hawking concludes that time travel to the past is impossible (thus dashing his own hopes of a tryst with a vintage-era Marilyn Monroe). This is because traveling to the past would create a paradox that the laws of nature would not permit.

The future, however, is fair game. As Hawking explains, this is partly because time moves at different speeds in different places. A massive object — such as a black hole or even our own planet Earth — can cause time to slow down dramatically. However, Hawking dismisses such natural bodies as being largely impractical time machines.

Instead he proposes a man-made alternative: a machine that can travel near the speed of light.

“It really is that simple,” Hawking claims. “If we want to travel into the future, we just need to go fast. Really fast.” But of course there’s a catch. A suitable time machine would have to be massive; and the only way it could achieve the requisite speed would be to travel through outer space. However, Hawking writes, if these conditions were met, then one could travel to the edge of the galaxy in 80 years, or approximately one lifetime.

So exploring the galaxy in one lifetime is within the realm of human potential. But I suspect that a lifetime might not be nearly enough to explore the mind of Stephen Hawking.

Don’t miss “Stephen Hawking’s Universe,” beginning May 9 on Discovery Channel at 9pm!

Stephen Hawking in zero gravity (NASA)

Show tomorrow at The Terrace

Gena Mason & the Noise will be playing Thursday, May 6, at Pasadena club/restaurant The Terrace. The Terrace is located at 443 E. Colorado Blvd Pasadena, Ca 91101.

It’s only our second show together, and our bass player can’t make the gig. But we’re just looking forward to having fun, making great music together, and sharing it with you.

Pics from LA JEMM festival

A photo from our very short set on the outdoor stage at LA JEMM’s festival in April  … before we were SO RUDELY INTERRUPTED:

Gena Mason & the Noise


RahmWatch: Emanuel at Daley’s Global Cities Forum

At first I tried to talk myself out of it. But in the end I couldn’t resist treating myself to an impromptu trip to the Windy City, to see Rahm Emanuel speak during the 6th Annual Global Cities Forum at the University of Illinois.

Last Tuesday, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley hosted municipal leaders from more than 100 cities worldwide in an open discussion of the need for public-private partnerships, to help strengthen cities in the wake of our global economic crisis. In addition to Rahm Emanuel, guests included the mayors of such far-flung cities as Mexico City and Johannesburg, as well as prominent figures from the World Bank, Boeing, and other organizations.

Not only was this a cool event, but it was a rare opportunity to attend what was perhaps the first stop on Rahm’s as-yet-unofficial campaign for elected office (perhaps Chicago mayor?). Unquestionably the superstar of the day, Emanuel took part in the first panel, which also included Bertrand Delanoe, the eloquent and charismatic mayor of Paris; Michael Nutter, Philadelphia’s refreshingly plain-spoken mayor; and Motorola CEO Greg Brown.

Seated dead-center in the semicircle of panelists, Rahm first tackled the subject of the worldwide economic crisis. Noting that the median household income had decreased over the past 10 years, he stressed that governments need to “do more with less”; and he posited the creation of an “infrastructure bank” with public and private funds as one potential solution to the financial quagmire. Of course, since he’s not yet on the campaign trail, he did not provide details on the mechanics of such an arrangement.

Not surprisingly, he also emphasized the need to strengthen collaboration between federal and local governments. President Obama’s Chief of Staff pointed to the recent federal stimulus package — whose passage Rahm largely engineered — as a successful example of this ideal. Nonetheless he also carefully nodded to state and municipal sovereignty, noting that the “local level knows best” what it needs.

At least (unlike certain Supreme Court Justices) he’s no Luddite. Particularly welcome was Rahm’s acknowledgement of the importance of technology as a tool of empowerment whereby citizens can become involved and interact with their governments. (He admitted, however, that the federal government must improve its relationship with technology.) One point that I wish he had elaborated was his encouragement of a regional, rather than division-oriented, approach toward city governance. This sounds interesting, but I’m not quite sure what it means.

Of course, he wouldn’t be Rahm if he hadn’t also taken the opportunity to pimp his own professional achievements. Among the feats he ticked off were his passage of a community colleges bill; his work in Chicago city government and Hope VI housing grants; and his involvement with Race to the Top in Education, which he presented as a successful example of collaboration between Washington and the states.

It was hard not to notice that, while moderator Judy Woodruff (PBS NewsHour) addressed the other panelists as “Mayor” or “Mr.” so-and-so, she referred to the president’s Chief of Staff simply as “Rahm.” Apparently this is standard protocol with him, and it lends a populist touch to his persona. Throughout the event Rahm seemed at ease and gracious — for instance, quickly offering Nutter his own microphone when the Philadephia mayor’s mic failed. Good progressive that he is, although he tends to be carefully centrist, Emanuel also seems to be pretty well informed of cultural trends and the issues facing younger generations.

But now that I’m back in L.A., the question I had last month remains unanswered: will Mayor Daley step down as Chicago mayor and let his friend Rahm run? Did this Global Cities Forum represent Daley’s “passing of the baton” to the ever-ambitious Emanuel? Or will Rahm have to settle for a U.S. Senate run, instead?

Daley wasn’t talking. So I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned.

On Avatar and Obamas

What is the BFD about Avatar, anyway? Is it really that great? Let me know!

Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House theatre