Saturday, May 31, 2008

apart from a few rogue states...

model of the CBU-97 cluster bomb

It seems that progress is being made in the world by dint of hard work and determination. An agreement to ban cluster bombs has been endorsed by more than a hundred countries, and it’s believed or hoped that now cluster bombs will go the way of land mines after the international landmine treaty was brought into effect a decade ago, despite, of course, vigorous opposition from the US government, which also vigorously opposes the cluster bomb ban. In spite of this, land mines have become ‘stigmatised’ to such a degree, thanks to the ban and the publicity surrounding it, that only Burma now uses them.

Cluster bombs are like land mines in that they don’t discriminate, and are often detonated by children, or innocent farm workers. They are a particular problem in agricultural areas such as south Lebanon, because their presence is such a danger to field workers that cropping and harvesting can’t be carried out. Israel used over 1800 cluster bombs in attacks on Lebanon in 2006, and of course it opposes the ban. Other countries in opposition include India, Pakistan, China and Russia – all countries with significant military capacity and/or involved in conflict with neighbouring states.

Much of this piece is derived, appropriately, from a Lebanese newspaper, linked above.

Australia, along with the UK, has been dragging its heels over the ban, due largely to problems raised by their alliances with the US. What would be their liability if they were involved along with their allies, in attacks using cluster munitions? I don't know if they finally got what they wanted in terms of assurances, but they've finally agreed to the ban, which is due for ratification in December.


Friday, May 30, 2008

thick moves

My desk, my house is tortured, I don’t visit now, cobwebs, stains, dust, dregs, this wine is sickly, my upper palate is raw, my tongue rolls when I cough, I thought I couldn’t roll my tongue. These are my just desserts, but I’ll feel better in the morning, tickle around the edges, tackle that upper room, be ready again for fantasies of power, perhaps. The boy doesn’t even begin to comprehend how I’ve let him down, not attending to things, not attending things, watching the shit float and tumble across the room on the way to the fan. He thinks his destiny is in his hands, as I think my destiny is in mine. The generations tumble on, sparking, bursting, shrinking, sleeping, suffocating and struggling. Only always on.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

night divagations

The cats are really getting vicious with each other, because I don’t always have enough food for them and yesterday I ran out, and out of money too, till tomorrow, and I’ve noticed it's happened before with these languorous beasts, and I suppose it happens with people too, when they haven’t enough to content them, things get all dysfunctional which in most parts of Australia doesn’t happen, not really, not much, unless drugs and other stupors make people tetchy and broke and you can see their organs pumping frenetically under their translucent stretched skin, and their kids avoid them to build rich fantasies of tenuous comfort and monstrous invasion, screams and sleep.

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my watch

I watch films, sedulously, alone, frame by frame, thinking of the care and the choices, and the beauty and equipoise of the actors, and listening to the director or whoever with the voice-over, reliving these moments twenty years or so later, sounding all world-weary yet now and then infused with enthusiasm, as all the problems of location and set and lighting are revivified, together with old friendships and brilliant performances and trying moments, and I’m left with a sense of pleasure and strange loss, loss for what I never had and might never have even hoped for had I not watched the stupid damn thing, and all its emotional weights and tempests and glories, and locations locations, yet it’s all locked away behind the barrier of the screen, and what do I care if this is really Rome I’m seeing, or Tangiers, I can’t smell a thing and I’ll never see what’s behind that pillar of styrofoam or authentic rock of ages, I’m seeing an image that stops and starts and never faces me but obliquely, made of pixels or whatever, and my house still needs cleaning.

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winning over the demos

just believe

I made a youtube vid of the following, but it's not very good. I've unfortunately spent a small fortune on a crappy camera, but that's not the only reason why the vid's crap.

The trial by media, and the judgment by politicians, of Bill Henson – I haven’t seen anything of the images in question apart from what has flashed across the TV screen – is an object lesson in the untrustworthiness of that particular specimen, the politician I mean. I heard Krudd venting his view that the images were disgusting and that they had no artistic merit whatsoever, and I’ve heard other pollies, particularly of the right, unsurprisingly, jumping on that particular bandwagon. Therein lies the cancer at the heart of democracy. But before focusing on that, let’s focus on Krudd. It has come to my attention that Mr Krudd is a Christian. Having read the bible not so long ago, I need to point out to my viewers – and this might relieve you of the onerous task of reading the thing yourself, though it does have a few bright moments – I need to point out that the deity whose biography is to be found in the old testament, or tanach is a mass-murdering curmudgeon with no redeeming moral features whatsoever. Mr Krudd presumably communes with this disgusting entity, the list of whose crimes makes Joseph Stalin look like a kindergarten teacher, every Sunday. It’s quite likely that he asks advice from him on how to run the country. The fact that this entity is merely a figment of the collective imagination, is neither here nor there, for Krudd believes in his existence, knows about the crimes he commits according to the tanach, and not only considers him a good sort, he actually worships him and considers him even more important than sliced bread.

Now I’ve heard of Stalin worshippers, and apparently there are quite a few of them in the old USSR, not to be confused with my greatly improved version. I’ve never met any of them – though I do recall encountering a drunken old Hitler fan in my younger pub-crawling days in the seventies. It made me feel a bit queasy. The point is, such a type wouldn’t draw me to him like a sort of moral magnet, really. Frankly, I wouldn’t be much interested in a Stalinist’s views on any moral issue. I’d just consider him a bit beyond the pale. And that’s how I feel, too about Christians. Sorry Mr Krudd.

And then there are politicians in general. Though there are honorable exceptions, they like to come on strong about these sorts of issues. Strength is always a winning sign in politics isn’t it? And politics is largely about winning. Winning your vote. Winning over the demos, the demotico, that’s you folks. And it’s come to be an essential article of faith in politics that you won’t win over the demos, by being wishy-washy. I don’t know. I’m not sure, I can’t answer that – these are rude phrases for politicians – they try not to use them in public. And one of the rudest phrases of all is – I haven’t made up my mind. You’ll rarely hear a politician being so gauche as to use such phrases in public, and if they do, it’s almost certain that they’ll get into a lot of trouble. And this is particularly the case if the subject happens to be one of those moral hot potatoes like, paedophilia and child pornography.

I’ve written more, but lost it – it’s on the video. It’s great how reading aloud makes editing so much easier, though then it becomes editing for reading aloud, not editing for pageworthiness, not quite the same thing.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

genetics in general and particular

The life of Francis Crick was full and successful, he was involved in quite a few productive pairings, with James Watson, Sydney Brenner, Leslie Orgel, Christof Koch and others. He did some clever quite unbiological things during the war, and jumped late into biology, aged thirty-one. He discovered the double helical structure of DNA with Watson, and this opened up all sorts of questions about the genetic code. I only partly understand all this. The code contains degeneracy, junk in the genome as it was later called, but it took quite a while for them to realize this. Crick tended to be ahead of the pack, though, in intelligent guesswork. Take the adaptor. Crick wrote, for a small circle of leading geneticists who called themselves the RNA tie club, a paper entitled ‘on Degenerate Templates and the Adaptor Hypothesis’. His idea was that some combo of bases must provide information as to the choice of amino acids for particular locations. This was where adaptor molecules came in. He postulated 20 of them, one for each amino acid. Each adaptor would recognize some code which would bring in an amino acid to join a developing protein molecule. He didn’t speculate too much on the nature of this adaptor molecule, but it seemed likely to be a nucleic acid – that’s to say, RNA, which had become the next big focus for geneticists.

This was all quite theoretical, but the idea soon became empirically verified. Three labs discovered the process more or less simultaneously. Microsomes extracted from cells and placed in a test tube were shown to assemble proteins from amino acids. Before joining the protein molecule, the amino acids were attached to small RNA molecules, called transfer RNA. Many of those making these discoveries hadn’t realized that Crick had anticipated them in his speculations. Crick, on his side, was skeptical about the adaptor molecule being discovered, as he thought the transfer RNA was too big. Only as it became understood that each of the twenty kinds of amino acid had a specific transfer RNA molecule to do its job for it, did the fit between theory and evidence become clear.

My former step-daughter’s son has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. It has taken some time for them to work it out, and now everyone’s undergoing genetic counseling, which is a new one for me. He has Trisomy 12q, which, according to this paper, is just coming to be recognized as a syndrome. It’s also I think called partial trisomy 12q, though every case seems to be different in its partiality. Jacob doesn’t appear to be trisomic for a large part of 12q – that’s to say he doesn’t generally appear too out of the ordinary. The child in this paper was described as dolichocephalic [long-headed]. Jacob has something of a large head, and I would tend to describe him as brachycephalic [broad headed], but these are possibly technical terms and I’m no expert.

The note given to me about Jacob was this – Trysomy 12q, sub tolomeric and monosomic 2p sub tolomeric. I presume this should read ‘telomeric’, and monosomic should read ‘monosomy’.

Telomeres are at the ends of chromosomes. They’re a popular focus of study in medical genetics as their shortening affects replication, which affects the ageing process and is implicated in cancers.

Trisomy is a form of aneuploidy, that’s to say, it’s a difference in the usual number of chromosomes, which can lead to abnormalities. Downes Syndrome is also known as trisomy 21, because there are three sets of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two.

Humans have 46 chromosomes in each cell, making twenty-three pairs. Chromosome 23 is the sex chromosome, with one x and one y chromosome for males and two x chromosomes for females. The complement of chromosomes of any eukaryotic species is called its karyotype. Normal human cells have 22 pairs of autosomal [non-sex – in which there’s no variation in the sexes of a species] chromosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes.

The most common form of aneuploidy, or aneusomy, is trisomy 21, which isn’t fatal. However, trisomy 18, known as Edwards syndrome, which is the next most common. occurs once in every 3000 live births, and is essentially fatal. Death occurs usually before term or shortly after birth [Or more likely most deaths occur before then but are undiagnosed].

According to this site, only trisomy 21, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13 [Patau’s Syndrome] cases, as cases of full trisomy, have made it to term. Some 95% of cases of trisomy are cases of full trisomy. This means that what Jacob has is, presumably, partial trisomy 12 q, and monosomy 12 p, though from what I’ve read, his case is mild compared to others. The site also states that full trisomies are not hereditary, though they are of course genetic. As to partial trisomies, I’m not sure.

I’ve received further info claiming that there seems to have been an attachment of chromosome 2 to chromosome 12, or something like that. Which perhaps explains why I read monosomy 2, and perhaps that’s right.

Is it worth trying to understand what partial trisomy 12 q is before looking at further complicating factors? What is a partial trisomy? I have assumed that Jacob’s trisomy is partial because only 13, 18 and 21 full trisomies have survived to term. However there is also mosaic trisomy.

Partial trisomy – the duplication of part of a chromosome rather than all of it.

Chromosomes have two parts or arms, joined by a centromere. These two arms are of unequal length, the short arm being labeled p, for petit, or petite, and the long arm being labeled q. However – and the penny has just dropped here – the reason Jacob’s condition was described as trisomy 12q and not partial trisomy 12q is because, presumably, all of the q arm of chromosome 12 has been duplicated, whereas if only part of that arm was duplicated it would be partial trisomy 12q. Any trisomy described with q or p is already partial.

Most commonly, the duplicated part of the chromosome attaches itself to another chromosome – and this apparently has happened to Jacob, the q arm of chromosome 12 attaching itself to chromosome 2.

I’ve discovered a site which gives a great intro to [partial] trisomies and their relation to [partial] monosomies, and how they come about, that is, through translocation [reciprocal in this case]. A balanced translocation in one of the parents has apparently led to an unbalanced translocation in the child. Where there’s an unbalanced translocation, you have more of one chromosome and less of another, so a partial trisomy will generally be accompanied by a partial monosomy, I think.

Groping towards an understanding…

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

i feel movement

I’m impoverished, tightly squeezed and anxious, having spent too much on a camcorder and spectacles, the camcorder leading to the spectacles because I was recording myself and my specs were all askew, and these old specs have never been good for me, they came out of a slipshod eye test, IMHO, but the recent eye test was much more satisfactory and I’m getting two pairs made up, one for reading and one, graduated, for driving and perving.

I’ve used the camcorder to record a few grievances, and this has dug me further into the hole of my obsession. To release pressure I’ve written a few pieces, different for me:

un saison en enfer

I have no daughter, no mother

I have no women and

they don’t have me.

small consolation.

I consider looking up irredentism

or some odd African term from Blixen

while papers pile and skew

and tiny leaves blow in.


It’s a season I believe.

The computer holds me,

my personal computer.

A new facebook image, small, blurred, wild,

a raunchy rocker, but the familiar blazing smile,

really hapy in the moment smile, really really happy.

She knows how to be happy, how to care less,

how to delete the past, how to delete people.

I want to be like her sometimes, to be light and light others,

not to be burdened and burdensome,

squeezed suddenly by rage, blighted by sadness

My dark weight radiates


The fire cackles, my work is done.

I haven’t had a beer in a long time.

My dick still tingles from

her poses, attitudes, her many colours.

Such depth on a flat screen.

She’s relishing it while it lasts

The energy, the shape and contour

Those pale stark thighs, more knowing now, more bold

She’s plateaued on the peak

She’s obliterated her childhood

She’s momentous

She’s victorious

She’s having fun

She’s showing off

She’s soaking it up

She’s wet

She’s indecent

She’s an animal

She’s living the fantasy

She’s made it

Don’t spoil it

My work is done, it’s slotted in the gap

and maybe it’ll stay there forever.

I feel powerful in a powerless sort of way.

Am I proposing a change for the better,

or am I just a jealous spoiler

struggling for my share?


No longer demure, except when she must be

for she knows about decorum, and decorousness.

No longer elfin and gracile, she stomps and flops.

She has embraced chunkiness and clunkiness

Her laugh booms out, unlovely and loved.

She is beautiful, my heart clatters to the floor.


She might be watching me watching her, and I have to watch it for she’s on the watch, but then maybe knowing I’m watching, or hoping I am, or wanting someone to be watching, or knowing they are, or not caring, she kisses and frots, and I watch, and she’s not watching me watch, or she’s only watching her, or only watching what she frots and kisses, or not that even, her eyes clamped shut, gripping sensation.

pavlov's cat