I spent last week with fellow Public Scholars as our service (2015-2018) with Humanities New York comes to an end. Going forward, I may continue with my work, now acting as consultant on planning grants and action grants in art-science-humanities projects for any New York state based non-profit. Interested? Please apply here. From left to right: Ellen Gruber Garvey, Scarlett Rebman, Sally Roesch Wagner, Barbara Tepa Lupak, Anne Mosher, Susan Goodier, Dave Ruch, Victoria Alexander, Hallie Bond, Verdis LaVar Robinson, Antonio Pontón-Núñez, and Ryan Purcell.
Originally conceived of as a protest to war, Mother’s Day has become a marketing tool to boost consumer spending to give suck to the six or seven corporations that own practically everything. Now that Rosie the Riveter, maker of fighter planes and tanks, is the face of feminism, we tend to forget that the early feminists were anti-war activists. These days Clinton “feminists” want young women, like young men, to be required to register for the draft. More and more women today are proud to exercise the hard-won privilege of lopping mortars at meat targets, and pink-pussy-hatted feminists are appalled, not at the large number of civilians killed by U. S. supported forces worldwide, but by Trump’s attempt to keep transgender people from getting in on the killing. Continue reading
“The endosymbiosis hypothesis is retrogressive in the sense that it avoids the difficult thought necessary to understand how mitochondria and chloroplasts have evolved as a series of small evolutionary steps.” -Thomas Uzzell and Christine Spolsky, 1974
The above old quote may make us chuckle now that Margulis’ theory has been vindicated by DNA analysis. Uzzell and Spolsky imply that endosymbiosis seemed to them too easy and naïve, like a myth describing how the first humans sprang from sown dragon’s teeth. Even though there was nothing prima facie impossible about the idea — no physical laws violated — these critics nevertheless felt that the endosymbiosis hypothesis was tantamount to a “revival of special creation.”  Symbiogenesis, the idea championed by Lynn Margulis, is here associated with the supernatural because it was considered to be a rare and too fortuitous event. Continue reading
Last week Professor Mark Crispin Miller invited me to speak to his culture in media class at NYU about my experiences as an author dealing with the problems of the shrinking book publishing industry and the loss of quality and increased (ensorshlp that followed as a result. I mostly talked about the problems. During my train ride home, I started thinking more about possible solutions.
Publishing involves a product, information, that is unlike any other product; information can be copied and shared. Partly because of this, and partly because information can be a public good, a human right, writers are often expected to work for free or for low pay. The problems of this industry are unique. So must be the solutions. I put together Wish List, that, if implemented, would make my life easier and the reading public smarter. Some things on my list involve nothing less than reorganizing the entire economy or getting society as a whole to change its expectations. But, hey, the first step on the way to a revolution is to imagine how things might be, however impossible such changes may seem from where we stand now. Continue reading
“Terrordise,” Screenplay by V. N. Alexander
The Schwartz-Johnson family can’t wait to get to their new home in Paradise, a high-security gated community in Dallas, believing it will be worth sacrificing their privacy for the ultimate in safety against any kind of terror threat—-until Mr. & Mrs. Schwartz-Johnson are accused of terrorism themselves. Read more.
About Edinburgh Screenwriting Competition: “We are the home of the entertainment industry’s Fringe. We are weird and we love it. Our city has a very long history of nurturing and showcasing the most creative, original and talented oddballs the entertainment industry has to offer, whether a high concept studio project worthy of Tim Burton or a little indie you are dying to see made by David Lynch. We support the arts, not only in Edinburgh, but around the world.”
It’s a commonplace to say that good science requires imagination, yet scientist aren’t really encouraged to read poetry or to take up painting. Maybe they should. This talk presents the example of Vladimir Nabokov, renown Russian-American novelist and butterfly scientist who used his artistic knowledge to understand how evolution can work. He went against the prevailing theories of his day and was attacked for being unscientific, but recently some of his work has been vindicated by DNA analysis, showing that his artistic guesses were amazingly accurate and precise.
Nabokov didn’t think natural selection, a mere proofreader with no real creative powers, could make a butterfly look exactly like a dead leaf, complete with faux fungus spots. He didn’t think natural selection had gradually made the tasty Viceroy species butterfly look like the bitter tasting Monarch, allowing it to survive better. Although he believed that natural selection had shaped many of nature’s forms, he thought the one thing natural selection could not create was mimicry, which could be better explained by other natural mechanisms. This heresy infuriated scientists who thought insect mimics were the best illustration of the gradual powers of selection. More than fifty years later, Nabokov’s genius is finally being recognized. What was it about Nabokov’s way of thinking that allowed him to see what others could not? And how did his understanding of nature inspire his fiction?
Talk based on “Chance, Nature’s Practical Jokes, and the “Non-utilitarian Delights” of Butterfly Mimicry” by V N Alexander, in Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art. Eds. Stephen Blackwell and Kurt Johnson. New Haven: Yale University Press.