Feb 27, 2005

Multi-tiered magnificence

Many full moons had risen and fallen since my last spiritually enriching night wander. I had set out on many brief evening strolls through town, but rarely do such walks turn out to be wholesomely sensational. Everywhere are ugly street lamps, offending my sensitive vision with their characterless torrents of dingy amber light. Traffic is noisy and predictable, and I can never hope to achieve a harmonious connection with the natural environment with filthy engine by-products deluging my olfactories. The human beings seen roaming about in the dead of the night are by the most interesting vision, but it is also dismal much of the time. Downtown is usually ruled in the earliest morning hours by two or three delusional drunks who hang around the large gazebo near the bus station, claiming to have missed their plane-err-bus-err-train to "Caluhhforeignyeah."

When the wanderlust hits me, and I feel the need to break out of immediate civilisation altogether, I rely on an automobile to take me out of town. Around 1:30 this morning, I was struck with a sudden longing for an adventure. My current early morning class schedule makes a nocturnal lifestyle difficult to manage, but fortunately, this was a Sunday morning, and I had the rest of the day free. Without much forethought, I grabbed my camera and my keys and took off, allowing the road to lead me to some unknown destination. About fifteen minutes out of town, I recalled that botanical garden I had for quite some time desired to prowl around, but could not be scammed enough to pay the $8.50 admission fee to enter. A half-mile later came the left turn to the garden, and I decided on it. So as to arouse the minimal amount of suspicion, I drove past the garden and parked a quarter mile down the road, before a bridge crossing a wide rushing stream. As soon as I stepped out and closed the door, I was immersed in the rain forest. The myriad frogs greeted me with their repetitive chorus. Everywhere surrounding the desolate one-lane road were massive wild ginger, tall trees with leaves the size of umbrellas, lofty sword ferns, and a sea of lush green tinted silverblue by the naked moon. The air felt cool and heavy with moisture, and exceptionally pure. My no shoes policy was in effect as usual, and the sensation of the chilly dew-dampened grass beneath my feet was euphoria in itself.

A very brief walk brought me to a turn-off into a gulch. The concrete-paved road immediately split up into two directions, the left fork leading deeper into the gulch and the other steeply ascending up its wall. Between the two roads proudly stood this sign:


After slapping on my invisible name tag sticker upon which I had sloppily written 'GUEST,' I went against my primal left-handed nature for a change and chose the right fork. A short climb led me out of the relative darkness and into a wide moonlit clearing. The road progressed uphill, past a small cattle corral and water tank. As I approached a cluster of planted trees at a ninety degree turn, I detected the marvelous soothing fragrance of tropical wildflowers along with the sweet rotten smell of decaying fruit. A few short black shapes darted amongst the brush and across the road ahead of me; wild oinkers in search of an early morning meal. As the road began to run parallel to the rim of another gulch, I encountered at least a dozen of them at once. Some rapidly scurried down the steep gulch walls, escaping to their homes, while others lazily moved out of the way, as if they hardly feared me but did not wish to confront me either. A couple boars stood by in the brush and glared at me from behind their tusks, obviously proud of how facially well-endowed they were. The occasional screech of a bat couple circling above made me feel only more at home among these nocturnal creatures. I continued on slowly along the paved road, opting to treat my bare feet to the grassy strip that paralleled it instead, becoming absolutely attuned to the outdoors and my inner self.

Around another bend, a large, glossy sign jumped out in the moonlight, reading, "Umauma Falls."


I had been there before, only having reached it via a much more primitive route. Instead of scrambling up the slippery rocks of a stream and hacking through the jungle on the banks for a mile, I had this time taken the pampered wealthy tourist route. ...The route that is so luxuriously easy to travel, the owners actually charge visitors to view a waterfall from their lookout. When I did step up to the guard rail, peering over the edge of the gulch, I immediately decided a two-second glance would be more than worth the cost. Of course, I stared for much longer than two seconds. I was transfixed by the majesty of the scene for a good few moments. The pampered wealthy tourists' view from far above the stream was far superior to the primitive jungle-slashing, rock-hopping savage's view from stream-level. My eyes followed the multi-tiered waterfall as graceful ribbons of rapidly flowing silverblue-tinted white descending into one pool after another, eventually ending at a larger body of water. Beyond the gulch the wild rain forest could be seen rolling up the mountain to the very summit many miles away; a zenith still capped with a thinning crown of snow that shimmered brilliantly against the moonlight even at such a great distance. As I leaned and stared, I took a deep breath and wondered to myself whether tropical splendor could possibly be any more captivating. As I gazed steadily over the scene, I could not help but imagine the very best things in life, as wonderful images swirled around my head, painting rapturous masterpieces that left my soul smiling. I was probably about as 'high' as anyone could possibly get.

Eventually, perhaps five minutes or an hour later, I broke out of my euphoric little trance and glanced to my left, noticing the road continuing upward and onward. I allowed it to lead me farther up into the hills and deeper into the Garden of Eden. A sudden glance into the sky showed me a dense band of low clouds rapidly approaching, dark and bulging with moisture. The bright moonlight was quickly obscured and my shadow faded into nothingness. Moments later, the sky burst open, and I was pelted with heavy, warm raindrops. Almost instinctively, I held out the palms of my hands and embraced the random act of nature. Five minutes later, the rain ceased as quickly as it had started, leaving me and the earth and the trees a sopping mess. As I continued walking, I glanced back at the white-capped ocean far downslope and watched the dark veil of rain drift out to sea. As the moonlight touched upon my skin once again, fighting for its moments of direct contact with the beautiful landscape before the next dramatic shower, I was cold, wet, and rejuvenated.

I could not possibly reach the end of the road without exhausting myself, for it very well could have continued miles into the wilderness, ascending ever so steeply. I turned around and followed an alternate route which, by chance, took me directly back to the botanical garden's registration shack. As I wandered down the twisting path, ever taking my time, I thought about my dreams, and how dream-like this experience felt. If only I could have leaped and bounded thirty metres almost effortlessly, landing light as a feather on my feet, as I so often can in my dreams. While the gravity imposing its force on my body remained, I felt as if the pressure on my spirit had been completely released.

I decided to take a still image of the shack across the road, if only because it was so vibrantly decorated:


It was also quite interesting to observe what the waterfalls looked like by day:


Tired and thirsy as I was, I decided to roam about the immediate area for a little while, following narrow concrete paths through densely forested sections. It was all too easy to imagine myself in some elaborately-schemed maze, as the paths weaved erratically and unpredictably back and forth, past bizarre-looking garden ornaments wearing twisted grins. I expected some mystical creature to hop out of the brush and confront me, challenging me to find my way out alive before his underlings picked up my scent and preyed upon me.

The surreal only became more so when I stumbled straight into a moonlit hedge maze. The sheer unpredictability of such a discovery delighted me. The hedges were nicely trimmed, a metre or so taller than I was, their leaves drenched in that familiar gorgeous silverblue hue. They filled the air with a brisk, sweet scent that simply makes one feel at ease. At the entrance, rectangular grassy paths led in three separate directions, and I chose according to my nature this time, veering left. The path weaved about many ninety degree turns past a couple alternative routesbefore arriving at a dead end. One turn-off led to a dead end, and the other a loop, so the initial left-hand choice turned out to be entirely in the wrong. Alone with my imagination, I was enjoying myself immensely. I felt as if I had somehow landed into a maze from Starfox Adventures. I continuously imagined the possibility of a Sharpclaw lurking behind every sharp turn, waiting in silence for an unwitting soul to turn the corner. It was me against the world, after all.

The experience was incredibly video game-like. I was reminded of what a tremendous pleasure it is to use one's imagination to make a video game-esque adventure out of real life scenarios. The surrealism of the settings only made it easier to envision being in an entirely different world ... a less drab, predictable world based on such a rigid set of rules. The darkness bathes objects in shadows, leaving the interpreter's imagination to fill in the blanks. An oddly shaped object only a few metres ahead of me could be anything until I get close enough to it to examine it. My imagination quite literally goes wild, and I adore the sensation, even though it often reacts with my paranoia and leads to a few frights. The moon and the darkness paints far more intriguing, exciting landscapes than the plain, dull daylight, magically converting the ordinary into the bizarre. It's no wonder I enjoy so much wandering the night in absence of all human souls.

Only when a sudden rush of exhaustion hit me did I finally find my way out of the maze and return to my apartment, slipping into bed and quickly falling asleep as if I had just woken up from an incredible dream.

Feb 20, 2005


Credit cards are evil. They are truly reprehensible little rectangular pieces of plastic. They are also an incredible convenience, which only makes them more evil. They are there to tempt you to indulge in high-priced goods you do not need but feel you do because your card makes it possible for you to obtain it. They tempt you to purchase that really cool item that you cannot actually afford, but feel you can because you are armed with a method of acquiring it now and dealing with paying it off later. In a society that revolves around instant gratification so heavily, simply owning a credit card is in itself for most people a true test of self-discipline. It can be so tempting to just purchase that nice item now for the simple pleasure of taking it home and enjoying it, knowing you won't have to worry about paying for it for awhile to come. But that time always comes, eventually, and like they say, payback is a bitch. ...Especially when you find you have so little to pay back with. I do not ever want to allow that to happen to me. I do not want to run up huge debts on my credit cards while maintaining a "screw tomorrow" attitude, which is what so many young people these days unfortunately seem to do. And they wonder, then, why they are forced to drop out of school and work three jobs just to manage their monthly credit card fees. Ugh. I would rather simply not be able to afford something now and thus simply not have it than place the charges on a credit card so I can have it now but then struggle with bills for months to come. My brother already ruined his credit by using credit cards to purchase commodities he couldn't even afford, and thus ended up defaulting on his monthly bills. I have never made a late credit card payment in my life, and I see no reason to ever get lazy with that, either. I don't wish to journey down the same road as him. I just recently paid off the remaining $280 balance on my Best Buy card (for my camera I purchased in August) in order to avoid being slapped with deferred finance charges. It's certainly nice to know I won't have to worry about that financial obligation anymore. I do not relish the thought of spending my life being a prisoner to debt due to my own carelessness.

Credit cards are useful, yes. They can be life-savers in emergencies. I'm highly considering making a vow to use one of my credit cards only if it's an emergency; a situation that places my survival or well-being at stake. The bottom line is that credit cards, like many things, are dangerously easy to abuse. It's good to have a couple, but most of the time, it's best to leave them buried deep in my wallet for truly desperate times. I suppose I have bothered to write this out for my own benefit more than anyone's else's, as everyone deals with a different financial situation. If I ever make the mistake of unnecessarily running up mountains of credit card debt in the future for luxurious items I don't need, at least I can look back upon this entry and remember that I used to be smart.

Feb 16, 2005


I experienced something most phenomenal today.

I was driving down Waianuenue Avenue (I don't expect non-Hawaiianers to pronounce that properly), past all the schools and into downtown, not initially expecting anything to happen. I was admittedly being rather spastic, lost in the dark harmonious tunes of Peter Murphy and devoting just enough concentration toward driving to avoid hitting anything. Suddenly, something snapped me out of my little trance, and I almost reflexively hit the brakes. It was nothing I could initially see or hear. It was something I felt, something I imagined. I had a vision of a raccoon running across the road right in front of my car, and it lasted less than a split second. That was all it took to get me to depress the brake pedal. Not more than two seconds later, two cats, one closely following the other, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and ran across the road in front of me toward the left lane before disappearing into the trees. Their approximate distance in front of my moving vehicle was no more than ten feet, and if I hadn't applied the brakes they would have been roadkill, just like my conscience.

I cannot dismiss as a simple coincidence the astounding connection between my vision and the cats running across the street. I feel the actual event is something I must have predicted somehow. The entire way home, I was absorbed in my music, and did not halfway expect anything to run out onto the road ahead of me. All of a sudden, a vision of an animal crossing the road compels me to hit the brakes, and two seconds later two kamikaze kitties jaywalk in front of me. Yes, it's awfully difficult to regard that as coincidence.

Phenomena such as this has occured throughout my life, and every time it does happen, I become further assured that humans and animals alike have a sixth sense, weakly developed as it may be. It may allow us to predict significant events in our day that have yet to occur, if only a couple seconds from now. This sense could simply be rooted in our instinct for survival; it may be responsible for saving lives everyday.

Often, though, it simply keeps me out of trouble. I cannot remember the last time I overslept through a class, as I always naturally wake up in time to get ready for school. If I have class at 9:00 in the morning, I usually wake up between 7 and 7:30, then fall back asleep. I don't bother setting an alarm, because I always wake up at or before 8:30. Most of the time, I naturally wake up exactly half an hour before class starts, give or take a few seconds. This has always left me in awe, and I wonder if anyone else experiences anything similar. In another instance, I have an instructor this semester that likes to call on students for answers. In spite of, or perhaps because of my deliberate rear corner-huddling, I seem to be one of her favourite targets. As often as I space out and daydream in economics class, I can always seem to predict a couple minutes ahead of time when she is going to ask me a question. I receive a sort of mental cue to start paying attention. Nothing I can physically observe or recognise assists in my ability to predict it ... it is entirely extrasensory.

This may not sound unusual, but I can also always tell when someone is looking at me. I can feel their gaze upon me, and I feel wildly violated. I can tell when someone has been in my personal space, such as my bedroom or apartment in the past few hours. I simply feel the remnants of their presence, and sometimes find it disturbing. When outside, wandering about where I think I should be alone, I can usually feel the presence of a human soul within a mile radius. This enables me to keep on my guard, and keep from getting caught if I am somewhere I should not be. I believe it must be much harder to sneak things by individuals with a stronger than average sixth sense. One might consider being as honest as possible to someone who demonstrates abilities of precognition.

Feb 15, 2005

Earlier today, on my way home from school, I passed a large white banner hung on a park fence that read "Heart Walk." The first image that popped into my head was that of a bunch of people with large, gaping holes in their chests walking around their own bloody hearts on lush green grass, with the leashes attached to one or more of their valves. What's odd is that these creatures could not stop sniffing each other's chambers. Now that's what I call a hearty romp!
I wasn't given too many choices for student workstudy jobs this semester. I could have been a note taker for a disabled student, but I don't exactly enjoy taking notes nor have the best handwriting. Almost every other job would have required me to be fluent in the Hawaiian language, have taken higher level chemistry or economics courses, or meant answering telephones and talking to humans on a regular basis. So, I chose a job on the university farm, about five miles from the main campus. I have never minded doing outdoor nursery work, and this is a place in which I would rather be outdoors.

On the second day, I found myself pulling piglets out of a pen, one by one, and holding their back legs down while an animal science student injected a vaccination agent in them. They were all rowdy as a litter of puppies, and most of them squealed like the sky was falling until they were returned to their mother. As I held them by the chest with my left hand, I could feel their little racing hearts and the heat of their bodies. Somehow, I get the feeling this job may cause me to be even more sympathetic toward animals, should that be possible. The more time I spend with animals, the more I appreciate them. I do not enjoy hearing their cries of discomfort, much less being a cause of it--but I always enjoy being around them. I just hope I will not be asked to assist with the slaughtering or euthanasia of an animal, as I am not sure how I would handle it. At any rate, this is a fairly painless job thus far, and yet another reference for the future--though I don't see how circumstances could ever place me on a path towards being a farmer.

It's time to assess where I am academically, if only for my own benefit. All my general education requirements are completed, and I have only two courses left to take to satisfy all my requirements for my Geography and Environmental Studies major in the fall. I must select two courses for summer school (running from mid-May to early June), and the only requirement is that they must be upper division courses. Here are the ones that look the most promising:

Eng 485, Writing for the Worldwide Web
HPE 495, Science of Diet and Weight Control
Soc 394, Cross Cultural Leadership Styles
Psy 320, Developmental Psychology
Psy 323, Community Psychology (online)
Rels 394, Jesus in Movies

Yes, they are actually offering a course called Jesus in Movies. It'll be like getting 3 credits for watching the religious channel everyday. Show me the path to transformation! I can hardly contain this sensation of giddiness that overcomes me when I think of graduating. Three years ago, I was ready to admit to myself I would never make it all the way through. I didn't do much in Arizona besides goof around and overwork myself in the freight industry, but university in Hawaii is much different from community college in Glendale, and I have learned to establish a very good work ethic. To borrow a famous phrase from Calvin & Hobbes, I have 'built character,' and lots of it, through the challenges and hardships of college. I suppose the reward of all this hard work will be getting a job I actually desire in a place I want to be in.

Hawaii is beautiful. One of the most beautiful places on Earth. The Big Island is like an ultra-miniature continent, with all its different climate zones and geomorphic features. It has arid deserts, semi-arid deserts, grasslands, tundras, glacial features, an active shield volcano, cinder cones galore, the tallest mountain in the world, alpine zones, sub-alpine zones, temperate forests, rain forests, beaches, dramatic amphitheater valleys, rivers, lava tubes, and otherworldly landscapes characterised by fields of barren rock and mysterious craters. It doesn't quite have the wettest spot on Earth, though. That title belongs to Kauai, whose Mt. Waialeale receives nearly 450 inches of rain annually. The rainiest area on this island receives only a little over 300 inches, which is still acceptable, I suppose. The beauty is often so intense it cannot be taken for granted even after countless years of living here. I came to this realisation on my way back to my apartment last weekend. I was driving along the mountain road. Downslope, golden tropical sunshine drenched the shores of the leeward coast and rained down upon the vast blue sea, stretching out to the horizon boundlessly. I looked in the opposite direction and witnessed over the green grassy rolling hills a vivid rainbow against a backdrop of dark, low rain clouds. The cool Pacific trade winds were driving drizzly rain sideways into the realm of sunshine, and the end result was little short of breathtaking. Farther down the road, Mauna Kea came into view, its summit crowned with pure white snow. I stopped and took another picture of the vista, despite my having done so several times before. Many traffic accidents here occur as a result of the driver taking in the scenery a little too much. Indeed, I could never get completely tired of this place... there is simply too much natural beauty. That is to say nothing of the culture. People are generally as warm as the sunshine here. Accepting, too. It's an ultra-liberal place to live. It's as far away from America one can get and still be considered part of America. The cultural diversity is tremendous. The air is among the purest in the world. The ocean is eighty degrees warm in February. The only recreational activity that is seasonally dependent is skiing or sledding in the winter snow on the mountain.

So why would I ever want to leave? Simply, there is much more out there to see. This is but a tiny little crumb on the lithosphere. It's a precious crumb, but still a mere crumb. I long to see new places and meet new faces. I cannot dismiss the likelihood of eventually coming back here to live out the rest of my life, but I want to see some of the rest of the world, first. I feel it will make me appreciate paradise all the more, as three years of metropolitan life in Arizona certainly did. I wish to live in a temperate climate again, so that I may experience a proper cold winter. There are exotic locales abound elsewhere, and I am a young, ambitious pup. So, once I break out of school, my first real job will likely be situated on the U.S. mainland somewhere... most likely in the westernmost states. California, Oregon, and Washington all seem appealing. Fortunately, the rest of my family seems very willing to assist in my getting all this together, as well.

Provolone is calling my name.

Feb 14, 2005

Will someone please be my valentine? I need someone to display their affection for me by buying me a big pink box full of sweets that will rot my teeth and add five centimetres of flab to my hips. Nothing says "I love you" like a giant red teddy bear you discovered during your perilous epic adventure full of peril at Wal-Mart and checked out through the express aisle on your perilled way home from work. I'll think of how special you are everytime I snuggle with this gorgeous ball of synthetic fibers that was mass manufactured just for me in exotic Taiwan. Or even better yet, pledge your undying and eternal faith to me by purchasing me a diamond! My eyes will light up like the sun when I open up that little velvety box and see a tiny stone gazing back up at me, gleaming brilliantly against the dull incandescent light and saying, "I complete you, Neal..." I would swoon, thank Jesus Christ, pray for our troops, and marry you before the sun bathed us in sinister darkness. Then we would run indoors hand and hand, turn on every light in the house, and immerse ourselves in the comfort and security our electrical appliances provide all night long. We would cook up enough SPAM to feed a hundred Sub-Saharan Africans and watch the country music channel for hours while we make up cutesy-wutesy phrases using Scrabble tiles and feed each other little candy hearts with charming notes on them that taste like blackboard chalk from the 19th century. Maybe we could even go to the theatre and see a romantic comedy that will challenge our bowels and leave us questioning the finer aspects of our bathroom habits. We may even go so far as to share a $10 bucket of popcorn and even sip from the same $5 medium soda. I could hardly imagine anything more romantic than sucking carbonated sugary syrup out of the same plastic straw as my valentine, or feeling my greasy fingers rummaging around with yours amongst the warm popcorn dripping with that tantalising artifical butter. ...Except, of course, a diamond. Then after the credits roll and we have left our seats we will make love very conservatively for the sole purpose of procreation and have five beautiful children and give each of them one million and three free smilies. We may even decide to leave the theatre first! I cannot possibly think of anything more romantic than Valentine's Day in a mass consumption society... can you?

I find it's very cathartic to mock that which goads my goat. It's like all-natural prune juice for a commercially constipated mind.

Feb 7, 2005

Ignorance in a can

...Complete with an easy-open lid.

I happened to catch a glimpse of a clip on "America's Funniest Home Videos" early last night, featuring a live lobster being deposited into a pot of boiling water. I nearly gagged. I could never bring myself to do such a thing to any animal, be it from the land or the sea. What a horrible image to even run through my mind. I wonder what goes through people's heads when they open a can of SPAM and fry it up... apparently, not much at all, because if they thought too much about how spam is made, they probably wouldn't be able to shove it in their mouths without retching. It's just the leftover parts of animal carcasses, is all: intestines, eyeballs, noses, feet ... all thoroughly ground up and stuffed into a tidy little can for human consumption. It appears safe, because you just can't visually recognise any prominent evidence of whatever miscellaneous organs and appendages went into your particular can. Usually. It also most likely tastes no better nor offers any greater nutritional value than canned cat food probably does, but how many people are going to try canned cat food? Just close your minds and eat it. There you go... SPAM tastes so good, it may as well have been God's divine creation that fell right out of his perfectly sanitised holy lap. Only what you choose to believe has to matter, right? As long as that is what you choose to believe. If enough people assure me crab grass tastes delicious I'll probably love it too. Of course, I would sooner eat a fistful of twigs than a cheeseburger.

Speaking of holy laps (or not), I never forgot about my photography journal. I posted in it a few times this morning, and intend on doing so much more often from this day forth.

I've been obsessed with "Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones. I grew up with Howard's music, after all. The song can pull me out of a glum mood more effectively than most others. Perhaps it's all the nostalgia and fine memories associated with it. Certainly, the lyrics are uplifting. I really must dow- err, obtain his greatest hits album. Simply, I'm enamored of that new wave sound. Many may dismiss it as being retro-hip 80's cheese that should have died out with disco, but I beg to differ. It's great music. Depeche Mode, New Order, A Flock of Seagulls, Ice House, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, The Human League, B-52's, Talking Heads, Falco, INXS, Numan, The Police... I could go on, but that would be awfully self-indulgent of me.

I go sleep now.

Feb 2, 2005

Just plain evil.

Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy
Maryann Mott
National Geographic News
January 25, 2005

Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.

Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.

In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.

And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.

Scientists feel that, the more humanlike the animal, the better research model it makes for testing drugs or possibly growing "spare parts," such as livers, to transplant into humans.

Watching how human cells mature and interact in a living creature may also lead to the discoveries of new medical treatments.

But creating human-animal chimeras—named after a monster in Greek mythology that had a lion's head, goat's body, and serpent's tail—has raised troubling questions: What new subhuman combination should be produced and for what purpose? At what point would it be considered human? And what rights, if any, should it have?

There are currently no U.S. federal laws that address these issues.

Ethical Guidelines

The National Academy of Sciences, which advises the U.S. government, has been studying the issue. In March it plans to present voluntary ethical guidelines for researchers.

A chimera is a mixture of two or more species in one body. Not all are considered troubling, though.

For example, faulty human heart valves are routinely replaced with ones taken from cows and pigs. The surgery—which makes the recipient a human-animal chimera—is widely accepted. And for years scientists have added human genes to bacteria and farm animals.

What's caused the uproar is the mixing of human stem cells with embryonic animals to create new species.

Biotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin is opposed to crossing species boundaries, because he believes animals have the right to exist without being tampered with or crossed with another species.

He concedes that these studies would lead to some medical breakthroughs. Still, they should not be done.

"There are other ways to advance medicine and human health besides going out into the strange, brave new world of chimeric animals," Rifkin said, adding that sophisticated computer models can substitute for experimentation on live animals.

"One doesn't have to be religious or into animal rights to think this doesn't make sense," he continued. "It's the scientists who want to do this. They've now gone over the edge into the pathological domain."

David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University, believes the real worry is whether or not chimeras will be put to uses that are problematic, risky, or dangerous.

Human Born to Mice Parents?

For example, an experiment that would raise concerns, he said, is genetically engineering mice to produce human sperm and eggs, then doing in vitro fertilization to produce a child whose parents are a pair of mice.

"Most people would find that problematic," Magnus said, "but those uses are bizarre and not, to the best of my knowledge, anything that anybody is remotely contemplating. Most uses of chimeras are actually much more relevant to practical concerns."

Last year Canada passed the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which bans chimeras. Specifically, it prohibits transferring a nonhuman cell into a human embryo and putting human cells into a nonhuman embryo.

Cynthia Cohen is a member of Canada's Stem Cell Oversight Committee, which oversees research protocols to ensure they are in accordance with the new guidelines.

She believes a ban should also be put into place in the U.S.

Creating chimeras, she said, by mixing human and animal gametes (sperms and eggs) or transferring reproductive cells, diminishes human dignity.

"It would deny that there is something distinctive and valuable about human beings that ought to be honored and protected," said Cohen, who is also the senior research fellow at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics in Washington, D.C.

But, she noted, the wording on such a ban needs to be developed carefully. It shouldn't outlaw ethical and legitimate experiments—such as transferring a limited number of adult human stem cells into animal embryos in order to learn how they proliferate and grow during the prenatal period.

Irv Weissman, director of Stanford University's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine in California, is against a ban in the United States.

"Anybody who puts their own moral guidance in the way of this biomedical science, where they want to impose their will—not just be part of an argument—if that leads to a ban or moratorium. … they are stopping research that would save human lives," he said.

Mice With Human Brains

Weissman has already created mice with brains that are about one percent human.

Later this year he may conduct another experiment where the mice have 100 percent human brains. This would be done, he said, by injecting human neurons into the brains of embryonic mice.

Before being born, the mice would be killed and dissected to see if the architecture of a human brain had formed. If it did, he'd look for traces of human cognitive behavior.

Weissman said he's not a mad scientist trying to create a human in an animal body. He hopes the experiment leads to a better understanding of how the brain works, which would be useful in treating diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

The test has not yet begun. Weissman is waiting to read the National Academy's report, due out in March.

William Cheshire, associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic's Jacksonville, Florida, branch, feels that combining human and animal neurons is problematic.

"This is unexplored biologic territory," he said. "Whatever moral threshold of human neural development we might choose to set as the limit for such an experiment, there would be a considerable risk of exceeding that limit before it could be recognized."

Cheshire supports research that combines human and animal cells to study cellular function. As an undergraduate he participated in research that fused human and mouse cells.

But where he draws the ethical line is on research that would destroy a human embryo to obtain cells, or research that would create an organism that is partly human and partly animal.

"We must be cautious not to violate the integrity of humanity or of animal life over which we have a stewardship responsibility," said Cheshire, a member of Christian Medical and Dental Associations. "Research projects that create human-animal chimeras risk disturbing fragile ecosystems, endanger health, and affront species integrity."



If this was something out of a science fiction programme, it would be quite entertaining; perhaps somewhat fascinating. The horror of this, though, lies in the fact that it's real.

It would help to first look past the usual media exaggeration. A child ending up with a pair of mice as his parents would be a prime story for a supermarket tabloid, but is hardly likely to ever occur. As for the idea of a mouse being given a human brain... look out, Pinky & the Brain fanatics, your favourite cartoon characters could soon become a reality in some mad scientist's laboratory! Really, humans may just create the very entity that will ultimately trigger their extinction... and it won't be machines, it will be two mice bent on conquering the world by any means necessary!

To be perfectly serious, however, I am absolutely against vivisection in the first place, but this is even more warped. Dear Miss Cohen claims it's degrading to human dignity. Naturally, my sentiment lies more toward animal dignity. I can hardly imagine a greater insult to an animal's dignity than to forcibly inject human cells into them. And I thought it was bad enough humans have the power to impose their will onto any other species of animal on the planet. How about the capability of imposing their will into them? Truly frightening. I am happy for Canada and their decision to ban chimera creation. ...Yet another reason to appreciate the great north.

Of course, the typical excuse for pursuing such bizarre research methods is that they could potentially save human lives. It's a logical argument, but not one I agree with. To what sadistic lengths will humans go just to potentially prolong the lives of certain members of their own species? Ultimately, scientific advancement through vivisection is something I will always vehemently detest. Hell, I don't advocate humanity's progression at all. It can kiss my furry ass post-haste, especially since it involves the endless suffering of other species. Just plain evil.

This is lovely inspirational material for fictional stories, though. Imagine a scientist truly going mad (as if they aren't mad enough already), and secretly creating a large number of chimeras out of massive predatory animals. These powerful beasts, let's say two dozen of them, would possess the intellectual capacity and scientific knowledge of a comparatively physically weak human, combined with their acute senses and sharp instincts. Oh, imagine the sort of destruction and chaos these poor chimeras would cause... they'd first let every other innocent animal out of its cage and guide them out to the forest (assuming there's one left by the time this is conceivable), then roam down the streets, taking life and destroying property left and right. Oh, it would be quite a grim tale from a human standpoint, but in this case, I'd just have to side with the cursed chimeras ... or maybe they wouldn't be so much cursed as... empowered.

Yes, I am particularly fond of the fictional artistic representation of distinguishable human traits in animal vessels. I find such creatures majestic, beautiful, and erotic. This is not the way, however, I would want such beings to enter reality. Go slice a cantaloupe and keep your cells to yourself, god damn it.

Feb 1, 2005

Today was a bad day. Short fuse on I + inflammatory behaviour of others = pronounced explosion.

I was recently informed by some "romance coach" on TV that you should "never cut your pasta." Shame on me, for my mother made spaghetti last night and I sliced every last strand up with the blunt edge of my flatware utensil to facilitate the oral consumption process. How unromantic of me for not twirling the pasta around my fork like a couth gentleman. Next time I'll just use my paws. The cushy compost pile out back is a delightful place to eat. ...Like a fancy steakhouse, even though you're not surrounded by dozens of people noisily chattering about the latest reality TV show and grinding up dead cow guts with their false dental work. No, the compost pile isn't that romantic. There isn't even a designated self-service tobacco poisoning section! That's right, folks! Better leave your carcinogen-crammed cancer cases in the paddywagon; there's no chimney for you on my stack.

Humans are ridiculous.

I feel bitter. Like a salt lick peed on by a mountain goat. I have this overwhelming urge to bite a stranger and carve my initials into their left temple with a hobby knife while strumming a Neuroticfish song on a banjo. Where's Dr. Phil when you need him? I never have these problems at 3:00 in the afternoon!

I'm sleeping through my mourning economics course tomorrow. Group work is becoming highly loathsome, considering it's contradictory to my entire approach on life. The multi-tiered classrooms make interaction between classmates on different rows nigh impossible, so why bother making people count themselves into groups like we're in second grade?

I can be such a cub sometimes.

But just wait until I receive my deluxe fluorescent highlighter set of mass destruction. I shall wield my mighty vibrant tip and grace the history books with my skillful stroke of renowned resplendency! Your fate is emphasised in a morbid shade of bright pink, so you'd better run faster than the ink! Vengeance will be mine, you monkeys.