Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yeast Affection

I often wonder to myself if I'm cut out to be a scientist. Sometimes I can't believe what I'm doing. Othertimes I think it's really exciting and I look forward to answering some ground breaking questions.

One of the things scientists do a lot of is go and listen to other scientists talk about their work. I study yeast as a model for studying lifespan and peroxisomal division. Do you know how many people study yeast in the world? To give you an idea, I've been to several conferences this year. The one's I know of off the top of my head are the Montreal Yeast meeting, the North Eastern Yeast Meeting and the International Yeast Meeting. Inter freaking National! Yeast!

And I sit there scratching my head wondering what posesses someone to study certain things? There were two talks the other night for the Montreal Yeast Meeting. The first talk was about mating in a particular yeast strain. I slept through that one. When I woke up I asked a coworker what the second talk was about. "Iron Economy in S. Pombe (a type of yeast)." I wasn't happy. "Are you kidding me??" I couldn't believe I was going to sit around listenning to someone talk about how yeast take up iron.

But the scary part is.. I actually enjoyed the talk. Then I realized that slowly I am becoming one of them. A scientist. I remembered how excited I was to talk to some of the biologists at a conference in San Diego. It was a thrill to explain to them how peroxisomes divide. A THRILL! Do you know what a peroxisome is? Does anyone? Seriously, I think there are 5-6 scientists studying these things, and by tomorrow I will have met them all.

What is this beast called science? My attitude towards science used to be, "If you can't eat it or spend it then who really cares?" Lots of people apparently. Think about it. It's a game really. A bunch of grown men and women solving the puzzles of the universe. And the moment we cure one disease, a new one pops up to kill us. The moment we think we've found the smallest particle in the universe, someone finds a smaller one. And the more things change in the world, the more they stay the same. Robots aren't walking the streets yet... No flying cars... No one has bothered cloning me or a dinosaur. What has science brought us really? A partial explanation of how S. Pombe conserves iron. As Bart Simpson once said, "If you want results who do you go to? Your Shwarzneggers, your Stallones and to a lesser extent your Van Dammes."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Resident Racism

Always one for keeping on top of the news, here's an relatively old contreversy that has only piqued my interest recently. There's this trailer for Resident Evil 5, a video game franchise where you kill zombies. But in Resident Evil 5, they go to Africa to kill African zombies! Watch the Trailer!


So, some Black people got angry because it looks like this video game is a not so elaborate excuse to shoot Black people. I certainly think it looks racist. All its missing is a bunch of cops spraying them with firehoses. Surely someone involved in the making of this game must have said, "Mmm... Don't you think this looks awful? Don't you think some Black people might object to a White guy going to Africa to shoot and maim Black people?"

And sure enough the answer came, "Oh come on! No one will know the difference! If anyone asks, we'll just say, he's shooting zombies who happen to be Black. It's a coincidence! It's not our fault the zombie virus ended up infecting Africans! There's all kinds of disease down there! No one would object if he went to France and started shooting a bunch of white zombies!"

I guess I wouldn't... And we all saw I Am Legend. Will Smith was a solitary Black guy shooting zombies, many of whom may have been white. I just don't think they were white enough to justify this game. RE5 seems to play up some pretty racist imagery. I mean, some of those women are wearing the Aunt Jemima bandanna and everything. The zombies in I am Legend were kind of a a non-descript beige with beige clothing. We certainly couldn't affiliate them to any specific culture. They should have been wearing shirts that say "Metallica" and "Smashing Pumpkins".

And don't Africans have it hard enough with the Aids and the famine and psychotic dictators? Do we really need to create a fiction where they're afflicted with zombieism too?

Whatever the intention, I know back in the day when I used to play Halo 2 online, there was no end of racial slurs flying back and forth and that's in a game where the villains are not mobs of black guys. Imagine the consequences of this? Racist kids are going to pee their pants with delight; "Mom, this Christmas can I get that game where you gun down "N-words"?"

Jaded Mom: "Yes dear, but only if you eat your supper."

It would be funny if they tried to somehow make up for the racist content by having the character say lines that are apologetic while he's shooting the zombies:

RATATATATATA "Why did these zombies all have to be black??? WHY?? Oh, the humanity!!!!" RATATATATATATATA, "Some of my best friends are Black!!! I swear!!! I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE!!!!" RATATATATATA "I'm an equal opportunity zombie killer! I don't even notice color!!!!" RATATATATA "I"m only racist against zombies!!!" And he wears a shirt with Kofee Anan's face on it.

Sometimes I think to myself, Black people don't ask too much. Don't call us the N-word, don't make overtly racist jokes. I think we're pretty good sports about often being the first to die off in horror movies. Is it really too much to ask that they didn't make this game? Were there really no other ideas on the table? I can hear the people who made RE5 saying it now, "Yeah, it was either this or Zombies in the Hood."