Friday, November 20, 2009

Link Proliferation: Eat yourself fitter.

"The Ultimate Revenge of the Art Nerd

The New York Times reviews the MoMA's upcoming "Tim Burton" exhibit and, sadly, finds it lacking.

Given the tremendous visual appeal of Mr. Burton’s movies, you would hope that “Tim Burton,” the Museum of Modern Art’s expansive retrospective of his noncinematic art, would be equally exciting. Alas, it is a letdown. Focused mainly on hundreds of drawings dating from his teenage years to the present and including paintings, sculptures, photographs and a smattering of short films on flat screens, it is an entertaining show and a must for film buffs and Burton fans. To see the raw material from which the movies evolved is certainly illuminating. But there is a sameness to all Mr. Burton’s two- and three-dimensional output that makes for a monotonous viewing experience.

I will most likely see it anyway, though it sounds like MoMA's basically installed three galleries worth of Hot Topic merch. The entrance to the exhibit (see above) looks fun.

Roll Save Versus Anxiety of Influence

The Escapist takes a look at the literary influences on the earliest iteration of D&D. Shocking, it isn't the name J.R.R. Tolkien written out 1,000 times.

Still, it's interesting that the game's original foreword, which Gygax penned in November 1973, long before any legal concerns entered into the picture, states: "These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don't care for Burroughs' Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howard's Conan saga, who do not enjoy the de Camp & Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to find DUNGEONS and DRAGONS to their taste." There's no mention of Tolkien there and indeed, even with the aforementioned references to Hobbits and Balrogs and the like, there are probably even more references to the Martian creations of Edgar Rice Burroughs in the text of the game itself.

How Evolution Makes Some People Better Cannibals

Kuru is to cannibals what mad cow disease is to beef eaters. In Papua New Guinea, where the cultural traditions of once required some tribes to eat dead, the disease claimed more than 2,500 people before cannibalism was officially stopped in 1950.

The legacy has left a curious tag on the genetics of the some of the cannibals and their non-cannibal descendants: In the last 200 years, the cannibals evolved a anti-kuru gene that researchers now call the "most clear but evidence of human evolution in action."

Mead and his colleagues discovered the mutation after comparing stored DNA from 152 dead Fore victims of the disease with DNA from more than 3000 living Fore, including almost 560 who participated in the ritual eating of brains before it was banned.

In 51 survivors and their descendants, they discovered a hitherto-unknown variant of PRNP, the gene which makes prions, the proteins that spread the disease. These prions become malformed and in turn make all healthy prions they encounter malformed as well, in a chain reaction that ultimately destroys brains by turning them into a spongy mush.

The change in the gene comes at a position called codon 127. Throughout the animal kingdom, the codon contains the same amino acid, called glycine or "G", from each parent, giving the form G127G. To their astonishment, Mead and his colleagues found a variant of the codon never seen in nature before, in which one of the glycines has been swapped for a valine amino acid, giving the new variant the name G127V.

Initially, Mead and his colleagues thought that because the variant had never been seen before, it must have damaging rather than beneficial effects. "We thought we'd found the trigger for how kuru happens, that someone ate the brain of someone with the mutation and that's how the disease started spreading through the cannibalistic funeral feasts," he said.

"Instead, we found the complete opposite, which is that it was protective."


zoe said...

oh, man...i got to the part from which you mined your title...ick.
i myself look forward to the burton exhibit. hopefully, a little sprite will pick me up here in the middle of nowhere and take me straight to that fantastic entrance...

The Frog Queen said...

Wow, I still own that D&D book...I am a nerd :D and still a vegetarian....although I have always said that trapped in the snow in the Andes, I would eat the dead people to survive ... :D


Jay Amabile said...

sad to hear that the Burton exhibit is lacking. Hopefully I'll make it there before it ends.