Friday, December 30, 2016

No, Monkey Has Not Been "Banned In Seattle"

Do not be discouraged by the notice on Amazon the last few weeks that print copies of The Hot Monkey Love Trial are “Temporarily Out of Stock.” No, it does not mean that copies have been seized and impounded due to violations of obscenity and public decency laws in Seattle or anywhere else. I say that knowing that if it were true, sales would blow through the roof if the story were true. I’m told by the publisher that it has to do with yet another inscrutable Amazon algorithm. Even though Amazon may have run out at one point, new copies have always been in its supply and they ship when ordered. But the algorithm stubbornly refuses to take down the notice. Be assured, there’s a troop of Monkey commandos at the ready. And of course copies are always available in ebook.

Stay tuned for more to report after the first of the year. Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hot Monkey Released!

It was supposed to be just a literary experiment carefully controlled by responsible, sensible people in white lab coats, armed with clipboards, but who drink way too much coffee and get way too little sleep. No surprise  what happened. As if life is an eye-rolling B move, homo sapiens are wont to leave cages open. Now...
The Hot Monkey has been released!

It all happened so fast. According to rogue literary scientists at Water Street Press, it occurred at a party on Sunday, November 20, an event intended to merely simulate the release of Hot Monkey, purely for research to prevent an epidemic of madness. But it quickly got out of control. And there weren't just cages left unsecure; boxes of books, swinging doors, and champagne bottles were left wide open.

 Both the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security are now involved. A spokesperson for the CDC, Beau Nobo, warned: "It only takes one copy of The Hot Monkey Love Trial to be disseminated on an unwary public. They are prone to quickly propagate in ebook and print copies largely due to the fact that Hot Monkeys really like to... well, you know." 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Federal Research of Human-Animal Chimeras; Monkey Trials To Follow

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has proposed to lift the ban on federal funding of research for human-animal chimera, e.g., injecting an animal with human stem cells to grow human organs. Many organizations, including the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) oppose lifting the ban. The NhRP argues among other things that such research ignores “the ethical imperatives of an ever-evolving global scientific understanding of nonhuman animals’ cognitive and emotional complexity” already accepted by our culture.  

In The Hot Monkey Love Trial Bert defends himself, at the urging of his attorney, by insisting that he is not a “person” because of the unique monkey gene inserted into his genome.  It’s a good move since, inconveniently, a real person can be tried for the murder charges he faces.

Steven Wise, founder of the NhRP, tackles the issue head on: “…legal personhood has never been, is not now, nor will it ever be synonymous with the term ‘human being.’” He foresees the inevitability of the legal drama fully acted out in The Hot Monkey Love Trial: “Whether chimeras are considered human beings, nonhuman animals, or a new class altogether remains to be legally explored."

And perhaps decided by a jury.  

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pence Stand-Up Act Imitating Monkey Falls Flat

It’s a Presidential election year.  The concern in America’s reality-television culture is not whether a candidate makes sense or absolutely no sense at all. The question is whether he or she looks or sounds “Presidential.”  In this video from the House floor in 2003, then-Congressman, now Governor and candidate fore Vice-President, Mike Pence seeks to disprove evolution once and for all. I’ll concede he must be Presidential because he makes absolutely no sense. I also give him credit for his imitation of the comically-righteous and blindly-ambitious Presidential candidate, Senator Ray Hoffenworth, in The Hot Monkey Love Trial.

Pence’s entire argument revolves around the fact that evolution is just a “theory.”  In the realm of science that would be like challenging a “fact” for being nothing more than objectively verified, grounded in reality, and undisputed by everyone. Good move, sir. You’re on a roll!

The first and scientific dictionary meaning of “theory” is “a set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” Think theory of gravity, theory of electricity, and yes, definitely theory of evolution. All fit the definition and have dramatically altered for the better our understanding and experience of the physical world. Among many symptoms of his allergy to intellectual discipline that he manifests in this video, he’s apparently never heard the primary definition but instead is only familiar with the sixth definition of “theory,” way down at the bottom of the definitional food chain: “an assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.”

In his meandering and nonsensical presentation, swinging from one branch of history to the next, he even manages to mention the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. Somehow the Monkey Trial was another blow to science making Pence's case that evolution has proven to be a shot-in-the-dark conjecture. Watch the wildly gesticulating hands in the video. Who or what is Pence trying to ape? 

Oh. Never mind...

NOTE: No nonhumans were treated with cruelty or in any way dissed in the writing of this blog post. The subject human is the object of ridicule for his utterly foolish imitation of an alpha-male primate of another species who, incidentally, in a scientific debate would easily have the subject for lunch (literally and mercifully).

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Dog Is A Sentient Being. Are You?

In The Hot Monkey Love Trial the question boils down to this: Can Bert Gropes be prosecuted for crimes as a person when he’s different than “ordinary humans” because of the presence of a unique monkey gene (from the Libidoan monkey, unique to the Isle Libido) that was inserted into his genome in vitro?

Similar legal issues are now playing out in courts and legislatures throughout the free world. In December of 2015 France passed a law recognizing that dogs are “sentient beings” entitled to rights not to be subjected to  cruelty. Until then they were considered nothing more than “movable goods” along the order of soybeans, furniture, and bananas. How did it take so long for  dog-loving France to come to this? Mon Dieu! 

More recently in June of 2016 the Oregon Supreme Court in a landmark case held that dogs are "sentient beings" that may be tested without the consent of their owners. The dog’s owner objected to the blood being drawn from her “property” in violation of search and seizure laws. But the Oregon court concluded that because of the sentient, capable-of-suffering nature of dogs, and the rights they have to be free of abuse or cruelty, it was permissible to draw blood to detect and measure malnutrition and neglect regardless of the owner’s objection, similar to the way such testing can be conducted on children, who may have been abused, without the consent of  parents.

So what’s the takeaway here? That we are still debating whether dogs are sentient beings shows why rights should be based on sentience, not command of science, i.e., intelligence. It also proves that human beings are not too – shhh! someone who can spell may be listening – “s-m-a-r-t.”  The owner of the dog in the Oregon case, when confronted with the overwhelming evidence of animal starvation and neglect, responded by admitting that she had no dog food but – wouldn’t you know it? –  she insisted that she was just going out that very evening to buy more dog food.

See what I mean?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Luca Is Mom to Us All, But Was She Really a Zombie?

If a family tree were done all the way back to the beginning of life, the generational connections of trillions upon trillions of living things across all species of plants and animals would show, perched on top like a lonely and forlorn Christmas-tree angel, the Mother of All Life: Luca. Luca is the acronym for “Last Universal Common Ancestor.” According to scientists, Luca, a simple single cell, first existed four billion years ago when Earth itself, at 560 million years of age, surely was still teething.

Some scientists believe that Luca emerged from deep-sea vents swirling with gases and furnace temperatures caused by the volcanic magma erupting on the sea floor. The dramatic interaction of those elements, together with both sea water and critical metals found there, would have been enough to create the first life. We’ll call this sine-qua-non Evolutionary Vent, whenever and wherever it first happened, the Big E-Vent. Devotees of the Big E-Vent, notably evolutionary biologist Dr. William Martin of Heinrich Heine University in Germany, have isolated a mere 355 genes, out of the typical tens of millions of genes in a living organism, that are common to living things and therefore believed to have been the very genes of Luca. Because the functions of those few genes are inadequate to sustain life, the Big E-Vent scientists believe that Luca must have only been “half alive” or half of a living thing, depending for its life on chemicals from its environment to sustain it.

If true, Luca was the first chimera. Instead of something a like part human, part monkey creature, proto-chimeric Luca, with each ocean wave must have lurched from vent to vent, doomed to a semi-existence as half living bacterium-like cell, half zombie-like amalgam of metals and chemicals.

Others dispute the promoters of the Big E-Vent with all their plumes of gases, heavy metals, and raucous volcanic noise. They say that life originated more casually in warm shallow pools. Darwin himself believed this, believing that life evolved from “warm little ponds.” The scientists who believe in the less dramatic and laid-back pool theory we’ll call the Pool Parties. The Pool Parties also point to the essential function of ultraviolet light, critical not just for sunbathing or drying out after a swim but for its role as an energy source capable of causing the chemical reaction that animated the first living cell spawning all of life on Earth.

One such patron among the Pool Parties, Dr. John Sutherland, a chemist at the University of Cambridge, said that the chemistry does not support the Big E-Vent theory, and he criticized the study for its lack of testing with chemical simulations. Sutherland also had this to say about the proposition that Luca could only have been half-alive, half chemical zombie: “It’s like saying I’m half-alive because I depend on my local supermarket.”

In conclusion, I will say that Dr. Sutherland sounds very reasonable, but I highly doubt he’s ever wandered into a Safeway well after midnight and seen as I have the creatures who are in there shopping at that hour.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

3-D Printable Organs: Patentable If Called A "Device"

An alternative to incubating organs in a pig or sheep is just to run them on a 3-D printer.  Already such parts as skin, bone, blood vessels and even ears have been printed. Who knows? Maybe Van Gogh would have been less depressed if he could've later swung by Kinko’s to run off a replacement ear...

The technology mimics 3-D printing of more ordinary objects: Layer after layer of material is deposited to shape and form the organ, except that stem cells may be used together with collagen to give it the desired tissue look and feel.  Organs don’t just snap into place like other replacement parts; it’s slightly more complicated. In order to achieve “controlled cellular differentiation” so as to then easily snap into place, some incubation outside the human body may be necessary.

But can you patent the organs you create from a 3-D printer? Patent lawyers are struggling with this. The law says that you can’t patent what occurs in nature. Perfectly replicating a human organ would be a problem since it likely could not be patented. On a related note, you also can’t patent a human embryo or fetus. It’s not just prohibited under patent law for strong public policy reasons. It’s creepy.

So the key to obtaining a patent for a human organ is to make sure you’re not successful in completely replicating a perfectly natural and healthy organ. Make sure, for example, it has different cellular density or uses at least one artificial material. And don’t go and sabotage your chances in your patent application by plainly disclosing that you’ve invented a “human liver” or kidney for that matter. Call it an “implantable biologic device” with specified utilitarian applications. Be shrewd but sensible about it.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

“HumAnbryos”: Human-Animal Embryos For Growing Human Organs

Scientists are now inserting human genes into animal embryos, resulting in chimeras that can be placed into pig or sheep bodies for incubating. Eventually the organs grown can be harvested for human-inbound transplantation. Such chimeric creations have not yet been permitted to come to term per regulations and ethical guidelines in the U.S. and other countries. 

But, of course, there are places in the world, much as the rogue nation of Isle Libido in The Hot Monkey Love Trial, where there are no rules or arbitrary constraints like medical ethics or a sense for natural order. What's to stop them?

Whether you call it gene-editing or cooking something up in the bio-kitchen, the scientists have a good idea of how to make a human pancreas for one of the countless who die each year waiting for a transplant.


-Take one pig embryo and remove the pig pancreas gene.
-Add synthesized molecule and let simmer until the pig pancreas gene is permanently “deleted.”
-Now add a dash of human-induced pluripotent stem cells.
-Place “HumOink” embryo into pig uterus and bake until pancreas grown and ready.
-Serves one (1) human.

Where fresh pigs are unavailable, substitute with sheep. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

The "Cover" Story: What's He Trying To Say?

Below (and above on the banner) is the final cover design, commissioned by Water Street Press, for the book to be published later this summer. I think it does a brilliant job of capturing the overarching – you could say “heady” – themes of the novel. Here's why.

Think of the cover as an easy-to-read thermometer displaying a temperature that’s diagnostically accurate and definite, yet without so much as a word, much less a number. What you see is no ordinary fever.  Clearly there’s something wrong with the patient, but he just doesn’t seem to know it or care.  Why?

 By the way, the headshot is not supposed to look like the protagonist, John Bertram (“Bert”) Gropes whose name was obviously mutated and recombined from the name John Scopes of the original Monkey Trial. Although Bert is endowed by genetic tampering with a unique and single gene from a monkey indigenous to the Caribbean’s Isle Libido, Bert’s resemblance to a monkey is – shall we say – more subtle than the guy on the cover. After all, it’s only one powerful gene unique to a monkey that he carries.

The owner of the head – let’s call him “Humonkey Dude” – is endowed with more obvious missing-link features than Bert. Note how the vainglorious human in Humonkey Dude has attempted to mask his simian attributes, but utterly fails.  One can only imagine what the rest of his body looks like. There are a number of “tell-tail,” if you will, morphological features that allude to the whole story.

The hair on top looks pretty normal, at least in isolation. If you were to crop the image from the forehead up, you’d think he might turn out to be a good-looking guy. But his beard only goes so far in in covering his mega-monkey-like maxillofacial protrusion, the kind that people can’t stop staring at, no matter how hard they try, when casually striking up a conversation with Humonkey Dude. And there’s no toning down his nose that looks like it can easily smell that banana daiquiri lip balm you’re wearing four and a half banyan trees over.

Let's not forget to mention those water-jug ears. I read where super-stud Daniel Craig, who plays a convincing James Bond, is self-conscious about the size of his ears. I can even see Humonkey Dude emerging from the surf, dripping wet, shirtless, causing every hot-blooded, bikini-clad beach babe-oon to swoon. Even Barack Obama said, when announcing a federal anti-bullying initiative, that he was teased in grade school about his big ears.  I would not be going out on a limb to say that, compared to what others say who are running for high office these days, Humonkey Dude’s looks imbue him with no less than industrial-strength Presidential gravitas.

The tongue, however, is the key to the whole cover, and perhaps the novel itself. It’s possible that the seemingly permanent panting pose Humonkey Dude strikes is due to a rogue Miley Cyrus gene that could have been inserted into his zany zygote way, way back when. But that’s not it.  You have to ask yourself: What is causing him to express such passionate feelings with that patriotic unfurling of his flag? It’s what he sees. He’s looking up at the words “The Hot Monkey Love Trial.” Clearly he’s moved by the title and what it promises. The Hot Monkey Love Trial will set him free. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

We Each Have A Separate, Primitive, Inner Mitochondrial Genome

We each have a complete human genome “on the outside.” But on the inside we have a separate genome for the very primitive, if not  primordial, single cells that dwell in our cells: the mitochondria. We could call them our “mommychondria” because, unlike our outer genome -- half from Mom and half from Dad -- the mitochondria are inherited solely from our mothers. It seems the mitochondrial bathing suits on the sperm are stripped away and left at the ovum door. The mitochondria affect vital functions like assisting cells in converting nutrients to energy and, more strategically, facilitating the body in overall health, disease prevention, and longevity.

It’s only a matter of time before there will be mitochondrial mischief in the realm of in vitro fertilizations as happens in The Hot Monkey Love Trial. Meanwhile, there are very exciting developments from the goods doctors. Where women have diseases that can be passed on because of mutated mitochondrial DNA, there’s now an in vitro procedure where the mother’s nucleus is removed from her ovum and combined with surrogate donor ovum with health mitochondria. Combine and bake for nine months. Serves one healthy baby.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Get Ready: It's The Year Of The Monkey!

Today February 8 begins the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese calendar, occurring every twelve years. How auspicious. It is said that newborn people who are biologically published in the Year of the Monkey are destined to be witty, charming, smart, lively, mischievous, and adaptable (one assumes in the Darwinian sense).

Do the same stars guide the destinies of nonhumans? Can a book born this year, having started out a long while back with but a few letters on a page, imitate life when it mutates into a complex being composed of a sympathetic protagonist pitted against powerful and unpredictable forces, including a legal system that’s in the nature of a multi-headed creature of flying monkey butts? 
If genetic astrology is as much hardcore science as it’s cracked up to be, the answer is absolutely yes!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Monkey Seek, Monkey Suit Thrown Out

This follows an earlier post (Sept. 24, 2015): A monkey named Naruto filed a lawsuit, with a lot of help from PETA, to claim copyright ownership in a selfie he’d taken and that went viral. Naruto sought in his legal claim to have himself named the copyright owner and the beneficiary of the proceeds from the photograph to benefit him and his fellow monkeys on the preserve where they lived.

As could have been predicted from my earlier post, on January 6, 2016 the monkey’s claim was bounced out of court. The federal judge in San Francisco ruled that a monkey, or any other animal for that matter, cannot “author” a work of art under copyright laws, much less be the owner of the resulting copyrighted work entitled to collect royalty checks from its exploitation.

Apparently the judge decided the case based on, of all things, a simple reading of the Copyright Act which, it’s true, nowhere suggests that animals can own copyrights.  As the judge reasoned, consistent with the case of Cetacean Community v. Bush, brought by whales and dolphins seeking legal benefits and protections different than copyright, Congress has the power to ensure that animals are covered by laws it passes, but it consistently chooses not to do so.

I’d like to think that if I’d been given a chance to argue this case, there might have been a different outcome. Taking a page or two from The Hot Monkey Love Trial, I think the judge might have been persuaded with a more genetic and less legalistic argument. It would rely on common sense and wouldn’t arbitrarily place so much darn stock on what the Copyright Act actually says or doesn’t say.

Here is the summation of my argument: “It’s a fact that genes of humans and monkeys are more than 98% identical. I mean, like, that’s just for starters, right out of the genomic gate, no questions asked. Not enough evidence? Really? Suppose then, your Honor, someone had inserted one nefarious but unique human gene into Naruto’s in vitro fertilization, closing the narrow gap even more, would your answer be the same? How about two such genes?

Try as you may, your Honor, to remain firm in your opinion and to refrain from slipping. But be forewarned, because that slope you’re on is lined with banana peels….”