Bora's Blog


 

Aghios Nikolaos

 

i have an essay due tomorrow on Hamlet which i can’t bring myself to do. instead, I have decided to blog for a bit (I wonder why I didn’t pick up my journal?). Blogging is fun. Let’s see i feel somewhat pressured to share my thoughts in an interesting way and be funny and engaging and intriguing. enough of that.  this past friday was quite the night for me and so was saturday. i think it was the first time i went out two days in a row. today was also as eventful i had an audition for the Vagina monologues. 

friday night: 

i went to a party for UC drama (that’s the proper name instead of UCDP).  i completely let go and started to dance, really dance–throw my arms up, and spin and i was suddenly in Aghios Nikolaos. in that top apartment that faces a greek orthodox church on that street that leads to a small beach, which harbors so many of my childhood memories.  dream-like memories. Antigone was at the party as well with her earthly green skirt and her long earthly brown hair. she sat isolated from everyone. i asked her to come outside with me and so off we went. outside the playhouse huddled like the charred wood of a burned fireplace were some students smoking (one of which was mr.popular british guy).  the field that faces hart house on hoskin avenue and john w. graham was completely deserted and dark. so we climbed the fence and i found myself having an intimate conversation with the  moon and the sky. the moon “staring from her hood of bone”  noticed our  freedom as we ran and ran. that ephemeral feeling of freedom…

it’s 11:15 p.m. i should go and get my essay done or  give into the sweet paralysis of sleep. i will update later on crazy latino night and the vagina monologues audition.

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Einmal ist Keinmal

image001Sunday, July 5th, 2009. 11:11 p.m. 

“Einmal ist Keinmal, says Tomas to himself. What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we all have one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all.” (Kundera, 9)

 Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return is a central preoccupation of Milan Kundera’s modernist novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Kundera delves right into this concept with the opening paragraph: “…to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum!” (Kundera,3) Yet life does not recur infinitely, but “we live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold.”(Kundera, 9) Life is thus light and the decisions that we make “mean nothing” (Kundera,3). Eternal return, on the other hand, is for Nietzsche “the heaviest of burdens” (Kundera, 5). Although, Kundera does not equate the attributes of lightness and heaviness to either positivity or negativity. He seems to suggest that man’s constant  need for repetition (or eternal return) is his plight. This is illustrated when he says, “Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. This is why man cannot be happy. Happiness is the longing for repetition.” (Kundera, 298)

 As much as I would like to write an essay on this novel, I have to wake up early tomorrow so I will leave you with a number of quotes that I liked from it. Enjoy!

 On Love: 

“Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.” (Kundera,11)

“The brain appears to possess a special area which we might  call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful.” (Kundera, 209)

“In other words, she was pounding on the gate of his poetic memory. But the gate was shut. There was no room for her in his poetic memory. There was room for her only on the rug.”  (Kundera, 209)

“I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.” (Kundera, 209)

“He suddenly recalled the famous myth from Plato’s Symposium: People were hermaphrodites until God split them in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.” (Kundera, 238)

“Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).” (Kundera, 111)

“…when Tomas made love he kept his eyes open, focused and observant, his body ever so slightly arched above her, never pressing against her skin. She did not want him to study her. She wanted to draw him into the magic stream that may be entered only with closed eyes…She hated that distance. She wanted to merge with him.” (Kundera, 208-209)

“Why don’t you use your strength on me?” she said. “Because love means renouncing strength,” said Franz softly. (Kundera, 112)

On religion:

“The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse.” (Kundera, 286)

On compassion:

“For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs as heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”  (Kundera, 31)

On Life:

“We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public…The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes…Then there is the third category, the category of who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love…And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.” (Kundera, 269-270)


Ploughing

lab-mice

Monday June 29th, 2009:

 

At around noon, I entered The Hospital for Sick Children.  It was to be my first day of work in the Stem Cell Development Lab located on the fifth floor. The topic of concern ,Neuroblastoma, is a cancer of the sympathetic nervous system, mostly affecting children between the ages of zero to five. I had brought a black binder, which contained a dozen or so  scientific articles on the topic. According to the graduate student I worked with, I was to “plough” through these articles as fast as I could. This, at first, seemed like a daunting task. In front of me, were articles with titles such as: “Cytotoxicity Mediated by Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors”, “Targeting the Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase Isoform Impairs Growth and Survival in Neuroblastoma Cells”, “Sulforaphane targets pancreatic tumor-initiating cells by NF-kB-induced anti-apoptotic signaling”.  I only need one word and a question mark to describe my initial reaction, and I don’t doubt the description is identical to the reaction which you are experiencing right now : “What?” 

 

But the initial “What?” slowly turned into a “How?” after  “ploughing” through a few of the articles (I must acknowledge the help of wikipedia here). Soon,  I found myself intrigued with all of the information as my knowledge base on cancer in general and more specifically Neuroblastoma began to expand. For those of you who are curious, there are a number of factors that cause cancer. A genetic factor can be a mutation that may occur in the cell’s DNA nucleotide sequence, which would make the cell grow, divide and proliferate without restraint. Yet equally as important are epigenetic factors, which have to do with heterochromatin structures and DNA methylation. Cancer Cells usually contain an unusually large amount of heterochromatin, which silences genes in the cell that code for tumor suppression mechanisms.

 

It does this through a number of enzymes called Histone Deacetylases that remove acetyl groups from lysine amino acids located on histones (the basic protein component of heterochromatin). Since histone tails are normally positively charged due to amine groups present on their lysine and arginine amino acids. These positive charges help the histone tails interact with the negatively charged DNA backbone. So, acetylation neutralizes the positive charges on the histones by changing amines to amides. This in turn decreases the binding of histones to DNA. Deacetylation does the complete opposite, it removes the acetyl groups, thus increasing the positive charge on histone tails and preventing transcription of these tumor suppression genes!  Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors (HDAC Inhibitors) are anti-cancer agents because they interfere with deacetylation and encourage gene expression. Sulforaphane, which is a dietary compound found in brocolli, can among other things act similarly to an HDAC inhibitor.

 

Maybe I am getting a bit carried away with all of this  detail. Sometimes it can be hard to follow a ploughed row from beginning to end due to the vastness of a field.  As I was in the process of “ploughing” through these articles, a process which was both tenuous and rewarding, the graduate student invited me to observe his next experiment. He was going to inject neuro crest cancer cells (those found in Neuroblastoma) into mice. I accepted the invitation with alacrity. Following, we took the elevator to the sub-ground level, passed through one security door, made a left turn, then passed through another security door, turned again and we stopped in a room where we had to put on lab coats, gloves, masks, shoe covers and head covers. The graduate student told me that everything was monitored by a camera in the lab premises,subtly hinting that procedures were to be strictly followed.

 

Another stop had to be made for  yet another set of gloves. These were surgical. A gray door was opened and we,at last, entered a dimly lit room where the cages of lab mice were located. The smell in the room, which I could not place,  was very unpleasant.  The caged mice were small and fragile.There were three or four of them in a cage.The graduate student, working under a fume hood, picked each one up by its tail and turned it so that it lay sideways on his palm while injecting it with cancer cells. The mice looked very vulnerable and a pattern emerged with each of them. They clutched onto the cage with their tiny claws. The last mouse, afraid, hid. As it was being injected, I caught a glimpse of its bold red eyes. The mouse was  protesting as if it knew its fate, death. I commented on this and the graduate student replied that “sacrifices have to be made in science”.

 

It is best to see a mouse perish than a child suffering from Neuroblastoma. Yet children continue to die from the disease. There is a vast amount of “ploughing”  ahead and the field of cancer makes it all the more difficult. 

 


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