Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sunday Readings

Let's get away from Iraq, Blackwater, and other disasters for a moment. Here are some readings on the margins from the Sunday papers.

I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer
Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth...

Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be "a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before".
Macao's boom leaving many behind

Like many other Macanese, he complains that the influx of labor across the border with China keeps wages low, while the cost of living - especially rents in working-class neighborhoods - spirals upward.

"Mainland people might be earning 3,000 a month at home. They come here and they earn 6,000," said Kuan. "For them it's a high rate, for us it's too low."

This is the reverse side of Macao's phenomenal growth, out of sight of most visitors to the artificial world created by new casinos like the Venetian, where above the gondolas on the fake canal the sky is always blue and the clouds cheerfully white because they are painted on the ceiling.

Taking Life Easy in Urban Italy
Cimicchi was mayor of Orvieto from 1991 to 2004, and for several years he was president of the "Slow City" movement, an outgrowth of the successful "Slow Food" concept. "Slow City" advocates argue that small cities should preserve their traditional structures by observing strict rules: cars should be banned from city centers; people should eat only local products and use sustainable energy. In these cities, there's not much point in looking for a supermarket chain or McDonald's.

"Our goal is to create liveable cities," says Cimicchi, a cheerful 51-year-old with a white moustache and laugh lines around his eyes. "We are working, if you will, on the concept of the utopian city, in the same way as the writer Italo Calvino and the architect Renzo Piano have done."...

Residents serve as quiet proof that concentrating on local products and industries can be a benefit, rather than a restriction. And lest they begin to seem like a bunch of ascetics, they make sure to hold wine festivals and riotous feasts on area farms.

To a certain extent, a "slow city" tries to preserve the civic structures from medieval or Renaissance times, while at the same time incorporating the most recent scientific findings of ecology and sustainability. Even modern technology is allowed if it helps to meet the city's goals....
Photo: Stephan Orth

1 comment:

MT said...

Venter is like PT Barnum, only more hyperbolic.