Michel Houellebecq Wants To Be Cloned

The controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq explains why he wants to be cloned. He just can’t help it, he says; like most people, he just blindly wants to perpetuate himself. “Such feelings leave no space for freedom and individuality, they aim for nothing but eternal, idiotic repetition”; and yet these feelings “are shared by almost all mankind, and even by the majority of the animal kingdom; they are nothing but the living memory of an overwhelming biological instinct.” As always, Houellebecq’s insights are quite bracing…
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Intersex Recognized

Australia has–the first time this has happened anywhere in the world, as far as I know–officially recognized a person as being intersexed. (Via Eszter’s Blog). Alex McFarlane has XXY chromosomes (rather than the male XY or the female XX), and e refuses to consider emself as either male or female (to use the Spivak pronouns, for the first time since my MOOing days).Good for Alex! And good for all of us to remember that our bodies are–our biology is–much more multifarious and flexible than we usually realize. It’s not that, as fatuous conservatives love to say, our culture has to recognize and come to terms with the limits imposed on us by nature; but rather the opposite–that all too often it’s cultural constraints and presuppositions and prejudices that limit and blight our bodily potentialities. (See Anne Fausto-Sterling, whom I already mentioned the other day, for more on intergender issues). Or as Spinoza said, in a line that Gilles Deleuze loved to quote: “We do not yet know what our bodies can do.”

Cloned Cat

New scientific research reveals that a cloned animal, in this case a cat, is not identical to the original organism with the same genes. (Via Metafilter). This shouldn’t be a surprise, given that “identical twins” don’t have identical personalities; but it is noteworthy, just because the superstition that clones are necessarily identical to their originals seems to have such wide currency in the popular imagination nowadays. As can be seen both from the Raelians’ claim that they have produced clones–which in their belief system is a way of attaining immortality–and from the horrified public reaction, objecting to the very possibility of cloning.

Far From Heaven

Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven strikes me as the best American movie of 2002. It’s a brilliant recreation–more than a simulation–of a genre I have long loved, the 1950s melodrama; more particularly, it is a loose remake of, and homage to, the films of Douglas Sirk, most notably All That Heaven Allows (1955). Haynes recreates the style and feel of Sirk’s films, while also interrogating the relations between real life and cinematic depictions of it, as well as between 1950s culture and the culture we live in today. In doing this, Haynes illuminates matters of gender and sexuality in a remarkable way. He endeavors to do this also for race; but race relations are the one area in which (alas) the film doesn’t succeed…
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Rewriting the Code of Life

Donna Haraway is right. “The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.” Consider how scientists have recently reprogrammed bacteria to use a new amino acid. That is to say, they have not only introduced a 21st amino acid into the bacterium’s environment–in addition to the naturally existing twenty–but also reprogrammed the bacteria’s DNA to code for this new amino acid, so that the organism has genetic instructions for adding the acid to its proteins….
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