Memories of the Golden State

Owen Clark

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A smokestack towers above Mono Lake. All Photos by OWEN CLARK/NATURAL SELECTIONS.

Armed with a DSLR camera, travel guitar, two Haight and Ashbury-acquired shawl-cardigans, and three of my oldest friends, I left the perpetual fog of the San Francisco Bay.

Having played out the scene a thousand times in my head, I had romanticized the drive down California’s scenic Pacific Coast Highway to levels approaching cliché. But despite trading the flashy convertibles of Entourage’s Vincent Chase or Californication’s Hank Moody for a grey Hyundai Sonata rental car, it still failed to disappoint. Practically every bend on that winding road greeted me with a stunning scene of pure, rugged beauty. California’s jagged cliffs are lined with earthy hues of bright red and orange, while each inlet of the vast Pacific Ocean contains a perfectly balanced array of turquoise and green pastels that one might have found on Winslow Homer’s palette.

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The famous Bixby Bridge at Big Sur. All Photos by OWEN CLARK/NATURAL SELECTIONS.

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High Sierra ghost town Bodie.

Despite navigating hairpin turns surrounded by 300-foot drops under cover of total darkness, we made it safely to Big Sur. My friends liked to joke that being the obsessive ball of neuroses that I am, I had already lived out the entire trip through the lens of professional photographers on Instagram prior to leaving, and was only in for disappointment at the real sights. The reality was the opposite—I couldn’t shut up about how gorgeous it all was. Warming my hands with a dawn-break coffee on the porch of our log cabin surrounded by towering redwoods; driving up-and-down the coastline in search of that perfect photo; soaking up the previously elusive sun on the picturesque Pfeiffer Beach; capping off the day with fireside beers: everything just seemed to fall perfectly into place. Fitting on a day when one of my travel companions and I woke up to the bizarrely coincidental news that we had both become uncles overnight.

Though I had fallen in love with the California coast, we had to move on to the next stop on our long list. After stocking up on instant noodles and mac-and-cheese ahead of our first foray into camping, we headed out across the eerie plains of middle California’s desert to the iconic Yosemite National Park. Having spent several hours driving down deserted roads, where the only sites of interest were dust devils and “Another Farmer for Trump” billboards, the granite rock formations of the Yosemite Valley were a welcome treat. As with many experiences, a departure from the beaten path yields the most satisfaction. I had that feeling in mind when I raced up 200 feet of granite rock face to capture the stunning panorama of Upper Cathedral Lake and the peaks beyond, away from the day tourist Valley crowds, in the Tuolumne Meadows area of the park. After returning to my friends relaxing by the lake, we were instantly rewarded by the photo gods, with the arrival of an actual cowboy, actually leading his horses to water.

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A cowboy rides the dusty trail, Yosemite National Park.

Keeping with the Western theme, we left Yosemite the next morning in search of gold. Well aware that the California gold rush had ended a good century ago, we thought we would give it a try anyway. After a quick stop at the saline Mono Lake Tufta (as pretty as it was smelly), we navigated the three miles of bumpy dirt track leading to the historic High Sierra ghost town of Bodie. Blazing heat, dried-out long grass, corrugated iron shacks, a chapel, a school, a saloon; it was something straight out of a video game. Though saintly patience was required for the authentic ghost town shot (i.e., minus groups of dawdling tourists) it was quite the experience. Once again our departure yielded an instant photographic gift. There aren’t many days where you experience awe-inspiring natural phenomena while blasting Chris Brown’s “Forever” from your car stereo, but this was one of them. As a blues guitarist, I was familiar with Howlin’ Wolf’s classic “Smokestack Lightnin,” but like many I had absolutely no idea what it meant. We had been monitoring a strange cloud throughout the day that was now towering above the distant Mono Lake and Yosemite, resembling the mushroom clouds of the early atomic bomb tests. As I proceeded to photograph/Snapchat away, a professional nature enthusiast informed me that a distant forest fire had generated enough smoke to form an entire cumulus cloud (smokestack) that then created enough thermal pressure to produce lightning! Touché nature, touché.

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Secret Cove, Lake Tahoe.

After a thrilling journey spent playing a profession guessing game through the twisty, scenic High Sierra roads and the strange casino-and-gun-shop lined small towns of Nevada, we arrived at our next major destination: Lake Tahoe. The relatively palatial luxuries of South Lake Tahoe were a welcome retreat from the cruel realities of nature that we had just experienced (camping), and we took advantage of the flowing booze and ubiquitous live music to try something that we hadn’t really done all trip—relaxing. Stock images of Lake Tahoe always show someone diving into its crystal blue waters and this was a real bucket list item for me. I managed to get a near perfect dive on video despite a throbbing gin and tonic-induced headache. Definitely worth it for those two likes on Facebook.

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Mountain biking the Flume Trail, Lake Tahoe.

 

 

That night I stayed off the booze in anticipation of what would be one of the biggest highlights of the trip: mountain biking the world famous Flume Trail. I had seen YouTube videos of this classic, but like many things on the trip nothing could truly prepare me for the extreme multisensory experience of engaging in an adrenaline-pumping ride coupled with stunning 360 degree views 8,000 feet above the banks of a 200-square mile lake.

Sad to leave, we departed Lake Tahoe the next morning, down a winding mountain pass that led to the golden hills of Napa Valley. Navigating hectic Highway 1 back to San Francisco was a stark reminder that we were back to civilization. With my friends headed back to my homeland of England, I sat alone at the airport gate, waiting for my delayed flight, looking back over my many images of stunning landscapes and wild animals, and dreaming of my next adventure in this vast land.

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Upper Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park.

Creating Unnecessary Addictions in our Kids

 

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Modified from Dr Case/ Kid Image CC

Guadalupe Astorga

When my younger brother was a child, he had a hard time following the teacher’s instructions at school. He was not intellectually incapable, but a restless and vivacious youngster. When the teachers found themselves unable to create any method to capture the interest and attention of this little creature, he was evaluated by a psychiatrist. The result was categorical—he was one of the unfortunate kids diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). My mother had to choose between dealing with a lively child or having to medicate him with psychostimulants such as amphetamines. The risk behind these drugs is not only that they do not improve learning abilities or memory, but essentially that they cause strong addiction, psychosis, heart attacks, dysfunction of heart tissue, and even sudden death.

While brain disorders affect as many as one out of every five people, over-diagnosis boosts these numbers due to the lack of specific biological markers in the field, resulting in millions of people over-medicated with antipsychotics, psychostimulants, pain relievers, and tranquilizers.

Particularly alarming is the dramatic increase in antipsychotic prescriptions in children under eighteen, including infants between one and two years old. Stimulants like amphetamines are chronically prescribed to adults, children, and toddlers diagnosed with ADHD in order to improve their concentration capabilities. But, why obsess over a toddler’s concentration? Do they need to be under the effect of one of the most addictive and destructive drugs to receive love and adequate boundaries as they grow up?

For a kid that is constantly bombarded with excessive information, duties and activities, focusing is not trivial. When I was a child (and that now feels like a long time ago), children had tons of free time to play and socialize with other kids, to struggle with their homework, to develop their creativity by building new toys from old pieces of wood or cardboard, and to think about the failures and victories in their hitherto short lives. Nowadays, modern society has brought technology deeply into our intimate spaces, even those of children. Surrounded by tons of electronic devices, video games, and TV shows, kids no longer struggle to create their own entertainment, they are constantly bombarded with more information than they can assimilate, and they don’t have time to get bored. If we also consider that couples are having babies at older ages, often helped by fertility treatments, the scene looks very scary, with kids being a precious trophy that must be protected at any price. This is a well-known psychosocial phenomenon known as “helicopter parents”, middle class couples that behave in an over-protective way, hovering above their kids at every moment, making them insecure, anxious, highly dependent and depressed.

We should ask ourselves as a society, as a health care and educational community, whether this form of parenting is responsible for the high levels of anxiety, depression and attention deficits shown by our children. How can we justify giving psychostimulant medication, such as Adderall or Ritalin, to toddlers? These drugs will not increase their learning capabilities, nor their memory capacities. Isn’t this a case where the remedy is worse than the disease?

Before prescribing a stimulant drug to a toddler or a child, we must be aware of their psychosocial environment and ask ourselves whether chronic medication is going to make their lives better.

Culture Corner

 Blood Diamond and the Epic Death of Danny Archer

Bernie Langs

Caution: spoilers ahead!

 

 

In the fabulous comedy Shakespeare in Love, Queen Elizabeth boldly sets a wager to her obsequious courtiers: “Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love?” I’ve been wondering about a similar notion: Can a contemporary film show us the essence of human tragedy in the epic sense of the word?

Sometimes in the evening, I roll through the cable stations on television and particular films grab my attention again and again. There are movies I’ve seen at least a dozen times and a great number I’ve viewed portions of 20 or 30 times. Recently, I’ve found myself transfixed with several films starring Leonardo DiCaprio, including The Aviator, The Departed, and Inception. DiCaprio also won an Oscar this year for The Revenant, a movie that in itself is a remarkable, stunning achievement.

But it is DiCaprio’s performance as Danny Archer in the 2006 film Blood Diamond that I find most fascinating. Blood Diamond is like no other movie I’ve ever seen and Archer is a unique, stand out character, with his strong Rhodesian accent, mannerisms, and mindset. Blood Diamond takes place in 1999 during the horrific unrest in Sierra Leone, and the title refers to the mined conflict diamonds illegally financing the combatants while enriching foreign companies that go on to sell the goods around the world. Jennifer Connelly portrays Maddy Bowen, a journalist set on exposing the trade in hopes of stemming it, and it is her efforts that show the modern audience how complicit we could be in the crime if anyone who innocently buys diamonds for a necklace, earrings, or engagement ring turns away blindly from knowing the terrible, often murderous source of the stones.

The movie’s plot centers on a poor fisherman, Solomon Vandy (played by Oscar-nominated Djimon Hounsou) whose young son is captured by the crazed Revolutionary United Front and forced to be a child soldier for their rampaging cause. Solomon is coerced to mine diamonds by the group and secretly, far out in a stream in the wilds, comes across an enormous, priceless stone which he conceals. In the meantime, Archer is a diamond smuggler working secretly with a large South African mining company and is a gunrunner for the fighting factions as well. He was formerly trained as a soldier by the Afrikaner Colonel Coetzee (Arnold Vosloo) and works with the Colonel’s smuggling efforts to get stones to Liberia and then, through a complex series of transactions, on to the European and American markets. Archer learns that Solomon, now freed from slavery, has hidden the diamond deep in the country’s interior, and they team together (and for a danger-filled time, with the journalist, Maddy Bowen) to retrieve both Solomon’s son and the stone.

Archer has witnessed a lifetime of the terrors of war and violence, including the brutal murder of his parents as a child. He and Colonel Coetzee are as hard and tough as any man can be, their emotional dictionaries long shut after participating in years of battles, but bent now only on making their personal profit and, for the Colonel, managing wars in Africa for power and gain. When the lives of Bowen and Archer intersect, she is able to slowly bring him to a state of empathy for the long trail of innocent victims of war and to fully comprehend the horrors in Sierra Leone. Archer especially learns to feel for what Solomon is seeking in regaining his son and how willing Solomon is to risk death in the slim hope of reuniting his family.

Colonel Coetzee, when meeting Archer on the Colonel’s massive South African property, tells Archer that he must find the huge diamond and hand it over to compensate him for a deal gone bad. Archer notes that he wants to take Solomon’s stone to make his way out of Africa, as his ticket “off of this God-forsaken continent.” In a moment of intense drama, the Colonel has Archer crouch down on his farmland and as he runs a reddish soil through his hands, explains to him that its crimson tint is said to come from the area’s long history of bloodshed. He tells Archer to face that he’ll never leave Africa. Archer squints in resignation, and feigns acquiescence, saying, “If you say so, Colonel, if you say so.”

After much soul-searching and bloodshed, Danny and Solomon locate the diamond amid the rebel stronghold and retrieve Solomon’s son. The Colonel, who with his mercenaries, attempted to take the stone by murdering Archer and Solomon, is killed when shot by Archer, but not before firing a bullet into Archer’s abdomen. This is where we begin to find the essence of a modern tragedy.

The many camera shots of Africa shown in Blood Diamond are stunning, leading one to wonder how such a place so different from America could exist on the same planet, just a plane ride away. As Solomon, his son and Archer flee the retaliating soldiers of the late Colonel in this lush landscape, Danny’s wound begins to incapacitate him. As they climb a steep plateau towards an airstrip atop which Archer’s partner in stealing the diamond will soon be landing a small aircraft, Solomon is tasked with carrying Archer on his back towards the summit.

At one point during their desperate ascent, Archer demands that Solomon put him down and explains that he’ll fend off the approaching soldiers as Solomon and his son race to the plane and to safety. The final exchange between Archer and the African tribesman, Solomon, is one that can move the viewer to tears, and includes a laugh between them on how they both knew that Archer might just as well have stolen the huge diamond. Solomon and his son make it to safety and Archer is left leaning against a large rock, bleeding out. He takes a moment to use his army communications phone to call Maddy Bowen, now in Europe, and charge her with writing the exposé of the blood diamond in Solomon’s possession, and to see to the release of the rest of Solomon’s family being held in a massive internment camp.

The love that had been growing between Danny and Maddy hits its peak as she realizes that he is doomed. Her final words to him: “I wish I could be with you,” to which he replies gazing out at the beautiful sight of Africa, “it’s alright, I’m exactly where I should be.”

Archer grabs some soil, the blood running off his hand to mix with the dirt, fulfilling the Colonel’s prophecy that Danny would never leave Africa and that very ground of the continent is mixed with the blood spilled over its riches, in the name of colonialism, and through tribal hatred. We last see Archer leaning against the rock, head tilted to the right, as the camera pulls away to expose the beautiful land with its one tragic son. Danny has come to know the love between a father and son, and the love of a woman who, although American, is very much akin to him. His heroic death is not in the vein of ancient tragedy, where a strong-headed king gets his comeuppance while the chorus weeps and wails, tearing their garments. Danny dies in the bright light of the lush African wild content from having learnt more about life and love than he could ever have believed was within himself and that his compatriots on the dangerous journey, are righteous, good, and set to change the world for the better.

For Your Consideration – Ones to Watch, Vol. 3 Edition

Jim Keller 

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Mahershala Ali in Moonlight (2016). Photo Courtesy of A24.

As laid out in last year’s column, the Best Supporting Actor and Actress races of the Academy Awards are extremely unpredictable. Just take a look at the outcomes below in comparison to what was discussed to see for yourself. It is for this reason that I have chosen to keep the format adopted last year for this edition instead of laying out each actor’s accomplishments and why I would, or would not, bet on them for a nomination. I have broken down the different circumstances these actors find themselves in and how that narrative may or may not ultimately influence Oscar voters. Various critics groups, including The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC), the National Board of Review (NBR), and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) have announced their respective winners and The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) has announced its nominees.

These events help to form a consensus of Oscar nominees and make the acting categories all the more clearer as we approach nominations on January 24th. Together with nomination announcements from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes), these announcements signal the start of the Oscar race’s second leg.

 

~THE GENTS~

Last Year’s Best Supporting Actor Results:

Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton — Spotlight: Both were nominated, but the latter in lead (due to category fraud).

Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper — Joy: Neither were nominated because the film tanked with critics.

Mark Rylance — Bridge of Spies: Nominated and won.

Tom Hardy — The Revenant: Nominated

Idris Elba — Beasts of No Nation: Not nominated. Making their debut in the Oscar race, Hollywood proved just how scared it was of streaming services, such as Netflix, by snubbing the film entirely.

Last year’s fourth nominee was Sylvester Stallone for Creed, a film that saw its release after completion of this column. For many, Stallone became the frontrunner, and while the Hollywood Foreign Press, the BFCA, and the NBR dressed him up with their awards, Hollywood turned its back on him on Oscar night.

This leaves our last nominee, Christian Bale for The Big Short. Like Creed, the film wasn’t released until after the completion of this column. However, of the film’s sprawling ensemble, awards groups rallied around Bale and he completed the all white acting category.

The results show that by the same time last year, it was pretty easy to determine more than half of the actors in supporting roles that would go on to be nominated by the Academy.

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Christmas Holidays in Italy

Francesca Cavallo

This is my favorite time of year. There are so many great aspects to the Christmas season: good food, good music, and the special traditions that come along with the “reason for the season.” Come experience and discover how Italians celebrate the holidays.

f26fd824-2e87-419f-9172-b5b44ba5d0f2-abbacchio_img_7036_food52The Christmas atmosphere is really felt in the Bel Paese (beautiful country) since the holiday is one of the most important ones in my country. Although there are commons traits, the magic of Natale (Christmas) is different all over the world. Christmas, for every Italian, is like Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a big family reunion that no longer reflects the symbolic religious tradition of the nativity, although many services still run on Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve). There is a famous phrase: Natale con i tuoi, Capodanno con chi vuoi (Christmas with yours [relatives], New Year’s Eve with whoever you want). Italians really feel the spirit from late November, but the Christmas season officially starts on December 8, the Day of Immaculate Conception. We decorate our homes and trees, bake cookies, wrap presents, and schools and offices are formally closed. From this day on, up to December 26, the holiday spirit grows. On many Italian streets decorations and huge Christmas trees are displayed, presepi (Nativity scenes) are placed outside for all to see, and the smell of chestnuts, wine, and Italian delicacies, is apparent on every corner. People hurry across the streets with lots of packages in their hands, zampognari (double chanter bagpipers) play Christmas melodies all around, and Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) gives candies to the children. Natale and Vigilia di Natale are observed in different ways all over the country, depending on where you are. Some Italians start celebrating with a nice dinner on December 24. My family and I prefer a light meal without meat and wait for a huge Christmas lunch the day after. However, the midnight Mass at the local church is a tradition from the North to the South. Afterwardwe brindiamo (make a toast) with a glass of spumante (Italian sparkling wine), a slice of panettone or pandoro (sweet treats), and open presents. When I was a child I was so excited by Santa’s arrival that I used to prepare a glass of milk, and place a slice of Christmas cake under the tree to thank Babbo Natale for the gifts.

The joy of this time reaches a fever pitch on December 25, which is a day for eating! This is the perfect occasion to meet up with your family, sit around the table almost all day long and enjoy good food. This happy and peaceful atmosphere lasts late into the evening, while households play board games, taste Italian delicacies and unwrap presents! On Christmas Day, the table abounds with different entrees: insalata di mare (seafood salad), types of salami, cured meats, and flat breads. The main course, depending on the region, consists of the famous tortellini in broth, lasagna or pasticcio (the amazing baked pasta prepared following grandma’s style), and lamb. Normally, after the main meal, a tasty variety of meat is served. Whatever the menu, Italians cannot end their lunch without some famous Christmas treats: pandoro and panettone. The former is a traditional Veronese sweet yeast bread, whereas the latter is a tall sweet bread enriched with raisins and dried fruits, hailing from Lombardy. One of my favorite things is to add more sugar to my sweet meal, with torrone (classic Italian nougat), hazelnut chocolate, and homemade cookies.

December 26, Santo Stefano Day, is a national holiday in Italy, and obviously another occasion to gather with your loved ones and taste other homemade specialties, and sometimes the Natale’s leftovers. Celebrations are not over yet! After these three days of merrymaking, the next date is December 31. This is another crazy opportunity to meet with friends and families and have a big party all night long. Capodanno (New Year’s Eve) normally starts late in the afternoon with the famous aperitivo, followed by a traditional big meal called cenone (big dinner), and the right party to welcome the new year! The day after, if you still have the energy and your stomach is up for more food, it’s time for another substantial lunch! If each Christmas meal differs from one family to another, each New Year’s Eve dinner is carefully thought out to serve the right food that promises to bring you luck, such as cotechino (pork sausage) lenticchie (lentils), and uva (grapes). January 1 is a day to relax, be with the people you care about most, and have some traditional food and dessert.

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New York State Of Mind

Guadalupe Astorga

This month Natural Selections interviews Stefannie Moak, Research Assistant, Gilbert Lab.

How long have you been living in the New York area? 

Seven months now.nysom

Where do you currently live? Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I live in the Upper East Side and my favorite neighborhood is SoHo.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

The excess of urbanity and the convenience of the city.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

The multicultural spaces and the Sunday brunch restaurants.

Has anything (negative or positive) changed about you since you became one of us “New Yorkers”?

It has expanded my view in general about the diversity of people. There are people from every walk of life.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

I would make people take a deep breath before their morning commute. It would be a better start to the day if everybody was less stressed.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

Playing ice hockey at Lasker Rink in Central Park.

 What is the most memorable experience you’ve had in NYC?  

Seeing my first Broadway show and watching Garth Brooks perform at Yankee Stadium.

Bike, MTA or walk it?

Definitely walk! You see so many more things. 

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be? 

I’m a Canadian so I’m biased, therefore I would like to try living in Vancouver.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

Maybe not yet, but getting there.

New York City Dialect New York-ese

Aileen Marshall

Hey, how ya doin? Or in other words, welcome back to our series on learning the New York City dialect. Hopefully by now, you have your ears trained to pick up more words you hear about town.

To recap last month’s lesson, the G is dropped in words ending in “ing.” Our vocabulary words were doin, callin, and walkin.  Here are some more examples of them used in a sentence.

How are you doin? (a greeting)

I’ve been callin you for hours.

I wouldn’t go walkin through Central Park at night.

Other examples of the dropped G are thing and building. Here are some examples of these words used in a sentence.

The only thin that doesn’t belong on pizza is pineapple.

The Empire State Buildin used to be the tallest in the world.

This month’s lesson:

The R is dropped from some words in New York City. It sounds more like an Ah or Aw sound.

Here are some examples of dropped R words used in a sentence. Some examples of these words are: beer, here, river, and morning. Click on the links to hear the pronunciation.

Get your beah heah.

I am takin a rivah cruise up the Hudson.

I only get the Times on Sunday mawnin.

While learning the dialect of this great city, you might as well enjoy all it has to offer. Visiting small neighborhood stores and restaurants in the outer boroughs is probably the best way to experience the language. The outer boroughs have a lot to offer. There is a zoo, and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. There is a huge park in Queens, called Flushing Meadows. Queens also has Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium. There is an aquarium, and the boardwalk at Coney Island in Brooklyn. One can take a ferry ride to Staten Island and see the Staten Island Yankees, the New York Yankee’s farm team. This is just a small representation of attractions in the outer boroughs. Whenever you have the chance, take the subway past Manhattan and explore a neighborhood.

Watch next month for a lesson in the elongated A sound.

Quotable Quote

Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood we live in; the school or college we attend; the factory, farm or office where we work. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

(Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 – 1962)

Crossword

GEORGE BARANY AND FRIENDS

The three politically themed puzzles that follow come to you from a consortium of progressively-minded friends of Rockefeller alum (1977) George Barany, who is currently on the faculty of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.  Prepare to laugh and cry.  For more information, including links to the answers, visit here, here, and here.  More Barany and Friends crosswords can be found here.

Debate and Switch

Across
1. Shack
4. Refused to make one’s taxes public, e.g.debateswitchgrid
7. Plays a sophomoric prank on, informally
10. Lennon’s lady
11. Suffix with Capri
12. Mens ___ (criminal intent, in law)
13. Bee’s channel
14. Moving to the beat
16. Field for Krugman
18. Academy head
19. Collapse an arch
21. Wing it
22. U.S. Grant adversary
23. Word frequently used by The Donald, and about The Donald
24. Lock
Down
1. Inappropriate adjective, when applied to one’s teenage daughter
2. One fine day, to Puccini
3. Proportional
4. Schmooze with the elite
5. Hughes poem reprinted on a full page in “The New
York Times” (September 22, 2016)
6. Literally, with 7-Down. catch-phrase introduced by Hillary at Hofstra
7. See 6-Down
8. Pascal collection
9. Grp. once headed by Ronald Reagan
15. One who mopes
17. Big name in elevators
18. Hang (around with)
20. “___ we can”

What Happened in Vegas?

Across
1. Escalante who inspired “Stand and Deliver”
6. Muslim leader
10. Ancient Mexican
11. Like the first 44 US Presidentsvegasgrid
12. Deportation targets?
14. Bro, for one
15. Sickened feeling
16. Got up
17. Punctual
20. “Bingo!”
23. Hillary, to Donald
25. “L’___ c’est moi” (Louis XIV)
26. Rip from the mother’s womb, rhetorically
27. Type of details
28. Goes high
Down
1. Campaign issue
2. Jai ___
3. With .com, web site for cinephiles
4. Verbal shrug
5. Campaign issue
6. Saturate
7. Opportunity visited it
8. On the quiet side
9. Large butte
13. Attack bigly
16. Quick with quips
17. What a Jewish astronaut celebrates returning to
18. Defense alliance in the news: Abbr.
19. Russian autocrat
20. “Famous” cookie maker
21. Fabled loser
22. Formicary denizens
24. Samurai’s sash

In a Blue State

Across

1. Enthusiasmin_a_blue_state_grid
5. Point of view
9. Macho military type
14. Khayyám or Sharif
15. “Goldfinger” fort
16. Certain Alaskan
17. It means everything
18. Like some rumors
19. Composition of a metaphorical ceiling yet to be broken
20. Title for 48-Across on January 20, 2017 … we wish
23. “Star Wars” princess
24. Holiday quaff
25. Bill, to 48-Across … we wish
32. DC VIP
33. Target of Cain’s mutiny?
34. Year-round quaff
35. Has ___ with (is connected)
36. Majority leader, ironically?
38. Cultivate
39. NFL six-pointers
40. Piano, to a pianist
41. “Soave sia il vento” and “”Hab mir’s gelobt,” for two
42. Anthem for 48-Across … we wish
46. Be under par?
47. Palindromic Indian bread
48. One who won the popular vote on November 8, 2016
55. In a musical key
56. Make well
57. Lesbos, e.g.
58. Jeb, to Jenna and Barbara
59. Ultimatum word
60. Hounds
61. “The View” co-host Joy(anagram of REHAB)
62. Parodied
63. Mardi ___

Down

1. Whiz (by)
2. Statue of Liberty poet Lazarus
3. Novelist who was romantically involved with Chopin
4. Dress rehearsal
5. “Let’s not go there”
6. Costumed for “La Cage aux Foiles,” perhaps
7. He had a cameo in “Wordplay”
8. Donald and Ivana, e.g.
9. Ann or Andy, e.g.
10. Profess without proof
11. Like the Grinch
12. Arrest
13. Tiebreakers, briefly
21. Cluttered condition
22. Hacker’s harvest, briefly
25. Henry of “Fail-Safe”
26. Formal “Who’s there?” answer
27. “___ in the Balance” (1992 book by Gore)
28. Draft org.?
29. Nobelist Curie
30. Distant
31. A lot of it was fake
32. Way to go
36. Cabbage
37. Frequently, in verse
38. Like the Cheshire cat
40. Ben or Jerry
41. Spicy Asian cuisine
43. “I can’t hear you!”
44. Sheathe
45. Matched, as a poker bet
48. Sharpen
49. Creep
50. Big bird
51. Website for customer reviews
52. Russian autocrat
53. Russian name meaning “holy”
54. An “Untouchable”
55. Place to soak

Life on a Roll

Shaoxing—the Venice in the East

Qiong Wang

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All photos by Qiong Wang

During my recent trip to China, Shaoxing was a pleasant surprise. The city sits nicely over a complex water canal system, woven together by stone bridges. Until today, local residents inside the old town often used canal water for their daily life activities. Just like Venice, man-powered gondolas are the only vehicles that could fit and roam in these narrow canals, mostly for tourist purposes. Shaoxing was the capital city of the Yue kingdom over 2,000 years ago. Many important historic scholars and important figures were born there or had resided there, which left an incredibly rich cultural heritage in and around the city. Shaoxing is also geographically convenient to get to, only one hour train ride from Shanghai and twenty minutes from Hangzhou.  Don’t miss it if you happen to be in the area.shaoxing-2shaoxing-3shaoxing-4

Renewable Energy

Yvette Chin

When Sheikhs invest in solar, you know a paradigm change has arrived. A slew of sun-drenched Middle Eastern states, prompted by the now-favorable economics of renewable energy, and a concomitant cloudy outlook for fossil fuels, are looking to transition their oil-heavy economies towards solar energy production. Closer to home, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo too has a vision—expedited in no small part by the exigencies of climate change, economics & energy security—to secure a clean, affordable and resilient post-oil future.

Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) commits NY state to a Clean Energy Standard (CES) with the goal of meeting at least 50% of the state’s energy use with renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy and reducing greenhouse gas emission levels from 1990 by 40% by 2030. This was prompted by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), which mandates a less stringent 32% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

The pivot to renewables has many causes. First, cost is king and with renewables at least, cheaper is better. Advances in technology—cheaper, more efficient photovoltaic (PV) cells and wind turbines; souped up batteries to tide over times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing—have brought down costs and increased reliability so much that the sector is competitive (as low as under $0.04/kWh) versus fossil fuels. Upfront investment costs are lowered by tax credits and net metering rules, which allows the sale of unused energy back to utilities to recoup expenses. Tax credits in particular were essential to the adoption of renewables, although the necessity of subsidies is receding as the industry is able to stand on its own merit. In December 2015, a divided Congress rallied to extend the 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar energy & the 2.3-cent/kWh Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy for five years (through 2020), among a slew of renewable subsidies, to ensure successful implementation of the CPP. On current form, the importance of such subsidies will diminish further as innovation continues to drive down costs and bring about mass adoption.
Second, climate change and environmental concerns lend an urgency to the transition to clean and low-carbon energy sources. Credit Hurricane Sandy for the harsh reminder that ocean levels are rising and reclaiming low-lying flood-prone land. The energy sector appears to be a zero-sum game with the rise of renewables occurring at the expense of the coal industry where a projected 50GW of capacity is expected to be lost by 2022 and, indeed, completely phased out in New York state. The upheavals of this energy revolution have being manifested in the rise of populist presidential candidate Donald Trump, fueled in part by the loss of jobs in America’s Rust Belt. Advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club and ardent environmental activists are also playing a significant role in the adoption of low-carbon fuels. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign organized a community-based push for off-shore wind energy investment with a Clean Energy rally in lower Manhattan followed by personal testimonies from state-wide attendees to the Public Service Commission. These efforts paid off in the adoption of a 90MW offshore wind project, the largest in the country, in federally leased waters off Montauk, in a tie-up between the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and Deepwater Wind, a private company. Moreover, the CES envisions establishing New York state as a clean energy powerhouse to safeguard the economic future of the state’s workforce by ensuring its technical expertise in the renewable energy sector. Slated to be one of the largest solar panel factories in the world, a 27-acre $750m SolarCity battery facility financed and constructed by New York state is another example of the economic thrust of the REV. The high-efficiency solar panels manufactured in the gigafactory produce electricity at a cost of roughly $2.5/W and production is expected to hit full capacity in late 2017.

The REV is expected to lower energy bills through localized power generation and distribution, furnish a greater choice of energy providers to reduce dependence on a central utility, advance net-zero energy efficient smart homes that can be controlled remotely, boost employment in the hi-tech renewables sector and improve overall quality of life from the greening of the energy industry.

Postdoc Retreat 2016

Juliette Wipf

This year’s Rockefeller Postdoctoral Association (PDA) Retreat was held from September 21 to 22 at the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville, CT. The Interlaken Inn is a charming country resort with great facilities and over 130 Rockefeller postdocs came to enjoy this getaway. Many supported the event with presentations, ranging in scope from social evolution in ants, aphids and their interacting microbiomes, through to visual signaling in Drosophila.

The PDA further organized a panel discussion focusing on non-academic careers, which was one of the highlights of the retreat. Candid responses to heartfelt questions were given by George Yancopoulos, the President and CSO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., who also gave the retreat’s keynote address, Nadim Shohdy (Director, Office of Therapeutics Alliances NYU Langone), David Pompliano (co-founder & CSO, Lodo Therapeutics), Imran Babar (Private Equity / Venture Capital, OrbiMed Advisors & VP of Scientific Affairs, Rare Genomics Institute), Yaihara Fortis-Santiago (Director of Science Alliance, the New York Academy of Sciences), as well as two Rockefeller insiders, namely our new President Richard Lifton and our Career and Professional Development Director, Andrea Morris. The speakers depicted the advantages of dropping into a non-academic field and attempted to boost our self-confidence for trying out such alternative career routes. In some cases maybe even out of a personal recruitment interest?

A bonfire by the scenic Lake Wononskopomuc brought the first day come to an unforgettable end. S’more roasting gave the postdocs energy after burning themselves out on the dance floor. After another round of talks in the morning, playing tennis, sunbathing by the heated pool, kayaking and swimming in the lake in the afternoon, everybody reluctantly made their way back to New York City on Thursday night.

Thank you PDA for organizing this event!

Culture Corner

Television Series Review: Mr. Robot and Gomorrah 

Bernie Langs

Caution: spoilers ahead!

 

There is a widely-held notion that television is presently in the midst of a golden age and that the quality and diversity in programming has never been better for the medium. One might generally associate the phrase “golden age” with eras of creativity in cultural history, such as the glory days of Ancient Greece or Renaissance Italy, while thinking of television more in terms of crassness and the lowest possible taste (think the Kardashians or the Housewives reality series). Yet I can’t deny that TV is offering many more stimulating choices these days than big Hollywood studio films. The best current television shows are filmed cinematically to big budget movie standards and the writing and scripts of these series offer superlative plot devices and new, untested ideas without falling into the trap of typical clichés that plague so much of our visual entertainment.

Two series in particular have hooked me into becoming a loyal viewer. USA Network’s Mr. Robot revolves around the exploits of a young, brilliant, socially-challenged hacker. The other, the Sundance Channel’s Gomorrah, is an import from Italy based around the inner workings of the criminal mob in the city and surrounding region of present day Naples.

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Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part XXIII: Ralph M. Steinman, 2011 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Joseph Luna

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Photo Courtesy of THE ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY

A macrophage is on the hunt. Crawling and sniffing its way across a petri dish, this “big eater” lunges forward, its rolling membranes like tank treads, toward a colony of bacteria. A pall descends on the prokaryotes, and soon a membrane washes over them like a toxic blanket. The engulfed bacteria, momentarily stunned, find themselves in the belly of the macrophage and attempt to regain their bearings. They never see the army of lysosomes marching toward them, with acid knives drawn and thirsty.

Zanvil Cohn looked up from his microscope and snapped a photo of the battle below. This phenomenon of cells eating cells, or phagocytosis, was well known immunological territory. But armed with time-lapse microscopy, Cohn could record how the macrophage moved and ate in startling detail; with James Hirsch, Cohn discovered that lysosomes swooped in to digest bacteria when engulfed. Cohn and Hirsch ran a joint lab at the then recently renamed Rockefeller University that was an epicenter of macrophage research in the 1960s. Housed in the Southern Laboratory (now known as Bronk) and under the guidance of the eminent René Dubos, Cohn and Hirsch made landmark discoveries on how these cells defended against microbes, using the latest techniques to finally begin answering questions as old as immunology itself.

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Ostuni, A New Jewel in Italy’s Crown

Francesca Cavallo

Puglia, with its beautiful beaches and landscapes, stunning architecture and friendly people has become hugely popular as a holiday destination.

When most travelers think “Italian beach vacation,” they think of places like Portofino and Capri. Puglia is pretty much the exact opposite of those places and all the better for it. While the Italian Riviera and Amalfi Coast are well-groomed, glamorous, and sparkling, Puglia is rugged, simple, and totally laid-back. Its landscape, studded with farmhouses and miles of olive groves, reminds one of neighboring Greece. But its spirit remains 100 percent Italian. Located in the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia is where Italians vacation. This summer I had the pleasure to visit this region, in particular my father’s hometown of Ostuni located about 11 km from the coast, in the province of Brindisi. This charming, fortified hill town is known as “la città bianca” (the white city) due to its whitewashed buildings and city walls, which give it a very exotic feel, more Greek or Middle Eastern than Italian.

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Photo Courtesy of OSTUNI THE WHITE CITY

The stark white of the town is broken up by some beautiful historical architecture, all of which stands out from its surroundings. The Messapii ancient Italian population founded the first nucleus of the city in seventh century BC on the top of a hill protected by walls, which also sheltered it from attacks, and provided for the construction of roads. Later, in third century BC, the Romans conquered it and today some Roman traces remain in farms built on the foundations of Roman villas. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Saracens and Byzantines settled, in turn leaving visible traces of their occupation. The Aragonese created four-door access to the village of which today only the twelfth century Porta Nova is still evident, as well as the Thirteen Towers and Porta San Domenico, both built in the thirteenth century. With the Spanish rule in 1506, Ostuni began to experience a period of splendor by the granting of special favors by the Dukes. The decline of Ostuni began in the seventeenth century due to the debts incurred during the “Thirty Years War” (European conflicts from 1618 to 1648). King Philip IV of Habsburg sold it to the family Zevallos, merchants that then impoverished it. Moreover, the plague began to rage in the surroundings even if it did not directly strike the village, as the whitewash used to paint houses turned out to be a good and effective natural disinfectant. With the advent of the Bourbon dynasty in the eighteenth century, the city slowly began to flourish.

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New York State Of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Tiago Siebert Altavini, Postdoctoral Associate, Gilbert Lab.

Guadalupe Astorga

How long have you been living in the New York area? natural-selections-new-york-state

I’ve been living in NYC for five months now.

Where do you currently live?  Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I currently live in the Upper East Side and my favorite neighborhood is hard to choose because there are so many interesting neighborhoods in NYC. But, I really like the East Village, Hell’s Kitchen and some parts of Brooklyn.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

Overrated, I guess I still didn’t have the experience of being frustrated about something I was expecting. Underrated is the fact that you can go to the beach by subway. I don’t see much of a beach culture in NYC, I really like the beach, and it seems that people here don’t take much advantage of it.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

I haven’t been out of town much, just in Connecticut for two days. I’ve become used to the options of places to eat and interesting things to do on the weekends, so if I was out of town I would definitely miss that. I also got used to the agitation of the city, so if I was out of town I would miss that too.    

Has anything (negative or positive) changed about you since you became one of us “New Yorkers”?

Negative, I don’t recognize anything yet. Positive, I’m getting used to walking a lot, I can walk for more than one hour and I really like it.  

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

I would take out the cars honking, that’s one of the things that affects me the most, it’s very unnecessary and stressing.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

To explore new parts of the city, visit new neighborhoods without a particular goal, just walking on the streets of some place that I haven’t been yet. It’s a large city and it’ll take many weekends until I have explored enough to pick one favorite place and just keep going back there.

 What is the most memorable experience you’ve had in NYC?  

The arrival, the first days in NYC. This city is so impressive with all these skyscrapers, the agitation, the size, the cars and the noise. I have never experienced this before anywhere else.

Bike, MTA or walk it?

Walk! I haven’t ridden a bike much in NYC yet, it’s nice, but I like to walk, even if it takes longer, I’d rather walk.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be? 

I would like to live in Europe, somewhere with cities much older than those in America and Latin America, with 1000 year old buildings, I would like to try that.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

I think I’m getting there, maybe a few more months. People have already asked me for directions in the street and usually I know the answer, so I think I’m on my way.

Lesson 2-New York City Dialect New York-ese

Aileen Marshall

Welcome back to our series on learning the New York dialect. Did you practice your vocabulary words from last month? As a recap, the letter T in the New York dialect is pronounced like a D. Our vocabulary words were dem, dese, and dose. Here are some more examples of these words used in a sentence.

I’ve got all dese leftover subway tokens, how do I get rid of dem?

Dose cars in da intersection are blocking da box.

Other common words in which the T is pronounced like a D are water and butter. Click on the links to hear them.

New York City has the best tap wada.

Barbara Streisand’s voice is like budda.

This month’s lesson:

In the New York dialect, the G is dropped in words ending in “-ing.” The syllable is pronounced “in.”

Here are some examples of “-ing” words used in a sentence. Click on the links to hear the pronunciation.

Are you doin’ anything tonight?

I have to go; I can hear my mother callin me from up the block.

Dose tourists are walkin’ too slow.

When learning any language, it helps to listen to as much as you can, to train your ear to pick it up. Try to pay attention to conversations you hear on the street and the subway. Also, watch episodes of Seinfeld and listen to the Jerry and George characters.

Watch next month for dropped R words.