Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Story-papers : a working definition

A thin, unbound periodical that issues extended prose and poetic works serially and economically.

Let's take apart this concise definition to see what it all means.

Firstly, note the word 'unbound' : almost all newspapers are unbound, while all books and virtually all magazines are bound ; in fact a book must be bound to meet the most commonly agreed definition of being a book.

So unboundness ties into the implied meaning of the word paper (really short for newspaper, rather than also implying a book, magazine or leaflet which are also made out of paper.)

Note the odd pairing of specifying that a story-paper must be 'thin' (many newspapers are quite thick and few aspire to actually remaining thin forever) and yet  also that its only objective is to issue 'extended works'.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Modernization vs Modernity, made easy

Modernization (aka "Progress") was such things as fast safe comfortable steamships that made it easy for Englishman to migrate to becoming District Officers in northern India or for Indian students to travel to Oxford University.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You can't divorce your family and all life on earth is FAMILY : just get over it

Drug resistant commensal bacteria are just like your mother's kid brother : a pain-in-the-butt uncle but not someone you can really divorce.

Willy-nilly, he's FAMILY - and families are forever....

"Family" just means you can't divorce your mother or brother like you can your spouse or business partner...

I don't want to imply some lovey-dovey view of reality when I say all life is family.

After all, us humans and the lions both want to kill and eat baby lambies, not lie down together with them.

I mean instead, for example,  that we can't divorce the trillions of microbes that live in and on each of us and are in a very real sense, a muddled-up part of us.

Reductionism ,that shared intellectual bond between Hitler and Einstein, simply fails to work as a metaphor of how the world is built up ---- as opposed as to how it looks when we tear it down...

WWII : the dogma of pure simplicity confounded by reality's mixed complexity

Llewellyn Park Refined versus Brooklyn Crude ...

Llewellyn Park New Jersey, home to Merck's CEO, George W Merck, along with many other rich people, was democratic America's first gated community, designed pure and simple to keep Reality out.

Unsurprisingly then that six foot four George Merck spent all of WWII failing to make pure simple synthetic penicillin --- despite mounting scientific evidence suggested it couldn't be done even at a financial loss.

By contrast, John l Smith, the five foot nothing tall vice president of operations at Pfizer, lived in the polyglot capital of the world, Brooklyn NYC, and spent his war quietly accepting that the only penicillin landing on the D-Day beaches and filling grateful civilian and soldiers' veins would be his firm's complexly impure natural penicillin.

Just two of the world's two billion people in the early 1940s, all who had to decide for themselves what to do and what to think when the reality of the war situation conflicted with their pre-1939 dogma about the nature of reality......

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A freely available book about one man's struggle to make wartime penicillin freely available

When I started thinking about this project, ten years ago in 2004, I sensed that any book recounting Henry Dawson's heroic efforts to make wartime penicillin freely available to all humanity would itself have be freely available,to be morally effective.

That is, it would have to be released fully into the PUBLIC DOMAIN, to drift about globally like a spore of penicillium, sprouting up on whatever favourable ground it found.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Repaying, with gratitude, Henry Dawson's selfless act of Agape

Thanks to her genes, my mother and her children never met a strep disease we didn't like and if it weren't for Henry Dawson's selfless act of Agape, it is possible that I won't even be here today.

Grateful ?! Of course, I'm bloody grateful !

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Penicillin Agape, with a macron over the "e" in Agape

I have had no end of possible titles and sub titles for my book about Manhattan doctor  Henry Dawson's selfless wartime penicillin project.

But most end up being delegated to chapter titles (I'm frugal !) because they are too obscure, too long winded or simply not melodious enough to be a main title.

Agape Penicillin sounds too harsh and too un-melodic to be a book title , as accurate as it is.

But Penicillin Agape does sound poetic enough for a main title.

And my sub-title (wartime Manhattan's other project) is easy-to-figure out yet fully accurate, while subtly implying itself as a peace-loving (agape, right ?) alternative to the better known war-making Manhattan (capital "P") Project.....

Monday, November 11, 2013

PURE LOVE : Henry Dawson's Manhattan Project

The very first colleague that Henry Dawson brushed up against in his rush to save SBE patients being silently abandoned in the rush to replace social (4F) medicine with war (1A) medicine was Karl Meyer - a key member of Dawson's tiny four person penicillin team !

Meyer had pushed working with penicillin as his way to seek some (private) vengeance upon fellow German Jewish biochemist Ernst Chain who Meyer felt had misrepresented Meyer's pioneering work on the structure of lysozyme.

Meyer had private information that Chain had tried for two years to synthesize penicillin with no luck.

But how hard could it be ? After all it is a natural biological molecule no bigger than that of quinine. (Chemist joke.)

Meyer, no more hubris-blind that any other chemist in the golden age of chemistry, felt he could easily do the job in a few months and still keep up his regular research work on other topics.

So he wanted the first clinical tests to take place early in the new year (1941) and take place with his own 100% pure synthetic penicillin.

Dawson, a lapsed Calvinist on a catholic mission,  dismissed all his professions concerns over injecting anything less than 100% pure penicillin into humans, which had held up anyone using penicillin's amazing  life saving abilities for 12 solid years.

'Mixed caste' penicillin was more than good enough for Dawson, if it meant the difference between life or death.

So the very first patient given antibiotic penicillin , a young man named Charlie Aronson , was plucked from his seemingly inevitable endocarditis death with a little crude penicillin that was about eight to ten units of strength per milligram.

To put it in terms an ad man for Ivory Soap might understand, that meant it was .56 of one percent penicillin  and 99 and 44 one hundred percent  ?????

To Howard Florey, it was 99.44% pure dangerous dirty impurities.

To me ,perhaps secretly to Dawson as well , because the penicillin amount itself was far far too small to affect the bacteria on the heart valves, the only way Dawson's action could have saved Charlie's life was down to the morale-boosting effect Dawson's obvious care and concern had upon Charlie 's own bodily defences.

So to me, that very first penicillin was .56% penicillin and 99.44% pure love....

(and a big hat tip to Ronnie Milsap and Eddie Rabbitt  for their audio contributions to the writing of this piece.)

Finally, a penicillin hero who is NOT "Box Office Poison"

Hollywood has never done a film about the exciting wartime history of the world's best known medicine, penicillin, because the character of two best known protagonists, Alexander Fleming and Howard Fleming - on closer examination - proved 100% pure Box Office poison, particularly to women who are the main customers for medically-oriented dramas.

What exactly Henry Dawson contributed to the success of penicillin has never been in doubt, but what has frustrated American, British and Australian writers on penicillin has been determining just why this normally non-assertive, and now dying, doctor did what he did .

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Agape's Penicillin : Henry Dawson's Manhattan Project"

Only six words this time : title and sub-title.

I should remind readers that the cover image for all my various book title and sub-titles remains the same.

It is a painting of a stylized pair of unnaturally thin and curving arms and hands lifting up a glowing petri dish of radiated* penicillium mold as if it was a monstrance* , the whole effect at a casual glance looking exactly like a stylized atomic mushroom cloud.

(Hopefully !)

(*Penicillium mold is extremely variable genetically and will usually mutate a few variants, even during the course of growing for a only few days on the petri dish, even if grown from a single spore - these variants are visible as the slightly different pie shaped wedges radiating outwards from the centre of the penicillium mold.

*Monstrances are that glowing sun-like thingy that the priests hold the communion host aloft in, on certain joyous occasions.)

The visual connection to an artist's painting of an upheld monstrance is immediately apparent if one has seen both.

Gladys Hobby, of Dawson's team, records in her book that she daily held up the mold on petri dishes ,in just such a manner, to lift up the spirits of the dying SBE patients.

So it is non-negotiable for me -- I must see the words "Manhattan Project" somewhere in title or sub-title.

I want to play off the idea that this tiny life-oriented Manhattan project, occurring in the same university campus and at the same time as as the atomic Manhattan project, was in every way its antithesis.

But I don't really care if title becomes sub-title etc - its all of one piece in the end.

The idea of someone no one has ever heard of, Henry Dawson, having something equal in importance to the very ultimate in Big Science/Big Government/Big Money/Big War hopefully will intrigue the potential customer enough to look inside the book.

             "Agape's Penicillin" 
The Manhattan Project of Henry Dawson 

is a slightly more academic a sub-title - but longer-winded and windier too....

"Agape's Manhattan Project : God knows why Henry Dawson did what he did..."

This possible sub-title is oriented to the chief character - and the continuing mystery of his character.

This pun suggests a bit of a mystery book approach with a hint we will only be left with more thought-provoking questions than pat answers at the end.

A mystery reader myself, I know a whole lot of us never read books hoping for pat answers - we want to work our brains a little, particularly in our time off from jobs where our brains are never fully exercised....

"Agape's Manhattan Project : Ten billion benefited when a dying Manhattan doctor put saving ten others above his own life"

This subtitle better covers the tense of who benefited when : today and in the past since 1940.

And it moves the fact that all of us is what the story is actually all about to the story's foreword.

"Agape's Manhattan Project : Why ten billion of us ultimately benefited when a dying Manhattan doctor put saving ten others above his own live"

This sub-title at least avoids the dreaded "XX : How .." phrase.

"Agape's Manhattan Project : How ten billion of us benefited when a dying Manhattan doctor put saving ten others above his own life"

This possible sub-title is much more conventional - breathlessly banal even.

Along the lines of "XXX: how the invention of trivial-seeming Y  actually changed our whole world for the better forever !!!

And even more customer oriented --- note the word 'benefited' !

Every book proposal always has to say how the potential book customer is to benefit from purchasing it, literary agents and editors tell every would be nonfiction author.

Agape's Manhattan Project : A lapsed Calvinist on a catholic mission - 'penicillin for ALL humanity'

This subtitle is very character oriented -  clearly its about Henry Dawson, the chief protagonist .

My other subtitle is customer-oriented ,being about us , the potential reader (Agape's Manhattan Project : Ten billion of us, our lives improved , because a dying doctor put the saving of ten others' lives above his own).

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Inspired by J Hamel and S Mosher

 Like Henry, J Hamel was much too eager to step in - when she was needed.

S Mosher was an eloquent spokeswoman for the very small while this work was being written.

Those are the dedications, the elevator pitch, in one sentence, is this :

"AGAPE'S MANHATTAN PROJECT" is about us, all ten billion of us, who have indirectly benefited from a selfless act of Agape -- a dying Manhattan doctor's project to put the saving of ten of his fellow beings above saving his own life....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Agape for non-believers : its all that soppy 'Corinthian talk' at church weddings

Particularly all that stuff about  "faith, hope and charity but the greatest of these is love" that always gets so many of the wedding congregation barely sniffing back tears.

Never been to a church wedding ? Spent your live in jail ?

Well then how about that Alan Jackson country song about 9/11 , "Where were you when the world stopped turning..." - for years, it was hard to avoid hearing it, particularly if you resided in prison.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Commensal Modernization vs Pure Modernity

The Second Industrial Revolution in steel, concrete, electricity, chemicals ,which lasted from about the 1870s to the 1960s ,led to a worldwide process called modernization.

Its key characteristic was a greatly increased intermingling of foreign human beings and their cultural objects (tangible and intangible) into every country on earth , with vast numbers of everything coming in and over supposedly sacrosanct national borders with greatly increased velocity.

Another word for the intimate co-mingling of small and big, willy nilly, is commensality (in the controversial sense in which biologists use this ancient concept).

all Life is family : Agape's Manhattan Project

This book is about us. 

Ten billion of us, who have indirectly benefited from the efforts of a dying Manhattan doctor to save ten of his fellow beings.

WWII as a dispute about dining : closed - or open - commensality ?

Between 1931 and 1941, Japan, Germany, Italy and Russia gobbled up a dozen or so small nations while the people in the "universality of human rights" espousing parts of the world (hello America !) sat silently on their hands , bystanders at a schoolyard bullying session.

They said, basically, that Manchuria, Albania, Ethiopia , Czechoslovakia , Poland, Denmark, Belgium et al were not members of their national family and hence not invitees at their dining table.

So the troubles of the Poles and Danes (or American blacks and other national minorities) were of no concern to them.

Commensality : closed , open --- and global

Hitler regarded German Aryans as family -  so they all got invited to eat at his table - but German Jews and German Romas did not - they might have once been Germans citizens but were not 'family'.

So, they got no meal invite but rather a whiff of  lethal gas instead.

Hitler practised what is technically called "closed" commensality : only inviting a select few to dine around the common table.

Social costs of too-expensive anti-bacterials

When the cost of live-saving anti-bacterial medicines (or anti-viral vaccines) are too expensive for a poor person and their family to buy, they die.

The family's grief goes far beyond mere "social cost".

But let us consider how "social cost" of too-expensive medicine against contagious diseases can translate into grief for another family.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

From the sublime to the subliminal : from fearing panthers to fearing pathogens

If you are an economic, scientific and military superpower as  American, British , Germany and Japanese imagined themselves to be in the 1930s, who could you realistically fear and blame for all your problems ?

And how can you turn tiny neighbouring nations into fearsome enemies, so as to morally justify your invasion and enslavement of their lands and people in the name of pious self-defense ?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

"The other Manhattan Project : Penicillin for 'life unworthy of life'

Henry Dawson was in moral combat with the Allied medical-scientific elite and their handmaids, the wartime Allied governments.

He felt the best way to win over all the people worldwide who were neutral towards the conflict with Hitler and Tojo was to demonstrate - in actions, not just empty words - that morally the Allies were different from the Nazis, not just a weak 'me-too' echo.

He felt the "CODE SLOW" (denying life-saving penicillin)  imposed upon the SBE youths dying in Allied hospitals because their disease was judged to be  "not militarily important" was the moral equivalent of the Nazi Aktion T4 , the project to kill all Germans judged to be" life unworthy of life" .

Time says he was right - when Doctor Mom joined his battle, the Allies reluctantly had to give in and started a massive program - at least in America - to provide abundant cheap penicillin to all....