Sunday, December 21, 2008

End of the World Zoo

I'm thinking bioethics laws may be a bit lax over here.

In 2004 an acquaintance of mine in Taipei with connections and a background in genetics got funding and a bit of public space to open a new experimental zoo. Well, originally it wasn't meant to be an entire zoo, just an aviary featuring Taiwan's bird species. But it was going to be an aviary with a difference. He and his investors thought to make millions by displaying not just actual Taiwan birds, but a few "newer things" they'd come up with on their own.

At the time I told him I thought it sounded a bit out of line--modifying bird species I mean. But really I had no idea. To see these pictures I expect there's going to be some quite pissed off people out there.

Just last week they let Alex Worth, a local nature photographer, take some shots in their until now off-limits aviary. They're calling it the "Taiwan Open Aviary." It seems genetically mixing bird species wasn't enough for them: they couldn't resist dabbling in some other species too.

Worth himself is furious.

"I wanted to get it all documented," he told me. "I couldn't believe what was going on in there. It's sick."

But the guys behind all the experiments don't see what the fuss is all about.

"We'd like to start work on improving the human species as well," my friend Chen said at a recent lunch meeting. "We're hoping the world will be so impressed by what we've done so far that they'll realize how interesting we could make human beings."

"Imagine the Olympics with cheetah-humans running for the gold," another of the founders said. "It's really exciting what we could do. And imagine all the new clothing lines--the money to be made! Want a piece of the action?"

I bought into the dotcom boom in 1990s. Then I put my remaining money in the market two years ago. Now I'm thinking: Wow, I should have waited. This is going to be BIG.

Enjoy . . .

I probably ought to get Mike Hunt over at the Disassociated Press on this story. Hunt is the guy who uncovered the Marzipan Babies plot back in 2007. If it weren't for his whistle-blowing back then, we might be looking at a McCain-Palin inauguration next month. Which to me is scarier than any hound-headed parrot.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Father (by Yvonne)

A short composition by one of my adolescent students at ZEI. The task was to "describe someone important in your life." Yvonne, pictured below, did a great job.


My father is the most important person in my life. I can’t forget his appearance. He’s fatter than a pig, his feet are bigger than a car, his muscles are bigger than a gorilla’s, his face is more circular than a compass, and he has thick glasses.

He’s fully an adventurer. He’s more sociable than all the dames. With everything he does, after one minute he will start to get bored. He doesn’t care what he will be in the future, and he likes excitement, such as playing with animals.

He has many strange behaviors. He always does 1,440 things each day, he knows everyone in the world, he doesn’t care if he becomes a street cleaner, and he plays with lions at the zoo.

He’s my backer. When I need help, he helps me. He’s a river: he leads my through the wild woods. He’s a bridge: he conducts me so I don’t fall into the crime of river. He’s the warmth, the worm deep in my heart: he’ll share my tears. In my brain, he’s my god, always.

Yvonne is one of the sharpest students I've taught in my years at ZEI. She's creative in her writing, and great at interpreting the stories we read in class.