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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'.


A newspaper consisting of folded but unbound pages gets ungainly if it is too thick - most big newspapers are actually broken down into a half dozen sections each the size of an average (thin) small town daily.

So choosing to use a newspaper unbound/folded format rather than staple-bound like magazine format or the perfect bound book format implies a deliberate decision to make each issued portion of the extended work rather small and thus to issue it in stages, ie 'serially'.

This is because breaking a work , that would be very expensive if sold in one volume,  into many small portions is a great way to attract more readers because the price is so small initially and they can try it out before they buy the whole thing.

Hence the word 'economically' stuck in at the end of the definition.

The original story-paper publisher's objective was partly to make more money by this method  but also partly to further the democratization of literature and knowledge.

(Best known for their fiction/entertainment , story-papers also issued much of what we'd call non-fiction/knowledge ---- about the only thing these newspaper-looking objects didn't contain was news !)

All this because newspapers were and are the cheapest form of literature to produce physically.

No expensive binding material or labour costs, no cover at all ( their outer pages are their cover (a so called self cover or self mailer).

And no useless pages at front and back devoted to 'stuff'  that many readers rightly suspect are more meant to pad up a thin book to offer a thick enough spine to be visible , spine out, on a bookseller's shelves, than to aid the reader.

Today's newspaper crams all its publishing details into a tiny box somewhere and starts the main story right at the very top left of the front page in a big bold headline.

And despite the fact that a newspaper's (non) binding is by far the cheapest, it is actually very resilient and will last longer than any hardcover books when repeatedly dropped --- it only loses out in the ease in which a page spread can be removed.

One more thing : a multi-volume biography issued one volume a year on the same month each year for five years, is not a periodical.

Not in the librarian's sense of the word.

That is because the author and publisher intend to see it to have a finite end.

By contrast, a  tiny volunteer-run literary journal may issue its volumes very very irregularly, hardly periodically at all in fact , but because the publishing intent is to go on issuing volumes forever, it is considered a 'periodical'.

As is the story-paper - its publisher sees no end to the issues it intends to release.

21st century story-papers


Personally, I have added a few features to my own 21st century story-papers.

A nineteenth century story-paper was about 14 x 21 inches a page - roughly the size of today's tabloid newspaper.

It only averaged 8 pages in size, But its many narrow columns allowed the type size to be very small yet remain readable and it could easily handle the complete text of a good sized novel.

But it deliberately choose to publish parts of six to eight novels at a time, doling out chunks in each weekly edition, leaving the hero or heroine dangling above some mortal crisis at each weekly climax.

Few readers could resist wanting to buy next week's issue for five cents.

My story-papers will be 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches in size, one sixth as big, with my type much bigger (and in one column). So in spite of having 36 pages to their eight, I will only have portions of one extended work in each issue.

Now my size is not a newspaper format, not even in Europe, where some big circulation dailies are issued in roughly 8 x 11 sized formats. (Ie folded from a 11 x 17 printed sheet.)

But most work and consumer computer printers are designed to handle paper roughly 8 x 11 unfolded, which when folded makes up my story-paper's size.

Increasingly , many of those printers print most sides of the paper in one go - removing the need for occasional printer users to remember how to correct orient the second side to print right.

My story-papers will be downloadable PDFs, so the printer will print the work as I intended it to look, without any fussing by the end user/reader.

Most PDFs print out as one vertically oriented page per sheet of paper, from page one to the end.

A newspaper pages are printed sides , two to each side of the sheet and with the last page coming out seemingly as the first , until it is folded and it comes out magically right-reading.

Imposition makes that magic happen and very inexpensive imposing software - I use Cheap Imposter - does it all automatically.

Cheap Imposter not only instantly rearranges an ordinary PDF into any number of printable 'signatures" , it even corrects automatically for "creep" ,  a known minor problem of fold-bound publications.

My reader has only to download and press print on a nearby double-side-printable  computer printer (aka duplex-enabled printer) and presto an instant chapbook-sized (about 36 printed pages) 'book'.

I know that many organizations, from the religious to the poetry minded, already offer free downloadable chapbooks or pamphlets but all I have seen, so far, insist on you stapling them with a special long neck stapler and possibly also printing a separate cover on heavier paper.

I happen to think that all this is overkill that stops most potential readers from making the mini books - I hope my story-paper approach avoids these needless difficulties.

One more thing - the hardest one actually - I wanted economical, trouble free colored illustrations throughout.

Full coverage illustrations like a painting or a photo, use lots of ink - that is expensive, causes smears and paper jams and bleeds through to the other side of the typical thin copy paper.

In addition, typical cheap copy paper ,being soft and open surfaced, renders artwork soft and fuzzy.

So I designed my illustrations so they will all be very simple and all in one plane (think Matisse  - ie composed to spread the objects horizontally) to better suit the resolution limitations of soft cheap paper.

They will be simple thick contour line drawings with a very thin color wash underpainting and blackish pencil or charcoal crayon loosely detailing the shapes over that transparent wash.

I will then pump the contrast, exposure and sharpness in the computer to make picture that will subtly glow with grain and color yet are easily readable even when rendered in a small size on poor thin soft paper.

In addition they will not cost the reader printing them out any high ink costs or trouble with smears and paper jams.

Now my own story-papers are each quite short because of their generous amount of space devoted to their illustrations and large print font.

So they are basically short story like in length and totally free, ie released to the Public Domain.

But this idea could be taken up by other authors and publishers as a way to sell non-illustrated novella length complete works (about 20,000 to 30,000 words) in one go ---cheaply and yet profitably - at a reasonable price of 99 cents to the publisher and  about 99 cents for ink and paper .

We'll see how my idea takes off...

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.

Modernity was the counter-modernization ideology adopted by both Indians who objected to Englishmen becoming District officers in northern India and by Englishmen who objected to Indians students at Oxford University when they wanted to retain the parts of modernization that favoured them and attack the parts that did not...

So for example, Hitler that ultimate figure of Modernity, loved the fast armoured tanks that could let Germans travel quickly and safely from Berlin to Stalingrad, but objected strongly to the Russians used similar fast armoured tanks built at the Stalingrad tank factory to visit Hitler in his Berlin bunker.

Modernization is a highly inexact word to describe its effects : commensal globalization or global commensality is a much more accurate description because it adds emphasis to the willy-nilly-ness and two-way-street-ness of what was actually taking place....

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.

But I also knew that most book reviewers, ironically particularly if left wing or green-oriented,  distain reviewing newly published book that were both free and in the public domain.

(Prolific book reviewer George Orwell, as always, was the sturdy exception : he loved pamphleteers and tractarians, collected their work and did a massive book about them.)

And my chances for seeing the book's inspiring message spread by way of movie or musical or hard cover book also lessened if it was PD.

The producers of such expensive and lengthy productions need to be assured of an secure window for all their time and effort, via a copyrighted manuscript being exclusively optioned to them.

So I hemmed and hawed, back and forth.

But since 2004 the economics of book publishing and of web movies and musicals have greatly changed --- as have the life expectancies of general book review sections and their employees.

A web book or movie can be done far faster and cheaper and appeal to a potentially globe wide audience than its old school counterpart.

And when an item, like penicillin spore or a book text , is in the Public Domain and available for all to take up, the forces of competition can freely play themselves out.

Wealthy and well connected producers settling in to leisurely and extravagantly throw up an expensive product about a hot topic can find themselves outflanked by poorer but hungrier rivals who quickly and cheaply get their effort to market first.

(As when Pfizer's John and Mae's Smith public domain penicillin resoundingly beat George W Merck's wannabe-patented penicillin to the crucial D-Day beaches market ---- and Pfizer never looked back.)

Book reviewing hasn't really disappeared --- there are more scholar books than ever but also more scholarly journals than ever to review them.

Similarly every new author with their first self published romance novelette still finds reviews on the zillions of tiny and not so tiny romance genre review blogs .

Books like my "All Life is Family" always tend to do better anyway when general reporters talk  them up on the general news pages as newsworthy items in themselves.

In my book's case, a mention can be dropped in as "a new book casts a historical light onto the ongoing debate over Obamacare".

General book reviews sections have shrunk or disappeared altogether because they have become small ghettos in overall newspaper readership -- largely because non-genre "literary" novels , poetry, dramas and short stories have lost most of their intellectual cachet and in fact have been reduced to a high brow genre themselves.

No longer does the well educated citizen feel that if they can't read Don DeLillo 's latest Pulitzer prize winning novel ,that they should at least read a long enough review of it to be able discuss it intelligently at cocktail parties.

If the general book reviewer doesn't need me and this book, the feeling is almost mutual.

So, I have finally pulled the plug on the discussion - I have assigned all my rights in my book to the Public Domain and once that is done, there is no putting the genie back....

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 !

Grateful enough to be glad to spend tedious years tracking down the missing history of the man who improved our lives and the lives of ten billion others since 1940.

My mother was born in October 1928, the same time Alex Fleming started messing about with penicillin and the same year Gerhard Domagk started on the path that led to the sulfa drugs.

She was about seven or eight, around 1936, when she got GN (glomerular nephritis) after a case of strep throat.

In children her age, this relatively common auto immune reaction of certain people to certain strains of  GAS strep, only damages their kidneys for a few months and recovery appears to be full.

Prompt treatment with sulfa, then very new on the market, would only have helped if given at the time of the strep throat - an event then very unlikely to happen with any child.

But sometimes with GN the damage left behind is permanent and in certain circumstances leads to a chronic form of this kidney disease.

In 1947-1948, my mother was in newly communist Hungary, studying under extremely impoverished circumstances.

She got sick with GN nephritis again (a condition much more serious in adults) and was given sulfa - and got a severe sulfa allergy reaction and so was taken off it.

The Cold War meant Hungary didn't have much penicillin.

As a result, her kidneys and high blood pressure never seemed to have fully recovered and in fact got worse and worse.

Usually as a result of the extra strain put on her kidneys and blood pressure with each new pregnancy (she had seven).

It didn't help she literally had each pregnancy (except for the last two) several thousands of miles away from the last one, each time with different doctors and no back medical records to check.

In the Spring of 1962, she was dying of acute kidney infection and after throwing everything at her, the doctors tried a single course of streptomycin and saved her life .

She was permanently deaf in one ear as a result (a common side effect) but she never ever complained.

Many, many times she told me , "Why complain - that antibiotic saved my life - if I had died your father would have been left with four very young kids and a brand new baby - and him still a grad student."

I didn't then connect her adult disease with her childhood disease because she never told me - only telling of her childhood disease in girl talk with my partner Rebecca and I believe, my sister Margo or Tracy.

My only known childhood encounter with strep was tonsillitis acute enough that my swollen tonsils so affected my voice that I sounded like I was a midget on helium.

But after they were removed, that seemed to have ended me having childhood strep throat instead of ordinary colds, though it is hard to tell for sure.

But my sister Kathi got the once deadly strep disease SF (scarlet fever), a childhood disease that is very highly contagious.

So the authorities came and put a big black Q on a bright yellow back upon our door to indicate we were under legal quarantine and so no one could visit us and we kids had to stay in our yard for weeks.

Kathi got antibiotics at the time but continued to have severe chronic tonsillitis until her teen years.

She has had serious medical problems all her adult life -- they don't seem to be directly related to her love affair with strep bugs -- but there is still a lot we don't know about GAS bacteria.

Next to meet the streps was my brother Bruce. He too had tonsils big and bad enough to make the doctors want to take them out.

But more seriously, one day he suddenly dropped to the carpet in our Victoria BC living room complaining he didn't feel good.

Rushed to a doctor, it was quickly revealed that he had RF (rheumatic fever) because of his persistent heart murmur. Persistent as in he still has it 55 years later.

RF is still deadly today, still potentially fatal, but fortunately rare - at least in in the industrialized world. But until 1960, it was still the leading cause in the industrial world
of school age children having long hospital stays ,dying or facing a lifetime of potentially fatal heart worries.

Yes, RF not Polio!

 Severe Polio was relatively uncommon and inclined to be a middle class suburban disease, while RF traditional hit the urban and rural poor, minorities and immigrants (the so called "Polio of the Poor").

Just guess which disease got by far the bigger press when I was growing up in the 1950s ?

By the time my mother was born and growing up, dying of RF was less common for kids in urban settings, even if poor.

How it did kill them was the fact that the same permanently damaged heart valves that left their mark with their irregular murmur, also became the attractive home for the kind of strep bacteria that form that unattractive green film on unbrushed teeth.

This much different strep from deadly GAS strep was usually harmless.

But it grew as successfully on heart valves (normally impossible for bacteria) as it did on teeth and its little home on the valves would eventually kill all patients, in a great variety of ways, before Henry Dawson got involved.

It was called subacute bacterial endocarditis but not even doctors ever called it that : it was SBE and spoken of in a whisper or a sigh : as in 'invariably fatal SBE'.

SBE usually started killing former RF patients in their late teens and twenties but it could hit babies and the elderly.

RF and SBE packed quite a punch in both the death and terror department.

This is because unusually, both could come back again and again, each time leaving more damage which only made the next attack far more likely.

Because the deadliest strains of RF and SBE came and went intermittently while strep throats were an inevitable fact of life for child and adult, literally no one was potentially free of falling to this combo until they were safely in their forties.

If my mother had gotten severe RF instead of GN, she was statistically likely to get her first, and usually fatal, bout of SBE in her teen years, during WWII.

The Allied medical authorities around the world ignored the fact that Dawson was curing this hitherto invariably fatal disease with penicillin and proclaim that no one, (potentially including my mother) with SBE was to get penicillin and was to be pretend- treated with useless Sulfa doses and left to die (the notorious so called 'Code Slow').

If my mother had had SBE in Canada during WWII and left to die, I won't have even been born.

But she , thank God, didn't get RF or SBE and I was born, only to get her disease GN, was I was 18.

GN for adults is more serious than for children and my abnormal chemical readings, recorded by a brand new hospital machine on paper with a wet ink pen, were impressive indeed.

The technician told my family doctor that some of values recorded were so literally 'off the paper' that the tech had to shut off the machine for fear it would break.

But the kidney disease seemed to have cleared itself by the time I got to hospital six months later --- just as well , as in adults it can lead to renal failure deaths or permanent dialysis.

Only partly my fault for the unusual delay - but of course as a young teenage male I hadn't gone to my doctor until a month after I first got my sore throat, by which time the bacteria was gone but I had so much edema and high blood pressure that I walked like a very old and sick man.)

Characteristically, I was too cheap to consider a taxi and slowly, slowly,slowly walked the mile downhill to my doctor's office --- and back up the hill again afterwards !

Now, unfortunately, in some cases, GN is accompanied by acute haemorrhagic cystitis in a sort of syndrome - and that will be me !

Severe or mild, this bladder condition, if it is permanent, is a life-altering condition.

I will spare you all the embarrassing personal effects, but if you look it up online, I can assure you I have had them all as described here - though fortunately in relatively minor forms.

Now generally me and my family have survived this family tendency to form auto immune responses to GAS strep fairly well - this is mostly down to the fact that the most virulent strains of this bug were knocked back by the fact that unusually cheap penicillin g allowed people normally too poor to receive treatment to get the antibiotic.

So, finally, the reserve pools of virulent GAS found among poor and isolated populations that kept these diseases endemic or epidemic for millenniums ,were wiped out or severely cut down to a minimum.

So when we did get these diseases , we got a less frequent and less virulent strain and we got prompt antibiotics to wipe the diseases out in ourselves.

But this would never have happened without Henry Dawson's moral cry that wartime penicillin must be made available to ALL humanity.

When the general public bought into his radical un-Republican, un-Conservative notion, a vast potential market opened up and as profit-seeking firms flooded in, ways were found to cut the cost of penicillin G from the equivalent of today's Avastin ($100,000 a year) to a price cheaper than water, literally too cheap to meter.

When dealing with a medicine that cures a contagious disease, a cheap drug is also an effective drug - by curing even the poorest and thus wiping out the traditional reserve pools of virulency, this produces a quasi-herd immunity for all the rest of us ---- free !

Henry Dawson gave his life to save only ten from a heartless government, but ten billion have benefited since.

I think there is still a lesson here for all , 75 years on, for all of us involved in Obamacare-like disputes over why provide health care for those who can't pay.

I hope to offer my book for free, or if that is not possible, at least ensure I don't profit from any book sales.

Selfless ? Hardly - I merely intend to give up any book profits - by contrast Henry Dawson "GAVE ALL" ....

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 .

Why exactly did he push so hard  and so long to save the "4Fs of the 4Fs" , against the full force of wartime bureaucracy and at the cost of his own life ?

Here indeed was a hero on the Hollywood scale , if only it was clear why he did what he did .

I think the answer as to why he did what he did, is to consider the character-building events in his life,  before he settled permanently in New York and ultimately took out American citizenship.

After all, he spent the first two thirds of his relatively short life in Canada , in Nova Scotia ,where he was born and raised, in particular.

An instinctive feel for the uniqueness of Nova Scotia's history and culture in the tremulous period just after the turn of the last century is what all these foreign writers, fine as their other talents are, simply lack.

The story of Henry Dawson's quixotic-seeming but ultimately world-shaking Manhattan Project, his drive to see penicillin provided for ALL humanity, is as much character-driven as it is events-driven.

It is his quietly heroic character that will bring customers to buy the book, see the movie, attend the play and musical, above all to bring out those three hankies.

Any history of wartime penicillin seems like a chaotic jumble of events, one damn thing after another ,with no overarching theme to tie them all together.

But now wartime penicillin will be recast as the leading part of a globe wide conflict, taking place underneath the military events of WWII, between two very different ways of treating our fellow human beings .

And the clashing personalities of Henry Dawson and Howard Florey will aptly represent both sides.

But it is Henry Dawson's noble, selfless character, revealed for the first time, that will finally make the story of wartime penicillin the feel-good movie of the year it has always deserved to be....

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.

Charity and love are not really meant to be contrasted --- they are better translated from the original as   "faith, hope and agape love and the greatest of these is agape love" .

Agape love : the selfless love of everyone in the whole world - particularly putting yourself in peril while doing something compassionate for a total stranger who you don't know and suspect you won't really like.

Agape was what the dying Dr Dawson displayed for the world's dying SBEs , putting saving them above saving his own life.

Hence my book title : agape's manhattan project is more accurate than corinthians' manhattan project, but only churchy types and churchy academics are likely to get my drift --- but really , who hasn't heard about 1st Corinthians 13:13  ......

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).

Tourists, immigrants, ideas, ideologies, artists, manufactured goods - they poured in and out , at such a great speed and in such great numbers , that everyone felt at least a little overwhelmed.

More, faster and deeply intermingled : that was the impression the effects of modernization had on the first generations impacted by its initial stirrings.

Others felt a great deal overwhelmed indeed and not a little threatened : they were usually each nation's traditional elites, using to having their say pass unquestioned.

Now new competitors were threatening their hegemony and the national elites had both time, money and control of the key academic and media centres of influence to successfully fight back : fight back ideologically.

Today we call their counter attack on the commensality of modernization "Modernity", but they themselves never did.

They probably tended to regard their ideas as simply matter-of-fact ideas about Progress , Science and Modern times.

They certainly went to their graves not aware that their supposedly up-to-the-minute modern ideas were really a rearguard reaction against modern reality.

Because they claimed to be truly modern was to see stability, gradualism, simplicity, purity, the few and the big as what was found in Nature.

And moderns should seek and desire the same in Human culture to be truly happy and prosperous.

All this - and more in their ideological repertoire - could be reduced (itself a favourite modern term !) to the claim that reality is basically stable and simple.

A pure substance has fewer ingredients - it is simple.

For a given amount of anything - say the potential biomass on Earth - the bigger the portions it is made up of, the fewer there are of them - fewer is also simpler to keep an eye on.

And big things, by their size and complexity are less likely to move easily or move quickly.

If they move, they move gradually and slowly. Slow change is also simpler to keep an eye on.

And big things are hardly invisible and hardly capable of sneaking in below the radar are they ?

Reductionism, another core value of Modernity, is the claim that matter is all made up of a very few fixed building blocks and with them you can build up everything from a simple molecule to an entire Universe , just like Lego by simply adding more and more and more blocks.

Purity meant no co-mingling of human loins either : being called a half breed was about the worst epithet in the modernist lexicon.

They liked things big, clearly visible, few, simple, pure, slow moving , unchanging ; they hated things that were tiny (and thus "many") , fast moving, invisible, fast changing, flexible, mixed and complex, things mixing in other people's space without their permission or even them being aware of it.

What they disliked sounds like a textbook description of germs , particularly commensal germs, and Germ Theory.

No wonder then that everything human the Moderns tended to hate and fear and demonize they choose to call human germs or an equivalent words like human virus, bacilli or pathogen.

WWII, Modernity's own war , was all about the big picking upon and fearing, the small.

This war upon the small was not incidental to the main action of WWII --- it was the main action.

Now you know what Henry Dawson was up against in his wartime penicillin efforts to defend the small against the big......

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.

They (and millions of others) were judged as having no military value to WWII. Dismissed as 'lives unworthy of life-saving penicillin'.

 That doctor didn't buy Big Pharma's excuses for penicillin's continuing scarcity, 15 years after its discovery. So he 'homebrewed' it and became the first in history to inject penicillin to save lives.

 But his efforts were frustrated and censored until patients' families and ordinary GPs started "Acting Up".

 They supported Dr Dawson's call to produce "penicillin for ALL humanity".

 His moral argument had unexpected economic consequences.

As a result of his campaign, Penicillin G is our cheapest (and hence most widely available) as well as most effective lifesaver. This in turn has given all of us a sort of Herd Immunity against once endemic bacterial diseases. 

TEN BILLION benefitting from an effort to save TEN -- one person can indeed make a real difference!

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.

They espoused exactly the same  "closed"  attitude to the matter of who dines at the common table as did Hitler ,the dark-haired Aryan wannabe , regarding the German citizens who were Jews and Romas.

Jesus practised an open commensality - inviting all humanity to be part of his family and invited all to dine around his common table.

The 'princes of HIS churches' circa 1931 to 1945, by and large did not practise Jesus's open commensality.

They preferred greatly to save their own church buildings and pensions rather than try and save other human lives.

 Or their own souls : for martyrs the cause, these men  definitely were not.

A few others did more, gave their lives to save Jews and others and the moral import of their stories are being told well.

But Henry Dawson also gave up his live to aid all humanity ( advocating "open" commensality for all humanity needing life-saving penicillin) .

His story, along with that of others like Robert Pulvertaft and Jimmy Duhig, has never been told fully and completely in all its moral implications.

"all Life is family : Agape's Manhattan Project" tries to address this omission....

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.

Jesus (and Martin Henry Dawson with penicillin) practised "open" commensality : all humanity was invited to the family dining table .

Practising closed or open commensality are voluntary decisions : acts of free volition.

But today, many people like myself don't believe one can "practise" global commensality --- we simply regard it as an established, inevitable -scientific - fact of life.

 All Life, small and big, willy-nilly, dines around the only dinner table that Life in the universe appears to have : lifeboat Earth.

Taking in each other's laundry in endless cycles of energy and matter use and re-use.

Dawson seemed to be working towards such a global view of commensality but died very young before his 49th birthday.

However, interestingly, his personal research interest over his short lifetime was in the robust commensality (shared on both sides) of microbes and humanity....

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.

Say the family of a Tea Party Republican whose mean-spirited ideology of demanding that "the user pay all" ensured that this life saver remained too costly for the weak and the small.

When people with virulent strains of bacterial or viral diseases aren't promptly and thoroughly treated, they and their families remain reserve pools of that virulent strain that ensures it remains endemic or epidemic.

That means it can be transmitted at some point to the granddaughter of the selfish Tea Party zealot.

If she isn't treated right and treated right promptly (because that disease has been rarely seen by younger doctors in America while remaining endemic in parts of Asia and Africa) , she could die.

When society no longer wants to pay for lighthouses and the crews of container ships die on the rocks, society still have to pay for their loss and the loss of the ship itself and its containers.

Beyond the grief of the dead crews' families, the lack of a social willingness to make a one time payment for a simple automated lighthouse adds up to the permanent higher cost of subsequently imported goods for all.

And permanently higher insurance premiums for all.

Martin "Henry" Dawson's wartime call of "penicillin for ALL humanity" might have seemed fiscally extravagant to Allied conservatives at the time, but it actually wasn't.

The fact that the self-fixated Tea Party is here alive and mouthy and not rotting in a grave from Rheumatic Fever is proof of that.

It would be totally, totally un-Christian of me to add "unfortunately" ...

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 ?

You couldn't seriously fear any nation, even one as big as 1930s Russia surely ?

Is to laugh !

But Communism ? Yes, oh yes : directed by the Russians but operating within every modern nation- invisibly - "Die Morder sind unter uns" indeed.

Equally small, mobile and invisible invisible were the Jews found in every modern country as well.

The peoples of modern superpowers no longer feared any awesomely sublime enemies : no longer feared big panthers, wolves, tigers.

Didn't fear big hurricanes, droughts, famines.

Didn't fear big earthquakes and volcanoes.

Didn't fear big God or his alter ego , the big Devil.

Feared no Deity or Nation; feared not Sublime (large) Nature.

This lack of fear of anything awesome and sublime, this lack of credible eternal enemies and internal scapegoats had become  a widespread problem in the decades between 1870 and 1890.

Conveniently then, when that old warhorse ,The Germ Theory, was offered up for the umpteenth time it was not instantly rejected as was the norm.

Instead, grateful elites worldwide fell upon it like onto a life raft after a shipwreck.

No longer was the Russian wolf pack at the Aryan gate : no longer was the feared enemy big and thus highly visible and intent on a clearly signalled frontal attack.

Now the new enemy was so small and weak as to be virtually invisible.

In fact, precisely because they were so invisible and appeared to be so weak and harmless, they were all the more effective as a secretive Fifth Column inside our walls - a commensal enemy, living ! here ! among ! us !

Throughout history it is clear that it has always been extremely safe for people to blame everything on very big powerful but also very external enemies (gods, earthquakes) : enemies that usefully don't own powerful big local businesses or form massive voting blocs.

Even more popular - because this time you actually get to publicly execute those you wish to blame for everything  - are minorities among you of the poor, powerless and disliked (minorities of the rich, powerful and disliked needn't apply).

While it is easy to blame somebody obviously big and powerful , like a god, for big disasters , it gets much harder to blame the small and the weak ,particularly when they are also few in number.

You must convert the weak into local agents of someone external and powerful : so elderly impoverished spinsters, with no powerful human local friends, are burned alive as witch-agents of the external Big Ole Devil.

Tiny poor minorities of Jews are converted into agents of Wall Street capital or (and or) (and) Moscow communism.

As they were earlier persecuted for being agents of the Devil.

Now the awesome power of the Devil and his witches was a fact proven by the Church's greatest Doctors back in the days when Theology ruled .

They had just been unproved.

Now Pasteur and Koch had recently proved , as a scientific fact in a scientific age, that it was instead invisible germs that killed working class people - rather than them dying because of witches or because they were worn down by doing too much work with too poor amounts of food , heat and shelter.

So it was once again credible that beings small and weak and few could overcome the big and mighty and many.

Now impoverished rural Polish Jews couldn't be realistically be presented as a military or economic threat.

But if they married or even just had close prolonged contact with Aryans, it was claimed that these few Jews could spread their poisonous racial values like a highly contagious germ into the Aryan bloodstream, just as a few original germs can bring down a mighty nation in an epidemic.

Germs do really exist - and witches really do fly on a broomstick   in fairy tales.

But it is a unproven metaphorical leap to claim as a fact that some humans are not merely like germs or witches but actually are germs and are witches.

But this was not a error made only by Nazis and Germans : most of the smartest  people in the world in the Modern Era made this leap from metaphor of rhetoric to quasi-scientific fact....
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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....