Meet Cosima Herter, Orphan Black science consultant and the real inspiration for clone Cosima!
"Real Cosima helps us with the science and the larger picture of where the science fits into society…" - Graeme Manson
From a Q&A with Herter: “I see how the science of biology, almost more than any other science, is marshalled into the service of politics, which it tends to be. And, the conception of this show, right down to the characters, the fact that you have a main female character multiple times over! Women are often, throughout history reduced to their biology. And marginalized because of that biology.”
[The following is excerpted from Newsweek with permission of the author]
I came to Los Angeles with a suitcase full of books and shoulder pads stuffed with cash. It was 1992, just a few months after the infamous riots, and I was about to start graduate school at the University of Southern California, near the epicenter of the unrest. One of my professors advised me against coming here—I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the substance of his message could be summarized in three words: Drugs! Guns! Violence! I had been warned so often about muggings that I decided to sew some bills inside the shoulder pads of my jacket. I didn’t know a single soul here.
At once the city felt familiar to me. After all, it had already beamed its likeness to my television screen and to the movie theaters of my hometown 6,000 miles away in Morocco. Look, here was the Hollywood sign, white against the green of the Santa Monica Mountains. Here were the skyscrapers downtown, glowing pink and orange under the rays of the setting sun. Here were the blue skies, the palm trees, the freeways, and the vanity license plates.
— Laila Lalami // Read the rest here.
“ Isn’t it surreal to give narrative shape to life events that seemed so arbitrary and chaotic a decade ago? And surreal to think that everything that happens now will get its own arc in my mind/writing in another decade?
"I know that it is possible to consider history wholly in the context of ideas—the rise of this abstraction, the pressure exerted by that—because people do. And are impatient and even enraged if you suggest that human personality enters into it. But that isn’t the way my mind works. I have to get out an imaginary telescope and fiddle with the lens until I see something that interests me, preferably something small and unimportant.… If the telescope is focused properly, ideas are caught in it as well as people." — William Maxwell, Ancestors
Yesterday’s air travel clusterf*ck emergency re-read
I’m thrilled to take part in Maud Newton’s wonderful ancestry project: The Begats. I wrote about a photo of my grandfather and some lines he wrote, a gift from my Mom, and a thing I treasure…
I’m excited about scottcheshire's High as the Horses’ Bridles, a novel about about inheritance, religious and otherwise, which centers on a lapsed child prophet and preacher and his reckoning, later in life, with his sick father. The title comes from the Book of Revelation, which, Cheshire says, “looms large for me, always has since childhood.” (I can relate.) Victor LaValle calls the novel “tender and enlightening, riveting and raw.”
In advance of the book’s publication tomorrow, Cheshire writes below about his own remarkable grandfather, Thomas Kirkwood, pictured above in Hoboken, in 1928.
My grandfather, in front of a merchant vessel, leans against a pier railing, looking like he owns the place, cooler and more assured (it seems) in this frozen moment than I have appeared in all my forty-one years. By the time this photo is taken he’d already sailed as a U.S. Merchant Marine for sixty-five merchant lines, on seventy-five ships. He’d seen the world and brought home keepsakes from Egypt, and India, from countless countries throughout Europe and Africa. He’d stowed away, and evaded ship police, from Copenhagen all the way to Hamburg—and wrote about it. He’d survived malaria, German ocean mine explosions during World War I, and spent three months marooned on an empty island after his ship was torn in half by a typhoon.
I never did meet him, though. I know all this because my mother found his sea journal, after it’d been hid in a box for seventy-five years. The pages are faded, all in pencil, and mostly in Spanish (he was Chilean born), except for poems and song lyrics like this one, seen here, typed in an affably shaggy English, his second language. My mother made this totem for me: nine unashamedly simple and lovely typewritten lines on a note card—“When you wake up in the morn/ be a little optimistic”—along with a handsome photo of him at the time. She knew I would appreciate knowing this sort of thing was in my blood, a love for adventure, and the impulse to make art.
There is something to that, the romantic idea that something besides DNA lives on in the blood. And maybe it does. From him, I certainly got my height, my coloring, and my hair. I got other things from my dad’s dad, and from my dad, surely. Not to mention from my mother, and my grandmothers, plus all who came before them.
Anyway, I keep these nine typed lines and this picture in my writing bag, flat between the pages of a book. Always. And when I write, I take it out and set it on the desk beside me, a sort of ritual, I guess, or nod of respect, to hopefully invoke his spirit.
I have not traveled the globe. Not yet, anyway. I have not been to war. But I do write stories. I write to figure out my place in the world. I even wrote a novel, a book all about family legacy, what invisible longings we pass on in the blood, about understanding where you come from is exactly who you are. Plus there happens to be an old photo in the book, the sepia ghost of another long gone grandfather. My small way to honor his memory, and whatever part my grandfather played in the making of the novel. Not to mention, his advice is good. Whenever I find myself stuck, with nothing but my A.M. coffee and the whiteness of the page, I read: “So just follow this advise/ When you wake up in the morn/ be a little optimistic.”
Simple? Yeah, sure. But where on earth did he write this? In the belly of a rocking ship, and deathly sick with fever? Amidst enemy shelling at sea? Or maybe he composed these lines in his head, while shipwrecked, and skirting sharks, subsisting on found coffee grounds and sugar. No matter what, I’ll take his word for it. I’ll take him everywhere I go. I’ll take him everywhere the white page takes me. — scottcheshire
“ The relationship between wealth and mental illness is explored with equanimity and insight in two recent works: The Looking Glass Brother (memoir) and Gabriel (movie). Both feature troubled young men wandering much the same Manhattan streets as a “sort of disappearing” Holden Caulfield did 60 years ago. They are psychotic, and their plight shows that even money has limits when it comes to mental health, that all those dollars sometimes prove effete in comparison to the brain’s intractable mysteries. Sanity may be the other thing immune to purchasing power.
Surrealist photographer Kati Horna was born in Hungary and moved to Mexico, creating some of her most iconic work in Spain.
When she’s written about, it’s mostly because she was the lover of Robert Capa, Very Important Photographer. And that is a shame, because her life and work are fascinating.
For the past twelve years I’ve joked about working two jobs, but now that I’m writing a book under contract I really actually am working two jobs. This means, now more than ever, that if I don’t see you very much it’s not because I don’t love you but because my workaholism has become crucial and involuntary rather than an (endearing? maddening?) eccentricity.
Last Thursday I appeared on Leonard Lopate’s show to discuss ancestry and my Harper’s piece, and he told me (both on and off the air) a little bit about his own family. Friday I was part of the very last night of luxlotus' Cafe Society, and Peter Von Ziegesar unsheathed this sword which had belonged to his ancestor and was sent to him by a stranger. Saturday morning I awoke to Nicole Rudick’s praise, and some of her own Texan family lore, at the Paris Review Daily.
One of the best parts about the excitement of the last few weeks has been hearing other people’s juicy family stories, and now that I’m writing the book I have good reason to seek out even more. If you also have tales to tell, get in touch here, or email me at begatsy at gmail. I’m particularly interested in the ways we look for echoes down through the generations.
(Photo credit: Kirsten Major.)
My parents’ theological arguments happened without fail every Sunday morning but otherwise might occur any hour of the night or day and always involved a lot of shouting and door-slamming and on occasion the tearing of Bibles.
One of the many times my mom refused to shut down her church, my father put my four-year-old sister and nine-year-old me on an evening flight to his parents’, through a connection in Atlanta, without telling my mother that he was sending us or where we had gone.
I didn’t remember scrawling this note when he wasn’t looking until she sent it to me last year. I imagine she must have been pretty panicked when she found it.
Stuff I Like
I’m the kind of person who cries over Who Do You Think You Are episodes.
- “Meanwhile, on Tumblr and Facebook, we seek out the same private sociality that Woolf described. Usually, we think of social media as a forum for...”
- “Introverts don’t get lonely if they don’t socialize with a lot of people, but we do get lonely if we don’t have intimate interactions on a regular...”
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