Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “DNA”

A Poetess Rises

I am not someone who understands poetry. It either resonates or not, that simple. We have some wonderful poets pass through the Berkeley Writer’s Group and I often feel guilty at my inadequate feedback.

But every once in a while, a poem really captures my imagination. This happened with the very talented Laura Schulkind, who read a poem called The Ancient Stories. 


Laura will release her first collection, Lost In Tall Grass, (including The Ancient Stories) in March. Her publisher, Finishing Line Press will gauge the print run according to pre-orders in the next two weeks. 

If you are moved by the poem, motivated to helping promote poets, enjoy supporting Bay Area artists, or have friends who would appreciate a thoughtful gift, please join me and pre-order a copy of Lost In Tall Grass before January 20.


I want to hear the ancient stories.

No, not Homer.

He was a pretty modern guy—

jealousy, pride, conquest, lineage,



I mean the stories howled around fires

when the handprints were fresh on the cave walls,

and humans shared the earth with woolly mammoths

and barely knew the connection between sex and life.


The stories humans told

at that split second in time

when we had the words

to tell our animal stories.


Before words erased our howls.

Before the word hate, or love.

Before the word loss.

Before the word blame.

Before the past subjunctive, or hypothetically speaking,

as it were.


When the whole of our vocabulary

the whole of our world was

hungry, hunt, eat, cold, warmth, fire, sleep, fuck, play, danger, run,

protect the young, oh yes from the very beginning protect the young.

Those stories.


Stories that I could hear above the complicated noise of you.

Deciphered from the ancient scrolls of my DNA.

Laura Schulkind

Pre-order Lost In Tall Grass here


Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

Beyond Genetically Modified Food – Roger Ingalls

There’s a new food source coming and it makes GMOs (genetically modified organisms) look like child’s play. Soon, your food may be printed.

Normally I’m not in favor of manmade or DNA altered organisms getting into our food system because our bodies have not evolved to properly recognize and chemically breakdown many of these foods. It’s no accident that obesity and diabetes correlates to the rapid adaption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in processed food and drinks. HFCS is a manmade invention and the human body cannot adequately deal with it. However, 3D printed food may be a different but positive development.

picture from SMRC

picture from SMRC

If you’re not familiar with 3D printing, click here.

There are two basic reasons why I believe food printing could be a good thing. First, it will be a very efficient way to produce food and second, food could be composed exactly the way an individual may need it to maintain health. Fundamentally, food is made of proteins, sugars, oils, macro and micro nutrients and water. Like ink in a printer cartridge, these building blocks for food can be printed in layers to form an edible meal and the printer can have a built in hotplate to cook the food as it is being formed.

The fundamental elements would be in a powder form and could be stored for decades. This would greatly reduce food shortage all over the world because stocks could be built up during good production years. This type of food system would conserve valuable resources such as water and energy. Food would be assembled where needed (no or limited transport cost) so the energy goes straight into making the product and the same is true for water.

In 30 years the world population will grow from today’s 6 billion to 9 billion. We will need all forms of food production such as genetically modified factory farms, urban grown food, feed lot animals and aquaponics. 3D printed food assembled from basic elements will be just another needed source to feed the hungry masses.

Troy Davis – Revisiting the Death Penalty

Troy Davis was arrested and convicted of murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia, on August 19, 1989. Officer MacPhail was working as a Burger King security guard and intervened to defend a man being assaulted in a nearby parking lot. Two weeks ago, Davis was executed for his crime.

Mark MacPhail

Davis maintained that he was innocent from the very beginning and several witnesses recanted their testimony and the murder weapon was never found. A fuller account of the trial can be found here but what is clear is that there was a full process and many opportunities along the way for the death sentence to be commuted. But it wasn’t. Here is another account of the trial from a perspective that Davis was indeed guilty.

Troy Davis

I am surprised to find that, among my largely liberal friends, the jury is also out about the death penalty. The few people I know who have someone close to them been a victim of violent crime seem to favor keeping it. The further right we go, the more we are reminded that it costs millions of dollars to keep someone alive on death row and they get better medical and dental help than our war veterans.

One of the most powerful experiences that I had during my annual trips with students to help rebuild the Gulf Coast was a meeting with two men who sat on death row for 20+ years and were exonerated. They have a long list of men who were executed who’s guilt was in question and for whom the advances of DNA technology might also have proved their innocence. There is an organization called the Innocence Project that I wrote about a few months ago, who work with exonerees. 

It seems that when a person takes another life and admits to the crime that the death penalty has its place, but when there is doubt, I fail to understand how we continue to take the person’s life.

Your views? 


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).




Human Rights – A Free Internet

I opened my post on Monday stating that I am not anti-China. Yet my post seems to have generated some harsh criticism. Apparently, the world divides into those who see only the good in China and those who see only the bad. Is there no room for both? I would gladly write a few posts about the great things happening in China, in fact I have written one.

However, human rights and freedom are a fundamental value for me. Perhaps it has to do with a 5,000 year DNA of persecution for being a Jew, but it is one of the first things I judge a country by (companies also).

About six months ago, I wrote a post highlighting Shi Tao, a journalist in China who discovered that his country is far from an Arab Spring. In 2004, he sent details of government plans to restrict the activities commemorating the 15th anniversary of the pro-democracy rally in Tienanmen Square. Apparently he sent the information through his Yahoo email account, and Yahoo gave the information to the Chinese security forces. Shi Tao is now in prison for 10 years.

Here is his story in 30 seconds.

In 2007 Shi Tao received the Golden Pen of Freedom award by the World Association of Newspapers.  If China and its supporters want to prove that they have a credible alternative to democracy let them pitch their case. But if the only way to rebut criticism is to throw people in jail, then maybe they do not feel quite as comfortable with their political system as they want us to believe.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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