Alanna the Piranha Chapter 6

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here…

Happy Halloween this Sunday!!!

Yes. Thank you, Tucker.

You are welcome. I like Halloween. I get to bark at trick or treaters when my novelist gives them candy.

As do I. That is the great fun of this holiday. Barking at unsuspecting costumed children. I have even considered dressing up this year.

What are you going to dress up as?

A cat.

A cat?

Yes.

That’s strange.

So is dressing up as a dog.

But I am a dog.

Are you?

Now I’m confused.

But hopefully our readers won’t be confused when they partake of the short but sweet sixth chapter of Allana the Piranha. Halloween fericit!

Alanna the Piranha

by

Gigi the parti poodle

Day the Sixth

My package arrived today. USPS is not as fast as it used to be. But I don’t care. The point is it finally got here. It was a large carboard box. Inside were the following:

  1. Custom DNA Oligos with 3” modifications (short strands of synthetic DNA)
  2. Thermocycler/37 degrees C heat block/incubator (mondo expensive on sale at $820.00)
  3. Nuclease-free water
  4. Equipment and reagents for RNA quantitation (things like a Recombinant Ribonuclease Inhibitor which is essentially a small tube)
  5. Spin columns for RNA cleanup (cleaning concentrate in bottles)
  6. RNase-free tubes, aerosol tips (thin long pointy tubes)
  7. Microcentrifuge (For separating materials from small samples. Sucker cost me over $500)
  8. Alkaline phosphate CIP (Essentially used to prevent self-litigation of cleaved DNA vectors. You get this stuff from cows.)
  9. Cas9 Nuclease, S. pyogenes (Used for cleaving which is to say it targets and makes breaks in double DNA strands. It can be used both invitro and in Vevo. It helps the organisms respond to and eliminate foreign material.)
  10. EnGen Spy Cas9, NLS (an enzyme used to cut within a DNA strand)
  11. Stuff like gels, running buffer, RNA and DNA ladders, yada, yada, yada
  12. Example experiments to engineer bacteria to survive in a non-hospitable environment.
  13. And the most important component of them all: Advanced Engineering guides to help me do experiments outside of what is included in the kit.

The last component, number thirteen, is the most important because the rest I already kind of know how to do. I suppose I should explain what CRISPR-Cas9 is, so you know what kind of a journey I am about to embark on. The short answer is CRISPR-Cas9 is a protein found in bacteria used for gene editing. It works like a molecular scalpel but it’s programable. In other words, I can go into a living organism’s DNA and decide where to use said molecular scalpel in a DNA sequence. I make a clean break where I want to and introduce a change in the genetics. In other words, I begin to evolve the creature’s evolution. Nuf said.

Now I suppose you think a quarter of my life savings plus shipping would be a rip off. But it is not as easy as you think to get your hot little hands on some of the items in this kit. In fact, it is significantly cheaper to do it this way than legally by about tenfold.

So, after opening the box, I carefully took all the items out and inspected them. I have created a lab table here in my parent’s basement where I am laying them out. Last week I went to Costco and got a fold out card table which serves the purpose. I also procured some trays to hold the small tubes. It’s a decent little set up if I do say so myself. In the back of my room, I have had a special type of freezer delivered to put the necessary DNA into once I’m done. My parents thought I ordered it for TV dinners.

The first thing I did after getting everything all laid out was get the bunny. I’ve been keeping her in a small cage, and she seems calm in there most of the time. But she must have sensed something was up today because when I opened her cage, she was in the back corner trembling.

“Calm down,” I told her. I reached back and tried to pull her out gently, but she burrowed herself in deeper. Finally, I lured her out with some treats and set her in my lap and just pet her for a while. She started calming down and even shut her eyes. But as soon as I tried to set her on the lab table she started shaking again. I gave up and returned her to her cage. I made sure she was comfortable while I began studying the Advanced Engineering Guides. I am not certain how long this is going to take for me to start seeing changes in the bunny. It could be three days. It could be three months. Hopefully sooner than later.

Also, I still must get my hands on some female DNA. I kind of split my difference with my mother and ordered a few things for the new care package online. But I had to go to a couple of places to finish the job. I headed off to Bartelle’s again to get toothpaste and a toothbrush. Then I swung by See’s Chocolates. I had no idea what she’d want. But I figured most chicks like truffles, so I decided to get a small box of truffles.

Much to my horror I recognized the salesperson behind the counter. I had a crush on her in high school. Her name is Maple and she’s just as sweet as she sounds. Except she can’t stand me. I say “hi”, she says “hi” and we pretend not to know each other’s names. She asks if I would like a sample and if I have any allergies. I tell her I don’t have any food allergies and yes, a sample would be great. I ask her if she can make up a box of twelve truffles for me. She asked, “Which ones?” I told her, “Which ever ones you think are the best.” She gives me about half fruit ones and half not fruit ones. I keep thinking I should have just grabbed one of the pre-made boxes but having her put together a custom-made box seems better. She asks if I want it wrapped and I tell her yes. She wraps the box in glossy white paper and rings me up.

I headed out to the car with my chocolates and sample and got in. I brought the bunny with me, and I took her out of her cage and put her in my lap. I pet her while I ate my sample chocolate, a pineapple truffle and try to get my nerves to calm down. Chicks have a way of triggering my anxieties. Tomorrow I will make an unexpected stop at Stacy’s dorm. Then the supplies for my experiment will be complete.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: DONNIE DARKO (2001)-Tubi, FilmRise & PlutoTV

One of the most discussed and debated movies ever made, Donnie Darko is a Halloween film not about evil but rather about transcendence. If Sex, Lies and Video Tape raised the curtain on the Independent Film Era, sadly Donnie Darko was the last one to bow before it fell. The film was controversial for a couple of reasons surrounding its release date. Firstly, there is a scene where a gun is fired by a high school student in the wake of the Columbine tragedy which occurred April 20, 1999. Secondly there is a plane crash, and the film’s original release date was October 26, 2001, only forty-five days after 9/11. The brilliant Christopher Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas helped secure it the theatrical release which it deserved. But upon its original release in the US, it was a box office disappointment garnering only $517,375. Thank heavens for UK audiences who are more intelligent than US audiences. They saved this masterpiece from extinction one year later in 2002 helping it gross around $2.5 million thanks to word of mouth.

The film takes place over the course of twenty-eight days. At midnight on the first day, Donnie sleepwalks out to the local golf course in his upper middleclass neighborhood where he meets Frank the rabbit. Frank tells him the world is going to end in twenty-eight days, six hours, forty-two minutes, and twelve seconds. Frank’s definition of “the world” is allegorical leaving us to wonder if this information he is giving Donnie is a warning or a gift. The film also took twenty-eight days for Richard Kelly to write and twenty-eight days to shoot. It was produced by Drew Barrymore’s production company Flower Films and distributed by Newmarket Films.

One of the crucial elements that makes the film so extraordinary is it does not kowtow to the restrictions of genre. Though it may be boxed into being called a science fiction psychological thriller (Hollywood types have difficulty with a film which has more than one or two genres), it is also a comedy, a drama, a coming-of-age story, and a love story. If I were to explain it in once sentence, I would say it is the story of a teenage boy who is given the opportunity to see what his life would be like if an act of divine intervention offered him a parallel universe. And if they looked at me strangely, I would say, “A teenage version of It’s a Wonderful Life set in reverse during Halloween of 1988.”.

I really don’t know why Hollywood called it a “challenging script”. I read it and it always made sense to me. And quite frankly (ha ha) the film blew me away the first time I saw it. I immediately knew I had experienced something remarkable. A film about divine intervention married with the application of science. Now that’s extraordinary. And I rarely see anything extraordinary. Most films fall short and lack depth. This film exceeded expectations and is not only required viewing but repeat viewing. You may not catch all the details the first time around such as the red Pontiac Phoenix passing Donnie riding his bike in the opposite lane. At the time I believed the movie would be the catalyst for more intelligent non-genre films to follow. Instead, I got a landslide of superhero movies and television shows, and more brainless streamers than smart ones and very rarely anything unique since the turn of the century. I had also hoped Richard Kelly would go on to make more films, but he only wrote four full length scripts and nothing since 2009. The cinema world could use another script like Donnie Darko.

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